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Balmoral '50-pounder': the verdict

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Royal Deeside: The Dee at Balmoral (Photo: FishDee). Royal Deeside: The Dee at Balmoral (Photo: FishDee).

A fisherman catches a huge salmon, but there is no witness and no photograph and only a rough measurement taken of the fish's length against a rod. Coverage of the capture of 'the Balmoral 50-pounder' caught this June has since appeared in magazines from the Field to Trout and Salmon and the capture has been well documented and discussed on our own Fly Forums. But how does such a catch go down in the history books? And what was the final verdict of a man who lives and breathes the River Dee, Ken Reid, Fisheries Development Officer of The Dee District Salmon Fisheries Board?

 

First, the facts as we know them and as reported in the press: Nick James was fishing the Balmoral beat on the River Dee in early June this year. Mr James, Chairman of the Wye & Usk Foundation and an experienced angler with, previously, fish in the twenties of pounds to his credit, was fishing Scholbach Pool on the evening of June 6 as a member of the Woodward party.
The fish took his size 14 Cascade double as it started its swing across the pool from where it landed beside the pool's main feature, a rock. His line went tight and a big fish jumped, then ran upstream. It is not a very big pool and the fish made a number of circuits and tried to leave the pool a couple of times. Nick's adjusted his disc as the fish veered between shallow and deeper water. 
Eventually the fish tired and Nick was able to beach the salmon.
Nick said he was astonished at how big the fish was. Nick's camera was in the car so he couldn't take a picture and no one was on hand to retrieve the camera for him, or witness the catch. Nick had earlier landed a 7 lb salmon. Nick put his rod down beside the fish and marked on the rod blank the precise length of the fish as it lay in the shallows. The next morning they measured the rod length to the mark Nick made on the blank and Balmoral gillie, John saw it measured 50 inches and they checked the weight chart. Nick had guessed the fish would have been 35 lbs plus-a great fish. They now realised 'how big that length would make the fish he landed'.
After the encounter Nick was unable to fish on and left the river to report the event to his colleagues who were 'astonished and delighted'.

So there it is, nearly two months on.
We talked to Ken Reid, Fisheries Development Officer of The Dee District Salmon Fisheries Board who also made the important qualification to Fish and Fly
 that the measurement of 50inches was from snout to tip of tail so 'you would have to deduct a number of inches from the length' [the correct way to measure a fish being from the tip of nose to fork of tail].
So here is a potential difficulty with the evidence we have: we have to deduct an unknown number of inches from a length measured on a rod, the only objective evidence we have.
I asked Ken about reports of scale samples taken but he had no knowledge of such samples.
Ken
made a final appraisal to Fish and Fly on what was clearly a significant salmon: "We can only congratulate Mr James on his remarkable achievement in landing such a significant fish. We may have as much as 50,000 fish running the River Dee every year and there is probably a very small percentage of these very large fish, over 40lbs."
So here is a fish that is likely to have been over 40lb. And you only have to look at the picture of Arni Baldursson's 30lb plus salmon caught from the Sela in Iceland and featured today on our News page to see what a magnificent fish this must have been.So our congratulations to Nick James on his Balmoral Jubilee salmon.







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Balmoral salmon, Aberdeenshire Dee

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