Extract from The Scotsman. November 17th 1923
“A Wonderful River”
(From an Angling Correspondent)
What is Scotland’s most wonderful river? It is not Tweed or Dee, Tay or Don, Teviot or Deveron.
It is not any of the west country rivers or any remote stream yielding fishing beyond the dreams of fishermen. It is the Clyde. I do not mean that better trout fishing is to be had in the Clyde than in any other of the Scottish rivers. But I know of no other river in this country or in England, with the exception of Father Thames, which is cared for by the Thames Preservation Society, that occupies the almost unique position of the Clyde. The point is that the Clyde, practically throughout if fishable length, is open to any angler without let or hindrance, without fee or favour. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can fish it, and in that one sentence is enshrined the principle which for the past thirty six years has lain behind the policy of the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire Clyde Angling Protective Association, known since its amalgamation with the Lower Ward , as the United Clyde Angling Association.
The ideal of the anglers who inaugurated the original Association, and which animates the present Committee of Management, was to make the Clyde a first-rate trouting river on which the honest angler, and, in especial, the working-man angler could as of right enjoy his harmless recreation. Naturally this end could not be achieved without money. As the aims and objectives of the Association became known the money was forthcoming. The expenses of the Club were met, apart from the nominal membership fee, by subscriptions and by the contributions of grateful anglers who chose the practical method of acknowledging the valuable work done by successive Management Committees.
It is a commonplace experience in angling that when a river may be fished without let or hindrance the fishing will invariably fall off in quality. The Clyde was no exception, because prior to 1887, when the Association, with the consent and blessing of riparian proprietors, took over the fishing the river had been fished and poached to such an extent that there were few trout left in it.
“A Record Season”
Compare that state of matters with the following report on the fishing obtained during the present year: - “The season 1923”, says Mr McKendrick, the Postmaster at Abington, who has been for many years past intimately connected with the improvements on the Clyde, “has been quite a record. From the commencement of the season in April right through till September there has bee a marked improvement in the size of fish caught. Baskets of trout from one to three dozen trout often averaged 1/2lb per fish, and it has been the exception to see a basket of a dozen or so that did not contain at least one fish over a pound. Only last week I had an angler calling on me with a basket of thirty fish, weighing 15 1/4lb, the largest 1 1/4 lb. Earlier in the season in one day I saw an angler with seven trout, 5lb, and another with five trout, 7lb. I never remember a catch of one trout”.
The average mentioned in Mr McKendrick’s report- which was written in the middle of September- is one that will stand comparison with any river in Scotland.
How has this remarkable achievement been brought about? The answer comprised in one phrase- good management and consistent restocking. As long ago as 1892 the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire Association established a hatchery and every year till 1905 or thereabouts from 70,000 to 100,000 trout fry were turned into the river and its tributaries. About seventeen years ago the Association went one better. A rearing pond for young trout was made, and instead of turning into the river tiny fry, many of which would succumb to the attentions of their larger brethren, the fish were kept and fed until they had got to the yearling stage. Ever since 1906 anything from 15,000 to 30,000 young trout of five or six inches in length have been turned into the Clyde. This year trout to the value of £300 were turned into the river. While the angler who wishes to fish the Clyde is not charged a sou for the privilege, and may kill fish up to 5lb in weight, and as many as he is skilful enough to take, naturally the Association is grateful if the angler chooses to give a contribution to their funds in return for the pleasure they have placed in his way.
“15,000 Rods a Year”
Of course, if it had not been for the goodwill and co-operation of the various riparian proprietors, the Association could never have done such a splendid work. I have no hesitation in saying that the Clyde is by far the hardest fished river in Scotland. It is the happy hunting ground of the Lanarkshire miners and other workers. It takes great skill to kill a 10lbbasket off the Clyde, and that is accounted for by the fact that anything up to 15.000 rods takes its toll of its waters every year. During any week-end during the summer months Clyde is literally covered with fishers, some of them astonishingly skilful in all forms of freshwater fishing. It would be nothing short of calamity if the ideal of free fishing were departed from. It is certainly a development which would make the founders of the Upper Ward Association turn in their graves. Happily there is no sign that the anglers who form the United Association, or the men who control, intend any departures from tradition.
The Association have set up a precedent and an example, which. If followed elsewhere, would be of immense benefit to the angling public in general. Good trout fishing has become increasingly difficult to obtain. Waters are being closed which were open. It will be deplorable if the proprietors of waters seek to keep inoffensive anglers, and especially anglers who live in cities or industrial districts, from having access to the streams they were wont to fish.
“All Kinds of Fish”
Fishing in the Clyde may be practised all the year round. In the winter the grayling provides sport. So far as trout are concerned, every kind of bait finds a place. Wet fly and dry, minnow, the creeper, and the stone fly are all deadly. All kinds of water, from the still flat to the rushing stream are met with.
One of the most interesting experiences the writer ever had was on the upper reaches of the Clyde. In the course of one September day bright sunshine, rain, sleet, and snow were all encountered. There was a tremendous hatch of fly in the afternoon, so that it was quite impossible to pick out one’s own fly on the water.
Clyde has its own type of wet fly. It consists of a short, stiffish wing, sitting bolt upright from the hook. There is no body to speak of, and the hackle consists only of a few fibres of feather. This type of fly kills very well, and is now quite commonly met with on Border rivers. If it were not for the polluted state of the lower reaches of the river, Clyde would be frequented by the migratory species. It is better as it is, for a river of its size and type cannot be a good salmon and sea trout, and at the same time a first-class trouting stream. Moreover, if it became a salmon fishing river of value the probability is the public would not be allowed to fish it to the extent they are today.
The Clyde has a number of first-rate tributaries, which, thanks to the ministrations of the Association, provide good fishing. The principal tributaries are the Daer, Potrail, Medwin and Duneaton.