Steve and myself, accompanied by a local photographer interested in salmon, headed for the upper Avon (A’an) today to check on the spawning activity. This was the same trip as we had made three years ago although on the 24th Oct, a week earlier.
The first port of call was the Burn of Loin a productive high altitude tributary of the A’an.
Typical habitat in the upper Loin. It is quite a mobile burn, a trait accentuated by the big spate last year although it didn’t look too dissimilar to what we had seen in 2012.
There were redds visible from the start on our walk with fish present on some. James deployed his Gopro underwater cameras at the first two locations where we found actively spawning fish; hopefully he will have got some good footage. In total we walked 2.8km counting 67 salmon redds and 21 which we thought we more likely made by sea trout; although we didn’t see any live sea trout today, almost all the fish which we could identify were grilse with the occasional larger salmon. In the middle reaches every bit of spawning gravel had been turned over.
In the middle reaches of the Loin almost every inch of suitable spawning gravels had been turned over, including this well ploughed patch.
A grilse on a Loin redd.
This was the only positive sighting of a sea trout today; a dead one on the bank. Presumed to be an otter kill although each end appears to have been sucked rather than chewed?
Last year we noted that whilst the nearby Builg Burn held mainly spawning two sea winter salmon the Loin fish were mainly small grilse. It was the same this year. Still they were present in good numbers and we were more than satisfied that the egg deposition target would have been more than met in the Loin.
In addition to the redds count the bird count included one eagle, several dippers and of all things a goosander!
Satisfied with the Loin we headed upstream to the upper A’an. I blogged about the 2012 trip to the same area see here so it was going to be interesting to see what was about this year. We got to the end of the road at 1220, grabbed a quick sandwich then headed upstream to take advantage of the good light. As in 2012 we found redds immediately next to the bothy, although if anything there seemed to be more fish and redds in that area this year.
There were four identifiable redds in this area with five fish in attendance, a good level of activity for such high altitude.
In 2012 we found a “mega redd” where large rocks had been dislodged. Well we found the same this year. These two excavations midstream (white patches above centre) involved moving rocks up to 8″ diameter. It is almost unbelievable that salmon could move such material but what else would dig holes in the river bed at 2000ft?
This photo was taken in a side channel just below where the Allt Coire Ruairidh joins the A’an. There were two redds in this fine patch of spawning gravel with a cock grilse on guard; it was exactly the same in 2012, check out the link provided above.
The Allt Coire Ruairidh confluence. There were four redds in this frame, two in the foreground and two behind the grassy island, a nice wee cluster at over 2000ft altitude.
30 salmon redds were recorded in 2.7km of river, a much lower density than in the Loin but the upper A’an is considerably higher and considerably less productive. In 2012 we counted 25 redds but saw less fish than today, albeit a week earlier. This part of the upper A’an is maybe on the very limit of salmon survival in terms of altitude and lack of productivity. Again we were happy with what we saw.
Contrary to the forecast the weather improved during the day with the clouds clearing to reveal a beautiful autumn afternoon light. The low sun really highlighting the fantastic glacial features of the terrain.
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