When I started to haaf net in 2013 I was following a family tradition. Both my grandfathers fished as did my uncle Bob. I am a proud member of the Turner gang, which comprises myself, my dad and my uncle Barry.
When I first started fishing the different gangs kept themselves to themselves. Nowadays the men seem to get along much better. My uncle Barry and my dad are always winding up ‘the opposition’ and they get plenty of stick back.
As a prank, someone left a dead duck in my uncle Barry’s net. It took him ages to get rid of the decomposing body. The smell was atrocious. I have no idea who it was. I was told it was a member of his own gang but I could not possibly comment on this.
Some of the guys are now very helpful and have given me good advice. Another difference from when I first started is that there a lot fewer men actually fishing. Previously the shore held different groups of haafers as well as the stake nets and the poke nets. Now the stake and the poke nets have gone and it is possible to fish a tide with no other men present. This is due to the stricter regulations governing haafers.
I have some excellent memories of my time haaf netting. I can remember my first tide. I caught a salmon and then got absolutely soaking wet wading through deep water as I came off the shore. I remember seeing a huge lamprey eel being caught.
One particular day when the weather was really calm, it was possible to spot lots of salmon moving about on top of the water. Unfortunately for us haafnetters, the fish could easily sense the haaf nets in calm conditions and none were actually caught. I really enjoy a sunny day on the Solway, what a great way to spend a day!
Coming off the shore with a salmon in my bag is a special thrill. Sometimes I like to take my camera. In my first season I was awarded the ‘photographer of the year certificate’. This caused quite a stir.
There are downsides to haaf netting. I hate coming off the shore wet through, bitterly cold and with an empty bag. But for all the bad times there are plenty of positive moments. I love flood fishing because you are constantly moving as the tide comes in.
If anybody was interested in starting haaf netting I would say give it a go, it’s a really great hobby. The Solway can be a treacherous place though and you must go with somebody who has experience. It would be a tragedy if the haaf netting were ever stopped. We should be given a small quota of salmon to keep the tradition going.
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