The Border Esk is formed by the meeting of the Black Esk and White Esk near Bailiehill. On its way to Langholm, the Border Esk is joined by tributaries Meggat Water, Ewes and Wauchope and, just downstream of Langholm, by the Tarras Water. Just below Canonbie, the Esk is joined by its major tributary, the Liddel, a good salmon and sea trout river in its own right. At Scotsdyke, the Esk, hitherto a Scottish river, enters England and flows on past Longtown to meet the Solway Firth near Gretna. Renowned as one of the best sea trout rivers in the country, the Border Esk also has a good run of salmon through the latter part of the season.
The Esk and Liddel fishery beats were once among the most productive in the country, and might produce around 5000 sea trout in a season, many of them taken on the night fly during the short summer nights of June and July, with the added bonus, towards the end of the season, of up to 500 salmon. For reasons that are not clear, catches of sea trout on the Border Esk, like those of other Solway rivers, have declined in recent seasons, with the Buccleuch Estate beats now producing somewhere between 500 and 1000 sea trout per season and around 200 salmon. Given the right conditions, though, June and July can still provide some excellent night fishing. An impressive 2012 catch return of 198 salmon and 980 sea trout was the best in 10 years and if sustained, bodes well for the future.
Much of the available fishing on the Border Esk and Liddel, known as the Esk and Liddel Fisheries, extending to some twenty miles of fishing, is owned, and was managed for many years, by the Buccleuch Estates, with day, weekly and season permits being made available to local and visiting anglers at reasonable cost. From the beginning of the 2012 season, the fishing is to be managed by a new local angling club, which has secured a ten year lease of the “association” waters from the estate. Permits will be made available to locals and to visiting anglers in much the same way as before.
Border Esk and Liddel Angling Club
The former Esk and Liddle Fisheries beats, now managed by the recently formed Border Esk and Liddel Angling Club, include some of the best fly fishing water on the middle Esk and the middle and lower Liddle. The Club is a not for profit association open to locals and visitors alike, the objects of which are to promote the sport of angling and in particular protect, improve and develop the Rivers Esk and Liddel from its confluence to its head waters and all the tributaries as a facility for fishing, to help to maintain these rivers and improve biodiversity for the benefit of the public and to promote enjoyment of the river by the general public and in particular to take specific action to promote the sport of angling amongst young people and people with disabilities. In addition the club recognise the contribution angling can make to the economy of local communities. To this end the club have engaged with a range of local businesses to discuss what the Club might do to encourage tourists and visitors to the area.
It is worth noting here the unresolved controversy over the recent actions by the English Environment Agency to impose an English rod licence on anglers fishing the Scottish beats of the Border Esk. In protest at this wholly inappropriate, and legally questionable, action by the Environment Agency, many Esk fishers, to their credit, refused to take permits on the river, much to the detriment of the river and the local economy. It is to be hoped that a reasonable compromise can be reached on the matter and that normality might soon be restored to this once great sea trout river.
View more photographs of the Border Esk and River Liddle on the following pages: