Fishing the Tees: Some mysteries are better left unsolved
AFTER a difficult brown trout season on the Tees, salmon numbers provided a boost for anglers.
While the river does not produce the number of salmon and sea trout that it should, there were reports in September and October of fish being caught as far upstream as High Force. That’s the limit of where fish can travel.
From early summer, occasional salmon were caught in the lower Tees, as well as the middle reaches around Piercebridge and Gainford, while later in the year reports came in of fish above Middleton.
On a personal level I fished the Tees for salmon on only a couple of occasions, with no joy, though I did catch salmon and sea trout on the Wear.
Anglers who have access to fishing on both rivers have tough decisions to make.
I was chatting to an angler from Gainford as we stared at a low, clear River Wear where no salmon were showing. He took a call from a mate on the Tees who had caught a fish and had also heard of another being caught that day.
My friend put away his phone, and reflected: “I’m on the wrong river.”
He trudged off downsteam, and no sooner was he out of sight, when two salmon leapt in the pool in front of me.
Salmon fishing is such a hit and miss affair that you have to pick your river, pick your pool, persevere, and hope that you are there when the fish switch on.
Later in the season after six successive blank sessions, I finally hooked a fish, which won a short battle by shaking free of the hook.
Yet two casts later I hooked and landed another, and shortly afterwards caught a sea trout.
That evening I swapped stories with a friend who had been fishing five miles upstream. At around the same time as I had hooked fish, he had caught two salmon and lost another.
So whatever switched the fish on where I was also triggered them into life on the stretch where he was. It is on one of the mysteries of fishing for these fine fish.
No matter how many years you fish, and keep records, it’s still difficult to predict what it is that induces salmon and sea trout to take a fly.
Water levels, temperatures, time of day, atmospheric pressure can all play a part, but the element of mystery remains.
It’s a puzzle that not only will we probably never solve, I hope we don’t. Fishing with a guarantee of success is not as much fun.
Despite a better year on the Tees, and overall a worse one on the Wear, there are not the salmon numbers there used to be. Research is being carried out to try to establish why.
The Missing Salmon Alliance is a partnership of the Atlantic Salmon Trust, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and Angling Trust, joined by Fisheries Management Scotland and the Rivers Trust.
That’s a lot of trusts – we trust they will come up with answers.
All anglers and clubs should be members of the Angling Trust. They carry out fantastic work representing the interest of all involved in the sport, while encouraging others to take up angling.
Fighting pollution is a key part of their work, and here’s a sobering statistic which highlights why it is so necessary.
According to data released last year by the Environment Agency, combined sewage overflows, only meant to release raw sewage in exceptional conditions, did so on more than 400,000 separate occasions across England.
They spilled raw sewage into rivers for more than 3.1 million hours. That, according to the Angling Trust, is equivalent to 353 years of spillage.
Thankfully The Tees remains relatively clean, but we must be vigilant.
Finally, global warming has been very much on the agenda. One of the problems of autumn fishing, is fallen leaves in the river, which catch on to fishing hooks, and frustrate anglers no end.
But not this year. It was milder than I have ever known it be, and even by the end of October many of the leaves were still green, and on the trees. It’s a worrying note on which to end the season, but highlights how vital anglers are in monitoring environmental conditions, be they global warming, or the state of our rivers.