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Tay fishermen land surprise catch as huge 20lb salmon leaps into boat

Arnot McWhinnie with his 20lb salmon on the River Tay.
Arnot McWhinnie with his 20lb salmon on the River Tay.

Two Tay fishermen were given the shock of their lives when a 20lb salmon jumped straight into their boat without hitting the sides.

Arnot McWhinnie and Peter Keay, friends for decades with a combined 120 years salmon fishing between them, were left open mouthed with amazement.

The moment was described as a “once in a lifetime experience” by Arnot, after the angler was left reeling from the unexpected arrival onboard.

He said: “My back was to the action. I heard Peter’s warning shout and my first reaction was to look at the rods thinking a fish was on.

“Then something slammed me in the back as Peter roared a salmon had jumped into the boat.”

The salmon

“It was absolutely amazing. The salmon smacked me a couple of times before Peter managed to grab it and held it for a very hurried photograph before returning it to the river.

“The chances of such a thing happening are akin to winning Euro Millions.

“The two of us have had 60 years each fishing and have never seen or talked to anyone who has had a similar experience.

“I do recall, however, seeing a 16 pounder in a glass case which was said to have jumped into a boat about a hundred years ago.”

Arnot said it was the only fish he caught that day.

Atlantic salmon are fondly known as the Silver Leapers and provide one of nature’s great spectacles when they acrobatically jump over seemingly impassable waterfalls as they migrate up rivers to spawn.

Salmon are also often seen enthusiastically leaping from pool to pool to get upriver as quickly as possibly.

Peter, a ghillie who works on the River Tay’s Almondmouth beat, said: “I saw the fish’s head and body emerge like a torpedo and shouted on Arnot to watch out.

“It then thrashed about in the bottom of the boat no doubt wondering where he was.”

It’s not the first time Peter and Arnot have shared an unusual experience.

Nearly 50 years ago  Arnot landed a 20 pounder while fishing the Tay at Scone Palace where Peter was then the boss of a commercial salmon netting crew.

That week not one salmon had been captured by the nets.

Peter admired Arnot’s fish and the told him: “I’ve been lucky, too,” and showed him a magnificent perfectly shaped Tay pearl.

He explained: “The net occasionally dredged up a freshwater pearl mussel and I used to let the men open them.

“For some reason I decided to open one myself and this beautiful pearl popped out.”

Peter had the pearl mounted on a pendant for his wife, Esther.

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