SFB Briefing for September

The Spey Fishery Board/Spey Foundation Briefing for September is now available to read here.  In this edition you will find information on the following topics:

  • Salmon & Grilse Catches for February – June 2015
  • Wild Fisheries Reform – Including Kill Licences and Carcass Tagging
  • Fish Pass Installation by Speyburn Distillery
  • Scottish Mink Initiative
  • 2015 Fin-clipping and Stocking
  • Tomintoul and Glenlivet Landscape Partnership
  • Dates for the Diary – Including the Spey Fishery Board Annual Public Meeting to be held on 20th October

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Pacific salmon caught in River Spey

It was interesting to read reports on social media about an unusual salmon caught in the lower River Spey last week. The fish was caught by Raymond Duncan, a member of Speymouth Angling Association and neighbour of ex Spey ghillie Jock Royan, who posted the pictures. Appropriately enough the fish took a Kinermony Killer fly. Jock has kindly given permission for the photos to be used here.

An unusual catch on the Spey, a pacific salmon, thought to be a Pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha).

An unusual catch on the Spey, a pacific salmon species, thought to be a Pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha). The fish weighed 2.5lb, typical of this small species of salmon. The distinctive spots on the tail aid identification. This looks to be a female as the males develop a distinctive hump on the back at spawning time. It is spawning season now for pink salmon and judging by the colouration it looks to be quite mature.

The distinctive spotty tail

The distinctive spotty tail

It also had an impressive mouth full of teeth compared to our native atlantic salmon

It also had an impressive mouth full of teeth compared to our native atlantic salmon.

Recently the Environment Agency reported three similar fish had been caught in the Northumberland area in early August. Pink salmon do turn up occasionally in UK waters but there seems to be something of a minor influx at present. The Spey Fishery Board recommends that if any angler does catch one of these fish it should be killed and retained for examination. The Speymouth fish was retained and has been frozen pending examination. It will be interesting to read the age from the scales and do a full autopsy to see what information we can gleen.

Whilst it is unlikely that they are present in sufficient numbers to establish a breeding population in the UK they have apparently colonised some Norwegian rivers after being introduced in Northern Russia. Yet another potential invasive to keep an eye out for!

 

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Kill Licences and Carcass Tagging

On the 23rd July 2015, the Scottish Government announced its intentions to prohibit the killing of salmon out-with estuary limits and to introduce a licencing system for the killing of any wild salmon, together with an accompanying carcass tagging scheme.  The Spey Fishery Board prepared a Briefing and submitted an extensive objection to the Scottish Government, both of which can be found on the links below:

SFB Kill Licence Objection

SFB Briefing of Kill Licence Proposals

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Week Commencing 17th August 2015.

Weather forecasting appears to be a tricky art, yesterday there was very heavy rain forecast with some even sticking yellow weather warning triangles on the map. Today was warm and sunny. The rain is now forecast to arrive Monday afternoon and continuing till Thursday. We will just have to wait and see.

Tides are at least predictable and will start to build again on Wednesday.

The rain on Tuesday last week pushed the river up, this seemed to suit some beats but not others.

Catches: The Gordon Castle beats continue to fish well with over seventy salmon and grilse landed. Things were a little quieter this week at Delfur. Mark tells me they finished in the mid twenties, there were plenty of fish showing but the warm muggy weather at the end of the week seemed to put them off. There was a similar story at Rothes, Mike tells me they landed fourteen mostly grilse.

Craigellachie were a little quieter than of late with half a dozen landed.

Wester Elchies went one better. Sam tells me the rods on Kinermony side  had a great week with at least six landed on Monday.

Henry Spence’s party had no concerns on that score as they had both Carron and Laggan for the week. Tim Clark was  kind enough to send me his photos.

Ben Nicholls Gas Pool Carron and Laggan

Ben Nicholls Gas Pool Carron and Laggan

Max, Ian's new pup, oh and a fish!

Max, Ian’s new pup, oh and a fish!

Grantown were quite quiet on the fisherman and fish fronts possibly the lack of the former has an effect on the latter. I hear some grilse have turned up so hopefully a few more anglers might venture out.

Some of the photos shown this week actually belong to last week but I was away fishing the Lochy and the connection to the World Wide Web was a little slow unless you banged the router really hard to awaken the sleeping hamster.

Emma Mountain with a 4lb grilse Delfur

Emma Mountain with a 4lb grilse Delfur

Emma Mountain Delfur

Emma Mountain Delfur

Archie Mountain grilse Delfur

Archie Mountain grilse Delfur

Archie Mountain Delfur

Archie Mountain Delfur

Thanks Grant!

Thanks Grant!

Russel Dilks 14lb Pol Clach. Grantown

Russel Dilks 14lb Pol Clach. Grantown

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Week Commencing 27th July 2015

Another week of a little of everything, sun, rain clouds. The river rose a little but carried a lot of colour, which seemed to put the fish off. The coming week is more of the same, Monday will be the brightest and Tuesday the wettest but nothing really startling. Temperatures might just reach the seasonable normal. The tides peak on Tuesday.

Catches: Gordon Castle continued to catch fish again finishing around the fifty mark. Delfur also finished close to fifty. I am not convinced I would describe 5 rods as plenty of anglers but I see others do! Mark and Rory as usual were kind enough to send me some pictures.

Rory getting artistic!

Rory getting artistic!

Rory with close up mode working!

Rory with close up mode working!

Mark with Oliver Burge's fish

Mark with Oliver Burge’s fish

John Braithwaite Delfur

John Braithwaite Delfur

Rothes had twenty-four for the week and Mike tells me it was the first week when grilse outnumbered the salmon. Mark reckoned he was close to 50%.

As I predicted last week Craigellachie had a good week and I was surprised to see they still had some availability. Having finished with almost twenty for the week I am amazed to see there is still availability for next week.

I hear Kinermony had a productive week but have no details.

Wester Elchies was lightly fished but still managed eleven; those who took advantage of the availability were rewarded.

Laggan had a great week; Phil Burton had six to his own rod on Monday. They finished with around twenty, the best being an eighteen-pound fish from Pol Dornie.

Phil Burton Laggan

Phil Burton Laggan

Over the water things were a little quieter at Carron. I was forced to try and get a photograph myself. These “selfies” are not that easy and when the camera eventually fired up I had the look of a startled rabbit, marginally better than the feet and fish shot I hope?

Selfie or startled rabbit!

Selfie or startled rabbit!

Brian Shaw, head biologist, had a day at Castle Grant and managed a salmon and a grilse, he was kind enough to send me a picture of his fish going back. Brian tells me he was pleased to see plenty of fish in the pools.

Rogie, Castle Grant

Rogie, Castle Grant

Grantown, my well-travelled correspondent has returned and tells me that there are still plenty of sea trout being taken, the best this week around the 8lb mark! I also hear rather disappointingly that visitor numbers are low, but I suppose on the flip side this means there is plenty of room in the pools; every cloud has a silver lining. I am a little baffled why visitor numbers are down the catches this year are respectable 218 so far with two months left. This compares well with last year, perhaps not a year to dwell too long on but around thirty fish better than 2013, 50 better than 2012 and a few more than 2011.

 

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Week Commencing 29th June 2015

By the wonders of modern technology and a little help by my daughter Melanie I will now attempt to do my weekly report from Silverstone and the British Grand Prix. Ferrari got a well deserved third place! I will now return to salmon fishing.

I will edit and correct any errors when I return to civilisation on Monday!

Well it was certainly uncomfortably warm on Tuesday and Wednesday, but was it a heatwave? Surprisingly the term heatwave has a definition, the Meteorological Organisation’s definition of a heatwave is “when the daily maximum temperature of more than five consecutive days exceeds the average maximum temperature by 5°C. The average is 18.5 so it needed to keep above 23.5 Tuesday-Saturday.  So I suppose it was not quite, just an uncomfortable period of a few days to spoil the fishing. Next week’s forecast is to return to some proper weather with some rain mid week some of it quite heavy. Temperatures will reach the mid teens. The tides have peaked and there will be no new water till the following week.

Catches, not surprisingly catches fell away the middle of the week when the water temperature rose by around 6 degrees to approaching 60F. Salmon are cold blooded creatures and a 10% + change in there surrounds has a major effect on their metabolism, they cannot just shed a layer, open a window or turn on the air conditioning.

Gordon Castle were in the high teens. Delfur finished with over thirty and as usual I am grateful to Mark Melville for his photos.

Brian Maclean Delfur

Brian Maclean, Delfur

Maha al Tajir Big Haddie  Delfur

Maher al Tajir, Big Haddie Delfur

Jack Melville Delfur

 

Gary Bushnell

Gary Bushnell Delfur

 

Gary Bushnell

Gary Bushnell again Delfur

Rothes were around the mid teens and Mike says he hates these hot days.

Craigellachie fished well at the start and end of the week when there was a little cloud cover.

Wester Elchies finished with five and Sam said it was hard work.

Carron again fished well and finished the week with ten. Local keeper Gordon Aitchenson landed his first ever salmon and Neil Borthwick for the third season on the trot landed Carron’s 100th fish.

Gordon Aitchison 1st fish Mid Cast Carron

Gordon Aitchison, 1st fish Mid Cast Carron

Neil Borthwick 100s fish from Carron

Neil Borthwick, 100th fish from Carron

Grantown continue to catch both salmon and sea trout and I am grateful to Jimmy for his photos.

John Gray Sea trout

John Gray, Sea trout

Kenny Carr Grantown

Kenny Carr, Grantown

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Week Commencing 15th June 2015

Sadly former Craigellachie gillie Peter Wolstencroft lost his battle with lung cancer at the early age of 60. His funeral, last Tuesday was well attended by family friends and fishers. Although Peter had not been on the river for the last 8 years his dry sense of humour and his own style of gillying will I am sure be missed by many that he introduced to salmon fishing on the Spey.

 

Today, mid summer’s day has been wet, over an inch of rain has fallen in the Aberlour area and already the Avon and Aberlour SEPA gauges are showing a rise. It is hard to predict how much the rise will be. Last week the weather was as predicted overcast, some showers and sunny spells, a right mixture. The coming week is much the same, temperatures struggling to reach much above mid teens, overcast with some rain. Just to cheer everyone up the nights have started to draw in, what ever happened to summer? It must have been those three sunny days in April! The tides have peaked and there will be no new water till the following week. Hopefully the freshet at the start of the week will encourage the fish to continue to run.

Catches, again I am pleased to be able to report that most beats caught fish from Kinchurdy to the sea.

The Gordon Castle Beats had around 35 fish.

Delfur were even better with over 50 fish landed. As usual I am grateful to Mark Melville and Rory Paterson  for the use of their photographs.

Twa Stanes, Delfur

Twa Stanes, Delfur

Nigel Hawkins Delfur

Nigel Hawkins Delfur

Edward Hamilton-Ely Delfur

Edward Hamilton-Ely Delfur

 

Cocker with grilse

Cocker with grilse

Chris Rothwell Delfur

Chris Rothwell Delfur

Chris Rothwell again

Chris Rothwell again

Nicola Rothwell Delfur

Nicky Waterworth Delfur

Ali Cuthbert Delfur

Ali Cuthbert Delfur

Rothes had another good week with twenty-five landed, Mike Ewan was saying he would like to see a rise in the river height; his rain dancing must be effective!

I hear the beats below Craigellachie also were close to fifty fish.

Craigellachie had a good week with sixteen landed, I am grateful to Dougie Ross, Mike Broadey and team for the pictures.

Tom Robinson Broom Isle, Craigellachie

Tom Robinson Broom Isle, Craigellachie

Nigel Arthur Grilse, Craigellachie

Nigel Arthur Grilse, Craigellachie

Nigel Arthur, Slabs, Craigellachie

Nigel Arthur, Slabs, Craigellachie

Jonathon Askwith Boat Pool Craigellachie

Jonathon Askwith Boat Pool Craigellachie

Ian Henderson Craigellachie

Ian Henderson Craigellachie

Ian Henderson, Tunnel, Craigellachie

Ian Henderson, Tunnel, Craigellachie

Upstream Aberlour Angling Association continue to catch fish and todays rise will help the start of next week.

Kinermony and Delagyle both caught fish, Kinermony having at least 8 by tea time on Monday and finishing the week with 15.

Simon Martin had his second week of the season and did even better than last time with 16 landed. Ian Borthwick was kind enough to send me his photo.

Simon Martin Carron.

Simon Martin Carron.

Grantown Angling Association had around a dozen salmon but at least 50 seatrout most around the 4-pound mark with some better specimens also recorded. Kinchurdy also had more seatrout than salmon but traditionally the June tenants are more interested in seatrout than salmon!

I received this picture showing a canoeist leaving the river not from one of the recognised landing spots! Not sure I would class this as responsible access, if he cannot avoid a tree what chance a wading angler?

Whoops, Responsible Access?

Whoops, Responsible Access?

 

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Salmon parr and freshwater pearl mussels

The Spey is a Special Area of Conservation for a number of different species including salmon and freshwater pearl mussels. The decline in the Spey salmon catch has been well documented but the pearl mussel population has also declined with a 50% reduction in population size recorded in the last decade. One feature of the pearl mussel lifecycle that is not well known is their reliance on salmon and/or trout parr for the first overwinter stage. In summer the adult mussels “spat” or release fertile larvae mussels into the water column. These larvae are short lived and they have to attach to the gills of a salmon or trout almost immediately. If the larvae are fortunate enough to pass through a fishes gills  and attach they become encysted on the gills and in the spring/early summer of the following year can be seen by the naked eye. In the summer of that year the surviving glochidia drop of the fishes gills and settle into the river substrate for the next stage of their life. See here for an explanation of the life cycle of freshwater pearl mussel.

It appears from research that the mussel larvae are not always found equally on salmon and trout, even where both species are present; in some rivers they are more common on trout parr even when salmon parr are more abundant.

Some work on encystment in the Spey was carried out a number of years ago but given the concern about the status of the population Elizabeth Clements, a Masters Student from the Scottish Centre for Ecology and the Natural Environment, Loch Lomond (mussel boffin!), visited the river to assess the situation. We were delighted to assist by electrofishing at a few sites along the river from Grantown downstream.  I joined the team this morning at Aberlour to see the technique in action.

The electrofishing site in Aberlour normally supports a lot of parr so it was not difficult to catch the 50 or so required. Most of the parr at this time of year, and in this part of the river, are 1+ years old and generally below 100mm, most of the larger parr having emigrated as smolts.

Elizabeth and Steve checking the gills for glochidia at Aberlour

Elizabeth and Steve checking the gills for glochidia at Aberlour.

My eyesight is not what it used to be but I could make out the encysted glochidia on fish where they were present. I didn’t stay till the end nor take a note of the results but about 20% of the salmon parr appeared to  support glochidia, a few with 100+.

This salmon parr supported a high number of glochidia which can be seen as white spots on the gill.

This salmon parr supported a high number of glochidia which can be seen as white spots on the gill.

The assessment technique qwas not high tech! The key component was a darnign needle - not too sharp but pointy enough to lift each gill arch in turn.

The assessment technique was not high tech! The key component was a darning needle – not too sharp but pointy enough to lift each gill arch in turn.

It was very interesting to see the survey technique in action and good to see that there appeared to be glochidia on the gills of many fish. Scaled up across the whole river the number of infected fish must be large. It is considered that the role of carrying glochidia overwinter doesn’t harm the parr, indeed they were all in superb condition today.

No trout were caught at the Aberlour site but further upstream some were but they supported no glochidia. Hitching a ride on the gills of salmonids also provides a mechanism by which the pearl mussels can overcome that perennial problem for all river dwelling life – how do you counteract the continual downstream direction of travel? Some of the infected parr will migrate upstream before shedding the glochidia, thereby providing a mechanism for the species to at least maintain its range in the river.

 

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Week Commencing May 18th May 2015

It has been another cool week on the Spey, Tuesday was positively wintery with a strong Northerly wind and driving rain, not May like at all. The rain pushed the river up on Wednesday but it soon cleared and dropped away again, today it is sitting around the footmark. Tides; there will be no new water till Thursday.

The forecast for the coming week is pretty cool with some more rain. Temperatures struggle to reach mid teens and there will be rain most days after Tuesday. Another week of great fishing conditions. The river seems to be fishing better than last year, Mike Ewan tells me they landed more this week than they landed for the month of May last year.

Catches:

The fish are still running hard. I see Gordon Castle is reporting a handful. It was a family week on Delfur. It is good to see the wives out fishing their husbands!

 

Kate Clarkson Delfur

Jane Clarkson Delfur

Edward Mountain Delfur

Edward Mountain Delfur

Charlotte Mountain Delfur.

Charlotte Mountain Delfur.

 

Rothes had their best week of the season so far with the Fletcher party and friends landing 25 salmon. I am grateful to Bill Jack, and Duncan Fletcher for these pictures.

Maha al Tajir Long Pool

Maher al Tajir Long Pool Rothes

Bill Jack Long Pool Rothes

Bill Jack Long Pool Rothes

Duncan Fletcher Rothes

Duncan Fletcher Rothes

 

The Gordon Group have now all but finished their lets on the Spey with a week just below the Fiddich. They finished the week with eight salmon and three seatrout. Craigellachie continues to pick away with six landed this week.Wester Elchies also had six, with one estimated to be close to 20lb.

Carron also had their best week of the season reaching double figures by Saturday. Neil and Ian Borthwick kindly let me use their photographs.

Ian Borthwick Stream Carron

Ian Borthwick Stream Carron

Neil Borthwick Carron, his 2nd

Neil Borthwick Carron, his 2nd

 

I hear that Knockando had a good week but have no more details.

Grantown had another good week one again getting into double figures. What I find really surprising is the lack of visiting anglers taking advantage of the excellent fishing. Jimmy Mitchell sent me these pictures.

Scott, Grantown

Scott, Grantown

Gordon Manuel Grantown.

Gordon Manuel’s fish  Grantown.

 

The story of the season continues at Kinchurdy. Fraser Paterson was again in amongst the salmon. Steven Leave had at least three. Paul Gamba sent me this picture of a fat 5lb sea trout.

Fraser Patterson

Fraser Patterson

Fraser Again

Fraser Again

Fraser with his third

Fraser with his third

 

Stephen 9lb fish Kinchurdy

Stephen 9lb fish Kinchurdy

 

Stephen's 12lb fish

Stephen’s 12lb fish

Stephen Leave his 3rd

Stephen Leave his 3rd

 

Paul Gamba's Sea trout

Paul Gamba’s Sea trout

I have been in a philosophical mood this week, and wondering where salmon fishing reports are going. I remember in the days of my youth avidly reading Trout and Salmon, sometimes in the newsagents to save buying a copy. The likes of Rogie Brown left a big impression, the stories of “a Collie Dog a quarter of a yard long” certainly stuck in my mind, as anyone who has fished with me will testify. Certainly catches are important, but is it really necessary to rush home to write on Facebook to show the world how good you are? I had a great evening on Wednesday, 2 salmon and a seatrout but I will remember the family of otters slinking across the island and silently entering the pool long after I have forgotten the weights of the fish. Not a picture for wildlife photographer of the year but not bad with a mobile phone!

Otters at play

Otters at play

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Smolt trap update – a welcome late burst!

This time last year the smolt run was all but over in the Avon with daily catches down to single figures or just above. However no two years are the same and today’s catch of 231 salmon smolts and 29 trout was one of the higher catches this spring. Yesterday we had 156 salmon and 18 trout in the traps, all but two of which were marked and released back upstream as part of our assessment programme to quantify the total run. This morning we recaptured 10 salmon (6.5%) although we may still get more recaptures tomorrow. Even if we get a few more recaptures the smolt run down the Avon last night would have been in the order of 3,000. The river level this morning was 22cm on our gauge but the previous morning, the night when we caught 156 salmon, it was 41cm when the trap efficacy would have been lower – the challenges of trying to quantify the smolt run!

We have completed 12 mark/recapture trials covering a range of river flows from 16 to 47cm, so our strategy of pooling all the results into a single period for the run estimation calculations is probably fair. Overall the recapture rate so far this spring has been 8.96%. As the smolt run is not yet over I’ll refrain from publishing the ongoing run estimate but these nights with catches into the hundreds make a big difference. The basic figures to date are 5,134 salmon (14,035 in 2014)and 678 trout (725) with trap efficiency figures this year of 8.96 % for salmon and 3.3% for trout.

The Tommore Burn trap was removed today as the run was over with only 10 salmon smolts caught in May and 1 in the last ten days. The total number of fin clipped salmon in the Tommore Burn was 357, giving a estimated smolt production of 4.05 per 100m2 wetted area.

With the run continuing in the Avon we intend to operate those traps until the end of May at least – looks like another weekend away from the fishing then!

At the quarterly Spey Foundation meeting today we heard about low smolt trap counts from other parts of Scotland, not all of which were as badly affected by the “Bertha” spate in August last year. I will get some figures from other areas before the final blog on the smolt traps for this spring.

Some graphs below for you to ponder.

Avon salmon smolt catch related to 9am river level.

Avon salmon smolt catch related to 9am river temperature.

Avon salmon smolt catch related to river level

Avon salmon smolt catch related to river level

Avon trout catch related to river temperature

Avon trout catch related to river temperature

Avon trout catch related to river height

Avon trout catch related to river height

 

 

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