Jan 18 2013 by Gordon Bannerman, Perthshire Advertiser
Television presenter Cat Cubie knows a cold front when she sees one but that didn’t deter the weather girl braving sub-zero temperatures to officially open the salmon fishing season on the River Tay at Dunkeld.
And despite being given just one rudimentary lesson on the riverbank, she impressed onlooking anglers with her casting capability from a boat launched at the Hilton Dunkeld House.
While newsreader Fiona Armstrong has been lured to past January river-blessing ceremonies up-river, Bill Jack, chairman of the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board (TDSFB), confirmed Cat was the first female to be given the honour at Dunkeld.
And both hoped it would send out a strong signal that fly-fishing was not a male preserve.
Cat, best known for revealing what the weather has in store for BBC Scotland viewers, was delighted to receive the invitation for a ceremony organised by the Dunkeld and Birnam Tourist and Angling Associations, supported by the TDSFB, the Tay Foundation and the Perthshire Chamber of Commerce.
Wrapped-up against the morning frost, she said: “It was beautiful down by the river. It was like a scene from Narnia.
I had a wee lesson this morning and was hoping I would be a natural. I hadn’t appreciated just how graceful and slow casting would be. You’re not really moving your body.
“As a youngster my brother and sister would go off fishing but I was too little and was left behind. I cried the whole time they were away and I’ve never really had an opportunity since. I certainly hope to do a bit more fishing now.
“I love the great outdoors and I love Perthshire and it was an honour to be invited here. I was hearing someone slipped in last year so I was being very cautious!”
After three years when the Tay has been running high, TDSFB chairman Mr Jack was in optimistic mood ahead of the so-called spring season.
“It is pleasing to note that numbers of large spring salmon, for which the Tay was always celebrated historically, seem to be recovering,” he said.
“We are seeing bigger fish coming unto the river. Last year saw the highest average weight of spring salmon in the Tay since 1987.
“The average weight is now over 12lb, compared to 10lb a few years ago. Starting five years ago we have seen a sustained resurgence with many more spring fish in the high teens and twenties of pounds and 2012 was the best yet – the average was over 17lbs.
“It is probably no coincidence that the marked increase in weight coincides with the growth in catch and release – with anglers carefully releasing fish they catch back into the water – in recent years. Before the advent of catch and release all big spring fish caught by anglers were killed.
“Now they are able to continue their journeys upstream to spawn and help produce the next generation. It is vital that we retain our spring conservation measures so that this recovery continues.
“We were delighted that Cat could cast the first fly to officially launch the 2013 season. The turnout was excellent and so many different facets of the community were involved.
“A lot of that is down to the efforts of all the people who laid on such a terrific launch celebration for the season.”
Mr Jack stressed that angling was a sport for all, with days on the Tay available from £30 and club membership equally affordable for the full season.
On Tuesday, anglers, as tradition dictates, were competing for the Redford Trophy, which is displayed at Crockart’s of Blairgowrie. It is awarded for the biggest spring salmon caught and safely released on the Tay season opening day.
But Mr Jack said it was high time a Tay angler landed the Savilles Malloch Trophy for the biggest fish landed on a Scottish salmon river over the course of a season.
Last year the Tweed received the accolade with a 40-pounder but he was hopeful the Tay could turn back the clock.