Angling in Scotland

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Angling in Scotland

Year of Coasts and Water, 2020

Scotland, a country blessed with rivers with crystal clear waters, remote and beautiful highland lochs and surrounded by miles upon miles of dramatic coastline and pristine sandy beaches.

Scotland, a land of leaping Atlantic salmon, of brown trout rising to take a fly or the aggressive take of a pike savaging a lure.

Scotland, where fishing dreams are realised and memories will last for ever.

For some anglers those dreams will be fulfilled and memories will be made on January 15th 2020, the ‘Opening Day’ of the salmon fishing season on the mighty River Tay.

The ‘Opening Day’, the start of a new season, the start to renew auld acquaintances, to make new friends and a chance to ‘wet a line’ and who knows, catch that elusive of fish, a ‘Springer’.

The mighty River Tay, longest river in Scotland, rising in the Perthshire hills, flowing from the mountainous beauty of Loch Tay, growing steadily in size, fed by other rivers on its journey to the sea, The Garry, The Tummel, The Braan, The Isla, and countless babbling burns along the way.

The mighty River Tay, passing though centuries of Scottish history and landscape. Neolithic settlers building Crannogs at Kenmore, home to Roman soldiers seeking to conquer the ‘painted people’ in Perth, Picts and Scots vying for control, the early Christian monks settling by the banks at Dunkeld, or Jacobites fighting to restore their King at Killiekrankie.

But on January 15th 2020, that history is briefly forgotten, as those hardy souls, fortified perhaps with a dram or two to keep out the chill, will immerse themselves in the icy river in search of that ‘bar of silver’ and memories to last a lifetime. Perhaps to catch a monster fish, larger than that 64lb leviathan caught by Georgina Ballantine in 1922, still the largest salmon ever caught in the UK.

The ghillies have spent the winter since preparing for this day. The boats are repainted, logs cut for the stove in the bothy, tackle organised and ready for action.

And so, the day commences, setting up the double handed Spey rod, selecting that perfectly tied fly, carefully wading out into the icy waters, finally, making that first cast. The symphony of rod, line and angler, coming together to create the perfect loop and sending the fly out across the pool and towards that waiting salmon.

Watching and waiting as the fly swings around the pool. Ready for the slow pull as the mighty salmon takes the fly, ready to strike home the hook, ready for the fight to begin.

No rush of adrenalin this time, so cast again, and again ever hopeful.

As the year progresses these scenes will be repeated again and again across the mighty Scottish rivers. The Opening Day, celebrated by salmon anglers.

In February, The Tweed, much loved by Sir Walter Scott, The Dee, given Royal status by Queen Victoria and The Spey, the home of whisky, will welcome anglers from Scotland and across the world seeking the thrill of an early salmon.

There may be snow or rain, the chill winds may howl but there will be warm feeling in the heart of every angler lucky enough to enjoy the start of the season of 2020.

By Lennie Fuller