Tweed Fishing

(Research and Copyright with Coldstream and District Local History Society)

Angling is big business in the Coldstream locality and the River Tweed is the most popular of the large Scottish salmon rivers. Its advantages over others are many eg:-

It catches more salmon on the fly than any other river in the UK.

It is the closest to London (under 4 hours on the train).

It has the longest season (1st February to 30th November).

Its prolific autumn salmon run is noted for the large average size of its fish.

Unlike most other rivers, salmon catches on the Tweed have held up well over the last few years. This is principally because the tendency for fish to run later in the autumn has benefited theTweedwith its late season, but has adversely affected other rivers, most of which have closed by mid October. Most of the Tweed net fisheries have been bought off and, through their hard work, both the River Tweed Commissioners and the Tweed Foundation have established a leading reputation for river management inScotland. Whilst theTweedis noted primarily for its autumn run of large salmon, it also has a reasonable run of spring fish and a grilse run in late summer. Its tributaries are also worth fishing although they may not have the same name as theTweed. The Till in particular is a good sea trout river and the Ettrick and Teviot provide good sport in the autumn. In addition there is some excellent trout fishing, mostly administered by angling clubs who sell very reasonably priced permits.

 The Tweed has a deserved reputation as one of the world's great salmon rivers. Since the 17th century, anglers have been sport fishing the river for its famous run of salmon. Victorian salmon anglers enjoyed some of the finest fishing in theTweed's angling history and their innovative approach to tackle design is still reflected in present day equipment.

With the advent of Victorian fly fishing tackle, the evolution of modern rods and reels had begun. No longer were salmon played on a 'tight line' or line tied to the rod tip, but rather a 'loose line' which ran through the rod rings. This allowed greater opportunity to land big Tweed salmon. The 'tight line' method was simply no match for the greenheart, ash and hickory rods, which often exceeded 20ft and were complemented with heavy brass reels weighing up to 2lbs in weight. This period of the Tweed's angling history was superbly documented and immortalised in print by some of the finest piscatorial writers such as Scrope, Younger and Thomas Stoddart.

The Tweed is the second longest river in Scotland. It is 98 miles long and gains life from a staggering 1,500 sq miles (4000 sq km) of border catchment area. Although regarded as a Scottish river, the first 75 miles are indeed Scottish but for the next 19 miles from Carham to Paxton, the south bank of the river is English. For its final 4 mile journey to the sea from Paxton to Berwick-upon-Tweed, the river flows entirely throughEngland. Here is an account of activity on the river in 1881 – Coldstream Angling Club held its annual competition and ‘any legal lure’ was allowed but mainly the use of fly. Arrangements for the competition were carried out by John Tait, watchmaker, who was Secretary of the Angling Club. Another acount of March 1902 indicates salmon net fishing was taking place - Greathaugh Fishery – 12 salmon/52 trout; Twizel Mill – 6/116; Littlehaugh – 4/1; Twizell Boathouse – 13/20; Cornhill Water – 11/15 and Lennel Haughs 15/26.  None of these net fisheries now remain, the last to go being Littlehaugh (Milne Graden) which ceased netting operations on Friday 14 September 1990.

An account of Coldstream’s place on the silvery Tweed would be deplete without reference to the Leet Water, its tributary in Coldstream. The Imperial Gazetter of Scotland 1854 was rather unflattering saying “the Leet is little more than big ditch for much of its course”. No amount of artistry can raise its lowly nature to the status of a mighty tributary, but that does not mean it lacks interest. The Leet runs almost parallel with theTweedfor some seven miles, actually separated by some seven and a half miles. However, while the mighty Tweed is flowing eastwards towards theNorth Sea, the Leet strangely goes the other way. It is thought that glacial mis-scrapings are to blame. The Leet rises at Doons Law, 70 metres above sea level, among the golden wheat fields of Leetside. It has barely dropped 25 metres before it sorts out its direction. It turns, almost at right angles, between Grizelrig and Darnchester West Mains, and makes for theTweedwhich it joins at Coldstream, a point further west than its source. This peculiarity of the Leet results in frequent overflows and it is often mentioned in this regard. It has other tales to tell too, like the one in 1876 about the river being ravaged by otters, which of course take the fisherman’s fish! However, the locals were not too unhappy that the otters were there as previously they had sorted out the prevalence of pike, the terriers of the water.