To the traditional sound of the pipes, anglers gather along the river Tay to toast the annual opening of the salmon season.
The economic importance of angling was stressed by Dr Aileen McLeod, minister for environment, climate change and land reform, who was guest of honour at one of the major gatherings at Hilton Dunkeld House.
“It is great to be here to make the first cast of the salmon fishing season on the Tay,” she said.
“Scotland is recognised across the world as the destination for salmon and freshwater fishing. Game and coarse angling is worth more than £100 million to the Scottish economy, and supports almost 3,000 jobs, which shows the importance of maintaining and enhancing the quality of our rivers and fish stocks.
Picture gallery: Salmon season opens on River Tay
“I plan to launch the next stage of the wild fisheries reform programme shortly, which will confirm this Government’s ongoing commitment to manage, conserve and develop our wild fisheries.”
William Jack, chairman of the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board (TDSFB) said: “The Tay is the first of Scotland’s big salmon rivers to open each year and we really appreciate the minister’s interest in this great occasion.
“Salmon angling on the Tay is not just a pastime enjoyed by many from all walks of life but is also a significant contributor to the local economy in this area creating many jobs for ghillies and in the hospitality sector and is rightly deserving of Government support.”
Dr David Summers, director of the TDSFB, said the health of the river’s salmon population appeared robust.
“There is particular interest in the Tay this year as our ‘spring’ catches have been tending to increase in recent years following a period of decline,” he said.
“Last year preliminary figures indicate 2,100 salmon were caught by the end of May, of which 94% were released alive, making it one of the best Mays in recent years. The 836 reported in June was the second best ever since reporting started in 1952. The number of larger salmon returning to the river also seems to be on a rising trend, as evidenced by this year’s Malloch Trophy winner.”
At the Dunkeld ceremony Dr McLeod presented the FishPal Malloch Trophy for one of the largest salmon caught by an angler on a fly and safely returned during the year in Scottish waters to the 2015 winner. The successful angler was Tom Buchanan from Barrhead in Glasgow for a 35 lb salmon caught on the River Lyon, a major Tay tributary.
Another big gathering was based around The Kenmore Hotel. Provost Liz Grant, guests and anglers made their way to the river led by the Vale of Atholl Junior Pipe Band for the ‘blessing of the boat’ before three-times World Speycasting Champion, Scott Mackenzie, made the first cast of the day.
At Meikleour Pipe Major Ian Duncan led the anglers to the river just below Kinclaven Bridge. Proud of its 300 years of Franco Scottish connections, the water at Meikleour was blessed with a dousing of whisky and Champagne.