THE salmon fishing season has been declared open as dozens of anglers lined the banks of the River Tay.
Traditional ceremonies were held to mark the first flies being cast on stretches of the river.
A large crowd of anglers and local residents gathered at the Kenmore Hotel in Perthshire before a pipe band led them to the water’s edge where they waited for the season to be officially opened.
A dram was poured into the river by Liz Grant, provost of Perth and Kinross, before the fishing got under way.
The pouring of whisky is a symbolic gesture to keep the salmon “in good health”.
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But any salmon caught before April will be have to be returned to the water, in line with new legislation.
Fishing instructor Ally Gowans led the traditional parade to the water’s edge.
He said: “The opening was first conducted in 1947 and has run every year since then and it’s a great celebration, there’s quite a lot of people here today, although the weather is atrocious and normally we would have had two or three times this amount.
“After a long winter, people are keen to get out. They know there isn’t much chance of catching a salmon today - the river is in flood - but this is just the passion for angling.”
The River Tay is Scotland’s longest at 119 miles and is one of the country’s five big Scottish salmon rivers.
Other ceremonies were being held in different parts of the river, including at the Hilton Dunkeld House Hotel where Scottish television actor and fishing show presenter Paul Young was given the honour of making the first cast.
William Jack, chairman of the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board, said new legislation which came into effect last week requires all salmon caught by anglers before April to be released back into the water.
He said: “It is encouraging to note that the provisional figure for salmon reported caught on the Tay by anglers to the end of March in 2014 is the highest since 1986.
“It is fair to assume that catch and release in the last few years has contributed to this improvement. It is vital that we retain our spring conservation measures, and the new legislation will help formalise this.”
He added: “Now that releasing fish during this period is a statutory requirement, we look forward to consistent conservation up and down the system.The new season heralds an important milestone in the protection of early-running spring salmon.”
David Summers, board director, said: “We have been greatly encouraged by the improvement in spring salmon catches in the last couple of years, so there is a great sense of anticipation as to what the spring fishing of 2015 is going to be like.
“The new conservation measures are widely welcomed by anglers and ghillies and will not affect this enthusiasm. Quite the contrary.”
Mike McDiarmid, president of the Perthshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Perthshire is one of the country’s premier fishing locations and the Tay is famous across the world.
“Fishing is often perceived as a traditional pursuit of a select few, when the reality is that a growing number of people from all walks of life and of all ages are participating in, and enjoying, this activity.”
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