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Our wisecrack in the February 1998 issue about Scotland not having very good fishing (see page 10) inspired two British subscribers to fire off notes of protest. The first is from Anthony Townsend, who says he lives outside the town of Stockbridge, England, in the heart of the Test Valley where he is fortunate enough to have a syndicate rod on the River Test, some 10 minutes from his home. He says his current passion is tropical saltwater fly fishing, but his previous obsession was salmon fishing in Scotland, about which he has this to say:

"It’s simply unfair for you to suggest that Scotland doesn’t have very good fishing. Certainly, if you said the good fishing was held in the hands of a privileged few, that would be reasonable. It would be equally true if you said the good fishing is expensive. The cost of a top beat on a prime week (including accommodations) can indeed cost over $1,000 a day. But to say the fishing is anything but special when you fish the right beats at the right time is unfair! If you take just the four premier rivers (the Dee, Spey, Tay and Tweed), all have many beats that will land more than 100 Atlantic salmon a week during their prime periods. I have personally landed hundreds of salmon in Scotland. A day well remembered, as an example – one morning, some years back, I was fly fishing a gravel spit below the old Perth/Blairgowerie railway bridge on the Cargil beat of the Tay. During a few-hour spell I landed five salmon with an average weight of 19 1/2 pounds. I also lost two others that would have put the average well over 20 pounds. That’s good fishing anywhere!

"The problem in Scotland, of course, is gaining access to the good fishing. Money alone is not enough to get you onto a prime beat either. You need to be lucky enough to step into ‘dead men’s shoes’ which is unlikely to happen to someone from the other side of the Atlantic. Or, you need to make good contacts for a late cancellation. If you visit Britain for game shooting, as so many Americans do these days, the agents that let the shooting also let the fishing. You will still need plenty of money if they find you something…."

The second subscriber to write us about Scottish fishing is Anthony C. Tinsley of Norfolk, England. He agrees with us that Scotland’s trout fishing is probably not worth journeying across the Atlantic to sample these days but he strongly disagrees when it comes to Atlantic salmon. He writes: "As regards Atlantic salmon, it is really not fair to say that Scotland does not have very good fishing. The North Esk in February, March, April; the Dee in April, May, June; the Helmsdale in May, June or July; the Beauly, Conon and Spey in July and August; the Tay from July to October; and the Tweed in October and November. Who can say these are not very good? The problem for Britons as well as foreigners is getting on the right beats on the right rivers at the right time. They are extremely tightly held and fairly expensive, but not impossible to find.

"The angler interested in trying one of these rivers should contact one of the agents I list below. I’m confident what they will find is Atlantic salmon fishing that is eclipsed only by Iceland possibly or the Kola Peninsula (I cannot comment on Atlantic Canada), which all have very short fishing seasons compared to Scotland, where one can fish virtually year-round. Better still, I am personally open to the idea of an intelligent, charming and worldly American couple, 40-55, coming to the Spey at its best in May or July to join our houseparty in a rented historic home in Scotland – in return for a week of tarpon fishing off Key West in prime season. My fax number is listed below….

"Here is the list of agents one should contact if he wants to secure rights to fish a prime Scottish beat:

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