The Helmsdale season ended with a flurry of larger-than-life catches. The long drought which started in May was broken when rain fell heavily in mid-September. Through the long dry summer catches had never altogether ceased but angling had been difficult and sometimes frustrating. Anglers blessed with the arrival of rain caught some of the largest numbers on record. This happy situation applied equally on the private beats and also on the Lower Helmsdale public water fishing.
Spawning started in early November and went on for an unusually long time. In many of the upper tributaries the pools had big numbers of fish. Conditions were ideal for seeing spawning salmon and grilse with reasonably low and steady water, mostly clear, and without the wind shivers which make viewing harder. Some fish had developed fungus on their noses and tails, but mostly they were clean.
The spawning finally ended by about 20th November. Bigger fish which had spawned earlier were drifting back. Some smaller grilse were still paired and in the act of spawning. Redds and the fish were easily visible in water which became increasingly clear.
The 2019 season is upon us before the late-season fishing bonanza has had time to fade from memory.
The Helmsdale fishery board welcomes all anglers to the 2019 Open Days. These start on the season’s first day, January 11th, and finish on Saturday January 19th. The Open Days ceremony starts with the Pipe Band in the High St at 10am., closing with the opening cast by a local angler. Fishing is by fly only. Anglers need to sign in and can then fish anywhere they choose on the whole length of the river. They may sign in either at the Belgrave Hotel or at Glencoast, both in the High St. Scottish Government Spring salmon rules apply and all fish must be returned to the water. Kelts should be treated as gently as possibly to enhance their chances of survival and eventual return to the natal river.
Meantime hopes are on a strong run of early salmon, fattened on their feeding grounds in the north-east Atlantic.