I won’t beat around the bush here: when I caught this big Nith salmon, a week ago on Wednesday, on a rising river as the light faded on beat 3 of Closeburn Castle Fishings, my happiness was dulled by the fact I had to kill the magnificent fish. It took a Rapala almost right under my rod tip with a huge swirl. My first thought was: missed him! or ‘he’s missed it’ – but I quickly realised I could not have been more wrong. The
fish had engulfed the lure and the rear treble was completely hooked into the gills, the fish was bleeding and that was it, you know the rest.
So there I was, on the bank with darkness now falling in (and heavy rain now intensifying as it had all afternoon) and a remarkably heavy cock salmon to carry a pretty fair distance (1/4 mile or so) back to the car. It felt strange. Good-strange.
Now although I knew I had some scales in the car the first thing I did was to measure the fish against my big fly-rod rather than weighing it because before going out to Norway this summer I had put permanent bands of tape, measured according to the FishDee version of the Sturdy scale, with markers for fish of 10lb, 15lb, 20lb & the length was a good 1.5 or 2 inches over the 20lb mark on my rod, in other words into seriously big territory.
Well in the event the weight was just short of 19lb, by 4 ounces: 18 3/4lb. (The fish, showing colour but not unduly for a big mid-October Solway salmon, had just lost that bit of bulk from two weeks or so of forging its way up a River Nith that had been in surging flood for most of that time, or maybe it was just that lean and hungry profile that some fish have.)
So there it is, at last I’ve caught a proper big salmon from the Nith (or anywhere, although I don’t want to take anything away from the wonderful 15-pounder from the R Cains in New Brunswick 3 weeks ago). No it wasn’t on the fly. More of a smash and grab raid with a spinning rod as the light went: it’s a Nith tradition.
Postscript: a couple of days later, my pal back at Floors campsite, Roger said kind words about the fish when he saw it in the freezer there. We had gone up to the house to put a stunning fresh grilse he’d caught on fly that day (at Denham/Denholm? on the lower river) alongside the monster. The chest freezer was one of those smaller ones and I’d had to curve the salmon a bit to get him in and the first thing we saw was this huge tail sticking out.
We had a look at the fish whose flanks now gleamed a dull gunmetal with some silver too. I told him it was taking a while to sink in, he said it would do.
He said, ‘How old are you Henry, 45? You’ll catch bigger salmon than that in your life; you’ll lose bigger salmon than that.’
From today’s FishNith website catch report:
“In the middle reaches, MNAA is seeing a few fish and reported a 20lb hen fish taken at Scaur Foot on Friday. CCF had an 18lb fish, caught by Mr Henry Giles at Craigs on a Rapala. Barndennoch had 3 fish last week 12, 10 and 6lbs. Some anglers have reported seeing fish but they seem to be moving through without taking.”
I like that, ‘seeing fish but they seem to be moving through without taking’. Now that does sound like the R Nith we know and love!