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The Whiteadder

A victim of commerce revived.

Allanton Bridge on the Whiteaddaer

The Whiteadder has been the victim of commercial activity over several centuries, it' course obstructed by dams known locally as caulds. I am grateful to Alan Spence for sending me an article on the history of the Whiteadder which describes the trials and tribulations of the river since the 1600s, a history that was somewhat colourful.

The problem with the caulds is that they stopped the upstream passage of salmon and sea trout into Scotland consequently in 1679 the Scots took exception to a dam at New Mills which is on the English side of the border and led by the Laird of Ninewells, they tore the dam down.

Four years later in 1683, the dam having been rebuilt, the garrison of Berwick upon Tweed turned out, halberts in hand, to defend the cauld when news arrived that the Scots were about to repeat their assault. The canny Scots didn't show up so like the Grand Old Duke of York and his men, the Berwick garrison marched home again.

As far back as 1791 there were stories of prodigious numbers of salmon entering the Whiteadder to run high up into the Lammermuir hills to spawn. Glowing reports of fishing on the river continued until the late 19th century.

By 1880 the salmon had disappeared. In 1885, D. Webster observed in his book 'The Angler and the Loop Rod'

Indigenous in almost all salmon-rivers, sea-trout abound also in many streams where salmon are never seen; and even certain tributaries of the rivers which salmon frequent are inhabited by sea-trout alone. This is especially the case in the Whitadder, into which salmon never enter.

It wasn't until 1929 that netsmen began to report some spring and autumn fish entering the Whiteadder again. The cauld at Allanton was destroyed in a massive flood in 1948 followed by the Eddington cauld in the 1990s. The New Mills cauld, troublesome since the 17th century, went in 1996 and so began the revival of the Whiteadder as salmon fishery.

Today the Whiteadder is seen as a decent spring fishery and back end water. 2008 however was an exception with high water throughout the months of July, August and September resulting in good catch results up and down the river from the junction with the Tweed up to Abbey St Bathans.

There is no doubt that the Whiteadder is a river that benefits from a bit of a spate, given that there are still several caulds and dams on it's length. The river is not large, easily fished with a 10 foot rod but have a caution when deciding on a rod. The Whiteadder may not be a grand salmon river but it's salmon can be as big as you get on the Tweed. A rod that can handle a fresh double figure fish should be considered.

Small flies are recommended except in very high water. The usual culprits work well, Ally Shrimp and Silver Stoat being top of the list.

Much of the river is syndicated these days but day tickets are available for Abbey St Bathans and the Berwick and District Angling Association (BDAA) water. Season tickets for salmon and sea trout on the BDAA beats cost £150, there are tickets available for both locals and for people from further afield. Concessions are available for OAPs, £125 for the season (no fishing on Saturday though). Visitor day and week tickets are available from Welsh Guns and Tackle in Duns and Gamefair in Berwick on Tweed