The Cairn, which rises in Mr. James M'Call's estate of Caitloch, and flows into the Nith near Dumfries, yields a salmon now and then on the lower reaches.
The Annan has been declining for twelve years. Mr. Edward J. Brook, Hoddom Castle, Ecclefechan, writes:-
" It used to be quite worth while asking people to come here for salmon fishing. Provided there was water, they were pretty sure of sport. Now in my own water, which is probably the best stretch on the river, only from ten to twenty fish are caught in a season. We had an exception in 1903, when some sixty-five fish were taken. Several causes for the falling-off can be named. The floods are of shorter duration and more violent than they used to be; that is in consequence of the draining of the hills. The fishing season, as regards both nets and rods, is too long; I am inclined to think that this has made the run of the fish later. I fear that there is a great deal of poaching in the upper waters; and some proprietors allow night fishing, during which many parr may be killed as trout. The mouth of the Annan is a bad entrance. The mud banks, which are constantly shifting, tend to drive the fish out into the channel of the Solway, and so up to the Esk, which has a good entrance not far off. Of all the adversities on the Annan, the violent rise and fall of the river, I think, does most harm. Much spawn is destroyed by the torrents.'"
The Tweed has long been suffering severely. Sir Herbert Maxwell favours me with a very interesting exposition of the trouble and of the remedies that should be applied:-
" The fecundity of the Tweed as a salmon river is amazing. Drastic netting goes on in a long tidal course during the open season; there is irrepressible poaching with drift nets at the mouth during the close season; rod-fishing is prolonged until the end of November, when the fish are in a gravid state; spawners are openly destroyed in the upper waters; grievous pollution of the main river comes from the mills at Galashiels, and of its chief tributary, the Teviot, from those at Hawick. That combination of adverse agencies might be expected to bring the race of salmon near extermination. Such diligence in destruction, if applied to rats, must have most satisfactory results. For a series of seasons previous to 1903 it seemed as if the natural result was on the eve of consummation. The spring rod-fishing had long ceased to count for much, except in the lower reaches, from Floors downwards, where such fraction of the early fish as managed in floods to run through miles of nets still effected a lodgment; but the autumn angling had fallen away miserably. Then came the annus mirabUis 1903-the memorable wet summer and autumn, when multitudes of large fish appeared from goodness knows where, and thronged the pools as soon as the nets were off. I myself only fished two short days that autumn, in the Mertoun water, beginning at eleven o'clock each day. The result was seventeen fish, averaging 19 lbs. In face of such a season it is impossible to pronounce the Tweed past redemption. Nevertheless, I consider it in a parlous state.
"A spirited attempt has been made to restore the stock of fish by artificial hatching. Unluckily, there is no single instance, either in this country or in America, of demonstrable results of such an operation. People are coming surely to the conclusion that the money spent in hatcheries would be applied far more beneficially to protecting the spawners on the natural redds. Nobody who has witnessed the descent of smolts in a salmon river can fail to realise that the liberation of two or three million alevins, or two or three thousand smolts, can have no appreciable bearing upon the total of fish returning from the sea. If the supply of ova for the Tweed hatcheries were taken from the upper waters, about Innerleithen, no harm would be done, because these fish generally meet with a violent death before completing the process of reproduction ; but if, as I believe to be the case, the spawners are netted in the lower reaches, where they would not otherwise be interfered with, there is no advantage to compensate for the mischief done by disturbing fish at a most critical period.
" To restore the Tweed to its former excellence as a spring and summer angling stream, the following measures seem to be necessary :-
1. Prohibition of netting above Thomas's Island, where the tide stops.
2. Rod-fishing to cease on November 15 at latest.
3. Stringent application of the Rivers Pollution Act, or the exercise of such powers as those whereby the Thames Conservancy have purified their river.
4. The application of money now spent on the hatchery to an additional force of watchers to repress the poaching with drift nets in the sea during the close season."
What Sir Herbert Maxwell says as to the crying need for remedial action is confirmed by the Duke of Roxburghe, who informs me that, from a careful study of records, he is convinced that there has been a marked falling-off in the stock during the last twenty-five years. He excepts from this generalisation the autumn of 1903, when salmon were extraordinarily abundant. The Duke thinks that public sense of the importance of enforcing the laws against pollution and otherwise preserving the fisheries is seriously on the decrease.
The statements by Sir Herbert Maxwell and the Duke of Roxburghe imply that sport on the Tweed used to be splendid. This is amply borne out by an interesting MS. which Mrs. Grant of Househill, Nairn, has found among her family papers. A first cousin of her grandfather, Mr. John Laurie, was, in his day, known as " The Champion of the Tweed.'" He lived in New York, and made a fortune there; but his mother had an estate near Kelso, to which he often returned. The faded letter to which I have referred runs thus :-
"In 1842, on the 14th March, I left Edinburgh, accompanied by Mr. William Shiels, and proceeded to Kelso, for the purpose of enjoying a few days' salmon fishing in the Tweed. Alexander Low, Esquire, had given me permission to take possession of his cottage at the boat-house, and to have the uninterrupted and exclusive fishing of what is called Rutherford Waters, being three miles of the Tweed. The cottage is about six miles above Kelso. Mr.