The River Stinchar opened on Sat 25th Feb. No one usually bothers going out as early as Feb but as it was a Saturday I thought it would be nice if we could have an official opening, then weather permitting, go for a cast.
After a few calls to the riparian owners I managed to secure the full use of the river from the Meetings at Hallowchapel right down to the sea.
Word was put out we wanted a team to be able to rod the river from top to bottom to see if we could find a springer. This notion started when I was trying to get some material for my reports. I remembered the Hon Hew Dalrymple of the Ballantrae Bridge beat telling me he caught salmon on every month except Feb. He only had 4 days (5 on a leap year) to try, but he did believe there would be an odd one about.
I spoke to his son Robert the current owner of the Ballantrae Bridge Beat and I asked him if I could perhaps browse through any old fishing record books of the beat. Unbelievably he produced his grandfather’s, dating back to 1889.
All entries were under J.J.D. He was Jack J. Dalrymple of Lochinch at Castle Kennedy near Stranraer, who would later become the Earl of Stair. His family also owned most of the land around Ballantrae including the fishing on the Stinchar.
It was mostly loch fishing and the outings on the much closer to home, River Luce which dominated the first ten years before I found an entry for the Stinchar – Sept 29th 1898- 9lb Bridge Pool, 18lb McKenna’s – comments, this fish took an hour and a quarter to land, clear fish beautiful shape.
He comments on Sept 8th1902 – went to Stinchar tried all day & caught nothing. Never a single cloud crossed the sun all day. Water alive with fish. Oct 29th-31st 1902 J.J.D. & Fred Stephenson fished 3 days – 4 salmon to 21lbs fished Laggan Battery and counted 62 fish jump then 25 during lunch.
1903 and he is out on Feb 26th and catches 4 kelts. Again in early March and this time records 15 kelts and comments all in poor condition, astonishingly, 2 of them carrying sea-lice!
1904 his 1st outing was March 19th with 2 kelts, then on the 27th he landed 6 salmon 19 ½, 16, 11½, 8½, 8, 7lbs then the next day another 4 weighing 17, 15, 12 & 12lbs He also comments about the number he lost. Successful flies mentioned were Grey and Brown Turkeys, Silver Doctor, Jock Scott and Durham Ranger.
1906 April 8th 1 salmon from the Lower Battery 6 ½lbs he notes 1st spring fish of the season.
All throughout the records the main months are no doubt Sept, Oct and Nov with most big salmon being caught mid Oct through to the close on Nov 14th. Only one of 21lbs appears but fish in the high teens were common.
J.J.D. didn’t seem to come to the Stinchar many times before the autumn but I suppose when the journey of 20 odd miles would be by a pony and trap is it really a surprise.
Fish were recorded in all months throughout the season with clear evidence the Stinchar had indeed a fairly decent spring run at the beginning of the last century.
Anyway the 2012 season got underway on Saturday. A large turnout of around 30 rods descended on Colmonell Bridge where a short speech by the River Board chairman Johnny Warrender wished everyone success for the season ahead.
Conditions were very good but despite this no springers were encountered. Kelts were in abundance, particularly in the top half of the river with very few in the lower reaches.
Hopefully we will try to rod the whole river again in March & April to see if we can find a springer or two.