If the Tay be considered the King of Scottish salmon rivers then surely the Tweed must be Queen. She does not have the water weight of the Tay at normal times but still has a regal majesty which spans back through centuries of Scottish history. The river was – and still is for many a Borderer – a Hadrian’s Wall forming, in the lower reaches, the boundary between England and Scotland.
Spawned 1,500ftupinthehillsof Tweedsmuir – incidentally pinching some water from the English side of the border! – the Tweed flows about 100 miles to enter the North Sea at Berwick on Tweed. Its entire watershed, fed by considerable tributaries and numerous small burns, totals almost 1,900 square miles, second only to the Tay in its drainage area. Famous angling centres along its banks include Peebles, Inner-leithen, Galashiels, Melrose, Kelso and Coldstream.
Not so long ago, the Tweed was Scotland’s most prolific salmon river for rod and net catches. Now the Tay is rated the top, certainly in terms of rod catches. But the Tweed must still be reckoned one of Scotland’s best and most popular rivers, not least because access to it is easier than to the more northerly rivers.
Trout fishing is available on ticket on much of the river though there are some sections where it is strictly private. As in other areas, breaches of regulations are frowned on by owners and local associations, the latter concerned, as always, about possible loss of privileges. Daytime trouting on the Tweed is best in April and May with Greenwell’s Glory among thethree most popular fly patterns – the other two are March Brown and Iron Blue Dun. The Greenwell -now used everywhere — was invented on Tweedside in the last century when Canon Greenwell persuaded a local tyer to produce something which would cover a large range of natural olives. A great trout river, the Tweed has evolved its own range of fly patterns for the dry fly enthusiast. Apart from spring, the evening rise can be superb in late June and July.
Salmon fishing on the river is as much Scotland’s heritage as the country itself. From Peebles down, there are literally hundreds of famous beats. Yair, Pavilion, Bemersyde, Mertoun, Makerstoun and the wonderful Junction Pool where the Tweed joins the Teviot, then on to Hendersyde, Sprouston, Birgham, Carham and Wark before the lower stretches of the river below Coldstream are reached. All are names to be conjured with by anyone contemplating fishing this river. Most of the salmon fishing is preserved, either by syndicates or on lease from estates. Association fishing is available in some areas. Up by Peebles this can be good in October and November with a proportion of early fish in the late spring and early summer. Hotel fishing on the middle and lower reaches is also available, at Melrose and Tillmouth for example. Tweed ‘springers’ are rarely big, 7-9 lb being the average with occasional bigger fish. Late summer and autumn fish go much bigger with 23-25 lb not uncommon. First-time visitors should note a rule peculiar to Tweed salmon. It is allied to the netting season which runs from Feb 15 to Sept 14. While the nets are not in operation, fly only is a Tweed rule. The biggest Tweed salmon ever caught was a fish of 57} lb taken from the Floors Water at Kelso in 1886 but there is some evidence that an Earl of Home caught one of 69 lb 12 oz in 1730. If corroborated that would beat the current British record, a 64 lb fish from the Tay.
Tweed sea trout run big with fish of nearly 30 lb turning up in nets in recent years. But they are not good takers and many are hardly in the river before they turn left for England … up the Till.
There are also many coarse fish in the Tweed. Grayling are found throughout its length. From Kelso down, there is a huge population of roach, fish of a pound and more being commonplace with specimens of 2 lbs also reported. Enormous catches of these fish were reported before they were hit, like their English brothers, with disease in the mid 60s. Coarse fishing for roach seems to be concentrated at the moment in the tidal water. Many owners discourage it and others demand that all fish caught are instantly killed, a demand which will be found unpalatable to the majority of coarse fishers whose belief in returning all fish alive to the water as a conservation measure is one of the basic tenets of their sport. Whether the cause be disease or destruction, Tweed roaching, though still worthwhile, is not the bonanza it once was. . SOS: Feb 15-Sept 14 (Net); Feb 1-Nov 30 (R&L)
Berwick (the tidal river)
Kelso, Roxburghs, BordersS 2J milesfrom Merton to
WT: All enquiries to Bell-Ingram, 7,
Walker Street, Edinburgh EH3 7JY x+
Kelso, Roxburghs, BordersCT ?-(Apr 1-Apr30)From Kelso Cauld to Pinnacle Hill March and from Crown Point to top of Broase Stream (RB) and from Kelso Cauld to Broase Stream (LB) except two private sections
DT (not on Sat): ATS (Kelso)R. Gibson, Boathouse, Sproustong e Melrose, Roxburghs, BordersT 1J miles from St. Helens downstream AB DT: A (J. Stewart, Ironmonger, Melrose)K (W. Murray, Drygrange; Melrose)=Apr1-Oct 6e Melrose, Roxburghs, BordersS ?-(Feb 1-Feb 15and Sept 15-Nov 30)2 milesfrom pavilion (at Lower Pavilion) to TweedswoodBB -George & Abbotsford. T: Melrose 2308.21 rooms (4rf n) Feb 1 – Nov30 Norham, NorthumbCT3 miles in area above and below Norham
DT: AH (Masons Arms, Norham)!
Peebles, Peebles, BordersTS
From Manor Bridge to Priorsford
Bridge (known as Peebles Town
Peebles, Peebles, BordersT (at certain times)From the March, RB, between Stanhope and Patervan and LB between Mossmennan and Kingledores (about 2 miles below Crook Inn). Down on both banks to Peebleshire-Selkirk border (The water of the county of Peebles AIA). Certain parts are excepted and anglers should note these carefully. They are clearly listed on permit
DT:ATS (Peebles and lnnerleithen)H (George Hotel & Tweed Valley Hotel, both Walkerburn)PO(Stobo)Apr1-Sept30
Peebles, Peebles, BordersTS (Sept 14-Nov 30) 12 miles from Wire Bridge Cottage below Peebles to Selkirk boundary (except certain private sections shown on Peebles Salmon Fishing Association map of water) BB
DT:(LafterSept14:20(Mon-Fri)30 (Sat)ATS (I. Fraser, Northgate, Peebles) or Amessrs Blackwood and Smith, WS, 39, High Street, Peebles, EH458AHFeb21-Nov 30tfe
St. Boswells, Roxburghs, BordersT4i miles in area as described on ticket AB DT:ATS(St.Boswells)H (Dryburgh Abbey Hotel, Dryburgh)Lilliards Caravan Park orAAA(St. Boswells AA)Mar 15-Oct6
Walkerburn, Peebles, Borders TSTS-?-(at certain times)10 milesfrom Holyleeto Peebles (underspecial hotel arrangement) DT: AH (Tweed Valley Hotel, Walkerburn. Also operates special trout and salmon weeks, including fishing tuition, also trout fishing weekends, Apr-Nov) ‘=Apr 1-Sept 30 (T); Feb 21-Nov 30 (S)
Salmon:’ 69-12-0 Earl of Home 1
Salmon:,2 57-8-0 A Pryor 1
Salmon:3 55-0-0 W A Kidson Nov 1 “though certainly legendary, the Douglas-Home family have a document in their possession crediting the capture of this fish to William, 8th Earl of Home. Even if there was a discrepancy in weight, it seems certain the fish he caught must have been a huge one ‘generally accepted as the Tweed record salmon 3mentioned because on the same day, Mr Kidson had anotherfish of 49 lb, the two almost certainly adding up to the finest brace of salmon evertaken in Scotland