By all accounts the 2018 Brown trout fishing season on the Tweed to date has been a frustrating one, with many anglers reporting a lack of rising fish. It is too soon to comment on this season without the catch data, but without doubt, 2018 has not been a “normal” trout fishing season by any means. As a result of the cold snap brought in by the “Beast from the East” back in February and March the start of the season was set back with most anglers reporting the fly hatches being up to three weeks late and occurring at different times of day than would normally be the case. Notably, similar accounts of poor fishing this season have been reported in our neighbouring rivers, the Annan and the Clyde, albeit to varying degrees, suggesting that a larger overall climatic factor may be having as much of an impact, or possibly more of an impact, than fish numbers. Due to the influence of factors other than fish numbers on catches it’s only through long term records that the real picture can be seen as summarised below.
Since the start of the Tweed Trout & Grayling Initiative (TTGI) we have been giving out catch log books to trout anglers. Each year since 2006 we have received between 60 and 70 catch return books from Tweed Brown Trout anglers, covering hundreds of fishing trips and thousands of hours of angling effort annually. To date we have records of over 8,000 fishing trips and over 25,000 hours of angling effort. The graphs below show the catch trends for the Upper, Middle and Lower Tweed.
- The graphs show that there is no significant decline in Tweed Brown trout catches over the 12 years the TTGI has been collecting. In fact both the Upper Tweed and Middle Tweed have shown increases in catches of “takeable” sized trout (although admittedly the increase in the Middle Tweed is only fractional).
- Only the Lower Tweed shows a decline in “takeable” trout catches, albeit a very slight one (an average decline of 0.2 of a trout per four hours of angling effort).
- Catches from the Lower Tweed in 2013 were the second lowest from this area in TTGI records, but they were followed in 2014 by the highest catch rate on record (the catch rates in 2014 were almost three times those recorded in 2013). A similar trend was seen in both the Middle and Upper Tweed indicating that catches were very poor across the whole Tweed in 2013 but were amongst the highest in TTGI records in 2014.
- Given the size of the trout being caught in 2014 the trout must have been there during 2013 but weren’t being caught, showing that conditions can be as important as trout numbers in regard to angling catches and indicating the importance in using long term records to assess Brown trout population trends.
Until there is data from subsequent seasons, we will not be able to see if the poor catches to date in 2018 are as a result of fish numbers or conditions, but we can say with confidence that they do not form part of an overall declining trend.