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Ronan's report

Sunday June 10th 2012

The salmon forums across the web are a-buzz once more. The weekly catch statistics for the river Dee explain why. The biggest fish from the river this Wednesday is listed as coming from Balmoral. The weight is given as being 48lb. Happily the fish was returned.

Oooff! That's the exclamation heard from most of the salmon anglers coming into the shop today when told of a fish of such magnitude. It wouldn't quite make it into Fred Buller's epic volumes, which set the arbitrary benchmark at 50lb for a salmon to be described as "Giant", but it would definitely make your jaw drop and your knees wobble if you saw it on the end of your line.

Well, I say it wouldn't make it into Buller's books: Actually we'll never know. You see the fish wasn't actually weighed. It taped out at 50" long and those in the know have done the calculations and estimated its weight at 48lb. I guess it could've been 45lb, or it could've weighed 51lb depending on it's girth.

I'd like to be able to report that it was a pig of a fish, and that 48lbs is a conservative estimate. But I can report nothing of the sort.

No photo.

Now that's a shame. We all like to see pictures of big fish of whatever species, and I bet the captor would love to have a big picture on his/her mantelpiece.

It's odd that among the several witnesses, no one had even a mobile phone to snap a blurry picture of an undoubtedly huge bulk of silvery scales as the creature wallowed back into the river. This in an age when you can't walk down the street for more than ten yards without seeing someone holding a phone out at arm's length and squinting to record for posterity "a cloud that looks just like aunty Ethel" or some other natural wonder.

The consensus building on the forums today seemed to be along the lines of "why didn't the ghillie have a weigh-net and/or camera". And I guess that is a valid question – especially as catches like this could be used to promote the fishing and even increase fees in future seasons.

Salmon anglers look at the catch returns to assess how well such-and-such a river is doing, and whether they should bother booking in future years. So I do think that, in today's world, if a beat is going to claim that someone caught a massive fish, at a certain weight, they should be able to back it up with something a bit better than "well we measured it and then did some number crunching".

However even having a photo doesn't completely solve the problem for the poor old ghillies. Photos are one of the least reliable ways of estimating fish weights. A huge fish came off the Ness a year or two back, it was measured, and it was photographed. It looked an extremely big fish, but there's no way I could put a weight or even a length to the fish in the photographs I saw.

More interesting to me than photos or the lack thereof, is why we in the UK still have an obsession with putting a weight to fish. Why not just claim 50" if that's what you have? I can stretch out my arms to just over four feet, imagine that salmon lying between my palms and, Oooff!

Yep, that works.


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