Finavon Castle had an outstanding summer run of salmon and pristinely conditioned grilse running the South Esk throughout June & July. This I understand to have been a
common theme throughout the country and would like to hope that the legions of fish which poured into our rivers this summer were perhaps a sign of things to come.
The sport at Finavon at times quite energetic, with one being able to fish most of the pools in serious expectation rather than hope. The fish were a mixture of summer salmon, which we caught up to about 13lbs, and solid, stocky grilse with big shoulders between about 5lbs and 7lbs. More often than not these fish were chrome bright, festooned with sea lice when caught and for good spells of this period, they were also plenty eager to take a lure of one sort or another.
The seatrout season didn’t really get much of a chance to take hold as its own separate campaign, with the aforementioned good water conditions for salmon fishing obviously having the effect that most of the seatrout arriving were fairly quick to scoot through. Most of the 47 sea trout caught this year at Finavon were very much a by catch of salmon angling during that period, although we did have one or two good nights of sport when the water dropped and settled for long enough to make the endeavor worthwhile, the best night being 12 fish landed up to about 4lbs.
As we moved into August and September,there was the usual and characteristic slowing down of sport as the water dropped. There was still a good head of fish to be found in the beats but they became much more tricky to catch and it was typically the ‘think outside the box’ anglers who had the best of the sport during this period. By now many of the fish caught were beginning to scale through the dulux colour chart to varying degrees, and as well as some lovely, fat purplish hen fish we encountered the first of the big late
summer/autumn cock fish. Many of you will have heard me vent in the past on the importance of using powerful tackle on the South Esk, particularly as we enter the Autumn period. You should never be surprised to encounter a fish in the high teens or bigger at Finavon, and as some of you will be well aware, they take some beating!
2020 saw 4 fish caught between August and the end of October which tipped the weigh net at a fraction over 20lbs, as well as several others in the mid to high teens, and a few other big ones lost. By the time these big cock fish are caught, they typically weigh a good bit less than they would have if being caught when fresh from the sea, as they have gone back in condition. It is good to know that the big fish genes for which the South Esk used to be known are still active to some extent within the breeding population, and it would be a fine thing to encounter a few more of these fish at their prime.
As we moved into the last weeks of the season, the weather somewhat turned against us. At the beginning of October we had the biggest spate we have seen for 5 years on the river. This huge flood moved immense amounts of substrate around the river channel, and we have had two or three very significant changes to pools as a result of this. It is still too early to be sure that these changes will become permanent, or as permanent as one can ever call them on the South Esk. I am, however, comfortable in saying that should they remain as they are, we have had some major pool improvements courtesy of the spate.
As this spate dropped off, there was some good, though scattered sport, and evidence of huge amounts of fish being present in the beat for much of October although once again a run of clean Autumn fish was absent. By the time we reached the last fortnight of the season, the leaf filled waters were rising and falling a matter of feet on almost a daily basis, and that was that.
In essence, the season more or less fizzled out like wet powder to an unspectacular though somehow satisfyingly hard fought conclusion with the aforementioned rod breaking hen, as well as another very large cock fish caught and another lost being the most exciting of the last week’s actions before the final day of the season became washed out with another 4 foot lift.
Overall, although the 2020 season was an odd one, and I very much missed seeing some
of our guests who were unable to travel due to the globalsituation, I am not in the least dissatisfied with the results in numerical terms, considering we didn’t get going until June.
The season’s tally sheet reads as 110 salmon and grilse caught and 47 sea trout. It is also worth remembering, as I always make sure to point out, that this final score is always perhaps a half of what the true potential of any given season could have been, and being on the river constantly I was most heartened to see the numbers of fish we had present in the system for much of this season.
Finally, please allow me to wish you all a safe, warm winter and a happy new year wherever you are.
Warm wishes and many thanks, Iain.