13th July 2020

The 6 week period of salmon fishing restricted to local anglers which started 29th May ended on 6th July when fishing on the beats became available once more to visitors, and to members of the public on the Lower Helmsdale. The period restricted to local anglers saw several young
anglers catch their first fish. Many locals participated in fishing by invitation on the private beats. Then two visitors caught a grilse each on the first Saturday after full opening.

The Board employees assisted during lockdown in distributing food and medicines to the elderly and the Board contributed to the provision of hygiene, protection and sanitiser supplies to community outlets.

On May 29th when fishing opened for the first time since 24th March local anglers found that many salmon which had not seen flies before were stirred into action. There were occasional days following spates of very good catches. The period of lockdown fishing for locals only had reasonable weather with a warm dry spell in the middle. Generally speaking water levelsremained good. There were occasional frosts, keeping water from over-heating, until late June.

Summer spates to date have seen water rising over two feet but nothing more dramatic. Like in 2019 rainfall has often been localised, sometimes in thunder-plumps.

It seems likely that returning numbers of spring salmon were lower than the very good year of 2019. Grilse numbers appear to be higher. Grilse are in good condition with very few ‘skinny’ specimens. They are averaging 4 – 5 lb. The first appearance of sea-trout in late June showed fish that were fit and in good condition, weighing up to 6lb. Some multi sea winter summer salmon have been caught and these, too, are in good condition.

Half-way through the season catches look reasonable given that angling has been severely curtailed during April and May, and reduced between June and early July.

The Helmsdale River Board is continuing with its normal electro-fishing programme despite mothballing of the national scheme owing to corona. It started in early July. This informs the Board about the population, condition, and survival of young migratory fish in the upper tributaries and burns. It is the main indicator of fish health in the system.

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