A review of Dee 2009

Are you preparing for your fishing on the Dee? Here is an interesting reading by Mr. Ken Reid regarding the 2009 season on Dee. Please contact Lax-a staff for further information about the Dee.
The 2009 salmon fishing season commenced on 2nd February with the traditional opening ceremony at the Ballogie beat. The event was hosted by TV & Radio personality Clive Anderson who highly entertained the 250 visitors to the event with his customary incisive wit and humour. The weather conditions were quite appalling but this didn’t stop Clive or the River Dee salmon from putting on a show.

There were 94 salmon reported during the opening week with highlights including Tony Black taking a 5 fish catch on opening day from Little Blackhall, Jim Fisher catching the biggest opening day fish at 21 lbs from Ballogie, and Tom Marshall taking the first fish of the season at Carlogie – a fine 18 lbs fish. Tony Black, who is the renowned Ghillie from Murthly on the Tay commented ìKen, I have had a day of 22 fish to my own rod and 2 days of 17 fish, but this day is by far the best dayís fishing I have ever enjoyed”. I guess that statement is as good an endorsement and justification of value for Dee spring salmon that I have ever heard, coming from such a renowned salmon fisherman in truly difficult weather conditions.

Week 2 saw action slowing down as Arctic conditions arrived ensuring temperatures on Deeside fall to minus 18 degrees Celsius and only 44 salmon were recorded. Week 3 saw an equally dramatic rise in temperatures that provided an 8 ft rise in river levels and saw 2 days fishing lost, but there were pleasingly 96 fish reported for the week. Week 4 saw 92 reported for the week with 4 anglers sadly seeing their fly lines snapped by heavy fish. There was a report of a 63î Kelt landed by visiting angler John Hickman to round this week off.

We went into the first week in March reasonably optimistic as catches were very reasonable in February but it became apparent that fish were running hard and only 68 to 23 lbs were reported. This was a pattern that continued for a few weeks. Week 2 in March saw a 50 strong ìViking partyî arrive on Deeside and the weekís total was 67 salmon to 25 lbs. Week 3 saw temperatures rising and there were 99 salmon reported to 26 lbs with David Murray landing a truly fabulous 26 lbs Springer from the Garden Pool at Monaltrie. Chris Webster from STV, who is the Turus a Bhradain television series director, arrived and saw some sport at Park. Week 4 in March saw three rises in river levels which really put the fish off the take and only 48 salmon were reported for the week. March totals were less than hoped for, a pattern mirrored in most Scottish rivers and for some was sadly going to continue.

April arrived and the salmon didnít make fools of all the anglers as there were 96 fish reported for the week including a 20 lbs sea liced fish from Cambus OíMay. The second week saw 80 fish reported with Banchory seeing 9 caught in one day. The third week in April saw 88 fish reported but disappointingly catches looked promising with 60 for the first 3 days. Suddenly the catches slowed dramatically following the arrival of a very cold easterly wind pattern, with plenty of fish being seen but not being caught. The fourth week in April saw the continuation of the cold easterlies and catches remained at 88 fish to 25 lbs. However, there were a couple of bright spots as 90 years old visitor Monty Owen landed a nice fish at Park and the Swallows and Martins arrived on Deeside. A sign of improving weather conditions and the warming summer months to follow.

The first week in May saw catches improve with 133 salmon reported and visitor Mike Bourdon caught a nice 27 lbs fish from Cambus OíMay which was the biggest so far for the season. The second week in May saw 110 salmon and 40 sea trout reported with long standing visitor Alan Lankshear, who is 86 years old, catching some fresh fish. There were 130 salmon and 53 sea trout reported for the third week in May with Randall Nicol catching a fine 22 lbs fish, the biggest of the week, and Ghillie Sean Stanton gallantly wading to his waist to net the fish wearing his wellingtons. He did comment wryly that the water was still on the cold side! Week 4 saw temperatures rise significantly and the fish really came on the take with 235 salmon and 83 sea trout reported. Middle Dee beats performed well, as did the upper beats with Dinnet/Dee Castle reporting 28 salmon and Kincardine 25. This was a good end to the month with catches rising significantly.

The end of May sees the end of the spring fishing period and reported catches were 1682 salmon from FishDee beats which was down 13% on the 5 year average of 1907 salmon. There were a number of observations from anglers and some Ghillies. Salmon seemed to be running hard to the upper reaches and never settled well or took as well as they might have. For some of the beats, that was a pattern that was going to change for the better during the summer.

At the beginning of June I took a busman ís holiday to Russia to try and find out a bit more about the salmon fishing on offer abroad and in my absence Edward Humphrey kindly wrote the weekly reports. I was back on the 15th suitably refreshed and took up my reporting duties again. Week 3 saw 167 salmon and 164 sea trout reported, with pride of place going to Mr Harlow with an estimated 35 lbs salmon from Aboyne Water. That sadly wasnít witnessed however he will have had a tremendous tussle with a fish of that size. The previous day a fish of that size was seen repeatedly showing itself in a number of beats just below. One can speculate that it might have been the same fish. Vic Pulleyne took the 100th fish of the season at Dinnet and proprietor Edward Humphrey toasted the occasion with his guests by providing a nice bottle of Malt Whisky between them. Week 4 saw catches drop back to 116 salmon and 123 sea trout following a massive rise in air and river temperatures. The temperature in the river rose over 10 degrees in 2 days. When conditions are like this salmon become dour and sea trout become good takers during the witching hours.

Season review
Season Review Part 2

We entered the first week in July and saw temperatures on Deeside recorded at higher levels than many of the European hot spots, with air temperatures reaching 30 degrees Celsius and water temperatures of 24 degrees Celsius. These are commonly known as the Dog Days of Summer. There were 56 salmon reported for the week and 93 sea trout, with River Dee Board and Trust Chairman Ian Scott catching a fine 20 lbs salmon from Lower Dess. Week 2 saw temperatures drop back and as a result catches rose to 121 salmon to 25 lbs and 71 sea trout, with visiting Spanish angler Mr Holguin catching 9 salmon to 25 lbs at Lower Crathes. Mr David Wright recorded his first ever salmon at Cairnton. Week 3 saw 110 salmon to 24 lbs reported and 42 sea trout with reports of many lost fish. There were a number of thunderstorms during the week and the river bank is not the ideal place to visit when these conditions prevail. Week 4 saw catches pick up following the rise in river levels and the air temperatures cooling further. There were 198 salmon to 30 lbs and 49 sea trout reported with regular visitor Thomas Goodchild enthusiastically reporting a 30 lbs fish from Upper Dess. Mrs Anthea Fielding enjoyed good sport at Lower Crathes with fish to 21 lbs. That week also saw well known Dee angler Malcolm Tocher landing 16 fish and colleagues Bill Craft and Brian Hobby sharing 20 between them. Bert Webster won the inaugural fish of the month award – a fine 1980 Dalmore malt whisky – for landing a 27 lbs fish from Park which was verified.

We quickly moved on from July into August and we really needed river levels to be suitable to encourage new fish into the catchment. As it was, levels were quite low and anglers were catching a lot of weed. There were 116 salmon reported and 30 sea trout with lots of fish again hooked and lost. Week 2 saw 169 salmon and 26 sea trout reported following a lift in river levels with regular Dee fisher Jim Coates catching the biggest verified salmon of the season at 31 lbs from Park. Mrs Anne Clutterbuck, at 89 years of age, a regular annual visitor to Crathie had some fish to 12 lbs. Week 3 saw 145 salmon and 40 sea trout reported with Sue Rudge from FishPal catching her first ever grilse at Banchory. There were 10 salmon reported from Crathie on the Saturday. Week 4 saw the river rising again and catches of 153 salmon and 23 sea trout were reported. I enjoyed a 20 minutes tussle with a large fish that I never even saw when my leader sadly broke to bring a sudden termination to my exciting encounter. There was some abrasion on the leader indicating that it had been rubbing on submerged rocks. August saw regular lifts of water and temperatures were cooling so we expected reasonable sport in September.

The end of August signals the end of the summer period and the reported catch of 2152 salmon by FishDee beats was significantly up on the 5 year average of 1515 salmon, which is a 42% increase. We were blessed with good water levels and comfortable river and air temperatures for the most part. The catches were extremely good in the middle and upper reaches with some upper beats having a bonanza.

The first week of September saw 217 salmon and 54 sea trout reported, and with it an 8 ft rise in river levels following 36 hours of persistent heavy rain. It was a week of some rare occurrences with a River Bailiff catching illegal anglers fishing from the top of the Potarch Bridge using Sheridanís finest steak as bait – what a waste of a good quality meat! River Dee ghillies and anglers also chose the Dee Dram on an entertaining evening at the Potarch Hotel. Regular Woodend angler Frank Kirkham landed a fish he estimated at 32 lbs which sadly wasnít witnessed. There were reports of a 30 lbs fish landed at Cairnton where I received no details which was disappointing as it would have been Fish of the Month if confirmed. Week 2 saw 302 salmon and 22 sea trout reported with regular visiting angler Paul Whitehouse losing a real beauty at Park but making amends for this disappointing moment by landing a 25 lbs fish the next day. Week 3 saw 213 salmon reported and 22 sea trout, with Jeremy Savill reporting a confirmed 26 lbs fish from Woodend. Visiting angler Jim Coates hooked an anglerís lost fly line and recovered a 10 lbs salmon. Week 4 saw 187 salmon and 18 sea trout and well known fishing guide and AAPGAI master casting instructor, Jim Fearn, landed 6 salmon to 24 lbs on one day at Tilbouries. Allan Smith landed a confirmed 27 lbs salmon from Park to win the Fish of the Month award. Lowish river levels prevailed and runs of fresh new fish were a little sparse.

We went into October where there was a temporary season extension underway to allow River Dee biologists to radio tag rod caught salmon. There were 220 salmon and 27 sea trout reported with a group of visiting Finnish anglers taking fish to 27 lbs at Altries. I have received confirmation from the beat and party leader Toni Kakkuri to ensure the delighted angler Timo Sorsa receives the fish of the month award. I saw photographs of the fish when I met the group of anglers out celebrating in Banchory and have posted them onto the FishDee site. I had 2 visitors from Norway staying and they had some excellent results at Ballogie with 23 fish in 2 days. The following week saw 464 salmon and 20 sea trout reported as river temperatures fell and fish really came on the take throughout the lower and middle catchment. Lars Terkildsenís group of anglers had 141 salmon to 30 lbs from 3 beats, Ballogie, Carlogie and Commonty. Regular River Dee angler Phillip Wood rounded off a difficult season with a super 20 lbs plus fish on a size 12 dropper, and on arrival home found out he was the lucky winner of the Dalmore 50 prize draw run on FishDee. The final 4 days of the season saw 150 salmon to 25 lbs reported with Thomas Lobar landing a fine sea liced fish at Aboyne Water on the last day of the season.

The start of September heralds the start of autumn fishing and we were hoping that the water temperatures would cool significantly to really get the large stock of fish on the take. The weather did change for the worse. Rains came and the river temperatures fell back and really had the fish on the take with some notable catches from Middle Dee beats. There were 1733 salmon reported to FishDee against a 5 year average of 1120 but one must take into account this takes in the 2 week extension for this year and last. This does inflate the catches significantly, however, on a like for like basis until the end of September the river was 5% up on its 5 year average. Sea trout catches from February to September were up 23% with FishDee beats reporting 1495 against a 5 year average of 1214. This was most encouraging to see following the dramatic dip in catches reported from the previous season.

To summarise it has been a season of highs and lows with catches reported by current FishDee beats down 13% in the spring, with summer and autumn catches up 42% and 54% respectively. Overall catches for the season including the October extension have exceeded the 5 year average and are up 22%, and anglers and ghillies are reporting excellent stock levels throughout the catchment. Beats from Sluie upstream were significantly up on their 5 year average and beats from Sluie downstream were significantly down on their 5 year average, with a couple of significant exceptions either way. There is no doubt that good water levels throughout the season helped both salmon and sea trout move upriver swiftly.

There was a fundraising initiative by Robert Harper and Walter Raitt and other Dee Ghillies that has raised £19,900 so far which was supported by FishDee, and there are currently fundraising initiatives by the River Dee Trust hosted on the website. There is currently an on-line charity auction with many exciting lots and there is also a fundraising lunch and raffle to be held at the Marcliffe hotel at Pitfodels, Aberdeen on November 29th where a few seats still remain.

All that remains is for the FishDee team and River Dee staff to thank all anglers, ghillies and proprietors enormously for providing first class reports, feedback and support, which is vital in ensuring we offer the best service and information from the websites and River Dee beats for our anglers. We have plans to develop the websites further in the near future so please look in regularly to book fishing for next year and provide any feedback on the changes to ken@riverdee.org Tight Lines to you all in 2010. Ken Reid © FishDee Ltd,