As the season rolls on the two Esks continue to produce totally variable sport.
On the North Esk salmon continue to enter the system and they are still in first class condition, having found good feeding grounds on the North Atlantic Ocean.
However, grilse (a salmon which has only spent one winter at sea) still fail to enter the river in any numbers and the same can be said of sea trout.
This would seem to suggest that feeding in the nearer North Sea is not nearly so good and that will be causing some concern.
Many of the grilse which have entered the river are small, emaciated and in poor health, something that has been seen now for around eight years.
Last year we were all happy to see really good runs of sea trout and hopes were high of a renaissance but this year it is all change and not only in the Esks but right up the east coast of Scotland.
In the South Esk, where the Usan netsmen are getting paid huge sums to put all net caught sea trout back into the sea, the run is, to say the least, dismal.
Never before have I failed to contact a sea trout in the South Esk by this time of year, and it is not for the want of trying.
I did have a decent salmon on the middle beat of Kinnaird last week, but saw other put back as they were too big to be killed within the current regulations.
What I am finding on the banks of the rivers is an increasing objection to the current regulations.
The main point is certainly the fact that all bigger fish must be returned by anglers while the Usan netsmen are killing thousands of the best stock fish.
People are getting fed up with rules for one and different rules for others and I am beginning to have some sympathy with the anglers.
One well-known angler is of the opinion that we should fish the river dry of fish and thus kill off the coastal fisheries when there are no fish left.
He continued; “They are reaping our harvest,. We look after the breeding stock in the river, return all the fish we take, spend hundreds of thousands of pounds in habitat improvement for the spawning fish. improve fish passes and re-open new habitat. What for?
“To provide a huge profit for a very few who have absolutely no financial input. Imagine being a farmer who did not have to plough, who did not have to sow, who did not have to buy fertilizer or seed, who has no input into health problems, but reaps a free harvest at the cost of others.”
I can well see where the ill-feeling is coming from on our riverbanks and I fear it is accelerating fast.
We anglers will only take so much and the crunch is approaching faster than I have ever experienced.
The whole valuable eco system of the Atlantic salmon is in jeopardy in the South Esk and the cause is only too apparent, but where is our Scottish Fisheries Department and the Scottish Government?
The answer. Absent and showing no sign of concern.
By Bill Balfour.