Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Salmon Fishing Scotland Summer Salmon Fly Fishing on the Tay at Stanley, Perthshire July 2020.

Salmon Fishing Scotland Summer Salmon Fly Fishing on the Tay at Stanley, Perthshire July 2020.

When the river is up around 4' on the lower Tay the Horsey pool on the Pitlochrie beat is absolutely perfect for fly fishing and it is a dream pool full of expectation. The river this week has been very unsettled and today was no exception after yet more rain early this morning. I decided to take a gamble in the early afternoon for a cast thinking it would settle for a couple of hours. I had a frustrating time pulling 3 fish including a grilse taking line for 20 seconds then coming to the top and off! It wasn't going to happen then after another half a dozen casts or so the line tightened again.
This was the result! An absolute summer beauty around 14 pounds. It fought very hard but thankfully i managed to land it to get the picture. If we can just get some settled conditions the sport could be amazing. There seems to be more fish about this year so let us hope it improves and produces some great memories.

Salmon Fishing Scotland - By Robert White

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Salmon Fishing Scotland Stanley beats, Tay, Perthshire Report and Prospects for W/C 29th June 2020.

Salmon Fishing Scotland Stanley beats, Tay, Perthshire Report and Prospects for W/C 29th June 2020. 

There were no salmon caught last week on the beats. Unfortunately there were 3 salmon lost on the fly on Tuesday and there after the river was not settled due to rain and daily hydro rises. The weekend saw heavy rain on Saturday and the river has now risen to around 4 feet which may just kick start the summer salmon run in the river.

The boats are now back on the river and with the lockdown easing we are certainly open for business. July is normally a good month on the lower river and there is certainly an air of optimism for the coming weeks. We now have a lower price bank rod only on our Pitlochrie and Benchil beats for July at £75 plus VAT with a higher price of £125 plus VAT for the use of the boat as well.

As to methods, in settled conditions fishing by any method is permitted to catch the elusive Tay Salmon but we encourage fly fishing as we have some of the nicest streams and pools to fish on any part of the river.


Fly Rods.
The Tay is a large river especially when running at a normal level and even in lower levels you are fishing another river within the mighty one so therefore a 15 foot fly rod for a 10 weight line is certainly minimum requirement for much of the season. Do not come under gunned.  In some parts of the river where it is especially wide even longer rods are used. It should be noted however that it is better to cast a shorter controlled line than try to cast out with your capabilities and have the lines end up in a mess and decrease your chances. 

Fly Lines.
We are now in Summer therefore conventional floating lines with tips would be the best choice. 
Spinning Rods.

You should have a minimum of a 10 foot rod for casting baits of 20gm to 60gms. 
Line. 
A main line of 20 pounds in nylon or 30 pounds in braid. You should use a lesser poundage far a cast such as 15 pounds so if you get caught up on the bottom you do not lose a large part of your main line. 
Baits.
Tobies from 18gm upwards. Toby Salmos are very popular in 30gms. Conventional weighted Devon’s are good especially in the Spring. Rapalas and Vision 110’s are very effective. 

The Stanley beats are steeped in history and this year we have reduced the available rods to 4 giving you far more opportunity and value for money. We are fly fishing friendly as well. Look forward to seeing you on the beats. Feel free to contact us direct on robert.salmonfishing@googlemail.com or 07979528134/01738827416.

Salmon Fishing Scotland - By Robert White

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Salmon Fishing Scotland Stanley beats, Tay, Perthshire Report and Prospects for W/C 22nd June 2020.

Salmon Fishing Scotland Stanley beats, Tay, Perthshire Report and Prospects for W/C 22nd June 2020.

It has been a quiet week at Stanley with only one salmon landed on Tuesday night by James McKay from the Skellies. There was a little fresh water on Thursday from a heavy thunder shower up country turning the river dirty for a couple of days. It was fine by Saturday plus the water had dropped back to 7 inches but despite some good effort there was nothing reported. This recent period may have signalled the end of the spring run and we await with anticipation of a good summer run in the next few weeks. In the last few years this has been the most productive time certainly on the lower river, so let us hope it lives up to expectation.

Conditions remain good with water levels around 1 foot but there is a bit of rain in the forecast so it may fluctuate during the week. This is the last week of Stanley bank only reverting back to both banks and alternate days between Pitlochrie and Benchil. The boats will be going back onto the beats this week and hopefully the lockdown rules will lift further to enable us to get back to normal if that is possible.

As to methods, in settled conditions fishing by any method is permitted to catch the elusive Tay Salmon but we encourage fly fishing as we have some of the nicest streams and pools to fish on any part of the river.


Fly Rods.
The Tay is a large river especially when running at a normal level and even in lower levels you are fishing another river within the mighty one so therefore a 15 foot fly rod for a 10 weight line is certainly minimum requirement for much of the season. Do not come under gunned.  In some parts of the river where it is especially wide even longer rods are used. It should be noted however that it is better to cast a shorter controlled line than try to cast out with your capabilities and have the lines end up in a mess and decrease your chances. 

Fly Lines.
We are now in Summer therefore conventional floating lines with tips would be the best choice. 

Spinning Rods.

You should have a minimum of a 10 foot rod for casting baits of 20gm to 60gms. 
Line. 
A main line of 20 pounds in nylon or 30 pounds in braid. You should use a lesser poundage far a cast such as 15 pounds so if you get caught up on the bottom you do not lose a large part of your main line. 
Baits.
Tobies from 18gm upwards. Toby Salmos are very popular in 30gms. Conventional weighted Devon’s are good especially in the Spring. Rapalas and Vision 110’s are very effective. 

The Stanley beats are steeped in history and this year we have reduced the available rods to 4 giving you far more opportunity and value for money. We are fly fishing friendly as well. Look forward to seeing you on the beats. Feel free to contact us direct on robert.salmonfishing@googlemail.com or 07979528134/01738827416. 


Salmon Fishing Scotland - By Robert White

Monday, June 15, 2020

Salmon Fishing Scotland Stanley beats, Tay, Perthshire Report and Prospects for W/C 15th June 2020.

Salmon Fishing Scotland Stanley beats, Tay, Perthshire Report and Prospects for W/C 15th June 2020. 

It has been another good week for the Stanley beats with an improvement in catches for June. We do not normally catch that many for this time of year but now 5 in a couple of weeks is encouraging for Benchil in particular with only a few people fishing. Our 5 year average is 2 for the beat and our total so far beats any catch in the last 5 years! Hopefully more to be added in the next couple of weeks and with more relaxation of lockdown should see a bit more effort. The catches tend to favour the middle and upper river currently but give it another couple of weeks their season slows and emphases turns to the lower river. July and August should be good with us and i am really optimistic we will do well this year.
Back to this week, I caught a lovely 10 pounds fish on Monday night at the very tail of the Little Shot on the fly and lost another one at the head of the Long Shot.
Then 2 nights later I landed another one of about 8 pounds from the tail of the Long Shot eventually landing it in the Little Shot after a titanic battle. 
On Friday evening Jonny Muir caught a lovely Sea Trout and on Saturday James McKay caught a fish of about 10 pounds in the Skellies on a Flying C to complete the week. 
Conditions could not be better with low water below 1' and salmon travelling through the beats every day, I am sure catches will only improve as we get nearer July. 
Please note we are observing the distance ruling and it will only be available for local people to the area. This may change this week with a further announcement to come from the first minister on Thursday.


As to methods, in settled conditions fishing by any method is permitted to catch the elusive Tay Salmon but we encourage fly fishing as we have some of the nicest streams and pools to fish on any part of the river.

Fly Rods.
The Tay is a large river especially when running at a normal level and even in lower levels you are fishing another river within the mighty one so therefore a 15 foot fly rod for a 10 weight line is certainly minimum requirement for much of the season. Do not come under gunned.  In some parts of the river where it is especially wide even longer rods are used. It should be noted however that it is better to cast a shorter controlled line than try to cast out with your capabilities and have the lines end up in a mess and decrease your chances. 

Fly Lines.
We are now in Summer therefore conventional floating lines with tips would be the best choice. 

Spinning Rods.

You should have a minimum of a 10 foot rod for casting baits of 20gm to 60gms. 
Line. 
A main line of 20 pounds in nylon or 30 pounds in braid. You should use a lesser poundage far a cast such as 15 pounds so if you get caught up on the bottom you do not lose a large part of your main line. 
Baits.
Tobies from 18gm upwards. Toby Salmos are very popular in 30gms. Conventional weighted Devon’s are good especially in the Spring. Rapalas and Vision 110’s are very effective. 

The Stanley beats are steeped in history and this year we have reduced the available rods to 4 giving you far more opportunity and value for money. We are fly fishing friendly as well. Look forward to seeing you on the beats. Feel free to contact us direct on robert.salmonfishing@googlemail.com or 07979528134/01738827416. 


Salmon Fishing Scotland - By Robert White

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Salmon Fishing Scotland Stanley beats, Tay, Perthshire Report and Prospects for W/C 8th June 2020.

Salmon Fishing Scotland Stanley beats, Tay, Perthshire Report and Prospects for W/C 8th June 2020. 

It has a reasonable week on the river at Stanley primarily down at Benchil. Water levels are perfect for the beat and for fly fishing. There have not been many rods out due to the regulations limit on distance people can travel however a few local rods did have a go and there were fish caught. We recorded 2 cracking summer salmon and a couple of Sea Trout. There have not been many showing but fish are obviously travelling through the lower beats which is encouraging.

The salmon action came on Saturday with myself having a cast in the morning for a couple of hours! I landed a Sea Trout in the Little Shot fly fishing then went back in to hook and land a lovely fresh salmon of about 12 pounds on the next cast! I called it quits after that!

In the afternoon James McKay from Perth caught an impressive 14 pounder in the Skellies at the top of the beat on a flying C. Both fish were released 


The prospects for the coming week look good for the beats, especially Benchil that suits low water. There are certainly fish running in the river and we are coming into a good period for summer salmon fishing. Currently the river is running just over 1 foot at Ballathie and just about 60F/15.5C.Fishing is bank only from the Stanley bank until July.
Please note we are observing the distance ruling and it will only be available for local people to the area.

As to methods, in settled conditions fishing by any method is permitted to catch the elusive Tay Salmon but we encourage fly fishing as we have some of the nicest streams and pools to fish on any part of the river.
Fly Rods.
The Tay is a large river especially when running at a normal level and even in lower levels you are fishing another river within the mighty one so therefore a 15 foot fly rod for a 10 weight line is certainly minimum requirement for much of the season. Do not come under gunned.  In some parts of the river where it is especially wide even longer rods are used. It should be noted however that it is better to cast a shorter controlled line than try to cast out with your capabilities and have the lines end up in a mess and decrease your chances. 

Fly Lines.
We are now in Summer therefore conventional floating lines with tips would be the best choice. 

Spinning Rods.

You should have a minimum of a 10 foot rod for casting baits of 20gm to 60gms. 
Line. 
A main line of 20 pounds in nylon or 30 pounds in braid. You should use a lesser poundage far a cast such as 15 pounds so if you get caught up on the bottom you do not lose a large part of your main line. 
Baits.
Tobies from 18gm upwards. Toby Salmos are very popular in 30gms. Conventional weighted Devon’s are good especially in the Spring. Rapalas and Vision 110’s are very effective. 

The Stanley beats are steeped in history and this year we have reduced the available rods to 4 giving you far more opportunity and value for money. We are fly fishing friendly as well. Look forward to seeing you on the beats. Feel free to contact us direct on robert.salmonfishing@googlemail.com or 07979528134/01738827416. 





Salmon Fishing Scotland - By Robert White

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Salmon Fishing Scotland Salmon Fishing resumes at Stanley on the Tay, Perthshire cautiously.

Salmon Fishing Scotland Salmon Fishing resumes at Stanley on the Tay, Perthshire cautiously. 

Salmon fishing has started again since Friday and we welcome this but under limited circumstances and cautiously for phase 1 on the ease of the lockdown from the Coronavirus.

This is taken from the Scottish Gamekeepers Assocaition web site. 
Commenting on the announcement that local area fishing can take place in Scotland as of Friday (29th May), Charlie Whelan, ambassador for The SGA Fishing Group, said: 
"We look forward to seeing a few more local people back out enjoying the wonderful rivers and fisheries in their communities and the high quality angling experiences on offer in Scotland.
“This move will benefit people’s mental and physical wellbeing and it will also be great to see kids back out fishing within their family groups.
“We reiterate the First Minister’s view. Anglers and those providing angling need to be respectful of the national progress made in keeping the virus in check. They need to make responsible judgements.
“That way, the angling community will be playing an important part in potentially getting more things opened up in future. 
“We have fielded questions regarding how far people can travel and what they can and can’t do, and circumstances can be different. Everyone angling and providing angling must ensure that travelling remains within the local area and that all other measures such as social distancing and minimising the risk of transmission of Covid 19 can be achieved.”
The SGA Fishing Group made its case to Scottish Ministers that local area angling could meet Government's safety threshold as it considered lockdown easing measures.

A limited amount of fishing has taken place at Stanley by people who are local and not had to drive a great distance to the beats. On Friday Gerry Rattrey caught a lovely fresh sea trout around 3 pounds on a Sunray then Jonny Muir caught a superb sea liced 12 pounds salmon from the Long Shot at Benchil on Saturday evening, again on fly.  Not a bad start in this bright weather.


The prospects for the coming week look good for the beats, especially Benchil that suits low water. There are certainly fish running in the river and we are coming into a good period for summer salmon fishing. Currently the river is running just over 1 foot at Ballathie and just about 60F/15.5C.
Fishing is bank only from the Stanley bank until July.

Tackle advice on Stanley beats. 

As to methods, in settled conditions fishing by any method is permitted to catch the elusive Tay Salmon but we encourage fly fishing as we have some of the nicest streams and pools to fish on any part of the river.


Fly Rods.
The Tay is a large river especially when running at a normal level and even in lower levels you are fishing another river within the mighty one so therefore a 15 foot fly rod for a 10 weight line is certainly minimum requirement for much of the season. Do not come under gunned.  In some parts of the river where it is especially wide even longer rods are used. It should be noted however that it is better to cast a shorter controlled line than try to cast out with your capabilities and have the lines end up in a mess and decrease your chances. 

Fly Lines.
We are now in Summer therefore conventional floating lines with tips would be the best choice. 

Spinning Rods.

You should have a minimum of a 10 foot rod for casting baits of 20gm to 60gms. 
Line. 
A main line of 20 pounds in nylon or 30 pounds in braid. You should use a lesser poundage far a cast such as 15 pounds so if you get caught up on the bottom you do not lose a large part of your main line. 
Baits.
Tobies from 18gm upwards. Toby Salmos are very popular in 30gms. Conventional weighted Devon’s are good especially in the Spring. Rapalas and Vision 110’s are very effective. 

The Stanley beats are steeped in history and this year we have reduced the available rods to 4 giving you far more opportunity and value for money. We are fly fishing friendly as well. Look forward to seeing you on the beats. Feel free to contact us direct on robert.salmonfishing@googlemail.com or 07979528134/01738827416. 

Salmon Fishing Scotland - By Robert White

Monday, March 23, 2020

Salmon Fishing Scotland Stanley beats close until further notice due to Coronavirus.

Salmon Fishing Scotland Stanley beats close until further notice due to Coronavirus. 

In a fast moving situation it is with regret that the Stanley beats on the Tay, Perthshire will close with immediate effect due to the Coronavirus. 

This is our policy on Catholes, Pitlochrie, Benchil and Luncarty beats in exceptional times with the view that we value any custom from returning and new anglers.

If your booking due to the Coronavirus has been cancelled we will offer you a refund or reschedule it for a similar priced day, even carrying it forward to next season if wanted without question. This includes bookings made on Fishpal. 

Any questions please contact us direct on robert.salmonfishing@googlemail.com or 07979528134 or 01738827416. 


Hopefully we will come out of this problem sooner than later and stronger to enjoy more great days on the beats catching those elusive salmon. Take care all and stay safe. 




Salmon Fishing Scotland - By Robert White

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Salmon Fishing Scotland Stanley beats, Tay, Perthshire Report and Prospects for W/C 23rd March 2020.

Salmon Fishing Scotland Stanley beats, Tay, Perthshire Report and Prospects for W/C 23rd March 2020. 

It has been another eventful week for several reasons. There have been more spring salmon caught on the Stanley beats and the Coronavirus has really hit us with dire consequences.
The week started well with settled water levels and ideal conditions which improved as the week progressed. On Monday Alistair Sheach caught an 8 pounds salmon from Pitlochrie pool on a Devon. Tuesday drew a blank but on Wednesday the Upper Scone guys had a cracking 15 pounds fin clipped springer from Pitlochrie pool on the Harl, landed by Stephen Paterson. This was extremely good news as it was a fish reared on the rivers hatchery at Almondbank. There was clearly great conditions and frustration of the lack of action on the beats but alas that was short lived with 3 springers landed on Saturday.
Tim Greenfields party had fished for three days, although depleted by the Coronavirus problems without success despite a real sterling effort. They had to leave at lunchtime leaving the beat for me to have a cast. In the afternoon I managed to land a couple of fish on the fly from Woodside and Back Dam on the Catholes up to 10 pounds. Further downstream the Upper Scone team had a fish on the fly of a similar size from Horsey on the Pitlochrie beat.
On the Coronavirus front we at Stanley without hesitation say If you cannot make your booking due to the Coronavirus we will offer you a refund or reschedule it for a similar priced day, even carrying it forward to next season if wanted without question. This includes bookings made on Fishpal. 
With regard to next week, we currently have superb spring fishing conditions at Stanley with cold water and a dropping river if you can make it with the ever increasing restrictions. I may have to just go out and fish myself!
Tackle advice on Stanley beats. 

As to methods, in settled conditions fishing by any method should be slow and deep with large lures to catch the elusive Tay Springer.

Fly Rods.
The Tay is a large river especially when running at a normal level and even in lower levels you are fishing another river within the mighty one so therefore a 15 foot fly rod for a 10 weight line is certainly minimum requirement for much of the season. Do not come under gunned.  In some parts of the river where it is especially wide even longer rods are used. It should be noted however that it is better to cast a shorter controlled line than try to cast out with your capabilities and have the lines end up in a mess and decrease your chances. 

Fly Lines.
In early season when the water is cold you need to cast larger flies and get them
deeper in the water to fish them slowly. There is a tremendous choice on the market nowadays which can be quite confusing to many anglers. Any type of Skagit line that can easily cast a 15 foot sinking leader of various depths is a good choice especially to the less experienced. Rio Game Changers plus a tip of choice attached are currently a great bet as these lines enable you to cast a longer line than normal with ease. For more experienced anglers, there are a vast array of shooting heads of different sinking abilities available as well. 
Spinning Rods.

You should have a minimum of a 10 foot rod for casting baits of 20gm to 60gms. 
Line. 
A main line of 20 pounds in nylon or 30 pounds in braid. You should use a lesser poundage far a cast such as 15 pounds so if you get caught up on the bottom you do not lose a large part of your main line. 
Baits.
Tobies from 18gm upwards. Toby Salmos are very popular in 30gms. Conventional weighted Devon’s are good especially in the Spring. Rapalas and Vision 110’s are very effective. 
The Stanley beats are steeped in history and this year we have reduced the available rods to 4 giving you far more opportunity and value for money. We are fly fishing friendly as well. Look forward to seeing you on the beats. Feel free to contact us direct on robert.salmonfishing@googlemail.com or 07979528134/01738827416. 

Salmon Fishing Scotland - By Robert White

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Salmon Fishing Scotland Stanley Fishings Policy on Coronavirus and Flooding.

Salmon Fishing Scotland Stanley Fishings Policy on Coronavirus and Flooding.

There is no doubt we are living in hard times with less salmon returning to our rivers, fishing uptake reducing and now the unprecedented Coronavirus hitting us.
The iconic Stanley Mills on the Pitlochrie beat. 

This is our policy on Catholes, Pitlochrie, Benchil and Luncarty beats in exceptional times with the view that we value any custom from returning and new anglers.

If you cannot make your booking due to the Coronavirus we will offer you a refund or reschedule it for a similar priced day, even carrying it forward to next season if wanted without question. This includes bookings made on Fishpal. 

It is also a policy at Stanley that if you are flooded off that we would try to rearrange another suitable date as has happened with several rods this spring. 

We value your custom. Stay safe and take care.



Salmon Fishing Scotland - By Robert White

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Salmon Fishing Scotland Stanley beats, Tay, Perthshire Report and Prospects for W/C 16th March 2020.

Salmon Fishing Scotland Stanley beats, Tay, Perthshire Report and Prospects for W/C 16th March 2020. 

It has been another eventful week at Stanley on the Tay, Perthshire. It has remained a big river and a cold water temperature which is ideal for the beats. We have caught 3 good springers, odd kelts and lost 2 other probable salmon through bad luck.
The week started off with a visit from Paul Devlins party in high water but clear after a 10' flood on Sunday. It wasn't until near the end of the day that Paul hooked a lively salmon casting the fly form the anchored boat. After a monumental fight he got the fish to the net with much cheer.
It was the perfect end to a great day, well done all on a cold wet day.
Happy faces and well done, haste ye back.
On Tuesday the water was rising slowly but undaunted by the conditions Charles Savage went out with optimism. We fly fished the Woodside and Back Dam from the boat prior to the river rising rapidly. He hooked a good fish in the Back Dam but it could not have taken the fly right due to the rising water and it let go after probably less than a minute.
On Wednesday the river had settled back a bit again giving a good opportunity. John Shaw had arrived for 2 days fishing and on the first morning fly fishing off the Pitlochrie pool bank on his own he hooked into a relatively docile fish momentarily, after maybe a couple of minutes it went crazy and he realised he had on a good fish. After a big battle he got the fish in and managed to get a couple of pictures but not wanting to take the fish out the water. You can see by the picture he couldn't get his hand fully round the wrist of the tail showing its size. He measured it at 39 inches and we have estimated it at 25 pounds but possibly it could have been bigger as Tay fish are broad and short. He was certainly excited and well done as that is his biggest salmon on the fly.
On Thursday Darren Kaye caught this lovely 8 pounds springer on the fly from the Woodside on the Catholes. Friday saw a couple of Kelts caught in the Wash House on the Pitlochrie beat but no springer action. On Saturday Kenny Hyslop hooked a good fish in the Back Dam of the Catholes but it got off after 5 minutes and there were no other offers.
Things are looking good for the coming week with still high cold water making ideal conditions for the Stanley beats. That is 9 fish so far and 8 have been on the fly from the anchored boat or off the bank with hopefully more to come this week.
Spring is in the air despite all the current gloom around the Virus problems, get out in the fresh air and catch an elusive spring salmon!
Tackle advice on Stanley beats. 

As to methods, in settled conditions fishing by any method should be slow and deep with large lures to catch the elusive Tay Springer.

Fly Rods.
The Tay is a large river especially when running at a normal level and even in lower levels you are fishing another river within the mighty one so therefore a 15 foot fly rod for a 10 weight line is certainly minimum requirement for much of the season. Do not come under gunned.  In some parts of the river where it is especially wide even longer rods are used. It should be noted however that it is better to cast a shorter controlled line than try to cast out with your capabilities and have the lines end up in a mess and decrease your chances. 
Fly Lines.
In early season when the water is cold you need to cast larger flies and get them
deeper in the water to fish them slowly. There is a tremendous choice on the market nowadays which can be quite confusing to many anglers. Any type of Skagit line that can easily cast a 15 foot sinking leader of various depths is a good choice especially to the less experienced. Rio Game Changers plus a tip of choice attached are currently a great bet as these lines enable you to cast a longer line than normal with ease. For more experienced anglers, there are a vast array of shooting heads of different sinking abilities available as well. 
Spinning Rods.

You should have a minimum of a 10 foot rod for casting baits of 20gm to 60gms. 
Line. 
A main line of 20 pounds in nylon or 30 pounds in braid. You should use a lesser poundage far a cast such as 15 pounds so if you get caught up on the bottom you do not lose a large part of your main line. 
Baits.
Tobies from 18gm upwards. Toby Salmos are very popular in 30gms. Conventional weighted Devon’s are good especially in the Spring. Rapalas and Vision 110’s are very effective. 
The Stanley beats are steeped in history and this year we have reduced the available rods to 4 giving you far more opportunity and value for money. We are fly fishing friendly as well. Look forward to seeing you on the beats. Feel free to contact us direct on robert.salmonfishing@googlemail.com or 07979528134/01738827416. 
Tight lines!


Salmon Fishing Scotland - By Robert White

Friday, March 13, 2020

Salmon Fishing Scotland Spring Salmon Fly Fishing on the Stanley Beats, Tay, Perthshire 2020.

Salmon Fishing Scotland Spring Salmon Fly Fishing on the Stanley Beats, Tay, Perthshire 2020. 

We have had a few memorable days on the Stanley Catholes and Pitlochrie beats  this week. The conditions are perfect with high cold water making any salmon travel slowly through the beats. This is Darren Kaye fly fishing from an anchored boat in the Back Dam of the Catholes.
A superb sea liced springer caught in Pitlochrie Pool by John Shaw fly fishing from the bank. It was estimated at 25 pounds and you can tell its a big salmon with John not managing to get his hand round the wrist of its tail.
Darren Kaye with an 8 pounds spring salmon caught fly fishing in the Woodside at the top of the Catholes, again sea liced. That is now 9 springers off the beats and 8 have been caught fly fishing from the anchored boat or bank fishing. Hopefully a few more to come this spring.



Salmon Fishing Scotland - By Robert White

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Salmon Fishing Scotland What's the Catch?

Salmon Fishing Scotland What's the Catch?

This was an article in the Glasgow Herald weekend magazine recently. 
WHAT’S 
THE 
CATCH? 
SCOTLAND’S SALMON RIVERS ARE WORLD FAMOUS BUT THE NUMBER OF FISH BEING CAUGHT HAS PLUMMETED ... AND NO ONE KNOWS WHY 
VICKY ALLAN REPORTS & Pictures by GORDON TERRIS
A BROAD grin stretches across Robert White’s face when I come in from the frost at the Catholes hut, a wooden cabin, is perched on a dramatic bend on the river Tay. 
He had woken up to a clear sky. After weeks of Storm Ciara’s dirt, wind and torrents, of river heights always above 9ft, it happens that today has brought a window of bright clarity – perfect salmon-fishing weather. 
In fact, he says, he’s already been down to the water and hooked himself a 16lb-er. “When I got up,” he says. “I looked out the window and thought, ‘We’re in with a shout today.’” 
Not long after 9am he got in the boat and started casting furiously. But the time ticked by and there was nothing. Then he cast out, and recalls, “Suddenly the line just went tight. I thought, ‘Christ, what the hell’s that?’ I could feel there was a bit of weight to it. I thought, this is no kelt [salmon that has already spawned], because a kelt is spent and they come like a dog. This thing meant it.” 
The salmon fought so strongly that in the end, he had to call a friend who was further down the river and ask him for a hand. He pulls a photograph up on his phone of silver- white form being held in a net at the river’s edge. 

 “We didn’t weigh it. I just wanted to release it. We know pretty much by looking at it that it was about 16 lbs.”

This comes as a surprise to me because the story I have come to tell is of the dramatic disappearance of salmon from Scottish rivers-yet even before I’ve arrived one has been netted.
White’s excitement is all the more because salmon catches these days are increasingly rare. In fact, he is so frustrated at seeing the populations drop, that he launched a petition asking that the Scottish Government commit to a full consultation on stocking the rivers – an idea that had been rejected in Marine Scotland’s recently published stocking policy. 
“If you look at the chart of salmon numbers,” White says, “there’s a distinct line that is going down, but the last few years it has really crashed, to the point where it’s commercially just about unviable. I’ve got four beats that I look after and we’re making a whacking loss. 
“The thing I always tell people when they come here is that there was a time when I would have been able to say to you, ‘We’re going to go out and you’re going to get a chance of catching a fish today.’ I can’t say that any more. It’s more of a lottery now.” 
The story of the decline of salmon isn’t just a Scottish one. It’s happening in all the countries around the Atlantic where the fish once swum in vast numbers. Mark Bilsby, of the Atlantic Salmon Trust, a driving force behind a coalition of groups investigating and campaigning around the crisis, called the Missing Salmon Alliance, tells me, “In the mid-1980s there were between 8 and 10 million salmon swimming around the Atlantic. That number has dropped to 2-3 million. It really is a dramatic decline and it’s not showing any signs of levelling out.” 
WILD Atlantic salmon is now being discussed with increasing urgency – at a meeting in January in the Scottish parliament, the 
Government’s lead scientist, John Armstrong, warned that unless we act, it could be extinct within 20 or 30 years – and Bilsby, like many, believes that the problem is part of a much larger environmental crisis. The salmon, he says, is the “canary in the coalmine”. 
“These fish,” he says, “are pretty uniquely placed. They tell you about the quality of the rivers they are living in for the first few years of their life, and also what’s happening at sea – and they’re telling us that something’s really wrong with both our rivers and our sea. That’s why salmon are important.” 
The Missing Salmon Alliance plans to work its way through what Bilsby calls the “likely suspects” or causes of the collapse, collating and bringing together the best international research, as well as doing its own. “It sounds really simple but it’s not been done before, this look at what’s causing the problems and where to focus energy on resolving them.” 
One of the questions the trust has already started looking into is where the majority of fish were being lost. It was always assumed that this was mostly at sea, but their research, in the Moray Firth tracking project, revealed that many of the fish were disappearing in freshwater. “We found that large numbers of fish went missing in freshwater. That’s worrying because it’s telling us about the state of our rivers.” 
Mark Bilsby.
The Scottish Government, meanwhile, has identified 12 pressures impacting on salmon. Among them are exploitation, predation, “genetic introgression” (escaped farmed fish interbreeding with wild, causing a change in genetic make-up), sea lice transferral from farmed fish, water pollution from agriculture, changing temperatures. Many of these are the result of human impacts. They are a litany of the sort we find in any list of causes of biodiversity loss. 
Among the many suspects, Bilsby says, is climate change. “The rivers are getting warmer on average over the course of a year.” Another is pollution from agriculture. “We know that pesticides in very high dosages kill fish. But there’s also much more sub lethal impacts at lower levels.” 
We found that large numbers of fish went missing in freshwater. That’s worrying because it’s telling us about the state of our rivers. 
Another significant impact on wild salmon populations is believed to be the salmon farming industry – through a combination of escaped farm fish breeding with wild and the rise in sea lice infection picked up by wild fish when they pass farms. Director of Scottish Salmon Watch, Don Staniford, observes, “Peer-reviewed science has reported how lice-infested feedlots are killing off wild fish. Genetic pollution via escapees also precipitate an ‘extinction vortex’ in wild salmon.” 
Andrew Graham-Stewart, director of Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland, recalls that he started voicing his concerns over the impact of salmon farming on wild salmon populations over 20 years ago. He says, “successive Scottish governments have prevaricated and procrastinated.” Last week, the Salmon and Trout Conservation Trust, along with other NGOs, declared that given Scottish Ministers’ “lamentable failure to regulate salmon farming to protect wild fish”, their next step would be to call for a boycott of Scottish farmed salmon. 
Graham-Stewart observes that the curve of decline of salmon population has been far greater in the west coast rivers than those in the east – and that this is where the salmon farms are located. “Numbers have declined drastically in the west,” he says. “In particular most of the smaller West Highland and island rivers have seen their salmon populations severely depleted, if not wiped out.” The long term solution for salmon farming, he believes, is entirely separating farmed and wild fish by farming in “closed-containment systems, whether tanks in the sea or tanks on the land.” 
He learnt to fish, he says, at the age of four and has been salmon fishing for over 50 years. “I can remember tremendous runs of wild salmon and sea trout in the West Highlands and islands in the early 1980s. Then salmon farming took off from the late eighties, and the decline coincided with that.” 
The fish farming industry, which contributed £620 million to the Scottish economy last year, and supports thousands of jobs, denies being at the root of the problem. 
Like many who love the fish, Graham- Stewart waxes lyrical. “Salmon are an incredibly important part of the ecosystem of rivers. These are astonishing creatures, travelling thousands of miles, coming back to spawn within a few yards of where they were born. Few creatures can match their natural history.” 
He notes that the rivers where he lives, in Sutherland, in the far north of Scotland, are bucking the trend towards rapid decline. “We haven’t seen the same level of collapse that has been seen elsewhere. There are several possibilities. One is that human populations here are minimal compared to further south. If you look at the northern rivers, from the Findhorn round to Cape Wrath, any towns or villages are all concentrated in the lower reaches if not right on the coast where the river goes into the sea. Once you get inland, there’s just no population, no pollution, very little agriculture.” 
ON the Tay, however, where Robert White has been ghillie on a series of four beats since 2001, the populations have been in freefall. On average, he recalls, the catch there used to be around 450 in a good year, and over 300 in a more regular year, but last year, saw them catch only 89 salmon. “To qualify that though,” he says, “there aren’t as many people fishing because there are less salmon, so people aren’t coming.” 
Of course, you can still catch a salmon on the Tay, but you need to be in the right place, on the right day, with the right guide, like White, to take you to the perfect spot. That wasn’t how it used to be, he observes, “In the past there would be salmon jumping all over the place. People knew where to go because they saw the fish jumping.” 

I’ve seen salmon jump before but I’ve never even tried to catch one. We stand on White’s rowing boat, floating in the calm just upstream of a series of white-frothed torrents, secured by a rope to the river’s edge. White explains why this a good time to fish. “The salmon coming into the river are moving very slowly because they haven’t got much energy because of the cold and they’ll only go in short stages up the river. They’ll climb up into these rapids and they’ll come to a quieter bit of the water for a rest.” 
He coaches me on using the spinner and I flick the rod through the air. I cast erratically, sometimes dropping too short, others arching the line out far and wide. “Going back to the late 1970s and early 1980s,” he says, “the catches here were mindboggling – more than I would get in about five seasons now. In 1978 they had 600 spring salmon recorded.” 
While I get into the rhythm of the cast, he stands behind me, swiping away at his phone, putting the image of the morning’s catch on all his social media platforms, so people out there can see there are fish here. White is a reminder that what we’re losing along with salmon is way of life, a tourist draw, and a huge contribution to rural economies. Angler-spend from wild fisheries in Scotland is reportedly around £135m annually. “I think the powers that be have sat on their backsides for years,” he says. “We’ve been going on about it for ages. But suddenly, of course, everyone is starting to wonder what are they doing about it. It feels like Marine Scotland are sitting up in the cloud there looking down on us, saying, ‘We don’t think you should stock the rivers. We want it to happen naturally.’ But they’re not at the coal face. They’re not seeing people not coming, people’s jobs being lost, the hotelier moaning like hell because nobody is coming to the hotel. They don’t seem to realise how vital it is.” 
The current Marine Scotland stocking policy, published last year, advised that there were “only a limited number of situations where hatchery and stocking strategies may benefit individual populations”. “Increasingly,” it said, “scientific studies are concluding that there are risks of negative effects of stocking wild Atlantic salmon.” 
The use of stocking and hatcheries is, of course, not a new idea. The earliest recorded effort to incubate eggs to restock rivers in Scotland, took place in 1838, and by 1890 there were 18 hatcheries across the country. However, the method, in its bluntest form, is now controversial. Last year, a documentary, Artifishal, made by the clothing brand, Patagonia, examined the impact of fish farms and hatcheries on the wild populations and argued that human “hubris”, our belief in technology as solution, is only causing further decline. 
Yet, many still believe that technology – hatcheries and stocking – could still have a place in helping us bring back our wild salmon. Not far from White’s beats on the river Tay is a state-of-the-art hatchery that shows how it may still be useful. At Almondbank, a team, led by Mike Brown, operations manager at the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board, are using hatchery eggs to stock areas on the River Garry, which was recently rewatered after a seventy-year dry period following hydro abstraction for the Tummel hydropower project. 
We’ve seen how other species can come back, such as the red kite, or the cod in the Irish sea. We can do this 

They are using a pioneering process in which kelts, which would normally die after one spawning, are reconditioned so that they can spawn repeatedly, providing more eggs. What’s striking about this project is that it’s not about adding extra stock into a declining river, but about recolonising a river that was recently brought back to flow. They are helping the Garry, which otherwise would take a long time to be colonised, get its salmon back. Last year they saw many adults return to the river and spawn. 
“Wild fish would eventually colonise it but it could take a long time,” says Brown. “By using the hatchery we’ve quickened the whole process up. The idea is to try to kickstart the area.” He sees hatcheries as a useful tool in rivers where a barrier has been removed and there is no wild population yet at all. “Crucial,” he says, “for a hatchery to be effective is to be very specific about what you’re trying to achieve. The ‘pro hatchery’ or ‘against hatchery’ argument it usually for them all or against them all. People don’t tend to look at hatcheries on their individual merits. Ours is a very carefully thought out thing backed up by science.” 
One big question, however, is if we do stock rivers, what do we gain, unless we tackle all the other issues that are causing salmon decline? 
Mark Bilsby of the Atlantic Salmon Trust believes that stocking can have a place in the restoration of salmon. “But,” he says, “it’s like any tool – you use a specific tool for a specific purpose.” He points out that what is most important is to “work out what’s really going wrong with our salmon and then deal with it with great energy, focus and clarity.” 
The state of our salmon represents a wake-up call. Global collaboration is what’s needed in this search for answers – and that is what the Atlantic Salmon Trust is trying to achieve. Bilsby recalls how he was recently interviewed by Mark Kurlansky, author of Cod: A Biography of The Fish That Changed The World, for a new book due out this year on salmon. Kurlansky has described salmon as “a natural barometer for the health of the planet”. 
“Mark,” says Bilsby, “is a North American and he’s seeing the same problems. But we’re actually seeing the same problems in the Pacific salmon population. They’re a bit further behind us in their decline. And it’s because of climate change, habitat loss, urbanisation. All of these different pressures that we’re seeing in Scotland.” 
The challenge may seem huge, but Bilbsy is optimistic. He believes it is possible to halt the decline and bring the populations back – but that the biggest thing we have to fight is our own apathy. “We’ve seen how other species can come back, such as the red kite, or the cod in the Irish sea. We can do this. We can look after and protect a species. We just need to have the will to do it. Collectively, everyone needs to pull together.” 

Salmon Fishing Scotland - By Robert White

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