THE new salmon season got off to its traditional start on the Tweed last week with the blessing of the nets at Norham.
The service took place at the Pedwell Pool, where the land once owned by Norham church - which would originally have sustained the parish priest - runs down to the river.
In its modern form, the blessing is a variation on the ‘Blessing of the Nets’, after which the first salmon caught would be given to the parish priest as thanks.
The blessing was given by the vicar of Norham and Area Dean, the reverend Rob Kelsey, who pulled his wellies on under his cassock to step into the river for part of the service.
“We are trying to make this an annual event,” he said, “and we hope people will continue to come along and enjoy the blessings.”
The service consisted of prayers and short readings on the theme of water and fishing, as well as hymns sung by the 20-strong congregation.
Angler Ronnie Hek had the honour of casting the first line of the season, but he was almost upstaged by an angler of a very different type.
A seal that had made the 11 mile journey upstream from the coast to Norham was spotted in the river exactly where Ronnie was wanting his fly to land.
Even though the season wasn’t more than a few hours old, the river bank echoed with fishermen getting their excuses in early - this time good-humouredly blaming the seal for scaring away the fish.
Ronnie used an Alley Shrimp fly for the ceremonial cast, and admitted ruefully that he wasn’t expecting a bite.
And with good reason, because there has not been a Pedwell salmon caught in February for the last four years.
But a wag on the bank with him couldn’t resist telling him he might have to change up his fly box if he wants to catch something.
Ronnie has been fishing on the river since he was eleven years old, “But I had to wait two years to get my first salmon,” he said. “Before that, it was just eels.”
Now, he fishes for salmon and sea trout, mainly on the Lees beat at Coldstream.
The service concluded with the Pedwell Prayer, with the congregation, well wrapped-up and in wellies, reciting: “Keep our lines from snag and break, for every man a goodly take.”
Anglers and gillies are hoping that the 2013 season continues to provide the large fish of the last two years, even though the abundance of salmon making their run upriver in 2012 in particular was unforeseen and quite irregular.
Overall, salmon fishing pushes around £18 million into the local economy, and sustains over 500 jobs on the Tweed.