Last ‘Tight Lines’ of the year

Looking forward to New Year I wonder just what we will have to face in the changing world of angling?

The rains of the last few days have got me worried as I simply cannot remember such a sustained period of immense flood conditions and every angler knows what happens to a riverbed during a spate. This is a period of extreme change, a time when sand, gravel, stones and boulders are moved downstream and banks are undercut producing even more debris.

What is worrying me mostly is that this is the time when salmon and trout eggs have been deposited on the redds and this deluge is undoubtedly sweeping a large proportion of these eggs into the flow and over such a long period of high water they must be well on their way to the sea. I do not wish to be a prophet of doom but I and many others are very worried especially with the perilous state of stocks in the South Esk at this time.

We are also learning that the 6000 plus salmon netted by the Usan Fishery are by no means all destined for our river but that the North Esk, Dee, Don and Tay are also losing fish perhaps to the extent of 60 per cent of that total. This being so then only around 2000 of these fish were bound for the South Esk and as all anglers are aware the stock in the river is poor and these 2000 fish become more important by virtue of their scarcity.

For some years the Esk Salmon Fisheries Board have been compensating Usan Fisheries in return for delaying coastal netting by three months in the spring, but now it would appear that the Marine Science Scotland (MSS) radio tagging program is proving that the Esk Board has been compensating Usan for salmon not destined for the Esks but on their way to the Dee, Don and Tay and therefore it is my opinion that they (Usan Fisheries) should be negotiating with three other fishery bodies.

This MSS programme is bringing forward facts previously unknown but is so far failing to get the primary reason for its inception into gear. It was set up to investigate the spring run in the South Esk and to build up an understanding of their movements during their time in the river. It was hoped to pinpoint the areas of the river they used for spawning and to see if there was any habitat improvements that could be brought forward.

In order to try and get more South Esk springers radio tagged MSS are to net the pool below the Kinnaird dam in the hope that they will mark more South Esk fish and thus provide the information they require.

In my last report of the year, may I wish all my many angling friends and the many others who read my words a very happy new year and many tight lines.

Bill Balfour.