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North Esk Report January 2014

The North Esk is well known in many of its aspects, not the least as a prolific salmon river which still boasts a considerable spring component, but for the magical scenery through which it flows on it’s short trip from the Grampian Mountains to the sea. The Northie rises deep in the Grampians actually in the Cairngorm National Park but starts off life as the River Lee rising at the foot of Lochnagar and flowing for several dramatic miles through real mountain scenery before emptying into Loch Lee, that famed Brown trout loch lying in the shadow of high crags and unspoilt magnificence. The river is still the Lee as it passes over the water services dam at the loch end and it is only after joining the River Mark that the North Esk is born.

The Mark is another jem rising on Balmoral , the Queens estate. It passes the famous Queens Well where Queen Victoria took the waters on a journey to Lord Dalhousie’s Invermark Estate which surrounds Loch Lee and it’ mountains. The spring is now the site of three beautiful intertwining granite arches put there to commemorate the visit and is at the top end of a spectacular walk up Glen Mark from the car park near the meeting of the two rivers.

The River Mark is clear busy stream, seldom finding any rest and it is the chosen spawning ground of the North Esk Springer. The Fisheries board have carefully looked after the mile or so of redds for many years and this has been money very well spent.

We now have a river, not a big river but a good steady stream about to flow through the valley of Glen Esk spoken of as the most picturesque of all Scottish Glens and who am I to argue as I love this place like no other. It runs through deep gorges and pastoral areas picking up hill burns and at Tarfside the River Tarf and getting larger on it’s way. The river in the glen was a trout fishery of considerable note and still can turn up some specimen Brownies for those who get the opportunity although large estates control the fishery and access is poor. Suddenly the river drops into the spectacular gorge at The Rocks of Solitude through a crack in silver grey rock and then into the sandstone gorge of Gannochy . This carries on for several miles, terminating at the Big Gannochy Pool, again not easy to get to but the vision of the massive auditorium is worth climbing the steep steps. On we go past Edzell and many famous pools like the Linmartin on Dalhousie (South Bank) and Burn estate (North Bank) and flowing on passing the Blue stones in midriver above the meeting of the water where the River Westwater joins the mainstream on it’s way from Glen Lethnott. We are now in the arable plain and on Stracathro the beat of Hugh Campbell Adamson ( Scottish Chairman of S@TA) who I am sure is well known to you all, and on through Pert and Inglesmaldie both prolific well run fisheries. On to Balmakewan, Gallery, all beats which have meant so much to salmon anglers from all over the world. We are getting nearer the sea and passing the village of Marykirk with it’s hostelry much favoured by fishers, on to Canterland and Morphie (both very much for sale). Here we encounter the famed massive Morphie Dyke much hated by upriver proprietors but it is in the headlines as it has been breached and looks likely be left to demolish itself as it provides no useful purpose it this century. Morphie used to be a major net fishery and we read of the huge amount of fish caught here by net and coble, however as we take the short trip to Kinnaber we run into the last net and cobble fishery left in the area, but I have a feeling that when the present owners retire we might see it closing and none to soon. We are now on the beach north of Montrose and it is gone, but never forgotten. Around you now are the remnants of a mixed stock fishery bought out a few years ago by the Salmon Fisheries Board and closed forever. I am so proud to have been a member of the board at that time.

Hope to meet you on the river.