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VIDEO: Eternal hopes of a springer rise as Angus Esks welcome in 2022 salmon season

A favourite fishing hut of the Queen Mother hosted the beginning of the 2022 quest for the king of fish on the River South Esk in Angus.

The wooden bothy sits on the Kinnaird beat just east of Brechin.

And it was there that anglers gathered to mark the new salmon season on the North and South Esks.

River South Esk
Gillie Donald Webster toasts the opening of the season with Ally Norman of the Esk District Salmon Fisheries Board, watched by Douglas Brunton, Deidre Stewart, Jean Marshall and David Adams. Pic: Gareth Jennings/DCT Media.

It’s one brimming with optimism – and not just over the prospect of landing a ‘bar of silver’.

There are also high hopes over the post-pandemic economic and wellbeing boost the sport will bring.

Water of life

The river was graced with fine conditions ahead of Storm Dudley’s anticipated arrival.

Ghillie Donald Webster cast a quaich of Glencadam whisky from the Brechin distillery onto the water in the traditional blessing.

Anglers made the short walk to the river from the hut on Southesk estate built for the late Queen Mum in 1934.

Queen Mother
The late Queen Mother was a keen salmon angler. Pic: Ian Anderson/Daily Mail/Shutterstock

Having grown up at Glamis Castle, she loved Angus and enjoyed fishing the beats of the county.

And the early signs for a successful season on the Angus rivers are promising.

Springers – salmon which enter the rivers early before spawning later in the year – have already been seen.

salmon fishing
David Adams concentrates on his first casts of the 2022 season. Pic: Gareth Jennings/DCT Media.

Good returns

Dr Craig MacIntyre of Esk District Salmon Fishery Board said a 2020 figure of 550 salmon for the two rivers was the best catch since 2016.

The Esks have also enjoyed healthy runs of sea trout in recent years.

And he stressed the importance of sport fishermen in the recovery of wild salmon numbers.

“Central to the protection of wild salmon is the salmon angler,” said Craig.

“It is salmon anglers who are often the first to spot problems with salmon stocks.

River South Esk
Opening day on the Kinnaird beat of the River South Esk. Pic: Gareth Jennings/DCT Media.

“They observe and report incidents of pollution, and most cherish these magnificent fish.

“And it is anglers who help fund local protection and restoration efforts through the cost of their permits.”

Last month, the Scottish Government launched their wild salmon strategy to help save the iconic species.

It coincided with the launch of the Tay season.

The North and South Esk traditionally start a month later and the season runs until the end of October.

salmon fishing
Anglers gather at the distinctive fishing hut on the banks of the South Esk. Pic: Gareth Jennings/DCT Media.

Bookings bouyant

And there is plenty demand for fishing on the two Angus gems.

“The pandemic is still affecting overseas bookings,” Craig added.

“But a lot of the beats on the North Esk are already fully booked, which is great.

“Much of the slack from the absence of visitors from the likes of Scandinavia has been taken up by anglers from all over Britain.”

A new fisheries hub website, eskrivers.org has been developed by the board to promote the North and South Esks.

“We have some fantastic salmon and sea trout fishing in the area, from well-maintained beats to more challenging, and often more rewarding, fishing off the beaten track,” said Craig.

salmon fishing
Salmon fly rods ready for action at Kinnaird. Pic: Gareth Jennings/DCT Media.

And there are hopes the emergence from Covid will tempt newcomers to the river bank.

“The Esk DSFB and Esks Rivers & Fisheries Trust is always keen to encourage new participants to fishing,” said Craig.

“Local clubs often operate a ‘buddy’ scheme for new anglers, with tips on where and when to fish.

“And they have access to some great local waters to get you started.

“Fishing is good for you too.

“Hooking a salmon certainly gets the heart pumping.

“But it is also very good for mental health, by providing stress relief and being able to forget about life’s worries for a few hours.”

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