I have been fishing both Esks in the last few weeks and have seen little in the way of spring salmon despite losing a good fish on the Stracathro beat last week.
However, fish are being taken and fishing is improving day by day.
Fish counts at the Logie counter have not been good but I expect the March figures will show a distinct improvement.
What has amazed me is the huge number of kelts (spawned fish returning to the sea) in the mid river beats, on the North Esk at Balmakewan, Pert and Stracathro.
And on the South Esk on the Kincraig and Dalgetty beats, angling club members have been taking quite a few and some are very well recovered and difficult to recognise.
Sadly it would appear that anglers in some numbers are not sufficiently educated in the recognition of salmon in their various conditions and are counting well mended salmon as springers.
Also showing in the catch are fish which have yet to spawn and I now am becoming of a mind to admit there seem to be some cognisance in the theory. that salmon runs are becoming later by a few weeks.
The River Dee has already extended its season by two weeks. However, I do not think that the Esks have yet reached this state and a lot more work needs to be done before such a decision should be made.
In the last weeks salmon have been recorded on Kinnaird, Finavon Castle and Cortachy on the South Esk. Cortachy recorded a fish of 18 lbs, the largest so far this year.
On the North Esk, Kinnaber, Morphie, Pert, Stracathro and The Burn have all reported success but fishing effort is still very low.
I find it difficult to understand why anglers refuse to accept “Catch and Release” as there are few places I would rather be than on the spring river and no finer feeling than the thrill of the ultimate quarry (the Springer) and finally returning that shining star to the river to continue its return to its place of birth.
I no longer feel the need to kill all I catch. Yes, in the later heavier runs a fish for the freezer is quite allowable and is most enjoyable on the plate.
It has disappointed me immensely the failure so far of the conservation measures of the last six seasons.
I can only hope that we will see some improvement in the next two years, otherwise we will need to think again and I still remain convinced that the Esks require a hatchery and soon.
If we deposited eggs or fry in the upper river we would at least be able to ascertain just where the mortality is taking place (either in river or in the seas).
In any event we need to try every avenue and unfortunately the first seems to have failed, so let’s get on with the next attempt to resurrect the spring run.
Tight Lines, by Bill Balfour.