The Tweed fishery, worth an estimated £15m a year to the Borders economy, is bracing itself for another disappointing season of salmon catches.
With just over two weeks of the 2015 salmon fishing season remaining, a summer/autumn rod return of around 6,000 fish is predicted – on a par with 2014 but well below the annual average of around 11,000 taken over the same period in the previous five years.
“That the last two autumns have gone seriously ‘t..s up’ in comparative fishing terms is not in doubt, both coming in at about half the catch we have come to expect,” said Andrew Douglas-Home, a past chairman of the River Tweed Commissioners and the owner of the Lees beat near Coldstream.
The considered wisdom among the angling fraternity is that a lack of rainfall in the normally prolific salmon-running month of October has been a major factor in preventing the expected influx of salmon and grilse from the sea. But, according to beat reports, the recent heavy rain appears to have made little difference.
Writing on his tweedbeats website, Mr Douglas-Hume observed: “Water alone cannot produce more fresh fish running into the river and, last week, it most certainly did not.
“While some beats have done okay this year, even they will struggle to hit their five-year averages. Many others will not get to half their five-year averages and those who do will still be 30-40% down.”
Mr Douglas-Home said that to achieve a catch of over 10,000 fish in summer/autumn required a run of over 100,000.
“In neither 2014 or 2015 have we had anything like that,” he stated, admitting that the reasons remained a mystery.
“Maybe 2014 and 2015 have been poor because not enough smolts, for whatever reason, went to sea in the previous two years to produce the salmon and grilse [returning to the river for the first time] we have become accustomed to. We will never know.”
However, Mr Douglas-Hume distanced himself from the “doom mongers”.
“I refuse to join them simply because of two below-par autumn seasons on the Tweed,” he said.
“If you had been here as I was in 1967 when ulcerative dermal necrosis [UDN] struck, you would have seen the very worst, with every salmon in the river in April that year either dead or dying of the disease.
“You would have said that Tweed salmon fishing would never be the same again. I have no doubt the good times will come again, but we are in the process of change. It might take time to get there and it might not be quite the same.”
Beat returns on the FishTweed website indicate that 226 salmon and grilse were taken by rods in the last week of October.