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  1. Scotland
  2. Tweed
  3. Fishing reports

Last week

(Last Updated: Monday 16 May)

A lift in water levels, albeit minor, perked things up last week. Absent Junction, Sprouston, Tweedmill, Lennel and the other non reporters, the visible score was into the 80s, making it a safe assumption that the total for the river would have been well over 100.

At the May half way point, the total Tweed catch will be somewhere between 160 and 200. By way of comparison the scores, for the whole month of May, in recent years have been;

2021        602

2020        384  (Covid-19 only fished after 13th in England, 29th May in Scotland)

2019        624

2018        293

2017        487

The (slightly skewed because of 2020) average 2017-2021 is 478, so you might say that, with (hopefully) the better half of May to come, 2022 is on track for an average year, but no better.

The remarkable year was 2020. Not only was 384 an exceptional May score, for only about 15 miles of the lower river for half the month, but June came in with an extraordinary 1,143 salmon, the best since 1970, all of 50 years earlier.

As for next week, I confess to meteorological confusion. Of one thing we can be sure, it will become much warmer, not great for fishing, from Tuesday. The confusion is around “heavy showers, some thunder”, i.e. how heavy, how long will they last and where will they hit? With a full moon, and presumably big spring tides, some added water in the river would be good in encouraging the fish to shuffle the pack and move upstream/in from the sea. 

But will we get it? My money is that we will, as warm depressions move north into the Borders right through the week. But then I never bet. For a reason. 

It is axiomatic that any business manager would have his/her finger firmly on the “output/productivity” button. In other words, if you don’t produce the goods to get out the door, you won’t be able to sell anything, keep your customers happy, send an invoice, get the money in and generally keep the show on the road.

It is equally axiomatic that river managers have not one single clue what their output is. They may know they have plenty of fry, they may even have a clue as to the conversion success from fry to parr, but ask anyone how many smolts go out to sea, and some might guess, but that guess could be tens, even hundreds, of thousands, either to the good or bad, adrift of the true figure.

I attach no blame whatsoever to this, for in a river the size and dispersity of the Tweed and its tributaries, how could you ever count the (hopefully myriad) smolts emerging for every stream into the main stem in April/May?

I have never really seen the point of knowing how many adults come back every year, except it would avoid all the arguing and pointless estimation. By the time the adults return, there is nothing you can do about it, it is too late. The same is not true of smolt numbers, as the river environment is within our (human) control, as opposed to the sea which is not. We can influence smolt numbers by having the best possible in-stream habitats, vegetation, food, water sufficiency and quality for them to survive, proliferate and prosper (always including, of course, riparian shade and cover).

At the risk of yet more shameless promotion of my book “A River Runs Through Me”, if you turn to page 239 (what, you haven’t got one?!), you will see the chapter headed “ A Migration Miracle” where, without giving too much of the game away, I sat for an evening on Distillery Dave’s bench and saw a procession of smolts such as I have never seen before or since, thousands upon thousands of dimples giving away the presence of countless shoals of smolts as they proceeded at some speed, down the Temple Pool and through the slap into the Cauld Stream.

I said then I would want to be fishing when they came back. That was 2018, and lo and behold, 2020 was when they came back, as 2 SW summer salmon, by far the best fishing year of the past nine (since the previous last good one, 2013).

Anecdotal, of course, and therefore unprovable.

But the serious point is this. By common consent, the problems with the Atlantic salmon are in the sea, warming ocean currents, absence of prey fish to feed on, mixing of melting fresh water with sea water off West Greenland to make it brackish, fish farms, you name it.

But what if that is not the whole story? What if our rivers are not producing consistently as many smolts as they could, or used to in years gone by? What if in some years, unlike 2018, we are not producing enough smolts to ensure a satisfactory, for angling and conservation (two very different things), population of returning adults? What if it is the river’s productivity, after all that, is an issue, as well as, no doubt, problems in the sea?

In other words, could/should we be doing more to increase smolt migration so that all years are, all things being equal, like 2018?

So, answers on a postcard, how many smolts went to sea/ are still going to sea as I write in 2022? You see, nobody knows; managing these salmon rivers is no easy business, when the most basic information, on which any other business relies, is totally absent.

Where to fish this coming week


Looking at the week ahead, with the continued low water, the lower river looks like the best bet.  There are a few rods at Pedwell later in the week which could provide good sport.  In addition, as Springers wait for water to run the Ettrick, Boleside should always be a consideration.  Equally, Tweedswood has reported some fish showing, and has deeper holding pools that would be well worth a cast. See Tweed availability here


If you catch a tagged fish then please take a note of the tag number, this can be made easier by taking a photo of the tag. To report a tagged fish please contact the Tweed Foundation on 01896 848 277 or the Head Fishery Officer on 07884 230 045. 

Beat catches reported

(Last week)

Beat Catches
Tweedhill Salmon - 4, Sea trout - 0
Horncliffe Salmon - 1, Sea trout - 0
Pedwell Salmon - 1, Sea trout - 0
Ladykirk Salmon - 6, Sea trout - 0
Milne Graden Salmon - 2, Sea trout - 0
Tillmouth Salmon - 11, Sea trout - 1
West Learmouth Salmon - 1, Sea trout - 1
Lower Birgham Salmon - 1, Sea trout - 0
Birgham Dub Salmon - 4, Sea trout - 0
Hendersyde Salmon - 9, Sea trout - 0
Upper Hendersyde Salmon - 2, Sea trout - 0
Lower Makerstoun Salmon - 1, Sea trout - 0
Upper Makerstoun Salmon - 2, Sea trout - 0
Rutherford Salmon - 6, Sea trout - 0
Bemersyde Salmon - 1, Sea trout - 0
Tweedswood Salmon - 1, Sea trout - 1
Lower Pavilion Salmon - 5, Sea trout - 0
Boleside Salmon - 1, Sea trout - 0
 West Learmouth, Friday 13th may. 


Season so far

(Last Updated: Tuesday 29 March)

The River Tweed Commission officially published its 2021 Annual Report at its AGM and an extract from the Chief Commissioner's report is copied below for the full report please go to: RTC 2021 Report.

The 2021 fishing season proved to be a challenge for a number of reasons. As with the 2020 season the early months were negatively impacted by Covid restrictions, but thereafter the similarities ceased. Whilst fishing conditions were largely benign during the summer and autumn of 2020, in 2021 there was very little rain in the catchment after May, leading to low water conditions which prevailed until late September. This was a factor that led to reduced fish catches during the summer and early autumn.

The total rod catch of 5,862 salmon was therefore a major disappointment after the encouraging result of 2020. Of important note, 93.5% of rod caught Salmon were returned safely to the river, reflecting a year on year increase in return rates since 2010. This is the first time the number of rod caught fish has exceeded 90% and demonstrates how angling practices continue to evolve on a voluntary basis.

Concerns remain about the Spring run with the catches in February, March and April falling below the 5-year average. We continue to be in discussion with the Scottish Government with a view to protecting Spring salmon beyond 31st March, but progress is slow. We also hope to resolve the anomaly whereby we are required to apply to the Scottish Government for consent to fish by spinning between 15th February and 31st March. We were issued with a consent for the 2021 season and for the moment this requirement continues.

RTC have continued to support the Tweed Foundation with their smolt studies which are focused on the effect of predation on smolts in the river. Good flows in the river at the time of the smolt run ensured that in 2021 survival rates of the tagged fish were very good, in excess of 80% of fish with the same tag as previous years surviving in the main river to reach Berwick. The study is also looking at the effect of the tags themselves on the possible mortality of the smolts. This aspect of the study will be continued through to the Spring of 2022 and will be reported on to RTC in the autumn. We had been hopeful that we would learn more about the percentage of smolts returning to the river as adults following the PIT tagging of 1000 smolts in each of 2019 and 2020, but unfortunately software errors with the Gala detection equipment during 2021 mean that we can only expect to obtain some preliminary results at the end of 2022. Provisional numbers of salmon detected in the fish counters, 2,652 for the Ettrick and 978 for the Gala whilst less than in 2020, have remained significantly above the numbers required to meet target egg deposition rates.

During 2021 the Tweed Foundation’s long serving biologist Dr Ronald Campbell retired and at his final attendance at the September Commission meeting he delivered a paper on salmon catch trends on the river which advanced the argument that we are as much addressing a structural change in the run timing and size of salmon as decreases in salmon numbers arising from climate change and human impact on rivers. We wish Ronald a long and happy retirement and thank him for his huge contribution to the protection of salmon in the Tweed over more than 30 years. With the departure of trout biologist Kenny Galt during 2021, the Tweed Foundation have a new young team of biologists led by James Hunt and you will hear more from them in 2022. We thank Kenny for his unstinting commitment to the river over his 16 years with the Tweed Foundation and in particular for his work with the trout clubs on Brown trout.


If you catch a tagged fish then please take a note of the tag number, this can be made easier by taking a photo of the tag. To report a tagged fish please contact the Tweed Foundation on 01896 848 277 or the Head Fishery Officer on 07884 230 045.

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