By Linda Mellor

One hundred and thirty years ago efforts were being made to protect the fishing on the Clyde. 
The United Clyde Angling Protective Association (UCAPA) was founded back in 1887 to develop angling facilities on the Clyde. 
Abington postmaster, Matthew McKendrick, was one of the founding members of the Upper Ward angling association in 1887, which later became the United Clyde Angling Protective Association.  
McKendrick joined forces with William Robertson, a fishing tackle dealer in Glasgow, who had taken the train from the city to Abington to look for some fishing. 
McKendrick, Robertson and his friends formed the association to focus on positively influencing angling and fish numbers in the Clyde.
There were very few fish due to poaching. The association staked out the river to discourage illegal netting and, by 1892, they had built their hatchery near Abington and filled it with eggs taken from Clyde trout. McKendrick spent more than 25 years hatching, rearing and releasing trout that were affectionately known as ‘Mattha’s Bairns’. 
After McKendrick’s death at the age of 77, in 1926, his friends from Lanarkshire and Glasgow raised sixty pounds over the next two years to erect a monument in his honour. 
The granite stone spike, mounted on a boulder cairn, sits on the west bank of the Clyde, a mile north of Abington with the inscription “Fish fair and free, but spare the wee anes”. 
In the 1930s the association transformed a disused curling pond near Abington into a stocking pond, but the war hindered many of their plans. 
As the pond was ready to receive the fry due to hatch, changes had to be made due to shortages of labour and materials and maintenance due to the war effort. As soon as possible, the work restarted on tending to the pond, and by 1945, 30,000 fish were housed in there.
UCAPA director, Ken Mackie, has been fishing since the age of 16 and looking back at his diary from 1962 he fished 50 days out of 52 and has many fond memories of catching countless good sized trout.  
He first joined the association in the 1960s, Ken said: “The major objectives of UCAPA are to protect and preserve the fishing and to make sure the river remains in good condition for anglers. Angling is such a popular sport and has been for many years. 
“Many people do not know that before he was Prime Minister, Sir Alex Douglas-Home was our honorary president.” 
Years ago, most anglers were dependent on public transport as it was their only means of getting to the top reaches of the river, the Peebles bus service was popular as it ferried anglers to their favourite parts of the river. 
During the war when restrictions were placed on the purchase of fuel, anglers were still able to travel via the train. “A great way to get to the upper reaches was by railway,” said Ken. “If you had a UCAPA permit you would get a discount on your train journey.”  
UCAPA has seen many changes in the river over the last 130 years; it monitored and identified the problems. 
In the early days, the battle against pollution was the biggest threat as local heavy industries were responsible for many decades of contamination of the river. 
The association applied pressure to the local authority to gain permission from the Secretary of State to prosecute those responsible for polluting the river. In 1948, a large stretch of the Clyde was wiped out by cyanide from unknown works.  
It would have taken at least four years before fish would return to the area. The association realised that few predators would be present in the poisoned river, so they took steps to repopulate the river and they released a large amount of fry into the affected areas. 
The lack of predators meant the fry were able to grow faster and thrive without threat and within two years good sized trout were seen rising.
The River Clyde is more than 109 miles long from its source in the Lowther Hills in South Lanarkshire to the Tidal Weir in Glasgow.  
The river has had a long association with salmon going back many centuries, if you look closely at the Glasgow coat of arms, you will see salmon feature in the design. In 1834, salmon were caught in considerable numbers. The rising population combined with the increase in industry meant more pollution was discharged into the river. The last salmon run in the Clyde was probably around 1860. So, for more than 100 years there were no salmon on the Clyde. Ken said, “In 1985, we heard positive rumours salmon had been seen and then we saw records of salmon being caught in the Glasgow area.”
“The Clyde is a river of two parts,” said Ken. “The upper reaches form one of the best trout rivers in the UK, with the lower reaches known for its salmon.” 
UCAPA’s ten-year moratorium has played an important part in re-establishing and encouraging successful runs of salmon. 
“Our conservation policies have always been well supported by anglers. Local anglers have a great attitude towards looking after the river; they see it as their river, and appreciate how great it is to catch a salmon and to return it. 
“It is their way of looking after the river and playing their part in conserving salmon stocks. Throughout the years, people have always made a great effort to help.” said Ken.
“Angling clubs are great in so many respects. They give you access to tuition from experienced anglers, and they are always generous in sharing their knowledge to help and guide others. We are looking for more volunteers to get involved with UCAPA. 
“I think we are all suffering from the lack of volunteers. Years ago, when the heavy industry and mining was thriving there were many angling clubs and all you had to do was speak to the secretary to say you needed volunteers and they’d send them over. It marks out the social changes over the last 50 to 60 years, and it is a shame we don’t have that now,” said Ken. 
UCAPA would be delighted to hear from anyone wishing to get involved with volunteer work.

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