(Last Updated: Monday 08 August)
Doomsayers, inevitably young, exceedingly annoying Extinction Rebellionites, will point at 2022 as proof that we post war baby boomers have caused it by our reckless and selfish behaviour over decades.
They were not alive in 1959 or 1976 when pretty much exactly the same thing happened viz heat and no rain for months on end, and maybe the temperatures are that much higher overall now, but the fact of 2022 and the sheer persistence of the Azores high pressure will be hard to prove as being a result of global warming, in that it has all happened before.
I have two Fishing Books, one personal and one for the Lees, the latter in 1959 kept by my Godfather, Major Jack Briggs MC, in his uniquely spidery writing. I have quoted some of his comments before, and those of the local Press, including on 1st September 1959, “ hundreds of dead fish” and “they can be seen lying at the side of the river, completely overcome.”
In 1976, no fish at all were caught either in my book or in the Lees book between 12th June and 16th September, when at long last there was a flood. It was the driest summer since records began, and I recall flying over southern England in August enroute to the south of France. The only green you could see was the green of the cricket squares in every town and village; everything else was brown.
The catches at the Lees in 1959 and 1976 were these:
1959 115 salmon
1976 47 salmon
Unsurprisingly, in both years the Tweed rod catch was well under 5,000 salmon.
The good news is that drought was clearly the culprit, as the catches the following year proved:
1960 404 salmon
1977 130 salmon
Neither the 1960 nor the 1977 figure represents a full catch, as for the most part the 2 miles of fishing was exercised by just one rod, very occasionally two, and in 1977 there wasn’t even a boatman.6
2022 has, like these above two predecessors, become almost laughable, or you would cry.
No meaningful rain is now forecast for at least another 10 days, maybe longer. In that, it has now become even more persistent than both 2018 and 2021, the two most recent dry summers.
But at least history tells us that it does not necessarily mean anything for the future of our summer salmon fishing. Prone to summer drought and heat, yes of course.
But even so, 2022 is proving to be something else.
Those holy grails of salmon fishery management, precise numbers of smolts going to sea and of adults returning, may always be beyond us. We already count adults going through fish passes on three of our many tributaries, which is an accurate method as long as the technology works, but to cover all tributaries would require building many more caulds/weirs on which to install fish passes and counters, the cost being prohibitive, and the environmental credentials of deliberately blocking the free passage of fish, even with workable passes, extremely doubtful. In short, it isn’t going to happen, and then what about the main stem and the salmon that spawn there, how would you count them?
Smolt migration is even more problematic, both because counting them coming out of tributaries is impossible logistically, and counting them at some point in the main stem, by some sort of corralling system say just below the Till mouth (the Whiteadder you would have to do independently because its mouth is into tidal waters). Some say you could count adults similarly, in a downstream location, by having some sort of newly developed sonar/radar kit counting in every pool.
But the killer to both of these is floods. How do you count anything in a raging flood, when the supposedly orderly progress of both smolts downstream, and adults upstream is completely disrupted, when chaos reigns? Even in a small 6ft flood you can count nothing, except debris, and in a big flood, 10ft plus, the number of trees, branches and straw bales hurtling seaward. And when a flood settles, where have the adults that you had already counted, say in the pools at Tillmouth, gone? Are some of them still there, unmoved or even dropped back downstream, or have they all gone upstream in a rush, and have some fresh fish, straight from the sea, taken advantage of the flood and gone through to Kelso without stopping, avoiding any counting machine? How would you know if you moved this fiendish machine upstream that you were not counting the same fish twice, the ones you had counted before at Tillmouth? Many of our sea trout are bigger than our grilse, so how would you distinguish one from t’other?
In short, counting both total returning adults and migrating smolt numbers will remain a pipe dream, beyond the wit of man. And then you have to ask the question, even if we knew these total numbers, what could we do about it that we are not already doing? If the answer is nothing, then what is the point of the information in the first place?
But that will now stop us hankering after the knowledge, for we humans like to know, information is power etc etc. It would also stop the arguing about fish numbers, for there are still those, unbelievably, who think there are as many salmon coming back to the Tweed as there always were, despite the overwhelming evidence that we now have but a fraction of that.
So the arguing will just have to go on about how many adults are returning. And as for total smolt numbers migrating into the sea at Berwick, we will continue to know remarkably little.
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.
Chris Grieve fishing Tweedswood, landed on a size 16 single.
Crispin Rodwell, Boathouse and Canny, River Tweed - caught on a size 16 Park Shrimp.
Bob celebrated his wedding anniversary at Milne Graden, and caught 7 salmon and 1 sea trout all on Willie Gunns and Junction Shrimp flies.
River Tweed Salmon Fishing Museum, Kelso. Open Monday - Saturday 10am-4pm. Sunday 12pm to 3pm.
Milne Graden grilse caught by Tim Foster and Craig Cockburn
Where To Fish This Week
The lower river continues to fish well with Ladykirk rods producing 23 salmon. Beats around Kelso are also catching fish. Tweedswood and Drygrange also caught salmon last week.
Last weeks catches are at the bottom of this report.
Tackle Shops and Outfitters on Tweed
Guides and Instructions on the River Tweed
Where To Stay on Tweed and the surrounding countryside.
Where To Eat on the river Tweed.
Fishing Permits for Tweed and its tributaries.
Get in touch:
We would like to thank the boatmen, angling clubs and beat owners on the Tweed system who have contributed to this report by providing their time and information as the weekly report would not be possible without your help and support. If you would like to share any interesting stories or pictures from your time fishing on the River Tweed for the purposes of this report, please feel free to contact us here.
If you would like to find out how FishPal can market your fishery please contact us.