June 30th, 2014


We have been tickling away all week with one or two sea trout each night, after the six we caught on Monday. There are sea trout in all the pools, but not many.

I am interested to see whether the main run is yet to come because, by any measure, this has been a strange year with warm water from the beginning of the season and sufficient water in the  river to allow sea trout and salmon to swim upstream without any problem.

fishers down the Flats

This photo was taken from the suspension bridge at the tail of Casdtle Stream, just above Red Brae. You are looking upstream towards the Flats where there are two peopole fishing.

Conditions at night are now perfect for the night angler. If there were shoals in the main pools we would probably be catching them in good numbers, but those shoals, as far as we have observed, are only intermittently present.

I remember a night in 1988 when I ‘found’ a shoal of sea trout in the tail of Tyndals Pool at about 0200 and caught seven of them before the dawn came. I had not seen those fish lying on the gravel in daylight. It is possible that they had arrived during the hours of dusk ness (there’s no darkness in June in Scotland) but I think not. That shoal of sea trout in my opinion had been there all the time, just lying quietly in the quiet tail of Tyndals.

Which just goes to show that sea trout are mysterious and secretive fish that keep themselves to themselves, and normally are very difficult to spot.
Postscript written at 0630 on 30 June 2014

As the South Esk falls away to its summer low level the movement of migratory fish into and within the catchment has declined.
As always with our little river, we now need rain to freshen up the system and encourage new fish, fresh from the sea, to enter the river.
Until that happens I suspect all will be very quiet.
I see that some rain is forecast for later in the week. By then we will be needing it badly.
The season to date at FCW has seen 37 salmon (biggest 16lbs) and 46 sea trout (biggest 5lbs) recorded.


May 13th, 2014

155,000 escaped chickens invade the Vale of Strathmore”

Just imagine if that were true!!

Over 300,000 lbs of live battery chickens running around wild, defecating and swamping the countryside….

The difference between that and what we are doing in the sea off the west coast and islands of of Scotland is that a) chickens don’t interbreed with populations of wild birds b) we can see the chickens and the mess they make c) as far as we know escaped farmed chickens don’t cause disease or mass explosions of parasites.

If the countryside around Forfar were suddenly to be inundated with 155,000 battery chickens you might expect there to be complaints in the press and live media. In fact I would expect there to be a major public objection. SEPA and SNH would get involved and those chickens would be recaptured very quickly. Moreover the farmer whose poor biosecurity allowed this massive escape to happen would most likely be charged, lose his licence, fined and put out of business.

In the last few years 2.7 million farmed salmon have escaped from their open-mesh (“string vest”) cages in Scotland’s once pristine northern waters. Most recently 155,000 salmon have “escaped” from a salmon farm in Shetland. But, because noone sees them, as they would those escaped chickens, those massive escapes of farmed salmon go unseen and largely unremarked.

When battery hens are in their coops, all the effluents are treated and regularly monitored. Not so the effluents from open mesh salmon cages. Untreated raw sewage from millions of caged salmon close to the beaches and coastal villages of our islands and west coast communities are poured into the sea in huge quantities, along with uneaten food, and chemicals for treating disease and parasites. It is no exaggeration to say that these salmon are literally growing in their own shit, reminding me of the quote by WC Fields who said “I don’t drink water. Fish fuck in it”!

Please think hard about the way we grow our farmed salmon in the sea. Do the salmon farming companies’ balance sheets reflect the massive freebie they get by not processing their waste, as every other farmer in the country is forced to do by law? Can our seas really absorb all that crap? If salmon farmers are getting that freebie, who is really paying the bill in lost biodiversity, pollution and visual spoiling of our wilderrness coastline – certainly impacting on tourism?

Even the most unscientific of us will realise on the basis of common sense that you cannot swamp the fragile ecosystems of those northern inshore waters with those levels of effluent without there being collateral damage. Any farmer will tell you that. The Kentucky dust bowl disaster of the 1930s is an example of where greed & profit overides common sense and good husbandry. No Wizard of Oz to help the beleaguered Scottish west coast!

Because the destruction is happening below the surface of the sea, it is out of sight and out of mind. How very convenient that is to their accountants, who tot up the profits and present the balance sheets! How different those accounts would look if the real costs of treating the sewage from salmon farms were included.

That is why I keep banging on about Closed Containment salmon farming. It is not ideal I know. Any form of animal farming in such huge amounts is far from the world of the hunter/gatherer, who could kill and eat an animal from its natural environment. But we have to find sustainable methods of providing protein at a reasonable price for 7.5 billion people living on this planet. Aquaculture is the way forward, but not at any price.

Please support AST and its partners in promoting closed containment salmon. It tastes better, it doesn’t pollute the beaches, it doesn’t infect wild salmon & sea trout with disease and parasites, nor does iot threaten wild salmonids with inter-breeding.

I would rather have the 155,000 battery chickens!


A red letter day for a young fly fisherman

April 13th, 2014
Spring salmon at FCW
One of the things about April on the South Esk is that new fish entering the river do so in ‘penny packets’, taking the opportunity of a rise in water temp, or some extra water, or a high tide, or a combination of those events.
Douglas and Calum Dunsmuir at Indies Hut
Calum and Douglas Dunsmuir at the Indires Hut at the start of their successful day on Indies Beat on the 12th of April 2014.
When a small run of fish do enter the river – the ‘penny packet ‘ – their speed as they swim upriver is influenced by the amount and temperature of the water. If the nights are cold and frosty, having the effect of lowering the water temp, the migration upriver will, more than likely, be slowed down. Conversely, if the water temp rises with sunshine in the days and mild, cloud covered nights, the likelihood is that salmon will keep moving quickly upstream.
The result of these stop/start, temperature-influenced movements of fish is that sometimes pools can have fish in them, while on other occasions the pools are empty. Combine that situation with bright, brassy days when salmon are disinclined to take the fly, and the result is that the going gets hard for the fly fisherman, who can spend many fruitless hours fishing without sight or feel of a fish.
Calum Dunsmuir with his 10lbs salmon (2)
Calum Dunsmuir with his first salmon. The fish was caught on a Sunray Shadow in Tollmuir Pool on the 12th of April 2014.
But not always….. Just as I finished writing that last sentence I got a call from Doug Dunsmuir, who is fishing Indies Beat today, telling me that he had caught a 14lbs salmon in Melgund Pool and his 12 year-old son, Calum, a 10lbs salmon in Tollmuir Pool. That was Calum’s first salmon! He caught it on a Sunray Shadow fished deep.
Congratulations to the Dunsmuir father & son team!
Pictures of both fish to follow in a later post. That is how it has been at FCW, after a flurry of activity with four fish caught and released on Thursday, followed by two days of nothing at all – and then a big surprise for two determined anglers. Such is salmon fishing!