Booking a week of salmon fishing a year ahead is one of life's great gambles, considering the cost of decent fishing and the risks involved. By far the main risk is of course the weather and by that I mean the amount of rainfall in the preceeding period. If there is very little summer rain the fish tend to bide their time in the estuaries and bays waiting for the flood. The best time to fish is when the river settles down in the week after a lot of rain and a good spate. My week on the Thurso River starts on Monday 5th September and the rain Gods must have been listening to my prayer since there was a rainstorm of biblical proportions on Sunday August 28th resulting in the river bursting its banks and being completely unfishable for 2 days. Good catches have been taken every day since.
The expectation created by the flood has given me a heavy dose of salmon fever. The incubation period is however about a month, when scanning of the long range weather forecast begins along with daily checking of the river water level on the Thurso river website. Friends and family begin to speculate on how many fish I might catch and the pressure rises. New flies are purchased featuring the latest patterns designed to catch insecure fishermen. A degree of gaudiness is creeping in, no doubt influenced by rainbow trout lures, although catching these fat farmed fish is somewhere down the sport fishing curve just above coarse fishing. Having said that salmon fishing is now more democratic and deeply penetrated by well-off arrivistes, displacing the toffs who seem to be gradually dying out.
The Thurso is one of the finest salmon rivers in Scotland and under new ownership is going from strength to strength, with a little help from the weather. The whole river system is in the hands of the new owner who has removed the nets that filtered out thousands of fish each year. In addition the river is divided into 13 beats and on a weekly let, 6 different beats will be fished. The river flows from Loch More and cuts through a grouse moor before reaching the arable lower land round the beats nearest the sea. The fishing experience on each is very different. I start on Beat 2 tomorrow. Come back to find out what happens.
The Stuart Agenda by Alan Calder at willowmoonpublishing.com and amazon.co.uk or amazon.com for Kindle