Fiddich redd count (interim)

I did an interim redd count on a section of the Fiddich recently. I use the term interim as we counted this stretch a week or two later last year, another visit will be made if time permits.

The Fiddich rose slightly the day before the count and there was a tinge of colour but it was still easy enough to count redds. The wee rise had stimulated more spawning activity and there were quite a few fish on redds. I had previously heard from Andy Logan that there was more activity than last year so it was good to get some figures on record.

A Fiddich redd, unmistakable tis year due to the algal growth on the substrate - there hasn't been a spate in the lower catchment for weeks, if not months.

Fiddich redds, unmistakable this year due to the algal growth on the substrate – there hasn’t been a spate in the lower Spey catchment for weeks, if not months. No confusing that big redd in the background for anything other than a salmon redd.

Last years redd count  (it is undertaken between two specific points) resulted in a count of 36 redds. This year, to date, there were 66 in the same part of the river. A good increase with a mixture of grilse and big salmon spawning and still time for more. In the equivalent blog last year I mentioned that there were clusters of up to three redds, well this year there were groups of 6/7 in several locations. Some fish seen spawning in areas previously used; better watch out –  almost used the “O” word there!

Click here for a short video of a pair on a redd with my dog showing great interest, I don’t think he could see the fish but I’m sure he can smell them!

Steve and myself will be out several days during the next week to count some other areas (weather permitting), if anyone would like to join us just get in touch.

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Livet redd counts

Following the hatchery visit this morning Steve and myself proceeded uphill to complete redd counts in two sections of the Livet. By the time we got there the rain had started but then a dreich, snowy late November day is to be expected for redd counting. Despite the overhead conditions everything else was okay for the task at hand although the river was starting to rise and colour at the end.

Typical excellent mixed juvenile and spawnign habitta in the upper middle Livet. there were about six redds in the frame. four on the top left and two in a channel on the right hand side.

Redd counting is an excellent way to see the river and its character. This photo shows the typical excellent mixed juvenile and spawning habitat found in the upper middle Livet. In the shot there were about six redds, four in the light coloured patch top left and two in a channel just off to the right.

One of many dead cock salmon seen, this particular on would have been a double figure fish in his prime.

One of many dead cock salmon seen, this particular one would have been a double figure fish in his prime.

We counted two sections today, although they were contiguous. The lower section count was 82 salmon and 47 trout redds, a satisfactory count in a stretch 2.1km long.  When I say satisfactory I mean that the egg deposition would be in excess of the hypothetical conservation limit target (7/m2) although that figure may be subject to change during the development of what may become actual conservation limits.

One difficulty with redd counting in a river like the Livet is differentiating between salmon and sea trout redds as both are present in numbers and there is considerable overlap in fish size. Normally features such as size, profile, position in channel, substrate and freshness of the redd provide an indication of species but we saw one or two pairs of spawning salmon today cutting little redds that looked like those we assumed to be trout! Redd counting in a mixed area like this is not easy. Some areas which had been used by sea trout in late October now featured freshly cut gravel indicating some utilisation of the same spawning locations by both species.

The lower section ended at the confluence with the Cromie Water, a productive Livet tributary. We back-tracked a little and found that the lower Crombie was full of redds, mostly old along with some of more recent vintage.

The lower Crombie Water is quite different in character to the Livet, more stable looking with martginal weeds. The substrate was darker but ideal for spawning.

The lower Crombie Water is quite different in character to the Livet, more stable looking with marginal weeds. The substrate was darker but, in this section, absolutely ideal for spawning. To summarise our understanding the Crombie is a great sea trout burn with a few salmon and in its upper reaches supports a prolific juvenile trout population almost to the exclusion of its larger (usually) brethren.

The upper Livet stretch redd count amounted to 69 salmon and 65 trout. Another good total with some live salmon seen and many dead cocks. The only previous redd counts available from those stretches date from 1993/4 when the counts were of similar magnitude to those recorded today.

The rain today, and snow melt, will rule out redd counting in the upper catchment for a day or two but we hope to be out in a lower tributary tomorrow – assistance always welcome!

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Speyburn redd count

Steve and I slotted in a quick redd count in the Broad Burn (a.k.a. Speyburn) after lunch (or more accurately during lunch) today. Broad Burn is one of several tributaries of the Rothes Burn, all of which are very productive, just a pity they weren’t all accessible, although one day they will be. Broad Burn itself is now accessible thanks to the installation of the fish pass by Speyburn Distillery, a key sponsor of the Spey Foundation.

The installation of the fish pass was covered extensively on this blog during the summer so this was the first spawning season with proper fish passage for a long time.

The water was quite peaty today after the recent rain/snow melt but the redds were quite easily counted.

The water was quite peaty today after the recent rain/snow melt but the redds were quite easily identified and counted. The Broad Burn is a lovely spawning burn with a good variety of habitat. It was a bit of a scramble in places to get over fallen trees etc but the habitat is even better for that.

Between the road and the distillery (distance of 450m with an average width of 5m) we counted 20 redds in total, 9 of which we thought were salmon with 11 trout (sea trout) redds. Above the new fish pass we counted 22 redds all of which we recorded as sea trout. One or two we weren’t sure about but we are always conservative with the redd counts however it wouldn’t surprise me if there were a couple salmon redds there, certainly some looked large enough. It would have been nice to have seen and identified a salmon but the fish we did observe were all sea trout. Fish seen included the rear half of a male; the remains of an otter kill, a single live sea trout and a pair spawning.

A video of the sea trout cutting its redd can be seen here on our Vimeo webpage.

All in all a very successful visit to the Speyburn. It was satisfying to confirm (again!) that the fish pass is working and we look forward to the electrofishing next summer so that it can be established for certain which species were involved.

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Upper Fiddich redd count

More accurately this section should be described as the upper, middle reaches of the Fiddich; salmon go a lot further up than the stretch we counted today. Incidentally someone asked last night for the origin of the term “redd”. I was stumped but a quick internet search suggested that it was originally a verb meaning to “put in order; tidy” or “to clear” see http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/redd  (other web references are available). I can see the connection with a fish cleaning or preparing the gravel ready for the eggs, or as someone else suggested, a clean area of gravel! In Ayrshire spawning was referred to as “redding”, a more literal use of the term.

Today Steve and I were joined by Ian, who fortunately for him, lives almost on the banks of the Fiddich. We counted this stretch on the 2nd Dec last year but in 2015 the weather was befitting the first day of winter with lying snow and sleet falling; last year it was a beautiful autumn-like day.

The stretch counted starts where the Cabrach road crosses the Fiddich. This year there were 4 or 5 redds immediately below the bridge (always good vantage point), a good start.

Typical Fiddich salmon redd

Typical Fiddich salmon redd

Very few fish were seen, just the odd cock fish, the spawning was effectively over. As with all the middle and lower Spey tributaries differentiating between salmon and sea trout redds is tricky but we tried to be quite critical today.

This one was a unanimous salmon redd: all three judges agreeing

This one was a unanimous salmon redd: all three judges agreeing!

The 2015  count was impressive; 139 salmon redds with 49 counted as trout redds. This compares with 57 salmon and 4 trout redds in 2014. I suspect we were harder on the identification of the redds today but the total count was definitely three times higher than last year. The 2015 count also compares favourable with others in the longer dataset. The highest count was 480 in 1993 but that was a combined count including the downstream section as far as the Dullan mouth, I suspect that count would also have included both trout and salmon redds.

Habitat quality in this stretch of the Fiddich generally good, there is bankside grazing but not too intense with riparian trees almost throughout.

There was a cracking root ball on this alder, I wonder how much longer it will last?

There was a cracking root ball on this alder;  how much longer can it last?

A new channel where the Fiddich has meandered through the riparian wood.

In a few places the Fiddich had cut new channels, or more accurately reopened paleo-channels. In the photo above a relatively new channel was becoming established where the Fiddich has meandered into the alder wood.

There endeth my redd counting for 2015, the spate that is bound to follow this mild evening will flatten many of the redds making counting more difficult. Still it was good to be impressed by the number of redds in the Spey at last!

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