ACTOR and comedian Billy Connolly today formally opened the Aberdeenshire Dee’s salmon season where fishery administrators are optimistic that rod catches will maintain 2009’s record-breaking results.

Billy Connolly opens Dee angling 2010
Billy Connolly toasts the River Dee 2010 opening

Connolly, who began his interest in fishing as a youngster on the canal in Glasgow, and now owns Candacraig House in Strathdon, toasted the river with a tipple of Scotland’s other national drink. He’s teetotal.

Around 100 guests on the bankside at Milton of Crathes, however, were able to sample a single malt whisky, Dalmore Dee Dram, developed to help support restoration projects on the famous river.

River Dee angling generates about £12 million annually in revenues and supports an estimated 500 rural jobs. Mark Bilsby, director of the river’s District Salmon Fishery Board, said:

“The Dee enters 2010 in good spirits . . . overall rod catches of salmon and grilse in 2009 were the highest for 20 years and this excludes catches during the experiment to extend the season in October.” The wet summer also helped boost returns of sea trout to their highest levels in a decade.

All proceeds from the sale of the special whisky will go the the River Dee Trust which has played a leading role in restoring the river’s migratory fish stocks.

It will provide much-needed additional support for practical projects such as the construction of a fish-pass to enable migrating fish to reach the Culter Burn – the river’s second largest tributary – which has been blocked for 200 years by a dam. The burn offers 125 km of potential spawning grounds and juvenile habitat.

Bilsby added: “We are moving foward on a range of fronts to improve the habitat of both the main river and its tributaries in order to maximise juvenile fish numbers. The Upper Dee Riparian Woodland Scheme is a prime example, where we intend to plant native trees to combat the local impacts of climate change.”