Early season fishing has been in tough physical conditions. For two March weeks a bitter east wind laced with dry snow made angling almost impossible.
Fewer fish than average were caught on the beats in this time but as the water is marginally warming in late March some are now being landed.
Nonetheless, the appearance of fly-life to feed juvenile fish seems a long way off in late March. Delayed stirrings of plant life suggests a late spring.
Weights have been higher than average with several weighing in the high teens and two salmon of twenty pounds and over.
The River Helmsdale opened on Jan 11th with a ceremony on the High St, with a stirring performance from the Sutherland Schools Pipe Band. There were more visitors than in previous years demonstrating that this event is becoming part of the calendar in the north. Anglers sign in but are not required to pay any fee for tickets, and they may choose wherever in the river they want to fish.
There were 4 days of good open angling weather and suitable water heights, but no fresh salmon were caught. Anglers reported fewer kelts than normal which it is felt was probably due to a recent heavy spate over the Festive Season which recorded a height of 10 feet in the village. Kelts were probably swept to sea in these heavy waters.
Meantime water levels remain good.
The Helmsdale salmon fishery board is pleased to announce the Open Days for 2013 will start on Friday January 11th and finish on Tuesday January 15th. As usual, permits can be acquired, without charge, from either the Helmsdale tackle shop at: email@example.com and on 01431 821272, or from Strathullie Craft on: firstname.lastname@example.org and on 01431 821402.
Anglers may fish anywhere on the river. They are reminded that some kelts are well-mended at this time and should be handled with care. Releasing fish is a general principle of the Board’s conservation policy, and this is encouraged for these rare early springers. Fishing is with fly only.
The Helmsdale enjoyed another good season. There was steady water all summer without significant spates. Rods continued catching a mix of grilse and summer salmon right through. There was no lengthy lull in catch rates, although as the numbers built in the river autumn fish became moody until there was a change in the weather. Weights were above average with several fish. Electro-fishing has proved what was feared — that in the water-deficient November of 2011 many spawners failed to reach the dried-out upper tributaries. Presumably they ended up spawning in the main river.