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Old 18th December 2009, 15:50
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Default About Tweed and its Tributaries

River Tweed and its tributaries form one of the most important trout and salmon resources in Scotland. It is a lowland river, rising in the moors above Tweedsmuir not far from the source of the Clyde. The river takes a great northerly sweep in its upper reaches, gathering waters from hill tributaries such as the Lyne and Manor before turning south east to flow through Peebles, Innerleithen and Walkerburn, providing in that area some good club trout and salmon fisheries, then, gathering waters from good hill streams, it flows through a beautiful narrow valley from Holylee to Ashiestiel, Yair and Fairnilee where it meets its tributary, the Ettrick.

The lowest tributary of the Tweed, the Whiteadder, is in some ways the least typical. It is principally a trout water of some distinction, with its tributary the Blackadder, but, in addition to summer sea-trout and some autumn salmon, this water has recently had some goods spring salmon running the lower reaches. The Teviot, joining the main river at Kelso, has autumn salmon and sea-trout runs and offers long, gentle pools with good brown trout dry fly fishing in May and June. Teviot has springers (best in April and May), particularly in its lower reaches, but this run has been disappointing in recent seasons. The autumn runs begin in some seasons as early as August, but mid to late September and on to the end of November are usually best. Late sea-trout run well. Teviot fishes well up to Hawick in autumn, but really needs water for the best sport.

The Ettrick, flowing in not far from Galashiels, is an important tributary, joining from the west and substantially increasing Tweed's volume. Ettrick and its tributary, Yarrow, flow from hill lands and are spate rivers, and the Ettrick has the reputation of rising fiercely and swamping the Tweed with flood water from the hills. Yarrow is a clearer river, now part of the large Megget water scheme, but still produces good spates. Both Ettrick and Yarrow are interesting trout and salmon waters in their own right. Ettrick has been identified as the principal spawning ground of Tweed springers and its fishings in late spring and early summer reflect this. The Middle Tweed, from Ettrick down to Kelso is a magnificent fishing region with beat names which are legendary, - Boleside, Pavilion, Tweedswood, Bemersyde, Dryburgh, Merton, Rutherford, Makerstoun and Upper and Lower Floors. Some of the finest fly fishing in Scotland, particularly autumn fishing, lies in this middle section. Also, some excellent, challenging trout fishing is located here, best in late spring and early summer.

The junction with Teviot, at Kelso, marks the beginning of the lowest section of Tweed. It begins with the very productive Junction beat, then, taking a slightly slower flow, the river broadens out into mature flats, deep dubs and broad streams to give us such beats as Sprouston, Birgham, Wark and the renowned Lees fishings at Coldstream. Below Coldstream, from Lennel to Ladykirk, Paxton and the sea, the speed reduces further and in its lower waters, the river is under the influence of the tides.

Tweed is a most productive autumn salmon river, with an extended season under its own Acts which allows fly fishing until the end of November. The river produces far and away the best autumn harvest of salmon anywhere in the salmon world, starting in its lower reaches as early as late August and providing fishing in late September, October and November right to the headwaters. An informed estimate of the autumn run on the river is forty thousand salmon. Autumn fish in Tweed are fresh, and are often large, up to and exceeding 30 lbs. Interestingly, many of them are very large grilse, having spent only one winter at sea.

The river has a spring run from February onwards, providing fishing mainly in the lower, middle and Ettrick fishings. Tweed springers are mainly of smallish fish of seven to nine pounds, with occasional multi-sea-winter fish up to 20 lbs. There are late spring and summer runs, with grilse, given water conditions, and the taking off of the in-river nets promises to improve these fishings. A continuing problem for the Tweed is the Northumbrian drift net fishery which seriously depletes its runs. A vigorous campaign was mounted to have the government reduce or eliminate this anomalous fishery and the policy is now to run the Northumbrian drift net fishery down within 30 years, by the non-renewal of licences. Many still regard this of far too long to run down an interceptory fishery which exploits mixed stocks (i.e. various rivers) of salmon.

Tweed has an excellent reputation as a trout water. In its lower and middle reaches, wide pools and dubs harbour some fine trout, but they take skill to catch after the free-rising surge of sport in April and May. Teviot is a good trout fishery in spring, but its big fish are becoming hard to find. Both Tweed and Teviot have good stocks of grayling. Overall, the Tweed is a most productive, large, interesting water system draining some 2,000 square miles of Border territory. It provides salmon fishing to some 4,500 anglers in each year and quality trout fishing for some 10,000 rods. The river is very well organised and watched and its owners and anglers set up in 1983 the Tweed Foundation, a body carrying out research and management work to improve the fishery and its environment and which now has its own research and visitor centre at Drygrange. There have been trout Protection Orders in force since 1980, providing proper permit access to trout fishers.

In brief, Tweed is one of the most carefully managed salmon and trout waters in the UK offering anglers a wide range of fishing over a long open season.

Bill Currie
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