The River Tees has a reputation among anglers as some of the best wild Brown Trout water in the North of England. This was proven by the success of the Northern River Masters, held on the Estate in July 2020, which saw 501 Trout caught and released over two days during the competition.
Whilst wild Brown Trout are a regular sight on the Tees, another species of fish showing a resurgence is the Atlantic Salmon. Salmon are a
magnificent fish that are born in fresh water and migrate large distances out to sea, returning to the exact same stream that they were born in years later to restart the cycle.
Salmon have always been present in the River Tees but numbers had declined over recent decades, as they have throughout the world, due to commercial overfishing at sea, predation and rising sea temperatures. Other factors that have added to the decline of salmon in the Tees are industrial and agricultural pollution, The Tees Barrage and the construction of Cow Green Reservoir in the late 1960s, which reduced the availability of gravel essential for their spawning grounds. The Tees, however, is now a ‘healthy’ river that has been the focus of many environmental measures designed to protect and support the habitats and improve water quality.
The number of fish in rivers is generally measured by catch records or by fish counters. There is a fish counter in the Tees Barrage which provides some data but only covers part of the river and counters are notoriously temperamental meaning that some fish pass uncounted. With regards to catch records, fishermen generally like to catch fish and so will tend not to fish a river if they don’t believe they stand a chance of catching anything.
It has been said by anglers that there aren’t any Salmon in The Tees, this brought rise to an idea of a Salmon Angling Weekend which was supported by the Tees Rivers Trust and organised by Fly Fishing Yorkshire. 120 anglers descended on the River for the last weekend in October 2019 actively targeting Salmon. Whilst the numbers of fish caught were low, it was exciting to prove that there are indeed Salmon in the River Tees and the anglers certainly enjoyed the hospitality of the High Force Hotel which was used as a base for the competition.
This Salmon fishing season (which runs from 1st February to 31st October) has seen reports of Salmon being caught all along the Tees with a number of fish being landed on the Raby Estate water in Upper Teesdale, the largest of which weighed 15lbs.
No one knows why a Salmon will take a fly or lure, given that they do not feed in fresh water and only return to spawn, so to catch a Salmon is an incredibly exciting experience and this is why anglers spend a lot of time and money travelling the world to try and do so. The recent activity has proved beyond doubt that Salmon are back in the River Tees and anyone wishing to fish the Raby water can do so, in season, by purchasing a day ticket or season pass through the website.
Will Witchell, Rural Surveyor