Better get the plug in first. Today, the Mid Clyde Anglers and the National Trust’s David Livingstone Centre at Blantyre are holding a day of general jollity focusing on the return of the salmon to the Clyde.
There will be, I am assured, fly casting and tying demos, guided nature walks and an explanation on how the Blantyre salmon ladder works – you might even see a salmon going up it. I have no doubt there will be tea, buns and lashings of ginger beer and much else besides. And I hope there will be an explanation of the great missionaries’ early poaching career. (Apparently he and his brothers had to hide a poached salmon down the leg of their trousers and affect a limp for the benefit of those they met on the way home).
So that’s today. Now I have to confess that when thinking of salmon rivers the Clyde is not one that comes immediately to mind. But like all industrialised rivers rotten with pollution it was once bulging with fish and is set to do so again. In 1917, it is said, the intakes of the Clydebridge Steel Works were choked with fish (The same is even now true of Longannet Power station which regularly kills several tonnes of salmon smolts from the Forth in its intakes). But by the 1950s the Clyde seemed pretty well dead although as Mid Clyde chairman Meikle Kemp points out, the salmon must have survived somehow or somewhere because by the mid Eighties they were being seen again thanks largely to the then Government closing most of Scotland’s heavy industry, reducing pollution and unintentionally providing the unemployed with improved fishing.
Mid Clyde now controls eight miles of fishing from Dalmarnock Bridge in Glasgow up to Bothwell Bridge on the edge of Hamilton. Last week they were closing a £30,000 deal on the two-mile stretch of the Carmyle Fishings This spring was their best salmon run ever – 40 fish of which all but 16 were returned. The annual catch is around 100 salmon although everyone suspects it is a lot higher but no one wants to see the rent go up and with it the price of a permit. Perhaps because the upper reaches of the river and its tributaries the Nethan and Avon have been and still are to some extent, riddled with obstacles and old weirs, Clyde fish can spawn in the main river below Blantyre which is unusual for salmon who like shingly shallows in headwater burns. The fish also have a tendency to hide somewhere around Clyde Park waiting for fresh water from the upper reaches before going further upstream. What is heartening is that the fish are back and apparently in growing numbers and there are still a huge amount of improvements to be made to river habitat. It can only get better.