FishDee season review – part 1

FishDee beats have reported 6707 salmon and grilse and 1088 sea trout for the 2012 fishing season. In terms of the salmon and grilse catch, the 2012 season total shows a 23.8% decrease on 2011 and a 2.8 % increase on the 5 year average for FishDee beats. Catches reported per month through the season were as follows Feb 313, Mar 233, Apr 494, May 762, Jun 820, Jul 1155, Aug 1041, Sep 1192 and October 697. The spring period Feb to May, showed a 38.4 % decrease on 2011, summer period, Jun to Aug a 1% increase on 2011, and the autumn period, Sept and Oct, a 20% reduction on 2011. To provide some context it has to be said the 2012 salmon rod catch was in fact the third best in the last 20 years, with 2010, the best return in 20 years and 2011 the second best return in 20 years. The sea trout catch in 2012 was reported as 1088 against last year’s 1501 and a 5 year average of 1591 however there is a trend for widely fluctuating annual catches for sea trout historically. It should be pointed out there are a number of beats that do not report catches on the FishDee website and the full rod catch for the River Dee in 2012 will be quite a bit higher than shown on the FishDee website and reported above. Rod bookings made on the FishDee website have been really strong in 2012 with a healthy increase in bookings over the excellent performance in 2011. Traffic to the website is now over 2.5 million hits annually with the website providing an exceptional one stop resource for finding angling opportunities on Deeside for local, national and international anglers. It also provides a wide range of contact details for many businesses in Deeside that support angling tourism.

The salmon fishing season opened on Wednesday the 1st of February with the well supported opening ceremony taking place at Ballogie, and the Potarch Hotel provided hot snacks and refreshments to the 250 or so assembled guests and media. Both BBC and ITV news teams attended the event and broadcast news from the ceremony. The river was opened this year by television actor and comedian Mr. Paul Whitehouse. Paul advised the audience that he is a regular visitor to Deeside and caught his first ever salmon at Commonty and his first ever salmon on the fly at Carlogie. River Dee Board and Trust chairman Ian Scott announced to the assembled audience that agreement had been received in principle from the Scottish Government for a permanent extension to the fishing season. This would see the river close for fishing on the 15th October for beats downstream from Aboyne Bridge, with beats above Aboyne Bridge closing on the 30th September as per the River Dee conservation code 2012.

The first day of the fishing season saw the river at a low level with water temperature around 1 degree Celsius. There were 30 salmon reported on opening day from FishDee beats with catches from Middle Drum to Dinnet; Invery beat had a red letter day with 8 salmon. The heaviest fish on opening day presented a little dilemma as there were two fish caught that measured 36 inches and only one prize up for grabs. Ballogie Estates head Ghillie Sean Stanton very kindly donated two lovely boxes of flies to Ken Reid to make presentations. River Dee chairman Ian Scott presented visiting angler Charles Jeffrey with his award at the Tor Na Coille hotel and Ken Reid presented the other box of flies to Malcolm Thorne at Lower Blackhall.

Fishing conditions were at time difficult in February with a number of days fishing lost to grue. Anglers made the best of the conditions when they were suitable and some reasonable catches were made of both multi sea winter fish and some small salmon. Successful anglers included Richard Thomas, Graeme Arthur, Iain Wood, Dave Gordon, Tina Cummings, Austin Todd, Jeff and Roni Viner, Dr Patrick Taylor, Mark Paterson, Tom and Jean Marshall, Tony and Phillip Black and many more anglers. As the month drew to a close anglers were hopeful that sport would pick up during march however there were concerns of very little snow in the mountains to provide a reservoir and this was to impact significantly for anglers in March due to an unseasonable hot spell of weather which caused the snow to melt and river levels to fall away to low summer levels.

March turned out to be a difficult month due to sustained very low and unseasonably warm water temperatures. That said there were some lovely big fish landed with Jamie Hammond enjoying some fantastic sport at Lower Crathes where he landed salmon of 22 and 24lbs on a Friday evening and Saturday morning, which were part of a 5 fish catch he made in 3 days. Fish were running hard through the lower beats to the upper river and Ghillies were using summer tactics and fishing summer lies trying to find fish. Invery continued to provide good sport. Successful anglers included Craig Corbett from Portlethan (25lbs), Willie Roy, Aberlour 20lbs and 11lbs, and Callum Highett with his first Springer of 15lbs. There was a salmon landed at Cairnton on a size 14 executioner; not a fly you would expect to see salmon taking in March. Now it is a matter on record, Aboyne now holds the record of being the warmest place in Scotland in March at 23.6 degrees Celsius. The clocks moved forward to BST towards the end of the month and within days the weather had changed substantially and there was 1 foot of snow on Mount Keen. The humour of the salmon changed and they came back on the take again; much to the relief of Ghillies and anglers.

April heralded the resumption of more seasonal weather with regular snow flurries, frosts and increasing river levels. The stress put on salmon by the fluctuating weather conditions should not be underestimated. In March salmon were lying in the neck of the pools in good numbers seeking oxygen and jockeying continually for position. Days later into April temperatures had plummeted hugely and the impact on the salmon’s physiology seemed to cause stress which was noted in reports of isolated fresh fish seen with fungus. Thankfully this problem seemed to disappear over a period of weeks as salmon became more spread out and less stressed, but it was a concern for all. Lars Terkildsen brought a crack team of anglers over from Sweden, as did Mattias Helde and they had some super catches on the beats they fished with some big specimens landed and some bigger ones lost. Mawill Lüdenbach reported the loss of a huge fish he fought into the darkness at Ballogie. He had the fish close in and estimated that it was perhaps 1.1 meters long and suggested comfortably over 30lbs. There were a good number of fish landed during April in excess of 20lbs. River levels seemed to fluctuate all too regularly which must have put fish off the take at times. Catches rose to just short of 500 but all things being equal it had been another difficult month with catches significantly less than the previous year when conditions were excellent. We headed into the month of May hoping to see a big surge in running fish and catches. There were to be no shortage of anglers eager to catch a prized Dee Springer and there were to be some whoppers.

May saw temperatures continue to be on the cold side until the last 10 days when they finally rose significantly. There had been days when the air temperature struggled to get above 5 degrees Celsius but towards the end of the month temperatures rose to over 22 degrees as skies became clear and high pressure built. There were some big fish landed with John Richmond taking the honours with a 30lb salmon at Invery. Ole Wistler had a beautiful 28lber at Lower Invercauld & Monaltrie, a beat that was bucking the trend and fishing very well. Peter Pleydell-Bouverie had a nice 25 lb salmon at Lower Crathes; Arni Baldursson took the 100th salmon for the beat for the season. Davie Gibbon, Ghillie at Middle Blackhall reported the capture of a fabulous 25lb salmon for Mr. Pinney; likewise Colin Simpson reported a 25lb salmon for Ian Rose at Lower Blackhall. The months reported capture of 762 salmon was a big improvement over the previous month’s totals and this trend was to continue as we entered the summer period on the Dee in June with her Majesty the Queens Jubilee celebrations coinciding with the reported capture of a massive salmon for Nick James, Chairman of the Wye and Usk foundation, at Balmoral of 48 inches in length.

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