Salmon photographed leaping up Wetherby weir on the River Wharfe for the first time in 40 years

It was a natural spectacle that residents of Wetherby thought they might never witness again.

Forty years after a group of volunteers restored a weir on the River Wharfe following a severe storm, a salmon has finally been photographed leaping up it.

Since 1982, when the 'fish steps' on the weir at Wetherby were repaired, there had only been occasional anecdotal sightings of salmon further upstream in Wharfedale, suggesting the occasional migrant from the North Sea was getting past the structure.

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Photo: Mick Wilson
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Their presence became shrouded in myth to such an extent that the late Wetherby Weir Preservation Trust chairman and town mayor Dr James Lodge even offered a prize of £100 to the first person to capture the fish on camera.

The reward has now been claimed by Mick Wilson, from Pontefract, who snapped the salmons' acrobatic leaps on November 7 as they returned to their spawning grounds in the Dales.

Salmon numbers have recovered in several Yorkshire rivers in recent years due to efforts to reduce pollution, improve the water quality and ecology and make man-made obstacles such as weirs passable again.

The Wetherby salmon will have made their way to the Wharfe from the Humber Estuary via the River Ouse.

Photo: Mick Wilson

Current Wetherby Weir Preservation Trust chair Robert Gray, who has handed over the prize as Dr Lodge has since passed away, said: "The first time in living memory that photographic evidence supports the fact that salmon have reached and leapt Wetherby Weir at last seems to be here.

"My predecessor, Dr James Lodge, ex-mayor, local historian, proud Wetherbyite and never one to miss a publicity opportunity, often vowed in committee meetings that if and when a photographer could, without doubt, prove salmon were able to leap Wetherby Weir he would personally hand over £100!

"He didn’t really expect to see it through, but were he around today then I think he’d be very proud to meet Mick and in fact see the sight for real.

"What a treat it would be actually watching the raw energy and perseverance of the spawning salmon right here in Wetherby.

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"Well it’s 40 years next year, since our community repair of the dilapidated weir - a job well worth undertaking and highlights like these photos prove it. The workers and supporters should be very proud."

Mr Wilson added: "I tried photographing them last Wednesday but the light was poor and it began to rain. On Sunday the river level was still up and the weather good. I watched about 15 salmon try to jump the weir in about an hour and half."