Season Review 2016.

As we approach the opening of the 2017 season, I thought it might be fun to look back to the 2016 season

The season opened with the traditional Opening Ceremony at Aberlour. There were two fish caught on opening day, both from Delfur, and both by local angler Graham Ritchie. Graham will have the honour of pouring the whisky into the river this year’s opening ceremony.


The Spey is always a river that starts slowly, February has never been a great month for catches and the records suggest an average of around fifty fish is normal, but considering that not all beats are actually let or fished things are not too bad.


March shows a definite improvement but this would be expected, the days are getting longer, and warmer but let us not forget that we are talking of the Scottish Highlands so warmer and longer have to be taken in some sort of perspective. There are always some days lost to floods caused by snowmelt or heavy rain. Last year the monthly catch was just over the one hundred mark, about two thirds of the average.


April showed as it often does definite improvement although the weather was not perfect, I still remember a wonderful morning at Delfur in late April when I landed two fish and lost another as the snow showers were driven upstream by a strong Northerly wind. Would I have swapped it for sitting in front of a warm fire, no!

The river finished with just over four hundred fish almost spot on the average.


Where else would any salmon angler want to be in May but on the river Spey? Temperatures are rising, the birds have returned from their winter holidays and have paired up, the trees are green and the valley is alive. It is time to get rid of the sinking lines and big flies and concentrate on smaller flies and lines that cast more easily. With the flies fishing closer to the surface you can also get a visual notification of the fish taking. Catches, by now catches were starting to build, word was out the Spey was fishing well! The month finished with just over one thousand fish and again slightly above average.


June, another month in which there is nowhere better in the whole world to be. It is not only the quantity of the fish but also the quality. The majority of the fish are into double figures, some in the high teens and the odd one around the twenty-pound mark. These fish do not give up easily and it is not unusual to see the backing on your reel from time to time. Last year I noted more days were lost to flood in June than in March but even so it was one of the best Junes since the fifties. The Spey ended up with just shy of two and a half thousand fish for the month. This is almost a thousand up on the average.


In July after the excellent last two months expectations were high. Some who should have known better were getting carried away and predicting bumper catches. Those who have been salmon fishing all their lives were less effervescent. If the grilse had turned up in any strong numbers, the former would have been correct but as they didn’t the pessimists were proved right. The river finished July with just about seventeen hundred fish landed. A little above the average, but after June a little disappointing!


August continued the trend. The numbers of fresh fish entering the river was not as it was in years gone by. However visiting anglers could not be disappointed everywhere they looked they could see fish, every pool was stuffed with them but they did not seem to be greatly interested in taking a fly. The weather did not help, the river stayed low, in fact August was the first time since the start of the season that there were no spates. The final tally was close to thirteen hundred fish someway below on the average.


September continued the same pattern. Anglers commentating that they had never seen so many fish in the river, surely a great sign for the future of the Spey. The weather stayed benign, great for the farmers taking in their harvests but not so great for the visiting angler. It was the last week of the season before there was a significant rise in the water; most beats showed a flurry of activity but after such a great season September was something of an anti-climax. Catches were around seven hundred and fifty.

The post Season Review 2016. appeared first on Spey Fishery Board.

Spey Fishery Board

Wild Fisheries Review

As many will know in January this year the Scottish Government announced that there would be a review of the management of Scotland’s wild freshwater fisheries. Andrew Thin, ex-chair of SNH, was appointed to lead the review and he has been a busy man since. Over 50 meetings have been held since the review started in March with a number of regional meetings including one for the Moray coast area this week in Elgin. This review has the potential for delivering significant change to the freshwater fisheries management in Scotland so about time for a brief update on what I have heard about progress so far.

Firstly it is looking very likely that District Salmon Fishery Boards will soon be consigned to history. At the moment salmon fishery management in Scotland is almost entirely undertaken by the Boards in conjunction with or alongside the Fishery Trusts/Foundation etc., with limited input from the governemnt or their public agencies. It is clear that the government think that the current is not appropriate with the review featuring in the last SNP election manifesto. In place of the Salmon Fishery Boards new organisations will evolve. Possibly to be known as FMOs (Fishery Managment Organisation) they will be locally or regionally based with staff and a management board. The review panel is even discussing training for managment board members!

The FMOs will deliver most of the functions of the current fishery boards and trusts but with an all-species remit. The FMOs will have to demonstrate that they have the capacity to deliver all that is expected if they are to receive funding. The much maligned salmon assessment system looks as if it might get a reprieve, although it will be collected centrally rather than by the boards. Rod licences (pole tax) have been mooted although that will be a hard sell in Scotland!

It also looks as if the old title of “Commissioner” ( Salmon King is a snappier title ) is going to get a dusting down with the establishment of a top team housed within government to ensure that its policy is delivered. No doubt the great and good are already jostling for position but with the right person appointed this could be a good development. A central top tier will inevitably mean some central control of various aspects which might not be a bad thing but without a great deal of devolution (dare I say independence) for the FMOs the system will not work. This will be the tricky part; balancing the inevitable central influence with the committment that can only come from locally empowered people.

The end of the proprietorial dominance of the fishery boards looks certain with the promise of more diverse representation on the FMO management boards. There is talk about the tourism sector, angling clubs, community groups, local authorities, SEPA etc, all having a seat on the board. Of course some of the more inclusive boards already have broad representation (including our own) but for others this will be a revolution.

When this all started I did wonder if this review was just politically driven but it is actually starting to look quite promising. I work for a Fishery Board/Foundation so there are obviously uncertainties to consider but 150 years on maybe it is time for a radical review of how we manage what should be one of our most important national assets.

Of course this is all just based on what I have read or heard and it is a pretty dynamic process albeit with a clear direction of travel now. If accepted by the government the review report will still have to get through parliament where it could be subject to change. If not taken forward by the government the “Thin report” could just end up like other similar reviews in the past; collecting dust on the library shelf.

The review team have communicated very well and there is a lot of information of the Scottish government website (see here). For the latest monthly newsletter click here. It is well worth keeping up to speed with the review progress.

Spey Fishery Board