River Tyne: Looking Ahead to the 2015 Fishing Season

CAN THE TYNE BUCK THE TREND?

The River Tyne is a truly exceptional salmon river for England.  It has one of the best salmon runs and catch records of any English river, and can provide exceptional sport without the need to travel to the Scottish rivers further north.

With a new fishing season on the Tyne underway, there are many reasons to feel optimistic about the 2015 season and to believe that the Tyne can once again buck the trend.

As with any salmon river, good water levels are needed to catch fish.  The Tyne has a 1000 square mile catchment, and Kielder Reservoir which provides fluctuating compensation flows throughout the year.  Add to this the fact that annual salmon stocking takes place, and it means that fish are usually present in the system in all fishing months.

In 2014, overall catches up and down the river were significantly lower than normal.  It was, of course, a warm and dry summer and many weeks went by when the water height was far too low for good fishing.  The river seemed to be devoid of fish, and there was much doom and gloom about an apparent shortage of fish returning from the sea. 

However there is a startlingly good 2014 statistic on the Tyne: the fish counter at Riding Mill recorded numbers of returning fish exactly in line with the previous five year average: just over 31,000 salmon and sea-trout.  The 10 year average is at more-or-less the same level at just over 32,000 fish. 

So the poor catches in 2014 appear to be explained by difficult fishing conditions, rather than a shortage of returning fish. 

The reports from Scotland were more extreme.  Catches there were also significantly down, but more worryingly, the numbers of returning fish continued a downward trend.  The shadows cast by land reform; the prospect of increased activity by estuary nets and the long running saga of the West Coast fish farms are deeply worrying for our neighbours.  And yet the numbers of smolts being produced by many Scottish rivers, such as the Tweed, are said to be good.  The problem seems to relate principally to the marine phase, with complications associated with coastal and high seas netting, climate change and seals to name but three, all of which require international co-operation to address (and government willing to put the conservation of wild salmon ahead of narrow political interests).

Catch returns to the Environment Agency for the fishery will not be reported until April, but anglers on the Tyne have reported that the fish were extremely difficult to catch even when water conditions improved.  However, if you were on the river at the right moment it was possible to do well.  During the last month of the season when river levels were good, large runs of fish came up the river and many anglers had a “field day” catching a number of fish in a few hours of fishing.  This is comparable to fishing on some of the great Scottish rivers at their best.  And in August, 4,500 fish came through the Riding Mill fish counter in the first half of the month.  I have heard of one angler fishing the main river catching seven fish in a day, going home exhausted at 5pm! 

And there is still hope for the spring run.  The early fishing in 2014 was disappointing although two of the principal lower beats at Bywell and Styford had good catches for a couple of weeks in March.  In the long-term, the construction of the fish pass at Hexham, planned to be carried out this summer, can only help the ascent of spring fish and provide more good news for the Tyne.

 

Hugo Remnant

 

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