Thursday - 30 October 2014

Cast from record salmon catch takes £5500 at auction

22 October 2012Written by Roland Arkell

It is doubtless the source of a little irritation, or perhaps amusement, to members of the men-only Flyfishers Club of Piccadilly that the two largest salmon ever caught with a rod and line in British waters were both landed by women.

Two years after Georgina Ballentine hooked a 64lb fish using a spinning bait on the Tay (still a British record), Clementina 'Tiny' Morison landed a similar monster on a fly in the Lower Shaw Pool on the banks of the Deveron.

On the day of her fabled catch, October 21, 1924, the slimly-built Tiny had already caught other sizable fish - two of 16lb each and another of 12lb. She wrote to her friend Lt Col W. Keith (who had lost a very large fish in the same pool the previous year) reporting the drama: "I rushed down, put my hands in his gills and dragged him up onto the bank. He looked enormous lying there - a huge male fish, well hooked but a beautiful shape and coloured. Sim [the gamekeeper] said 'My goodness, he is over 50lb I believe'. I had no idea what a prize he was. We sent him to Aberdeen by the first train to get a plaster cast made."

The plaster cast of that fish (one of two made before the fish was smoked and kippered) hung for many years in Clementina Morison's Mountblairy home before it was acquired by the vendor who entered it for sale at Glasgow's Mulberry Bank Auctions on October 13.

Mounted in a heavy oak frame, it was inscribed with the vital statistics: Caught by Mrs Morison in Lower Shaw, Mountblairy on 1¼in Brown Wing Killer, 21st Oct. 1924, 61lbs, Length 52¼in, Girth 34in.

Record Catch

It remains the biggest salmon ever caught on a fly in the UK, although accounts at the time suggest it might just have weighed a little more when 'grassed'. According to the fishing tackle maker Mr Harper, of Brown & Co., who officially weighed the fish the following day, it had probably already lost "a pound or two" in transit.

All this information and more was included in the 1992 booklet Mrs 'Tiny' Morison's Deveron Salmon - The Definitive Account that accompanied the lot sold for £5500 (plus 17.5% buyer premium).

The buyer, prepared to go significantly above the estimate of £3000-4000, was the chairman of the Deveron Rivers Trust. The aim is to have it on display and make a further cast to take around the local schools.

Incidentally, the Flyfishers Club, founded in 1884, remains staunchly a gentleman's club, although it prides itself today on the provision of "a ladies' anteroom for use as a retreat from the rigours of West End shopping".

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