Monday, 27 April 2020

THE SGA'S FISHING CORONABLOG- Bob White

Welcome to the SGA's new Fishing Coronablog.

During lockdown, every sporting sector has been hit and future consequences are also now being considered, with money flowing out of local economies, fast. The fishing season was already open when fisheries were forced to stop abruptly. Some ghillies have been furloughed. Others are taking the unexpected break to get odd jobs done.

We want to hear from ghillies, river workers, fishery board employees, anglers (anyone for whom fishing is a passion or a living) about their own experiences of lockdown; what they've been doing, how it will affect their fisheries and what, if anything may be learned from this crisis.

All subjects will be considered, long, short or somewhere in between. The aim is to provide a forum for people to share experiences, to debate, share laughter, fears, DIY tips, whatever comes to mind.

If you want to take part, send your thoughts to info@scottishgamekeepers.co.uk, with the subject: Coronablog. Send a photo, either of yourself or something appropriate to go with your entry. Videos can also be sent. Feel free, too, to make comments on the posts when we post them on social media.

The first Coronablog entry is from Bob White, a ghillie on the Tay and a member of the SGA Fishing Group. Thanks Bob.

We are certainly living in strange and telling times with the Coronavirus hitting everyone in the fishing and ghillie world extremely hard. 

No one could have envisaged this onslaught a month or so ago, but we have had to accept it and adapt quickly, day by day. 

When the outbreak started in China no one could comprehend the speed of the spread and all over the world. Everyone is so interconnected nowadays and, yes, what a small world it has become with modern travel.

Commercial fishing stopped abruptly with the self-isolating advice being clear but fishing, as a whole, continued for a few days until it became abundantly apparent it was not the correct thing to do, even although on your own. This is still the case although there is some talk of fishing and golfing being able to commence soon but at distance. 

How it will work is certainly going to be interesting. The consequences of this are far reaching financially in terms of jobs and fishery survival. Most have taken big hits due to this, but it was already in a fragile state with dramatically reducing runs and catches in recent years, although there seemed to be an air of optimism with improvement this season so far, with some lovely spring salmon caught. However, that seems a distant memory now after 5 weeks of lockdown. 

This may be the straw that breaks the camels back in some cases. Fisheries have, by and large, understood the serious situation, honouring bookings that had to be cancelled, refunding money, providing alternative days or carrying it forward to next season and shame any that do not comply or try to wriggle out of that as they do not deserve to be supported. 
In the case of Timeshare, management fees have continued to go out despite no fishing but I am sure some form of compensation will be forthcoming.

Some Ghillies have been furloughed which effectively means staying at home all the time, taking away the opportunity of keeping the beats maintained and checking boats and huts. Fortunately others remain on full pay enabling them to work on their own on beats and honour their roll as guardians of the river and banks. There is always something to do on the beats and especially at this time of year with the grass growing quickly as the temperature warms up. River boards are under threat as well with river levies not being paid by some beat owners because they can not fish. The river still has to be run and looked after.

It is trying times for everyone, so what have ghillies been up to in recent weeks? The world seems to have stopped, enabling us to do all the jobs we have put off for years. Is this what retirement is like?

I am single but have my 2 lovely daughters back home from University in Edinburgh and we have been keeping busy daily. The car and my truck are spotless inside and out! We have been power hosing everywhere, getting the moss off the roof, roans are cleared and garden work in full swing. Our gardens will never look so good. I have even been making a new hen run to hopefully keep any predators away as my last hens got killed by a fox and pine marten. 

My daily routine includes a fly tying session and I see from Facebook lots of ghillies are passing on their secretes to anglers, with some outstanding patterns being shared, inspiring everyone for the preparation of the eventual restart. I have not really done much tying in years until recently, but I certainly have had a renaissance in that field. I am not sure what motivated me, but I saw an advert for Frodin flies and the rest is history, so to speak. I was inspired and started tying up some spring patterns which have been really successful. I had 2 catches of a couple of great spring salmon in a day prior to the shutdown and I had been letting clients use the flies as well to gain some great successes. I now have complete faith in the system, but I am now tying far smaller flies for the summer and early autumn- assuming we can get back to the river again. Videos on YouTube have been inspirational as well, brushing up on techniques and giving new ideas.   There is a team of us sharing our daily tyings on WhatsApp and my fly box is starting to fill rapidly. 

My daily routine has been going out early to walk my three labs and to check the estate, beats, boats and huts. It is truly a great time to be out at the river, with much better weather. I have been taking the river temperature daily and it is rising which will enable the salmon to run and spread throughout the vast Tay system as on all rivers. 

It is an exciting time of year but frustrating that we cannot be out enjoying the fishing and imparting our knowledge and experience to anglers. The countryside is coming alive in the tremendous weather that we have been witnessing with the leaves bursting out giving us a sea of green. Ospreys, Sand Pipers, Sand Martins, Swallows and Swifts have all arrived back and can be seen daily. The Geese have gone, travelling north and soon the wild flowers will be in full bloom by June making the riverbanks a glorious place to be. 

I will be on the riverbank on our beats on a daily basis cutting grass, planting flowers and keeping the beats smart for the eventual reopening. It is a passion of love of our glorious countryside. 
Hopefully we will all come out of this mess stronger and more resilient. Take care and stay safe.