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Local businesswoman to undertake ceremonial first cast at opening of River Helmsdale

By Caroline McMorran

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A HELMSDALE businesswoman has been asked to open the River Helmsdale for the new season by making a ceremonial first cast.

Yvonne Grant, who runs local fishing tackle, country and outdoors shop Glencoast will perform the opening ceremony on Tuesday, January 11

Yvonne Grant lands her first spring salmon on the River Helmsdale last year, helped by her dad Andy Sutherland.
Yvonne Grant lands her first spring salmon on the River Helmsdale last year, helped by her dad Andy Sutherland.

She said: “I am extremely humbled to have been asked, but also extremely nervous.”

Yvonne comes from a fishing family, with her dad Andy Sutherland – known as Torrish – a keen angler, as was her late grandfather, also Andrew Sutherland.

But she said that on family fishing trips she was more often the “ghillie on the side” than the angler.

However, she was thrilled to catch her first spring salmon in early 2021 on beat five of the river and was helped to land it by her dad.

“It was a cracker, a lovely 8-9lb springer,” she said.

The Helmsdale is one of the earliest opening rivers in Scotland and the opening day is traditionally accompanied by a fanfare, including a pipe band parade down Dunrobin Street to the roundabout by the bridge, from where the river is accessed.

However the coronavirus pandemic means there is likely to be only one piper this year – April Sutherland.

But it is hoped that local schoolchildren will be more involved in the ceremony this year and will form a procession behind Yvonne and April, holding pictures of salmon that they have individually drawn.

“Every year the schoolchildren come down to watch the ceremony, but they have always been onlookers and we want them to be more involved,” said Ms Grant.

“The idea is that the pupils will be like a shoal of fish behind us.”

As in previous years, fishing anywhere on the Helmsdale at the start of the season will be free to all without charge. This arrangement, which attracts anglers from far and wide, ends on Monday, January 24.

River Helmsdale fishery board manager Michael Wigan, of Borrobol Estate, said that anglers needed to sign in at Glencoast and that government restrictions had to be followed.

Yvonne wrote on the Glencoast social media page: “Permits will be available from the shop as normal and we will try to set up a safe way to do this, so if you have to wait a bit longer than before, please understand.

“We will be open all day Monday and the evening for permits, so there is no need to rush on the Tuesday morning.”

And she added: “Please respect our wee village. If we ask you to wait outside before entering the shop, please understand. Wear your masks, keep your distance, be kind and happy.”

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