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A first foray into salmon fishing – a reel perspective


On the drive down to the Tweedswood beat near St Boswells, in the Scottish Borders, rain lashed on the windows and I wasn’t too sure what I’d let myself in for by signing up to my first ever first day of salmon fishing. Then, as the clouds parted and we headed down a track and under the stunning Leaderfoot Viaduct, I realised that spending a day in and around the River Tweed could only be a good thing.

Gently guided by Anne Woodcock of the online fishing resource FishPal, and Head Ghillie Kevin Paterson, David Walsh and I began our beginner tuition. The River Tweed is considered to be one of the best salmon fishing rivers in the world, with a season that runs from 1 February right through to 30 November, so it’s an ideal place to learn.

Decked out with highly fashionable waders, safety goggles and hats for our protection, we learnt how to prepare our Mackenzie rods with tackle. The rods were surprisingly lightweight and easy to handle. Wading in the water took a little getting used too, but was helped by balancing sticks and slowly increasing our depth. In the shadow of the viaduct we settled quickly in to attaching our flies and casting the lines which, with the right flick of a wrist and speed was quite straightforward to get the hang of.

The wait was on, and I really enjoyed having the opportunity to stand in the quiet and take in the scenery, even spotting some peregrine falcons. Every now and then a glimpse of a fish at the surface of the water really was surprisingly thrilling – they were not to be hooked, but I certainly was. Had we caught anything, we would have been bound by the Tweed’s sustainable fishing policy, which has strict rules about catch and release.

The fishing hut at Tweedswood was warm and welcoming after a morning of fishing, decked out with a kitchen, a wood-burning fire, and most importantly freshly made sandwiches and cake from Lunch Box, a local café  in St Boswells. Over lunch, we were joined by local fly designer Iain Wilson, who showed us the great variety of flies available, and explained how different ones are used depending on river conditions and fish.

The afternoon called for more fishing, and this time we headed up to the higher pools in the beat to see if we could score a catch there, and although many fish were jumping up, even Kevin didn’t succeed. I managed to really hone my casting and get better at spanning the river with my line. As we fished, Anne described the vast range of people who she has taught, ranging from Russian models to regular groups of Scottish ladies who love to combine a bit of fishing with another pastime – baking!

With top fishing on rivers across Scotland, and reasonable rates for fishing on a beat and equipment hire, I think I’ll be back. Especially if I can bring cake.

Still not sure if fishing is for you? I asked beginner David for his perspective:

What did you expect to experience on a day out salmon fishing?

I’d never been salmon fishing before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was a bit apprehensive about my lack of prior experience and about being any good at it before we arrived.

What surprised you about the experience?

Well, two things. Firstly, just how cheap it was. You don’t have to buy all the kit. You can rent a rod, reel and fly for next to nothing and a pass for a day’s fishing on the beat was around £30. A good days entertainment I’d say, especially if you want to get away from it all or even bring a picnic lunch and have some fun with the whole family.

Secondly, I was surprised just how quickly I got into it. Being thigh-deep in cold Scottish river water doesn’t necessarily sound like everyone’s cup of tea but it’s really comfortable, it’s quiet, it’s relaxing, and it’s easy to let your mind drift. Plus, there’s just something about enjoying the great outdoors in Scotland with a picnic lunch.

What did you enjoy the most?

The day we were on the beat, the weather was beautiful and it was very peaceful. Other than us talking, the flow of the river and nature were the only sounds we could hear. It was very relaxing.

Tempted to cast your first line, or get back into it? Find more about fishing in Scotland.

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Miriam Brand-Spencer

Miriam likes walking her dog, BBC Radio 4, living in Scotland and promoting it with VisitScotland!

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