Salmon anglers on Angus rivers have enjoyed a summer of success with catch levels on some beats registering a remarkable eight-fold increase over recent years.
Having missed the famous spring-run due to lockdown, fishers on the North and South Esks have enjoyed great sport since the easing of restrictions allowed them to return to the rivers in June.
Beat bosses say there could be a variety of reasons for the upturn, but they are hopeful the figures could signal continuing progress in the recovery of the rivers’ reputations among the sport fishing fraternity.
On the Stracathro stretch of the River North Esk, 58 salmon were landed in July and August, compared to 19 last year – and a more than eight-fold increase in the 2018 two-month total of just seven fish.
Similarly, the Kinnaird beat on the River South Esk has seen an upsurge. July and August salmon catches for both 2018 and 2019 were just below the 20 mark and have more than doubled to 44 salmon and 118 sea trout.
Hughie Campbell Adamson, owner of Stracathro Beat, said: “This year we have had some fantastic fishing water, and a good run of salmon.
“The anglers were desperate to get back on the river after the lockdown and we are delighted to be able to offer them good sport.”
Kinnaird beat factor Jonathan Dymock added: “We are very happy to see catches rising again. We took the leap this year with a 100% catch and release policy, which means all salmon caught are returned to the river.
“We have lots of anglers coming to the river, plenty fish to catch and some excellent fishing pools. Overall, it is very encouraging.”
Dr Craig MacIntyre of the Esk District Salmon Fishery Board said anglers who lost out on the chance to fish for salmon during the highly prized ‘spring run’ had been compensated with a rocketing rise in catches since beats reopened.
“It may be the water, maybe the enthusiasm and maybe more fish, but some beats are reporting their best summer for some time,” he said.
“We know from our fish counter on the North Esk that the runs are shifting and there are many theories about why that is, including it being a natural cycle for the species.
“Another interesting aspect is that most of the fish in the summer would be grilse, returning after a single winter at sea, but we are now getting more salmon. Some of those fish are very large, well over 20 pounds.”
The sport’s popularity and the level of local returns has helped draw anglers back to Angus and brought a welcome boost for businesses linked to the sport.
“Fishing on both rivers has also been made available to local angling clubs so as an amenity during the pandemic that has been a positive feature,” he added.
“With the ongoing uncertainty over foreign travel, there are a great many opportunities for fishing holidays in Scotland. If you can’t fly, fly fish.”