I started haaf netting in 2006. I previously haaf netted at Gretna and was introduced to the hobby by a friend. My father had haaf netted before me and I had previously worked on fishing boats so I suppose I always had an interest in haafing at the back of my mind. shermen tell you. Never underestimate the power of the Solway tides. Don’t expect to catch fish all the time, you will mostly come off the shore empty handed.
There was a lot of dubious characters fishing at Gretna, but when I got my Annan ticket I found haafnetting to be a much more pleasant activity. The haafers at Annan were much more friendly that the ones at Gretna. Having said that Annan is potentially a more dangerous place to fish than Gretna. There are very few hems, deep holes or flaw holes at Gretna but there are plenty at Annan.
Since I started fishing at Annan, my knowledge of the Solway has improved a lot. I have learned by experience, I was once feeling my way out of a hole when the sand edge gave way and I went for an unintended dip in the Solway!
There have been many changes since I started fishing. We are now only allowed two sea trout per tide. Salmon fishing in the last four years has been by a strict quota regulated by Marine Scotland. This year, as things stand, we will not be allowed to take any salmon. Other changes have been the number of tickets that have been allocated to men who live outside the burgh of Annan.
Fewer folk from Annan are interested in taking up haafing, which is a shame. It would be nice to think the hobby will continue for centuries to come but I don’t think that will happen unless we are allowed a small quota of salmon
I have lots of memories from my time haaf netting. When I first started fishing at Annan I got very close to a seal in the dark! A better memory was when I caught a 20-pound salmon in the stenna. It burst my net and I thought I had lost it but it managed to mesh itself elsewhere in the net so I managed to subdue it and get it into my bag. My adrenalin levels were sky high.
I really enjoy haaf netting. I love the tugs from salmon, the fresh air and the walking on the sand. It’s a great way to exercise. However it’s not all fun. I dislike fishing when there’s dirt in the water or when there’s hard running water. The rain and cold winds can also be a problem. Sometimes the wind will catch the beam and spin you around. It seems to take ages to get off the sand in conditions like that.
My favourite type of fishing is ebbing. Especially at the Gowkie when there’s a good breest. I also enjoy flooding at Annan. You seldom get cold when you are flooding as you are moving all the time.
I’ve caught two species of unusual fish: a sparling and some sort of hybrid fish, possibly a bream hybrid.
If someone were interested in getting involved in haaf netting I would strongly advise not to go out alone. Always fish in a back with other haafers until you know the ropes. I don’t think that in reality there will be many newcomers to the hobby unless we are granted at least a couple of salmon per season. But it’s important we get a quota or the hobby, which has existed for centuries, will die out.
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