Many thanks to Richard Wilson for sharing his thoughts on salmon decline with North Devon Angling News. Check out Fish rise on Substack for more of Richards writing. This months article is very apt considering the dramatic decline we are seeing on West Country Salmon populations.

Atlantic Salmon: The Brink of Extinction?

A Red List Endangered Species.

River Ghost

Salmon are in trouble. Ask anyone involved and they’ll tell you how bad it is and who’s to blame (it’s always someone else).

It’s so bad that the Atlantic Salmon is now officially an IUCN Red List Endangered Species in the UK. In Ireland, the population has collapsed by 80% in 20 years. Other places and other salmon species are not far behind, and the word extinction really has entered the debate.

We can see this decline by watching the way the money flows. Just about everywhere the value is slowly ebbing out of salmon fishing, almost no matter how or where we do it, and from mega-trawler to rod & line.

Sure, we can remove dams and nets, replant catchments and clean up pollution to help mitigate the decline, but they’re not enough.

This crisis is universal, which is of note, because not everywhere has nets or fish farms or pollution or management corruption. Indeed, some have none of the above, yet their salmon are in trouble.

One of Scotland’s most exclusive rivers, the Helmsdale, used to be a place where fishing was accessed via dead men’s shoes. Royalty graced its banks and the management was so discrete as to be almost uncontactable. A rod on the Helmsdale was a mark of status. Now the Helmsdale has gaps to fill and is promoting itself in upmarket magazines. It has no pollution and no fish farms to blame. Something else is going wrong.

What salmon everywhere have in common is rising water temperatures. This is happening both at sea and in rivers. High temps impact badly on salmon at every stage of their lifecycle, from squeezed and collapsing ocean food chains to overheated redds and undernourished smolts failing to make the journey back to sea. The salmon lifecycle makes them especially vulnerable to warming water.

This is real and it’s happening everywhere. Check out the Missing Salmon Alliance for a thorough breakdown of these combined threats. Their rallying call is Cold, Clean Water – which is as succinct a summary of the salmon’s plight as you can find anywhere.

And it’s not just salmon: Entire food chains are wobbling. In recent years 10 billion snow crabs have gone missing from Alaskan waters and the most plausible explanation is starvation in warming seas. A few years ago 100m Alaskan cod went AWOL for the same reason: Warmth increases fish and crustacean metabolic rates, so they have to eat more just to maintain body weight. At the same time the warm water suppresses growth in their food supply. So they need more, get less and starve. It’s becoming a regular feature of ocean life.

Worse, the increase in metabolic rate may also increase salmon’s need for oxygen beyond the ability of their gills to fully deliver. If so, that too would inhibit growth and reproduction.

To understand why, we need to do some time travelling because today’s benign weather wasn’t always a given. Our ancestors had a much tougher time than us.

About 17,000 years ago the world was in the depths of the last Ice Age. We humans scraped a marginal existence as hunter-gatherers. Life was freezing and the world was a whopping 5c colder than nowadays.

A graph showing the growth of ice age ends Description automatically generated
Global Temperatures from mid-Ice Age. With thanks to Andrew Dessler, Texas A&M University.

We hit our stride about 10k years ago when the climate warmed and delivered a sweet spot that stuck. We could sow crops, expect to harvest them and feed our expanding population. Great civilisations formed. We could also hunt and fish for nature’s seemingly boundless resources such as the herbivores that roamed the plains and the fish and whales in our seas. The post-glacial world was rich in opportunity.

This is the Holocene Era: The time when the Earth and its climate came good for humans. There were blips along the way: a few major volcanic eruptions that caused cooling and short-term global famines, for example. But since the end of the Ice Age, Planet Earth’s climate has been stable and very hospitable.

Then came the Industrial Revolution and the arrival of the fossil fuel era. We are about 250 years into it now – the red zone below.

The Carbon Era Temperature Spike (closer to 1.4c now): Andrew Dessler, Texas A&M

Current predictions are that temperatures will likely peak at about +2-3C, with growing confidence that it will be a lot closer to 2C than 3C. The hoped-for 1.5C target is surely a lost cause.

We have understood the basic science behind this since the mid-1800s. It’s not difficult – excess CO2 is pollution that traps heat in the atmosphere. We can measure it very accurately. We know the science is good and that what’s happening now is unfolding as scientists predicted it would (my first TV report saying the Holocene could unwind was nearly 30 years ago, and I was in Antarctica reporting established science, not breaking new ground). The scientists even got the speed of change about right, although as a layman I’m shocked by what we’re seeing now:

NASA animation of global temperature change since 1880:

We’re hitting temperatures not seen for 125,000 years and it’s going to get worse. When we finally stop pumping out CO2, we will revert to a long, slow cooling trajectory (business as usual). It will take thousands of years to get back to where we were just 250 years ago ( NASA ). That’s one heck of a hangover from our CO2 party that we’re giving to future generations.

It’s not all bad news (below). Climate scepticism is fading, clearing the way for better political engagement. The graphic below shows that only the 10% or so on the margin are still drinking neat Clorox. This group are mostly hard-core conspiracy theorists and have bucket lists of competing dire consequences they expect to suffer. You’d think climate doomsterism would be right up their victim-centric street, but I don’t think they will ever shift their position by much. I suppose they believe that one day they’ll be proved right and they won’t be the only ones dying of vaccine-preventable diseases or in G3/4/5 radio mast attacks.

The remaining 90% of us are increasingly concerned about climate change. The dial is shifting.

Tracking the decline of Climate Denial 2013-2023

So where does this leave the salmon?

The answer is worrying: We can do a great deal to adapt to and mitigate the impacts, but the bottom line is that we’re stuck in a pattern of decline that won’t end until we tackle the root problem. The Earth is getting too warm and it’s happening too fast for the fish to adapt.

Ask an Atlantic Salmon. If you can find one …

Cold Comfort in a Polar Vortex And the climate deniers reducing global warming.

Many thanks once again to Richard Wilson for sharing his thoughts with North Devon Angling news for more of Fishrise click the link below :-

Cold Comfort in a Polar Vortex

And the climate deniers reducing global warming.

Real Men, Real Cold, Real Fishing and Fake Global Warming?

Extreme weather in the form of a Polar Vortex is hitting the USA, Canada and Northern Europe. I see that while most sensible people are staying indoors, the climate deniers are out in force declaring the death of global warming. One moment it was all thaw and uninsurable ice-fishing tournaments, now they say it’s too cold for the delicate greenies to go outside.

So are they right? On the one hand, they insist climate change is all bull-feathers while on the other it’s ‘Do you remember the good old days when we had real winters’? To try and steer a path through the confusion, here’s a handy little cartoon strip that explains what’s happening:

Zero degrees F = -20C. ©xkcd  

So nostalgia wins. Winters really aren’t what they were back in the day.

Which begs a question: If the climate is getting warmer, and it is, then what does the future hold? After all, these same climate deniers are both stridently pro- their nostalgic old-cold winters and pro-coal, which is where a lot of the warming CO2 pollution come from.

Well, the good news is that our prospects for containing the worst excesses of climate change are improving. We are fast approaching peak carbon (maybe this year, maybe next) and coal is looking a bit, well, limp.

The world’s green energy generation increased by an astonishing 50% last year (IEA). Solar accounted for three-quarters of this. In the US, utility solar power is expected to grow by 75% in the next two years while coal is in steep decline.

Consider also that the amount of energy each of us consumes has fallen sharply. Everything from fridge-freezers and washing machines to TVs, cars and keeping our houses warm is more efficient. We might have more gadgets, but they consume a fraction of the power of what went before.

They may not know it, but the carbon footprint of climate change deniers is shrinking – so give them a pat on the back. Well done! They’re doing their bit (non-consensual wokesterism – whatever next?).

The global flight of investment capital out of coal and fossil fuels and into renewable energy is becoming a stampede. This is not about greenie sentiment. Renewables have plummeted in price while their technologies have become more and more efficient. Simultaneously, the huge and long-term investment needed for new coal mines and oil refineries is very risky. Would you sink $5-15 billion into an oil refinery with increasingly uncompetitive pricing and diminishing demand? How will you get your money back?

The IEA expects a 250% growth in global green power production over the next 4 years. The COP target is 300% by 2030, so it’s starting to look doable.

And while we are now certain to overshoot the 1.5C warming set at the Paris COP, 2C or thereabouts is looking achievable. This is better than many expected, and will still be disruptive. But, even so, we can do a lot to adapt to 2C, whereas the 5C+ we were heading for would have been calamitous.

We’re getting there. To be sure there’s a lot of work to do – but I’ll back us to get it done.  The direction of travel is set, King Coal is fading and the denialists are coming along for the ride (shh…). Just follow the money.

With thanks to Not the End of the World’ by the brilliant Hannah Ritchie. A great read about positive outcomes. Thanks also to Andrew Kessler for using the cartoon before me – which is how I found it.


posted in: Sea Angling, Sidebar | 0

Combe Martin SAC member Daniel Welch caught this stunning Atlantic Bonito on a small silver lure whilst fishing from his own boat off the North Devon Coast. The 3lb 15oz fish sets a new club record.

Bonito are members of the Tunny family.

“A moderately regular visitor to Northern European seas and very common off Southern Europe.It is migratory with the seasons, not living in water below 15 c and preferring temperatures  around 22c.” An extract from Key to the fishes of Northern Europe by Alwyne Wheeler. Several bonito have been caught off the North Devon coast in recent seasons a likely result of climate change and warmer waters?


Great Balls of Fire Ain’t no cure for the Summertime Blues?

Many thanks to Richard Wilson for once again sharing his writing on North Devon Angling News. This months article is more than a little sobering as we can see the drama unfolding on our screens each day. These are indeed interesting times to live in and the symptoms are to be seen all-round.

Sweet memories: The high-summer days as July drifts into August. Cole Porter’s lazy, hazy, crazy days as time sprawls soporific in the warming sunshine. The beer and wine on ice and all gently fusing in the company of old friends.  A river burbles nearby while an occasional splashy fish shows midstreamWhat could be better?

So that was going to be my theme for this article:  Chilled booze, cool friends and throwing the dog in (there’s no more enjoyable way to catch summer fish – more on dogs below). A comforting vision of an unfolding August caressed by warm nostalgia.

Then a lot of other stuff happened pretty much everywhere and all at the same time. Canada’s forests caught fire and New York choked in the smog, the US south and west and most of Europe wilted in record-breaking heat, the North Atlantic and the seas around Florida simmered, a lot of places flooded and England’s rivers became fetid, drought-stricken trickles of raw sewage. And, meanwhile, algal blooms suffocated seas and lakes worldwide. These events are global, national and in my garden. So writing a piece romanticising warm rivers and slow, soporific summer afternoons suddenly seemed clumsy.

Instead, an old curse rings in my ears: ‘May you live in interesting times’. Because, it turns out, I do. In the first week of June and in the far north of Scotland, these interesting times came to get me. Fishing was stopped on my trip to the River Oykel because the water temperatures were too high. In early June! This is a time of year and latitude when spring should be alive with bird song, wildflowers and new beginnings. Instead, we sweltered. And as we did, more bad news arrived from abroad as El Nino started flexing its muscles. It’s arriving this autumn and, by all accounts, is a bad one. And bad in this context means trillions of dollars will be lost and a lot of people will die.

We now have a lethal mix of weather and climate change, each piling misery on top of the other.  As a brief aside, weather is what happens and we have climate change because if we fill the atmosphere with 200 years of industrial-era pollution it will get warmer and choke. Just as our rivers choke on shit if we keep dumping long after we should have stopped.  Some people still have trouble with this idea.

NASA graphic showing warming since 1880. The baseline is 1950-1980, so for readers aged 40-70, this is the before and after of your early years. 2023 will be the hottest yet, NASA predicts 2024 will be even hotter.

That most stalwart conservative publication, The Economist, reports that a heatwave is a ‘predatory event that culls out the most vulnerable people’ – the poor and the old. They add, “It slaughters silently, snuffing out more American lives each year than any other type of weather”. It used to be cold that killed the most. Climate change, says The Economist, is deadly. I find it strange that some of the most at-risk social groups are the most strident climate change deniers (a predominantly 65+ demographic).

There are 2 possible explanations for what is happening this year, and they’re both deeply worrying.  It might be a blip that fits within the warming new-normal we live with or, perhaps, a more alarming acceleration in the underlying rate of change. Whichever it is, we’ve arrived in uncharted territory. Agriculture and everything we think of as modern humanity started about 10,000 years ago and has thrived during a period of climate stability. The Earth was last this hot 125,000 years ago. So while an extra degree or two might look to some like a small twitch on the global-average temperature gauge, it isn’t when you look at the increasingly wild regional climate fluctuations – as can be seen by anyone who follows the news. And so far the scientists have been right; recent temperatures and their consequences are as most climate models projected, albeit at the hotter end. What happens next is less certain.

Life is unlikely to come to a juddering halt, but it will get a lot more difficult. As ever, there’s a caveat: Reputable research published this month suggests that the deep Atlantic circulation (AMOC), which is associated with the Gulf Stream, could fail within 3 years, altho’ that’s most likely to happen mid-century (Copenhagen University).  This would indeed be catastrophic.

Antarctic ice drives the deep ocean currents that set weather patterns worldwide. Is this a blip, or the early arrival of a predicted collapse? The Economist

And look at the language we’re using. A phrase that used to hover in the margins of the climate debate has gone mainstream: the positive feedback loop.  Forest fires release CO2 which warms the planet causing more fires. The same applies to methane release from thawing tundra. There are also more frequent sightings of the words runaway positive feedback loop and tipping point.

In the face of this year’s extreme weather and its major economic impacts, kicking these issues down the road in the hope that something good will happen looks increasingly futile. That thought is from the Chatham House think-tank, which isn’t given to hyperbole.

At this point, I’d like to interrupt myself briefly to ask you a question or two: How many days fishing will you lose this year because our rivers and lakes are too warm? Will next year’s fishing be better or worse? How are the redds faring?

It might seem a bit of a leap from global catastrophism to a riverbank with rod in hand, but we’re all going to have to adapt (I wrote about mitigation HERE ). Call me Nero if you like, but we humans are really good at adapting. And we’re going to have to get a lot better at it in all sorts of ways.

So, this may be me fiddling while Rome burns, but I’m hoping the rate of change is going to be at the slower end of predictions. If so, I’ll need that dog I mentioned earlier. Because the simple truth is that even in the good old lazy-hazy days you couldn’t do proper slow summer fishing without a dog and, one way or another, the dog had to go in. And where once this would have happened in late July or August, nowadays May and June are the new dog-days of summer. So the dog is my consolation; a small adaptation I can look forward to and that will keep me on the bank.

Here’s how it works: The writer Ed Zern, a man of quick wit and impeccable unreliability, told of an old timer he knew back before the Second World War. A man who claimed that, if fishing a summer pool with not a salmon to be seen, would turn his attention to catching a couple of trout for the pot. His approach was unorthodox. He would tie a 6ft leader, a dropper and a couple of wet flies to his dog’s tail, and then throw a stick across the pool. The dog, of course, was thrilled to be in the chase and the angler scored two wins: The dog stirred up the salmon and improved the fishing, and also brought back a brace of equally agitated trout for supper. What happened if the dog got into a 30lb salmon is not recorded. American salmon, according to Zern, think dogs are seals. And the caveat? As said, Zern was a very unreliable witness and the trout part of his story is unusually fishy.

This also works at night, which is another cool advantage in our brave new world. Indeed, it was at night that I discovered just how effective a dog can be and why this works (even though no dogs were involved).

Late one summer’s evening, shrouded in the gloaming, I headed out on foot for a night’s Sea Trout fishing. It was that magical hour when day hands over to night and the owls, small scurrying creatures and chuntering water replace the daytime clamour. The river was low, as is the new normal (when not flooding), but Sea Trout, as they say, will run up a wet sack.  The night was charged with promise.

I moved slowly up the bank, careful to arrive at my pool without spooking the fish, and then settled down to wait for darkness to wash over the river. Only once all is crow-black, bible-black, (Dylan Thomas-black) would I start to fish.

This night was different. Through the half-light, I could see a pair of otters playing exuberant otter-tag and working their way upriver towards me. Once in my pool, they started the serious business of hunting and I had a ring-side seat as two of nature’s most beautiful creatures plundered my fishing. Time flowed by and I don’t know how long I sat enchanted and uncaring that my night’s sport was being trashed before my eyes. This was already among the most memorable of fishing nights, and I was still on my backside.

Eventually, they picked up my scent and in an instant were gone. The pool stilled and the darkness settled back around me. My senses strained, but nothing moved.

I gathered myself, my rod and my minimal kit and stepped down to the river to cast a line. It felt like a futile gesture, but it was a beautiful night and I was reluctant to leave.

The line kissed the water and the pool burst into a mid-summer’s night madness. I caught an 8lb sea trout with my first cast and another of 6lb with my third. These were big fish for this river – much bigger than the expected 1-2lb schoolies. The otters had disrupted the pool and I had reaped the benefit by dropping my fly into the chaos.

And then, just as suddenly, the fish turned off. There were no fishy splashes on the margins of my senses.  Just nothing – the pool had died. The fish frenzy had lasted for the 30 minutes or so it took the remaining sea trout to slough off the otter terror and revert to their normal, elusive behaviour. It was as though the otters had never existed

How long was I there that evening? I don’t know. Time had frozen into the very essence of slow fishing, which was mostly no fishing at all. The next day I told the riverkeeper my story. He smiled and said, ‘When all else fails, throw the dog in’. It’s an old saying that happens to be the just about only piece of fishing wisdom that actually works – and climate change will have to get worse before it fails.

In the UK, dogs are otters. In Canada maybe they’re bears. Zern says they’re seals.

And climate change is global, so if we keep going the way we are there will be no salmon to throw the dog at.


Thank you for taking the time to read my work. It really helps me if you can do some, or even all, of the following:

Tell others I’m here: via sharing on social media.


Many thanks to Richard Wilson for allowing me to share his thought provoking prose on North Devon Angling News. This month Richard’s focus is climate change and the deniers and what we can for for our local rivers. For my part I spread the word and try to raise awareness of the threats to rivers from industrial farming, sewage discharge and over abstraction. I also undertake River Fly Monitoring, CSI Monitoring and volunteer with the National Trust assisting with wetland creation and conservation initiatives.

Where Are All the Climate Deniers Going?

Or: How to save your river.

Once upon a time, back in the day, just about all online mentions of global warming provoked CAPS LOCK outrage:


My response to this sort of behaviour has been to hunker down. I don’t want to be heckled – who does? So I’ve been watching from a safe distance … and I think I’ve spotted a change in key-banger behaviour.  Maybe you’ve noticed it too?

I wonder if they’re going a bit droopy – like that toy rabbit on TV with the wrong brand of battery?  I’m talking sotto voce for now because I don’t want to wake them, but do you think they’re getting – old?

Musk has turned their Twitter volume up to 12, which hides some of the decrepitude, but it’s increasingly clear that a generation is thinning out. Back in their pomp they stood proud among friends, bonding over beers and howling at bogeymen. It was fun, the company was good and they felt like an unstoppable force.  The world was theirs for the taking. Heck, they could even get laid. Those were days!

Then, over time, the group frayed and faded. Familiar faces moved away, some died and a lucky few retired to sunbeds by the sea.  Now, depressingly, the headlong rush of young lust is a dim memory, and wearily beating a caps lock key won’t bring it back. Age has got their number.

So while I think we should feel some sympathy towards our denialists (we all get old), we should not be surprised by their plight. They are the original stay-at-home globalists, persecuted by malign world forces. This miserable everybody-hates-me-nobody-loves-me mindset also happens to be the signature trait of almost all conspiracy theories, so people who buy into one are predisposed to have a bucketful. If you know for a fact that George Soros and his glove puppet Greta can fake all the climate data everywhere, you also know that wherever you stash your cash The Global Elite will sniff it out (it happens all the time!).

It’s carnage out there in conspiracy land: Innocent bystanders are killed by 5G death rays, chemtrails, vaccines and fluoridated water, or abducted and raped by both real and false-flag aliens. The last generation of conspiracists had scary Reds under their beds and would be horrified to learn that today’s have Reds in their heads.  Stalin was satan, Putin is a buddy, Kennedys won’t die and some Americans want a breakaway Red State Caliphate. I hope you’re keeping up.

Then there’s The Fear:


In contrast, statistics and fact-checking are inherently dull – but they can make a succinct point 2&3.  Globally, most people believe that climate change is both a crisis and an emergency, echoing the language used by climate change campaigners. In the US, about 80% say climate change is happening, outnumbering those who think it isn’t by a ratio of more than six to one. In the UK, 90% think it’s real.  And another fact: 99-100% of climate scientists say it’s real and deadly serious. That’s a slam dunk (for people who do facts – but not so good with voodoo).

Other forces also conspire to undermine our deniers, not least their own eyes. There are only so many decades you can fish the same river and not notice something’s wrong. And is there anyone for whom freak weather isn’t the new normal?  So, according to the liberal wokesters at Forbes, hardcore denialist numbers have fallen to just 6% of Americans, which is still well above the global average of 4%. All of them hammering away at Twitter. Thanks again, Elon.

This climate data is, of course, all red-mist-inducing heresy for our remaining jihadi denialists, for whom an attack of heresy-rage is about as exciting life gets.


It’s a level of victimhood that‘s a hard sell among younger generations. More youthful movements offer rewards like happiness, cupcake recipes, glowing good health, a ripped body or, in Gwyneth Paltrow’s case, fragrant orgasms. Tik-Tok thrills mostly meet educated opinions. In contrast, conspiracy theories are gloom, doom and misery. Incels excepted, who’d double-click on that?

Back in my world, climate science is fact-based, measurable, progressive and has an off-ramp. We can slow down and change course.  And for the hard-core miserabilists, all is not lost. You can also get utterly despondent about the science of global warming. The so-called climate-doomersprobably outnumber the deniers by a lot, and I suspect their roll-over and die mentality is as damaging to planetary well-being as the cranky deniers. Maybe there’s some misery-laden itch deep in the human psyche that we’re desperate to scratch?

Nevertheless, I’m going to puncture the glum-fest because we can do something about climate change. There is salvation in the denialist’s climate heresy.

Here’s how: There’s no shortage of great organisations committed to mitigating the impacts of climate change. Some of these actions need the power and deep pockets of government, while others are small and local. That means there’s a level of contribution to suit us all. We can volunteer &/or donate, big or small and as best we can. For example, I support organisations that work on conservation and legal protection for rivers and their catchments. And because most of us think this is now urgent, most of us can surely do something, no matter how small, because every little bit counts.

So, please, let’s all get involved. And let’s do it for our future generations because they’re going to have to live here. Maybe Gramps and Grandma will donate if it’s for their favourite river and their own family? Would their peer group really cancel them if they funded some research into migratory fish?

And last, please say hi to Gen Z and the Millennials.  It’s their planet now.

I have a request: Who do you donate to or volunteer for? Feel free to give your favourite good causes a plug in the Comments below … let’s share some constructive actions and tell the kids we care. Good ideas are infectious, so let’s spread some.

FYI, I donate to The Atlantic Salmon Trust and Fish Legal. And I make losing bids in lots of good-cause raffles ….