Prize winning salmon caught on the River Nith

Mr Valentine with his 34.5lb prize-winning catch

By Naomi Mills

A MAN’S 45 minute battle with a salmon has won him a prestigious fishing award.

Sam Valentine was crowned this year’s winner of Savills Malloch trophy for catching the largest salmon caught on fly at a whopping 34.5lbs.

The fish was caught on the Dalswinton beat of the River Nith on November 16, but the awards committee told Mr Valentine of his achievement just yesterday.

Mr Valentine said: “In 27 years of fly-fishing it has always been my ambition to catch a salmon of over 20 lb. In November this ambition was well and truly achieved.

“I saw something huge breaking the surface of the water. It appeared almost like the back of a seal. Two casts later my line just stopped.

“At first the fish seemed unaware that it was hooked. Then it took off and I had an epic battle of 45 minutes before eventually we were able to land it.

“After quickly weighing it, we returned it to the water and with a flash of the tail it swam off very strongly”.

The trophy was first ever awarded in 1972 for 43lb fish caught on the Tweed by Lady Burnett. It ran for 28 consecutive years before becoming lost in the fishing world for ten years.

A partnership between the Tay Foundation and property company Savills however revived the sought after angling award in 2009 to promote conservation through the catch and release competition in Scottish Rivers.

This year’s competition was high with nine angling contenders all landing a 30lb or more catch but it was Mr Valentine who won for topping the scores for his careful handling abilities.

Savills Director Roddy Willis said: “As sponsors of the Savills Malloch trophy we are delighted to see it head south to the River Nith.

“It exemplifies that one does not have to fish one of the Big Four Scottish rivers to be in with a chance of winning this trophy and indeed of catching a leviathan salmon”.

A 14 year old boy, Frank Cotton, was also awarded a special award by the Committee for his ambitious 28.5lb catch of a spring salmon earlier in May.

A spokesperson for the Tay Foundation, owners of the Savills Malloch Trophy, Robert Rattray said: “Frank’s tremendous achievement should be a real inspiration for all young salmon fishers. In his youth he has caught the fish of a lifetime.

“Furthermore the fact that he returned the fish sends out a highly positive conservation message”.