Week Commencing 21st May.

Last weeks weather forecast was fairly accurate, I hope this weeks is totally wrong as they are predicting hot sunny weather for the start of the week, temperatures reaching low twenties, this is Speyside, not Spain. On the bright side there might be a little rain on overnight Wednesday night Thursday morning. Not ideal salmon fishing conditions. Tides are building till Thursday.


Last week I said I had yet to see a swift this season, on Monday I saw two, then on Tuesday the sky was full of them. My House Martins still have not arrived, but Tony Smith tells me his have just turned up in Elgin so there is hope yet. My Blue tits have started hatching I happened to see the first chick hatch on Saturday night, just as the male bird had popped in with a caterpillar. They are ugly little brutes.

1st hatching between the parents.

Ugly pink beasts.


Catches, the river picked up a bit last week.

Ian Tennant tells me Gordon Castle had six salmon and six seatrout last week.

Gordon Castle.

Gordon Castle.

Gordon Castle.

Delfur had a few, thanks to Mark for the pictures.

Neil Cameron Delfur.

Lewis Grant Delfur.

Rothes had a better week than of late with eight landed, 4 sea-liced and and four slightly older fish, Mike tells me.

Arndilly had five, Ewan, tells me it was fun week with a fish for Richard, and George Hollinbery, Sarah Clarke and Philip Wilbraham.

I had a day with the Gordon Group at Upper Arndilly, luckily on Tuesday when overheads were good, Kevin James and I were both lucky enough to get a fish apiece.

11lb Upper Arndilly.

Aberlour Angling club had a fish for George Aitken.

George Aitken Aberlour.

Carron had a better week with three landed, thanks to Ian Borthwick for the pictures.

Wayne Coomber Carron.

Tom Chantler Carron.

Andrew Whelan Carron

Grantown or should that be the Davies family had four, dad Nigel had three on Friday then on Saturday his son Steven (12) had his first salmon, all from the Dulnain mouth pool.The sea trout catches are starting to build.

Steven Davies 1st fish Grantown.

Abernethy, Stuart  Voce tells me

Monday two seatrout for me at 6lb and 5lb.

Tuesday one for Carl Mac Gilvray at 6lb.

Thursday one salmon for Johnnie Gordon at 6lb.

Nothing from the night fishers.


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Week Commencing 26th March 2018.

Last week’s forecast was accurate. The precipitation was of snow on higher ground. The river level fell away nicely as the week progressed. Next weeks forecast is to be another chilly week with temperatures struggling to reach above 4C. There will be some rain midweek. Thursday is forecast to be the sunniest of the week, but still chilly.

The tides peak on Monday evening and there will be no new water for the rest of the week.


I wonder if the sand martins will turn up this week, or will the cold weather keep them away? No sign of an osprey on the river either though they have been seen locally.


I am pleased to be able to report fresh fish from Knockando to the sea. I am fairly sure that this week doubled the Spey’s 2018 catch.


The Knockando fish was caught by one of the instructors helping with the RSAA ladies two days.

Gordon castle had a fresh fish from Beat 4 caught by Alex Robertson the new beat 4 gillie. Well-done Alex.

Gillie Alex Robertson Beat 4.

I hear that Orton had a couple of fish early in the week and were seeing plenty of fish running through.

Delfur finished with seven, though Wednesday was special with five landed. Mark tells me the east wind and cold weather made the end of the week difficult.

Jamie Hammond Delfur.

Alasdair Bell Delfur.

Rothes had six and a seven-pound sea-trout. Thanks to Robbie Stronnach for the pictures.

Gus McCrae Rothes.

Graeme Davies Rothes.

Ed Rennie Rothes 7lb Seatrout.

Robbie with Andrew Robertson’s fish Rothes.

Author Iain Ogden’s party had six from Arndilly . Iain kindly sent me a couple of pictures.

Malcom Smith Arndilly.

Gerry Kelly Arndilly.

Aberlour Angling Club had a couple, Jim Sivewright and Stuart Wilson. I heard Lower Wester Elchies had their first of the season and Macallan had another but have no more details.

Jim Seivwright Aberlour Angling Club.

Kinermony had three, Mike Broadey showing the way as team leader.

Tom Robinson Kinermony

Mike Broadey Kinermony.

Mike Broadey Kinermony Again

Wester Elchies also had three, starting with two on Monday and another on Saturday.

Delagyle fished by the Gordon Angling Group could only manage one.

Christain Christensen’s party had three from Laggan.

Steiner Chrisensen Laggan.

Tomas Larsen Laggan

Jon Asle Sjolli 1st ever salmon Laggan.

I was disappointed that Grantown have yet to have a fresh fish but heard rumours of a fresh one lost at Kinchurdy.

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Week Commencing 19th March 2018.

This coming week will be another change in the weather, the warm(ish) spell will disappear to be replaced with another cold one. Mid weeks temperatures will struggle to remain positive. There will be some precipitation, but whether it is rain or snow only time will tell. I predict the river will fall away with cold night-time temperatures. The tides are building all week. Hopefully there will be some more fish coming on the new tides.


Although the salmon are slow in returning the birds are already here. Both pied and grey wagtails are pairing up on the riverbank. I had an enjoyable morning at Delfur with the skylark singing away. The lapwings and curlews are pairing up around Aberlour.


Catches. Well there were a few, not as many as I would like.

I hear that Fochabers Angling Association had their first of the season.

Orton had a couple.

Lewis Thom and Richard Orton.

and Richard Maclean had one on Saturday.

Easter Elchies and Upper Arndilly got their seasons underway with one from the former and two from the latter.

Orn with Sandy Scott’s fish Easter Elchies

I hear Macallan had another, and that’s about it.


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2017 electrofishing report

A bit later than normal but the Spey Fishery Board Electrofishing report for 2017 has now been published. The report can be accessed from the following link

Spey 2017 Electrofishing report

If you have any questions please get in touch via the comments or directly to research@speyfisheryboard.com

The report summary is provided below:

• The 2017 cohort of salmon fry was strong with high fry counts/densities across most of the catchment.
• The salmon fry index results from the Spey mainstem were the highest in the series which runs from 2012 to 2017.
• Downstream of Spey Dam all but two of the salmon fry index site results were in the moderate to very good categories.
• Upstream of Spey Dam salmon fry were widely distributed and the fry counts were the second highest since 2012. A very strong correlation between salmon fry in one year and parr in the next was demonstrated.
• In contrast to the fry the 2017 1+ salmon parr cohort is weak with low counts in the Spey mainstem and in many of the larger tributaries.
• Salmon fry counts in the Avon catchment were found to have recovered well after the very low counts recorded in 2016, although parr counts remain low. This was a consistent finding across most parts of the catchment and is considered to be a consequence of redd washout during Storm Frank.
• Salmon fry index surveys were completed in the River Calder for the first time.
• In the Fiddich salmon fry densities were similar to 2014 but the parr densities were lower. A recovery in parr densities is expected in 2018 due to the strong 2017 fry year class.
• In the upper reaches of the Fiddich salmon fry abundance, and range, recovered fully after the very low 2016 figures.
• In the Feshie some sites were not surveyed due to high water levels. Where surveyed the overall pattern was similar to elsewhere with fry densities up but parr down.
• In the Tromie catchment several the sites demonstrated improving juvenile salmon densities, and in the most peripheral site, salmon were present again after being absent in 2014.
• In the Calder the juvenile densities were low, despite what was considered to be benign overwinter conditions. Low abundance of spawning adults is considered to be a factor. Carrying capacity may also be reduced due to the increasing incidence of extreme flows.
• Salmon and trout parr densities in the burns were found to be very stable in comparison to 2014 with virtually identical average densities.
• The average salmon parr density in the stocking monitoring sites was the highest recorded, primarily due to good results in the Tommore and Knockando burns. Increased smolt production is anticipated from the Tommore Burn in 2018.

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SFB March Briefing

The first Spey Fishery Board Briefing for the 2018 season has now been published. The March Briefing is available to download and read here.  This month’s issue includes the following:

  • New Salmon Season Begins on the Spey
  • 2017 Season Report
  • Pupils Hooked on Salmon in the Classroom
  • Spey Catchment Initiative Project Officer
  • Scottish Invasive Species Initiative (SISI) Project Officer

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Spey Salmon Fishing Season Officially Opened

The Salmon Fishing season was officially opened on the River Spey on a bright sunny morning. About 200 people gathered at by Penny Bridge in Aberlour to watch the traditional ceremony which was opened by the Lord Lieutenant of Moray, Lt.-Col Grenville Johnston OBE OStJ TD. A blessing was given by Rev. Bob Anderson and a bottle of Aberlour Single Malt Whisky was poured into the fast flowing River Spey to bring luck to those in pursuit of the elusive spring salmon by last year’s Anniversary Quaich Winner, Evelyn Glass. The Spey Fishery Board would like to thank Aberlour Distillery, Walkers Shortbread and Aberlour Bespoke Catering for their generous continued support.

SFB Director, Roger Knight (Centre) welcomes everyone to the Opening Ceremony accompanied by Lt. Col Grenville Johnston OBE OStJ TD (Right) and Rev. Bob Anderson (Left).

Last year’s Anniversay Quaich winner, Evelyn Glass pours Aberlour whisky into the spey accompanied by Alan Sinclair, Piper and Lt. Col. Grenville Johnson watched by many keen anglers, ghillies and visitors.

Above – Piper, Alan Sinclair 



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Run timing changes: evidence from netting catches on Tweed and Spey

Despite the onset of social media the river reports in the Trout & Salmon magazine are still an important source of information and there are usually some revealing insights into thinking across the country. I note for example that this month the Tweed correspondent is still hanging on to some hope that the back-end run will re-appear this year. History suggests that he will be disappointed.

As evidence to support that assertion I am going to present below a series of slides showing the catches from the Sandstell netting station, which was operated at the mouth of the Tweed and the Raik nets on the Spey. The Raik nets were mainly net & cobble nets which operated in the lower few miles of the Spey mainstem. But before presenting those catches here is a graph showing the Spey rod catch split into spring salmon (to end of May), summer salmon and grilse from 1952 to 2017 (Data from Marine Scotland Science and Spey Fishery Board (since 2002)).

Trends in Spey rod catch 1952 to 2017. The most stable component of the stock has been the summer salmon. The spring catch passes all three NASCO tests with 2016 and 2017 well up the list of recent catches. It was only the wet September of 2017 that saved the autumn component from failing all three tests. This failure of tests 2 & 3 show that the reduction in the autumn catch is not a recent phenomenon. The reduction in the autumn catch is mainly as a result of the decline in the grilse catch. There is a difference of almost 3,000 between the recent five year average grilse catch and the peak of the early 1990s.

The collapse of the spring catch in 1981 was matched with an upsurge in the grilse catch. The grilse catch exceeded the spring salmon catch from 1982 until 2009. It is as if they can’t be in the same room at the same time. [/caption]

Below are the decadal catches from the Tweed and Spey netting stations with the catches split into salmon and grilse and expressed as a percentage of the total by month. The whole series will be presented one after the other with additional comment at the end. The Tweed catches are shown in the left graph and the Spey on the right. The sequence starts in the 1850s and ends in the 1980s.

There are some minor differences between the two rivers but the overall pattern is similar over a period of 140 years. The most noticeable change is the dominance of spring catches in the 1920 and 1930s. There was evidence of an increasing spring catch from 1900 and this lasted until the 1950s. This increase in the spring catch was offset with a decline in the grilse catch. This shows that when changes in run timing occur they tend to be long lasting and, based on this analysis, occur over large geographical areas. Tony George in his seminal PhD on cyclical changes in run timing in Scotland considered that the rivers from the Findhorn to the Tweed followed the same trends concurrently and this analysis supports that.

When I was making these graphs it occurred to me that whilst the Spey Raik net catches in the Spey in the 1970s showed low spring catches the spring rod catches in the 1970s were great (see below and first graph).

Until I had completed this analysis I was working under the impression that it was the nets that provided the best sample of the run and that the rod catch was biased for a variety of reasons. The netting effort data shows that in 1972 there was a 25% reduction in the number of crews operating in the spring months and this maintained until the 80s. This 25% reduction in effort is likely to have had a lesser impact on catches as no doubt the least profitable crew/station would have been cut first. What I take from this is that if you want to understand the characteristics of the run at any particular time you have to utilise all the data available.

Salmon run timing changes occur in a predictable cyclical way (or at least it has until now).
When changes occur they can last for decades.
The main change is a swing in the relative proportions of spring salmon and grilse, the two are never present in abundance at the same time.
These changes occur over large geographical areas at similar times, although there are always differences from river to river.
We have been losing the grilse run for a number of years; there will be year to year variation, but based on historical evidence there is little prospect of an upturn in grilse catches in the the immediate future.
The stage is set now, will the spring run deliver?

Thanks to Dr. Ronald Campbell, Tweed Foundation, for access to the Tweed nets data.

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Salmon Fishing Opening Day 2018

Join us to celebrate the Official Opening of the Salmon Fishing Season on Monday 12th February at 9:00am at Penny Bridge, Alice Littler Park in Aberlour.  To celebrate the Annual opening of the salmon fishing season the Spey Fishery Board is pleased to announce that the Lord Lieutenant of Moray, Lt.- Col. Grenville Johnston OBE OStJ TD will be our guest of honour.

It will begin with the traditional pouring of a bottle of Aberlour 16 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky into the fast flowing waters of the River Spey, a gesture to wish the salmon good health and to herald the official opening of the salmon fishing season for 2018. This will be performed by last year’s winner of the Spey Anniversary Quaich, Evelyn Glass.

To complete the ceremony Rev. Bob Anderson will bless the river and Alan Sinclair will perform on the bagpipes.

Anglers are invited to attend the opening ceremony, before starting on their quest to catch their first Spring Salmon of the season.  To help celebrate the start of the new salmon fishing season, drams of Aberlour 16 Year Old Single Malt Whisky, samples of Walkers Shortbread and hot drinks supplied by Aberlour Bespoke Catering will be offered during the opening ceremony.  The Spey Fishery Board is grateful to the Aberlour distillery and Walkers Shortbread for their continued generous sponsorship of this event and also to Aberlour Bespoke Catering for their support.

The ‘Spey Anniversary Quaich’ will be awarded to the angler who catches the first salmon on the opening day, together with a bottle of Aberlour 18 year old Single Malt Whisky and a Walkers Shortbread hamper. The angler who lands the heaviest Salmon on opening day will receive a bottle of Aberlour 18 year old Single Malt Whisky and a Walkers Shortbread hamper.  For the ghillies in attendance, each will receive a bottle of Aberlour A’bunadh and a Walkers Shortbread hamper.

Official Competition Rules for the Spey Anniversary Quaich

Fish must be caught by use of fly only, must be fresh run, released back to the river, and any catch must be verified by the ghillie in attendance.

Anniversary Quaich:

Awarded to the angler who catches the first salmon on the opening day.

Heaviest Salmon:

Awarded to the angler who catches the heaviest salmon.

Please note the Heaviest Salmon prize cannot be won by the Anniversary Quaich winner.

If the Anniversary Quaich winner (first fish) is also the heaviest, then the heaviest prize would go to the second heaviest fish caught.

If there is only 1 fish caught on the opening day the heaviest fish prize would go to the captor of the 2nd fish caught later in the week.

Registering Catch for prize:

All catches must be reported to Spey Fishery Board, I Nether Borlum, Knockando, AB38 7SD, by 5.00 p.m. on the opening day. Tel:  01340 810841.

The prizes will be awarded at Aberlour Distillery, Aberlour at 5.30pm on opening day.

For further information please contact;

Spey Fishery Board Tel. 01340 810841



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Pink salmon egg trials

As readers will know non-native pacific ocean pink salmon (Onchorhynchus gorbuscha) appeared in numbers in many UK rivers this summer. The occasional pink salmon had turned up in Scotland in the past, including a single specimen caught in the lower Spey in 2015, but almost always in very low numbers. The origin of these strays is considered to be from stocking carried out in northern Russia (as far back as the 1950s). The initial stocking in Russian waters appeared to fail but from 1985 “odd year” spawning stock was introduced into rivers in the White Sea area. Self sustaining populations quickly developed resulting in an expansion into Finnish and Norwegian rivers soon after.

The most likely explanation for the widespread incursion in 2017 was that these northern Europe stocks had a very good year; this tendency to expand their range during a bumper year is a known feature of pink salmon ecology.

This blog is to report on the egg monitoring trials we were involved with in conjunction with Marine Scotland Science (MSS), and other rivers, but before that I will provide a brief summation of the situation on the Spey.

On the 10th July the first rod caught fish was reported from the lower Spey. Over the next few weeks another 10 or so rod caught fish were reported including as far upstream as Abernethy, over 80km from the sea.

A fresh run pink salmon caught in the lower Spey in July 2017

A cock pink salmon caught in the Spey at Abernethy, 81km from the sea, on the 17th July by Scott Bruce. As far as we are aware this is the furthest upstream that a pink salmon had been recorded in Scotland.

On the weekend of the 12th August pink salmon were reported to have been seen spawning in several rivers in the NE of Scotland and on the 14th August SFB staff counted ten pink salmon redds in the Spey below Fochabers with redds also reported by ghillies further upstream.

Pink salmon redd in lower Spey on the 14th August. Note the summer vegetation on the banks, a distinct change from the autumn foliage normally associated with salmon spawning in the Spey.

Following these reports of spawning a number of actions were taken by Government and fishery boards including redd destruction on some rivers. The Spey considered that it was important to gather data on the incubation of these eggs in the river which led to our participation in a national monitoring programme coordinated by MSS. This programme ended up rather limited in extend with only the Spey and the Ness able, or willing, to collect eggs from redds.

Prior to the eyed ova stage salmonid eggs are susceptible to disturbance with sharp movements such as knocks resulting in high mortality. We therefore had to wait until a sufficient period of time had elapsed after spawning for the eggs to reach the eyed stage. Subsequently on the 6th and 9th Spey we managed to excavate 200 live eggs from two redds in the river. These eggs were then placed in two secure incubators which were buried in the gravel on opposite sides of the river.

Pink salmon eyed eggs collected from redds in the Spey on the 9th Sept 2017. The eyes of the developing embryos can be seen clearly inside the eggs.

The incubators provided by MSS. The eggs were placed in the chamber on the chamber on the left. The incubator was then buried so that the other chamber remained just on the surface. A yellow temperature logger was also secured to the incubator to record the temperature within the riverbed gravel. Another temperature logger recorded the temperature at the surface.

One of these incubators was then lifted occasionally to check on the development of the eggs. On the 9th October, on the first inspection, we found that there were only 7 live alevins (out of 100 eggs) remaining in the incubator. The incubator was also full of sand, which may have contributed to the high mortality.

Some of the few surviving alevins recorded in the incubator one month after installation. To this date the mortality rate was 93%. A few dead eggs can be seen top right.

The surviving alevins were placed back in the incubator which was buried again in the gravel. On the next visit, on the 30th Oct, only five live alevins were found, the other two had died. However it was clear that the pink salmon alevins were developing well, and as expected given the relatively mild temperature regime of the Spey this autumn.

By the 30th Oct the alevins were developing well with pigmentation along the flanks, the yolk sacs getting smaller on each visit.

The next inspection on the 13th November found that the yolk sac absorption was almost complete on the most advanced alevin and they were developing the characteristic silvery pink sides.

A well advanced pink salmon alevin on the 13th November 2017.

The last and final visit to the incubators was made on the 27th November when it was found that there were only three live alevins with another recently deceased. The most advanced at this point were on the point of becoming fry as they had absorbed virtually all the yolk sac. The trials were terminated then but the alevins were virtually at the point of becoming fry (when they leave the gravel as free swimming fish and when they have to feed for themselves for the first time).

The remaining three pink salmon alevins at the end of the trial. The most advanced was ready to emerge as a free swimming fry. Note how thin the fry had become, an adaption to enable them wriggle up through the gravel when they are ready to emerge.

On closer inspection back at the office it was noted that the ventral slit on the most advanced fry was almost but not quite “zipped up”.

The yolk sac was virtually all gone with the skin of the alevin/fry closing to seal the underside of the belly.

The other, undisturbed incubator was also lifted on the 27th November. None of the 100 eggs placed in this incubator were found to have survived to the fry stage. There was no evidence on sand entering this incubator so the 100% failure rate was unexplained. The excavation of the eggs from the redds combined with the incubator may have contributed to the high mortality rate in the trial, or was this high mortality rate typical of that experienced by the other other pink salmon eggs in redds in the river? It was interesting to read that in the River Ness trials all the eggs died during incubation.

The temperature loggers associated with the trial were downloaded the same day. The temperature profile was one of almost continual decline (as expected during autumn) with the temperature falling from 14oC in early September to 2.5 by the end of the trial.

The readings from the surface temperature logger at the end of the trial.

So whilst we should be cautious about concluding too much about survival of the pink salmon eggs under natural Scottish river conditions we did learn a great deal about the development and incubation. It is clear that the pink salmon developed as expected, although perhaps taking a little longer than anticipated. We have still to download other temperature loggers in the area; when we do so we will have the full temperature regime during the entire period, from spawning to fry emergence. However, this is likely to be around 1100 degree days (e.g. 110 days at 10oC), which is longer than occurs in their native Pacific rivers range, probably a consequence of the declining temperature profile as opposed to the more natural decline followed by increase in the spring.

So there we have it, a UK first for the the Spey. As far as we are aware this is the first time that pink salmon eggs have been monitored to the fry stage in a UK river. The survival rate was very low, the incubation a little longer than anticipated, but the timing of spawning was months earlier than our own native Atlantic salmon. The key question now is whether those fry which do emerge will be able to make the transition from dependency on the resources provided by the mother through the yolk sac to feeding for themselves. They will emerge from the redds into a frigid and relatively barren River Spey. They are supposed to migrate immediately to the sea, where the temperature will be a little warmer but not exactly teeming with life at this time of year. However, this is the world’s most successful salmon species; we would be foolish to think that they will all perish.

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Spey Conservation Policy 2018

Scottish legislation requires that all salmon caught before the 1st April must be released.  In order to protect the integrity of the Spey stock and to maximise their spawning potential, the Spey Fishery Board’s policy is that all fish caught up to and including the 31st May should be released alive. A copy of the 2018 Spey Conservation policy can be downloaded here.

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