The Tweed and its tributaries did not catch 1,000 salmon last week, but not very far from it.
Some beats caught more in one day than in the whole of the spring.
Generally, the majority were old river fish, and salmon, rather than grilse. If you count anything 7lb and under as being a grilse, then somewhere between 15% and 25% were grilse, with most weighing between 8lb and 16lb.
Catches were patchy, symptomatic of a river not yet fully stocked where one beat has a bonanza, but the beat next door catches little or nothing.
The boatmen have had the year from hell, week after week of trying to be cheerful when in reality they knew it was no good; nobody deserves some relief, from that neverending feeling of hopelessness, more than they do; it can be a good and relatively satisfying job when the fish are there, and biting, a nearly impossible one when they are not.
And the indications are that very few fish were actually killed last week, to the credit of the boatmen in particular, but also the fishermen and women concerned.
This year, Scotland-wide, has been sobering for us all, with salmon absent in most rivers for too long; if nothing else, it makes you realise that keeping one for the freezer is not that important in the great scheme of things, and, if I read my Scottish Fisheries Review draft (published last week) correctly, killing salmon in future may be a matter of licence, to be paid for, not a right.
There is much controversial stuff in the draft Review, not least for Tweed, whose English fishery owners might find themselves paying a standard (central) fishery levy rate (or tax) to a Scottish Government, in the election of which they have no vote.
Now, even Andrew Thin, chairman of the Review body, must have heard of the Boston Tea Party and “no taxation without representation”?
Here is Recommendation 25 of the Review:
“A standard levy rate, determined by Scottish Ministers through the National Unit, should apply to all wild fisheries in Scotland (the whole of Tweed is to be treated as Scotland) regardless of location, and be set at a level approximately equivalent to that which might be expected if such fisheries were required to pay business rates. Utilisation of funds arising from the standard rate should be determined by the National Unit (the Scottish Government) in accordance with national strategic priorities, and deployed across Scotland in a fully transparent manner according to priority need.”
So, an English fishery owner on the Tweed, downstream of Carham or on the whole of the Till system, will be paying a central levy or rate to a Scottish Government where he/she has no vote, and those funds will be deployed across Scotland in a fully transparent manner (oh yes?!) according to need.
In other words, not only will all the money raised by levy from Tweed owners not be coming back to the Tweed (whereas at present every penny (some £750,000 pa) raised from Tweed owners is spent on the Tweed), but Tweed’s English fishery owners will be subsidising some poorly resourced rivers in Scotland, a country in which they have no vote.
I can think of nothing more designed to infuriate Tweed owners, especially the English ones, than this.
Good luck with that, Mr Thin, you just might be in for a fight.
Tweed is the best resourced, the most democratically represented via the 81 Tweed Commissioners, only 38 of which are owners/proprietors, the best managed and, in terms of rod catch, by a street the most successful, not just in Scotland but in the North Atlantic.
Changing the way Tweed is managed, as is proposed, smacks of sheer political dogma, nothing else.
By all means deal with the rest of Scotland and its rivers, whose Board representation does need change, but Tweed does not.
Leave us alone, please, and if you don’t…well, we’ll come to that later… if we must.
Tweedbeats was set up to facilitate Tweed owners, syndicates, angling clubs and others with fishing to let on the Tweed and its tributaries. The intention is that Tweedbeats will be wholly owned eventually by those same people in some form of cooperative association.