Resolve to fight on in 2014

It may be well on in the close season, and by now what salmon did arrive in the South Esk will have spawned and will be descending as “Kelts” in the hope that they will return to the seas and be well enough to return another time to breed again.

I have seen some splashing in the river near Brechin, and they seemed to be in favourable condition, so we simply must wait in hope.

I would expect at this time to have reports of the early spring fish entering the river just as we watched them years ago.

However, with the changes in climate, we now get heavy water and very coloured waters at this time and sighting is impossible, so we will have to wait for an early angler to cast a fly – and only then will we know.

You may remember that nets were deployed on the Upper Kinnaird beat last spring and 22 salmon had radio tags attached by Marine Science Scotland, but no results have become available despite several people I know asking for the results.

Over to you, MSS – why are we not getting the data? It is public property.

It will not surprise you to learn that several major associations have been petitioning the Scottish government on such things as catch and release till end of May, and also to stop all coastal netting until a similar date – and so on it goes.

By now, we all should know that First Minister Alex Salmond gives not one hoot for the wild heritage in our rivers and it is just so much more shredder fodder.

Now here comes the punch line.

The anglers of the Tay have invited him to open the new season at Dunkeld in a few days.

What kind of message does this send and just what will he have to say?

Then he has to cast the first line with fifteen foot salmon rod – this should at least prove hilarious, as even people like me who have fished for a lifetime never perfected such a cast.

Enough of the comedy and to the facts.

Let’s look forward to the new season, and I challenge anyone to tell me what will the year of our river be.

The nets on the Kinnard top beat held back fish in early spring last year, and I have not heard if the experiment will continue.

This gave a local angler a chance to take a few fish before they went upstream.

Will he get the chance again? I don’t know.

When the nets resume in Lunan Bay and Usan, will they continue to take the bulk of the fish destined for the river, and will the last year of the netsmen putting back all sea trout see a good run return?

I don’t know, but I am not bursting with confidence – and neither I feel are most of the other people on the riverbank.

My resolution for 2014 is to continue to fight with all the strength I have to bring about conditions which will allow our heritage “the River South Esk” to recover and to once again see happy anglers on its bonnie banks and the valuable eco-structure saved for further generations.

My award for South Esk Man of the Year this year, goes to two men.

Firstly, Esk Salmon Fisheries Trust Director, Dr Marshall Halliday, for his unstinting dedication and completion of the Rottall Burn Project.

This work has been feted worldwide and is among the most important habitat improvement schemes ever undertaken.

And secondly, at Downiepark and Cortachy, the Ghillie Andy Yates who in his capacity as an Ambassador for the river has brought excellent comebank from the tenants in his charge.

Just what the river needs in its time of troubles.

Tight Lines,

Bill Balfour