Well after what seemed like the longest 3 months of my life the start of the salmon season was upon us, this year for a change I was determined to put some time in an catch the ultimate prize – a February springer.
Before I could start my search for some Tyne silver I had some very special opening day event’s that I had been invited to. Incredibly I had been asked to be part of the opening ceremonies on 2 very iconic Scottish rivers, this was something that I was never going to turn down, even if it meant losing good fishing time. Ever since I started my salmon fishing quest as a young lad all those years ago I always remembered seeing photos and videos of opening ceremonies, this wouldn’t, however, prepare me for what I was about to experience first hand. It was the last day of January and after a very scenic drive up and over the border I arrived at the lovely town of Callander, situated on the banks of the stunning river Teith where I was not only the guest of honour but would be helping Stirling council open their 2019 salmon fishing season on the council’s water. After pulling into the towns car park to meet my good friend and fisheries officer Scott Mason for a pre-event walk around, I was literally lost for words, which if you know me doesn’t happen very often, not only did the town have a beautiful river running through it but the mighty mountain Ben Ledi towering over the place, what a spectacular view from a council piece of water – Simply incredible!
After a good sleep we woke to absolute freezing conditions and temperatures of -8, now the majority of the British population would be put off by conditions like this, anglers, however, are a totally different type of breed, especially when silver is involved. Eventually arriving at the town centre we were met by a colossal crowd of both anglers and public who were all ready and waiting to get the proceeding underway. Firstly we all had to pose for the obligatory group photo before we marched down the river for the ceremony, now when say marched Imean marched – all of a sudden the air filled with bagpipes and thunderous drums and I was quickly ushered to the front and we headed off. This was hands down the most insane thing I’ve ever been involved in, with the streets all cordoned off and people lined along the paths and the sound of Scottish music I really felt like I was leading an army into battle, maybe only an army of salmon anglers but the feeling and atmosphere was surreal. Once we reached the river it was time for a few quick speeches, i particularly wanted to make sure that each and everyone at the event new just how important they are in the survival of this incredible species, but also to the council for putting on such an amazing day, the free fishing and bringing the local community together, I’ve never known another council to do anything like this before and I’m sure there’s a lot that could take a good hard look at what these guys do. Shortly after I was not only given the honour of blessing the river with some beautiful locally distilled whiskey but also having the first cast to officially start the season and everyone’s silver quest. I have to say a huge thank you to Scott for the invite, he literally is the perfect person for his job role and has a true passion for these fish and his beloved river, id also like to thank everyone for being so welcoming and friendly, especially to a Geordie from over the border.
Just over a week later I was back on my travels, again I’d be crossing the border but this time to the famous Deveron and the home of the British record fly caught salmon, an incredible fish of 61lb caught by a Mrs. Clementina “Tiny” Morison back in 1924, the crazy thing about this fish is that it wasn’t weighed for days later and could possibly have weighed more than the current record fish of 64lb, but we will truly never know. So after a good 5-hour drive, I arrived on the banks of the Beautiful River Deveron, for some reason I had visions that it was going to be a large intimidating river due to the size of the fish it producers, I couldn’t have been more wrong, it was, however, a stunning and manageable looking river to fish. It was the morning of the celebrations and arriving at the river with Richie Miller (River Deveron district salmon fishing board), we were met with coloured rising water from the rain overnight, this was a bit of shame as even tho the day is all about celebrating the start of the season, it’s nice to think that there’s a chance of one of the anglers striking silver. Again on such a cold morning, it was great to see such a good turnout of people ready to see the proceedings begin, this time I had the role of presenting the sort after and prestigious Morrison trophy for the previous years largest fish, although the 22lb salmon wasn’t as large as previous years, it was a stunning chrome spring fish that would be a fish of a lifetime for any angler. After the presentation, the bagpipes fired up and we were on the move towards the water where I would be blessing the river and wishing everyone the best for the season ahead, again this was an absolute honor to have been given this role as being a fanatical salmon fisherman all my life, I know what the day, river and fish mean to everyone involved.
The one thing I did promise myself this year is to get on the water more in the spring and try and strike silver. Due to the summer-like weather conditions and great water height, a February fish could possibly be on the cards, but bearing in mind the earliest I’ve ever had a springer in April, and that was spinning, but i was so determined to put the time in. Now the Tyne above Bywel isn’t renowned for springer’s In Feb/March since the fish pass and counter was built in the early ’90s, for example, last year we had 2 fish run through the counter, the likelihood of finding those fish in the whole system above is near enough impossible, but with conditions looking in our favour and around 20 fish already through, we had a chance. First to strike silver was my good buddy Andy Blyth, who not only landed an incredible fish of around 20lb on a fly I’d given him the day before, he managed to better it 2 days later on the same fly but with an absolute beast of a sea lice’d springer, weighing in at staggering 25lb – What a fish! The next time I bumped into Andy lets just say the fly was back in my possession, it wasn’t a one-off pattern (Flame thrower tube) just the last in my fly box, now with the Magical fly in hand and the fact fish were being caught i was down to the last day of the month to get my prize. We fished like absolute troopers all day, covering the water as best as we could but to no avail, I had however seen a fish move earlier on, it looked too small to be a true Tyne springer but the thought of not giving it one last bash wasn’t an option. Moving into position towards the prime taking spot I put out a pinpoint cast just in-between the two conflicting currents, a few figures of eight retrieves – Bang, the rod was nearly ripped out my hands, in an instant, I knew we had a proper fish on the end, but for some reason I still doubted, even tho it was running around the pool like an absolute lunatic. After losing all my other previous springers hooked over the years I was sure that he was going to disappear, this time however the salmon god’s were on my side and he ended up safely in the net, I’d done it, over 20 years of trying and I’d finally got my most sought after prize – A stunning February springer around 8/9lb, a couple of quick snaps and he was returned to finish his journey.
I wonder what March holds for us, tight lines guys………