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2021 rod catches for Kyle rivers near to lowest ever

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Northern Lines by Dr Keith Williams

For ghillies and river workers the last days of the salmon season on the Kyle rivers represent a curious amalgam of relief and regret. Relief that they will soon enjoy a well-earned rest, and regret that another fishing year is about to pass into memory.

Dr Keith Williams.
Dr Keith Williams.

It is unlikely that 2021 will be looked back upon with much affection, blighted as it has been by a chronic lack of rainfall. Many anglers who travel regularly to our rivers have failed to find the river in good order on a single occasion.

However, a welcome rise in water levels at the end of September will boost the final totals for the various beats. If my own recent experience is anything to go by, the salmon have still proved tricky to catch with persistence on the part of the fisher required. The fish were frustratingly plucking at the fly without taking a firm hold. Thankfully, in a brief flurry of activity, a small male salmon did attach itself to the fly, allowing me to admire its deep russet colouration before being released to continue on its way.

That fish, it transpires, will be the last entry from local rivers into my fishing book, wherein I have dutifully recorded my catches of salmon and sea trout since childhood. It is pleasant to sit in front of a good fire on a cold winter’s night, thumb through the pages and, ideally with a warming libation in hand, recall notable fish and outings.

There is a another more mundane but important reason for maintaining records of catches, though. Owners of salmon and sea trout fishings are required by law to submit returns to local fishery boards and to Marine Scotland, a Scottish Government agency.

This data in turn is used for a number of purposes, including the categorisation of individual rivers which will ultimately decide if all fish have to be returned or if there is a harvestable surplus. Requests will shortly be sent out asking for returns to be submitted and the process of collation will begin.

Until the recent late flurry there was a risk that the rod catches for the Kyle region would be the lowest since formal collection of data began in the 1950s, but thankfully I believe a new nadir will just about be avoided.

In the absence of accurate fish counters, rod-catch data is all we have to estimate abundance - albeit ghillies have a strong sense of what is present and has passed through their particular beat.

Hopefully, the blame for low catches this season lies with the drought conditions.

Dr Keith Williams is the director of Kyle Fisheries.

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