AN angler yesterday lost the first stage in his legal action to

establish the ''historic right'' of Scots to fish for trout in public


A Judge granted an interim interdict to the Gordon Lennox family to

ban Mr Derek Keith from fishing for trout on a stretch of the Spey near

the family seat at Gordon Castle, Fochabers.

After the decision by Lord Penrose at the Court of Session, Mr Keith,

of Restalrig Drive, Edinburgh, said the decision had been expected since

the Judge was bound by an earlier decision in 1894.

This could be overturned only by an appeal court and he now intended

to take the case to appeal.

He added: ''Until 1894 there was a right to fish public, navigable

rivers such as the Spey. That right was taken away in Victorian times by

landed Judges.''

Mr Keith, secretary of Scapa, the Scottish Campaign for Public

Angling, added that times had now changed and he hoped the appeal court

would recognise this by opening up public rivers for trout fishing.

Major General Bernard Gordon Lennox, of Eversley, Hampshire; Lady

Nancy Gordon Lennox, of Gordon Castle, Fochabers, and Colonel David

Gordon Lennox, of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, asked the court for an order

banning Mr Keith from fishing on the Spey without permission.

The Gordon Lennox family was granted a 99-year lease by the Crown in

the 1950s giving the exclusive right to fish for brown trout from both

banks of the Spey in a stretch known as Castle Water. Castle Water is

let to a salmon fishing tenant.

The Crown also let the right of rod fishing and angling for salmon on

Brae Water, which lies immediately above Castle Water, and is also let

for salmon fishing. The lease gave control of trout fishing to the

Gordon Lennox family.

In a letter sent to the clerk of the Spey district fishery board last

September, Mr Keith asserted the ''traditional and historic'' right of

Scots to fish for trout without permission.

He said he intended to test the issue in court and would start fishing

on Gordon Castle estate water on September 26.

The Gordon Lennox family says that Mr Keith has been repeatedly warned

that he does not have a right to fish without permission. They argue

that the fact that the Spey is a navigable river does not by itself

establish a right of angling for brown trout in non-tidal waters.

The family fears that Mr Keith would cause considerable embarrassment

and annoyance to salmon fishing tenants on the Spey and disrupt their

fishing activities.

Mr Keith argues that, even if the Gordon Lennoxes have a valid lease

from the Crown, it does not confer an exclusive right, only a right

subject to pre-existing public rights.

He claims that since the Spey is a navigable and public river, access

over a period is all that is needed to allow the public to exercise its

right to fish for trout, which do not belong to anyone while in the

water but become the property of the fishermen who lands them.

Mr Keith says he has repeatedly advocated reponsible, controlled

access to angling and has caused no embarrassment or annoyance or

infringed any legitimate rights.

A spokesman for The Scottish Landowners' Federation said later in

Edinburgh that Major General Lennox had been reluctant to enter into

litigation but he had felt compelled to respond to Mr Keith's public

challenge last September.

''Had Mr Keith's claim to a public right of fishing for trout been

upheld the practical results would have been enormously damaging to all

lawful rod fishing in Scotland.

''Fishing as it is currently enjoyed under properly controlled

arrangements is a major source of recreation and of vital importance to

the local economies of many rural areas of Scotland.

''Accordingly today's decision is important and enormously beneficial

to all those who enjoy rod fishing.''