The Tweed at Melrose – 1952. Bob Graham recalls a red-letter day
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What you have to do is to stand on the suspension bridge looking downstream and imagine what this stretch of water was like in 1952 – I can remember it before it was ‘improved’ to help the salmon fishing. On the left just below the bridge there were a few big trees close to the edge of the water shading a deep pool. Still on the left about a hundred yards down the water shallowed into a good stream where the bottom was a mass of ranunculus. Then there was a small shingly island that was covered if the water rose a foot or two. Opposite where the hut stands now the island ended and there was a lovely deepening stream that ran down to the bend before the Scar. On the other side there was good streamy water all the way from the bridge to what is now the sewerage and nice fast deep water below that to the bend where the river shallowed again into a series of lovely broken ripples. Now it’s an abortion and not worth fishing.
I often fished it with my Uncle Robert. We’d catch the five o’ clock bus at the cross and reach Waverley ten minutes before the train to Melrose. By seven we would be in Melrose with a ten minute walk to the water. I was relied on to have a good stock of worms and, early or late in the season, docken grubs that we fished first thing in the morning. A quick word about my Uncle Robert, probably the best bait fisher I have ever seen and I’ve seen a few good ones. My dad I reckoned was a better fisher simply because he could fish the fly or the minnow – my uncle was a worm or grub man and wouldn’t have known how to tie a fly on his cast. Mind you, they both caught a lot of fish and generally shared the club trophies at the end of the season. Both houses, ours and my uncles, always had fishing club trophies on show.
One particular Monday holiday I met him at the cross and we headed off for Melrose – I think it was early May. The weather was not too bright and by the time we started to fish opposite the island it was raining steadily. And the troot went crazy. First run down through I caught one and lost two or three, my uncle took three and put several wee ones back. Next run down I landed two good fish to his four. Next run I remember seeing a monster troot coming out of a stand of Ranunculus, taking my worm, and disappearing back into the weed before smashing me.
Most of the stories about the numbers of troot caught by clubs are true but what no one tells you is that the average size was generally small, seven inches was a takeable fish. That morning I can’t remember a fish under fifteen inches, every one was a beauty and I must have lost four for every one I landed. A crazy morning. By twelve o’ clock I had seven fish in my bag and I don’t know how many my uncle had.
We stopped for something to eat before I was told to stay fishing where I was while he went off downstream to the Scar. If I saw that he had his rod tied up when he was coming back I was to pack up myself be ready to hurry up to the station.
I had another three or four good fish and was running out of worms when I noticed him walking slowly back with his rod and net under his arm. I was tied up and waiting at the bridge before he reached me and he asked me to swap bags because I was younger and fitter that him. His bag, an old Post Office one, weighed a ton. We had to help each other carry the bags back to the station just in time for the Edinburgh train.
Safely settled down in the carriage I opened his bag, thinking I knew what to expect but being surprised again. Six sea bright salmon with the smallest about seven pounds and the best over twelve. That plus something like forty good troot between us.
I’ve never had another day like it on the Tweed, in fact I’ve never had another day like it anywhere.
Bob Graham is an occasionally lucky gentleman who claims he does not do very much these days other than try to catch trout five or six days a week. Bob is a regular at Hillend Reservoir and lives in Whitburn West Lothian.