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Trout & Salmon Reports
Now that the rods have been dismantled on Speyside, it gives us an opportunity to sit back and reflect upon the past season. The quality of the multi-sea winter fish was very apparent, especially from late April onwards. I doubt very much if there were any beats below Grantown that didn’t record fish of over 20lbs, with a good number of beats catching fish around the magical 30lb mark. These quality fish however didn’t mask the lack in number of spring salmon, grilse & sea-trout. Although the official figures haven’t been published yet, my guess would be around the 7500 mark for Salmon & Grilse and 1800 sea-trout.
There have been wide ranging discussions this season in particular on why the Spey has been underperforming recently. The trouble is that there is no definitive answer other than the clear fact that less fish are returning, meaning less fish are migrating. If recent ‘evidence’ is to be believed, marine mortality is actually on the decrease therefore, that’s one regular excuse no longer valid. Perhaps like many experienced anglers believe, there are simply good years and bad years. If that is indeed the case, then why do we bother with the expense of costly biological studies? Habitat restoration work has always been an on-going procedure however it was clear following the appointment of our new Biologist that this was going to become a far higher priority. This work is invaluable and although it will be a good number of years until any benefit is seen, this move has to be a huge step in the right direction and long overdue. Following on from their limited brood stock capture, the bailiffs and a few voluntary ghillies are currently walking a number of spawning burns carrying our redd counts as well as identifying possible habitat improvements. Our Spey Salmon stocks over the next couple of years are currently feeding at sea therefore there is nothing we can do about their welfare in the meantime apart from keeping our fingers firmly crossed.
The normal advice for any new tenants is that ideally, they should make a decision on the ‘value’ of their fishing over at least a 5 year cycle. Normally in that time, you will have one very good year, one very bad year and 3 somewhere in between, which I suppose supports the good year – bad year theory above. For those anglers more interested in chasing numbers, I’m afraid the truth is that they will eventually run out of beats and rivers to fish in. It may be an old cliché however one that’s supported by many passionate anglers. ‘There is more to fishing than catching fish’. As a ghillie, my aim to see the same expression on Saturday night as I do first thing on Monday morning and I am very seldom disappointed. The Spey is indeed a magical river and our loyal tenants wait in eager anticipation for 51 weeks of the year for their opportunity to once again cast their flies across her tantalising streams and glides.
Although 2012 won’t be a season mentioned in any record books, I do feel optimistic that the board do now have a structure based vision in place. Additionally, I expect far more transparency in all areas which will be welcomed by all. This can already be seen in part from the informative biologist’s blog on the RSB website. We are certainly due a good year on the Spey next season so let’s hope that the progeny form the relatively good spawning of 2008-2009 make an appearance in numbers.
Fun the Turn!
We are now into our final week of the season and as I write, the river is in roaring spate. I have never known a summer with so much rainfall however I’m currently well below the average age of a River Spey angler therefore, I’m sure there have been similar seasons in the past. What I do know is that due to this years growth, I’ve used more fuel to keep my strimmer head rotating than in previous years and that’s neither a good sign for me or my employer!
Having never fished the Phones beat at Knockando before, delightful Swiss angler Eliane Schleiffer decided to treat herself. The hut location has to be one of the most scenic spots on Speyside and with a ghillie of Sandy Smith’s experience and demeanour; the guests are always very well catered for. Eliane caught a fish measure at 38” and estimated at 22lbs from the Pouches pool, which is her second largest Spey Salmon. Her largest being 35lbs! Yet another example of female anglers and large salmon – if only we could bottle the recipe! Eliane is the worthy winner for September in our Glenfarclas Fish of the Month competition.
Having just mentioned the Knockando stretch, whilst idyllic, the downside on this part of the river is the considerable canoe and raft pressure. Their impact over time has clearly made a significant difference to the rod catches and number of resident fish, both juvenile and adult in this area. Having been a ghillie at Knockando for over 40 years, Sandy Smith has witnessed the increase in canoes traffic and subsequent decline in fish densities at first hand over a considerable period. As he approaches retirement, Sandy has expressed real concern for the livelihood of those starting out their lives as ghillies. In his opinion, this season has been the longest of his career!
The River Spey Board held its open meeting last night which was intended to discuss the general management of the river. The meeting was well attended with a diverse audience sharing a common passion for the future of the river. River Board Chairman Alan Williams opened the meeting with a very candid introduction which set an excellent tone throughout. Board Director Roger Knight presented the recent finding on the genetic study which brought about many differing comments as to its value. In my opinion, all it proved with any conviction was that fish born in the Spey return to the Spey and that the previous stocking policy was ineffective. Having said that, the fact that we now know through ‘scientific evidence’ that Spey fish return to their place of birth, which is a useful tool in regard to the on-going fight against mixed stock netting.
Brian Shaw (River Biologist) then presented his findings on the juvenile populations, habitat improvements and hatchery benefits or lack of, which was the main part of the meeting. Fry densities were on average 3 times greater than last year and additionally, he suggested that there was evidence to support the fact that marine mortality was decreasing. He then presented a reasonable case to support his lack of faith in the hatchery however, comments from the floor indicated that all things considered, the hatchery should be retained. This was agreed but with a great deal more thought put into stocking areas and densities. The hatchery manager was complimented on his work and it was highlighted that the failure of the previous stocking policy had absolutely no reflection on the standard of his fish. In my opinion, Brian conducted a very professional and fully transparent presentation which led to increased confidence in future biological studies. I was particularly impressed that throughout the meeting, rather than focusing on past failures in river management, the audience were far more concerned about the future and rightly so.
Ultimately, very little has changed with regard to the current state of the river and although some of the lower river beats will reach their average catches, the majority of beats will be well down on catches. I stand by my view that we don’t currently have enough Salmon in the river to populate all our tributaries and until we have, unfortunately, we anglers will have to continue to balance our current needs against future gain. To that effect, the Spey Board have issued a statement to support the conservation policy for next season, basically advising anglers the importance to the river of these early spring fish and to show restraint wherever possible.
I hope to concentrate more on catches and anecdotal tales next season rather than river politics, as quite frankly it’s all rather tiresome. The Spey remains the jewel in the crown amongst Scottish Salmon river’s in terms of history. My hope over the winter months is that Mother Nature accompanied by the resilience of the majestic Salmo Salar combine to ensure our loyal guests have a season worth remembering for the right reasons in 2013.
Knockando Ghillie Sandy Smith in fine form.
As we enter the final week of August, the water is fining down again after yet another rapid rise. There has been a more noticeable amount of silt than normal in these quick summer spates this year and it’s not surprising that the fish go off the take for a couple of days afterward. As far as the middle and upper river is concerned, there are now a number of familiar resident fish in our pools who have seen quite a collection of flies during their migration. These fish can still be tempted however a little more stealth and ingenuity is required rather than the old munro! Fresh fish continue to enter the river and anglers on the lower beats from Gordon Castle to Craigellachie will be in with a good chance of sea-liced specimens. It’s fair to say though that these later running fish, although bright silver in colour are well on the way to sexual maturity and will most likely spawn in the lower part of the river.
Carrying on from my last report, the Spey Mainstem Electro Fishing surveys have now been completed with some encouraging results. This year, Spey Biologist Brain Shaw and his team focussed almost exclusively on run/riffle habitat which is considered the preferred habitat for fry, therefore, in comparison, we cannot get too carried away with the results. However as I stated last month, we now have an accurate starting point to compare in future years. A far more important factor than the density of fry that we need to carefully consider is, how many of these fry make it to parr, then to sea as smolts & back as returning adults. More information on the survey and other pertinent information can be found on Brain’s very informative blog on the Spey Fishery Board website.
Due to modern tackle and far greater angling pressure that ever before, the exploitation rate of our Salmon has to be far higher than historical estimations. With no accurate approximation of salmon numbers in our river, other than the old adage that 10% were caught by the rods, river management, like lottery number selection is a tricky business! Whilst many River boards comprise of a wealth of managerial experience in external type-specific fields, collectively very few of their management principals are easily transferrable to River management. There is so much that we collectively don’t know about the Salmon that River Boards simply do what they consider best. Unfortunately due to a lack of knowledge and understanding, ‘best’ appears to be becoming more and more reliant upon the scientific viewpoint. Science of course has had a huge historical impact with regard to the human race however, in real terms it has proved very little in the complex life of the Salmon.
When it comes to strange incidents its only when you have a reliable witness that you can ever relay such tales without raised eyebrows. We had such an incident at Kinermony 2 weeks ago. A Salmon was hooked which immediately set off sea-bound at a vast rate of knots. It was clear from the outset that the fish wasn’t hooked in the mouth. When we eventually landed the fish 200 yards downstream, the leader had completely lassoed the fish by the tail, held by the fly which hadn’t penetrated the skin in any way. We were absolutely amazed, as were the other members of the party who, when hearing the story, needless to say, expressed raised eyebrows!
Our season of large multi sea winter salmon continues with 2 notable fish in particular caught in august, both coincidentally on the same day! The largest of the day was caught by Mark Charnock at Orton. The fish was caught on a cascade bottle tube and took Mark through the tail of the Cooperee pool and was landed half way down the majestic Cairnty. He made full use of his backing and was especially delighted as although and experienced angler, it was his first Spey Salmon. The question is ‘where does he go from here’? Well, Mark can carefully consider the answer whilst sipping his Glenfarclas Fish of the Month prize of a bottle of their finest 105 Cast Strength Single Malt over the winter months! The next leviathan was caught by AAPGAI Master Speycasting instructor Illtyd Griffiths. Illtyd was fishing Pol Ma Chree pool on the Delagyle beat using a Skagit line and T10 tip following an overnight rise in water. Due to the size of the pool, he was able to control the fish for most of the fight although there were a couple of moments when the fish had the upper hand. It was during one such moment that ghillie Willie Mearns suggested, ‘Well it’s nae a Grilse’! The fish Illtyd’s largest Spey salmon to date and was measured, weighed at 28.5lbs, photographed and released.
Further up-river under the expert guidance of Robert Mitchell, his guests enjoyed a particularly good week with Mr Gilbert Fenwick landing 8 in his 3 days, the largest of which was 22.5lbs. The Wood Pool was the most prolific pool, fished with a flamethrower on an intermediate tip.
Ian Gordon recently hosted a mixed group of anglers at Gordon Castle and every one of them caught fish. Due to Ian’s vast experience on Salmon fishing, expectations were set at a realistic level which is something that many river Spey visitors need to consider a little more carefully. Father and son team Craig & Brett Richings were first off the mark with Craig catching his first ever fish on the fly from the Birks pool. Brett was a little more experienced yet learned to begin with a short line at the neck of the pool, carefully extending it yard by yard. This resulted in a 10lb fish being hooked and subsequently landed on only 20 feet of line! The German duo of Kurt & Hanno Elsner caught their first Scottish Salmon from the Island Stream on Lower Water 1, both fish weighing 10lbs. For those keen to explore the ‘finer points’ of Salmon Fishing under expert guidance, have a look on Ian’s website at – www.speyonline.com
Weekly River Reports 2012
Week Ending 22nd Sept.
Apologies for no report last week, however as previously mentioned, I was at Rutland Water fishing in the Lexus International Final. Rutland proved quite a challenge, through a combination of weather and a recent green algae bloom. The Alba Orvis Flyfishers fished very consistently and from the 22 teams taking part, we were one of only 3 teams who kept a blank off our catch returns during the 2-day competition. This year the results were based upon a World Championship points system and we narrowly lost out of a medal by a mere 7oz. The next outing for our team is Jardina de Reina in Cuba next spring and my guess is that there will be quite story to tell.
Reuben with his first duck.
As far as the Spey was concerned, very little had changed during my week away. The water had risen slightly and subsequently dropped at a similar rate and the beats below Craigellachie had continued to pick away. To think that a couple of lower beats would even consider an extension to the season is quite remarkable. There can be little doubt that monetary gain can be the only possible reason for such an initiative. I heard last week that the River Findhorn is seeking opinion on exactly the same matter. I’d urge any Findhorn anglers who happen to read my reports to strongly oppose such an idea. Short term gain is a very selfish outlook in comparison to the longevity of future stocks!
Delfur Ghillie Grant Morrison with a fish from the Big Griggle at Laggan.
Reading an article in the Press & Journal by Cheryl Livingstone yesterday, headed ‘Big Rise in numbers of Salmon Catches’ it would appear that last years catches reached the 6th highest on record. News was of course welcomed by Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse, who added that the Scottish Government were ‘fully committed’ to ensuring that Salmon & Sea-Trout fishing remained a key part of Scotland’s rural heritage and modern economy! The paragraph above clearly shows how little time these people spend outside of their cosy offices and the key fact that statistics can be manipulated to suit! What possible justification can we Salmon anglers have to the wider public in our concerns against the harm of fish-farms, mixed stock netting, water abstraction and predators when Salmon Catches are at an all time high! The future of Salmon fishing in Scotland might appear rosy and in capable hands, but only until the point that you cast your fly!
A delighted Eliane Schleiffer and Sandy Smith with her fish from Knockando.
Whilst I was away, Swiss angler Eliane Schleiffer caught a superb fish at the Phones beat on the Knockando estate. The fish, which was measured at 38” was caught in the Pouches pool under the close supervision of ghillie Sandy Smith, one of the most dedicated and loyal ghillies on the river. The fish put up an excellent battle and was expertly handled throughout by Elaine who is a very capable and experienced angler. Incidentally, Eliane has a wonderful blog titled www.salmonalvis.com where you can follow her fishing trips & travels.
Spey Quaich winner Bruce Cameron ended his season in the same manner as it began. Fishing at Orton last Friday, Bruce landed 5 salmon ranging in size from a 4lb sea-liced Grilse to a beautifully coloured cock fish of just over 20lbs. All were caught on a Monkey tube and subsequently released.
Bruce Cameron with his largest of the season - all fly caught.
Further downriver, fishing the Gordon Castle water on Brae beat 3, Charles Newitt landed a lovely 20lb fish from the Lower Ewe pool. This part of the river is renowned as ‘the place to be’ in September and last week, the combined beats added 36 fish to their season’s total.
Gordon Castle head ghillie Ian Tennant & Charles Newitt.
A final reminder to all that the River Spey Board are holding an Open Meeting this coming Tuesday at 7pm in the Fleming Hall at Aberlour. The purpose of the meeting will be to discuss the Fishery Management of the River Spey and it’s hoped that rather than a long presentation, more time will be given to observations from the wider public. For those unable to attend, there is a facility to leave comments, which I have been assured, will be noted. Click link to leave comments.
Week ending 8th Sept.
Last week began with high winds, mainly from the south east; therefore those capable of switching to the double spey cast coped just fine. The water level dropped during the week, especially towards the weekend where we were greeted with almost summer weather!
Gordon Castle rods accounted for 43 fish last week and head ghillie Ian Tennant is still seeing what appear to be running fish. How far up river they are running is hard to judge, however I doubt whether too many make it above the Craigellachie bridge. Delfur continued to out fish any of the other beats and as you headed up river from there the catches gradually declined. The 8 Craigellachie rods had to settle for 1 fish as did my excellent team of rods at Kinermony.
The week before last was a very special week for the Enderby family fishing on the Laggan beat. Alex Enderby aged 11 & brother Olly aged 9, both caught their first ever salmon from the majestic Bridge Pool. The boys were left to make their own decisions with regard to keeping the fish and without hesitation, both decided to return them. This is very refreshing to hear that even at such a young age, the boys chose to release the fish. Many times, such decisions are taken out of the captors hands and made by ‘more experienced’ individuals who seem to think that every ‘first fish’ should result in a blooding! I’m sure both Alex and Olly will decide in their own time when to keep their first fish, which shows maturity well beyond their years and a great example for others who haven’t yet come to that point in their angling careers.
A delighted Alex Enderby with his first Spey Salmon.
9 Year old Olly Enderby proudly displays his first Spey salmon from the Bridge Pool at Laggan.
It’s quite interesting to watch the differing opinions with regard to the number of fish in the river this year. Although it’s plain to see, for those of us who spend every day on the river how few fish there are, there are those who simply cannot leave the river without their ‘prize’ irrespective of what the future holds. I’d suggest that for anyone fishing the Spey between now and the end of the season that they think very carefully before retaining a fish no matter what sort of warped justification they might have.
For those unable to make the River Spey Board Public Meeting on the 25th September, there is a comments facility of the Biologists Blog. It is intended that the fishery management of the river will be discussed in and open fashion therefore I’m sure the board would appreciate comments from the vast number of passionate, loyal and experienced anglers who cannot attend for geographical reasons. The only way forward in any decision making process is to forget the past and to keep personal pride aside. I’m sure that everyone has the best intentions of the river at heart; therefore it’s essential to reach some common ground from which we can all move on together.
Malcolm McLeman with a lively Monday morning Grilse from the Rhynd.
Any junior anglers keen on learning a little more about Salmon fishing and expanding their casting skills are more than welcome to come up to Kinermony for a cast on either Tuesday of Friday evenings. For further details, click the link and contact Mel McDonald, chairman of the River Spey Anglers Association.
Finally, I’m off to Rutland water next Wednesday to fish in the Lexus International Final therefore I apologise in advance that there will be no report next week.
Week ending 1st Sept.
Our ‘Summer’ continued last week in normal fashion with a rise of water tailing off as the week ended. Higher winds toward the end of the week also added to the enjoyment but, as the saying goes, nothing lasts forever. With 24 fishing days remaining until the end of the season, many would agree – thank goodness for that!
Kinermony tenant last week was Trish Martin, whose husband Mike, tragically died earlier this year. We had quite a mixed bunch, aged from 3 to almost 4 score! It was an emotional week for Trish which was helped by the erection of a bench overlooking the Rhynd in memory of Mike. Pam Dunn also visited Kinermony for the first time since her husband Tony’s death and we recollected many stories together over the week. Raconteur David Hart caught the largest fish of the week which weighed 15lbs and Bernard Orr was top rod with almost managed a fish a day.
Further up-river under the expert guidance of Robert Mitchell, his guests enjoyed a particularly good week with Mr Gilbert Fenwick landing 8 in his 3 days, the largest of which was 22.5lbs. The Wood Pool was the most prolific pool, fished with a flamethrower on an intermediate tip.
Craigellachie also had a better week with 13 fish. Ghillie Dougie Ross proved that you cannot underestimate the power of the ghillie. He tied on one of his own tied flies and suggested to Richard Fidgen that if he used it correctly, he should catch a fish in less than 10 casts! Rupert hooked and lost a fish after 4 casts, then subsequently hooked & landed the fish pictured below 5 casts later, at which point Dougie swapped flies to Rupert’s original with a wink and a smile!
Richard Fidgen with his fish caught on the ghillies flee!
Delfur began the week in traditional style with 17 fish and ended well with 12 on Friday and 10 on Saturday. Gordon Castle, who now have access to Lower Water 1 and 2, ended their week with 65 which on paper sounds pretty good however with their beats currently full, I’m sure they would have expected closer to 100.
A typical Spey cock fish at this time of year, photographed by Mark Melvillie.
Our season of large multi sea winter salmon continues with 2 notable fish in particular caught in august, both coincidentally on the same day! Winner of our August Glenfarclas Fish of the Month competition was a fish caught by Mark Charnock at Orton. The fish was hooked on a cascade bottle tube from the boat and took Mark through the tail of the Cooperee pool and was landed half way down the majestic Cairnty. He made full use of his backing and was especially delighted as although and experienced angler, it was his first Spey Salmon. I’m sure Mark was the first to thank ghillie Kevin Greensill for his part in its capture. The question is ‘where does he go from here’? For the non-fishermen who read my reports, it’s a little like having Cameron Diaz as your first girlfriend! I’m sure Mark can carefully consider the answer whilst sipping his 105 Cast Strength Single Malt over the winter months!
Mark Charnock (Left) with his first Spey Salmon held by Orton ghillie Kevin Greensill.
The next leviathan was caught by AAPGAI Master Speycasting instructor Illtyd Griffiths. Illtyd was fishing Pol Ma Chree pool on the Delagyle beat using a skagit line and T10 tip following an overnight rise in water. Due to the size of the pool , he was able to control the fish for most of the fight although there were a couple of moments when the fish had the upper hand. It was during one such moment that ghillie Willie Mearns suggested, ‘Well it’s nae a Grilse’! The fish, Illtyd’s largest Spey salmon to date, was measured, weighed at 28.5lbs, photographed and released.
AAPGAI Master Instructor Illtyd Griffiths with his 28.5lb Cock Fish.
Ian Gordon recently hosted a mixed group of anglers at Gordon Castle and, thanks to Ian and the beat ghillies, every one of them caught fish. Due to Ian’s vast experience on Salmon fishing, expectations were set at a realistic level which is something that many river Spey anglers need to consider a little more carefully, especially given the current lack of fish. The father and son team of Craig & Brett Richings were first off the mark with Craig catching his first ever fish on the fly, a 4lb Grilse, from the Birks pool on a Catto shrimp. Brett was a little more experienced yet learned to begin with a short line at the neck of the pool, carefully extending it yard by yard. This resulted in a 10lb fish being hooked and subsequently landed on only 20 feet of line! Following 3 days on the Dee, the wait to catch their first Scottish Salmon was worthwhile for the German duo of Kurt & Hanno Elsner. Both Uncle Kurt & nephew Hanno caught identical 10lb salmon from the Island Stream on Lower Water 1. For those keen to explore the finer points of Salmon Fishing under expert guidance, have a look on Ian Gordon’s website at – www.speyonline.com
The River Spey Board are to hold an open meeting regarding the future of the hatchery at the Fleming Hall in Aberlour on Tuesday 25Th Sept at 7pm. Recent genetic analysis study results will be presented in a manner that will prove on paper that the hatchery is no longer viable. As I have recently commented, there is little doubt that ‘on paper’ 0.5% of samples originating from hatchery fish is a ridiculously low figure however this figure is actually exactly what is expected following the introduction of unfed/fed fry. One questions which I’m confident will be asked is - why on earth have you wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds over 20 years on a stocking policy that you had no idea whether it was working or not? I’m sure that a lively debate will ensue and I’d urge everyone with a real passion for the future of our river to attend.
Week ending 25th August.
As the end of the season approaches, the thoughts of the Salmon are on far greater things than chasing a variety of flees around a pool. In fact, my guess is that they are completely fed up with lines splashing the water above and various different shapes, sizes and colours swimming over, under and past their noses. Occasionally these resident fish will bite through sheer frustration, rather like a ghillies meeting!
One of 2 resident caught from the Boatpool at Kinermony last Tuesday.
Fresh fish have been few and far between over the past couple of weeks above Craigellachie however they do continue to sneak through and both Craigellachie and ourselves caught sea-liced fish last week.
Some of the lower river beats continue to produce pretty consistent sport and Gordon Castle beats for example, recorded 75 Salmon over the past fortnight and now that their guests have access to the Lower Association beats, I’m sure that sport will continue. Delfur have as always, produced steady numbers however I’m sure that even they would expect to have seen a few more fish in their books, especially during the past couple of weeks. Rothes & Aikenway have pools full of resident fish but like I’ve described above, they have seen just about every flee in the book!
A lovely deep fish photographed by Mark Melvillie at Delfur last week.
Rothes Ghillie Mike Ewan’s grandson Aaron visited Kinermony for a couple of days and it was an absolute delight to have him here. Guests on both sides of the river were very impressed with his Speycasting skills and also with the manner in which he conducted himself. It’s just a matter of time before his name appears in our book and that of many other Spey beats. It was very refreshing to see Aaron’s ability, enthusiasm and passion for the river and the years rolled back as I recalled to him of my first Spey salmon caught in the Gean Tree at Rothes in 1978. We really do need to consider initiatives to encourage anglers of his age into this wonderful sport. With that in mind, the River Spey Angling Association have once again been invited to fish at Kinermony on Tuesday and Friday evenings from 11 September and anyone under the age of 18 who is interested in coming along and having a go, should contact their Chairman Mel McDonald through their website.
Julia Smith with her 'Sashimi' from the Rhynd.
We held our Charity day last Saturday and Tony Black returned with brother Philip and Jim Reid so see if they could emulate last years catch of 19 Salmon. Unfortunately, heavy rain overnight deemed the river unfishable yet they remained very upbeat and the craic was good as we enjoyed the taste of Speyside amid wonderful surroundings. Lunch and overnight accommodation was once again provided by Lesley Calzetti of Speyburn house and their generous donation contributed 25% of the £2000 raised. The money was donated to the River Spey Foundation in the assurance that it would be used wisely.
One of 2 sea-liced Grilse caught in 5 casts proving that if the fish are there, they are easy to catch!
This recent rise of water should have moved a few fish around the catchment once more and when the silt eventually gets filtered out, I expect catches will improve in the short term.
Week ending 11th Aug.
Last week began with very dirty water caused by a flash flood in the upper reaches of the river. The Markie, one of the tributaries entering Spey dam, suffered either some serious bank erosion or a landslide due to localised flooding. The entire river remained coloured until Wednesday, which is all the more remarkable as it’s been recognised that at least 90% of water above the Spey dam is abstracted.
Davie Leith playing a bar of silver in the Little Turn
Whilst fish were caught in the first half of the week, in general, they weren’t caught with much consistency; simply a case of ones fly swimming very close to a running fish. Catches did improve slightly towards the end of the week however as the clarity of water improved so did the sunshine. The long list of salmon angler’s excuses continue to cover every eventuality! Young Archie Mountain pictured below, left it late in the week to enter his name in the Delfur catch return book for the very first time. Archie caught his first with his ender brother Rory looking on in the Otter pool at 16:50 on Saturday - Well done Archie!
7 year old Archie Mountain with his first ever Salmon with proud brother Rory looking on.
I attended the Spey Foundation, (the scientific advisory committee of the Spey board) quarterly meeting last Thursday where amongst other things, the findings of a recent genetic analysis study were once again discussed. It was decided unanimously that a recommendation be made the following day to the Spey Board to cease hatchery operations at the end of 2012. I have to say that considering the findings that only 0.5% of genetic samples taken from rod caught fish originated from hatchery stock that closing the hatchery appeared on paper, a very sensible decision. That is however, until you consider the historical stocking policy where fed fry were introduced, often without too much consideration to stocking densities or location. All things considered, in my opinion, a 0.5% return is actually a minor miracle! It was also propsed to allocate even more funds to complete the genetic study, which, considering what I have written about the previous stocking policy will prove little else, than the fact that the previous hatchery management plan didn’t work! Importantly I have to add that this plan has absolutely nothing to do with the hatchery manager who works tirelessly to ensure that every effort is made to rear good quality fish.
Fortunately, for now, the Spey Board decided not to ratify the Foundations recommendation. Instead, they have decided, in the meantime, to continue with introducing autumn parr and to focus upon gathering further information and opinion with a view to holding an open meeting. There is a view that this is more of a political gesture and I have to agree. As always though, I’m keen to be proved wrong!
Mid season catches have been published indicating that 2579 Salmon and Grilse were recorded up until the end of June with 84% released. This figure is roughly 25% below the 5 year average and slightly above the very poor mid-season catch of 2010. Sea Trout numbers have also been very disappointing with 707 caught, of which 73% released.
Seasoned hand Rory Mountain with a fine grilse from Collie at Delfur.
On a brighter note, Gordon Castle beats are having one of their finest seasons in recent years and speaking with head Ghillie Ian Tennant last week, their total is slightly over 850 fish to date. For those keen to follow the progress of their catches, Ian Tennant updates his Facebook page on a daily basis and additionally, Gordon Castle have a very informative website displaying all their availability and prices.
As you can see from the photo below, the Kinermony Killer Flamethrower continues to temp the might salmo salar and currently, size 11 seems to suit their needs. We have been picking away on floating lines with slow sink or intermediate tips and I’m finally on a new page in our record book!
It's that flee again!
Week ending 4th August.
Again, a more settled week on Speyside with reasonable conditions throughout most days. Gordon Castle rods continue to pick away purely in terms of the amount of fish that are running through. Head ghillie Ian Tennant keeps us ghillies further up river updated on a daily basis yet we still wait patiently for their arrival. I’m sure that once every inch of Sourden is full and the net is removed that the fish will eventually head our way!
News quickly spread of a large fish once again caught from Polarder at Lower Pitchroy last Tuesday. Its captor was London based keen angler Jason Drummond who also has a holiday home in Grantown. I spoke to Jason in some length about his fish and rather than relay it second hand, here are the words from the horse’s mouth.
The large fish caught by Jason Drummond at Lower Pitchroy.
The wading stick measured 55 inches.
I caught the fish in the photograph on the Lower Pitchroy beat of the Spey at Knockando. The rod was a 15ft Speyworks accompanied by a Hardy Spey line with a Tulchan Shrimp on the business end. The fish took over 30 minutes to land and I was alone as the Ghillie was on the higher water and I had no mobile signal to contact him. He took me to the backing on my line 3 times and put up a great fight. I finally managed to beach the fish just as my leader broke and I had to jump into the Spey to grasp it as it tried to escape, hence the sand on the photo. The fish was safely returned to the river after 5 minutes or so to revive. As you can see from the photo, I measured it against my wading stick and then checked the length with a tape measure, also pictured. It measured 47.5 inches. As background information, last year I also caught a 43lb King Salmon in Canada on a single barbless hook and both were similar in length. Jason Drummond.
Clearly, Jason caught a very large fish and although not the best photograph, at least he managed to take one as a reference of size. There are a variety of scales to estimate size however they all appear open to interpretation. My view is a very simple one; I wish that we’d have intercepted it at Kinermony! Jason has since had many ‘interesting’ conversations, such is the world we live in however, although we will never know the actual size, Jason’s fish is a very worthy winner of our Glenfarclas Fish of the Month award so congratulation Jason.
Pictured above, the double act of Malcolm Macrae & Sir Edward Mountain both playing fish in Two Stones and Beaufort at Delfur. Many thanks to Mark Melville for supplying the photos.
My guests at Kinermony last week were led by the very capable, charismatic and larger than life characters of Jim Kilcullen & Malcolm McPherson. I really thought that I had seen it all in terms of hospitality however they set an entirely different level and they went out of their way to ensure that every single one of their guests thoroughly enjoyed the Speyside experience. We had a variety of experienced and novice anglers and although a number of fish were hooked, only 4 were landed. Malcolm led the field with 2 before his departure on Wednesday proving that even though time may be limited, you have to make the most of it! Great mates and comedy due of Jim and Harry Bennett proved that the blame culture has not yet spread widely amongst us salmon fisherman and although Harry clearly knocked a lovely fresh fish off at the net, Jim simply smiled graciously and kindly booked Harry onto a remedial netting course shown in the photo below. For those interested, Harry is a man of many talents and has left his unique calling card at our bottom hut and most likely on many huts on many rivers!
Gently does it Harry!
One of the most bizarre Salmon fishing experiences I have encountered occurred last Wednesday evening, fortunately witnesses by highly experienced angler and excellent Speycaster Andy Cowan. I hooked a fish in the Rhynd and very quickly realized that due to the speed that my backing was screaming out that it was very unhappy. After a swift exit from the Rhynd we followed the fish 200 yards down to the Dykie where it was eventually beached. We obviously thought it had been foul hooked however as it came towards the bank backwards, a complete loop held by the hook, which hadn’t penetrated the skin in any way was around its tail. We were both absolutely amazed for a couple of reasons. Firstly because there were so few fish in the pool and secondly and more importantly how on earth it had happened in the first place! Thank goodness Andy was there as without a witness it just wouldn’t have been worth trying to explain! In answer to all you sceptics – we were both stone cold sober at the time!
An extraordinary catch!
A very entertaining week on Speyside and now as you can see, I have even more laughter lines to hide. My guess is that future years with such a bunch can only lead to many more of the same!
Week ending 28th July.
This past week has seen far more stable weather conditions here on Speyside although I doubt whether they will last. Apart from a 2” rise on Wednesday morning, the water dropped throughout the week and guests were once again comfortable without the need for wet weather gear. Fishing conditions on the whole were very good and even on the brightest days, longer lunches have developed into to evening fishing. In terms of pure fishing conditions, this has certainly been the best in my 7 years at Kinermony; however the catches don’t quite match.
Nathalie Mountain with one of two 17lb fish she caught from Broom at Delfur. One of the best fishing photos I have seen in years and well done to Mark Melvillie for capturing such a quality pic.
I have been in constant communication with fellow ghillies throughout the river and it’s very clear that the river below Craigellachie has been fishing reasonably well, indeed Gordon Castle continue to exceed their catches of recent years. The middle and upper beats are however continuing to struggle with only occasional success when intercepting small pods of running fish. There are a few mid-river beats, even in this prime time of July, that have been only partially let which in my opinion does not make good business sense. It’s simply not possible to expect to catch good numbers of fish unless there are rods on the water and the responsibility for that lies only with those who own or manage the beats. I can assure you that there is an endless supply of eager rods keen on fishing the Spey however expectation and cost must be relative and realistic. I’m sure a word with the ghillies on such beats would reinforce the fact that they would rather have a full team of rods on a daily basis rather than being allowed a cast themselves!
'Mr Consistent' Ian Hutchison with yet another quality Kinermony Salmon
Delfur, Rothes and Arndilly have been fishing very steadily over the past fortnight with a mixture of Salmon and Grilse. The Grilse although still relatively thin in numbers have made up for that in weight averaging 4-5lbs. Ian Tennant, head ghillie at Gordon Castle has been updating his facebook profile on a regular basis with their catches and in turn, this has led to a wider exposure and more anglers fishing his beats. An example that transparency may be a rather useful tool!
Ian Vann shows off his first Kinermony Grilse.
We’ve had two very capable teams at Kinermony over the past couple of weeks. Don Milne, Mark Camacho, Ian Vann, Ian Hutchison and host Andy Steven all recorded Grilse and Salmon on week ending 21st with Mark Camacho who has starred on this website fishing whilst the hallowed grounds of Delfur in May, caught the nicest ‘customer’ of the week pictured below.
A delighted Mark Camacho with a cracker from the Rhynd.
Last week we had the ‘Boys’ team of Joffy Grant and Fred & Jack,’ The Morris Tag Team’. We shared a few embarrassing incidents during the week for example, Joffy lighting a cigarette and hooking a grilse simultaneously burning through the running line and playing the fish by hand line – funnily enough it escaped! Fred took top honours again by allowing, or truth be known encouraging a Salmon to swim behind the largest boulder in the Rhynd due to his need to fish a light drag! Unlike last year, Fred won the battle and as you can see was clearly delighted. Best caster of the week was 14 year old Jack and if you click the YouTube at the top of this page, you will see why. A perfect example of the double Spey cast, which led to Jack catching 2 Salmon whilst fishing the pool behind far more experienced rods. Andy Cowan joined the team on Friday evening and hooked 2 fish in the Boatpool however, without the aid of a ghillie and more importantly a net, he lost them both! A keen friendship and love of all things Speyside lead to a ‘funtastic’ week and one of my favourites of the season. Haste ye Back!
Joffy Grant with his 'Silver medal'
Fred Morris takes Gold!
Jack Morris proving that even a badly taken photo cant hide the quality of his fish. A 'reel star'
I predicted in my last Trout & Salmon report that the main Grilse run would coincide with the opening of the Olympics rather than Wimbledon. If indeed the main run has arrived, then we really need to carefully consider tightening up our conservation policy as a protection feature of future stocks. Those of a scientific background who appear to lead the decision making process are clearly not supportive of hatcheries operations therefore a more stringent catch & release policy may be our only saving grace.
I have said all along, anecdotally perhaps, that there are clearly not enough juvenile fish in the river & therefore not enough smolts going to sea. If indeed marine mortality is greater than ever, it’s a simple case of mathematics! We cannot possibly expect anything other than a decline in returning adults. River managers have to prioritise on increasing the smolt output instead of being distracted by job-seeking studies like Salmon genetics. As far as Salmon are concerned, nature will always look after their gene pool and will do it free of charge!
The Kinermony Killer on sizes 11 & 13 has been doing particularly well of late and the colour combination certainly appears to attract the grilse. We have continued to use 5'slow sink or intermediate polyleaders simply to anchor the fly which has proved to be pretty succesful. Lets hope that the grilse that Ian Tennant has seen running through on a daily basis continue to head upstream and provide a little more action for those fishing the middle and upper reaches.
Week ending 14th July.
Golf was on the agenda last Sunday and we spent the day at Castle Stuart watching how easy it is to play golf in windy conditions. We also watched in despair as the nerves got in the way of a potential winner but I guess that when there is £450,000 at stake and an automatic entry to the British Open then it’s understandable. I wait in eager anticipation for the opportunity to be in a similar position and to find out exactly how I react. Not quite holding my breath though as the prize fund of Lexus International which we won last year and qualified to fish in again this year doesn’t quite match. Neither does the Greensome Competition that fellow ghillie Mike Murdoch and I enter annually but hey – never say never!
Nikki Campbell displays a cheerful smile with her catch.
Another week of fluctuating river levels on Speyside, however it has to be said that we would normally be dreaming of such conditions for this time of year therefore I for one aint complaining!. The water rose last Sunday and was fining off before rising again over Tuesday night leaving Wednesday afternoon almost unfishable. The remainder of the week got better as the days progressed and by Saturday, conditions were once again excellent. Catches were once again patchy above Craigellachie however on the lower river, Gordon Castle beats had 125 fish with the majority Salmon rather than Grilse. Delfur had their best week of the season to date and began this week where they left off with 17 today, which is an excellent catch for 5 rods.
A 24lb fish being released in Sourdon at Delfur by Mark Mellville and caught by Lord Farnham.
Our tenant at Kinermony last week was Dick Oldfield who was visiting the Spey for the 40th year in succession. This sort of loyalty is displayed on many River Spey beats and is something we as a river should be very proud of, rather than certain other rivers where financial gain appears to be a far higher priority. Dick didn’t take too long to hook his first fish of the week however his good friend Mark Freeman of the ‘weird hat company inc.’ beat him to it with 10 pounder. Geoff Harris was invited down for a cast on Wednesday and took 4 casts to connect with his first of the day. As the saying goes, you just can’t beat experience!
Mark’s girlfriend Nicola Campbell landed the best fish of the week and as you can see from the photo above, they have smiles to match! Funnily enough we suffered from rubber hook syndrome as did a few other beats last week. I suppose it can be expected at Grilse time but all our losses appeared to be salmon – well don’t the big ones always get away?
Mrs Prilly Taylor with a lively 13lb fish caught in Upper Cairnty at Orton.
Easter Elchies had a great start to their week last Monday and I doubt whether there would have been a fly fishing at a better speed than the Fiddoch bend. Craigellachie and Delagyle also had better weeks than of late with the latter landing 11 on Monday.
Aaron Ewen landed a cracking sea-trout at Rothes & Aikenway last week and sent me the photograph of the fish weighing 8lbs. Catching fish is well and truly in his blood as Aaron clearly demonstrated winning the last ghillies outing to Wardend. Not too bad for a 13 year old and my guess is that he’ll only get better.
8lb Sea-Trout caught by Aaron Ewen at Rothes & Aikenway.
Catches on the middle river remain mediocre at best and we are all very interested to find out the results of the juvenile surveys in this part of the river. Although only an indication in comparison to historical date these surveys should provide useful information. Having said that, our aim should be to see juvenile fish on a far wider scale than the hot spots that an experienced eye can find them. Although anecdotal, you only need to compare the juvenile population in the middle river now compared to that of 40 years ago to see why the catches are in decline. There might have been a shortage of accurate scientific data back then but quite a few knowledgeable ghillies.
Graham Ritchie with a fresh run fish from the Dykie at Kinermony
Week ending 30th June.
This bizarre year of mixed weather continues and my wife is beginning to think that her shrewd purchase of a luxury sun lounger might have been a little hasty! As far as the fishing has been concerned however, there can be few complaints about the weather. We have had almost complete cloud cover for the past 3 weeks and on the whole, river temperature has remained in the mid 50’sF with levels good, especially for beats in the middle to upper reaches. Winds, although slightly colder and predominantly from the East have not affected casting therefore having said all that, there can be few excuses from an angling point of view.
Tim Pullen with his first of the week from Little Turn.
Catches are beginning to pick up but there is still a clear lack of fish in the system. For those wearing rose-tinted-glasses, catches have been good in the lower reaches however mainly in comparison to the poor catches above Craigellachie. The spring catch returns will be submitted within the next few weeks and I’m sure that discounting June, which in Turriff Academy was always classed as summer, it will make interesting reading. I actually find it a little insulting that it appears we need to manipulate figures in a variety of today’s topics to hide the truth. Perhaps I’m just too old fashioned!
Jonathan Fenwick in the Gean Tree at Delagyle.
2 Leviathans were caught in June. The first weighing 33lbs was caught by Stuart Paton at the tail of the Sandy Hole on the Aberlour AA beat and the second, measuring 42” was caught by The Duke of Northumberland from Polarder on the Lower Pitchroy beat at Knockando. In true Spey tradition, both of these specimen salmon were witnessed, measured, photographed & released.
The Duke of Nothumberland with a magnificient fish from Polarder at Lower Pitchroy.
Stewie Paton’s fish was netted by his good friend George Mackenzie who has fished the Aberlour Association water since childhood. George also tied the fly, a Murthly Marauder. After rushing to get a set of scales, the fish was weighed at 39lbs in the net, photographed and released. There were also 2 others present during the fight and all verified the actual weight as 33lbs after the net weight was deducted. A fish of a life time and worthy winner of this months Glenfarclas Fish of the Month Competition. You can see Stewie’s clear delight in the photo below and although not taken at the best angle, a lifelong memory for him.
Stuart Paton with the Glenfarclas Fish of the Month for June.
Gordon castle beats continue to fish well and have landed over 100 fish in the past 2 weeks. Mr Clifford-Brown had one of the best at 20lbs from Aultdearg on beat 3 last Monday. My good friend Stuart Yeats added to his first Spey fish in true style with another couple on the Kinermony Killer Flamethrower, the largest pictured below weighed 18.5 lbs in the net. His father also had 2 fish which now leaves them evenly poised at 3 Spey Salmon each for their next venture. Although there is now only limited availability at Gordon Castle, it’s certainly worthwhile keeping an eye on their website where all their availability and prices are listed.
Damon Harrison with one of 2 landed on the Castle Water on the KKF.
Accomplished Spey Caster Stuart Yeats with an 18.5lb fish from Gordon Castle on the KKF.
Last weekends rise moved a few fish around the system and Monday morning certainly brought our quickest first 2 fish since my time began. Firstly, Willie Robertson expertly fished the margin whilst lengthening line and hooked a 6lbs fish, swiftly followed by Mickey Price who took 3 casts to hook his first. I doubt whether there has ever been any anglers at Kinermony who have ever landed their first Kinermony fish so quickly. Poor James Griffiths had to wait for Willie to catch another before he landed his first Kinermony fish. A super start to any week.
Mickey Price with a 10lb Sea licer fom the Rhynd on a KKF size 9.
Craigellachie had a much better week than of late landing 14 fish with around the same amount lost. Due to recent and unexpected ill-health, they have 2 rods available week commencing 16 July so drop me a line if interested. Grantown on Spey and Aberlour Associations made the most of this past weeks’ higher water with a good number of anglers out on the water. Grantown registered 15 fish and Aberlour were just into double figures which considering the time of year and height of water supports my view that we are lacking numbers of fish in the middle-upper reaches.
Speymouth Angling Association now have an excellent website at www.speymouthangling.co.uk Historically Speymouth was a lower water beat but due to recent gravel movement they now have a wider variety of water to fish at a higher level and I’d certainly recommend any visitors to view the website and get in touch with Moira Brown either through the site or directly on 01343 820703.
The water has fluctuated on a daily basis during the past week. It’s a pretty mixed forecast for next week but we should once again expect good overhead conditions as far as fishing is concerned. Let’s hope the Grilse remember that we are now into the second week of Wimbledon and start entering the river in good numbers. Floating lines with a variety of tips or equivalent shooting heads accompanied with flies around the 7-11 size should work well. The Kinermony Killer Flamethrower still seems to be doing the business but as long as you have confidence in your chosen the fly, you’re half way there!
A little 'tied up'!
Week ending 9th June.
Fishing conditions were as close to perfect as they could have possibly been last week. 100% cloud cover for the vast majority of the week and very light winds. The water temp was around the mid 50’s and air temp slightly higher. We had a couple of small rises in the river level but on the whole pretty consistent. Considering what I have written and bearing in mind that we are in the second week of June, it has to be said that the catches have been mediocre at best. Some beats have faired far better than others and it appears that it really is a matter of luck whether the fish hold for long enough to be caught on your beats or not.
Delfur head ghillie Mark Melville's son Jack with his catch and his dog Haddie. The big Haddie in the background!
We had a real red letter day on Monday resulting in 10 fish landed and a couple lost. All 3 rods were amongst the action with host Ralph Green landing our first of the day. Visiting from the banks of Draycote reservoir in England, David Baker was next off the mark with a cracking 13 pounder from the Boatpool. Next down the pool was Ralph Green Jnr who landed a personal best fish estimated at 19lbs. As the day progresses Ralph Jnr went on to catch a further 5 fish, the last and beating his personal best earlier in the day, weighed at 22lbs in the net. I feel with a good degree of confidence, that our day was made better due to the fact that all the fish were released. Further more, I’m convinced that the released fish encourage others to stop whilst they themselves recovered sufficiently to move on. There are a good number of experienced ghillies who support this theory but whatever the case, these fish hung around for a longer period than normal for early June.
A memorable brace for Ralph Green Jnr.
We continued to catch fish, albeit on a smaller scale numerically throughout the week until Saturday, our only blank day. Ralph Green was the perfect host as always and ensured that not only were all his guests well catered for through pool rotations but in addition, they were fed like kings! Ralph’s legendary rack of lamb was cooked to perfection as were his finest rib-eye steaks. Truthfully, I have never met finer hosts than Ralph and Jenny and am already counting the days until their return. From a ghillies point of view, the week flew past and if I were ever able to describe the perfect fishing party – that would be it.
Ian Sinclair amongst the fish again.
Other guests amongst the action were Drew Phillip, Ian Sinclair, David Leggat, Matt Gordon and of course tenant Ralph Green. Ian maintained an incredible record of only ever blanking at Kinermony once and that in his defence, was in early spring. He added a further 3 to his Kinermony total, with a brace for Drew and one landed and a really good fish unfortunately broken behind a stone for David Leggat. Funnily enough Saturday was probably the best day of the week fishing wise and there were a good number of fish in most of our pool.
Ralph Green, the perfect host in action.
Michael Underwood visiting Craigellachie didn’t take too long to get into the action and did it in excellent style, landing a 20lb sea-lice fish on his 6th cast.
Craigellachie ghillie Dougie Ross with Michael Underhills 20 pounder.
As far as our outbreak of UDN is concerned, there appear far less fish showing signs of the disease and our fingers remain crossed for another wet summer. The weather forecast looks a little mixed for next week which helps my guess greatly!! I have a trip to Rutland Water near the end of the week so no report next Sunday. My guess is that the fishing will remain patchy, especially if the sun breaks through. All our fish were caught on the Kinermony Killer Flamethrower size 9 apart from our first grilse which was caught on a Sunray. Fly size should be around 9-11 with floating lines and intermediate/slow sink tips if preferred. For visiting anglers, fear not, your ghillies will keep you right.
Week ending 2nd June.
As far as Kinermony is concerned, it was in terms of numbers caught, our best week of the season so far. In fact we caught slightly over a third of our seasons total last week. Overhead fishing conditions were perfect until the cloud cover eventually broke on Saturday. Peter Kyte’s party consistently caught fish during the day throughout the week with 3 of our 13 caught in the evening, funnily enough between 21:00 & 21:30.
Big Dave Johnson with a fish to match.
The week began perfectly for Dave Johnson whose first fish measured just over 37” with a girth of 21”. You can clearly see by Dave’s delight that not only was it his largest fish to date but also one of the best proportioned. Reinforcements arrived on Thursday in the shape of Ian Pawley who had been fishing on the Dee at Invery. Ian had a fish from the Dee on a size 9 Kinermony Killer Flamethrower and decided to continue with a similar approach. At the end of play on Thursday, he had accounted for 3 fish which proved a wise decision. Peter Kyte, although he will never admit it, has also been converted to the KKF after all his 6 fish of the week fell to the same fly. Needless to say, he was very unwilling to hand it back on Saturday night! Dave’s large fish was caught on a fly of his own tying, named the Braeburn but by mid-week, he too wanted to sample the magic of the KKF. It took him 6 casts in the Little Turn to prove it’s worth, however in defence of the fly, 3 of the 6 casts weren’t his best!
Dave Johnson bends into a good fish.
Fishing remained patchy on other middle river beats which certainly reinforces the theory that you need to be in the right place at the right time. Wester Elchies got off to a roaring start on Monday morning with Henry Mountain catching 2 from the Rhynd before 10am. Henry and wife Camilla are excellent anglers and it was a pleasure to watch their flies turning over so well from our bank. Camilla did fall foul of the treacherous wading in the upper Rhynd but in her defence was slightly distracted by netting a fish for her husband at the time. I have the entire incident of video available to the highest bidder!
A delighted Mr David Cecil with a fish from the Little Turn.
Alba team mates Paul Garner & David Bonnington fished at Easter Elchies on Friday-Saturday and both caught fish, again on the KKF with Davie eventually landing 2. With 17 for the week, my guess is that the experienced team of rods on Easter Elchies helped to make it one of the top beats on the river last week. Across the water that man Alex Robertson was amongst the fish again and once more, a fish of real quality. Alex is on an extended trip offshore for the next 6 weeks or so, but my guess is he’ll not be too short of good memories from his start to 2012.
Denny Daredevil Paul Garner with a fish from the Lower Dips at Easter Elchies.
Last week, the River Spey Board decided to go public with the fact that one of the two fish sampled by Marine Science Scotland (MSS) had been confirmed with Ulcerative Dermal Necrosis (UDN). As anticipated, there was initially an alarming knee jerk reaction through the various Salmon fishing forums and from the press, however it was eventually put into perspective from the views of a number of more experienced anglers who know only too well that the disease has been in our rivers since the late 1960’s, especially in low cold water. Whilst I appreciate the worry from lesser experienced rods with planned trips to Speyside, I can absolutely assure you that UDN is not only confined to the Spey. You just need to look a little more closely at some of the photos posted on other fishpal and salmon fishing websites to see that the only difference between the River Spey and the other larger rivers is that the Spey have decided to admit the problem. Let’s face it, when ghillies and guests report occurrences of diseased fish to the biologist, it would be pretty irresponsible of him to bury his head in the sand in the hope that it disappeared. It is a proven fact that the Salmon come from the sea with UDN, therefore it would be pretty naive of other rivers to think that they all headed for the Spey and the sooner that the other river boards follow our lead the better. As far as MSS are concerned, they have issued generic bio-security measures for us to follow but admit they know very little of the root cause of UDN.
The one questions that I asked earlier in the week and received a very vague response to was - bearing in mind the RSB took the brave step of bringing in MSS to confirm our suspicions of an outbreak and bearing in mind that UDN was first reported in the 1880’s what are MSS, our governing scientific body, doing in the meantime to find out more about the disease, especially considering the considerable impact that it might have upon all our Scottish rivers now and in the future? Erm…….
Alex Robertson with another fine specimen from the Upper Dips at Upper Arndilly.
There can be only one Glenfarclas fish of the month winner for May and that is Trout & Salmon’s editorial consultant Sandy Leventon. Sandy caught the fish weighted at between 30 & 32 lbs at Castle Grant on the 3rd May on a home tied black & orange fly. Sandy requested that the T&S have initial rights on his photos and he has written an extensive report as an article in the July issue on his catch. Sandy will receive a bottle of Glenfarclas 105 single malt to toast his fish of a lifetime and my guess is he will savour every moment. Well done Sandy!
A fish of a lifetime and worthy Glenfarclas fish of the month winner for Sandy Leventon.
Another highlight of my week was hearing the Stuart Yeats from Aberdeen had finally caught his first Spey Salmon after 6 years of trying. Better to be lucky than good eh Stuart! He is a very accomplished & experienced angler and has caught many fish on other rivers, the Dee is particular. Stuart caught the fish in the Boatpool at Craigellechie on a Kinermony Killer Flamethrower.
Above the fly and below the long awaited result for Stuart Yeats.
The water is currently dropping to summer level. As mentioned in earlier reports, I’m not going to attempt to forecast the weather so let’s just say mixed. Floating lines with short slow sink/intermediate tips accompanied with flies around the 9-11 size should work well. Our Kinermony Killer Flamethrower accounted for at least 18 fish last week but all you experienced anglers know that the fly is the least most important part of your kit. If a fish wants yer flee, it will have it!
Week ending 25th May.
Summer certainly arrived in style last week on Speyside and the water temperature increased by 10degF. The downside was that we had yet another week of fluctuating water levels as the snow melted in the bright and warm sunshine. Every morning we were greeted with a 3”- 6” rise and on 2 days the milky colour put the fish off the take completely. On a positive note however, the ladies attire on the riverbank was far more appealing as the drab tweed was replaced by far more pleasing styles in a wider variety of colours!
Alex Robertson's best of the day.
Gordon Castle got off to a roaring start with Alex Robertson landing 2 from the Castle water last Monday, the largest measuring 36”. Vittorio Spasciani also returned to the brae and landed 3 beauty’s and lost another 3 of similar quality. Vittorio also conducted an intentional underwater tour of the Castle Water on his final day as a lap of honour.
Vittorio Spasciani with yet another beautiful Spey Salmon.
Craigellachie has a much better week as of late and proved that if you have a committed team of rods there were fish to be caught. Keen and very accomplished Spey angler Joe Johnson had the best of the week, closely followed on Saturday by Peter Silvester. The nicest smile award had to go to Anne Crossland with her first ever salmon from the bridge pool. A super photo.
Joe Johnson with a cracker from Broom Isle at Craigellachie.
Anne Crossland with her first fish, a cracker, and smile to match.
We had a French party at Kinermony last week led by Jean Pucci. Jean has been fishing at Kinermony for 40 years and had a long wait to play his first fish last Saturday at lunchtime. Jean Claud Le Goff was top rod for the week and was permitted to retain one of his fish. The first meal he produced was in the form of a grand starter and was simply finely sliced Salmon marinated in lemon and salt for 20 minutes – to say it tasted delicious was an understatement! The next day he prepared the tail section and baked it in a bottle of champagne with shallots. The sauce was made with the juices and quite honestly, I have never tasted such flavour. Perhaps now, I appreciate a little more why the French like to keep a fish or 2!
Whilst it’s great to see more 3-sea winter fish around than normal, there still appears an overall shortage of numbers. We hope like last summer that the spring run will extend into June and even July and that numbers will continue to increase. As an example of the current decline in numbers, our French party had 29 fish for the same week 3 years ago in exactly the same conditions. Although one or two of the lower beats have done very well so far, we have just over 20 fish for this year to date therefore hoping for a vast improvement!
Vittorio Spasciani amid the sun and silver.
Currently we have a very good water level and temperature. The outlook for the week is rather mixed and I generally get it wrong so won’t comment more than that! Floating lines with short slow sink/intermediate tips accompanied with flies around the 6-9 size should work well. Our Kinermony Killer Flamethrower accounted for 4 of the fish at Kinermony last week and another today so as good as anything. As I told a novice angler today, in my opinion, the fly is the least most important priority of his kit, but you do need one and you generally have to chose it yourself. I gave up decision making 7 years ago and don’t have such difficulty. It’s just the size that matters!
Week ending 19 May.
Another week of fluctuation river levels accompanied by an awkward easterly breeze made fishing conditions pretty tricky on many beats. The lower beats again performed well, especially last week, Arndilly & Orton who had around 30 each. As usual Gordon Castle led the field with almost 50 and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Gordon Castle beats had caught more fish so far this season than the entire river above Craigellachie. The water remained around 46degF most of the week although we did see a good number of fish running through; well more than we have done so far this season!
A couple of photos from Mark Melville, head ghillie at Delfur last week.
The Aberlour AA got off to a good start when visiting angler Lynn Sutherland landed a classic May springer of almost 20lbs. It measured 35” with a girth of 22” and as you can see below a fish of real quality. These superb specimens keep appearing and there were a number of fish of 20lbs and above caught last week. Lynn was very happy to return the fish and has a few photographs to share with friends and for her own memories in years to come. Incidentally, she also landed another fish of around 8lbs on Saturday.
Lynn Sutherland with her fish at Aberlour.
It has to be said that considering the amount of fish running through, we struggled a bit at Kinermony to catch them. It appeared that Wester Elchies shared our frustration with very experienced angler Mark Bird hooking quite a few before landing his first. We were more or less restricted to the Boatpool for most of the week, however having said that, if an angler was to be restricted to only one pool, then the most prolific pool on the river, in terms of numbers caught isn’t too bad a place to be. With only 1 fish in the first half of the week, reinforcements arrived on Thursday in the shape of Simon Rowley. Simon didn’t take too long is sorting out the method and landed his first, pictured below on Thursday on his first run down the Boatpool and added a second around the same time on Friday. Simon also hooked 2 others but alas, his hooks didn’t prove sharp enough to hang on to them.
Simon Rowley with his best fish of the week and personal best to date.
I was invited to the Officers Mess at RAF Lossiemouth on Saturday night to dine-out a very good friend. The evening turned into quite a night with lots of reminiscing and hilarity. Needless to say when I eventually returned home, the remainder of my Sunday was spent in a very dark and quiet room. It was very interesting to see how everyone had progressed in life but funnily enough, for those few hours, very little had changed. Happy Days! Our lives are governed by the choices we make, and only we know if they were the correct ones or not.
Team tactics with Mr Howard Edge. Slight mark of disease on it's head which has been quite common this season.
This week has hopefully brought the arrival of summer; Water temp up to 50degF and for now, bright sunshine. The easterly breeze remains a slight challenge for those who haven’t quite mastered the single spey off their left shoulder from the right bank, but hey practice makes perfect. Let's hope that this warmer water temp moves a few more fish up river and those anglers seeking answers to daft questions concentrate a little more of their own fishing abilities instead of being distracted by factors outwith their control. It’s quite amazing how fewer fish in certain parts of the river change the mindset. Normally mild mannered and generous people sometimes become rather irritable green eyed monsters and it appears that the ghillie is to be blame. Just remember that the ghillies job is far easier when there are plenty of fish being caught! One word of advice I could give from experience is to be consistent - if you want to hear a truthful answer, think very carefully before asking the question.
Week ending 12th May.
Another very interesting week on Speyside! Catches remain very good on the lower part of the river, yet the further above Delfur you go, the more infrequent catches become. Gordon Castle beats began the week on excellent form, especially the Castle Water at Fochabers. Good friend and expert angler Graham Ritchie continued his superb start to the season with another 4 fish, this time from the Castle beat. His day began with a sea-liced 15 pounder and ended with a lovely deep fish of 13lbs, also sea-liced. As you can see from the photos below, the conditions were perfect and Graham certainly made the most of them.
The bridge pool on Gordon Castle beat.
2 crackers from Graham Ritchie.
Graham returned to Brae beat 5 yesterday and in slightly more challenging conditions, due to a rise in water, he landed 2 other cracking fish amongst the 5 caught. Again the photos below clearly show the stunning scenery and of course the bars of spring silver.
More action for Graham Ritchie - that man can fish!
As far as the middle river is concerned, our bizarre season continues. They say that anticipation is a key ingredient in any salmon fisher’s handbook and whilst I agree, as the season ticks away, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to maintain our normal degree of enthusiasm. One thing I have noticed is that in times of relative hardship, you can clearly tell the difference between those who are genuine salmon anglers, and those who think they are.
The small discolouration on the snout of this fish has been seen throughout the river this season.
We had a very enjoyable week at Kinermony as normal, with Brain Holden leading a very capable party. If there were any jokes that I hadn’t heard or had forgotten, I was certainly reminded in style last week! Taking a break from his 'personal studies' in searching for a cure to Eczema, Dr Richard Anderson caught our first fish of the week from the Rhynd, on you guessed it, a size 9 KKF. With a rise in water over Thursday evening, we expected to see a few more fish towards the end of the week, however this didn’t materialise. Saturdays sunshine brought out large number of anglers on the Aberlour AA and although the fish were given the wide variety of choices, only 1 was caught and released.
Above Richard Anderson's fish and below enjoying the scenery!
Mark Camacho, who will be returning to fish with us in July, had a great week at Delfur and was amongst the action on a daily basis. One of his best at 17.5lbs was caught in Collie and is pictured below.
A delighted Marc Camacho with a classic Spey Spring Salmon from Collie at Delfur.
The Spey Foundation and Spey Board meetings were held this week. Spey Biologist Brian Shaw presented the foundation with a particularly user friendly data base to aid his juvenile surveys, which ‘even we ghillies’ could understand! I’m confident that Brian will conduct his surveys in a very professional manner and hope that over the next few years, he will be able to monitor their abundance by comparison to his own work. There was also a brief update from the genetics programme, which has proved that every river and most tributaries have their own strain/sub-population of salmon. It also highlighted that the hatchery accounted for very few of the genetic samples taken, which given the previous stocking policy, was a minor miracle. A sceptical view would be that the Genetics programme was a very costly method of proving little more than we already knew. Let’s face it; if you were to consider walking in front of a bus, I’m pretty sure you wouldn't nead to conduct a survey to prove it would hurt!
Finally, I’d like to leave you with a few words of wisdom from Bruce Sandison in the hope that you will clearly see the wood from the trees!
Lies, damned lies and statistics
According to recent Scottish government statistics the farming of Atlantic salmon in Scotland’s waters increased by 6.9 per cent during the year 2010 to 154,164 tonnes – the highest production figure achieved since 2004; when prices in the industry collapsed because of, among other things, err, over-supply.
It was also reported that the industry directly employed 1,064 people on a full and part-time basis. Strange that, for an industry that constantly reminds us that it is a cornerstone of employment opportunities in fragile, remote rural areas (FRRA’s for short) – if my memory serves me right, back in the 1980’s when this industry was manufacturing about 20,000 tonnes of farmed fish each year it directly employed more than 2,000 full and part-time workers.
We are told that 30% of farm salmon currently manufactured in Scotland (45,439 tonnes) come from the allegedly pristine, clear, fast flowing waters round the Shetland Isles,where the industry directly employs 178 full time and 23 part-time staff. But if 30% (201) of the workers are in Shetland, then it would appear that the rest, 70%, (666 or thereabouts) must be scattered elsewhere in and around the West Highlands and Islands. By my calculations this means that the total workforce must be 867, not the alleged 1064.Where can the missing 197 workers be?
It would also be useful to know, I think, given the claims that the industry make in connection with being a corner stone of employment in FRRA’s, just how many of the people it employs are Scottish and how many of them actually lived in said FRRA’s prior to taking the fishing farmer’s shilling? My information seems to indicate that few of those employed in this business meet that criteria and that the majority may be from outwith Scotland’s FRRA’s.
Indeed, not so long ago a Department of Works and Pensions investigation found the 50% of the people employed in the industry came from Iberia, Central Europe and the Middle East and that half of them were illegal immigrants. I further understand that a number of Bulgarians worked, or used to work, on fish farms in the Outer Hebrides. It is also a fact that Marine Harvest in Fort William advertised recently for a Polish interpreter to assist them with training the company’s presumably numerous Polish employees.
And where, exactly, are these supposed FRRA’s? The City of Inverness? Surely not, Inverness is the fastest-growing city in Europe. Shetland and Orkney then? These isles are remote, but have always enjoyed low unemployment levels and Shetland is one of the richest local authorities in UK. What about Ullapool in Wester Ross? A bustling, busy fishing port, ferry terminal and tourist hot-spot. Dingwall in Easter Ross then? No, it has become almost a dormitory town for Inverness.
It is hard, therefore, to resist the conclusion that government and industry figures for employment in fish farming might be rather less than reliable? In my opinion there has never, ever, been an entirely independent assessment of the employment claims made by industry. I have frequently asked various ministers over the years for just such an investigation, but to no avail. They tell me that their figures are ‘robust and accurate’. So that’s all right then isn’t it?
Well, no, it’s not, as the latest figures announced for the total number of people directly employed in the industry in Scotland, yet again, highlights. On 21st November 2011 it was reported to be 1,064 (see above), then, suddenly, on 11th April 2012, according to Scott Landsburgh, CEO of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, it had leapt to 2,124 workers; which he said represented an increase on the previous year of 13%. But if the November 2011 figure is accurate, then that must mean that direct employment in the industry has risen by more than 50% (some 1,066 new jobs) in less than five months?
Is somebody telling porkies? Does anybody really know the true figure, or does the industry simply invent figures to suit circumstances? In the past two decades the industry has announced astonishing and largely unverifiable employment statistics – which are then slavishly trotted out by government ministers - ranging from between 6,000 to 10,500 workers. In my view, without a truly independent scrutiny the employment figures quoted by the industry, these figures are not worth the paper upon which they are written, nor the breath expelled to voice them. Could it be possible that our politicians and the public are being misled?
If you want to preserve Scotland’s priceless natural heritage,
If you want to preserve Scotland’s wild rivers and distant lochs,
If you want to preserve Scotland’s pristine waters from pollution,
If you want to preserve Scotland’s iconic populations of wild fish,
Then, please, think before you buy or eat factory farmed salmon.
Hysbackie, Tongue, by Lairg, Sutherland IV27 4XJ, Scotland
tel: 01847 611274; mobile: 07910 640615; email: email@example.com
Week ending 5th May.
When you combine the beats of Gordon Castle estate, which are spread over eight miles of double bank fishing, together they are probably the largest and most prolific salmon fishery in Britain. Thats what the website says and it was clearly proven last week when they landed 40 fish. Visiting angler Charles Rowe landed 5 spring salmon last Monday, the first two of which were both over 20lbs. Charles was so delighted with the fishing and surroundings that he stayed for the entire week ending up with a further 4 fish. There is still availability at Gordon Castle and I can’t recommend the quality of the fishing any higher than the clear evidence above.
A delighted Charles Rowe with his second of the day.
Our winner of the Glenfarclas Fish of the Month for April was Mr David Wood. David caught his fish of 22lbs from in my opinion the finest pool in Scotland, Sourden at Delfur. This week has produced some exceptional fish in the past when in 2007, David’s fishing companion Adrian Harrop landed 2 fish before lunch weighing 27 & 31lbs. I’m sure David being such a nice gentleman, will allow Adrian a wee dram from his prize, a bottle of Glenfarclas 105 single malt.
A delighted David Wood with his prize.
At Kinermony, Robin Gillespie began the week with a fish of 12lbs from the Boatpool after half a dozen casts. He had to until the last half a dozen casts before his next fish which was late afternoon on Saturday. With a superb height of water, I was rather perplexed why we didn’t catch more fish. The temperature was around 48-50degF most of the week and although there was a slight fluctuation on water levels, not enough to cause worry. We simply didn’t see the numbers of fish that we’d been expecting considering what was happening further down river. Bizzare!
A photo from Mark Melville at Delfur last week.
Iain Laing from Aberdeen who landed a fish on opening day on the Spey had his best of the season and probably the best from the river so far at Orton last week. Iain caught a 24lb fish from Coopery, just in front of the top hut on a sink 2/3 line and having just received shipment of a few Kinermony Killers went on to catch another of 10lbs on the KKF on Wednesday. His companions John Martin, John Cowan and Jack Meredith also landed sea-lice fish of 16, 8 and 10lbs respectively.
Orton ghillie Kevin displays Iain Laing's 24 pounder.
It’s great to see a river where ghillies and anglers can accurately measure their fish. Weigh nets are growing in popularity and although slightly more expensive, they can certainly save the embarrassment of other poor estimations seen on other rivers. We don’t see fish of over 20lbs too often therefore amid the excitement, a fish of mid 20’slbs can be 30lbs before you know it. ‘Aye you should have seen the one that got away’ spring to mind!
Last weeks Italian party led by Vittorio Spasciani sent me these photos of their exceptional week.
Gordon Castle continues to produce excellent fish.
Luciano Fava with the best of the week - a real beauty!
Below we have pictured Gregoire Devictor with a smile that can only match your first ever Salmon on the Fly. His fish was caught at Delfur in the Beaufort pool under the expert guidance of Delfur head ghillie Mark Melville.
A very happy Gregoire Devictor.
Prospect are very good for the weeks ahead and with fish of this quality in the river, I’d encourage anglers to select the appropriate tackle to deal with these larger fish. At least 13 -15lbs breaking strain leaders and stay well clear of thin wire hooks. Fly size around 6-8 or tubes of 1” in length should be ideal. We have a good level of water and numbers should continue to increase. We are now in May and the ‘Spey in May’ is the place to be.
Week ending 28th April.
After the torrential rain of last week, I think I will spend less time in predicting the weather forecast and more on safer bets. Speaking of predictions, the ghillies crystal balls were on overtime last week. Do you think it will be fishable tomorrow? How quickly will it drop? Will this high water bring in more fish? were amongst the top three. A fair response would be what will the lottery numbers be this weekend!!
Is it going to drop Rosie? - don't care as long as I get my tea tonight!
The week began with the river at a very good level however, it wasn’t long before the rain began to take effect and by Wednesday night, it was clear that the remainder of the week was going to be challenging at best. Thursday morning was just about acceptable but it has be said that anyone fishing on Friday should have been escorted from the River bank under sedation!
Kinermony tenant was Mr Tony Hutley and he didn’t take long in registering his first Spey fish of the season. The fish was measured by Orn from Easter Elchies on a field trip, at just over 37” and estimated at 20lbs.
Mr Tony Hutley with his Monday morning 37" fish.
The Italian party fishing at Gordon Castle and Ballindalloch had a very memorable week, landing 4 fish of around 20lbs. The largest of 30” was caught on Saturday on Brae beat 3 from Lower Aultdearg with photos to follow. When rained off on Friday, they headed south to the River Tay and landed another fish of similar size. Although not the best of weeks in terms of time spent on the river, to leave with 4 fish of that quality will certainly be worthy of a tale or two.
A slightly different angle of Mr Hutley's fish.
Further up-river at Laggan, the party had a very special week indeed. The ‘Duncan’ ladies had a fantastic time when firstly Mrs Kathleen Duncan landed their fish of the week however, her sheer delight only increased as the week continued as her 2 daughters; Anna and Rachel both also landed lovely sea-liced fish. Another example that dreams can be fulfilled on the majestic Spey, even in high water.
A delighted Mrs Kathleen Duncan.
The smile runs in the family for Kathleen's daughter Mrs Anna Taylor.
And finally youngest daughter Rachel Duncan with a lovely fish & smile to match!
As the high water began to drop, the Aberlour AA began to come into trim and Spey Quaich winner Bruce Cameron had the first fish of around 6lbs on Saturday morning on the Fly. 4 others were caught during the day with the largest of 17lbs caught by Jimmy Rhynd. We had another at Kinermony again on Saturday morning of around 11lbs on a Kinermony Killer Templedog.
I’m quite excited about prospects for next week and without going into the weather forecast, I’m confident that most beats will record fish. With the current level, intermediate lines or floaters with poly leaders should be suffice, coupled with flies around the 1-1.5” mark. My choice would be the Ultraspey Float-Int shooting head with type 3 sinker & No7 KKF, but very much whatever you feel confident with.
The KK Templedog - deadly if used correctly!
Finally, I'd like to draw your attention to an on-line Auction that I've put together in the Salmon Fishing Forum. You have to sign up to join which is very straightforward and all proceeds will go towards a River Spey restoration project. The forum is actually very friendly and informative with a great deal of superb reports.
Week ending 21st April.
A wet week on Speyside with river levels fluctuating on a daily basis. After a hard shift at Kinermony the preceding week, Graham Ritchie headed off to Gordon Castle waters last Monday to make the best of the Aberdeen holiday. Fishing on beat 3 with head ghillie Ian Tenant, Graham had a magical day landing 4 sea-liced Salmon. His first and best fish of the day, pictured below was caught in the lower part of the Aultdearg pool estimated at 14lbs. Gordon Castle ended their week with over 20 fish and with rods still available at a modest price, well worth a cast.
Graham Ritchie with his first of 4 last Monday.
Further up-river the beats of Orton to Easter Elchies continued to fish consistently and Delfur rods especially, did very well to catch their last 2 fish on Saturday morning in a fast rising river. I’m sure the encouragement from their excellent team of ghillies certainly helped and indeed a wider lesson for all anglers - never underestimate the wisdom of your ghillies, who spend every day in every imaginable condition on the river.
Another from Aultdearg for Graham Ritchie.
Aberlour painter & decorator George Mackenzie fished across from us last Monday and although he very much prefers casting off his left shoulder, he caught a cracking 15lb fish from the Rhynd just before lunch. Although the photograph was taken at distance, you can just about make out George’s smile! Another more experienced 'George' Michie with 'moretimetofish' also landed a fish further up the beat in Delene and unlike the young pretender, is more than happy to cast off either shoulder and does so in expert fashion. Well done team - George.
George Mackenzie releasing a 15 pounder from the Rhynd.
Now they say that its better being lucky than good, so I’m still trying to work out to what category Inverurie based angler Ian Sinclair fits. Ian has visited Kinermony 5 times over the past 3 years and has only had one blank day. Needless the say the pressure was on from the outset last Tuesday but Ian didn’t succumb or disappoint, netting a 6lb fish from the Boatpool. Steve Mannion has a similar reputation and also landed a fish of similar size, ably assisted by his new friend, a passing Heron!
Steve Mannion's fish netted by a passing Heron with another predator mark below the adipose fin. 2 very lucky escapes!
The top fly of the week was of course the Kinermony Killer Flamethrower size 7 and coupled with Eoin Fairgrieve’s new Ultraspey shooting head system, I hooked a fish of around 6lbs from the Dykie. The line was a dream to cast and the floating-intermediate tip with the type 3 sinker enabled to control the fly speed perfectly. The supply for these lines will have trouble coping with the demand in my opinion therefore anyone keen on getting their hands on one should contact Eoin sooner rather than later.
The KKF strikes again.
We have a more settled weather forecast next week and although the river will be high tomorrow, with luck, it will fine off quickly. This will allow all our visiting anglers the opportunity to fish with a little more confidence as we approach May. I'd lie to predict that catches will be more widespread over the next fortnight with the middle river coming into its own. Intermediate lines in the high-medium water with flies around the 1-1.5"mark should work well.
Finally, I'd highly recommend the Rods avaiable on the Craigellachie beat at the top of this page - it's seldom that the opportunity arises to fish the Spey in May on a prime middle river beat with 2 excellent ghillies.
A delighted Ian Pollit with his fish caught in the Garden Rocks at Craigellachie.
A very interesting article, published in the Scottish Field magazine. It was written by the River Lochy Restoration manager Jon Gibb and I doubt whether many ghillies or 'experienced anglers' would disagree!
Mid April Report.
Firstly, I must apologise for the lack of reports over the past couple of weeks. I spent last week at Rutland Water and due to the tight schedule, I missed 2 Sunday’s in succession, hence the reason for this impromptu report.
On my day of departure, I heard the shocking news of the sudden death of Arndilly ghillie Keith Macdonald. Keith was very much a larger than life character who kept his rods highly entertained and of course well educated on a wide variety of topics. Quite simply, what he didn’t know about Salmon fishing wasn’t worth knowing. Keith’s affable nature and wonderful sense of fun will be sadly missed by all on Speyside and beyond however his memory will remain with us all.
On reflection my Rutland trip was well planned as the snow arrived the day after I left. Fishing remained slow as the snow gradually melted however with the highest spring tides of the year last weekend and a rise of water due to the rain and snow melt,from then on, most beats from Grantown to Fochabers registered fish. Good friend Paul Davidson had planned a trip to the Dee however a wise last minute change of plan saw him spend the week at Gordon Castle. Paul landed 3 fish and hooked a further 6 fishing Brae beat 3 and the Castle Water. Budding photographer Ian Tennant actually managed to capture more than the camera strap on this occasion and although he still managed to sneak a thumb in the photo, this time he did quite a good job as you can see below!
Paul Davidson with his best of the week from Brae 3.
Also fishing the Brae on beat 5 was another good pal Ross Wood and he landed the 7lb sea-lice fish below from the Grilse pool. Ross, Paul and indeed all the Gordon Castle ghillies have seen running fish on a daily basis which should certainly encourage rods up-river.
A sea-licer for Ross Wood from Brae beat 5.
Orton, Delfur and Arndilly continue to fish well and the beats above Craigellachie are now beginning to catch on a more regular basis. Aberlour Associations catches are normally a good indication of how the river is performing in the early part of the season and they have caught 3 fish in the past week. Their season’s total however is 5 fish which just about says it all! In his 'Silver Jubilee' year, Peter Kyte caught one of the largest fish of this past week in the Lower Slabs at Craigellachie on Tuesday. Peter caught the fish on a Monkey and it is his largest fish to date, estimated to be 22lbs.
Peter Kyte with his largest Salmon to date - estimated at 22lbs.
My highlight of the week was seeing the photo below of young Hugo Slater with his first Spey Springer. Hugo caught the lovely 10lb fish from the Sands pool at Laggan under the watchful eye of ghillie Mike Murdoch and as you can see is absolutely delighted.
Hugo Slater with a cracker from the Sands at Laggan.
Graham Ritchie is tenant at Kinermony this week and added to his season total with a wee fuish from the Boatpool yesterday. Visiting from Golspie, Rev Eric Paterson landed our first fish this week on Monday morning again from the Boatpool. It was Eric’s first fish from Kinermony and we were all delighted that he didn’t feel the need for a self-baptism on this occasion!
A second Spey spring fish for Laggan ghillie Mike Murdoch.
Finally, I’d like to highly recommend a new line on the market which I’ve tested this week. It has been designed by well known Tweed ghillie & professional guide Eoin Fairgrieve, who incidentally last year was awarded the Arthur Oglesby award for services to fly-fishing. The line is the ultimate shooting head system. The Ultraspey kit contains 2 shooting heads, one of which is floater and the other an intermediate tip. In addition, there is an excellent running line and 5 interchangeable tips. Quite simply a one kit solution to all your Salmon fishing needs and retailing at £99, a must have item. Click on the link to Eoin’s site for further information.
Week ending 24 March.
For those other than anglers visiting Morayshire over the past couple of weeks, the weather has been truly magnificent. The local golf courses, normally either frosted or waterlogged are on excellent par as their seasons open. Alas for us Salmon anglers, our hopes are firmly directed toward the next heavy batch of rain, something in March, we are certainly not accustomed to. The Spey is currently running just below summer level, with a water temperature of just under 50DegF. Our March guests are at last able to see our wonderful Salmon pools fully defined and can fish with floating lines and much smaller flies than they have normally used in March.
Gordon Castle waters have been fishing more consistently than most due to the lower water level and with an array of early season availability on their website; it’s certainly well worth a visit. Craig Mackay was one of 4 River Spey Anglers committee members fishing Brae Beat 2 last Saturday and was fair chuffed to land his first ever Spey Salmon, a sea-liced 8lb bar of silver. The photo below was taken by vastly experienced companion John Porter, who landed the lovely 18 pounder from Brae Beat 3 in last weeks report.
A delighted Craig Mackay with his first Spey Salmon - well done indeed.
Above Gordon Castle last week, rods on the Goldon Triangle struggled somewhat with Delfur leading the field with 3 fish. Above Craigellachie, as described in my opening paragraph, we are more accustomed to higher water, which encourages these early spring fish to run however the majority of beats are struggling with only Wester Elchies steadily picking away. They had 2 fish from Delene last week with Malcolm Newbould catching the best ast 16lbs. Retired Kinermony ghillie Geoff Harris thankfully showed us how to do it last week with a fine fish from the Little Turn. Geoff caught the fish at the tail of the pool in approximately 2 feet of water on a full floating line. Further up river at Carron, Ian Buick landed their first of the season, which at 17lbs was also his first ever Salmon and worthy of entry to our Glenfarclas Fish of the Month Competition.
Wester Elchies ghillie Sam Bremner about to release Malcolm's fish.
Grantown Angling Association have yet to register a fish however, from Tulchan downstream all of the beats are off and running, with Ballendalloch recording 2 last week.. The Fishspey website has been updated with additional availability throughout the river so for anyone seeking access to world famous Spey beats, visit www.fishspey.co.uk
Geoff Harris with his first of the season, caught on a floating line in 2' of water!
As far as prospects are concerned, it will all depend upon the weather. Floating lines with intermediate or slow sink tips are more than enough coupled with doubles around the 6-8 mark. At this time of the year, lady luck plays a major role in finding fish but as they say, as long as yer flees in the water – you always have a chance! Finally anyone wishing to share any anecdotes and photos of their trips to the river, please e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org
Week ending 17 March.
As I predicted last week, numbers have gradually increased with the Lower River especially fishing well last week. The Gordon Castle beats, although far from full, had 3 fish on two separate days before ending the week in fine style with an 18 pounder, caught by well known Spey angler John Porter. John caught the fish from the Aultdearg pool on Brae beat 3 under the excellent guidance of ghillie Ian Tennant. The fish was caught on a Spey classic, a No6 Munro Killer and although photographed by Ian, as you can clearly see from the evidence below, he’s far better with a rod or net in hand rather than a camera! Almost a lens cap moment!
25% of John Porter, 60% of his prized spring fish & a well positioned camera strap!
Just up-river, Orton, again not fully let had a very good week with half a dozen. Spey Quaich winner Bruce Cameron added to his opening day fish with another from the wonderful Cairnty pool on his third cast. As Bruce says, it’s better to be lucky than good!
Delfur, Rothes & Aikenway and Arndilly are now all well into double figures, with Easter Elchies & Upper Arndilly in hot pursuit. Ghillie Iain Kelly landed their best of the week at 17lbs from the Red Craig, which incidentally was played at exactly the same time as one from the next pool up-stream, the Lower Dips, this time a 12 pounder caught by River Spey Anglers Chairman Mel McDonald.
Another from Alex Robertson caught in Blue Stone at Rothes & Aikenway.
The photo above shows further evidence of the many dangers that the Salmon encounter whilst at sea. So far this season, just over 50% of the photos I have received show some form of predatory attack. This journey at sea, added to their exploitation rate whilst in the river, which especially in early spring, is far higher than governing bodies are prepared to accept, leaves increasing pressure upon us anglers to consider in more detail their safe passage. Ultimately, the plight of our early Spring Salmon is becoming an increasingly difficult one.
With no prolonged rain forecast and with little snow to melt, conditions are as good as they get for the lower river beats at this time of year, especially Gordon Castle. Their website lists all availability and with an excellent team of ghillies, surrounded by historic Salmon pools, you will be guaranteed a good day out, with a real chance of catching a fresh fish.
Week ending 10 March.
A very quiet week on Speyside considering the fishing conditions. By my reckoning there were no more than half a dozen fish caught on the entire river, which when converted to actual fishing hours would not make very interesting reading.
A view looking down the Long Pool at Rothes & Aikenway where Mel McDonald landed his first fish of 2012.
River Spey Anglers Chairman Mel McDonald was amongst those fortunate enough to connect with fresh fish, landing one at Rothes & Aikenway from the Long pool and losing another in the Little Turn at Kinermony. Video footage available on my youtube account - click the link on my home page. Easter Elchies and Upper Arndilly also recorded fish as did Wester Elchies.
Mel McDonald's fish, fresh from the sea and with marks of a previous lucky escape.
Mel into another fresh fish last week at Kinermony, estimated at 15lbs.
On the optimistic front, visiting anglers are being able to see the River in a slightly different light. For the past few years, they have been greeted with much higher water levels and less favourable fishing conditions. Now they can finally see the Spey at summer level, minus of course one very special ingredient for now– fish! Very much early days though as far as the Spey is concerned and we should gradually see numbers increasing over the next month or so.
Week ending 3rd March.
A much quieter week on Speyside in terms of catches, however anglers were blessed with mild temperatures and good fishing conditions throughout. The river rose slightly on Monday due to the last of the current snow-melt which is rather worrying, especially at this early stage in the season. With a pretty settled forecast over the next week, there will be little encouragement for any fresh fish to enter the river other than the relative safety from sea-feeding predators. I have yet to see a fresh fish running the river but both Gordon Castle and Orton beats have seen small pods of fishing running through.
Orton landed 2 fresh fish last week, the first, and a 6 pounder by Forres angler Bob Mackay. Defur added a couple to their season’s tally as did Rothes & Aikenway, with a first fish of the season to keen Spey angler Alex Robertson. Alex caught his fish from the Junction pool and you can see from the 2nd photo below that it had already encountered a luck escape whilst at sea. Further up-river Arndilly had an excellent day last Monday with 3 fish, all no doubt on a No6 fly! With a very able team led by Willie Roy fishing Arndilly next week, I’m sure they will cover every inch of water.
A couple of photos from Alex Robertson.
The most bizarre catch of the week and most likely of the season was netted at Orton by ghillie Andrew Hall. It measured 12” in length and wouldn’t have been too far out of place harled behind a boat on the River Tay. On closer examination, Andrew found that it contained 2 batteries and although shaped like a Devon minnow, the device didn’t have any means of rotation but did vibrate!
Duncan Egan with a lovely first of his season.
Over on the River Dee, my good friends Duncan Egan and Laggan ghillie Mike Murdoch both connected with very good fish. Duncan’s caught at Lower Crathes & West Durris measured 36’’ & was estimated at 18lbs. Mike’s fish; amongst 8 his party caught at Invery over 3 days weighed 16lbs and as you can see a real beauty.
Having already had a February fish from the Spey, Mike doubles his score on the Dee - superb!
Our Glenfarclas Fish of the Month winner for February is Mr Ron Duncan from Pitlochry. Ron, who has been fishing at Arndilly for 15 years, caught the 21lb Salmon from Jocks tail at on a 2” Garry Dog tube fly. With the average Spey spring salmon weighing around 6-8lbs, this is an exceptional fish and well worthy of the prize of a bottle of Glenfarclas 105 cask strength Malt Whisky.
Mr Ron Duncan with the Feb Glenfarclas Fish of the Month - Well done Ron.
Finally for those interested in a ‘reel’ bargain, I had Salmon Fishing Scotland guide & pal Jock Monteith fishing here last week. Jock informed me that he was now selling his Monteith Multi-System lines for half price on a first come, first served basis. The lines normally retail at £125 and if you contact him through the link above, he will give you the incredible deal of a complete system for £65 inc P&P. In my opinion, there is no better Multi-Tip line on the market and I have used his line for the past 6 years to excellent effect as proof. You couldn’t even buy the 8 different density tips which accompany the line for that price! For this amazing deal, contact Jock directly on 07968145033.
Week ending 25 Feb.
This past week was much tougher for Spey anglers as they contested against fluctuating river levels and gale force winds, especially towards the end of the week. Fish did however continue to sneak into the river and Orton registered their first of the season, quickly followed by another brace. With fewer rods fishing Gordon Castle they still managed to prevent a blank week, with a fine 14 pounder from Ian Tennant’s Beat 3. I’d certainly recommend to local anglers the opportunity to fish this lovely fly water at a very reasonable price, and to check out their availability on the revamped Gordon Castle website.
Iain Kelly ably assisted by Rebecca Green landed a cracking fish from Upper Arndilly mid-week and as you can see by the photo below Iain, always the gentleman, is claiming bragging rights, however I’m led to believe that Rebecca was in direct contact with the fish longer than Iain!
Upper Arndilly Ghillie Iain Kelly with a 'team caught' fish.
Arndilly and Rothes & Aikenway continued to pick away as did Craigellachie with ghillie Dougie Ross adding another from the Lower Slabs. We also registered our first fish of 2012 on Saturday afternoon whilst field-testing the new Kinermony Killer Templedog. A lovely sea-liced fish of 11lbs. See the youtube link on the bottom of my homepage or click here for a little underwater release action.
I had the opportunity of chatting with renowned angling author and expert fisher Bruce Sandison on Saturday afternoon. Bruce is a very charming man who has spent a lifetime in action for and pursuit of both Salmon & Trout and was very keen to hear current views on tackle development and anecdotal tales directly from the river bank. Fortunately World Champion Speycaster Bill Drury was on hand to answer the more technical aspects of tackle development, whilst I helped with the latter!
Kinermony Killer Templedog prior to testing.
In response to his passionate letter to the Northern Scot from Aberlour Angling Association Treasurer Iain Morrison, where he refutes the label in some quarters, of the town water being the 'heavy metal beat' on the Spey. Spinning, Worming and Fly Fishing are all permitted by the River Spey Board as legal methods of catching Salmon & Sea-Trout. It’s therefore the responsibility of individual beats, association and anglers as individuals to chose and enforce whichever methods they prefer. Whilst I agree that some member are very proficient fly fishermen, instead of focusing on the fortunate catch of the first fresh fish from the river on fly as a means of defending the allegation, all Iain needs to do is publicly highlight their annual catch of fish by either method, obviously discounting any fish caught by visiting anglers. That would surely provide a far clearer and more accurate picture.
Kinermony's first of 2012 caught on the KKTD.
Due to a mild winter and favourable conditions, rod pressure on the river has been relatively high in comparison to the past few years; therefore we can’t get carried away quite yet with regard to the optimistic start. Prospects remain good and with a decent weather outlook and good water quality, anglers should be in with a reasonable chance of success.
Week ending 18 Feb.
Following the positive start on opening day, anglers were again greeted with very favourable conditions last Monday. The westerly breeze picked up towards the end of the week with rising water and a snow flurry throughout Saturday.
Rick Page with a lovely fish from Twa Stanes at Delfur.
Delfur started in fine form with an average of a fish per day, which, going by recent years on the Spey in February was exceptional. Keen Spey anglers Graham Ritchie, Willie Mair and Liza O’Brien all recorded their first fish of the season and funnily enough, all caught fish around the 6-7lb mark. Rick Page and Neil Cameron then added 12 pounders respectively whilst John Grant had a cracking early Sea-Trout of 6.5lbs.
John Grant with the first fresh Sea-Trout from the Spey in 2012.
Futher up-river Malcolm Newbould began his season in grand style, landing spring fish on successive days from Rothes & Aikenway. Ghillies Iain Kelly and Dougie Ross also got their rods and pens out and registered their first fish of 2012.
Craigellachies first of 2012 from Broom Isle.
Opening days top beat, Gordon Castle kept their numbers rolling in the right direction with a 12lb fish from beat 2, however not to be outdone, ex-Spey and now River Dee ghillie Euan Reid, caught the beauty of 13lbs pictured below, from Aultdearg on beat 3.
River Dee ghillie Euan Reid with a cracker from Gordon Castle beat 3.
Prospect remain good and with good availability throughout the river, it allows local anglers a great opportunity to fish these lovely Spey beats at a very reasonable price.
Opening Day Report
The River Spey opened yesterday amid glorious early season conditions. A slight downstream breeze with reasonable ambient temperatures and for those feeling colder than others, a nice dram of Glenfarclas to assist their low body temp.
Perhaps due to this year’s Saturday opening day, a larger than normal crowd gathered or maybe it was just down to the goods on offer. The day was once again kindly sponsored by Glenfarclas and Walkers of Aberlour. Ishbel Grant and Marjorie Walker have been great patrons and ambassadors of the Spey for many years and we, as fishers and ghillies alike are most thankful for their support.
Evie Glass opens the River Spey with Marjorie Walker and Ishbel Grant looking on.
Last years Spey Quaich winner Evie Glass opened the river accompanied by the skirl of pipes, although, as you can see from the photo above, it might have been an idea to pour the bottle downstream with a gusty westerly breeze! A far better idea of course would be to pour it into a glass rather than the river, however we are keen traditionalist here on Speyside which often isn’t a bad thing! The first fresh fish of the season was caught by local rod Bruce Cameron. Bruce has worked for Walkers in Aberlour for 27 years and has fished the Town water all his life. He is amongst the top anglers in terms of catches, skill, and importantly very conservation minded. His 10lb fish was caught at 11:45 on a Willie Gunn tube fly and retained for the village hospital as tradition dictates. I am absolutely certain that had Bruce caught the fish on any other beat, it would have been released without hesitation, perhaps something that the Aberlour AA needs to address next season.
Aberlour angler Bruce Cameron with the first Spey fish of 2012.
Spey Quaich winner Bruce Cameron receives a Bottle of Glenfarclas 30 year old Single malt and a deluxe Walkers hamper, presented by Mrs Ishbel Grant, director of Glenfarclas and Mr Josh Walker on behalf of Walkers of Aberlour.
The largest fish registered by 16:00 was caught by Damon Harrison from Lossiemouth. It was Damon’s first day Speycasting and Brae beat 4 ghillie Davis Buley certainly taught him well, as Damon landed a fish estimated at 15lbs from Lower Aultdearg on a Cascade. Damon wins a bottle of Glenfarclas 105 Single Malt whisky and a deluxe Walkers Hamper. David Buley, ghillie in attendance also wins a bottle of Glenfarclas and a Walkers hamper.
First fish on the Fly by Damon Harrison. Nice photo of the fish but not the best of ghillie Dave Buley!
Damon Harrison receives his heaviest fish prizes from Mrs Ishbel Grant & Josh walker.
There were 2 other fish caught on the fly, one of which, caught by Iain Laing from Aberdeen on the Gordon Castle bride pool at Fochabers weighed 18lbs, but was alas caught after the 4pm deadline. Laggan ghillie Mike Murdoch landed his first ever opening day fish and as you can see from the photo below, it was well worth the 22 year wait.
Laggan ghillie Mike Murdoch with an opening day Springer - The smile says it all & well worth the wait!
The numbers caught were very much as I predicted, however there weren’t many anglers who didn’t get their lines tightened with last years fish. These Kelts, Baggots and Rawners should be treated with the utmost respect and there is absolutely no reason for the fish ever to leave the water. Only a small percentage of these spent fish ever live to return to the river therefore it is of great importance that we pay them the respect that they deserve.
Iain Laing with the largest fish caught on the Spey on opening day, unfortunately just after 4pm.
Pre-Season Report 2012
At last the 2012 season will soon be upon us and our hopes have to be of a positive nature. Last seasons memories have now been confined to a reasonable end to May and good fishing in June. July & August had a few ups and downs and September was quite simply best forgotten about. The River Dee had one of their best seasons in recent times and out-fished the Spey for most likely the first time in history. Whilst some may say it was purely due to the Dee’s 2 week extension, where they caught approximately 800 additional fish, the realists amongst us know quite well that the 2 rivers are normally thousands apart and this has to be taken as a wake-up call.
Funnily enough, one of our longest serving tenants at Kinermony recently send me the rod catches for her fathers syndicate from 1963 to1980 and their average catch was 85 Salmon for May alone. As a comparison, the average for recent equivalent years is 25 fish, and although such figures might appear anecdotal to some sceptics, they are also a matter of fact! Why we are not protecting these fragile and most valuable spring fish with a more robust early season catch and release policy is quite baffling, not only to those whose livelihoods depends upon the river, but also to our faithful guests, many of whom realise that the Spey is slowly becoming a shadow of its former self.
Whilst I have no knowledge or interest in politics other than that of the river, its very clear to see that the Scottish Government are keen supporters of the Atlantic Salmon. Unfortunately, their version of this majestic creature has been raised in an over crowded cage on the West Coast amid a mass of sea-lice, which has led to the decimation of the natural population. This once highly popular, vibrant and most scenic Salmon fishing destination has now nothing to offer and what’s more, even the seal population is on decline. Fortunately for the seals, they can sneak around to the East coast where, at least for now, they can be fed and protected. These facts coupled with the SNP’s thoughts on renewable energy will certainly get me to the polling station when it comes to the Independence referendum, along with I guess, a great deal of other politically apathetic Scots.
So onto 2012 – doom and gloom? Not one bit of it! Our hope is that the missing grilse of 2011 have found an abundance of food at sea and will return as multi-winter fish this spring. Having already been over to the River Dee for a cast, they have again had a good start with only the weather affecting catches. Even with our current low water, I’d like to predict a few fish will be caught on opening day, especially with most beats and angling association full. The River Spey remains as the world’s finest Salmon fishing destination, especially in late spring. There will be availability on most beats above Craigellachie in the early season as well as down river at Gordon Castle, where they have just revamped their website. I have listed contact numbers and addresses below for anyone seeking an early season cast. You will be made most welcome and whatever happens, will leave learning a little more about our wonderful river.
Speymouth Angling Association – Contact Moira Brown – 01343820703
Fochabers Angling Association – Contact Andy Milne – 01343820259
Gordon Castle - Contact Estate office – 01343820244 or www.gordoncastle.co.uk
Craigellachie – Contact Dougie Ross – 07767886126
Aberlour Angling Association – Contact Hamish - 01340871428
Knockando Estate – Contact Angela – 07919183260
Tulchan Estate – Estate Office 01807510200 or www.tulchan.com
Castle Grant Estate – Estate Office - 01479872529
I have also added a couple of photos for those less experienced, as reminder of the difference between a fresh fish and a kelt (spawned salmon). As a rule of thumb, if you need to look twice, it’s not fresh.
A kelt previously stripped and tagged by the hatchery.