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IT is hard to believe that by the time this column appears (in the January issue of the magazine), we will be only a few weeks away from the opening of the 2024 season. As I look back on the 2023 season, it is hard to look forward with any sort of optimism BUT, as anglers, I know only too well that that is exactly what we will do! The 2023 season was the worst ever, so things can only get better – can’t they? As a measure of my own confidence in this, I have already booked my customary weeks – one in May, the other in June – on beats above Ballater. I do so on the basis that hope springs eternal, and even if fish are fewer and farther between than they were 25+ years ago, I will be in the most beautiful area, seeing the diversity of the wildlife inhabiting the Dee valley – and, more importantly, spending time with like-minded friends with whom I might easily lose touch were it not for our annual meetings on my beloved Dee.

Since writing my last report, I have observed the river going up and down like the proverbial yo-yo. We have been lashed by high winds and torrential rain on more days than I care to count. Dry weather has been at a premium, and those days when it hasn’t rained have made very little difference to the likelihood of localized flooding. The ground is sodden, so very little of what the heavens send us can be soaked up – drains and ditches have peaked, so roads are subject to flooding and in properties that endured the worst of Storms Frank and Arwen and Babet, folk must sleep uneasily.

All of this must, too, make for extra work for those who look after beat tracks and huts – maintaining these provides a challenge. I heard, for example, from ADAA’s Murray Hourston that the Association’s hut at Riverside Drive (Aberdeen) flooded twice during October – something that was, historically, a very occasional event.

Lest I forget, I’d like to thank Dee Board Chairman, Lawrence Ross, for a most informative day I spent with him on the upper Dee. I was taken to see some of the wee plantations the Board has overseen on the upper river to provide shade for young salmon in years to come. These are quite limited in size, which means they don’t impact on the general “openness” of the area. With all the predictions of global warming none of us can ignore, these will surely be beneficial in future seasons. Something else Lawrence showed me was an example of the woody “structures” being placed in some of the Dee’s tributaries. These are the root systems of trees brought down in recent storms. They will, it is hoped, provide shelter for young fish; ensure the water flows on either side rather than rushing through as in the past; and insect life will colonize the gnarled root balls and provide a food source for river inhabitants. There is no doubting Mr Ross’s passion for all the works being undertaken by the Dee Board and Trust. I left him wi