This fine quality heavy gauge silver model of a leaping Atlantic Salmon reminded me of the paradox that the largest fish caught on rod and line in the British Isles have all been landed by female anglers!
Amusing, annoying, irritating, delightful and astonishing are just a few of the emotions that have been expressed whenever certain facts regarding catches of salmon by women are discussed.
During the 1920s women anglers established three British records that will almost certainly never be beaten. From the mighty River Tay back in October of 1922, Miss Georgina Ballantine
landed the UK rod caught record salmon of 64 lbs.This wasn’t a one-off fluke catch. For it took Miss Ballantine around two hours to play and land this fish. Earlier that day, Georgina had also caught fish of 25 lbs, 21 lbs and17 lbs, so she was a true salmon fishing expert and this despite the handicap of suffering from osteoarthritis.
In October 1924, Mrs Clementina (Tiny) Morrison
caught a 61 lbs salmon in October from the River Deveron. It remains the largest salmon caught on the fly in the UK and wasn’t weighed for 24 hours after capture. It would have tipped the scales at 62 lbs, if not 63 lbs, when first landed. The possibility of losing the record certainly made Miss Ballantine nervous, as scribbled in the margins of her copy of Fishing Gazette is a note ‘dangerously near the mark’.
On 13 March 1923, Miss Doreen Davey caught the record ever spring salmon which weighed in at 59.5 lbs from the River Wye. Her father owned the Lower Winforton waters and the young Doreen first picked up a fishing rod aged just five. She hooked the male fish at 5.40 pm and landed it at 7.35 pm. The fish was briefly displayed in Hereford and the flesh sold with the money received being donated to Herefordshire General Hospital.
On 15 February 1935, Lady Joan Joicey made a remarkable catch of 26 salmon and two sea trout in one session, while her husband managed to land just seven. Gladys Blanche Huntingdon landed no fewer than 300 salmon in her career. The record salmon for the Yorkshire Esk was landed in 1963 by Ivy Hayton. This just touches the surface of the role of women in the annals of salmon fishing history. You could write a book on the exploits of female salmon anglers, indeed Wilma Paterson and Professor Peter Behan did just that, publishing the excellent Salmon & Women in 1990.
There is a school of thought that suggests that a family of chemicals called pheromones, specifically produced by women, and which organisms can detect at very low concentrations, are attractive to the fish and give the ladies an advantage. Pheromones are common throughout the natural world, but can a woman made chemical really be responsible for female angling success when pursuing the mighty salmon? It’s one thing to potentially attract the interest of the fish, it’s another thing entirely to cast the bait in exactly the right spot and then play the hooked fish for up to two hours as was the case in some of the epic battles with those giant fish.
The evidence does point to the conclusion that female salmon anglers are more successful than their male colleagues. The well known salmon angler and author Hugh Falkus states ‘female anglers have a different way of seeing things and are more capable of adapting to crazy situations; they fish with utter determination and nothing diminishes their concentration. They will stick it out, refusing to be beaten’. Pheromones may play a role, but the most likely conclusion to explain their success seems to be that women anglers are simply more skillful.
To commemorate Mrs Clementina 'Tiny' Morison's incredible achievement, a similar silver model to the one for sale, but smaller, was also produced by Wakely & Wheeler in 2011. Commissioned by the Morison family, together with the Deveron, Bogie and Isla Rivers Charitable Trust, it is awarded annually for the heaviest fly caught salmon from the river Deveron, that is witnessed
to the river alive. The Morison Trophy
is made of silver and black limestone and is the most valuable game angling award in Britain.