Thursday, 28 January 2010

Is this the future of salmon fishing in Britain?

Salmon in Britain have had a pretty hard time over the last few decades. Pollution, abstraction, disease and especially overfishing reducing wild salmon stocks. English rivers such as the Hampshire Avon and Wye are a shadow of their former selves with the annual run of big spring salmon, some weighing thirty or forty pounds, being consigned to the history books. Even the Scottish rivers, once amongst the best in the world, have declined to the point when the capture of any salmon is an event.

So why not stock salmon in stillwaters, after all almost all our trout fishing in Britain is now 'man made'? Salmon have been stocked in trout waters since the early 1980's with limited success. These stockings generally consisted of a sprinkling of salmon being added to existing trout fisheries providing a surprise for a lucky trout angler. These fish reared in sea lochs soon lost condition and these early experiments came to little.
Palm Springs Fishery in Rutland is as far as I am aware the first fishery to stock only salmon and these are reared on site in freshwater by Ben the fishery manager. I decided to give myself a birthday treat, although expensive, the cost of a day is a fraction of what you might pay in Scotland.

I was pleasantly surprised to find not a 'raw hole in the ground' but a nicely landscaped small fishery set in an attractive valley. I was met by Ben who gave me some information on the fishing and while we chatted a red kite flew overhead. I tackled the fishing as if I was fishing for winter rainbow trout, concentrating on fishing small lures on an intermediate line. My method is to ring the changes, both in depth (counting down in intervals of 5 seconds), retrieve and lure colour. Rather than filling the fly box with loads of different lures I would suggest concentrating on a single pattern in various sizes and colours, my preference are Nomads. Between 10am and lunchtime I caught and released five small salmon in the three to five pound bracket and briefly hooked a couple more. You do not strike a salmon but wait until it has hooked itself before lifting the rod.

After lunch I promised myself that the next fish would be retained, and with that the lake switched off! With only half an hour to go before dark the line tightened and I found myself playing the biggest fish of the day a hen fish of 6lb 3oz.

Is this the future of salmon fishing in Britain? I hope not as I would love to see wild salmon stocks recover and a 'man made' fish really is second best.