Spey Ghillies River Reports 2014
Mid Spring Report
The River Spey’s 2014 season continues to provide far more consistent sport than that of the past few years and thankfully, throughout the entire system. Rather than congregate in certain pools on the lower river, water levels and temperatures have encouraged the fish to run the river and spread out which has led to a very promising start, especially on the middle river beats. Furthermore, I have heard of less than 10 fish being killed to date, which confirms the fact that the vast majority of anglers are finally realising the importance of conservation, especially on our spring component.
Mr Raymond Moore with a fine fish from Collie at Delfur.
There will of course continue to be those with the ‘unfortunate’ knack of deeply hooking fish, however these guys are becoming pretty well known and their activities are generally well monitored. I have mentioned before about my scepticism on the manipulation of statistics, however of the circa 1450 fish that we landed during my 8 seasons at Kinermony, only 3 could be reasonably justified as being classes as bleeders with no likely chance of survival. Additionally, for those sceptical of the success of catch & release, during the same timeframe, I only removed 5 dead fish from the river which had been caught on beats opposite and above ours. I saw at first hand that 2 of those were due to poor release techniques and can only assume a similar fate for the others.
A very photogenic John Veitch with a cracker from Sourdon at Delfur.
It has been said many times this year that we have had an unseasonable start to the year. Having spent my winter weekends on the golf course, I have to say that my hope is that in years to come, this unseasonable weather will become more seasonable! Whether the warmer conditions has had any effect on our spawning and juvenile population will become clear in years to come, however at least we haven’t had any major spates to contend with, which has to be a bonus. The pleasant weather and increased catches has encouraged more anglers to visit the river and with many beats now advertising their early fishing on Fishpal, this once exclusive river is becoming far more inclusive and accessible. Fishpal CEO Mark Cockburn has a great affinity with the Spey and has already done a great deal of work with regard to making and building relationships. Historically Fishspey was very much a White Elephant, however my impression is that this was due to badly managed negotiations on both sides. Now however, I’m very confident that Mark has the very best of intentions and through his leadership, Fishpal will become a real asset to River Spey proprietors.
Glenfarclas Fish of the Month (March) winner Derek Wiseman.
Our Glenfarclas fish of the month competition for March was a closely fought contest, due to the number of worthy entries. Retired Gamekeeper and now professional angler Mike Glass had notable success with 3 fish over 2 days at Rothes then Arndilly. Delfur ghillie Grant Morrison also landed a real cracker as did River Lochy Fishery manager John Veitch. The March Glenfarclas 105, cask strength Single malt, however goes to Derek Wiseman who caught a brace of high-teen fish at Arndilly. Derek caught the larger of the 2 fish form the Bulwarks with 8ft of T17 and a 2.5” Posh Tosh and the slightly smaller fish from one of the Spey’s finest pools - Cobble Pot on a Gold Bodied Willie Gunn.
Colin Campbell (Left) with his first of the season from the Slabs at Craigellachie with ghillie Dougie Ross.
The Gordon Anglers Group, expertly administered by Spey guru Malcolm Newbould ended their early season 6-week let at Rothes & Aikenway with 24 fish. There were some great quality fish amongst them and certainly most were above the average weight. Rothes & Aikenway has for many years been one of the most productive early season beats so it’s very encouraging to see that for now at least, business has resumed! Arndilly has also been fishing very well and to date, is probably leading the river in terms of catches.
Visiting anglers will be pleased to know that Grantown on Spey registered their first fish of the season on 22nd March, ending the month with 5 fish, the largest of which was caught by Paul Russell from Lossiemouth. Paul was visiting for the day and caught the 13lb fish from the Long Pool. Just downstream, Castle Grant have been steadily picking away with local angler Gordon Smith amongst the captors.
A plump fish for Paul Hainey caught In Arndilly's Cobble Pot.
After a slow start, catches at Gordon Castle are beginning to pick up. The beats have been relatively lightly fished in comparison to last season, mainly due to the milder temperatures encouraging fish further up the river. I’d certainly encourage local rods to consider an outing before the weekly tenants begin as the fish have to swim past and there are a good number of stopping places en route. You will be made most welcome by a very enthusiastic and capable bunch on ghillies.
For some strange reason, Craigellachie has also been lightly fished so far this season. As mentioned in my last report, this part of the river has been very productive and there haven’t been too many day rods that haven’t caught fish. Just up-river at Kinermony, rods shared 7 fish for the last week of the month. Alasdair Poulson and George Mackenzie caught fish in the mid-teens from the Dykie and Boatpool respectively. The Aberlour Angling Association have also benefitted from a far better start with ‘The heron’ accounting for his fair share! For interested visitors, around 2’ on the Aberlour Fishspey gauge, makes their Boatpool, one of the most productive on the entire river. Oil Worker, Bryan Herbert tends to visit a good number of beats in the early part of the season and recently had his first fish from the Laggan beat. Knockando again lightly fished, has also produced good quality fish recently and with some April availability, well worth a day out.
A delighted Alisdair Poulson with his first of the season from Kinermony's Dykie.
Mother Nature appears to have blessed our season so far, therefore our hope is that fish numbers entering the river will continue to increase. April normally brings our multi sea winter fish and already we have had one brushing the 30lb mark with a few more in the 20lb+ class. As the water temperature approaches the magical 50degF, floating lines with sinking tips or hover shooting heads will replace the fast sinkers. Fresh fish will readily take flies fished nearer the surface and no need to trim down on the breaking strain of nylon. Contrary to public opinion, Ghillies are not sponsored by maxima therefore when they recommend it by choice; they do so with confidence and through experience!
Early Season Report 2014
Although we have suffered fluctuating river levels since the beginning of the season, the first 4 weeks catches have been very encouraging. Most of the beats below Grantown were fully rodded on opening day and as usual, the river produced 3 or 4 fresh fish. The first fish of the season was caught by regular Spey angler Anne Cameron and she caught her fish from arguably the best pool in the river, Sourden at Delfur. Ghillie Grant Morrison was in attendance and both were rewarded with prizes donated by new opening day sponsors Aberlour Distillery. In terms of sponsorship, it’s refreshing to see that the Spey Board have learnt from the disastrous ‘Spey Foundation Dram’ initiative and now only source local patronage for both opening day and wider sponsorship.
I have heard of fish being caught from Tulchan to Fochabers and many thanks to all the anglers and ghillies for continuing with regular updates from the river, even though I am now operating from Aberdeen during the week. It’s great to be part of a team with a ‘reel’ desire to promote our wonderful river on a wider scale.
Readers will not be surprised read of Graham Ritchie’s continued success on the river. Graham is without question one of the most accomplished fish-catchers that I have ever met. Additionally, his passion, enthusiasm and willingness to share his experience of the sport are unparalleled. Graham has landed 4 fish in the past week from 3 different beats, namely Delfur, Rothes and Arndilly and although these 3 beats constitute the ‘Golden Triangle’ there were many other anglers fishing who caught nothing! As a matter of recognition and especially considering he caught the largest fish on the last day of the month, our February Glenfarclas Fish of the Month award goes to Graham Ritchie. He now has a bottle of Glanfarclas 105 cask strength Malt Whisky to savour over the next few outings.
Graham Ritchie with his 1st of the Season and Fish of the Month for Feb.
Delfur ghillie Grant Morrison with another of Graham's fish from Sourden.
Other significant catches have been Mel McDonald past Chairman of the River Spey Anglers Association who had 3 fish from Rothes & Aikenway on his trusty Green Butt Monkey. One of the best fish of the season was caught yesterday at Craigellachie by Allan Mackay from Buckie. As you can see from the photo below, it is proportionally perfect. Fellow local angler Stevie Grant also landed a fish last Saturday from Campbell’s pool at Craigellachie and with lots of availability that beat is certainly worth a visit. Contact Dougie Ross directly on 07767886126.
Allan Mackay with a cracker from the Boat Pool at Craigellachie.
81 year old Davie Leith from Keith once again landed Kinermony’s first fish of the season, expertly netted by ex-ghillie Geoff Harris.They form an able and experienced team with almost 160 years of life experiences. I’ll bet their armchairs were rocking that night! Laggan anglers have also been successful this week with Derek Smith landing an 8lb fish from Dalmunach and Eric le Rossignol one of 10lbs from the Bothy on Wednesday.
Ian Gordon has been running casting/fishing clinics at Tulchan and Wester Elchies and so far has a 100% success rate in terms of catches. Firstly German visitor Miss Bettina Dieplinger caught fish in the Speanoch Pool on Tulchan C. The fish was caught on a Durris Shrimp or more commonly known as a ‘Shitey Whitey’. Craig Wyness continued the run of luck at Wester Elchies and Ian himself had his first fish of the season from Stracathro on the North Esk. Unlike many of my other reports, there is little room for error on those statistics! Recently retired Aberlour Taxi owner Willie Roy had a great week with friends at Arndilly. These guys certainly know how to enjoy life as well as being very proficient anglers. Willie led the field with 4 fish for the week and I’m sure each one was celebrated by a large dram!
It appears that following a recent 'chimps tea party' we will have to wait another few months before the unveiling of the next River Spey Board Chairman. I’m led to believe that even though the board have had an entire year to find a suitable replacement, there was a little confusion at the AGM after a second nomination entered the fray. Let’s hope eventually for a positive outcome and that the new Chairman has the desired skills and experience to develop relationships and continue to move the river initiatives and business plan forward.
Pictured below, a ‘proper’ Sea-Trout caught by my good friend Mike Murdoch on his recent trip to Tierra del Fuego. Mike is a frequent visitor to this area and has not only formed a strong bond with the guides but also the local wild life. In fact his nocturnal activities are becoming lengendary!
Laggan Ghillie Mike Murdoch with a smile to match the magnificence of his catch.
Although catches have been very encouraging and far more consistent than the past couple of seasons, there is still a good deal of great value availability on the river. Most of the Gordon Castle beats have day rods available both through their own website at http://www.gordoncastle.co.uk/availability-and-booking/ and also through Fishpal on http://www.fishpal.com/Scotland/Spey/FindFishing.asp?dom=Spey Following a great deal of effort at the beginning of last season, Fishpal and more particularly Fishspey, have now far greater availability to offer on the Spey. A couple of examples are the majestic Laggan beat with one of the most knowledgeable and pleasant ghillies on the river for only £30 a day in April. Also my old beat at Kinermony has availability for the first time in 8 years and currently has mid-April fishing, strangely at half the price of the opposite bank. I’d also highly recommend a day with ghillie Simon Crozier at Castle Grant. Simon has been on the river most of his adult life and again has a great reputation, both in terms of both knowledge and inter-personal skills. In summary, the river has more accessibility than ever before and importantly, reasonably priced. Even if expectations are reasonable low at this early stage in the season, you now have access to beats that only a few years ago, you could only read about. One certainly is that you will be well looked after and if nothing else, you will learn a great deal and improve your casting skills. For scenic value and solitude, Tulchan and Knockando are a must and as the water drops the Gordon castle beats will come into their own.
Many thanks once again to all the anglers and ghillies who keep me updated. My reports are only as good as the information received. Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com
Since mid October, I have spent 7 weeks in England loading and driving for a passionate Spey angler, sporting Gent and very good friend. During that time, we have covered the length and breadth of England many times, visiting some very notable shoots and Grouse Moors. We even ventured north for a week, shooting at Phones, Drynachan and Tulchan. From my point of view, it has been a truly remarkable and memorable journey, where I have had the opportunity of meeting some wonderfully well-connected people, most of whom share my passion for the River Spey.
Since my return on Monday, I have been catching up with a long list of correspondence and enquiry’s through my website, where the common factor was without question, the worrying decline in the rod catch. The 2013 figure for Salmon and Grilse was 5746, which even without factoring in a recapture figure is the lowest rod catch in history. Certain reporters compared the 2013 catch to that of 2012 in the hope that it would soften the blow, however you only have to look at the 2012 Spey Board Annual Report to see that the 2012 figure was amongst the lowest since records began. I firmly believe that our loyal returning clients and indeed anyone considering fishing the Spey for the first time deserves to know the actual facts instead of some pathetically diluted version. In fact I find it incredibly disrespectful that some appear content in portraying the river in a state of good health on the back of the worst season in history!
One figure that did increase last season was the catch and release percentage from 85% to 88%. Due and thanks to the concern of the ghillies and anglers, this figure has been increasing on an annual basis, however the downside is that this increased figure has masked an even larger decline in the rod catch. As an example, a lower river beat re-caught 22 fish of it’s own fish from a total of less than 150. This is not anecdotal but a matter of fact as the fish were marked prior to release. When you consider how many more of these fish were re-caught during their migration up-river, you are then able to clearly see what impact re-captures have on the total figure.
As a River Spey Foundation Member it has been made perfectly clear that given the current Salmon stocks, the professional Scientists/Biologists are united in favour of a voluntary 100% catch & release policy. I find it quite mystifying that when it suits, the scientific view is classed as the Holy Grail however, in this case it is simply overlooked. In addition, there is a current outcry with regard to the resurgence of costal netting. How can we possibly justify fighting the costal nets whilst we continue to kill fish in the river?
More importantly, how can we reverse the decline in returning adults and increase smolt production whilst allowing anglers to kill fish if they wish. It’s time that the Spey Board took a firm view with regard to the future of the river, instead of allowing the weak argument that ‘we might lose clients if they aren’t allowed to keep the odd fish’. Let me tell you that those same ‘clients’ quite happily fish the River Dee where they return all their fish. In my experience, they would much rather catch and release than not catch at all!
The main reason for compiling this brief report was to highlight a petition submitted by Ian Gordon to the Scottish Government to reverse the decision by the Salmon Net Fishing Association of Scotland (SNFAS) to resume net fishing in the spring after a voluntary cessation. I urge all those visiting this site to sign the petition and share the information on as wide a basis as possible. With the help of ‘People Power’, the Scottish Government may awake to question the statistics manipulated to show that the Salmon population is currently vibrant and healthy.
Click on the Photo above to read and hopefully sign and share the petition.