Gordon Brown's former advisor Charlie Whelan insisted he wasn’t engaging in spin when he spoke of the enduring magic of the Spey at the opening of a renowned salmon beat on Saturday. The ex political heavyweight and fanatical fisherman was amongst anglers from Abernethy and Aviemore Angling Association celebrating the start of their season on Saturday (14th Feb) at Boat of Garten. Around 20 fishermen were piped from the Boat Hotel to the bank by local legend ‘Spud’ the Piper before Whelan took the first cast and blessed the water with a quaich of whisky.
Having fished with the likes of Chris Tarrant and Robson Green on the BBC angling series, Charlie Whelan’s Gone Fishing, the guest caster was well placed to offer an opinion on the river.
Allthough he acknowledges wild fisheries are under stress in Scotland, he believes the Spey still offers great sport and tourism benefits.“Of course there is still a magic to fishing here. My house is about 200 yards from the river at Dulnain and a lot of the locals taught me to fly fish when I came up to live in Scotland after leaving London.“I actually caught a 9lb salmon on the very first day I fished so I thought, ‘this is easy.’ How wrong I was!"
Seriously, I’ve fished all over the world but I love the Spey. It brings so much to the area. The economy is heavily reliant on tourism and angling is a massive part of that.“I’ve never caught a fish on this stretch of the Spey, so I’ll have to change that.”
While enjoying the sport, guest Whelan couldn’t resist a swipe at Scottish Government for introducing new statutory measures which means no salmon can be taken before April 1st. The move was introduced last month to protect stocks of early running spring salmon.“This is the first time Scottish Government has taken any interest whatsoever in wild fish, but why make the anglers suffer when they have been practicing catch-and-release anyway? Why has it taken so long for anything to be done about uncontrolled netting, for example, which has a big impact on fish numbers?”
Boat Hotel Bistro and Bar chef Peter Carey prepared a fresh salmon dish on the bank, watched by onlookers and anglers from the Association, who are offering all local kids fishing for free in 2015.
The 4 Star hotel has created a new drying room and storage area for rods this season, as well as sporting packages.“We have a lot of anglers visiting here as well as local fishermen and we have salmon on the menu,” said Carey. “It is such a fantastic fish to work with. In fact, there are few better places anywhere for the amount of local produce Available, than where we are in the Cairngorms National Park.”
Thanks to the Boat Hotel, Boat of Garten for the content