Fiona has magic touch on Dee opening day
Catch is dream come true for keen angler as 300 turn out for potarch celebration
By Gary Cruden (Press & Journal), Published: 02/02/2011
TV newsreader Fiona Armstrong opened the 2011 salmon fishing season on the River Dee yesterday – and landed one of the year’s first fish in the process.
Miss Armstrong toasted the river with whisky before casting from an island in the shallows at the Potarch Bridge, near Banchory, and landing a 4lb kelt.
“I’ve done a few openings of rivers and to catch one here on the Dee where I got my first fish 25 years ago is just a dream come true,” she said.
“It was terrifying. I’m the first guest to land one but I think I’m the first guest who was an angler. It was very nerve-racking. The whole bank was lined with fantastic fishermen who have fished for 40 or 50 years – some of them – and they are looking at the way you stand and cast.”
Mark Bilsby, river director of the Dee District Salmon Fishery Board, said: “The Dee enters 2011 in excellent spirits. Overall rod catches of salmon and grilse in 2010 were the highest for 30 years, and this excludes catches during the trial extension to the season in October.
“Catches were once again boosted by good water levels, giving some ideal angling conditions, coinciding with first-class runs of fish.”
He added: “We are particularly heartened by the continuing improvement in spring salmon numbers, with 2010’s spring rod catch the best for 15 years. It was also the second-most-prolific season for sea trout on record.
“This encouraging trend that we have seen over the last few years is welcome news for those that make their livelihood from the river and is testimony to their hard work and commitment, along with the support of anglers who continue to return fish to the water so they carry on their journey and spawn.”
River Dee Trust fisheries development officer Ken Reid said salmon of 18lb and 25lb were caught just before the official opening.
“Everyone’s excited about the season ahead and that’s demonstrated by the 300-strong crowd here to celebrate the opening,” he said.
“The community relies on the river and the tourism that’s generated. Bookings for the river are at a very high level and hotels up and down the valley are saying bookings are tremendous.”
Banchory and Mid-Deeside councillor Karen Clark, a member of the steering group of the Dee Catchment Partnership, said: “It’s been terrific – the fact we have someone like Fiona who has come here and caught a fish.”
“The river is absolutely vital in terms of the tourism it brings here. I think the trust does an amazing job.”