Voice: David Mitchell, Selkirk Angling Club

Fishing flies are designed from the point of view of the fish – they’re meant to emulate beetles and flies, and look tasty from below the water line.

In this audio clip, David Mitchell of Selkirk Angling Club talks about different flies in his collection.

Here, he talks about the joys of trout fishing and wildlife on the River Tweed and tributaries.

This interview was recorded by Jules Horne to be part of the exhibition Where the Pools Are Bright and Deep on Selkirk Angling Club, by Scottish Borders Council Museums.

Scaling the Tweed: research drawing by Kate Foster

Upriver, salmon eggs could be hatching just now. I learn that pimples on the fish’s skin become scales with marks that register their growth pattern, like tree rings. In actuality, these are in life tiny and transparent, but to understand them I draw them large and salmon coloured.


drawing © Kate Foster

The Tweed Foundation collects scales from anglers, and accumulates data that helps interpret seasonal changes in the fishing catch. With a microscope, an expert eye might see that a salmon lived for two winters in the river, with a further winter at sea before returning to the Tweed to spawn. The wider separated bands in the blue drawing (a detail) suggest that this fish made a rapid transition to sea and began to feed well.


drawing © Kate Foster

Sometimes, there are checks in the usual pattern of faster summer growth, where the circuli stay tight and close.


drawing © Kate Foster

Very rarely, a female salmon manages to return to sea after spawning, and runs upriver a second time. The Tweed is a long river, and perhaps only one in a hundred manage this. These fish have scales with spawning marks developing from interrupted growth where scales were consumed, reabsorbed for energy to swim upstream.


drawing © Kate Foster

Typically a spawned salmon, a kelt, will die in the river and the eroded scales will document the exhaustion of the fish’s reserves.


detail of research drawing © Kate Foster

Having learnt something of what can be seen close-up, I needed to take a step back to take this in. A textbook informs me how they deserve their name, ‘Atlantic Salmon’: they are a species who use ocean currents to drift to cold subarctic waters. Rich feeding to the west of Greenland allows them to mature before returning to their home river in mating mood.


detail of research drawing © Kate Foster

Towards the end of this first lesson in scale-reading, our careful tutors say that there is currently speculation about future patterns that will be read in salmon scales. Within ten years perhaps, the north pole will be a navigable ocean, allowing passage to the Pacific.


detail of research drawing © Kate Foster

To reflect on this, I look at recently published papers. With anxiety, I start to draw icebergs on perspex – dotting out the zone that was navigable to ice-hardy ships in 1970. In my drawing the icebergs lessen over time, and tail off at 2100. I wish it was the other way up, and I could draw them more concentrated at the pole, like this:


detail of research drawing © Kate Foster

Scaling the Tweed started with a close-up view, but also is making me look further away.


detail of research drawing © Kate Foster

Acknowledgements and thanks to Tweed Foundation. Any errors text and drawings are my responsibility. The research drawing can be seen in the Robson Gallery in Selkirk (see previous post) until mid May.

Where the Pools are Bright and Deep

Working the Tweed artists Kate Foster and Jules Horne have contributed to this exhibition which takes a delightful look at the joys and challenges of fly fishing on the Ettrick, Yarrow and Tweed.

Angling artefacts and curiosities from Scottish Borders Council Museums Service, Selkirk and District Angling Association and Private Collections.

Many thanks go to David Mitchell from Selkirk and District Angling Association for agreeing to be interviewed and to the Tweed Foundation  that gave their time to Kate and Jules to explain about their  fish scale research activities.

Robson Gallery
Friday 29th March – Sunday 5th May 2013
Mon- Sat 11 – 4pm
Sun 12 – 3pm

Sea Trout Seminar by the Tweed Foundation

7pm, Wednesday 27th March 2013

Ednam House Hotel, Kelso

The Tweed Foundation is holding a seminar on Sea-trout.

The FREE evening seminar will explore new and recent discoveries about the Tweed’s Sea-trout.

Over the past three years, as part of a international partnership study with countries bordering the North Sea, The Tweed Foundation and others have been working to further our understanding of Sea-trout movement and stock components.



Estonia Event with Working the Tweed Artists

Interested in finding out about international artists’ residencies? Come along to Hawick’s Tower Mill for a CABN event on Estonia by three of the Working The Tweed artists, who have spent time there.

Setu Michaelmas Celebrations4th April 2013 6.30-8.30pm
Room 205, Tower Mill, Heart of Hawick

In October 2012, Kate Foster, Jules Horne and James Wyness travelled from the Borders to spend two weeks working at the inspiring MoKS Centre for Art & Social Practice in Estonia, supported by the Creative Arts Business Network.

Teatri Kodu in EstoniaThis is a chance to hear firsthand about their experiences in Estonia, how they responded to the impressions and surroundings of MoKS, and more about how the MoKS model works. It’s also an opportunity to discuss how residencies develop artistic practice, and what links we can make now and in the future with international residency programmes. MoKS is set in Mooste – a very rural part of Estonia – and there were many intriguing parallels and differences with respect to the Borders.

This event is free and refreshments will be provided.MoKS in Estonia

To book a place, please email kay.mccluskey@scotborders.gov.uk before 28th March 2013.