THE FIRST 110 YEARS OF THE EAST LOTHIAN ANGLING ASSOCIATION.
The Association has Committee Meeting minutes dating back to 25th October 1919. The front of the Constitution states that the Association was instituted in 1920 and the Jubilee Dinner of the Association was held in 1970. However, on 3rd March 1899 an advert was placed in the local paper calling for anglers to attend a meeting to be held that night to form a Haddington Angling Association. “One of the prominent objects of the Association is to put down illegal fishing on the Tyne, and the movement well deserves the support of the votaries of the gentle art.”
The paper the following week (10th March 1899) contained the following report regarding a well-attended meeting held in the Council Room the previous Friday which read: “Owing to the great increase of illegal fishing which went on last season, and the consequent decrease of trout, a meeting was held for the purpose of forming an association to promote and protect the interests of trout fishers.” “It was agreed to form an angling association under the above name.” The report in the paper was headed “ East Lothian Angling Association.” The report continued:- “ The principal objects of the Association are to use its influence to have the existing laws against illegal fishing duly enforced, to have a close time for trout duly enacted in Scotland, and to try to increase the area of fishing water available to the public and to the members of the Association. There will also be competitions amongst members. As the objects of the Association are for the benefit of all lovers of the gentle art, and, as its scope is not confined to the town but is open to the country, it is to be hoped that anglers will give it hearty support.” On 9th March 1900 the newly formed Association held an AGM.
The 1904 edition of the Haddington Register and Almanac has an entry re the Angling Association. The earliest set of minutes that the Association has records details of a Committee Meeting held on 25th October 1919 where it was agreed to write again to riparian owners for permission for named members of the Association to fish the River Tyne and tributaries.
At the Committee meeting held on 17th January 1920 the objects of the Association were again set down:
1) To prevent pollution of the waters and promote their cleanliness
2) To endeavour to stop illegal fishing, Sunday fishing and throughout the night.
3) Generally to protect and supervise the fishing in the interests of legitimate angling.
At a public meeting in January 1920 it was agreed that permits could be sold to those who were not members of the association for 1/- per day, 2/6 per week and 5/- per month.
In February 1920 the committee agreed to buy trout to put in the waters. They were to come from Loch Leven for £30. In March 1921 15000 fry and 1000 yearlings were released.
In September 1920 the Association obtained permission to put a fish pass in Amisfield Cauld and successfully undertook the work. A Watcher was also to be employed at East Linton for £5. The number of River Watchers had increased to eight by 1935.
Complaints were made at the 1924 AGM regarding otters, cormorants and roach. The Association took no action re the otters, which were said to be very numerous in the upper reaches of the river, as there was an Otter Hunt in East Lothian. The cormorants were still a problem 1929 and it was agreed that a sum of 5/- was to be paid for each cormorant shot.
The problem of roach in the river was to last up until 1981. During the years many systems for the control of the roach were tried. Most involved netting and killing the roach. An attempt was made at poisoning them but it was unsuccessful, as the fish did not eat the poisoned food!
Coarse fishing Angling Clubs came to fish the Tyne on the understanding that they removed, for release in their own waters, or killed any roach caught. In the 1960s The Bradford Angling Club tried electro fishing to remove the roach and in 1968 the Association sold 1450 roach for £28-15-0. However in 1981 the Leeds Angling Club had to be given a refund as no roach were caught.
The 1938 AGM approved that the size at which could be taken from the river be increased from 7” to 8”.
At the 1940 AGM a motion that Members of His Majesty’s forces in uniform should be allowed free fishing was approved, but not for members of the Home Guard. This continued until 1970.
The 1944 AGM heard of problems of severe weed growth causing the chairman to write to the Medical Officer of Health reporting that he had “suffered a poisoned throat because of the stench rising from the bottom as he had walked across the river.”
Early 1952 saw the Association setting up, in Haddington, its own hatchery for trout. This was a considerable undertaking involving daily visits to the hatchery to tend the ova and fry. Permission was obtained for traps to be put in Donnelly Reservoir so that 3-4 dozen trout could be caught and stripped. The eggs were hatched in the hatchery and when ready the fry were kept in a yearling pond at Yester for a year before being released into the river.
In 1954 42,000 ova were hatched at the hatchery and the river was being stocked from it.
In 1957 the hatchery had had a poor year and were having to move premises. It was agreed to purchase a two-storey pantile roof cottage at St Laurence House on the south side of the main road for £150.The new hatchery proved successful with 50,000 eggs on the premises in 1957.Other rooms in the building were fitted out for committee meetings and “a very fine table was purchased for so low cost namely £2-10-0.” The hatchery was relocated to the Knowes Fishery and continued to operate until 1982 when the property was sold. During its time, apart from stocking the river, fry were sold or given to Edinburgh Zoo and to Coldingham Loch. Fry were also given to the Water Board for Hopes Reservoir in return for which the Committee got a days fishing at reduced rates. The day at the Hopes usually ending with skittles at the Goblin Ha.
November 1969 saw preparations for the Associations Jubilee Dinner on 31 Jan 1970 at £2 per ticket In the Town Hall Haddington. Some 99 people attended and it cost the Association £425 but was a great success.
That year a problem was encountered with one of the river watchers who failed to hand over £39.10/- from the sale of permits. He said that he had hidden the money in the stuffing of an old chair in his attic-. Unfortunately his wife had subsequently cleaned out the attic and burnt the chair!
The 1970 AGM was informed that 639 adult season tickets, 129 youth season tickets, 473 boys season tickets and 337 day tickets had been sold in 1969. (A total of 407 permits were sold in 2008.) The Association decided to hold some youth classes on fly-casting and fly tying.
In June 1971 mink were reported to be in the area and river watchers were asked to keep a look out for them.
Over the years the Association put forward its views on many matters including the formation of the River Purification Board, the building of Torness Power Station, The Freshwater and Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Bill, The Scottish Anglers Trust Act 1980, and in 2009 on the proposed open cast coal mining site at Cousland.
Pollution incidents have been a problem for the Association over the years. Claims were made against the Ormiston Coal Coy Ltd, The Coal Board, the Local Gas Works and in 1972 the Association took legal action seeking £7400 compensation against the Town Council. Unfortunately in February 1978 the Association learned that it had lost its case against the Burgh Council re pollution of the river in 1970. The Association lodged an appeal but this too was unsuccessful. Fishing Associations did not have the right to sue for loss caused by pollution. The Association had incurred expenses of £2298.93 in fighting this case.
For several years the local police were given free permits by the Association and they held a competition on the Tyne in 1979. “The off-duty police men often checking other anglers for permits and a few poachers caught or chased away.” However, due to the large numbers of permits being asked for, this practice was stopped in 1982.
The 1981 AGM approved the election onto the committee of a young and enthusiastic R Hawkins. That same enthusiastic Tony Hawkins is still on the Committee today! His election to the Committee produced an immediate effect in that no roach were seen in the river that year and so the Leeds Angling Club had to be offered a refund.
The Association’s policy on stocking has varied over the years from being out of favour to stocking with fry, or yearlings, or 8” fish or even rainbows. The time of year that stocking has been undertaken has also varied from autumn to spring to the present time of April and August and this year no higher upstream than the West Mill in Haddington.
Poaching has always been a problem right from the formation of the Association to the present day. In 1984 a poacher was fined £250 after he left a bag containing 10 sea trout on a bus, which had been followed by a police car.
In 1982 housewives were warned not to buy any fish from poachers as there had been a major poisoning of fish, possibly by cyanide, and the fish may be poisonous!
Over the years committee meetings were held in a variety of locations including the Tyne House Hotel, the George Hotel, the Picture House Lounge, the Hatchery, the Victoria Inn, the Long Bar, the Toll Bridge Inn, the Mercat Hotel, the Town House and the County Buildings.
In 1986 the Association produced a Juvenile Package which contained a permit, badge and booklet. Some 300 booklets were printed .A juvenile competition was also organised, which drew 21 entrants with the biggest fish caught being 13.5 ozs. The competition continued for several years with several reprints of the booklet being made.
The Association produced its first Newsletter in 2000, set up a web site in 2003 and produced a Five Year Plan in 2004. The objectives of the Association were set out at the 2002 AGM as “ To maintain and develop the high quality angling on the Tyne. To develop the migratory fish stocks so that the excitement of fishing the river can be enhanced”
The Knowes Weir fish ladder was repaired in 2003 and efforts were started to provide a fish ladder at the Cascades Weir.
The Association has sought out sources of grant monies and has been successful in receiving monies for projects including restocking, surveying the fish life in the river and surveying the weirs on the river.
In many ways the activities of the Association have not changed over the past 110 years. Working parties are still organized to clear overgrown sections of the river. Cormorants, mink and poachers are still a problem. The threat of pollution is ever present. Stocking policy and the price of permits still cause much discussion at committee meetings which are now held eight times a year. The objectives set out at that first meeting held in 1899 are still sound and are still being strived for.