WITH 38 years’ experience as a ghillie on the famous Tweed salmon angling beat at Hendersyde, near Kelso, few know more about this stretch of the river than Kenny Jack.
His experience and expertise, now as head ghillie, have benefitted anglers from all round the globe who have flocked to one of the Tweed’s premier stretches of fishing water to test their skill against the king of fish – the salmon.
Sadly, Kenny is ending his career as a full-time Tweed ghillie, partly because of a recurring shoulder problem. The good news is that, he will still be guiding anglers on the Tweed system, as he intends working part-time.
The change will also mean he gets a chance to do a little more fishing himself – something increasingly difficult in a job virtually seven days a week during the 10-month salmon season.
This week, he looked back on his time at Hendersyde, where he started in the spring of 1972 after a few years working for local millers, John Hogarth Ltd, in Kelso.
“I’d been a mad-keen fisherman ever since I was a boy and getting a job here was a dream come true,” said Kelso-born Kenny.
The 2.5 mile Hendersyde beat is owned by the Fenton family and at the peak of the salmon season, it can cost £14,000 for two rods for a week’s fishing.
Kenny said: “I’d always wanted to fish for salmon, ever since I was about 15, and I’d been lucky enough to do that on the Junction Pool at Kelso and just loved it.”
Kenny, whose role as head ghillie will be taken over by his number two, John Kitchingham – who has worked as second ghillie at Hendersyde for 10 years – says the shoulder injury forcing his retirement is simply due to wear and tear.
“I’ll be going part-time along the whole Tweed system, covering for ghillies who are ill or on holiday, because all the old boys who used to do that have pretty much passed on now. I’ll also get the chance to do more fishing myself, both for salmon and trout, and I’m looking forward to that.”
He says the fishing has been getting better over the last few years. “Spring fish stocks are a bit down still, but the autumn run is good.”
The biggest changes Kenny has noticed in his near four decades of service at Hendersyde is the change in anglers’ tackle.
“More people are able to fish because they can handle the tackle a lot easier. There are more women fishing now than there have ever been. Now you often see husbands and wives coming to fish together, sharing a rod, and that’s something you never saw in the old days.
“But there’s so many people wanting to fish that it means a ghillie’s job can be seven days a week. Fishing is now serious business.
“When I first started, you’d mainly see these old retired army colonels and majors fishing. They’d toddle out of the Ednam House Hotel in the morning and fish from 10am until noon, then stop for lunch for an hour or two, then fish in the afternoon for a bit and then go home.
“Nowadays, a lot of anglers are on the river by 9.30am and still there at 9pm.”
Hendersyde is one of the biggest beats on the Tweed and last year a massive 600 salmon were landed on it.
In his time at Hendersyde, Kenny himself has seen clients land salmon in excess of 30lbs on a number of occasions.
“This summer we’ve caught more fish than ever, which is very strange. Big fish too, which you wouldn’t expect to see at this time of year. It’s all a bit of a mystery, but I think it’s due to the amount of flooding there’s been.”
Now a grandfather, Kenny and his partner, Janette will shortly leave the Dower House overlooking the Tweed and move to a new home between Morebattle and Yetholm.
“I could never give it up,” he said referring to fishing. “I’ve always liked to be outdoors. I might even get the chance to do a bit more horse riding!”