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  1. Scotland
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Last week

(Last Updated: Monday 28 November)

If technically there are 3 days to go of the 2022 season, in fact it ended a long time ago. Most fish departed beyond the reach of rod and line some weeks past. If you see something jump now, it is most likely to be a kelt. Less than a decade ago in 2013, Tweed had a miraculous November catching 4,578 salmon, this shortly after an even more remarkable 2010 November catch of 5,874 salmon.

If the November 2022 catch reaches 200, it will be a surprise.

The get-out for optimists is that conditions have been unfavourable, indeed they have with too much water almost all month long, but that cannot disguise the undoubted fact that whenever the river was fishable in November, there were no salmon at home, unless you were fishing in the uppermost reaches.

I receive protestations that these ramblings are too downbeat, that things are not as bad as I make out. When confronted by the all too obvious paucity of numbers in many beats for most of the year, the lowest river notably excepted, it is difficult to reach any other conclusion.

Lurking, often unexpressed, behind attitudes to numbers, is the difference between, on the one hand, enough abundance to run a successful sport fishery, and, on the other, enough to fully stock and replenish the river with eggs and juveniles. The two can be a million miles apart.

Some wags estimate that 200 female salmon of 15 to 20lbs, each harbouring say 12,000 eggs, accompanied by male salmon of similar size, if neatly distributed over the Tweed catchment to cover all tributaries, could fully stock the Tweed system. Ergo, 400 good sized salmon could do the stocking job.

If you assume Tweed as a successful sport fishery needs to catch (say) 10,000 salmon a year, and a 10% strike rate by the rods, then Tweed needs 100,000 salmon to keep the angling fraternity in good humour. Some would argue that, with current catches stuck at or around 5,500 to 7,000, we are some way short of what Orri Vigfusson used to call the necessary “abundance of fiske” for anglers.

In this respect, we have no worries about restocking numbers, but not enough for a really top notch sport fishery, as we definitely were pre 2014. We are in a very similar boat to most other Scottish salmon rivers, even, compared to most, perhaps in better shape. On the positive side, since the dramatic decline of 2014, there is little sign that things are becoming worse. While genuine, whole hearted and well meaning efforts are being made, both here and around all Scottish rivers, to halt the decline and to improve things, maybe “not getting worse” on the Tweed is an achievement in itself. 

The greatest fishy minds are focussed on why salmon returning to Scoltand have sunk from 1.5 million 50 years ago to say 300,000 now, a terrifying 80% decline over many of our lifetimes. Maybe it is all to do with oceanic conditions, maybe it isn’t. Honestly, nobody, but nobody, knows why for sure. Theories abound. Maybe it is a combination of the better ones, together providing a critically less benign environment, in every phase of their future lives, from the moment our salmon are born. 

In the meantime the strategy on most rivers is to maximise smolt production and subsequent survival (viz predation control, food and space in spawning streams etc) within the only environment we can attempt to control, the river itself. Part of that is to keep the ill effects of an ever warming climate at bay. 

Inevitably, the subject of stocking will come under renewed scrutiny. In last month’s Trout & Salmon there is a beguiling story of undoubted stocking success on the west coast Carron. Conventional wisdom still has it that where you have sufficient wild spawning stock (and as shown above we have more than enough) you are better to leave the salmon to do it for themselves, both because they produce better adapted and fitter juveniles and because hatcheries are hugely expensive. Most of our big river colleagues, Tyne, Tay, Spey and many other smaller ones, engage in annual stocking to a greater or lesser extent. Evidence that they are riding out the present general decline in numbers better than the Tweed is notably lacking. Indeed, you could argue that the reverse is true.

And so we go on. Hoping for better in 2023.

Happy Christmas.
 

Andrew Douglas-Home
Author of A River Runs Through Me.

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Photographs 

River Tweed Museum in Kelso is open Monday to Saturday 10am to 4pm and Sunday 12pm to 3pm

The Bemersyde trophy was awarded to Adrian Gotzeim at a luncheon at Bemersyde House on Thursday 22nd September.

Summer salmon caught on Milne Graden

20lb caught on Ladykirk, by Ros Westwood, 11th October.

Early October fish from Dryburgh Upper

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Bemersyde Trophy

Entries are now open for the Bemersyde Trophy for the best salmon landed on a fly on Tweed The winners of this prestigious award (senior and junior) will be invited to a presentation luncheon at Bemersyde House in 2023.

Previous winners of the senior award include Jim Reid, Shamus Jennings, Wayne Longstaff, Finlay Wilson, Craig Duncan, Andy Britton, Jonathon Murray, Janice Hogarth and current winner Adrian Gotzheim

Previous winners of the junior award include Jess England, Debbie Harris, Andrew Kitchingham, Debbie Harris, Harry Gotzheim, Samuel Ackroyd, Harry Brownlow and the current winner Sam Taylor

To be eligible for the trophy the fish must be caught on a fly in a sportsmanlike manner and be returned to the water. For more information and to enter this years trophy please contact the Bemersyde Estate office here.

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Prospects

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.

Last weeks catches are at the bottom of this report.

Helpful Information

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. 

Beat catches reported

(Last week)

Beat Catches
Lower Pavilion Salmon - 0, Sea trout - 1
Fairnilee Salmon - 2, Sea trout - 1
The Yair Salmon - 1, Sea trout - 0

 

 

 

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