The silver visitors call no more...

Fishing lines
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The Independent Online

Oh, great. In the week I get an invitation to one of the prime stretches of the river Tweed, it's revealed that Scottish salmon catches are at their lowest for 10 years.

Oh, great. In the week I get an invitation to one of the prime stretches of the river Tweed, it's revealed that Scottish salmon catches are at their lowest for 10 years.

Only 192 tons of salmon were caught last year. Hardly worth bothering to get your rods out, is it? This might seem like a lot of sandwiches, but it was shared between anglers and net fishermen, though the latter take most of them. Catches have plummeted since the Sixties. Back in the days when I was listening to the Beatles and couldn't afford to fish for salmon, the annual catch was averaging 1,700 tons. Now I own a salmon rod and a few pretty flies, the silver visitors have stopped visiting.

Catches of wild salmon in Scotland are at their lowest since records began. Why? All sorts of reasons. Illegal high-seas netting, acid rain, salmon farms, seals – it's a tough life being a salmon.

September is the best month to angle on the Scottish and border rivers. There used to be bundles of fish returning in March and April, but these seem to have turned their backs on springtime in Scotland. Unfortunately, too, though the fishing is only a flicker of its former glory, a good stretch can still cost £1m to buy.

Hotels own some good waters. But prime time (now) on places like the Almondmouth beat of the river Tay, rented by Gleneagles Hotel, will set you back more than £600 for a day – and you won't even have the water to yourself.

So imagine my delight when House of Hardy, the venerable tackle maker, invited me to see their new rods and reels, and enjoy a spot of fishing on the company's private stretch of the Tweed. Still, chances of salmon depend greatly on the weather. A decent downpour a few days beforehand, and there's every possibility of intercepting a few fresh fish running upriver to spawn. On the other hand, my trips to Scotland invariably coincide with the sort of drought they experience in the Kalahari, or weeks of rain that means you have to cast from the tops of trees.

There's a bit more hope this time, though. The weather, uncharacteristically, is looking ideal. And though I've never fished this particular bit, you just know it's going to be good if it's Hardy's. The company, undoubtedly the greatest name in fishing tackle, have been going since 1873. The greatest fishermen of the past century all used Hardy tackle – and where better to try it out than a river near the factory in Northumberland?

There's one other aspect to this trip. Though I'm editor of a magazine on classic tackle, I've never visited the Hardy museum. This is the keys to the tuck shop for a tackle geek like me.

My wife, Riva, who is accompanying me, is less excited about the idea of peering at ancient rods, reels, pictures and paper-work. I have promised to rush around it in four hours or so. She is thinking more in terms of four minutes. My enthusiasm for discussing auxiliary brakes on early Silex No1 reels should make the five-hour train journey just fly past.

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