The Helmsdale River Board is pleased to announce that the Open Days in 2014, at which anglers are invited to fish the river at no charge subject only to signing in, are to run from January 11th to January 18th inclusive. This is an experiment to see whether this longer Open Days period will work for all concerned.
Signing in can be done at the Helmsdale Company shop in Dunrobin St., or at Strathullie Crafts on the Harbour.
The 2013 season ended without significant rain falling in September. When there was a 3 inch rise in water levels followed by a 2 inch rise, fish moved about and the rods prospered. For the rest of the time anglers learnt the arts of low-water fishing.
The Lower Helmsdale fished better than usual as salmon massed on the pools near the sea. Individual anglers who watched for the right opportunities did well. Meantime salmon could be seen in the bay waiting to run with rain.
Catches are below average but slightly more than in the last dry summer in season 2003.
The Helmsdale Board carried out environmental survey work again for the Forestry Commission during the summer on neighbouring water catchments. 2013 was a good year for electro-fishing and stock assessment, and over 20 sites were measured on the home river. Young fish populations are in good health.
Broodstock collection is presently underway with the help of the local angling community
May fishing dramatically improved on the Helmsdale. The May run was steady and catches were good throughout the month. June has started with falling water levels but catches remain reasonable. To date no grilse have been caught and no sea-trout. Water temperatures have so far not heated up significantly owing to nights remaining cool.
As part of its further involvement in wider fisheries research the Helmsdale Board has agreed to participate in research commencing in the autumn to establish whether there any evolutionary changes to salmon eggs as a result of standards in water quality.
The trained team of Helmsdale Board bailiffs was appointed again in April 2013 to carry out external environmental work in fish population and invertebrate surveys for the Forestry Commission on the neighbouring River Halladale.
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.