2014 - A season of extremes
Although not yet over, the 2014 salmon and grouse seasons have experienced wildly mixed fortunes.
There's no avoiding the fact that it has been a disastrous year for salmon and grilse. ?A veritable crisis,? as described by S&TA (Scotland) director Andrew Graham-Stewart in his round-up featured in the current issue, with ?little doubt that the season's rod catch for the country as a whole will be less than 50,000; this compares with 67,500 in 2013 and a five-year average of 84,500.?
It has been sea trout, somewhat unpredictably, saving the day for many anglers this year, perhaps due to the fact that they are more willing to run in low water conditions.
Andrew also addresses two pertinent issues: seals and trawlers out at sea - neither of which he believes to be a cause for decline. He suggests that the reasons for this plummeting marine survival - with research on Northern Ireland's River Bush showing that just three in 100 of its salmon return - is beyond our control. ?In the meantime,? he concludes, ?indiscriminate netting in our coastal waters needs to be reined in and pressure must be maintained to close-down or at least relocate the most poorly sited salmon farms in the West Highlands and Islands.?
Conversely, ?Scotland has enjoyed one of its best grouse years in living memory, and hailed by some as the best in a generation,? states Robert Rattray of CKD Galbraith. After 'some of the best breeding conditions one could hope for?, spring counts were generally good, with birds in excellent condition and flying well from the off.?
Records have been broken across the country, with decent numbers widely reported. Perhaps the biggest success story of the season is a Perthshire estate shooting 168? brace from a piece of ground not shot previously for over 20 years! This is fervent testament of the benefits to moorland being actively managed for grouse. ?
It isn't long now before calm will resume over the heather and rods will be stored away. As always, there is much to reflect on - both good and bad, this season more so than ever.?