River Reports 2010
News Release from the Salmon & Trout Association.
26 November - Gagging of Scottish Government by Salmon farmers exposed through FOI.
A series of Freedom of Information requests on behalf of the Salmon and Trout Association (S&TA) has exposed how the Scottish Government made a policy u-turn in the face of pressure, including the threat of legal action, from the salmon farming industry. In March Marine Scotland informed the industry that it would be publishing details online of certain inspection reports on salmon farms relating in particular to sea lice infestations and fish escapes, carried out under the terms of the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act – given a ruling by the Scottish Information Commissioner that such information should be in the public domain.
The industry’s trade body, the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO), responded threatening Marine Scotland with legal action if any company’s business was “compromised” as a consequence. Marine Scotland then announced that it was “suspending the publication plan” and reviewing the situation in light of the issues raised by SSPO. In October Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham confirmed that no audits or inspections of fish farms had taken place since March 2010.
Guy Linley-Adams, the lawyer tasked with spearheading S&TA’s campaign to protect wild Atlantic salmon and sea trout from the negative impacts of aquaculture, commented: “The threat by the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation to bring claims for damages against Marine Scotland over publication of enforcement audits is, in my experience, unprecedented. On the one hand it shows just how confident the salmon growers are of their position in Scotland with respect to central government. On the other it is a clear indication of just how impotent the authorities are in the face of the salmon farmers’ bullying tactics.”
Paul Knight, S&TA CEO, said: “This saga gives the lie to Scottish Government’s contention that the salmon farming industry is properly and effectively regulated. It now appears that the industry is calling the tune and consequently there must be fundamental questions over the credibility of Scottish Government’s aquaculture policy and, indeed, its commitment to protecting wild Atlantic salmon and sea trout, two of Scotland’s iconic natural resources.”
Prominent amongst salmon farming companies opposing the publication of inspection reports in March was Loch Duart Ltd, which brands itself as the “Sustainable Salmon Company”. Loch Duart admitted to an escape of 4,000 farmed salmon from its Loch Laxford site in early November.
Mr Linley-Adams added: “Loch Duart is a prime example of why Marine Scotland’s inspection reports should indeed be in the public domain. The company has an abysmal record on fish escapes and is reported to have lost almost 60,000 in eight separate incidents in the last ten years. Perhaps it is understandable why it so keen to suppress certain inspection reports on its farms.”
Issued on behalf of the Salmon & Trout Association by Andrew Graham-Stewart (01863 766767 or 07812 981531). For further information contact Guy Linley-Adams on 01432 379093 or 07837 881219.
Extracts from correspondence between Marine Scotland and the salmon farmers (obtained under FOI)
From Neil Purvis, Fish Health Inspectorate Policy Manager, Marine Scotland to stakeholders (salmon farmers), 25 March 2010: “Since November 2008, the Fish Health Inspectorate has implemented a programme of audits in relation to the parasite (sea lice) and containment provisions of the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act 2007….This letter is to inform you that Marine Scotland will be publishing a summary of audit findings on our website www.frs-scotland.gov.uk and this page will be updated periodically as audits are conducted. The intention to publish this information has been made previously through meetings of the Ministerial Working Group for Scottish Aquaculture. In addition to a summary publication, if third party applications for the full details of audits are made then this information may be released.”
From Phil Thomas, Chairman of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation, to Rob Raynard (Director of the Aquaculture and Fish Health Programme within Marine Scotland Science) and Charles Allan (Head of the Fish Health Inspectorate within Marine Scotland Science), 30 March 2010: “If a company’s business is compromised, or if it loses business as a result of an MSS ‘audit’, there is every possibility it could seek legal redress on the grounds that the ‘audit’ is ‘not competent under statute’ or ‘not-accredited and is carried out by staff who are not qualified auditors’. Similarly, if you release audit information that contains any error, there is every prospect that a company will seek legal redress through the courts for material damage to its business.”
From Rob Raynard (Director of the Aquaculture and Fish Health Programme within Marine Scotland Science) to Phil Thomas, Chairman of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation, 9 April 2010: “The Scottish Information Commissioner has deemed that we do not have grounds to withhold information or the names of businesses where such information is generated under statute……..However, in light of the other issues that you raise we are suspending the publication plan until we have had the opportunity to fully investigate these and to consider with SG policy colleagues in Edinburgh.”
From Loch Duart Ltd to Neil Purvis (Marine Scotland Science), 30 March 2010: “Loch Duart Ltd does not agree to its audits being placed on the website….Inaccurate critical reports could destroy a company or its business and in such a case, what would the legal position be? We require a full and frank response to how a company might achieve financial redress before this proposal is brought to fruition.”
18 November 2010
I would like to share a couple of responses to the recent ludicrous EU grant of £100,000 to Scotland's largest salmon netting concern, in order to make it more efficient at catching fish. This grant has very obviously been supported throughout by the Scottish Govenrment and is quite honestly outrageous, especially given the current plight of our spring stocks. A very worrying reponse from Laksaskip, the Faroe Salmon Fishing Vessel Owners association and a few questions to be answered by Mr Lochhead from Mr Orri Vigfusson.
The Minister for Rural Affairs
The Scottish Parliament
Edinburgh EH99 1SP
Reykjavík November 18, 2010
As you may know, Scotland as part of the UK is the only EU member state that operates a policy of mixed-stock wild salmon fisheries along its coastline. Over the last two decades most of the salmon killed by Scottish netsmen are fish that have been spared by other states. These nations have voluntarily agreed to a moratorium on the netting and long-lining of wild salmon in order to allow more salmon to return to their natural spawning grounds.
Scotland, on the other hand, seems to be unable to grasp the obvious. The indiscriminate netting by Scottish netsmen produces a poor economic return from what should be one of Scotland’s most valuable resources. In addition to the needless damage done by commercial netting the poorly regulated fish farming industry has accelerated a decline in the stocks of wild salmon. Some would say that in this respect Scotland has a very impressive record of thoughtless economic and environmental vandalism.
During this period, the economic value of the angling industry to local rural communities has been a mere fraction of what it could have been if greater numbers of salmon were allowed to return to spawn in the rivers of their birth. It seems to me that your office has behaved recklessly in permitting your netsmen to kill more and more of diminishing resources (salmon, cod and mackerel).
Your government’s support for indiscriminate mixed-stock netting is outdated. It is universally condemned as being unsustainable by scientists and if it is allowed to continue it can only result in wiping out annual salmon runs.
The sad fact is this situation is quite unnecessary. The problem can be solved quite painlessly for the netsmen with the aid of compensation if they stop salmon fishing and assistance to re-equip their boats and gear so that they can switch their efforts to other and sustainable forms of fishing.
You should remember that the biomass of the Scottish salmon is created in the feeding grounds off the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland, where thankfully, Scotland and the EU have no jurisdiction. I would remind you that if you insist on continuing your current strategy the inevitable outcome will be disastrous whether the stocks begin to improve or deteriorate. If by some miracle your stocks begin to recover and the Scottish netting continued the commercial fishermen of these other countries would be entitled to take these extra salmon at sea as fair quotas. So the bulk of the extra fish would never return to the native rivers of Scotland and Norway.
The recent award of yet another huge EU grant to Scotland’s salmon netsmen raises a question. Why are you so intent on supporting a dying netting industry, especially when that industry is wrecking what remains of the wild stocks of salmon in so many rivers?
The Atlantic’s salmon stocks are international and need to be managed through international cooperation. But I assure you, Minister, I speak for many other salmon nations when I say we are appalled at having to witness the continuation of a Scottish salmon policy that has so little regard for the future.
11 November 2010
I attended the River Spey Anglers Association (RSAA) open meeting on Monday night where the results of their recent survey were revealed. A total of 165 surveys were completed which of course is only a very small representation of the number of anglers on the Spey, therefore in terms of numbers, very little significance can be placed upon their responses. Having said that, in my opinion had it been 1650 reponses instead of 165, I don't feel that the outcome would have been any different. There were a variety of subjects and rather than list them all here, I have attached a link below where you can read and dissect them, along with individuals comments.
Our local MSP & Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead was invited along and he answered a few questions whilst carefully evading others. A classic case of Modern Politics which we are all more than accustomed to!
Funnily enough Mr Lochhead made no mention of the announcement last week of a £100,000 EU grant to Scotland’s biggest salmon netting concern in order to make it more efficient at catching fish however, he did comment on the fact that Grey seals were on the decline in Scotland. He couldn't say geographically where, but an educated guess would be in the west coast where the Salmon stocks have and continue to decline in far greater numbers. Whatever your political view, this is yet another clear example of the fact that the protection and conservation of Wild Salmon by the Scottish Government is firmly at the bottom of a very long agenda.
There were a number of River Spey Board members present at the meeting, including the Director and Chairman. The main concern from the floor was their worry over the declining spring stock on the River Spey. There was a statement that ‘the spring stocks have been in decline since the 60’s’ however this was countered by one board member with figures from the RSB report – 2009. In his response he concluded that in actual fact there is not a decline – the numbers have remained pretty constant since 1982. Note - The RSB annual report, linked below which has a graphical view of all catch data doesn't factor in re-captures which have been estimated at between 10-20% for spring fish.
The board's overall view is that the 'decline' in the spring stock is an effect of the diminishing availability of good spawning habitat in the upper Spey, particularly between Loch Insch and Spey Dam, due to continued water abstraction. It was made clear by both the RSB director and the SEPA representative that water abstraction issues were going to continue to be a long drawn out process with no short term solution.
I have attached a link to the 2009 report below, where you can view or download it if you wish. Early indications are that the Spey catches for 2010 are slightly higher than that of last year and as soon as I get a breakdown of numbers, I will update the site.
Finally, bearing in mind everything I heard - I left with little confidence in the future of our spring stock and only one conclusion - If I believed in reincarnation, then I’d take my chances with the choice of a grey seal over that of a Spey Spring Salmon any day of the week!
Week ending 02 Oct.
The season ended with a timely rise in water, which was no surprise given the fluctuations over the whole of September. I will compile a more appropriate season review when I return from the Sun in Florida.
A few of the Ghillies got together for a time of fun last Sunday at Wardend Fishery. Of the 9 anglers taking part, all caught a number of fish, however none enough to beat but 12 year old Aaron Ewen, grandson of Rothes an Aikenway head ghillie Mike. Aaron taught us all a lesson by changing methods throughout the day and catching fish consistently wherever he went, often accompanied by a few complimentary ‘mutterings’ from onlookers. It’s fantastic to see such enthusiasm from a youngster and to cap it all, Aaron hinted that he’d rather be fishing than going on holiday - now that’s dedication! Additionally, I have it on good authority that Aaron is even better with a big rod and landed 6 Salmon this past season. A young ghillie in the making – watch this space!
Aaron Ewen with the Ghillies Shield. A very worthy winner.
I actually tend to stay away from the small fishery’s as a rule due to the fact that the fish are normally of mediocre quality at best, and often the anglers don’t pay enough respect for their quarry. I was however pleasantly surprised by the quality of the fish at Wardend, coupled with such tranquil surroundings. Ian MacDonald has got it just about right and hasn’t succumbed to the pressure of competitions or the stocking of larger – pig-like fish. The fish are transferred between conditioning ponds before stocking and every fish that I saw caught was in excellent condition. I would certainly recommend anyone keen on Trout fishing to pay a visit, where you will be cordially greeted in perfect surroundings.
Aaron Ewen accepts the shield with his students in the background!
Week ending 25th September.
Fishing conditions in September can only be described as variable at best and because if this I tend to only write fortnightly reports. With unsettled weather throughout the month, resulting in fluctuating river levels, catches were pretty sporadic There were however a number of entries in our Glenfarclas Fish of the Month competition, especially from those fortunate anglers catching their first ever salmon. Delfur in particular recently had a week where 6 different anglers all shared the experience of catching their first ever Salmon. Speyside Malt would have poured freely for the ghillies that week!
The Fochabers area have been waiting all year for their opportunity of sharing the spoils and the river didn’t disappoint. All the frustrations of Spring have been put on the back burner for the time being and the majority of rods are enjoying pretty consistent sport. Gordon Castle head ghillie Colin Reid is due to retire at the end of this season. When you have served on the river for as long as he has, your clients become far more than just that. Lifelong friendships have been formed over the years and I’m sure that although Colin’s guests will certainly miss his charm, guidance and experience he won’t be too far away to join them for a dram or two.
Delfur, Rothes and Arndilly have continued to fish well as has Craigellachie on the middle river. Craigellachie have now caught over 300 fish for their season and head ghillie Dougie Ross has been mighty thankful for the summer Grilse, with only 35 fish caught up until the end of May. Most beats have now caught up with or indeed overtaken their 5-year averages however, we have to remember that the River Spey built it’s reputation on Spring Fishing and we cannot be too complacent with numbers and overlook the fact that our spring catches were pretty dismal.
Willie Mearns, ghillie at Delagyle, had an excellent week landing at least 16 fish to his own rod last week. Delagyle is a lovely beat with some quite majestic pools fishable at any height of water. Even in September, Willie proved that when in a taking mood the fish are indeed there to be caught.
We have almost matched our 5-year average at Kinermony but fishing over the past couple of weeks has been slow. This will be the first year since the invention of the spinning reel that Kinermony haven't recorded a fish caught on any other method than fly. Last year we caught 3 spring fish on the spinner. There has been no significant drop in overall catches, although I have to say that had spinning been permitted, especially over this past month of high water we would have caught more fish. Clear evidence of this is the fact that the Aberlour AA have been hauling them out over the past month with 2 of their anglers having already caught 140 fish this season between them. Grantown AA have also been catching regularly on the spinner in recent months and I do feel some sympathy for guests who look on whilst being restricetd to fly-only.
We did hit the pages in the Sun newspaper last week with a wee brown trout caught in the boatpool. Not good looking enough for page 3 but the lucky captor won £150 in Daiwa tackle vouchers which will be donated to the next charity raffle. The fish was might glad that it hadn't been hooked 50 yards downstream!
A lovely proportioned and coloured Spey Brown Trout, released to fight another day.
Week ending 12th Sept.
September has proved so far to be the dour bitch that we all know so well on the middle Spey. There are no shortage of salmon but their appearance resembles that of their reptile cousins rather than the ‘bars of silver’ that we are normally more accustomed to. These ‘crocodiles’ are far more interested in reproduction than chasing cascades or similar and the reality is that above the bridge at Craigellachie, as far as fresh salmon are concered, our season is already over.
The Dawson - Tied by David Carne
The lower reaches, especially below Orton are now enjoying sport that has been far overdue and fresh fish are being caught in good numbers on a regular basis. The Mecca of the Spey, that glorious area from Arndilly to Delfur is continuing to fish well as is expected with a mixture ranging from sea-liced fish to those creatures described above.
The Silver Grey - Tied by David Carne.
After what can only be described as a dismal spring, Craigellachie have had an exceptional summer and are already well over their 5 year average. Ghillie Dougie Ross will certainly be encouraging his remaining guests to reach a very credible 300 fish which is well within their capabilities given that we still have 3 weeks remaining. Today, visiting angler Anna Rollings added to the Craigellachie total by catching her first Salmon after 5 years of patience. The fish was estimated at 21lbs and as you can see, there are smiles are around, but alas only one winner of the beauty contest! Well done Anna.
Anna Rollings, Ghillie - Dougie Ross and that very special fish. Smiles all around!
I have mentioned many times before and will make no apologies for saying again that from a ghillies perspective, being involved in the capture of a 'first fish' is an absolute pleasure and simply priceless. Both Dougie and Chris have to be commended for their invaluable contribution at Craigellachie this year in particular.
The Fairy Queen - Tied by David Carne.
I’m trying to come up with a tactful analogy for the way that the water has been coming up and down this past month, without comparison to certain ladies of the night, however for once, am completely out of ideas! Perhaps us Ghillies are not the most intelligent bunch of individuals! Let’s just say that stability is not a great adjective in describing the Spey over the past month.
A master-class in Classic Salmon Fly Tying by David Carne and Mike Townend.
We had a couple of Classic Fly Tying celebrities fishing at Kinermony recently in David Carne and Mike Townend. Having watched them in action, I’d confidently say that they are among the top classic fly-tyers in the World. They kindly hosted a demonstration for the Rothes locals last week in the East bank hotel which was relaxed, entertaining and very informative.
Dave Carne in action above and below.
Unfortunately the one fish that Mike hooked on a classic fly dropped off at the net but they did both catch fish on more modern patterns. Dave caught his first Spey fish on his first few casts and Mike didn’t have to wait too long for his either. Party host Mike Martin and wife Trish both also caught fish making a great week all round. I certainly learnt a great deal about classic fly tying and would highly recommend both Dave and Mikes work.
Fishing has been made available to any junior members of the River Spey Anglers during September at Kinermony. We have already had 3 evenings and will continue throughout the month. Any youngsters keen on learning to Spey cast or indeed on just having a supervised cast on the river, just contact me through this site or RSA Chairman Mel Macdonald through the link below. All welcome and no experience necessary.
12 year old Bailey Mackay from the River Spey Anglers Junior Section.
Finally this week, I'd like to encourage anyone who hasn't yet completed the River Spey Anglers survey to click the link and do so. There are a range of questions relating to their personal profile, angling experience and Spey fishing experience during the 2010 season. The survey also asks opinions on a number of topical issues affecting the Spey. Completed forms should be returned to RSAA Rutherhill Elgin IV30 8NH no later than 15th October. The Association will be holding an 'Open Forum' meeting at the Fleming Hall Aberlour on Monday 8th November 2010 when the survey results will be revealed and the meeting thrown open for discussion on any issue relating to the survey or any other angling issue.
Unless you are fishing below Craigellachie or in need some casting practice, bring your golf clubs and a sense of humour! In all seriousness if your fly is in the water, you will always have a chance and with a sea-lice fish caught at Laggan last week, who knows what might pull your string!
Week ending 21st August.
Ah for a week of steady water – we can but dream!
Heavy rain up-country overnight on Monday and again on Friday once again made fishing conditions challenging. Fortunately we had rods more than capable of rising to the challenge, one of whom caught our heaviest fish of the season – so far!
We had a couple of Spey virgins in Ms Ellie Kerfoot and Mr Nick Heygate fishing for a morning each in mid-week and alas they both left intact! They did however both hook fish at Craigellachie with Nick’s escaping at the net. I’m sure that both will return with renewed vigour next year and can only assure them both that it’s just a matter of time before their special day arrives.
Fashion Guru Ms Ellie Kerfoot wearing some pretty non-designer clothing!
Nick’s fishing companion, George Wade was more fortunate and landed his first Kinermony Salmon from the Boatpool on Wednesday. Hopefully next year, water permitting, he will be allowed the opportunity of a hallowed cast in the Little Turn, his father Jeremy’s favourite pool.
Nick Heygate into a good fish. Alas the hook hold gave way!
George Wade displays his first Kinermony Salmon.
Mrs Elizabeth Rowley had a morning to remember on Friday. After a heavy wade and half a dozen casts in the Little Turn, the line slid away as her quarry grabbed the deadly shoemaker. The next half hour was spent in battle with no quarter asked of given from either side. Often pretty dogged the fish led Liz on a merry dance, at one stage taking 50 yard of line and backing. Eventually it was guided over the waiting net, measured, photographed and released. The fish was a coloured hen and measured almost 37”. As a guide this would have made it approximately 20lbs however the depth of the fish certainly added a couple of pounds. We however settled for 20lbs and the largest Rowley fish to date.
Mrs Elizabeth Rowley in action and below the end result - too heavy to lift for a photo!
We ended the week in mid-teens with a late spurt in our Children’s Hospital Association Scotland (CHAS) auction day. The most generous team was led by expert Salmon angler and Tay Ghillie Tony Black, accompanied by Jim Reid and Stevie Hogg. Jim landed a salmon and a grilse and Tony 1 Salmon and 3 grilse. Lunch was very kindly provided by Lesley Calzetti who caters for a number of fishing parties on Speyside and it was a most welcome surprise. Unfortunately I was missing in action attending the Scottish National Final at the Lake of Menteith. Let’s just say that I’d have been far far better off staying at home!! In my absence, the team were ably looked after by my good friend and raconteur Andy Pelc who, as you might imagine, was kept pretty busy most of the day.
Tay ghillie Tony Black expertly fishing the sunray.
Another fresh Grilse for the book!
We had another first this week and that was for 9 year old Edward Albone. Edward caught his first salmon on the fly whilst fishing the Little Turn from the Wester Elchies bank. Fortunately old hand Hamish Macdonald was in attandance along with Edward's proud mother. The fish was released without question and withing half an hour Edward was in action again, this time netting a fish for his mum in the Rhynd.
Edward Albone, with guidance from mum and Hamish Macdonald.
Our August winner of the Glenfarclas Fish on the Month, is visiting angler, Mr Anthony Di Lorenzo. More familiarly known as Bonzo, he caught the fish from the Gean Tree pool on the Rothes & Aikenway beat on a cascade tube fly. The fish measured almost 43” and was estimated to be just over 30lbs in weight. This is the second fish of 30lbs or over that Rothes ghillie Robbie Stronach has netted this season, something us lesser mortals can only dream of!
Glenfarclas Fish of the Month caught by Mr Anthony Di Lorenzo.
As September looms, remember that these fish have seen ever shade and size of cascade imaginable. Although still receptive to a fly, I’d suggest that you think outside the normal fly box and try something just a little different. For those lucky enough to own a Kinermony Killer Flamethrower, your destiny is secured – all you have to do as it say’s on the guarantee, is use it properly.
See my classified page linked from home page for an excellent value Salmon Fly Fishing Kit.
Week ending 21st August.
Sadly the past week’s Spey Fishing news has been dominated by the death of Middlesex angler William Richmond on Wednesday. Our sincere and heartfelt condolences go out to his family at this tragic time and also importantly, our thoughts to those directly involved with the beat he was fishing.
Yet again last week, we were subjected to a fluctuating river level with an overnight rise on Tuesday. In fact, these past few weeks have been pretty unsettling both for the anglers and their quarry and I’m sure most beats would have much rather settled for the lower conditions that we had around the end of June.
Following on from the Press & Journal press release by the River Spey Fishery Board (RSFB) director last week with regard to the poor spring catches and their perceived reasons why, there was a response this week from amongst others, Walter Polson a biologist previously employed by the RSFB. Walter quite rightly commented that the problem lay predominantly with the lack of juvenile fish and not with marine mortality. This was supported by the fact that our neighbour the River Dee is currently having it’s best season for over 10 years. Does marine survival differ between the Spey and Dee Salmon – I think not! This is a view shared by myself and the vast majority of my fellow Ghillies – there are not enough juvenile fish in the River Spey - fact!
If we, the ghillies are indeed the eyes and ears of the Spey board, perhaps it might be an idea to block- book some optical & aural check ups prior to the next board meeting! Joking aside, I do think that we need to forget about personal ego on all sides and concentrate our actions as a combined unit towards the future of our glorious river.
Julia Smith wading deep and casting as lovely a double-spey as ever.
James Smith showing real grit and determination.
Catches last week were mixed. At the beginning of the week there were some excellent catches and as an example, Brae Beats 1 & 2 had 29 fish by Tuesday evening. The rising water on Tuesday enabled them to get their heads down and tails moving and the remainder of the week, on the whole has been pretty tough going. Most lower beats were over 20 by mid-week and the middle stretches around half that. Craigellachie continued it good run with over 20 whilst at Kinermony we averaged a couple a day.
John Emmeron visiting from Wiltshire playing a lively Grilse - his first Salmon from the Spey.
We have 3 days of family fishing at Kinermony next week and I will be fishing Monday-Wednesday. Bearing in mind what I caught today my set up will be AFS Hover and 5.6”/sec Versi leader with either a No 9-11 Kinermony Killer Flamethrower or ‘Henderson’ Black Francis. As we approach the end of the season, these fish become very finickilty and I’d suggest that you occasionally try something slightly different.
Finally, this week, I have added a letter that Walter Polson recently submitted to the Trout & Salmon magazine with regard to his current thoughts on the condition and management of the river. It may be of interest to those who regularly contact me with questions and concerns.
A Sad Empty Place - The Spey.
As I sat by the Spey one June night recently, having fished for two hours without sight of a fish, in what should have been perfect conditions, I got to wondering how this magnificent river got to where it is today and how on earth this was allowed to happen. It’s like watching the life ebb away from an old friend.
Twenty five years ago the Spey District Fishery Board recognised a continuing decline in spring salmon numbers and was concerned enough to resolve to find a means of enhancing their numbers. Spring salmon after all provide fishing for the whole river throughout the season. In the 1960’s the declared catch of spring salmon on the Spey by rod-and-line and the nets was around 4000; by the mid 80’s it was around 1000. In the 90’s the ten year average(1992-2001) was 600 - this was of course by rod-and-line only as prior to this the net-and-coble fishery had been bought off. If there were gains by the removal of the nets then they were masked by an even steeper decline. In 2003 the Fishery Board introduced a conservation policy for spring salmon and in recent years around 70% of spring salmon have been released by anglers. Despite these measures estimates of 2010’s spring salmon catch seem to be about 400. A proportion of these will, of course, have been caught twice - real catch perhaps, 300. Were there less than 1,000 spring salmon in the Spey this year? It seems likely.
In the 1980’s millions of eggs were stripped from hen salmon from the Avon and the Livet. The bulk of these were stocked back into the Spey system as unfed fry into upper tributaries. As one “old head” once remarked to me “ you might as well put them in a neep park”.
Back in 1993 the Spey Fishery Board decided to implement a management plan for the river which did not even mention spring salmon. At the time I was working for the Spey Fishery Board on the development of stocked juveniles derived from spring salmon parents. When asked to comment I said that I thought it was a mistake to shift the emphasis away from spring salmon but the reply I got was that my comments were out of place and unhelpful. Their earlier resolve to do something to enhance numbers of early-running fish evaporated in favour of a much wider-ranging management policy very similar to that in effect on the Tweed. This was on the advice of scientists from the Freshwater Fisheries Laboratory at Pitlochry and the Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen. Various updates of this management plan followed up to the present.
In an article published in Trout and Salmon magazine in 2000, “Sense and Science on the Spey”, the authors, Jim Gray and Bob Laughton congratulate themselves on “successful stewardship” and a river “in good heart”. However, the Spey Board’s annual report for 2000 contained the following advice to anglers on grilse. “The Board does not advocate the releasing of grilse, as these are mainly male fish, and in a normal season compete with salmon on the spawning redds. The Board’s recommended policy continues to be that grilse caught should be removed. It is up to individual proprietors to dispose of grilse as they consider best after capture”. Oops!
Since then very large sums of money have been spent on the Spey. An acoustic counter designed to find out the numbers of adult fish running the river was installed at Delfur, on the lower river, along with underwater cameras to check the counts. This was abandoned after several years and, as far as I am aware, few results were ever published. It didn’t work is the bottom line. I don’t know how much it cost in total but my guess would be many hundreds of thousands of pounds. It would obviously be useful to know exactly how many fish run the river and at what times. Does this, however, merit priority over increasing the number of fish?
A new hatchery was built on a branch of the Livet, a Spey tributary, to stock areas of the catchment in which there were low juvenile salmon densities and areas above man-made obstructions. Fish are stocked out as unfed fry from March to May and as fed fry from June to August. The Fishery Board are disappointed by the resulting low smolt outputs from these areas but little wonder, since it would be many times more effective to stock these juveniles as 0+ parr in September or October. They can give no good reason for this inefficient use of their hatchery.
The efficiency of their stocking policy is now to be assessed by a programme of D.N.A. sampling of broodstock used in the hatchery and of returning adults. This will be very expensive. Were they to stock out 0+ parr in the autumn the juveniles would be large enough for a proportion to be physically marked for later identification as adults and efficiency of stocking could be gauged much more cheaply.
In the 2000’s rotary screw traps were used to sample the smolt run in the river. Two traps operated for 4 years (2005 - 2008) in the lower river in spring and early summer. Two types of mathematical models were used to extrapolate the smolt numbers captured to an estimate of the total smolt run. One model estimated the total smolt run at 1,621,234 for 2006 and at 613,171 for 2007, a variation of about 2.5 times. The other model shows a range of estimates from 702,015 for 2006 down to 45,435 for 2008, varying by a factor of 15. This scale of variation in smolt numbers is very suggestive of a system which is not producing smolts up to capacity although the report authors maintain that these smolt run estimates are in line with “accessible habitat being well populated by juvenile salmon and therefore maximum smolt output probably being maintained”.
If the estimate of 45,435 smolts for 2008 is near the mark then it would explain the lack of grilse in 2009 and low numbers of 2SW spring salmon in 2010. This number of smolts would result from an egg deposition of around 10 to 11 million eggs. This number of eggs would be produced by just over 1000 hen fish. Is this adequate spawning escapement? It represents a smolt output of around 0.4 smolts per 100 square metres of useable habitat for the river. The picture is clouded, of course, by the fact that any smolt run contains smolts of different ages.
Dick Shelton, former head of the Freshwater Fisheries Laboratory at Pitlochry, in his book “To Sea and Back” states that - “the numbers of young salmon that enter the sea each year from well managed rivers vary within remarkably narrow limits”. In the North Esk smolt numbers have been estimated by trapping for more than 40 years. Over all these years estimates vary by a factor of 3.
Anglers who can remember further back than 25 years on the Spey will recall how fishing a salmon fly in late May or early June was sometimes nigh impossible because of smolts jumping on the fly, sometimes several in the course of fishing out a cast. This will of course be dismissed by some opinions as anecdotal but I have not caught a salmon smolt on fly for several years. I’m in no doubt that the river is not producing smolts the way it used to. Scientists have detected an increase in marine mortality rate of smolts going to sea over the last twenty years or more but are unable to pinpoint a reason or reasons for this. In view of this higher marine mortality it is vital that smolt production is at a maximum.
Some scientists maintain that a relatively small number of returning adults is required to populate the river with juveniles. Even if this were entirely true, it does not make for a good fishery. At a 1992 S&TA (Scotland) conference on “The Salmon and the Scientist” , Dick Shelton, then head of DAFS Pitlochry, conceded that productive river angling depends on management to secure more fish in a river than the minimum ”conservation stock” required for spawning.
In many English rivers, hatcheries fell out of favour, and many were closed. Within a few years the rod fisheries of these rivers had collapsed. The normal response of many scientists and fishery managers to any suggestion of using hatcheries to increase smolt production is to fall back on the threat they pose to genetic integrity. I don’t doubt that there are genetic differences between salmon from different rivers nor that there are differences between fish from separate tributaries of longer river systems. There are genetic differences associated with salmon running rivers at different seasons of the year. Hatching and rearing young salmon in hatcheries and rearing tanks undoubtedly changes the selective forces acting on them and the fewer parents normally used in hatchery crosses limit’s the variability of hatchery-reared fish. However, the Atlantic salmon remains one species across its range. Historically there have been many transfers between river systems of eggs, fry, parr and adults. From the Spey Fishery Board’s own report of 2009 we can see that eggs stripped from broodstock caught at Tulchan, less than halfway up the mainstem, were reared to fed fry (160,000) and stocked in June above Spey Dam right at the head of the system. What price genetic integrity here?
By far a greater threat to genetic integrity is the continuing decline in numbers of adults of a particular stock component. Noel Wilkins, in an Atlantic Salmon Trust booklet, titled “ Salmon stocks - a genetic perspective” maintains that populations undergoing serious numerical decline may also be undergoing significant genetic change and eventually when the population size is very small all genetic characters could be effected. He suggests this would be a recipe for final disaster when genetic variability is lost. I feel that declining numbers of the spring salmon component present a greater threat to genetic integrity than considered and careful stocking. It is up for debate just how far the numbers in a population have to fall before the effects of random genetic drift reducing the variability within the population result in the collapse of that particular stock component.
Are we anywhere near to that crisis point? I don’t know but it’s possible.
The Spey Fishery Board has made a huge investment in research in the last 20 years but ask yourself how much of this spending has put more fish in the river. Anglers, in returning more than 70% of their catch since 2003 represent the only real big contribution to increasing smolt numbers leaving the system.
Criticism of what has gone and is in the past, justified or not, won’t increase smolt output either.
I would like to see the establishment of small rearing units well up all the major tributaries of the Spey and on the mainstem each designed to produce 40,000 or 50,000 0+ parr from local broodstock. These would consist of 8 -10 rearing tanks operating from April to September. It is not hugely complex or expensive to rear this number of parr. I know this because I did it for seven years. All that is required is an adequate reliable water supply, security fencing and a storage shed. Estates might even provide the facilities and labour to do this.
Local broodstock from each tributary could be held, stripped and eggs from multiple crosses incubated centrally in the existing hatchery. To reduce the need for constant annual removal of broodstock from tributaries the main hatchery could also be used to recondition kelts post-stripping so that they could be used in successive years, topping up losses as required by taking new broodstock. The technology to recondition kelts has been developed successfully over many years at the Freshwater Fisheries facility at Almondbank.
To produce 50,000 0+ parr on each tributary, a broodstock of 10 hens and 10 cocks would provide the numbers. The geneticists would argue for larger numbers to better represent the population. 50,000 stocked parr would produce an additional 1,500 smolts for each tributary. Replicate this for 6 or 7 rearing units and an additional 10,000 smolts could be added to the river each year. If present marine mortality is around 90% as has been estimated, then around an extra 1,000 adults would come back each year. By marking a proportion of the parr with an adipose fin clip before release an assessment of returns could be made.
Autumn 0+ parr, stocked as they should be, spread carefully throughout the stream, at a density of around 1 per square metre, helps eradicate the patchiness of natural spawning which occurs particularly when spawning escapement is low. These parr literally stay where you put them by enlarge so they have to be released 1 or 2 at a time as the person doing the job walks in the stream. More potential parr territories are utilised in this way. In more inaccessible streams they could be delivered to operatives on the ground by helicopter.
Production of smolts at a level of 5 per 100 square metres of useable habitat is said to be at an optimum for the Spey and elsewhere in Scotland. This is based solely on production from natural spawning and from relatively recent times when smolt outputs may not have been optimal. It can be improved on by stocking parr.
Using a stocking policy as already outlined would satisfy most of the criteria stipulated in the Scottish Fisheries Research Report “Hatchery Work in support of Salmon Fisheries”. Where it differs is in timing of release. The report advocates as early release as possible so that the hatchery progeny are subject to the forces of natural selection for as long as possible. However, releasing hatchery stock as, for example, unfed fry incurs a very heavy loss in numbers. Less than 0.5% survive to smolting whereas autumn 0+ parr can produce 3 - 5% survival to smolting. Losses are also very high if fed fry are released in mid-summer. Early release defeats the numerical advantage of stocking. Most stocked 0+ parr remain instream for around 18 months, smolting as 2 year olds and are therefore subject to a considerable period of natural selection in any case.
Reading the river report for the once famous River Wye in July’s Trout and Salmon one comes across phrases like - “nightmare start”, “catches plummeted to a new low”, “23 fish reported for May off the whole river”, “ still not a single fish for the river above Winforton again”, “lowest on record” etc. Will we be reading similar phrases about the Spey in a few years? I hope not!
We need a recognition by the Spey Fishery Board that all is not well; that the river is not producing smolts as it should be and that 20 years of management plans have not worked. Anglers and ghillies up and down the river know this. The anti-stocking dogma has got to be seen for what it is - a reason to record and monitor but not to intervene. If you don’t intervene then you can’t possibly make a mistake or is that the biggest mistake of all?
Walter Polson - July 2010.
Week ending 14th August.
Last week was dominated by the high water in midweek. Prior to that, we had reasonably settled conditions and were certainly ‘picking away’ as far as catches were concerned. Grilse outnumbered salmon by 4-1 in July, however these lively fish certainly pull the string well for their weight, especially on lighter tackle.
As is normal on a Monday morning, it wasn’t too long before the lines tightened. Tom Dunn’s rod was the first to bend followed swiftly by that of Davie Leith.
Hook out in the net for Tom Dunn in the Little Turn.
Dr Melvin Morrison landed his first Kinermony Salmon on Wednesday. The Rhynd was in excellent order prior to lunchtime and Melvin caught another Grilse soon after. Bill Johnston had a titanic battle with a good fish in the Boatpool but unfortunately it slipped the hook after 20 minutes. Although we continued to fish on Wednesday afternoon the conditions deteriorated as the water coloured up.
The Glorious Rhynd.
Dr Melvin Morrison with his first Kinermony Salmon.
Thursday was a washout and interestingly the water rose by 18” in just under an hour around 9am. The high coloured water even put off the cutlery chucker’s for a short time whilst they scurried away in search of worms!
The water was still just under 5’ on our gauge on Friday morning which made the Boatpool easy to cover. Bill Johnston was first off the mark with a Grilse and Tom Dunn had a fisherman’s Macnab with a Salmon, Grilse and Sea-Trout! As the water slowly receded, a good numbers of fish were evident throughout Friday and Saturday. At one stage there were fish showing throughout the Boatpool as far as you could see, which should prove fruitful this week for the beats further up-river.
Alexander Yates net's a fresh Salmon for Tom Dunn.
Kinermony regular Davie Leith in action.
Jon Sheard caught our largest fish on the week on Saturday morning, expertly netted by apprentice ghillie Alexander Yates. The fish was a coloured hen and fought very well.
A hard fighting hen for Jon Sheard.
Another week in double figures and as we head towards 150 for the season, it was interesting to read an interview in the Press and Journal regarding spring salmon numbers. River Spey director Roger Knight confirmed that catches were 50-60% lower than last year. He went on to suggest that the problem was related to the marine environment and predation whilst in the river. Whilst I also believe these to be contributing factors, I personally feel as the majority of Spey Ghillies do, that a far greater problem is the juvenile population, or indeed lack of it. Quite clearly if there are less youngsters going to sea than ever before then there will be far less returning adults. Even a ghillie can work that one out!
With another wet July, the Grilse made the most of the conditions and were pretty well spread throughout the river. These fish can normally run up a wet door and in recent years the main Grilse run has slipped to early August. Fortunately our July guests were not disappointed and my guess is that the catches in July will be higher than any of the past 5 years.
Let’s hope that good sport will continue in the coming weeks, however one thing that we all know in the middle and upper river is that September can be a dour bitch. She can often sort out the men from the boys though, as in my opinion fresh fish are easily caught. In the words of Billy Ocean ‘When the going gets tough – the tough get going!’
The Kinermony Killer Flamethrower - A must have fly!
Floating and Intermediate lines with various densities of poly leaders or similar shooting heads should be appropriate. Fly size varied between 7-13 with brightish patterns favourable in the peaty water being favoured last week. If I were fishing tomorrow, the set up would be AFS Hover, intermediate tip and No 9-11 Kinermony Killer Flamethrower. These teardrop shaped flies simply fish like no other in my opinion and are always available from Professional fly-tier Duncan Egan.
Week ending 30th July.
Following a long, slow and frustrating spring, the River Spey has been rejuvenated with the long awaited Grilse run. The past two weeks has seen most beats enjoying tremendous sport with these one-sea-wintered fish and although averaging 4lbs in weight they certainly put a good bend in the rod. Of the middle river beats, Craigellachie has been fairing better than most with 2 consecutive weeks of over 30 fish and again almost 30 this week. Amongst those fortunate anglers was Frank Whitley who at 89 years old landed 3 Grilse and had a good run from a spring lamb that he hooked on his back-cast. Fortunately, it was safely released to fight another day, but clearly shows that you’re never too old to gain a new experience! Further downstream Delfur has been producing good numbers of fish with our July fish of the month amongst them.
Grantown on Spey Angling Association has recorded over 450 Sea-Trout so far this season and it appears this may well have coincided with a marked improvement in the Sand-Eel population around the British coastline. Castle Grant has also had notable success with late evening fishing for these majestic creatures. Grantown remains arguably the finest stretch of association water in the UK and tickets are readily available from Mortimer’s tackle shop in the high street at Grantown. For any visitors, it is well worth a visit.
Visiting Kinermony beat for the first time, 12 year old Jack Morris from Glasgow landed his first Kinermony Salmon. Proud Dad Freddy was on hand to pass on timely guidance and after a few shouts of ‘It’s behind you’ good friend and party host Joffy Grant finally managed to get it in the net. Throughout the battle young Jack remained completely composed, yet the same can’t be said for Dad & Joffy!
Smiles all around for 12 year old Jack Morris and his first Kinermony Grilse & Rabbit.
To make Jack's day ever more memorable, he also shot his first Rabbit and beat the Ghillie at Golf!
As far as number were concerned, Joffy led the field and averaged a fish per day. Freddy however did land enough to keep the battle close but suffered from a few instances of long range release. Although the Spey is having a poor year on the whole, we haven’t quite got to the point of counting them yet! Sorry Freddy!
Freddy Morris playing a lively fish in the Rhynd.
Both Joffy & Freddy are highly accomplished anglers but left Kinermony having learnt that clamping can be quite rewarding. Joffy has actually devised his own method by ‘intentionally’ allowing the line to get caught behind the reel whilst most of us just hold the line against the cork – each to their own. Overall, a fantastic week spent with my new Kinermony guests and I look forward to sharing many laughs and new experiences over the next few years.
Joffy Grant having fun in the Rhynd. The hook was well set - trust me!
Our July winner of the Glenfarclas Fish on the Month, is 12 year old Molly Melville. Molly is the daughter of Delfur head ghillie Mark and caught her first Salmon from the Beaufort Pool on a fly named after her brother – the Jack O Bite! Unfortunately Molly has a few years to go before she can sample the delightful Glenfarclas 105, therefore will be rewarded with some fishing tackle instead. From a Ghillies point of view, these occasions are simply priceless and so very encouraging to see these young folk with so much passion for the river and it’s inhabitants. Very well done Molly and Jack.
12 year old Molly Melvillie our worthy winner of July's Glenfarclas Fish of the Month, with Pixie in attandance!
I had a delightful cast at Easter Elchies on Thursday evening along with Josh Walker. Josh has had a great season so far and had already landed 5 fish so far this week. I was lucky enough to catch a Salmon & Grilse in the Red Craig, one of the finest pools on the river and had a great time in excellent company.
Prospects – With Grilse pretty much widespread throughout the system, as long as the conditions remain stable, sport should be at times fast and furious. These small salmon are quite often easy to tempt yet tricky to land. The key is light tackle and small flies, however there are also summer salmon scattered amongst them so be prepared! Flies – Cascades, Silver Ally’s, Flamethrowers and of course hot off the production line, the Jack O Bite!
Week ending 24th July.
Last week was certainly a game of two halves! The water and overhead conditions were perfect on Monday morning and with 2 new visitors to Kinermony and considering the previous weeks catch, expectations were high. Mark Camacho had never actually cast a fly on our glorious river and was duly informed that, bearing in mind the conditions, if he didn’t catch a fish then the fault would lie completely with him – no pressure then!
Mark didn’t have to wait long – in fact 10 minutes before his line drew away and he was into his first Spey salmon. Although only a grilse, it fought very well and was landed, photographed and released in no time at all. Mark went on to land another 3 fish and actually hooked 4 others by lunch – Baptism of fire? I think not!
Mark Camacho with his first Spey Salmon. Smiles all around!
Paul Davison, a very experienced Salmon angler and other new guest to Kinermony had similar success in enticing these grilse to his fly, however only managed to get one in the net. Paul is an excellent fisherman, yet 7 offers and only 1 in the net was enough even to frustrate him.
Paul Davidson finally gets one on the bank. His first Kinermony salmon.
Don Milne drew the ‘short straw’ and his penance was the boatpool on Monday morning. It’s a tough life! He returned for lunch with 3 in the book and another lost. Now that’s a better hook up rate lads! We ended the day with 9 fish and all were looking forward to continued sport. I have to add that at no time was there even a thought of retaining any fish, which clearly shows that attitudes change with generation.
And it did continue until Wednesday when rain stopped play! 24 hours of pretty torrential rain brought the river up by 4.5ft and it was completely unfishable until Thursday evening. A great pity as our guests changed over on Thursday and all they could do was watch at a distance.
The Rhynd on Thursday without a Pig in sight!
It took quite a while to finally select a fly from Andy Steven's box. Not many Tarpon is the Spey-Yet!
Friday brought with it better conditions and it wasn’t long before Iain Hutchison kept up his highly enviable Kinermony record, as did Nick Ridout by catching on every visit to Kinermony Jon Davison also added to the day’s total.
The conditions improved by the hour and Iain landed another brace on Saturday and party host Andy Steven also caught his customary fish from the Little Turn. All in all, especially considering the conditions not a bad week and with a new party tomorrow expectations are again good.
Andy Steven in the Little Turn at 2'6" - a tricky but worthwhile wade.
Slightly further down-river Craigellachie continued its run of good luck with 20 fish in the first 2 days of last week. Below that there were similar numbers of fish, mostly Grilse but I did hear reports of a 24lb Salmon from Easter Elchies. As far as visiting anglers are concerned - now is the time to see the Spey in at least a shadow of its former self. The Grilse are widespread throughout the system but haven't quite reached the classification of vermin yet! Grantown association would be a good bet this coming week and tickets are available from Mortimers tackle shop in the Hight St.
Floating and Intermediate lines with various densities of poly leaders or similar shooting heads should be appropriate. Fly size varied between 7-13 with brightish patterns favourable in the peaty water being favoured last week. If I were fishing tomorrow, the set up would be Carron Floater, intermediate tip and No 9-11 Sunburst Garry Dog. These teardrop shaped flies simply fish like no other in my opinion and are always available from Professional fly-tier Duncan Egan.
Week ending 17th July.
We were again greeted with a rise of water last Monday morning, although this time slightly unexpected. Indeed, the water continued to fluctuate throughout the week. Although not by as much as affected the fishing to any extent.. There were periods of very heavy localised rain, especially mid-week however this was fortunately not replicated to similar extent further west. As normal after a 30 hour break from angling pressure, Monday morning was welcomed with eager anticipation and rightly so!
The Sunburst Garry Dog in action.
Dick Oldfield has been visiting the Spey for 40 years, however, even in times of plenty, until last Monday had yet to catch a Salmon whilst paying his line out! Yes, without even a full cast complete Dick had one in the net. His week of fortune continued and he ended the week with 7 fish. His companions Mark Freeman and Terry Tyrell also had notable success and once we eventually convinced Mark that rubber hooks weren’t too appropriate his catch rate improved dramatically! In retrospect, perhaps Mark was pre-empting the future of Salmon fishing, when a pull might have to be noted in the catch return books!!
A very notable first in my 5 years at Kinermony. For those unfamilier - It's a smolt!
After getting off the mark himself, Terry had to fly south on Wednesday but left a very able an experienced deputy in the form of ex-Kinermony ghillie Geoff Harris. Geoff took no time is duly tying on the standard No 8 Munro Killer and heading for the hot-spot in the Rhynd. 4 cast later, a very small grilse put an even smaller bend in his 17’ Bruce & Walker and Geoff registered his first fuish of the season. Bearing in mind he has been convalescing for the past few months, it was great to see Geoff back on the water. He swapped for a slightly lighter rod and caught another Grilse and pulled a couple more, proving that the more you practice, the luckier you become!
Geoff Harris - A 'past master' at work!
The first of his brace.
Friday was quite a day and we registered 8 fish, as well as a few more lost. I had been very kindly invited up to fish at Laggan in the evening which was a real treat. I fished the Big Griggle, Bridge Pool and finally Carron stream, where between us, in a 15 minute spell Mike Murdoch and I hooked 5 Grilse, with only Mike fortunate enough to land one of them! I have now fished all of the beats from Ballindalloch to Spey-Bay and have to say that in my opinion, none are more scenic than Carron & Laggan.
A couple from Mark Freeman - post Rubber Hooks!
The water rose again overnight on Friday however this certainly didn’t put the fish off the take, indeed Mark Freeman had a 15 pounder in the net on his first time down the Little Turn, as well as breaking with another of similar size, after a quite amazing run.
Whilst fishing down the Rhynd on Wednesday afternoon, quite unexpectedly a very large fish porpoised only around 2 rod lengths from me. It was a spectacular sight indeed and without question the largest Atlantic salmon I have ever had the pleasure to see. The amount of water is shifted was startling and hopefully someone further up-river will have a similar experience, this time by rod and line.
Craigellachie had an excellent week with over 30 fish and 13 on Friday alone. This recent and most welcome increase in numbers will generate a few more smiles on Speyside but will in no way detract from the abysmal spring run this year. The fact remains that radical and urgent action needs to be considered with regard to these highly-valued springers who’s name made the reputation of our great river.
Floating lines with intermediate/slow sink densities of poly leaders or similar shooting heads should be appropriate. Fly size will depend upon water height as usual with No 7-10 being favoured last week. One fly that I feel made the difference is the Sunburst Garry Dog pictured below. They are available from Professional fly-tier Duncan Egan and I can assure you that like anything these days – quality matters!
The Sunburst Garry Dog - a Must have fly!
Week ending 10th July.
We were greeted with a timely rise of 6” on Monday morning, which certainly allowed our lady anglers a look of eager anticipation! Visiting from Deeside were David & Ella Egan who had already fished 2 successful weeks at Birkhall and Balmoral on the Royal Dee. David and Ella drew the Boatpool on Monday morning whilst party host Ishbel Grant fished the Little Turn and Rhynd.
A Monday morning tussle.
Smiles all round.
Away she goes!
Ishbel is a lovely caster and is quite content with casting 20-25 yards accurately and consistently, unlike many of our male anglers who are more fanatical and strive to reach the other bank, more often than not failing miserably. When asked what makes a good salmon fisher, I find that consistent casting is certainly a key element – take note!
Ishbel’s line tightened half way down the Little Turn just approaching ‘The Place’ and the next 20 minutes was spent in battle. The fish found 3 stones to play with and was louping around like some of those quite peculiar and strangely dressed guys and their maypole! The fish was always going to be released as Ishbel had already decided to release all fish this season due to their declining numbers. Again – take note!!
The fish was eventually netted, photographed and released and a great start to the week was celebrated in normal style!
Ishbel Grant went on to lead the field throughout the week catching a fish every day until her departure to a wedding to France on Friday. She had fortunately left a few experienced deputy’s and retired Speyghillie George Michie didn’t take too long in adding his name to the new Kinermony catch return book. After a pretty slow start to the season by his standards George was now in the grove and had already landed 3 Grilse at Inverfiddoch on the previous day. His flee needed no inspection and all it took was a dozen casts or so before his line shot away.
Speycaster Ian Gordon with less than 50 yards out!
One of Glenfarclas longest serving employees Alastair Miller caught a few Sea-Trout in evening sport and Spey-Casting expert Ian Gordon joined us or Saturday for a cast. Ian managed to entice a couple of Grilse but his 15’ ‘ex-military tank aerial’ rod proved to be too much of a poker to set the hook into these soft-mouthed Grilse. Maybe the Greenheart would have been more appropriate!
Another Grilse on - Gently does it!
Down-river, the beats between the Craigellachie Bridge and Delfur landed well over 20 fish respectively and the lower beats continue to pick away. A variety of sizes of Grilse are now extended throughout the river but certainly not in the numbers that we are accustomed to. I noticed the River Spey Board’s juvenile survey team out last week so hopefully their results will be published in due course through their web-site.
Floating lines with intermediate/slow sink densities of poly leaders should at least ensure that you are fishing at the correct depth to ‘intercept’ a few of these new grilse. Don’t be afraid to trim down on tackle as in rods, lines, leader and of course flies. Silver bodied patterns work especially well for Grilse and Sea-Trout and if possible, do venture out as late and as early as your social life/ partner allows!
Week ending 03 July.
The continued period of low water over the past few weeks has suited the lower river beats like Gordon Castle and the Speymouth Angling Association. Fresh fish have been sneaking in on most tides and sport has often been fast and furious. 2 weeks ago, Spey regular Dave Sadowski assembled a very experienced party of rods that ended the week with 10 fish, most of which were caught in the Quarry Pool. More recently Alex Roberston landed 3 fish in a couple of days and in quite spectacular scenery.
Alex Robertson in action, above and below.
Arguably the finest public water in the U.K, Grantown Angling Association have recorded over 200 Sea-Trout to date, which includes a few specimens up to 10lbs in weight. Tickets are available from Mortimer’s tackle shop in the Grantown High St.
The spring catches, which count all fish caught on the Spey from opening day up until the 30th June will make quite depressing reading this year. The sheer drop in numbers and the knock on that this has to all those connected with the river will hopefully lead to some urgent action. The River Spey Board will be conducting juvenile surveys which will hopefully prove what many ghillies have been saying since I began, that we cannot expect large numbers of returning adults if there is such a lack of juvenile fish.
Winner of our Glenfarclas Fish of the Month for June was caught by Mr David Williams, brother of Spey Board Chairman Alan. The fish was caught on the Rothes & Aikenway beat in the Long Pool and was netted, weighed and released by ghillie Robbie Stronach. This is the third fish from the river this season that has gone over the magical 30lbs mark and all 3 have been successfully released to spawn. These fish are indeed specimens and many experienced anglers fish their entire lifetime without connecting with fish of such size. Congratulations to David and again to the others.
Rothes & Aikenway ghillie Robbie Stronach displays a wonderful 31lb Salmon.
Borders angler Colin Tait paid his annual visit to the Aberlour AA recently and clearly showed that patience, skill and consistency can lead to great results, even in low water. Colin caught the 3 fish below in a 2 hour period at the height of the sun. Never say never!
3 of the best from Colin Tait.
The middle Spey continues to pick away and at Kinermony, Tim Pullen landed a brace of 12 pounders in an hour spell. Iain Gavin Brown went one better last week landing 3 fish and due to the current plight of the Spey Salmon returned them all.
Prospects – Without much needed rain, I’d urge all anglers where possible to fish the twilight and dawn hours where the fish will be at their most active. Trim down on the leader diameter and fish sparsely dressed flies. There are also enough Sea-Trout around to keep rods fishing throughout the night. Flies – Silver Stoats, Executioners and more subtle patterns in sized 8-12.
Week ending 19 June.
Yet another frustratingly mediocre week on Speyside. There were the normal scattering of fish caught throughout the system with Delfur being the pick of the crop and I did hear an unverified report of one lucky angler catching 10 fish last Monday, but this was most certainly an exception, rather than the norm! The river temerature is now creeping up and the water lavel creeping down, which certainly doesn't suit too many middle river beats. With a thundery outlook and a few dozen crossed fingers we could be lucky and drum up a little rain, however the big question is - are there a large numbers of fish waiting to come in ?
I'm off to Grafham Water tomorrow for a busmans holiday, so unfortunately there will be no report this week. I will however leave you to ponder over a very worthy read linked below, which is fully supported by the vast majority of Ghillies on the Spey. Food for thought indeed!
Week Ending 12th June.
The past couple of weeks have proved relatively productive throughout the river. In recent weeks, Easter Elchies has been fishing more consistently than most however, the majority of middle and lower river beats as far down as Delfur, are now reaching double figures on a weekly basis. A few larger fish have also been appearing with Rothes as an example, landing 2 of over 20lbs last week; one of which was a superb fish, weighed, photographed and released of 31lbs. That is the second fish from the river this year of over 30lbs, which proves that there are still productive feeding grounds to be found in the Atlantic ocean.
Without looking through rose-tinted glasses, this poor start to our Salmon fishing season on the Spey has perhaps highlighted the decline in stocks more than most. As we approach the end of June, I’d predict quite confidently that the majority of beats would be 50% down on their average catches. The Salmon runs have been in decline for over 20 years and has been affected by a combination of factors, therefore solving the problem is certainly not straightforward. Purely from a Ghillies view, one thing is certain – there is a clear lack of juvenile fish in our river and unless this key issue is acknowledged and addressed the decline in returning adult fish can only increase. Our aim has to be to ensure that enough juvenile fish are produced to combat the extreme marine mortality rate, currently thought to be at over 90%. There are varying options and ideas on how this can be achieved, but the clear fact is that something needs to be done and very soon.
Back to the fishing - Laggan had one of their best weeks so far but not to be outdone Carron, their sister beat, almost kept up ending one short. Wester Elchies were one short of double figures but most interestingly none were caught opposite us at Kinermony - it's a funny old game!
One of our 'water babies' from earlier this season Eric Patterson from Golspie, enjoyed a cast at Upper Arndilly and swapped roles with ghillie Ian Kelly. Eric netted a lovely fish for Ian, who later went on to record another brace. Aberlour AA continued to struggle and ended the week with 3, however slightly lower at Craigellachie the rods were over double that including a fine fish of 21lbs.
Geoff Harris presents Ralph Green with a hand carved walking stick highlighted with a Salmon.
Kinermony averaged a fish a day however the catches were of little significance in comparison to the culinary delights provided by host Ralph Green. I can only describe the quality as exquisite and even thinking about it whilst I compile this report tingles my taste buds........Oh bring on next June!
A master in action!
Following persistant rain last weekend, the water rose steadily on Monday, but it didn't put off Ralph Green Jnr who landed our first fish of the week last Monday evening. Keen Spey fisher Drew Phillip added another on Tuesday and Ian Sinclair from Inverurie kept up his highly enviable 100% record at Kinermony. I'm seriously considering donating my opening day rod next season to Ian!
Above - Drew Phillip into a fish and below the end result.
With a few more fish around, this next week should hopefully see a further increase in catches. Floating lines with intermediate and slow sinking poly tips shoud work well. Flies around the 1-1.5" mark in various colours should tempt a salmon or two but don't discount the evening fishing for sea-trout.
Week ending 5th June.
No more doom and gloom! Although it’s officially our worst start of the season at Kinermony since 2000, at least it’s cheaper to catch very little with us than it is up, down or across the river! I've come to the conclusion that If you look hard enough, you will always find a positive....
Although it was pretty bright in patches last week, especially during afternoon sessions, the conditions were on the whole pretty good once again. There were a few more Sea-Trout showing and occasional pods of Salmon running through. If your fly happened to be in their vicinity then, you were luckier than most.
A lovely plump Spey Sea-Trout.
We had a new member of the ‘Kyte party’ this year in Lee Vernon. Lee managed at least one fish every day, accompanied with excellent interpersonal skills therefore is hoping that he might just be invited back next year. Only one problem – he caught more fish than the party host – not recommended, so jury still out Lee!
Lee began the week with a real beauty of around 16lbs which gave him an excellent tussle in the Rhynd, at one stage ripping almost 100 yards of line off the reel in one run. His largest Salmon so far, it was certainly a fight to remember.
Lee Vernon with one from the Rhynd.
Peter Kyte did not let the side down and indeed caught the first and last fish of the week. His first fish is pictured below along with one of his measuring devices. For the statisticians out there, the fish measured 14.5 mobile phones or 11 digital cameras!
A classic springer, caught and released by Peter Kyte.
Grantown AA did comparatively well last week with mid teens; from there down there were a scattering of fish on most beats and I’m sure that the Spring returns due at the end of June will make some factual and most interesting reading – for a short time anyway!
A few video clips from last week.
Localised heavy rain on Saturday night and again on Sunday brought the river up by 18” and like last week, although slightly coloured it was in good order today.
Again, we couldn’t have a better start to the week as far as conditions are concerned.
Intermediate and Floating lines with various densities of poly leaders should be the favoured course of action. Due to slightly coloured water perhaps Flamethrowers, Cascade and Ally’s shrimps might be better patterns that the more subtle and darker flies.
Week ending 29th May.
I might as well begin by cutting and pasting my opening sentence from last week, in fact the first paragraph to be more precise - The Spey’s catches continue to be very disappointing and quite inconsistent on the whole…………
Last week, fishing conditions were simply as good as they get, yet the catches continued to be very disappointing. The beats below Craigellachie did better than most, particularly Easter Elchies & Upper Arndilly who recorded catches more similar to a normal May week of 21 fish.
The middle river was again very patchy with only occasional small pods of fish running through. These fish continue to be easily caught but it’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time and that place isn’t the fishing hut! I’d urge anglers to fish early mornings and late evenings, especially in bright conditions if they wish to better their chances.
Francois Stoven with a lovely cock fish from the Little Turn.
All things considered, our French party faired reasonably well, however their target of half of their last year’s total for the corresponding week was a little optimistic. Francois Stoven managed a fish a day for the first 3 days and Jean Pucci ended the week with a couple of sea-trout.
An evening fish from the Rhynd.
Another couple of fish were caught in between resulted in a fifth of last years bonanza, but in doing so, they hooked one of the largest specimens I have seen in my 5 years at Kinermony. As you can see below, it was firmly hooked and fought very well indeed, due largely to the sensitivity of the hook hold. Fortunately it lived to tell the tale and the hook slid out with ease – well at least for the guy who removed it! Mr Pucci will be encouraged to wear a fully protective mask next year or at least to learn the single spey cast off the left shoulder!!
A most peculiar body piercing - not recommended!
A smaller species also falling for the above fly!
Localised heavy rain on Saturday night brought the river up by a couple of feet but by Monday, although slightly coloured it was eminently fishable. Let’s hope that this timely rise will bring a few more fish into the system as we could all certainly do with it.
Finally, I do apologise to the many followers of my reports for the delay. There are currently just not enough hours on a Sunday. Fortunately though, there hasn’t been too much to write about lately, however my glass, as always remains half full, so here’s hoping!
Bearing in mind the past month, tactics for this week might be to consider organising a tee off time of around 10am!!
With a great height of water and temperature around 52degF, floating lines with various densities of poly leaders should be the favoured course of action. Traditional May flies like the Willie Gunn, Cascade and Flamethrower as well as black and silver patterns for the Sea-Trout should prove successful.
Week ending 22nd May.
The Spey’s catches continue to be very disappointing and quite inconsistent on the whole in comparison to the norm. Fishing can only be described as patchy at best and even the lower and more productive beats are only picking up a small percentage of their normal catches for this time of year. Perhaps the Spring run has indeed pushed slightly later in the year as highlighted by the excellent catches last June, however only time will tell. With such a poor Spring run so far, it is quite surprising that the River Spey Board have not yet tightened up their recommended conservation policy to a total catch and release of these highly prized yet alarmingly scarce springers, especially considering that the majority of beats are at least 50% down on their average returns.
Mrs Elizabeth Rowley just waiting for that special moment.
As I mentioned in my belated report last week, the river temperature is finally above the magical 50%F mark which historically means that the salmon will now freely rise to the fly fished on a floating line. We had pretty much, excellent conditions last week with most days overcast at least in part. The rising temperatures did encourage some of the more compacted snow on higher ground to melt and therefore the level fluctuated slightly on a daily basis but certainly not enough to put the fish off. That was until Friday night of course when localised thunderstorms created a very muddy river most probably due to the ingress of dry surface soil left after recent crop planting. We lost last Saturday as a fishing day but spent time on knot tying practice along of course with the obligatory ghillies tales!
The smile says it all as Ms Claire Roberts displays her first ever Salmon.
The week flew past at Kinermony, as it normally does with such a lovely party and on reflection all that was missing was the normal number of fish. Highlight of the week was the most notable success of Ms Claire Roberts in landing her first ever Salmon. Claire hooked the fish in the Little Turn Pool on Thursday morning after allowing a more experienced angler down the pool fishing from the opposite bank. What was quite peculiar was not the fact that it was yet another seal- ravaged fish, but remarkably that it took her fly having only one eye! It goes to show that Claire’s casting must have been far more accurate than her more experienced counterpart!
Claire's partner Simon Rowley was on hand to expertly net her first fish adding to the occasion.
I have to say that it was simply a matter of time before Claire landed her first fish, as from the outset, she has been a star pupil and her Spey casting would now put quite a few far more ‘experienced’ casters to shame. From a ghillies point of view these fish are by far the most memorable and I was delighted to have be involved, if only in some small part.
Mr and Mrs Wade suitably dressed to mark the occasion of Claire's first fish !!
Further up-river, Grantown Association are beginning to catch on a more regular basis as is Tulchan, especially D beat ghillied by Robert Mitchell. For any visitors to the area, Grantown is without question the finest association water in the UK and day tickets are available from Grant Mortimer’s shop in the high street. There might be quite a queue on Monday though as a fish of almost 28lbs was landed last week!
Another very memorable fish which I’m sure will be discussed at length over the next few years was landed at Laggan last week. It weighed slightly over 20lbs and not content with already breaking his own rod, it’s captor, who will of course remain nameless, broke the ghillies rod whilst playing it.
Let’s hope that June will bring with it a few more fish and that catches throughout the river will continue to increase. As far as tactics go, floating lines with intermediate or slow sinking tips should be the order of the day, accompanied with the Willie Gunn, Cascade and of course the Kinermony Killer.
Week ending 15th May.
What a difference a week makes!
Kinermony was reported as one of the most productive beats on the Spey last week however this past week, I think we may have tied for one of the least productive!
The week began with temperatures akin to early March. Overnight snow on Ben Rinnes accompanied by a water temp of 45degF didn’t encourage short sleeve order! The water did however drop and by the end of the week was almost down to summer level.
Tulchan D had a good day on Monday with 5 fish and there were a scattering of others throughout the middle reaches with Delagyle landing 3 of those.
Highlight of the week and indeed season was Delfur rod Huston McCullough who landed a fish of a lifetime on Saturday from the Two Stones pool. The fish measured 46” in length with a 23” girth and was weighed in the net at 36lbs. It’s great to finally see a photo and to a have an experienced Ghillie witness one of these large fish after many years of them being reported on other rivers unverified. I would be very surprised indeed if this doesn’t win the Malloch Trophy, awarded to the largest Fly caught Salmon in Scotland in 2010.
Above - Delfur Ghillie Grant Morrison with the 36lb fish and below captor Huston McCullough.
As I write ( Monday) the river temperature has risen to the magical 50degF mark for the first time this season so our rods can expect to see a few more running fish this week. Craigellachie angler Ian Henderson landed a cracker of around 16lbs today from Shamprach on you guessed it – a Kinermony Killer. Ian took the time to read the pre-use manual, along with the guarantee and therefore it was simply a matter of time! I expect a few more from Craigellachie this week. Wester Elchies rods had 3 today with two of them coming from the Little Turn, the best at 15lbs.
The prospects are looking good, especially considering the rise in water temperature. Hover shooting heads and full floating lines, accompanied by sinking tips and flies in the region of 1-2”. Willie Gunn, Collie Dogs, Cascades and in desperation, the Kinermony Killer – a fly that never fails and comes with a guarantee, if like Ian Henderson you use it properly!
Week ending 8th May.
Anglers were greeted with almost perfect conditions on Monday; completely overcast with a river level on the way down. Indeed, the 100% cloud cover lasted throughout the week but alas the river level fluctuated mid-week leaving the fish pretty much unsettled.
I believe that Carron had the largest of the week at 21lbs and Laggan was pretty productive with almost a fish per day. Just below at Wester Elchies, Delagyle and here at Kinermony fish we were fortunate to have fresh fish on a daily basis.
Frenchman Robert Vanier 83 years young and below his prize.
Tuesday was a day to remember for French angler Guy Nardin. Guy is a very accomplished Spey Caster and has been visiting Kinermony since 1981. His day began with 2 double-figure fish from the Boatpool as well as contacting 2 others very briefly. He then fished the Rhynd where he lost another fish after 7 minutes in play, before heading up to the Little Turn where he caught his third of the day weighing around 13lbs.
2 of the best from Guy Nardin.
Downstream at the Boatpool, his companion 83 year old Robert Vanier caught his first of the week at around 6lbs, as did Robin Gillespie, who landed a slightly larger fish of approx 11lbs. Although a veteran at 83 years old Robert was given something to aspire to as Mr Frank Whitley, aged 90 and fishing across the water at Wester Elchies, landed a beauty also from the Boatpool. A remarkable achievement from a very worthy captor.
A second fish for Robin Gillespie - proportionally one of the best fish I have seen this season.
As described earlier, the river level was pretty unstable from Wednesday to Friday but we continued to pick away, as did Wester Elchies and Delagyle. Strangely, the Aberlour AA had a poor week in their terms, although they did have a full compliment of visitors. Perhaps the fish have seen enough ‘Silverware’ this season, I know that I have.
The Lower part of the river also suffered from fluctuating river levels although it’s simply a matter of time before their numbers pick up.
There were 2 quite bizarre occurrences this week. Firstly, Spey regular Graham Ritchie left the river before dark!! and secondly Malcolm Newbould was seen assisting a spinner in distress! Such peculiar incidents cannot be underestimated and to be quite honest, I really don’t know which one surprises me most but one thing is for certain – you most certainly live and learn!
One of 2 fish caught in the Little Turn on Saturday evening. The second was from exactly the same spot!
All in all, a far more respectable week in terms of numbers than we have been accustomed to this season so far. It remains very clear however that this year’s spring run is far from a strong one and I’m sure that the majority of Ghillies river wide will advocate maximum restraint where possible.
Here are a couple of short video clips from last week - Enjoy.
We have a mixed forecast for the forthcoming week but if the river level remains stable, anglers may dust off the floating lines, accompanied by sinking tips and flies in the region of 2”. Willie Gunn, Collie Dogs, Cascades and in desperation, the Kinermony Killer – a fly that never fails and comes with a guarantee, if of course you use it properly!
Week ending 1st May.
Winner of our Glenfarclas Fish of the Month competition for April is Neil Cameron from Inverness who caught the lovely 25lb fish pictured on a Willie Gunn tube fly. The fish was caught, weighed and released in the Sourden Pool at Delfur and although not quite the heaviest of the month, most certainly worthy of the prize. Neil win’s a bottle of Glenfarclas 105 malt whisky, which he might well share with Delfur ghillie Davie Mackintosh who netted the fish for him.
Neil Cameron's fish in the safe hands of Delfur ghillie Davie Mackintosh.
There have been a number of large fish recorded in April. Craigellachie had 2 around the 20lb mark, Wester Elchies one of approx 22lbs, Lower Pitchroy and Gordon Castle, again almost 20lbs and only this past week Delagyle had two exceptional fish, one of which weighed 28lbs, followed swiftly by a second of 22lbs. Some of the longer serving Ghillies recognise the fact that these large fish aren’t always a good sign as far as fish-numbers are concerned and bearing in mind the poor spring run so far, perhaps it’s indeed more than simply an ‘old wives tale’
Feather enjoys the spring sunshine.
One thing we have noticed quite alarmingly this season has been the increase in seal-damaged fish. This fact most certainly has to be addresses at some stage in the very near future and as a matter of comparison, it has been reported that in 1914 the UK Grey Seal population was approximately 500, where as now the numbers are estimated at 250,000. Every single ghillie on the river will have photographic evidence of seal damaged fish and those are the lucky ones who have run the gauntlet. We can only guess how many Salmon and Sea-Trout have succumbed to a less fortunate fate and considering the number of ‘fat and happy’ seals in the Moray Firth, this number will have a huge impact on future runs. Certainly food for thought and in my opinion more worthy than some of the issues discussed in debates over the past few weeks!
Another lucky escape!
Guests fishing at Kinermony last week were Tony and Mark Hutley accompanied by John Oxley. John had fished on the Aberlour AA in recent years but hadn’t yet landed his first Spey salmon. He didn’t have to wait too long, as first time down the Boatpool with 2’10” on the gauge, his reel screamed into action. The result was his first Spey Springer of approximately 7lbs. His run of good luck continued into Tuesday where this time at the neck of the pool he landed a cracker of around 17lbs. Mark Hutley also landed a fish of similar size from the tail of the pool around the witching hour of 11am.
John Oxley's first Spey Salmon.
Not to be outdone, senior citizen Tony, added his tupence worth with a fine fish on Wednesday, which was their last encounter until Saturday. The fish pictured below was one caught on Saturday and clearly displays some of the seal damage that I have touched upon above. Some anglers advocate killing these fish with the view that they don’t survive to spawn. A plausible excuse – not a chance! I totally disagree and the sheer fact that they have come this far and taken the fly is testament of a pretty assured recovery.
Hopefully next stop - spawning grounds!
Carron & Laggan had their best week of the season with 10 fish, as did the Aberlour AA. Tactic were completely opposed between the beats however, the end result similar. On a more up-beat note, traditionally the spey in May is the desired place to be in fishing terms. The ambiance, flora and fauna accompanied of course with the mighty spring salmon ensure Speyside is a dream location. As the water temperature continues to warm, encouraging more fish into the river, I’m confident that we’ll see improved catches. Floating lines with sinking tips should suffice, allied with the Willie Gunn, Cascade and perhaps the Kinermony Killer. For any visitors keen to have a cast, there is availability of all the local angling associations and if you need any further advice or information, please feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com
Week ending 24th April.
With continued excellent Salmon fishing conditions this past week, catches again has been patchy to say the least. A very experienced team of anglers spent the week around the Carron – Knockando area with very little to show in terms of fish on the bank. Yes there is more to fishing than catching fish, however one could expect, especially at this time of year to encounter and engage with the occasional fish.
2 regular Kinermony guests who don't appear worried about the lack of fish so far!
Wester Elchies began the week with a superb fish, estimated in the region of 21lbs, caught in Pol Ma Cree. Visiting from his native River Lochy, John Veitch landed a fish of similar size at Lower Pitchroy. Another large fish, estimated at 19lbs was caught on the Gordon Castle Water this week which must have been very encouraging, especially considering their pretty dismal start to the season.
Steve Mannion playing his second fish of the week in the Rhynd.
Last week’s Kinermony team came out pretty well and almost averaged a fish per day. Steve Mannion was top rod and although keen to add a very well-mended kelt to his tally was reminded that although often similar in size, there is a fair bit of difference between gill maggots and sea-lice! Inverurie angler Ian Sinclair kept up his enviable record of catching a fish on every visit to Kinermony. We look forward to his return in June and I already have my pencil well sharpened.
Pretty fresh don't you think.
Tulchan and the association at Grantown are slowly picking away and the prime beats below Craigellachie are now catching on a more regular basis, however bearing in mind the rising river temperature and current water level, catches on a whole still remain very much below par.
World Famous Spey Caster and extremely passionate Spey angler Ian Gordon recently added a post on his Blog which might answer a few of your questions, titled Counting them back in. I’d like to encourage you all to read it and perhaps leave a few comments. Just click the link below.
Not an unusual sight these days!
I’d just like to take the opportunity on behalf of all his fellow Spey-Ghillies and friends to wish Wester Elchies Ghillie Sam Bremner a speedy recovery, following his short spell in hospital last week. Sam is an inspiration to his many guests and his knowledge, encouragement and sense of humour are second to none.
With a continued excellent river level and warming temperatures, intermediate lines, shooting heads and floaters with sinking poly leaders should get your fly at a good depth. Cascades, Willie Gunn’s and of course the deadly Kinermony Killer should be quite tempting to these beautiful springers. Fish numbers will improve therefore have confidence in your methods and expect your next cast to be the one that counts.
Week ending 17th April.
The river level had dropped to a very encouraging level by last Monday and continued to drop slowly throughout the week. With an excellent team of anglers covering the water we were all pretty excited about the week ahead, especially with reports on Monday of 3 fish below at Craigellachie, one of 20lbs and another 3 from the Aberlour AA, again one of almost 20lbs; surely it would simply be a matter of time.
The week began with a couple of kelts, which was heartening but all we could do was watch on from a distance as the Aberlour rods bent. I assisted in the release of a fish of around 18lbs from the Aberlour beat which was dripping with sea-lice. It was a truly spectacular specimen and as I pointed it up river to Kinermony, the whole occasion brought tears to the eyes of its captor!!
Visiting from Peebles, Malcolm Mcleman was the first of our anglers to hook a fresh fish but alas as he worked through his camera modes to facilitate the under water-shot, the sea-licer threw the hook. Malcolm however enjoyed ever second of the experience as did his trusty companion; its just a pity that the spaniel wasn't well enough trained to operate the camera on this occasion!
Malcolm McLeman with faithful companion.
So, one again it was again down to 'Spey Sensei' - Graham Ritchie San – to lead the way. Graham grassed our first and ultimately, only fish of the week on Thursday estimated at around 10-11lbs.
Graham Ritchie with a Collie-Caught springer.
Another angle of Graham's fish.
We did have great sport with the Brownies, Finnock and Sea-Trout kelts during the first Olive hatches of the season, however a chilly N Westerly breeze ensured that any opportunities were pretty much short lived.
Well worth the dash for the trout fly-rod. Size 16 Adams.
This wee lady put quite a bend in a 5wt Rod.
As far as Spey catches were concerned, I think the Aberlour AA came out well with 9 fish, which pretty much shows that Running fish are far more attracted to the spinner in cold water. I believe that all these fish were released. Grantown Association caught 5 fish and Kinchurdy landed their first of the season. Craigellachie made an excellent start with 6 by Tuesday but couldn’t keep it up adding only 1 more to their tally. 3 this week from Delagyle, one of 17lbs and a brace further up at Carron. Wester Elchies also had a couple with again one of around 17lbs. Delfur had a reasonable week, especially considering the lack of fish and Gordon Castle finally had their first of the season. It's actually quite unbelievable that a beat with such a remarkable history of spring fishing as Gordon Castle only caught their first fish of the season this past week. Surely there is no better indication that it's now time to consider some radical means of encouraging the spring fish to stop off in the lower river!
For the many ardent Spey anglers who read my weekly reports, these figures must make quite depressing reading, especially bearing in mind it’s now the middle of April. Before we all get too disheartened though, one thing we must contemplate is that our Spring run has certainly moved forward, as has the Grilse run. Nevertheless only time will tell and I for one remain optimistic that the next cast will be the one that counts.
Little Turn at 2' 9". Still quite lumpy, but worth every cast!
With an excellent river level and warming water temperature, intermediate lines, shooting heads and even floaters with sinking poly leaders should get your fly at a good depth. Black and Yellow tubes, Cascades, Willie Gunn’s and of course the deadly Kinermony Killer should be quite enough to tempt these beautiful springers. Fish numbers can only improve therefore have confidence in your methods.
Week ending 10th April.
Last week was almost a complete washout, with conditions similar to that of the large flood last September. The river began to rise on Monday morning and by mid afternoon was completely unfishable and in reality remained that way until Friday.
Almost wet feet.
No Pig in sight.
Even too much for the crankers!
Many of the local Golf courses have ‘Senior days’ and Friday was certainly one of those on the river. First, 80 year old Elgin man Sandy Gray kept up his enviable spring record with a fish estimated at around 15lbs from Delagyle, breaking their duck for the season. Not to be outdone however, a visiting lady angler, also 80 years old caught a beauty of 19lbs from the Boatpool on the Craigellachie beat. It’s very refreshing to see folk of this age on the river enjoying every single moment of their fishing and surely this must act as some form of encouragement to our younger generation.
Delagyle's first of the season caught by 80 year old Sandy Gray.
Visiting Tyne Spey-Caster Mike Broadey landed a lovely fish from the Phones beat at Knockando on Saturday, doubling their score and Laggan also managed a brace. Delfur recorded a further 4 fish to their tally, which was pretty exceptional fishing considering the deluge.
First Spey fish of the season for Tynespeycaster Mike Broadey.
My good friend and Kinermony guest Ian Henderson sent me the photo below of a fish he caught at Bywell on the Tyne last week. There was a rumour that he caught it whilst harling, however knowing Ian very well, I doubt the ghillie would have offered to spend that long with his in a boat without a decent pair of ear defenders. One magnificent looking fish – well done Ian.
Ian Hendesron - one happy chappy and rightly so!
Having just returned from the river, I’m quite amazed that we didn’t get a hold of a fish today. The conditions were superb and we had very proficient rods covering the water. 3 fish were caught just below at Craigellachie, one of 20lbs and another 3 from the Aberlour AA, again one of almost 20lbs. It’s very encouraging for the remainder of the week and let’s hope that the water continues to drop in height and rise in temperature – NOT Vice-versa!
Below is a photo of Delfur Ghillie Davie Mackintosh holding a Potential Fish of the Month for April, estimated at 25lbs. Now that's why we come fishing!
Davie Mackintosh of Delfur with an absolute cracker.
We have an exciting week ahead with continued stable conditions forecast. The temperature is in the low 40'sF so intermediate and slow sinking lines accompanied by a variety of flies around the 2-3" mark should bring an offer or two.
Week ending 3rd April.
Well we certainly began the week with ‘half-decent’ conditions, but that was just about as far as it got! Arndilly made the most of it and had 6 fish out and back into the river by Tuesday lunchtime. Wester Elchies and Craigellachie also added to their totals with one each respectively on Monday.
Craigellachie ghillie Dougie Ross with a fine wee fish from the Lower Slabs.
Tuesday was a howler in all respects and the strong north westerly, combined with driving sleet, certainly sorted out the men from the boys. The Kinermony ‘boys’ departed at lunchtime as did many rods up and down the river. Overnight snow on Tuesday brought complete chaos to Speyside and many roads were simply impassable. My conservative guess is that we had 18” of snow at Aberlour and a great deal more on higher ground. Wednesday was a very quiet day on the river bank and those who ventured out with felt soled waders were back in the 70’s fashion parade in no time. Quite tricky walking on 8” heels especially for a hairy arsed salmon fisher!
April 1st but certainly No April Fool !
My drive to work on Friday was hindered by a jack-knifed lorry around Millbuies. I chose the Dallas, Archiestown option, much to my misery as I found another blocked road. Back to Elgin and off to Lhanbryde, Boat O’ Brig, Rothes and 50 miles on the clock before you know it! Fortunately we were greeted with a much improved outlook, indeed glorious sunshine most of the day. Although the burns were all coming in heavy, the overnight frost kept the river back and this morning (Saturday), we were blessed with another lovely fishing day.
The Little Turn - A lovely cast.
Peter Murray from Edinburgh, an excellent Speycaster and Kinermony faithful was rewarded with a cracking fish from his ‘very own’ Craig’s Pool. Peter has been fishing at Kinermony for almost 20 years and in that time has most surprisingly only caught one other fish, this again from the Craig’s.
Who say's there are no decent trout on the Spey !
Over Friday-Saturday we fished all the prime spring spots and yet he was drawn back to the Craig’s this afternoon where not only did he catch his Springer from exactly the same lie as his first fish many years before, but also a Brown Trout of around 4-5lb mark. At 2’6” on our gauge, the pool fished very well indeed and I’m hopeful that Pete’s capture will encourage a few other members of the Kinermony-Old School to fish the Craig’s.
Smiles all around as Peter Murray lands a special fish from the Craig's - A Pool he calls Home !
Delfur also landed a magnificent 25lb fish today from Sourden, without question one of the top 3 pools on the entire river. Our first winner of the Glenfarclas Fish of the Month Competition also caught his fish from Delfur in March, however it was landed further down at Beaufort. Mr Chris Ponting caught an 18lb cracker on a 2” Gold-Bodied Willie Gunn tube fly and the fish is pictured below held for a photo, prior to release by Mark Melville, Delfur’s head ghillie. Well done Chris and a bottle of Glenfarclas 105 will be winging it’s way to you in due course.
Delfur head ghillie Mark Melville returns the Glenfarclas Fish of the Month for March.
The Lour burn was running very heavily and coloured with snow melt as I left today. If the mild weather continues tomorrow, we could be in for quite challenging conditions early next week as the low lying snow melts. It’s unfortunate that the conditions have been so varied this year, and in reality this unstable weather has had a major impact on the catch returns. I’m convinced that once the conditions become more constant that the numbers will increase and the Spey’s season will kick off in earnest. Big flies and Big lines may well be required next week but they might also bring some Big fish – only time will tell!
Week ending 27th March.
Finally after many weeks of frustration, we have been rewarded with a spell of weather more conducive to Salmon fishing. Gone is the grue and high water replaced by the more familiar woodpecker and chainsaw and now at last a real sense of expectation is spreading in Speyside.
Most beats from Orton to Grantown have now recorded their first catches of 2010 with Rothes, the ‘jewel in the crown’ of early spring fishing leading the field. Arndilly had an excellent start to last week with 3 fish on Monday and Wester Elchies also had a good week, landing 4 fish. Visiting anglers Iain Johnston and Dave Sadowski landed 2 of those around the 9lbs mark. There were also fish for Delfur, Rothes, Craigellachie, Aberlour AA, Laggan, Knockando, Tulchan and Grantown AA, so pretty much well spread indeed.
Iain Johnstone's fish from the Rhynd at Wester Elchies.
We had our first fish of the season on Wednesday and although the old adage of ‘If you fly is in the water you always have a chance’ rings true, you also need a wee bit of luck on occasion! Fraser Johnston did create his own luck by ‘bottling’ the wade out to the Little Turn at 3’ on the gauge. After 2 steps he glanced back with great trepidation and appeared to be seeking a little sympathy. Anyway, as he didn’t receive too much, he continued gingerly for another couple of steps before completely giving up! After regaining some colour and composure we decided to fish the tail of the Rhynd whilst companion Richard fished the Dykie. 20 yards above the gate, a pluck, followed by a more appropriate pull and a flash of silver had the Ghillie running for one of the driest nets on Speyside! After a good fight the fish estimated at around 5-6lbs was drawn over the net and the hook pinged out……phew! A cracking wee Springer as pictured below.
Fraser Johnstone with the first Kinermony fish of 2010.
Also photographed below was Fraser’s father Hugh’s toby spoon. Hugh still enjoys to spin, especially where the wading is tricky. On this occasion and as I was feeling particularly benevolent I allowed him to spin as long as he took the conservative measures suggested and captured below - Apparently he had a good couple of pulls!
The 'modified' Toby Spoon. (not a great hooker)
Thursday had the arrival of Gus Shepherd and merry gang. Gus lost a big fish in March of 2009 in the Little Turn and unfortunately couldn’t fish it this year due to high water. He did however bring prototype wading shoes, pictured below and as soon as he recovers from his mid-life crisis, he will be allowed to trial them on Speyside!
The first signs of a mid-life crisis - next the Motorbike or Sportscar.
Friday and Saturday had party host Paul Garner, and friends Davie, Kenny and Graeme. You can clearly see from the photo below that as far as dress sense is concerned, Paul has a great deal to learn, and would be more recognisable on crimewatch! However, looks can be deceiving and although dressed as a ‘NED’ he did net a fresh fish on the Wester Elchies bank from the Brock before ‘checking out’ a few large private houses in the local area! You can take the man out of Denny but you can’t take Denny out of the man!
A particularly dodgy looking character.
There is still a good deal of availability on the river and with more settled weather forecast, a great opportunity to get off the mark, before the weekly lets begin. The River temperature is now around the 40degF mark so continued work with the sub-surface lines and largish flies is required, however thanks to recent developments in tackle, especially in fly line manufacture, not the great hardship that it once was.
With a half-decent forecast for next week, I’d expect the numbers of fish recorded throughout the system to gradually increase as the water warms up. Amazingly, we are into April this coming week with little sign of Daffodils on the bank sides so far, however, it’s amazing what a bit of sunshine can do, so here's hoping!
Week ending 20th Mar
Tom Robinson, the early riser of the ‘Tyne Speycasters’ party checked out the Kinermony river level last Monday morning at 06:00 and recorded 5’10” on the gauge and dark chocolate in colour – not a great start to the week! By the time I arrived at 08:30, the water was up a further 6” therefore as far as fishing was concerned, we decided to call it a day. These guys have been regular visitors to the area since 2004 and this was the first day that they had ever lost due to unfishable conditions and as realists considered themselves most fortunate.
Little Turn at 6' on the gauge.
Tuesday brought a dropping river with far better colour and although we did land a few kelts all agreed that their flies just weren’t fishing slowly enough. We did however land a fine Brown Trout of approximately 4.5lbs, which will hopefully be tempted again to a dry olive later in April, fished on lighter tackle.
A nice early season Brownie.
Wednesday brought far better conditions and we were pretty optimistic of getting a fresh fish. Alas the river began to rise mid-afternoon and by 5pm was already up a foot. Before the rise though, Alex Robertson landed a fresh fish in the Junction Pool at Rothes, estimated at 8lbs and a fish of similar size was landed in the Boatpool at Wester Elchies.
Alex Robertson with a well -earned Springer from the Junction at Rothes.
The river continued to rise over night and was again nearing the top of our gauge on Thursday. It did however drop during the day, only to rise again overnight leaving Friday again unfishable. This gave our party the time to explore the local areas and me a chance to explore a fine fly box! Mike Broadey – party leader has raised a few eyebrows in the past with his strange concoction of Balvenie Doublewood & Strawberry water however at the very least it retains its alcohol content. John Arthur brought along 2 bottles of Red wine – pictured below that would have been better placed in a Fish & Chip shop. 5.5% indeed!
A fine collection of 'Nessies'
Saturday was a cracking spring day and although the river dropped over a foot during the day, once more our rods didn’t feel that their flies were fishing slow or deep enough. All in all a very frustrating week on the river and I doubt whether there were more than 4 fish caught in total. All is not lost however. With a great shift in low level snow last week, we should see slightly more consistent conditions in the coming weeks which should at last see our spring catches on the up.
Sinking lines, Shooting heads and flies around the 2-3” mark will suffice next week and with clearer water anticipated the normal black/ yellow combination should produce a fish or two.
Week ending 13th Mar.
As predicted we were greeted with a 3’ rise on Monday morning with the water still retaining a fair bit of colour. The water temperature did remained around the 36degF mark though but our anglers were optimistic of action. They were rewarded by a few kelts and word soon came of an early fish from Rothes & Aikenway – the Spey mecca of early spring fishing.
Overnight frost gripped the water back by over 1’ which certainly helped visiting angler Rob Mason. Fishing the Wester Elchies beat. Rob caught a fish estimated at 8lbs from Delene on a Green Highlander tube, fished on the new Carron slow sinker. Next beat up, Laggan also landed a fish estimated of similar size and ghillie Mike Murdoch was glad to get up and going. Wednesday was relatively quiet however my good friend and very experienced angler Willie Mair landed his first of the season from Delfur on Thursday. Further up river visiting angler Will Townhouse caught a very fresh fish of around 7lbs from the boatpool at Craigellachie on a wet cell 2 and Willie Gunn tube, duly released. If you look at the top of this reports page, you will find 2 excellent fishing opportunities at Craigellachie, which I would highly recommend as the complete Spey Experience, especially if you tie is the luxury accommodation at Speyburn House – the pamper centre of Speyside!
Gently does it Willie - almost there!
Willie Mair with a classic wee spey springer.
Soon to retire as minister of St Giles and St Columba’s Church in Elgin, Rev. George Rollo and sons Paul and Andrew fished at Kinermony on Thursday. The boys had never even held a fishing rod before Thursday and by the end of the day, all 3 had caught fish with Andrew leading the field with 6. Unfortunately none bore the 2010 plate however as a novice, a fish is a fish and it was a great pleasure to watch their father having to drag them off the water at 5pm. Another 2 youngsters hooked for life!
Spey expert Graham Ritchie with a sea-liced 5 pounder.
Part time Oil Chemist and 'Full - Time Professional Salmon Fisher' Graham Ritchie caught this wee beauty from Rothes & Aikenway on Saturday. The fish took his 'modified' Black & Yellow Templedog and was quickly photographed and released. One of the freshest fish to far this season, it had a large number of sea-lice evident.
Stuart Wilson from Aberlour decided to have an early cast on the association beat on Saturday morning whilst waiting for his fishing companions to get out of bed. Stuart caught his first of the season, a 9lb fresh fish from the boatpool before heading off with the motley crew to Orton, where they were all rewarded with a kelt each!
The river has been pretty unstable this week with fluctuating levels mid day and over night. I’m hopeful of recording our first fish of the season next week as I have an exceptional bunch of anglers from the banks of the River Tyne. Tom Robinson has landed a fish for the past 2 years and is my bet to retain the ‘Balvenie Challenge’ however, I'm pretty sure Mike Broadey will be hard on his heels.
Intermediate and sinking lines remain order of the day, accompanied by flies around the 2-3” mark. My guess is that the Ness C will prove a particularly successful pattern!
Week ending 6th Mar.
Grue, Grue and more Grue was the sight greeted by most anglers this past week, with Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday almost unfishable. Conditions on the middle section of the river never got above freezing before lunchtime however lower beats did manage afternoon spells when the river flowed almost normally.
My good friend Michael Ritchie, who had already caught a fresh fish on opening day on the River Dee, added to his tally with the first fish from Delfur, estimated at around the 14 pound mark. Michael caught it from Sourden, probably the best fishing pool on the entire river, whilst brother Graham watched on from above. It’s very encouraging to see early fish of this quality and in fact bigger, as a 17lb fish was caught later in the week.
Friday was an excellent fishing day and visiting angler Gordon Nuttal fishing at Craigellachie caught their first fish of the season, estimated at 15lbs on a black and yellow templedog. A couple of beats lower they landed 3 fresh fish on Friday, which was a blessing for the rods, who had up until then had only watched the ice flow past, albeit from a nice cosy hut. George Michie fished with us at Kinermony on Friday, following a brief detour via Delagyle. We are pretty certain that George hooked a fresh fish in the Little Turn, however it threw the hook before that was confirmed! It certainly didn’t tug the string in normal kelt fashion!
Gordon Nuttal with a bright Springer, from Broom Isle.
Earlier in the week, Rev. Eric Patterson from Golspie fished with us and although the river had already been blessed on opening day, Eric conducted another, more private ceremony, more commonly seen in a Baptist Church. Eric landed a number of kelts at Wester Elchies on Monday and will hopefully return again in September – when the river temperature has warmed up a bit!
We had perfect conditions today and novice Salmon angler Andrew Johnston, enjoyed a wonderful spring day in Speyside. He was double speycasting within half an hour and was rewarded by a strong fighting kelt. It was a great pleasure to watch Grandad Bill, issue words of encouragement to Andrew, as he battled with the fish and I’m sure that today we have another angler hooked for life!
Andrew Johnston enjoying his first encounter with Salmo Salar.
Most burns were coming in heavily with melted snow as I left, which could well lead to a fair rise in water over the next couple of days. Hopefully once it settles, we’ll also get off the mark this season.
Intermediate and sinking lines remain order of the day, accompanied by flies around the 2-3” mark.
Week ending 27th Feb
I wonder how many years it has been since a blank week has been recorded on the Spey? Well, that was almost the case until a fish was caught once again at Rothes today ( Saturday). A pretty frustrating week for guests and ghillies alike as the prolonged arctic conditions dug in. The top 2 photo’s below were taken last Monday and clearly show the arctic state of the river – before the snow! There had been no fishing up until Friday due to adverse conditions with only the fool-hardy venturing out. however today has seen a good rise in the air temperature and hopefully this will be the beginning of a milder spell. I’d expect anglers to be greeted to similar conditions on Monday, but hopefully, once we get a more settled period of warmer weather, I’m sure that we’ll see many more beats recording their first catches of the season.
The photo above was taken this morning. Willie Mearns and I spent an hour breaking off this lump of ice estimated at 60 yards by 20. Quite a spectacular sight as it hit the stream below Pol Ma Cree, almost in slow motion - fortunately no-one was fishing below!
On a positive note, this cold winter will hopefully have slowed down proceedings as far as egg-hatching is concerned and a timely delay will certainly allow the opportunity for these newly born alevins to feed on more substantial food sources.
Below you will see a photo of a superb painting of my 2 faithful companions. It was painted by local and particularly gifted artist Anne Johnson and as you can see captures the dogs to perfection. Anne has a great love of field- sports, particularly working her dogs and she has certainly taught me a thing or two. Have a look at the link and I think you will be suitable impressed by her work.
Rosie & Cerys - Captured to Perfection
The key to spring fishing is perceverance and to keep it deep and slow where possible. The fish certainly won’t move far in cold water to intercept the fly. Having said that, the speed at which you cover a pool should be pretty quick – at least 3 steps per cast. As well as keeping you warmer, it allows you the opportunity to fish a pool twice with slightly different methods. Intermediate and sinking lines remain order of the day, accompanied by flies around the 2-3” mark.
Week ending 20th Feb
Cold weather has dominated proceedings over the past week in fishing terms. Even in the bright sunshine, rods rings have been freezing within a few minutes of fishing and although often a good excuse to come back into the hut and warm up, this again has been thwarted due to the gas bottles freezing! Anyway, there are only so many cups of coffee one can drink when wearing chest waders, before causing further disruption to fishing! The river was grue bound on Wednesday and currently the water temperature is sitting around 32 -34 deg. The kelts have also switched off to an extent, however when the temperature increases by a couple of degrees, I’m sure rods will see a bit more action.
Rothes & Aikenway, who normally lead the way with early spring fishing, have landed 3 fresh fish this week and just following closely behind Arndilly with 2. The first Arndilly fish, was caught by Elgin angler Mr Peter Falconer and estimated at 12-13lbs. Further up-river Upper Arndilly landed their first as did the Aberlour Angling Association. It will be no surprise to hear that Mr Ian Morrison caught the first from the Aberlour AA as he has done for the past 4 years. An incredible achievement and the fish was once more donated to the Aberlour Nursing home, an annual occurrence.
Craigellachie ghillie Dougie Ross has had an interesting start to the season. Not content in writing his car off on the Archiestown road on Monday, his ‘ingenuity’ led to a minor explosion at the Craigellachie fishing hut on Saturday. Fortunately only his pride was slightly tarnished however they do say that such events as described above come in three's, so watch this space!
A grue bound Spey.
With an estimated 11 fresh fish so far off the river, a reasonable start, especially considering the near arctic conditions. If the temperature rises even slightly in the next week, I expect to hear of a few more early fish. Intermediate and sinking lines remain order of the day, accompanied by flies around the 2” mark.
Week ending 13th Feb
River Spey anglers were greeted with excellent conditions as the river was opened last Thursday. The other 3 major rivers, namely, Tweed, Tay and Dee had been opened by a variety of politicians and comedians, therefore the Spey, not to be outdone had a combination of both in MSP Richard Lochhead. As a toast to the salmon and indeed to those who pursue this often elusive fish, he poured a bottle of Glenfarclas into the river as a celebration of mutual respect. Following that and under the watchful eye of Champion Spey Caster Ian Gordon, Mr Lochhead, cast the first fly of the season at Aberlour, an area normally more accustomed to a technique common with modern politics ‘The Spinner’
The event was once again most generously sponsored by local businesses, Glenfarclas and Walkers. Representing their respective organisations, Ishbel Grant and Marjorie Walker both caught fish on opening day at Wester Elchies, however they were last years models and therefore didn’t count towards the opening day competition.
Winner of the Spey Quaich for 2010 was Mr Alastair Dodds, who caught a fish estimated at 4.5lbs from the Orton beat. Young ghillie Andrew Hall was on hand to verify and subsequently release the fish. The lucky couple were also presented with Walker’s luxury hampers and a bottle of Glenfarclas 30 year old whisky. Mr Dodds also received a 15’ Sharpes of Aberdeen fly rod, again kindly donated by Sharpes representative Chris Baird.
Spey Quaich Winner Alastair Dodds, Ishbel Grant (Glenfarclas), Andrew Hall (Orton ghillie), Marjorie Walker (Walkers)
Andrew Toft (centre) and Ian Borthwick (Carron ghillie) receive their prizes.
The largest fish of the day at around 11lbs was landed at Carron by Mr Andrew Tolf, a member of the highly successful Carron Casting Team. Ghillie Ian Borthwick was on hand to unhook and release the fish and again they were both rewarded with whisky from Glenfarclas and Walkers hampers. A third fish was reported as being caught on the Rothes and Aikenway beat but was not verified and not registered with Munros tackle shop.
As is normal on opening day, most beats up and down the river were fully booked and the majority of anglers had their lines tightened at some stage. These kelts are very free takers in the early part of the season and must be handled with the same care and respect as their fresh relatives. The outlook for the next couple of weeks in terms of fishing conditions is pretty good, and although it is very much early days with regard to the number of fish entering the river, those fortunate enough to encounter a springer will be well rewarded, such is their sheer beauty. These early ‘springers’ in fact are regarded as the ‘greatest prize’ and with lots of availability on many private beats, a great opportunity for local anglers to visit an often pretty exclusive river.
We are launching a ‘Fish of the Month’ competition, sponsored by Glanfarclas, where size will not always matter! Most of the ghillies have been informed and I'm sure that my fortnightly report in the Northern Scot and the Jungle Drums will do the rest. John and Ishbel Grant have kindly donated a bottle of their superb Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength favoured in Fishing Huts throughout the river, to the monthly winner with a special prize for the 'Fish of the Year' Winners under the age of 18 will still be rewared however, with a more appropriate prize.
As they say, 'you have to be in it to win it' therefore anyone wishing to enter the competition, please send a photo of the fish along with capture details to firstname.lastname@example.org
With the opening of a new fishing season only a week away, it’s time to dust off the rods in eager anticipation of catching that first, often elusive but most prized spring fish.
The 2009 season figures were as I predicted, with around 8600 salmon being caught, of which over 75% were released. These catches were roughly 20% down on the previous year’s total, however mostly due to a distinct lack of grilse (1 sea-winter Salmon). Our hope is that these ‘missing’ grilse also spent this past winter at sea in good feeding grounds and will return to the Spey this year – only time will tell.
As a matter of interest to any non-fishing readers, it has been established that currently less than 10% of all smolts, (juvenile salmon) actually return to their rivers of birth, such is their plight at sea. There appears very little that we, as anglers can do about these alarming figures; however it is very clear that unless something is done that our stocks will continue to decline.
A proposal to supplement the natural smolt run with hatchery reared smolts is currently being considered, however maintaining the ‘genetic integrity’ appears to be an issue along with the normal bureaucracy and financial concerns, therefore, it may be some time before we see any headway. From an angers perspective, all we want to see is our salmon runs returning to something like their former glory: nature will as always, find a way of sorting out any perceived genetic issues by it’s own natural process.
Last season, the opening ceremony at Aberlour was cancelled due to inclement weather. This year, we are hopeful of gathering at the suspension bridge in Aberlour before heading off to our respective beats. The event will again be sponsored by Glenfarclas and Walker, with the addition of a Sharpes of Aberdeen rod as a prize for the captor of the first fresh fish on fly. With some high winter floods behind us, I’m sure that anglers will encounter many changes to their favourite pools, especially around Fochabers where there was a substantial move in the river bed at the end of last year.
Sinking & intermediate lines/tips will be the order of the day accompanied by a range of flies around the 1-2” size. The various angling associations at Garmouth, Aberlour and Grantown will have lots of availability and at a very reasonable price. Early season rods are also available at Craigellachie and if you require any further details regarding contacts, just drop me a line.
Hot off the press - The River Dee opened yesterday and my good friends Graham & Michael Ritchie both caught fresh fish at Cairnton. River Spey Board chairman Mr Alan Williams also had a fresh fish at Crathes and celebrated the event in his own unique style, by testing the water temperature literally! Let's hope the idea isn't added to the Spey board recommendations for 2011!
The Grey Mare at Cairnton yesterday - A pool favoured by the legendary Arthur Wood.
An opening day springer from the Grey Mare caught by Graham Ritchie.