It was a bit dull and dreich today after so many beautiful days but with river levels still low we took the opportunity to walk a section in the middle reaches of the River Dulnain to assess the spawning activity. Joining us for the day were the Delfur ghillies and a film crew filming a documentary on the River Spey for japanese television.
We split into two groups so that we could cover more ground and hopefully locate spawning fish for the film crew. It is always good when you come across a redd immediately on arrival at the river but that was the case in the lower section, and it set the tone for the rest of the morning. This particular area of the Dulnain has superb habitat, see here for an earlier blog, with a great variety of spawning, fry, parr and holding water. Nearly every area of good spawning habitat had been used with many easy to identify complete redds visible in the low and clear water.
We saw a lot of fish; large and small, with some great spawning activity.
Most of the fish were very clean with little or no fungus just the odd exception. Despite the high numbers of fish on the redds, and the number of complete redds, we found no otter kills. The few dead fish found were intact but covered in fungus.
Our Gopro video was deployed on one redd where five fish were present. However 2 hours of footage only produced a few short scenes with a number of different cock fish approaching the camera – this wildlife filming is harder than it looks!
The river was low, and has been so for a number of weeks with just the occasional small rise in water levels. Consequently most of the redds were in low water sites – fast runs or in tails of pools with faster flows, although not all, some fish must have taken advantage of the short rises to spawn in what were now slower flows.
At lunchtime it was clear that we had seen more activity than Steve and the film crew so after lunch I took them back downstream where they deployed their underwater cameras in some areas of good activity; hopefully they were more successful than I was in filming spawning activity.
The Delfur guys headed further upstream after lunch but we met on the way home. Their report from the upper section was good with about 40 redds recorded and many fish seen. Amazingly they also reported seeing a farmed fish on the redds! The farmers tail, which was showing above the surface, attracted their attention and they were able to confirm it as a farmer on closer inspection.
As always it was another great day out redd counting. I had walked this bit of the Dulnain before so the quality of the habitat was no surprise but I was impressed by the stock of spawning fish. It was good to be able to share such a day with the Delfur ghillies who I am pretty sure were equally impressed.