This weeks blog has been guest written by Hughie Campbell Adamson. Hughie has run Stracathro Estates, in the North Angus, for twenty-five years. He has served as Chairman of the Association of Salmon Fisheries Boards, and Chairman of Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland.
For the thousands of anglers who enjoy salmon fishing, the turn of the year marks the moment when reminisences of last season are replaced with anticipation of this season.
Unlike game shooting, there is no definitive date when all rivers in Scotland open. In fact 50 days separate the opening date of the Helmsdale (and others) on 11th January from that of the Cree on 1st March. Such is the anticipation of the opening, that many rivers mark the occasion with an official ceremony, which usually involves the pouring of perfectly good whisky into the river!
Salmon fishing does not get the recognition it should. For years, both the UK and latterly the Scottish Governments have failed to grasp the importance of the industry to the rural economy. Professor Radford of Caledonian University was asked in 2005 to evaluate the economic impact of fishing on the Scottish economy and he came up with the figure of £120,000,000 per annum. This figure surprised many people, but when you think about it, it is not difficult to see why it was so high and why it may well be higher now.
The majority of salmon and seatrout fishermen do not spend days with water up to their oxters solely to catch fish. You could say, as a cynic, that with some salmon runs being poor recently, it is just as well! No, we go fishing for a multitude of reasons, and obviously these depend on the individual. Whether it is the scenery, the wildlife, the people, the accommodation, the ease of transport, the common language or just the ambiance which attracts, there is no doubt that Scotland offers more than other destinations. Those who have been lucky enough to fish abroad will have gone in order to catch fish. You do not go to Terra del Fuego for the scenery, nor do you go to Russia for the food!
We have a wonderfully long season. Our spring runs (for salmon that come up our rivers before mid-summer) are almost unique in Europe. With the Scandinavian and Russian rivers not opening till May, there are increasing number of Swedes, Danes and Finns coming to Scotland to fish in the early part of the year. May and June attracts the serious fishermen, whilst later summer is more holiday time with families. Our autumn fishing stretches through to November in some cases, and again caters for the more serious fishermen.
On a beat I know well on the North Esk in Angus, 55% of the fishing is taken by locals who need no accommodation, with the remainder staying in self catering or hotels. On many rivers, especially the larger and also the more remote, the proportion of those fishing who stay in hotels, lodges and self catering rises dramatically.
Salmon are such an iconic species. They represent Scotland at its best. Yet they do not get the recognition they should. We need to recognise the value of angling to the Scottish economy.