AL­NESS

Trout & Salmon (UK) - - Fishing Reports Scotland -

THERE WAS a sig­nif­i­cant late run of fish into the Al­ness on Novem­ber 16 and 17 on the back of an 18 in spate (which in­cluded early snowmelt). Sev­eral per­sons wit­nessed them sur­mount­ing the small weir on the lower river. In my book (2005) I noted: “There is still a race of heavy late-run­ning pow­er­ful salmon, in the 12 lb to 16 lb class with much big­ger fish among them, the ma­jor­ity of which come in dur­ing late Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber – af­ter the end of the rod sea­son; they are usu­ally known as grey­backs or blue­backs.” It ap­pears that these fish are still in ev­i­dence.

The main spawn­ing took place in the last ten days of Novem­ber, con­tin­u­ing into early De­cem­ber. Roger Dowsett made an in­ter­est­ing brief film of this. It can be viewed (ti­tle – “On the redds”) on Youtube un­der Sal­monquesttv along with other salmon-re­lated films by Roger. – AN­DREW GRA­HAM-STE­WART.

AN­NAN

THE 2016 sea­son ended with a whim­per. Sadly, that's been the case now for a few years and the strong back-end runs of the ’80s and ’90s have di­min­ished. There was some cheer. New­bie beat re­ported a slight up­turn in the last fort­night, Ian Howarth catch­ing a 12 lb salmon in Craig­dale, and sev­eral re­ally fresh sea-trout were re­ported, which is strange in Novem­ber. At Kirk­wood David Fletcher had a 20 lb cock salmon, while Joe Sav­age had two nice trout (browns, I think). Jim Wil­son from Mount Fal­con caught a 10 lb salmon in the Dun­geon. Is­abel Masse from France had the largest catch of the year when she caught a swan. It ac­tu­ally “took” a size 12 Cas­cade while she was learning at the Salmon School. I re­moved the hook from its bill – I had to use for­ceps – and it was re­leased. I won­der if any­one else has ex­pe­ri­ence of swans ac­tu­ally eat­ing a fly or bait? The river was pretty low for most of the last few weeks and that cer­tainly did not help catches. There was only one de­cent spate in the last six weeks of the sea­son. Low wa­ter al­lowed many de­cent grayling to be caught. As the ed­i­tor of T&S re­ported in a re­cent ar­ti­cle, one of the ad­van­tages of the An­nan is that if river lev­els drop and salmon fish­ing be­comes dif­fi­cult, it’s great to be able to get out a small rod and fish for grayling (or in the spring go for the very big brown trout). Rob Mewlark caught a 2 lb grayling at Jar­dine Hall. Many peo­ple have com­plained to me about the Gov­ern­ment's crazy idea to cat­e­gorise the An­nan as a Cat­e­gory 3 river (ie the low­est level, and in need of des­per­ate help) and then to of­fer no (or min­i­mal) help them­selves but to make anglers put all salmon back. We were re­leas­ing most fish, any­way, but it sent out a very neg­a­tive mes­sage and def­i­nitely put some anglers off. I know some who just did not come on their hol­i­days in 2016 and some who went to fish other rivers where they would be al­lowed to kill and eat the oc­ca­sional fish. All of this was based on flawed Gov­ern­ment mod­els/ research/reports. Sim­ply put, they tried to as­sess how many salmon were in (run­ning) the An­nan and then tried to as­sess how many should be spawn­ing. Their first fig­ures were based on catch re­turns – spu­ri­ous at the best of times – and the lat­ter as­sess­ment was based on “wa­ter area”. Yet they in­cluded in the wa­ter area vast tracts of wa­ter that have not seen a salmon in a thou­sand years – most of Cas­tle Loch at Lochmaben, for ex­am­ple, is less than a foot deep and has never had salmon spawn there. The large burns Kir­tle, Pow and Lochar were in­cluded ap­par­ently, yet they've never had salmon and don't even run into the An­nan. Bad science is worse than no science. And it made catch re­turns in 2016 far lower than they would have been which means, ac­cord­ing to their model, the cri­sis is even worse this year! I'm not claim­ing the sit­u­a­tion is rosy, but it is not that bad. There are salmon run­ning all year now. If the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment would only do some­thing about the is­sues that they are re­spon­si­ble for – the high seas, mas­sive pre­da­tion by goosanders, seals etc, and aqua­cul­ture – then maybe we might get a pros­per­ous an­gling tourist in­dus­try again. – AN­THONY STEEL.

CASS­LEY

WITH VERY few fish likely to as­cend there­after through the dam at Duchally, the un­ver­i­fied counter fig­ure as of the end of Oc­to­ber stood at 200. This com­pares to 281 in 2015 and a five-year av­er­age of 281. This year just a trickle of fish ne­go­ti­ated the pass af­ter week 34 (the week of Au­gust 22). Nor­mally, fair num­bers go through un­til week 36; in­deed the lat­ter was the peak week in 2015 with some 50 as­cend­ing. The tim­ing in 2016 cor­re­lates closely with the fact that there was lit­tle ev­i­dence of fresh fish en­ter­ing the river af­ter the start of Au­gust. – AN­DREW GRA­HAM-STE­WART.

CLYDE

THE NEAR ab­sence of rain caused a build-up of silt on the riverbed, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to ap­proach the larger grayling with­out dis­turb­ing them. Very few over 2 lb were caught. Only once did suf­fi­cient rain fall to sweep away the silt. This was suf­fi­cient in­cen­tive to prompt large num­bers of salmon to start spawn­ing. At­tempts are be­ing made to log the lo­ca­tions of these spawn­ing ar­eas in or­der to give them added pro­tec­tion. Over a pe­riod of less than two weeks, the tem­per­a­ture went from 6 degrees be­low freez­ing to 6 degrees above and back again. Even now fore­casts sug­gest that the freez­ing weather will give way to pro­duce the high­est De­cem­ber tem­per­a­tures recorded for many years.

PROSPECTS Once again the United Clyde Pro­tec­tive As­so­ci­a­tion is host­ing an event to cel­e­brate the open­ing of the Clyde salmon sea­son, on Feb 11. The event will be hosted at the Popin­jay Ho­tel, in Rose­bank, and will be sup­ported by Daiwa. The tackle man­u­fac­turer has been in nearby Wishaw for 40 years. The de­tails of things such as who will cast the first fly and who else will be invited to at­tend have not yet been worked out. These will be posted on the UCAPA web­site as soon as they are known. – TOM MAC­GRE­GOR.

CONON

SALMON RUNS in the Conon sys­tem are to a con­sid­er­able ex­tent de­pen­dent on what is by far the largest hatch­ery in the North. This has been the case since the 1950s. Be­tween 1946 and 1961 the whole of the catch­ment was har­nessed in what still re­mains the most am­bi­tious and com­pre­hen­sive hy­dro-electric scheme in the North, in­volv­ing seven main dams, 20 miles of tun­nels, 15 miles of aque­ducts and seven power sta­tions. Dur­ing the 1950s the Hy­dro Board put into place an ex­ten­sive pro­gramme de­signed to mit­i­gate for the loss of ac­cess by adult salmon to the tra­di­tional spawn­ing grounds. This “com­pen­sa­tion pack­age” in­cluded nu­mer­ous fish-lifts within dams and a very large ca­pac­ity hatch­ery. For sev­eral years now the lat­ter has been well past its sell-by date. Scot­tish and South­ern En­ergy has now com­pleted a new state-of-theart hatch­ery at a cost of £750,000. I will re­port in the next is­sue on this year’s op­er­a­tion to catch up brood­stock at the Heck trap. – AN­DREW GRAHAMSTEWART.

CREE AND BLAD­NOCH

IN AN ef­fort to im­prove the accuracy of salmon river grad­ings set for 2016, Ma­rine Scot­land and Lo­cal Fish­eries Bi­ol­o­gists’ Li­ai­son Group made con­certed ef­forts to col­lect and in­cor­po­rate ap­pro­pri­ate lo­cally held data, and cre­ate a sys­tem to al­lo­cate catches to in­di­vid­ual rivers rather than fish­eries dis­tricts. Gal­loway Fish­eries Trust worked closely with anglers from both rivers dur­ing the 2016 sea­son, col­lect­ing scale sam­ples for use in research into the “grilse er­ror” which is used in the cal­cu­la­tion of river con­ser­va­tion lim­its. Sam­ples col­lected over many pre­vi­ous years were also in­cluded to show the ex­pected mix of grilse and salmon each month. The Fish­eries Trust also sub­mit­ted var­i­ous other fish­eries data, in­clud­ing where salmon were able to spawn, in or­der to try to en­sure the con­ser­va­tion limit tar­gets were re­al­is­tic for these rivers. Us­ing the re­sults from sev­eral work­ing groups, Ma­rine Scot­land Science has re­cently mod­i­fied the con­ser­va­tion lim­its model, which has sig­nif­i­cantly changed the cat­e­gory of some rivers. Many anglers will be hap­pier now that the Cree is Cat­e­gory 1 and the Blad­noch Cat­e­gory 2. Pre­vi­ously both rivers were Cat­e­gory 3. The new sea­son on the Blad­noch opens on Feb 11, and with the right con­di­tions we hope to see an early fish. The fol­low­ing list of fish­ing may be help­ful to vis­i­tors. On the Blad­noch, Jonathan Ha­ley has sev­eral beats: Mochrum Park, Kir­waugh and Bar­ness, in ad­di­tion to a beat on the Pal­nure Burn, the tidal Cree at Macher­more, and a trout loch. Fish­ing may be booked by call­ing 07772 290 941. Clugston Es­tate has sev­eral beats on the Blad­noch and a trout loch. I hope to have a new con­tact for per­mits next month. The new sea­son on the Cree opens on March 14. New­ton Ste­wart An­gling As­so­ci­a­tion pro­vides per­mits for the town wa­ter of the River Cree, six stocked trout lochs in­clud­ing Loch Dee, and the Penkiln Burn. Per­mits for NSAA wa­ters and Kir­waugh are also avail­able from Gal­loway An­gling Cen­tre in New­ton Ste­wart. For rods at Lin­loskin, con­tact 01671 402 646 (day) or 07733 154 526 (evening) Per­mits for Gal­loway Es­tate may be avail­able later in the sea­son from Fish­pal. Fish­ing is avail­able on two beats of the Min­noch at Glen­trool Es­tate. Tel: 07787 883 785. – D. A. B.

Clyde’s salmon sea­son to open with cel­e­bra­tion

DEVERON

THERE SEEMS to be a rea­son­able head of fish on the spawn­ing grounds, and the weather has been kind to the fish so far. Huge con­trasts, from mi­nus 8 deg C one morn­ing to 15 deg C the next have been a reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence. We have had a few rises in wa­ter but noth­ing to dam­age any redds. The pro­vi­sional fig­ures for the 2016 catch are in and it looks as though just un­der 1,600 salmon and grilse and just over 400 sea-trout were caught in to­tal. Spring fish amounted to 99, and over­all re­turn rates were 96 per cent for sea-trout and 81 pert cent for salmon and grilse. The Deveron re­mains a Cat­e­gory 1 river for 2017 and no new re­stric­tions will ap­ply. The Mori­son Tro­phy (awarded for the heav­i­est fly­caught salmon re­turned to the river) goes to Mr Craig from Knares­bor­ough with a fish of 34 lb caught from Kin­nairdy. The tro­phy will be handed over to Mr Craig at the open­ing cer­e­mony at Tur­riff An­gling As­so­ci­a­tion on Fe­bru­ary 11 at 10 am. As open­ing day is a Satur­day, we are hoping for a good turnout of anglers, and per­haps a springer will be caught. Day-tick­ets for the river over the first few months are read­ily avail­able from £10 per day. For more in­for­ma­tion on this, and weekly lets through­out the year, tele­phone Frank at Hen­der­son’s Coun­try Sports on 01888 562 428.

PROSPECTS Open­ing day can pro­duce a fish or two, given the right con­di­tions. If we can en­cour­age more anglers out, then a few fish dur­ing the month is prob­a­ble. – F. R. H.

GIR­VAN

THE BAILIFFS have been mon­i­tor­ing the redds since the end of the sea­son. Al­though the num­bers haven’t been sub­stan­tial, we were con­sis­tently see­ing fish on dif­fer­ent nights so there is some en­cour­age­ment. The River Board AGM was held in Novem­ber. Pre­sen­ta­tions were given by the chair­man, the head bailiff and the Ayr­shire Rivers Trust (ART). The hatch­ery was dis­cussed at length. Cur­rently it is moth­balled and ART gave an ex­pla­na­tion of the sci­en­tific ev­i­dence which seems to point to hatch­eries as be­ing detri­men­tal in the long term and should be a last-re­sort op­tion. ART also gave de­tails of fund­ing they have for projects in 2017 such as in­va­sive species con­trol and bank main­te­nance and pro­tec­tion. The state of the fish­ing over the past three sea­sons was dis­cussed. The ART elec­tro-fish­ing re­sults show that the Gir­van still has the high­est den­si­ties of ju­ve­nile fish in Ayr­shire and the prob­lems we are see­ing ap­pear to be oc­cur­ring at sea. Good luck to Gir­van anglers for the sea­son ahead, which be­gins on Feb 25! – DALMAKERRAN.

HAL­LADALE

OB­SER­VA­TION OF the main spawn­ing ar­eas con­firmed what was ap­par­ent dur­ing the sea­son – that there were not many grilse about. How­ever, there were fair num­bers of big­ger fish on the redds. All in all it was a rea­son­able spawn­ing. Most of the ac­tiv­ity was a week later than nor­mal, be­cause of a lack of wa­ter. Good lev­els were re­stored in early Novem­ber, en­abling ac­cess

Cold weather needed for Hal­ladale hatch­ery

right into the head­wa­ters. To date (the first week of De­cem­ber) there has not been a ma­jor au­tumn or win­ter spate. Strip­ping for the hatch­ery was com­pleted by the third week of Novem­ber and 70,000 eggs were pro­cured. The very mild spell in early De­cem­ber is likely to spur un­avoid­able early egg devel­op­ment. Usu­ally the hatch­ery re­lies on ice in the trays to in­hibit devel­op­ment but the ice ma­chine has been tem­per­a­men­tal. Un­less this is fixed soon, a very cold spell in Jan­uary will be re­quired to pre­vent pre­ma­ture hatch­ing. The sea­son opens on Jan­uary 12, al­though the chances of a Jan­uary fish are some­what re­mote. – AN­DREW GRA­HAM-STE­WART.

HELMS­DALE

THE HELMS­DALE Salmon Fish­ery Board is once again of­fer­ing a pe­riod of free open days at the start of the new sea­son. They be­gin on Wed­nes­day, Jan­uary 11 and end on Satur­day, Jan­uary 21; this amounts to 11 days’ fish­ing. Anglers need to reg­is­ter. Regis­tra­tion will be avail­able at the Belgrave Arms or the Thyme and Plaice restau­rant. They can then fish on the river wher­ever they please. All fish must be re­leased in line with the statu­tory no kill be­fore April 1 reg­u­la­tion. The spawn­ing was summed up as “rea­son­able”. As usual, 150,000 eggs were pro­cured for the hatch­ery. In due course fry will be planted out, mainly above im­pass­able falls. – AN­DREW GRA­HAM-STE­WART.

NAIRN

AT THE re­cent Nairn District Salmon Fish­ery Board meet­ing the river su­per­in­ten­dent ex­pressed sat­is­fac­tion with the high re­lease rate achieved by the Nairn An­gling As­so­ci­a­tion mem­ber­ship. The con­ser­va­tion pol­icy will be con­tin­ued in the 2017 sea­son. Data from the smolt trap in­stalled in the spring showed the river to be in an ex­tremely healthy state re­gard­ing pro­duc­tion of ju­ve­nile fish. In the next year or two, work should start on a fish-pass to en­able salmon en­ter­ing the Caw­dor Burn to as­cend the weir into the up­per reaches of the burn, an ideal spawn­ing habi­tat. In­ten­sive trap­ping of the sig­nal cray­fish in the Ged­des Burn ap­pears to have re­duced the pop­u­la­tion and it is hoped that the con­trol pro­gramme can be con­tin­ued next year. The river has been mostly low in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber and spawn­ing ac­tiv­ity has been “fairly good”. – AN­DREW GRA­HAM-STE­WART.

NESS

THE CON­SER­VA­TION sta­tus of the Ness sys­tem, ex­clud­ing the Moris­ton, has been up­graded to Cat­e­gory 2 for the lat­ter part of the 2017 sea­son fol­low­ing dis­cus­sions be­tween the Ness District Salmon Fish­ery Board and the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment dur­ing the re­cent con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod.

Pre­vi­ously the Gov­ern­ment had de­ter­mined that, be­cause fish destined for the Moris­ton (an SAC for salmon) pass through the main stem of the River Ness as well as Loch Ness en route to the trib­u­tary, no fish caught could be re­tained any­where in the district in or­der to pro­tect the Moris­ton’s stock. The Ness Board ob­jected, em­pha­sis­ing the po­ten­tial and likely real dam­age to the so­cioe­co­nomics of the area’s fish­ery and scep­ti­cism re­gard­ing the ap­proach used to as­sess the Moris­ton’s con­ser­va­tion sta­tus. A com­pro­mise was reached with the whole sys­tem re­main­ing Cat­e­gory 3 un­til June 30, to pro­tect spring salmon gen­er­ally and all the ear­lyrun­ning fish (in­clud­ing grilse) destined for the Moris­ton. From July 1, the Moris­ton re­mains Cat­e­gory 3 (all fish re­leased) but the River Ness, Loch Ness and the rest of the district will move to Cat­e­gory 2, al­low­ing some fish to be re­tained. A new con­ser­va­tion pol­icy has been agreed by the Ness Board to meet the re­quire­ment for lim­ited or re­duced ex­ploita­tion in Cat­e­gory 2 rivers. The Board views this as an ab­so­lute min­i­mum re­quire­ment if the Ness district and River Moris­ton SAC are to meet their fu­ture con­ser­va­tion lim­its. For all wa­ters ex­clud­ing the Moris­ton, from July 1 on­wards, hen fish of any size and all cock fish over 8 lb (69 cm or 27 inches) must be re­leased. One cock fish of 8 lb or less may be re­tained per angler per week, with a max­i­mum of two for the sea­son. All coloured and

un­sea­son­able fish must be re­leased. There are also ad­vi­sory lim­its on hooks and re­stric­tions on an­gling meth­ods (such as no worm­ing be­fore July 1 or af­ter Au­gust 31). The changes to the con­ser­va­tion sta­tus of most of the sys­tem have been greeted with some re­lief by In­ver­ness An­gling Club, which lost mem­bers and thus in­come dur­ing the Cat­e­gory 3 pe­riod. The Ness Board will be work­ing with the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to “clar­ify” the con­ser­va­tion sta­tus of the Moris­ton, where num­bers have ac­tu­ally seen a mod­est increase in re­cent years. The pro­vi­sional catch to­tal for the Ness sys­tem for 2016 is 1,050, down from 1,210 in 2015. The de­cline re­flects the lack of grilse in 2016 and the fact that the tra­di­tional late run into the lower reaches was very poor; on the positive side it was an en­cour­ag­ing spring. – AN­DREW GRA­HAM-STE­WART.

NITH

DALSWINTON HAD fish of 8 lb and 14 lb in the days be­fore tor­ren­tial that fell on the evening of Nov 16. This rain con­tin­ued for a night and a day, push­ing up the river by six feet at one point. The wa­ter was filthy and full of leaves, tak­ing a cou­ple of days to be­come fish­able. Even then it rained on and off through that week. In the last full week of the sea­son it was snowmelt that caused the river to rise, but at end of the sea­son and con­di­tions be­came very good and Fri­ars Carse an­other two at 17 lb and 5 lb. The re­ported 2016 sea­son to­tals on the river board’s web­site stands at 173 salmon and grilse and 100 sea- trout. I'm sure this will be re­vised up­wards when all the beats re­port, but it shows just what a poor sea­son we have had. – ED BAX­TER.

NORTH ESK

THE 2016 spring run on the North Esk was good, with many anglers de­lighted to catch silver fish, many of them in the teens of pounds. All beats from the sea to Edzell en­joyed some very fine fish­ing un­til May came along, when dis­eased fish be­gan to ap­pear. Many fine fish died, but it was over quickly.

North Esk re­mains Cat­e­gory 1 river

Then two weeks later the dis­ease re­turned – not so bad, but bad enough. We lose a lot of fish most years at this time and I won­der if we should be look­ing at re­mov­ing the to­tal catch-an­drelease rule and al­low anglers to keep at least one fish; bet­ter on the ta­ble than ly­ing rot­ting on the river­bank. In early sum­mer we had some great fly-fish­ing lev­els and the fish­ing was steady, but de­spite some good days the sea-trout did not seem to be about in the usual num­bers and by June we were still not see­ing grilse. As the sum­mer went on, nei­ther the sea-trout nor the grilse run im­proved. Even the in-river nets were not catch­ing any­thing like their ex­pec­ta­tions. Sum­mer rod catches were patchy – some beats not so good and a few much bet­ter than usual. Then came the six weeks or so of low wa­ter and sport was re­ly­ing on a big stock al­ready in the river. This led to a pe­riod of bet­ter wa­ter and in­creas­ing sport, again sup­plied by the res­i­dent fish. There were many very large fish ap­pear­ing, but the wait for the au­tumn run con­tin­ued. In the tidal river, finnock were seen in huge num­bers and it is good to see ex­ploita­tion of them is con­tin­u­ing to de­cline. The au­tumn run did not ap­pear, as is the case all over the east coast, but spawn­ing seems to be heavy, es­pe­cially in the Mark and higher streams. The river con­tin­ues to be Cat­e­gory 1. – WESTIE.

OUTER HE­BRIDES

CON­GRAT­U­LA­TIONS TO 16-year-old Jamie Car­ruth from Strath­blane, Glas­gow, who is the Outer He­brides Fish­eries Trust “Catch & Re­lease”, Fish of the Sea­son win­ner for 2016. Jamie re­leased a fresh-run 4 lb 10 oz sea-trout that he hooked on a Clan Chief on Loch Fada, South Uist, last Oc­to­ber. Stornoway An­gling As­so­ci­a­tion mem­bers en­joyed a suc­cess­ful 2016 sea­son boat­fish­ing on Loch Langab­hat: 48 salmon/grilse, one sea-trout and 408 brown trout were recorded, most of which were re­turned. The heav­i­est salmon landed and re­leased was a 13 lb cock fish hooked on a cop­per Toby by Norman Gra­ham in Oc­to­ber. On the same day Norman and his boat part­ner, Rob­bie Bell, re­leased an­other four grilse and a 9 lb salmon. – DON­NIE MACIVER.

OYKEL

STEVEN MACKEN­ZIE’S ad­mirably com­pre­hen­sive an­nual sum­mary is now to hand. The to­tal for the Lower Oykel for the spring (to the end of May) was 125 – with 11 in March, 58 in April and 56 in May. Much of May and the first half of June was dry. July was the best month, with 253 in the book; it was by far the wettest month with one spate top­ping 5 ft on the gauge. Good con­di­tions con­tin­ued un­til mid-au­gust, when hot and/or dry weather set in; this pre­vailed un­til the fi­nal few days of Septem­ber. In­evitably catches in the last six weeks of the sea­son re­flected this. The sea­son’s to­tal of 606 was more than ac­cept­able when one takes into ac­count the fact that the level was off the gauge for 13 weeks. Salmon av­er­aged 9.4 lb and grilse 4 lb. The Cas­cade was by far the most suc­cess­ful fly, ac­count­ing for 40 per cent. The catch was split 40 per cent on Beat 1, 22 per cent on Beat 2, 20 per cent on Beat 3 and 18 per cent on Beat 4. The top two pools were Junc­tion (67 fish) and Washer Woman (58 fish). The Up­per Oykel was hin­dered by very low wa­ter for half of its short sea­son. De­spite this, the to­tal catch was al­most as good as in 2015. The to­tal was 170 with 93 per cent re­leased. Spawn­ing gen­er­ally was de­scribed as “good”, with enough wa­ter to al­low ac­cess right into the up­per­most head streams. In early De­cem­ber a dead cock kelt was found next to the Is­land pool. It was 45 inches long and 12 inches deep and weighed over 30 lb. A sea ea­gle sub­se­quently ate most of its head. – AN­DREW GRA­HAM-STE­WART.

SHIN

THERE ARE now three strands to the mit­i­ga­tion for the neg­a­tive im­pact of the longestab­lished hy­dro-dam at Lairg on fish move­ment (both up and down) and thus ju­ve­nile pro­duc­tion in the trib­u­taries that flow into Loch Shin. They are the stock­ing of the River Tirry; flow tri­als in the dam (run­ning the ma­chines fast) at smolt mi­gra­tion time; and the trap­ping, us­ing ro­tary screw traps, of smolts and then truck­ing them for re­lease be­low the dam. The River Fiag, which is not stocked, ap­pears to be do­ing con­sid­er­ably bet­ter in terms of smolt pro­duc­tion than the River Tirry, which has been stocked for decades. The most re­cent

Shin fish­pas­sage prob­lems un­re­solved

es­ti­mates of smolt out­put are 12,000 from the Fiag and 1,000 from the Tirry. The (un­ver­i­fied) up­stream count of adult salmon through the dam in 2016 (up to Novem­ber 6) stood at 237. This rel­a­tively en­cour­ag­ing num­ber com­pares to 179 in 2015 and a five-year av­er­age of 193. It is note­wor­thy that a few adults, which had been pit-tagged as smolts in 2015, were still reg­is­tered as pass­ing up through the dam af­ter Novem­ber 6; thus on the 14th two grilse of Fiag ori­gin were recorded and the fol­low­ing day two grilse of Tirry ori­gin went up within min­utes of each other. There are clearly still un­re­solved is­sues with fish­pas­sage on the Shin sys­tem. The up­stream count at the dam should be far greater and smolt pro­duc­tion from the trib­u­taries re­ally should be in the many tens of thou­sands. The ex­ist­ing mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures amount to lit­tle more than to­ken ges­tures. – AN­DREW GRAHAMSTEWART.

SOUTH ESK

WHAT FOL­LOWS is a re­sume of the 2016 sea­son. On the lower river it was all de­spair as springers were just not be­ing seen, but reports from the up­per river told of spring fish on Kir­riemuir AC wa­ter in Glen Clova. Many anglers sim­ply did not be­lieve it and when I spoke to bailiff Steve Hawkins in late May even he was scep­ti­cal. How­ever, it was true, and 29 springers had fallen to the an­gling club’s rods by the end of June. It seems likely the fish had slipped through be­fore open­ing day, for the Esk was once well known for very early run­ning fish. The mid sea­son passed with­out fan­fare. Salmon were com­ing in most of time but fol­lowed the same pat­tern – go­ing straight up­stream – while sea-trout were scarce and some mid-river beats re­marked on what had been "not the best sea-trout run". Fi­navon Cas­tle picked away with rare blank days, catch­ing some big fish in the process. It was at this time that an angler on the Auld­bar beat of the Derby AC wa­ter in­tro­duced some tech­nol­ogy and with un­der­wa­ter cam­eras found more than a few salmon ly­ing in sev­eral lo­ca­tions. Very coloured and static, they were not both­ered by a cam­era in their faces. Beats in the area were not catch­ing fish at this time, but we knew then that fish were there. Up­per mid-river beats were see­ing fish, but the low wa­ter con­di­tions were very un­favourable and they were not happy at all with the lack of seatrout.

Again in Glen Clova we were hear­ing of catches, if not in the same num­bers. In Au­gust grilse en­tered in small shoals and I en­coun­tered them my­self on the Kin­naird beats. It was ex­as­per­at­ing, how­ever, to watch them pass through so quickly, and again Fi­navon did bet­ter than most. I recorded at this time a badly dis­eased fish ly­ing in the Four Croys which I reck­oned weighed about 40 lb. Fish­ing de­clined in mid Au­gust as lev­els plum­meted but some sport was had with the head of fish al­ready in the river, al­though they were a bit coloured. We were all wait­ing for the au­tumn run, but as on nearly all east coast rivers, it never hap­pened un­til the third last day of the sea­son, when I saw fish off the old Brechin Brig. Fish have been re­ported spawn­ing in most parts of the river, and be­low the Brechin Bridge there are a lot of redds. The South Esk is now a Cat­e­gory 1 river, ac­cord­ing to Ma­rine Science Scot­land. This is a big jump from Cat­e­gory 3 but per­haps they know some­thing we don't. – WESTIE.

SPEY

BY THE time this re­port is pub­lished ev­ery­one will be look­ing for­ward to the Spey open­ing on Fe­bru­ary 11, but as I write we have not yet had the win­ter sol­stice. The days are short, and if I have not walked the dogs by four o’clock it is get­ting dark. De­cem­ber has so far been to­tally dif­fer­ent from 2015, when we were vis­ited by storms Des­mond, Eva and Frank. In 2016 there has been lit­tle wind and rain and the river, rather than run­ning at over three feet with spates of over six, is sit­ting not much above sum­mer level. This morn­ing there was frazil ice on the river, which was not sur­pris­ing as the overnight tem­per­a­tures at Gran­town and Aviemore fell to mi­nus 10 deg C. There are signs that spawn­ing is un­der way on the main stem around Aber­lour with dead cock fish ly­ing in the mar­gins. Hav­ing passed on their genes, their bod­ies are now pro­vid­ing nu­tri­ents for their fu­ture off­spring as well as the ot­ters, foxes and other scav­eng­ing mam­mals and birds. There is lit­tle to eat when tem­per­a­tures re­main around freez­ing all day. So will this dif­fer­ent weather

pat­tern make any sig­nif­i­cant change to the 2017 fish­ing? Cer­tainly it was thought that the rel­a­tively warm and high wa­ter in 2015 re­duced the main­stem spawn­ing and pushed the kelts out of the river. Only beats with large, deep slow-mov­ing pools seemed to have many kelts. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see if that the­ory is proved, as­sum­ing that the weather re­mains sim­i­lar for the rest of the win­ter. If we have a cold win­ter and it con­tin­ues into the spring will this have any ef­fect on where the fish stop? Should we be book­ing fish­ing at the bot­tom or the top of the river? As usual with salmon fish­ing, it is all a bit of a lot­tery, though what I have no­ticed is that al­ready rods for 2017 fish­ing are go­ing quickly. Ev­ery­one hopes the river re­mains on the low side to min­imise redd washout and keep the ju­ve­niles safe. At the end of Novem­ber the Board or­gan­ised a pub­lic meet­ing in Aber­lour. Direc­tor Roger Knight up­dated ev­ery­one on the 2016 catches, which I dis­cussed here last month. He also ex­plained the wa­ter ab­strac­tion from the Spey, and fi­nally a lit­tle about the Wild Fish­eries

Re­form, which ap­pears to have stalled re­cently. The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment pub­lished its Pro­gramme for Gov­ern­ment in mid-septem­ber; the Wild Fish­eries Re­form (Scot­land) Bill did not fea­ture in it. This means that it will not be con­sid­ered by Par­lia­ment be­fore the sum­mer re­cess at the end of June 2017 and we will have to wait un­til next Septem­ber to see whether it will go be­fore Par­lia­ment in 2018. On the sub­ject of wa­ter ab­strac­tion, I note that Rio Tinto, which owns the alu­minum smelter at Fort Wil­liam and ab­stracts wa­ter from Spey Dam to pro­duce the elec­tric­ity re­quired to run its plant, has agreed a sale of the en­tire op­er­a­tion to the in­dus­trial group Lib­erty, for £330 mil­lion. (Lib­erty, an In­dian-owned group, re­cently bought the moth­balled steel mill in Dalzell as well as a steel plant in South Wales, among oth­ers). Spey Dam was re­cently re-clas­si­fied as an ob­struc­tion to fish pas­sage by SEPA and it will be in­ter­est­ing to see what im­prove­ments Lib­erty makes to con­form to the Euro­pean Wa­ter Frame­work Di­rec­tive. In­ter­est­ing times! – MAL­COLM NEWBOULD.

TAY

AS THIS is­sue of T&S hits the shops, the start of the 2017 Tay salmon sea­son will be only days away. This year we start on Mon­day, Jan­uary 16, be­cause the 15th falls on a Sun­day. So, what might we ex­pect, or at least hope for? Well, given the ex­pe­ri­ence of the past few years the spring has been grad­u­ally im­prov­ing. While the first few weeks were largely a washout in 2016, the Tay fished steadily all the way from mid Fe­bru­ary un­til into June. The count at Pit­lochry Dam to the end of June was the best since the late 1970s, al­beit there are no nets now and most springers are re­leased. We have ev­ery­thing crossed that 2017 will con­tinue to see this im­prove­ment main­tained. Af­ter last au­tumn, we cer­tainly need it. But Jan­uary catches, or rather the pos­si­bil­ity of Jan­uary catches, are of­ten dic­tated by the weather. Wet, mild win­ters like 2015/16 don’t tend to be help­ful. But, as I write (De­cem­ber 12) we have so far had quite a dry win­ter. The Tay is cur­rently run­ning at a height that wasn’t seen last win­ter/ spring un­til mid April! It hasn’t been no­tably cold, how­ever. We have had a few frosty morn­ings, but more re­cently some very mild ones, too. I am tempted to say that if this dry weather keeps up, and in­deed gets cooler, it will bode well for the start of the sea­son. But things can quickly change at this time of year! What­ever the weather turns out to be, please do get out and en­joy open­ing day if you can make it, wher­ever you go to cel­e­brate the open­ing. While much of the open­ing-day fish­ing may be booked up, there is plenty of fish­ing avail­able in Jan­uary and it’s any­thing but ex­pen­sive. See www.fish­tay. co.uk. I wish you all luck and tight lines for 2017 and I will keep you in­formed of how it all goes. Oh... but do re­mem­ber, as has been the case for the past two sea­sons, it is now the law that all springers must be re­leased be­fore April 1. – BEN LUI.

TWEED

THERE ISN’T a great deal to be said about the fi­nal two weeks of the 2016 sea­son. Af­ter a

Some Tweed beats re­duce prices for 2017 sea­son

frus­trat­ing year for many beats, the sea­son was just stut­ter­ing to an end, with the river clos­ing it­self. We had a com­plete lack of the au­tumn fish for which the Tweed has been fa­mous in bet­ter years. The vast ma­jor­ity of fish taken through the fi­nal months were old sum­mer fish, with new fish as rare as hen’s teeth. Some rods had had three quiet au­tumns on the trot and many weren’t too happy. If I had a pound for ev­ery time I was asked why the fish hadn’t turned up, I’d be a rich man. Var­i­ous rea­sons were put for­ward: the river chang­ing back to a spring fish­ery, seals, fisheat­ing birds, high-seas net­ting and so on. I don’t think any­one re­ally knows; it’s prob­a­bly a bit of each and not one par­tic­u­lar rea­son. The last week and a half were spoilt for the bot­tom end by ex­tra wa­ter at the start of the last full week, on Novem­ber 21. Peak­ing at around 11 ft at Norham, this ef­fec­tively fin­ished the sea­son for the beats be­low Cold­stream, and es­pe­cially those be­low the Till. The bot­tom of the Te­viot made over 9 ft and the Leader over 6 ft. The Whitead­der was very big and over its banks in many places with a peak of 9 ft at Hut­ton. Need­less to say, there was a lot of colour and rub­bish on the move. Frosty nights helped to lower the lev­els through the sec­ond half of the week, which helped the beats above Te­viot­mouth at Kelso. This stretch man­aged to fish in the fall­ing wa­ter, which wasn’t as dirty as the stretch be­low Kelso. They may have man­aged to fish but they weren’t catch­ing much, with daily river to­tals strug­gling to reach dou­ble fig­ures. The fi­nal three days of the sea­son gave the best con­di­tions for most beats, with the wa­ter lower and clearer. Frosty weather helped lower the wa­ter as the sea­son came to an end. Beats were strug­gling to get a fish or two over the fi­nal few days, with rods fish­ing pools with good wa­ter, but in many cases not get­ting a touch. Very few fish were seen and in some places the only fish taken were kelts. Al­though some rods did have a bit of sport through the au­tumn, the qual­ity, and quan­tity, of fish just wasn’t there. Each time we had a bit of wa­ter we were told ,“This will bring them in” but, of course, if they aren’t there they can’t come in. It was a sea­son to for­get for many and it re­mains to be seen what 2017 brings. Some beats are low­er­ing prices to at­tract rods, but will the fish be there? Is the Tweed chang­ing back to a spring river as it was in the past? Some of us did well in June and July in 2016 but was that a blip – or are late spring/early sum­mer fish go­ing to con­tinue to run? If the au­tumn run has col­lapsed and the spring run hasn’t yet come in num­bers, it's go­ing to be very in­ter­est­ing for much of the Tweed. We shall have to see as the new sea­son will soon be here. – BOB HAR­RI­SON.

WESTER ROSS

WITH SEV­ERAL Wester Ross rivers’ con­ser­va­tion cat­e­gories for 2017 down­graded to lev­els that are more in line with the re­al­ity on the ground, fol­low­ing the re­cent con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod, lo­cal fish­eries in­ter­ests are a lit­tle hap­pier, al­though there is still con­sid­er­able con­ster­na­tion at many of the un­jus­ti­fi­ably op­ti­mistic grad­ings. The Wester Ross Board is rec­om­mend­ing to all pro­pri­etors that in 2017, what­ever the cat­e­gory of a par­tic­u­lar river, all wild salmon should be re­leased. Salmon in the class­room projects, in which lo­cal fish­eries trusts en­cour­age school chil­dren to learn about the life­cy­cle of salmon (of­ten through the hatch­ing of eggs in class­room tanks), have been around for some 20 years. They play an im­por­tant role in ed­u­cat­ing and en­thus­ing the young about the im­por­tance of wild salmon. What I have not come across be­fore is the prac­tice of tak­ing young­sters to watch spawn­ing. This is some­thing that the Wester Ross Fish­eries Trust en­deav­ours to do, wa­ter con­di­tions al­low­ing. In Novem­ber the Trust had a most suc­cess­ful out­ing, with the sup­port of bi­ol­ogy teach­ers Dr James Close and Dr Lorna Brown and Coulin Es­tate, tak­ing Gair­loch High School pupils to watch salmon spawn­ing in the river above Loch Coulin (which feeds into Loch Ma­ree) – in­clud­ing some dra­matic cock fish fight­ing. See­ing fre­netic ac­tiv­ity on the redds al­ways leaves an in­deli­ble im­pres­sion and such ini­tia­tives are laud­able. The visit to Coulin Es­tate also in­cluded help­ing with na­tive tree plant­ing in the ri­par­ian zone and wit­ness­ing the strip­ping of salmon in the hatch­ery with the es­tate’s Neil Mor­ri­son. The Trust’s fish-trap on the tiny River Tour­naig, which flows into Loch Ewe, recorded 30 salmon for the year. This in­cluded 20 grilse caught in one day in Au­gust – a record num­ber. Most of the fish en­ter­ing the Tour­naig are un­der­stood to be strays and the trust’s bi­ol­o­gist is writ­ing a re­port on what we can glean from the trap’s cap­tures and the reg­u­lar fry counts in the sys­tem. In some years no salmon fry are found. – AN­DREW GRA­HAM-STE­WART.

WICK

THE FI­NAL to­tal for 2016 has now been con­firmed as 607 fish, com­pared to 527 in 2015, a five-year av­er­age of 627 and a ten-year av­er­age of 676. The 2016 re­lease rate was 25 per cent. – AN­DREW GRA­HAM-STE­WART.

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