When it comes to river fishing in Scotland, the salmon is king and it is small wonder, for Scottish salmon fishing is world famous. That said, it must be immediately added that the size of individual salmon in Scotland in recent years has not been as big as in the not too distant past. Most anglers seem to blame U.D.N., the dreaded disease which has played havoc with salmon fishing in so many places since the mid 60s, and the netting of many fish, happily now controlled to some extent, from the sea off Greenland. Because of the drought, the 1976 season in Scotland was one of the worst for many years but, despite this, there are now clear signs that the size of Scottish salmon is on the increase again with fish of 40 lb plus being more commonly reported than for some years now.
In an assessment of the quality of Scotland’s salmon rivers, the Tay, by common consent, is rated the finest. For the honour of runner-up, there could be some discussion. Many would plump for the Tweed, and as many more would choose the Aberdeenshire Dee. Generally rated fourth in the honours list would be the Spey. There are, of course, many more salmon rivers than these, some big, some small. The choice, in any case, is a personal one, to say nothing of the undoubted fact that many of the best beats are often difficult, if not impossible, of access. The higher the quality the visitor is aiming for, the greater the difficulty and the more certain it is that he will have to plan his visit long in advance. Some rivers-the Laxford is an example – are so private even a millionaire would have no guarantee that his enquiry would be welcomed.
Such exclusiveness has always been a hazard for the angling game, and it applies as much to other branches of the sport as to salmon fishing. Nonetheless there are, as the following Fishing Guide details show, manifold opportunities for salmon fishing for visitors. And not all are expensive. Though it must be accepted that the rivers offering the chance of more and bigger fish are the most exclusive and costly, there are plenty of other rivers, just as enjoyable and rewarding, and much less costly to fish. In some cases, we have heard of waters where a season ticket is less or only a little more than the asking price for a day ticket south of the border, the moral for the visitor being that it is always worth asking. Further detail is given on the Fishing Guide s which follow. The following list of the 20 biggest salmon ever taken in Scotland’s rivers gives a clear idea of the rarity of really big salmon. Our list begins with the fish currently accepted as the British record salmon.
Salmon: The top 20 64-0-0 Miss G W Ballantine (Tay) Oct 1922 61-8-0 T Stewart (Tay) Oct 1907 61-0-0 Mrs C G Morrison (Deveron) Oct 1924 61-0-0 J Haggart (Tay) Oct 1907 59-0-0 T K Somerville (South Esk) Oct 1888 57-8-0 A Pryor (Tweed) 1886 57-0-0 Maj A Huntington (Awe) 1921 56-0-0 Col A E Scott (Deveron) Oct 1929 56-0-0 J Gordon (Dee, Aberdeenshire) 1886 56-0-0 H Thornton (Awe) June 1923 55-8-0 Capt G Goodwin (Tay) Sept 1898 55-0-0 Marquess of Zetland (Tay) 1895 55-0-0 W A Kidson (Tweed) 1913 55-0-0 Mr Brereton (Tweed) 1889 55-0-0 Mrs A Huntington (Awe) Sept 1927 54-0-0 W Hendry (Don) Oct 1939 54-0-0 J B Lawes (Awe) 1877 54-0-0 J T Ness (Tay) Oct 1942 54-0-0 Lord Ruthven (Tay) 1884 53-0-0 Seven fish are recorded at this weight, four of them from the Tay
Salmon, of course, are far from the only attraction in Scotland’s rivers. In addition, many attract fine runs of sea trout and almost all contain brown trout, some in abundance. A common fallacy among many anglers is the belief that brown trout fishing in Scotland is free or, to use another word sometimes quoted, public. This, we would emphasise, is not the case. The right to fish in any river in Scotland belongs to the riparian owner and his permission must be sought. The only places where fishing free is in the tidal reaches of a river or a sea loch which is navigable.
Coarse fish are far less common in Scottish rivers than in England and in most are considered vermin – with the exception of the grayling. This latter species is found in many Scottish rivers and so are the perch and the pike. The other species are much rarer. Roach -and big ones, too – are found in the Tay, the Forth, the Tweed, the Clyde, some Lothian rivers and in certain tributaries of the rivers mentioned. Coarse anglers are warned that in many places where roach fishing is permitted, there is also a clear requirement that they be killed and not returned to the water. The only other coarse fish found to any extent in Scot-tish rivers is the chub, in general being restricted to the Dumfries and Galloway area.
Finally a word about Sunday fishing. In all Scottish waters, rivers and lochs, Sunday fishing is not permitted for salmon and sea trout by statute. Brown trout and coarse fishing is permitted but even these forms are banned in some areas. A special symbol is used on the following s to indicate those situations where Sunday fishing is not permitted.
Close seasons. For salmon and sea trout fishing in Scotland’s rivers there is considerable variation in the close seasons – for nets and for rod and line – from river to river. To assist the reader, we have given the statutory season for nets and for rod and line before the Fishing Guide entries for each river where known. We should immediately add that there are variations within these dates, ie. The controllers of the fishery may lay down longer close seasons but shorter ones. Where controllers have supplied information about these exceptions these are listed under the relevant centres on the river. The statutory close season for brown trout throughout Scotland is the same, The reader can reasonably presume that if an exception is not quoted in the case of these fish, the statutory season will be the operative one. There is no close season anywhere in Scotland for rainbow trout or coarse fish though here, too, there are exceptions applied by some controllers. Where known, these are also given under centre headings. For obvious reasons, the casual visitor is urged to double check in advance. Greater detail about Scottish close seasons can be found on 20.