What Lies Beneath: The True Value of Salmon Anglers in Scotland

Jul 7, 2023 | Blog, Featured, Travel

The numbers game on the value of domestic and international recreational salmon angling in Scotland today is a tale of significance and prosperity – Craig Somerville, keen Scottish salmon angler writes.

Credit: Castabroad Collective

“In 2004, game and coarse anglers contributed £113 million to the Scottish economy. Atlantic salmon anglers were the greatest contributors (65%) and a further 30% was contributed by brown and rainbow trout anglers. Coarse anglers contributed 5% of the total revenue…” 


The magnificent Atlantic Salmon

Beneath the serene waters of Scotland’s freshwater rivers lies a hidden treasure that captivates both anglers, and economists alike—the magnificent Atlantic Salmon. In the realm of angling, these elusive creatures are a legendary catch, drawing enthusiasts from far and wide. However, beyond the thrill of the sport, there’s an important story about the remarkable worth of Scottish salmon, extending far beyond its inherent beauty and the sport provided. Not only does it navigate the currents of Scotland’s rivers, but it still also propels local economies, leaving an indelible mark on the land. 

What is the true value of this extraordinary creature? Let’s ask ourselves the question, but also, how will our communities be affected by the loss of salmon numbers and the increasing extreme weather? 

Credit: Castabroad Collective

The allure of international anglers

When it comes to salmon fishing in Scotland, enthusiasts from across the globe are drawn to our waters. These intrepid anglers, fueled by passion and wanderlust, book holidays and embark on long journeys to cast their lines in pursuit of the mighty Atlantic salmon. Their visits to Scottish fisheries create a ripple effect, infusing local communities with a wealth of economic opportunities. From accommodation and transportation to dining and leisure activities, international anglers leave a trail of spending in their wake. Their contributions extend far beyond the mere act of fishing, supporting the livelihoods of ghillies/guides, tackle shops, other shops, and hospitality services that cater to their needs.

“Even if you just buy a pie in the bakers, you’re still investing in the community.”

There’s a domino effect on the local communities on whether or not anglers come to our rivers. For example, if we go fishing, the estate or fishery is supported, affording the management of the estate or fishery be it a ghillie or someone else. That someone may well have a family who uses the local school which keeps it open for other kids in the community. The spouse may work in the local hotel, and there’s the grocery store which relies on locals, so these remain open and cater to the visitors so the trickle-down effect and sustainability cycle continues.

So what kind of salmon angler is best for our rural communities, domestic or international?

Credit: Castabroad Collective

The power of domestic anglers

While international anglers bring in significant economic benefits, it is crucial not to overlook the impact of domestic anglers, like us in Scottish communities. These anglers, residing within the country or neighbouring regions, may spend less time booked on the fishery, often just a single day, but our contributions are no less vital. We provide a consistent stream of revenue throughout the fishing season to local and far rivers, bolstering local businesses and ensuring the sustainability of the fishing industry. Even if we just buy a pie in the bakers, or fish and chips, we’re still investing in the community.

For the domestic angler, a day on the river is more than just a recreational pursuit—it’s said that it’s an opportunity to reconnect with nature, find solace in the tranquility of the riverbanks, and indulge in a beloved pastime away from work. More often than not, I find myself so intensely in the zone, I don’t even notice all of the above, but the best sleep you’ll ever have is after a day reading the water.

While our spending may not match that of international visitors, it is the collective impact of us dedicated anglers that sustains the fabric of Scottish communities. From booking online, purchasing permits, and investing in fishing equipment to supporting local shops, pubs and restaurants, we form an integral part of the economic ecosystem surrounding Scottish salmon fishing.

Credit: Castabroad Collective

A harmonious coexistence

The coexistence of international and domestic salmon anglers in Scotland creates a harmonious synergy that enhances the economic landscape of our communities. While international anglers may contribute substantial revenue, it is often the loyal patronage of us domestic anglers that provides stability and continuity, the glue in-between. Both play a vital role in driving the local economy, albeit through different channels and levels of expenditure.

On a personal note, the fusion of diverse angling cultures creates an environment ripe for knowledge exchange and camaraderie. International anglers bring with them unique techniques, perspectives, and experiences, enriching my knowledge, and my fly box. The domestic angler often brings a sense of ownership, vigilance and awareness to our rivers, thus enriching the tourist’s experience. This exchange of ideas benefits not only the anglers themselves but also the local ghillies and fisheries, who gain valuable insights into alternative trends from around the world. We’re always after the next best fly, technique, or cast, and we all have an opinion on the state of the salmon nation, which makes for great conversations.

Credit: Castabroad Collective

The gritty truth

Amidst the economic significance of Scottish salmon fishing, a harsh reality looms beneath the surface. It’s no secret that the once abundant populations of Atlantic salmon are facing a decline, and the effects of climate change further exacerbate the challenges they face. Changing weather patterns bring about more extreme conditions, including higher water temperatures, altered river flows, and increased instances of drought and flooding. These factors disrupt the delicate balance of the salmon’s lifecycle, from spawning in the headwaters to their epic oceanic migrations and eventual return. As we explore the value of Scottish salmon, we must confront the sobering truth that the very existence of this majestic species hangs in the balance. It is a call to action, reminding us of the urgent need to protect and preserve these magnificent creatures and their habitats, ensuring a sustainable future for both the fish and the communities that depend on them.

To conclude, Scottish recreational salmon angling, with its allure and mystique, holds a value that stretches far beyond its intrinsic beauty. It serves as the lifeblood of local economies, fueling growth, and prosperity in Scottish communities. The combined contributions of international and domestic anglers create a tapestry of economic support, with each group playing a distinct but equally important role. Remember that the worth of a Scottish salmon is not merely measured in pounds, pence and ounces, but in the vibrant communities it sustains, the rich experiences it provides, and the wider ecosystem they enhance. Let’s protect these amazing fish, and the rest will happen by default.

Book your fishing here.

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