2 Reviews - 'The Salmon Rivers of Scotland' and 'Fishing Waters of Scotland'

Grassy_Knollington

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This first 3 posts of this thread are an introduction and my reviews of 2 fantastic out of print books which describe the Salmon fishing opportunities available in Scotland. I chanced on them in a second hand shop and I’ve been in and out of them ever since. Learning new things about areas I’ve lived in, seeking out new water and enjoying the wonderful descriptions of fishing in Scotland.


Both teams of writers approach their task in very different, but no less enjoyable ways. Reading these titles is a great way to wile away those dark winter nights, to identify some new fishing opportunities and to indulge in some shameless nostalgia, William 'Bill' Currie in particular was a fine writer with an evocative style that is hard to match.

The internet and our connected devices provide Salmon fishermen with unprecedented access to information. Within seconds we can find details of fishing waters, catches and water levels. We can also share in the experiences of fellow anglers by watching their latest HD video recordings, or reading their advice on social media. For all its immediacy, the electronic environment doesn't always get accross the emotions that underpin our fascination for Salmon and Salmon fishing and, for me, a good, well-written book can hit the spot in the way a website or video just can't.

Prior to around 1995, for any traveling fisherman finding new fishing could a far more labour intensive activity. Word of mouth was a powerful tool but many an hour was also spent browsing the T&S classified section, writing down telephone numbers, making fruitless calls and (sometimes) writing speculative letters to various proprietors.

A range of books provided guidance on specific rivers and gave their readers the chance to short cut some of the leg-work, John Ashley Cooper wrote two fine ones based on his own experience; 'The Great Salmon Rivers of Scotland' and 'A Salmon Fishers Odyssey'.

Other books looked more widely. The two titles reviewed below give a wide ranging view of a number of different waters all around Scotland. Both books highlight the drastic and tragic decline of the once magnificent Salmon and Sea Trout fishing of the Scottish West. If you never had the chance to fish Wester Ross or Argyle before the farms came, then read these and find out what it was like. Both books would earn a place on any Salmon fisherman’s shelf and are well worth seeking out.
 

Grassy_Knollington

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The Salmon Rivers of Scotland - Derek Mills and Neil Graesser, 3rd edition, Ward Lock (Cassell),1992.

IMG_5111.JPG





Bottom line up front: A factual encyclopedia of Scottish Salmon fishing waters, with catches, proprietor names historical and geographical details; it’s a great resource to dip in and out of.


Authors: Derek Mills was a fishery scientist, who worked in a number of practical and academic roles throughout his career, notably as Chair of the AST's honorary scientific advisory panel and its representative at ICES. Neil Graesser was a salmon fishing angler, writer , proprietor and consultant who also served on the AST. Between the authors was a wealth of angling and management experience, as well as the contacts on the ground that help to provide so much detail on such a breadth of fishing opportunities.

Layout and Contents: The book has a small section at the front, which discusses Salmon life history, stock fluctuations and fishing methods. The main body is then organised by region and catchment. The book progresses systematically in anti-clockwise direction around Scotland, covering each District Salmon Fishery Board Area. I think we sometimes forget the huge variety of waters available in Scotland, this map of the Northern waters illustrates the options available. Every one of the waters illustrated is discussed in the book, that includes the ones too small to name on this map.

Scotland Map.JPG


All waters are covered, from large to small. If you want to find out about the Berriedale, there’s enough detail to start a more focused internet search. The bigger the river the more detail, the Spey has 6.5 pages and a nice, compact hand-drawn map of the river from Grantown to the tide, the Tay is similarly covered.

Nearly every Salmon fishing district has a nice wee hand-drawn map, highlighting all the catchments and fisheries that will be covered in the subsequent section.

Forth District Map.JPG


The larger rivers get their own compact map and all rivers get a description of geography & hydrology, in addition to the catch details we are all really interested in.

Tay River Map.JPG


The writing is factual, but easy to read and includes quotations from other angling works, including Stoddart. Particular highlights for me are the sections on the Tay, the Conon, the Nith, the whole West Coast and the Outer Hebrides. There is also wealth of information on the Hydro’d systems – which is very useful for those who are unfamiliar with their ways of working and impact upon fishing opportunities. See the Conon Map for example:

Conon Hydro.JPG


As mentioned above, game angling in the West is a pale shadow of the times before the farms came. Contrasting the reported catches with what we see now can be a bit depressing. It must be noted that many systems were already damaged by the time this edition was written, although the link to farming is not mentioned in the book.

The Ewe / Maree section records that; ‘Unfortunately after a temporary revival of Sea Trout stocks in the late 1970s and early 1980s, these have shown a very steady decline over the last 5 years, with 1989 being the worst year ever recorded on the loch’. Another early tale of woe was recorded on the Lochy ‘There used to be a good Sea Trout run in the Lochy, but the number of Sea Trout has declined dramatically in recent years’ The table of catch data below the above quote shows Sea Trout catches of 243 in 1990 against an exceptional high of over 4k in 1964 and 1970s average of over 2000.

That tallies with personal experience, the finnock going from 1 or 2 a cast in the Ewe Sea Pool from 1986-88 to almost non-existent in 1992. My dad once caught 2 Salmon and 21 Sea Trout in one July night session from the right bank in the early 1980s; stopping for some sleep at 0200 when he decided enough Sea Trout was enough.

Derek Mills’s background is not only clear in the detail provided on the Hydro Schemes, but also on the management techniques that applied at the time. Like it or not, exclusion of other species was common, and likely had an impact on the number of Salmon returning to our rivers. Pike, Trout and other species were often treated as little more than vermin, with the former being a particular focus for Salmon Fishery Boards. WRT to the Nith the authors record that:

'The increase in catches of Salmon, Grilse and Sea Trout*, was not entirely due to pollution abatement, but also to the suspension of netting in Burgh Waters, the prohibition of angling in the (Dumfries) Cauld pools, stocking with eyed Salmon and Sea Trout ova, the removal of Pike and Grayling a limitation on Haaf netting in the tidal channel and the demolition of obstructions to migratory fish on tributary streams.’

*The average Salmon and Grilse catch rose from 350 per season in 1946-1953 to in the period from 1982-89, with catches of Sea Trout over 3000 in all but 2 years from 1958 to 1989.

Even more shocking is this statement regarding the Dee: ‘In the opening months of the season spinning is the method of fishing most commonly adopted…... a gentleman's agreement that fly only should be used after 15 April but nowadays this agreement is not strictly adhered to.’:LOL:

Caution: Clearly this edition is now, (unbelievably) nearly 30 years old, it draws on much information from the original, 1981 edition. So much has changed in terms of the quantity and run timings of our fish and I would caution against using it as a guide to the best fishing times and locations for next year. That said, much of the knowledge remains valid and it is both a great reference book to have on the shelf and a start point for some more focused searching if you are intending to visit a new area. The tactile feel of a book can’t be beaten in my opinion and I love aimlessly leafing through this one.

Buying a copy: If you wish to purchase a copy, the one you want is the 3rd edition and the ISBN 10 number is: 0706369297.


You could of course find one online at ‘The Shop’ (named after a river), but why not take look at www.abebooks.co.uk Abe supports independent books shops and there’s quite a few copies from just under £10 to £20 plus delivery – that’s a reasonable price for a great reference guide IMHO.
 

Grassy_Knollington

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The Fishing Waters of Scotland - Moray McLaren and William B Currie, Rainbird Reference books, 1972.


Cover.JPG



Bottom line up front: The first comprehensive anglers guide to game fishing in Scotland since 1899, this book is a rich, lyrical description of Trout, Salmon and Sea Trout fishing written from the authors’ own personal experience. A great read and a glimpse into what is now a bygone era.

Authors. Moray McLaren was a noted traveller, writer and broadcaster, responsible for the ‘Shell Guide to Scotland’. His descriptions held particular value in the age before and immediately after the Second World War. Before mass transportation opened up the highlands, few people of average means had the opportunity to visit the range of places that we do now. McLaren passed away shortly before the book was published. William ‘Bill’ Currie is the well-known angling writer, who taught, lectured, travelled as well as being a writer of note and editor of fishing magazines. By all accounts a fine man, who continued writing into the 2000s Bill Currie passed away in 2015. I’m sure many on the forum remember his works and they are all worth reading.

Style. While ‘The Salmon Rivers of Scotland’ no doubt borrowed some ideas from this piece, the tone, content and organisation of ‘The Fishing Waters of Scotland’ are quite different. There are the maps and descriptive writing, but The Fishing Waters is a less methodical and more personal work. Critically this volume also covers Brown Trout fishing and some of the descriptions in this area are particularly vivid. I’ll let the authors describe their approach:

If our descriptions convey something of our deep sense of pride in Scotland’s rivers and lochs, and of our immense pleasure we have found in traveling and fishing through our own land, we shall feel that an important goal has been reached’

Content and Layout. The book progresses round and about Scotland by River, County and District areas, covering the waters where the authors have fished.

Each author has written separately about the waters he knows best, excepting the Tweed and Galloway areas, which we deal with jointly. Although differences in treatment and style may well identify the writers, we thought it wise to be explicit and each of us has put his initials after the chapter he wrote’

The book proceeds through Scotland from Tweed, through Dumfries and Galloway, then Ayrshire and on. There are a good selection of regional and district maps. Not every river gets covered in a map, but the descriptions will cover all of those mentioned in each one.

Map.JPG


There is a nice selection of photographs, including some colour ones. Clearly the photographs cover what seems like a simpler time, there are no breathable waders, (often no waders at all), single rods and some very smartly dressed fishermen.

Colour Plate.JPG

- The 3 principle subjects of the book and an angler fishing the Ebb on the river Shiel, probably with a great chance of a Sea Trout

Orchy.JPG

- The river Orchy

The whole book is very readable and it is hard to pick out particular favourites, but if pushed to do so I would pick out the detailed section on Tweed – a river so well known to the authors, Hebridean Trout and Argyle Sea Trout fishing. Some of my favourite passages are below.

Among descriptions of upstream wet fly fishing and the invention of the Greenwell’s Glory by Cannon Greenwell, WBC writes on Tweed Salmon;

In November the air can be full of of leaping Salmon, disturbed fish, edgy fish, running fish, or just devil-may-care leaping fish and the experienced Salmon fisher may pay little attention to them. The showy fish is not likely to be the taker. It is the brace of big fish, eighteen pounds or more, which have slipped over the gravel bar into the pool at Ashiestiel, or Holylee, or Cardrona, that makes the fishing worthwhile. These fish take firmly, run hard and fight with all the excitement of big Salmon at any season of the year, We would say they often show more dogged fighting power than any other Salmon we could name.’

Sea Trout fishing is prominent in the book and WBC was a keen Sea Trout fisherman, his enthusiasm and articulate prose shine through:

As a night Sea Trout water, the Endrick can be marvelous, I have netted a thirteen pounder taken on a fly at night….One bag of them caught by Mrs Elspeth Mitchell above Gartness on a well-known pool she owns deserves mention. This most ardent of lady anglers, fishing in the dark took eleven Sea Trout and one Grilse weighing altogether forty three pounds eight ounces. She was fishing with her hard-worked trout rod of nine feet six and using her own technique of fishing a smallish fly moved slowly and very near the bottom.’

Moray McLaren was not to be outdone by WBC’s prose and he takes over for the Outer Hebrides section of the book, his explorations of the South Uist Machair lochs and the quality of their Sea Trout are particularly enticing:

It is because he meets the exhilaration of fresh water in which he as born, yet doesn’t have to face those debillitating factors so often present in fresh water. Above all there is no acidity, no dulling peat. Moreover, coming to the fresh water in these lochs he finds himself swimming over sand exactly like the sea he just left. In such circumstances the water acts on him like wine but leaves no hangover…. A two-pound South Uist machair Sea Trout is an unforgettable experience’

Both authors take a firm view on what is and what is not ‘Sporting’. However, their view seems a lot more catholic, reasonable and indeed sporting than we sometimes see today. There is certainly less of the virtue-signalling that seems to prevail amongst some current anglers and writers.

They talk of ‘Another fascinating Clyde tradition is ‘stick bait’, the larva of the caddis fly….. Clyde anglers extract the larva and fish it on amazingly fine tackle, trotting it down to the trout. I saw a picture of a four pounder that fell to this succulent and skilfully fished natural bait.’

On Loch Awe the authors are able to draw the distinction between the fisherman; ‘trotting his worm with great skill, moving down the banks with it and letting it bump over the stones’ and ‘the scores of parties fishing its waters on a spring Saturday and the crude way in which many of them thought to try, Loch Awe, more than any other loch I know suffers from the legered worm technique.’

Caution: The writing and experiences date from 20 years prior to ‘The Salmon Rivers of Scotland’ and written (in McLaren’s case) with memories of decades previously. This book is even less relevant to current fishing conditions than the previous one. However, I defy anyone to read this evocative, well written prose, sprinkled with personal and historical anecdotes and not want to fish in the same places. As a result of reading this book I’ve visited (and fished) new places in areas I thought I knew so well. As an angling guide, this is not as comprehensive or informative as ‘The Salmon Rivers of Scotland’, but it is a far superior bit of writing.

Buying a copy: If you wish to purchase a copy, the ISBN 10 number is: 0719525861





Once again, why not take look at www.abebooks.co.uk for examples from £3 to £18 plus delivery.
 

Elibank

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Many thanks for taking the time and trouble to make such a great presentation - clearly, like myself, you have a secondary vice that complements your fishing!
 

Grassy_Knollington

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Many thanks for taking the time and trouble to make such a great presentation - clearly, like myself, you have a secondary vice that complements your fishing!
Thanks Elibank, glad you enjoyed it, I've got time on my hands and when I had to take only 3 books with me, these were 2 of them :)
 

carbisdale caster

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The Salmon Rivers of Scotland - Derek Mills and Neil Graesser, 3rd edition, Ward Lock (Cassell),1992.

View attachment 49938




Bottom line up front: A factual encyclopedia of Scottish Salmon fishing waters, with catches, proprietor names historical and geographical details; it’s a great resource to dip in and out of.


Authors: Derek Mills was a fishery scientist, who worked in a number of practical and academic roles throughout his career, notably as Chair of the AST's honorary scientific advisory panel and its representative at ICES. Neil Graesser was a salmon fishing angler, writer , proprietor and consultant who also served on the AST. Between the authors was a wealth of angling and management experience, as well as the contacts on the ground that help to provide so much detail on such a breadth of fishing opportunities.

Layout and Contents: The book has a small section at the front, which discusses Salmon life history, stock fluctuations and fishing methods. The main body is then organised by region and catchment. The book progresses systematically in anti-clockwise direction around Scotland, covering each District Salmon Fishery Board Area. I think we sometimes forget the huge variety of waters available in Scotland, this map of the Northern waters illustrates the options available. Every one of the waters illustrated is discussed in the book, that includes the ones too small to name on this map.

View attachment 49937

All waters are covered, from large to small. If you want to find out about the Berriedale, there’s enough detail to start a more focused internet search. The bigger the river the more detail, the Spey has 6.5 pages and a nice, compact hand-drawn map of the river from Grantown to the tide, the Tay is similarly covered.

Nearly every Salmon fishing district has a nice wee hand-drawn map, highlighting all the catchments and fisheries that will be covered in the subsequent section.

View attachment 49936

The larger rivers get their own compact map and all rivers get a description of geography & hydrology, in addition to the catch details we are all really interested in.

View attachment 49935

The writing is factual, but easy to read and includes quotations from other angling works, including Stoddart. Particular highlights for me are the sections on the Tay, the Conon, the Nith, the whole West Coast and the Outer Hebrides. There is also wealth of information on the Hydro’d systems – which is very useful for those who are unfamiliar with their ways of working and impact upon fishing opportunities. See the Conon Map for example:

View attachment 49934

As mentioned above, game angling in the West is a pale shadow of the times before the farms came. Contrasting the reported catches with what we see now can be a bit depressing. It must be noted that many systems were already damaged by the time this edition was written, although the link to farming is not mentioned in the book.

The Ewe / Maree section records that; ‘Unfortunately after a temporary revival of Sea Trout stocks in the late 1970s and early 1980s, these have shown a very steady decline over the last 5 years, with 1989 being the worst year ever recorded on the loch’. Another early tale of woe was recorded on the Lochy ‘There used to be a good Sea Trout run in the Lochy, but the number of Sea Trout has declined dramatically in recent years’ The table of catch data below the above quote shows Sea Trout catches of 243 in 1990 against an exceptional high of over 4k in 1964 and 1970s average of over 2000.

That tallies with personal experience, the finnock going from 1 or 2 a cast in the Ewe Sea Pool from 1986-88 to almost non-existent in 1992. My dad once caught 2 Salmon and 21 Sea Trout in one July night session from the right bank in the early 1980s; stopping for some sleep at 0200 when he decided enough Sea Trout was enough.

Derek Mills’s background is not only clear in the detail provided on the Hydro Schemes, but also on the management techniques that applied at the time. Like it or not, exclusion of other species was common, and likely had an impact on the number of Salmon returning to our rivers. Pike, Trout and other species were often treated as little more than vermin, with the former being a particular focus for Salmon Fishery Boards. WRT to the Nith the authors record that:

'The increase in catches of Salmon, Grilse and Sea Trout*, was not entirely due to pollution abatement, but also to the suspension of netting in Burgh Waters, the prohibition of angling in the (Dumfries) Cauld pools, stocking with eyed Salmon and Sea Trout ova, the removal of Pike and Grayling a limitation on Haaf netting in the tidal channel and the demolition of obstructions to migratory fish on tributary streams.’

*The average Salmon and Grilse catch rose from 350 per season in 1946-1953 to in the period from 1982-89, with catches of Sea Trout over 3000 in all but 2 years from 1958 to 1989.

Even more shocking is this statement regarding the Dee: ‘In the opening months of the season spinning is the method of fishing most commonly adopted…... a gentleman's agreement that fly only should be used after 15 April but nowadays this agreement is not strictly adhered to.’:LOL:

Caution: Clearly this edition is now, (unbelievably) nearly 30 years old, it draws on much information from the original, 1981 edition. So much has changed in terms of the quantity and run timings of our fish and I would caution against using it as a guide to the best fishing times and locations for next year. That said, much of the knowledge remains valid and it is both a great reference book to have on the shelf and a start point for some more focused searching if you are intending to visit a new area. The tactile feel of a book can’t be beaten in my opinion and I love aimlessly leafing through this one.

Buying a copy: If you wish to purchase a copy, the one you want is the 3rd edition and the ISBN 10 number is: 0706369297.


You could of course find one online at ‘The Shop’ (named after a river), but why not take look at www.abebooks.co.uk Abe supports independent books shops and there’s quite a few copies from just under £10 to £20 plus delivery – that’s a reasonable price for a great reference guide IMHO.

A very good book indeed, i've the second and third edition :)
 
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