River Dee ready to cast off years of gloom as salmon fishing season begins

The official opening of the River Dee season at Banchory Lodge. Pictured is Andrew Flitcroft, editor of Trout and Salmon casting. Picture by Chris Sumner.

It hasn’t been plain sailing on Deeside in recent years.

But a spirit of positivity surrounds the opening of the 2018 salmon fishing season on the River Dee, which was celebrated yesterday with a ceremony at Banchory Fishings and Banchory Lodge Hotel.

Those who work in and around the water have had numerous challenges to tackle since the devastation wrought by Storm Frank in the region two years ago.

Yet Mark Bilsby, the river director of the Dee District Salmon Fishery Board and River Dee Trust, is confident they are moving in the right direction.

He said: “We are approaching the new season with renewed optimism. Last season was an improvement on previous years and there were a lot more fish in the river.

“We don’t know what 2018 will bring, but what we do know is that the river is recovering steadily.

“Fry and parr (young salmon) numbers are back up where they were before Storm Frank, which is exciting news.

“We also had the best spawning season on the river for five years. These are all indicators that the river is in good health.

“A big part of our work this year will be understanding how best to look after these young fish through the ongoing tagging and tracking of our young salmon as they begin their journey down the river to the open sea.”

Andrew Flitcroft, the editor of Trout & Salmon magazine was the guest of honour at the ceremony with a traditional whisky toast to the river and the first cast.

Carol Fowler, the director of Banchory Lodge, added; “We are delighted to be hosting the opening ceremony again this year.

“Banchory Lodge has strong ties to the river and this is the third year we have helped launch the new season. The welcome on Deeside is second to none and we look forward to greeting new visitors and returning rods from all over the world. The fishing on the river generates millions for the local economy and community, so we are delighted to see how well the Dee is recovering following Storm Frank.”

Mr Bilsby and his colleagues have spent the last two years rallying from the devastating consequences of the storm, which struck the north-east at the end of 2015.

But there are signs the corner has been turned.

He said: “The region knows that the Dee is a major asset and salmon are a very significant part of that. If their numbers are in good health, the chances are the same will be true of their environment.

“For me, salmon are like a canary in a coal mine. Storm Frank was a big wake-up call.

“But we now have organisations in place and groups who are doing their utmost to steer things forward and keep us all prepared.”

Andrew Flitcroft, the editor of Trout & Salmon magazine, addressed guests.

He urged them to be sporting during the difficult conditions.

He said: “The reason we fish is the same as when we started, it’s an escape from the daily grind.

“It is a challenging time, the number of fish in the rivers is at all-time low.

“If we catch fish that’s great but if we do not we need to celebrate the success of others.

“I would challenge fishers here to introduce someone to salmon fishing this season.

“If nothing else it will remind you of why you enjoy it.”