An anger near Barnard Castle
An anger near Barnard Castle

FROM High Force to the barrage at Stockton, salmon anglers are expected to flock to the area this weekend for a celebration of the River Tees.

The event, the first of its kind, is the idea of fly fishing supremo Olly Shepherd, who fishes the Tees as a profession and a passion.

He tutors anglers on the Tees and the Yorkshire rivers through his Fly Fishing Yorkshire company, though this weekend’s event is purely to promote salmon fishing on the Tees.

Olly, who lives in Gainford, said: “I don’t think anything like this has been organised in the country before.

“We have the full backing of landowners, and expect anglers from the region and much further afield to take part. The idea is to show off this wonderful river as a whole.”

There are conflicting reports on how many salmon the Tees holds, speculation fuelled by the effect of the Tees barrage at Stockton on migrating fish.

The barrage has historically been a major problem, preventing vast numbers of fish from gaining entry from the sea the river system.

However, the considerable efforts of the Canal and Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency has led to many more salmon and sea trout successfully negotiating the structure in recent years.

Detailed research has revealed that there are a lot of salmon and sea trout parr in Teesdale, so fish are clearly making their way upstream in reasonable numbers.

But far fewer people are salmon fishing the Tees, compared to other rivers, such as the Tyne and Wear, where proven salmon runs are luring anglers away from the Tees.

Olly pointed out: “We want more people fishing the Tees, as catch returns don’t reflect the number of salmon in the river.

“So this weekend’s event is to promote the river to locals and those from further afield.

“Salmon fishing can boost the whole economy of a region and this event will bring money into the area.”

However, Olly has stressed that the event is not aimed at providing a definitive answer to the mystery of salmon numbers.

“It will be great if a few fish are caught, but we are not trying to prove how many salmon are in the river.

“The result will be what it is, but there are so many factors affecting salmon fishing, including water conditions, that we can’t read much into one weekend’s results.

“We are very lucky to have such a great river, and this event will promote it and we hope encourage anglers to spend more time salmon fishing on this beautiful river.”

Strict rules will be applied, with catch and release essential.

“Barbless hooks are encouraged, and the event is likely to be fly only, though spinning may be allowed on some stretches.

“We want any salmon caught to be treated with respect and carefully returned,” added Olly.

“Nationally the species is in decline and we must value these wonderful fish.”

Stretches available to fish include Lord Barnard’s waters, Whorlton, Neasham, Eggleston, Cliff Hall and Snow Hall.

Both Barnard Castle angling clubs are expected to invite visitors onto their waters.

The Tees Rivers Trust, which plays a major role in protecting and enhancing the Tees and its tributaries, has given the weekend its full support.

Anyone wishing to fish must register by contacting Olly on 07850 506870.

Fishing will be overseen by members and officials of the clubs involved.

THE Tees was historically one of the finest salmon rivers in the country.

But the arrival of heavy industry, especially the chemical industry, on the lower Tees, led to appalling pollution which stopped the fish entering from the sea.

For decades from the early 20th century the Tees estuary was virtually dead.

The decline of heavily polluting industry and tougher environmental standards, was just beginning to allow salmon access again, when the barrage was built, initially with no more than a narrow, largely ineffective fish pass.

However, pressure from anglers has led to a much improved, though far from perfect position, which is where we are today.

The weekend’s event is another step in bringing the Tees back into focus as a salmon river.