I must aplogise for the lack of reports in September however it was a pretty busy month away from the river and to be completely honest, there wasn’t much to write home about with regard to the fishing. Whilst I enjoyed the summer months more than ever before, this past month has been pretty depressing for a variety of reasons. They say that every cloud has a sliver lining and that, for me, had to be the Alba Orvis Fly fishers winning the Lexus International Final at Rutland Water. It was a great honour for me as Captain to receive the trophy on behalf of our team and for those interested in the finer details, I have added a report on the Alba Orvis Fly Fishers page on the web-site.
Life has many twists and turns and you never really know what tomorrow brings. There can be elation one minute and in the blink of an eye misery and despair. That just about sums up the 2011 Salmon fishing season on the Spey. The River Spey Boards decision to dramatically cut back on the hatchery effort over the next year is quite worrying, as are the ‘positive results’ from their recent juvenile surveys. Without any scientific background, I can only go on comparisons. Every ghillie on every river in Scotland who has spent 30 years or more in or around the job, will tell you that there are far far less fish in our rivers than ever before. The conversations in our fishing huts are now getting more and more animated yet even more depressing. From my point of view I’m actually worn out with these weekly discussions as they are tediously repetitive and appear to be going nowhere. Ultimately, the end of this season couldn’t come quickly enough and my wish as far as the mighty Salmo Salar is concerned is that they continue to prove as resilient and thick skinned as those with a remit to protect them.
Thankfully Pandora closed the lid in time to secure a unique gift and it's something that I intend to cling to – Hope.
Week ending 27th August.
Fishing on the Spey continues to be sporadic although frustratingly for many visitors, there is no shortage of fish in the river. The more traditional approach of the No8 Munro Killer and floating line may be a delight for the purist however, the results don't take up much space in the catch returns register.
Tay ghillie and Salmon fishing guru Tony Black into his 8th fish of the day.
These resident fish have seen more than their fair share of flies over the past months and anglers really need to think outside the box a little to tempt these fish. Fortunately there are a few fresh grilse on the move and if your fly lands in their vicinity, they aren’t too hard to catch.
Nick Heygate with his prize that took 17 years to arrive. Worth every minute!
Wayne Davison, ghillie at Pitchroy had a memorable evening last Friday, when after half a dozen casts in the Boat Pool, with a size 10 Stinchar Stoat, he hooked the fish of a lifetime. The mammoth battle that ensued gathered quite a crowd on Black Boat’s Bridge at Ballindalloch and Wayne made sure that they got their money worth. He fought the fish very well and when eventually landed after 40 minutes, it weighed 37lbs. Although the fish had clearly been in the river for some time, the cock fish put up an excellent fight and was carefully measured and photographed before being released. With such a number of unverified fish being caught on the rivers throughout Scotland, it is great to see that the River Spey again can claim a fish of this size with accompanying photographs and realiable witnesses. Thorough professionalism is what is expected and constantly displayed by the River Spey ghillies as a whole. Let’s hope that Wayne’s fish is given due consideration amongst the Malloch Trophy entries this year as did the winner, again from the Spey last season.
Pitchroy ghillie Wayne Davison with his 37lb cock salmon. A Fish of a lifetime!
Kinermony hosted our Casting for Recovery charity auction day yesterday and with the river is good condition, Tay ghillie Tony Black again led a very capable team. After an arrival dram and chat, fishing began at 10am and Jim Reid was first off the mark with a grilse from the upper Rhynd. He quickly followed this with another before Tony’s rod was bent in the Little Turn. The action continued all day with Tony hitting a real purple patch in the Boatpool just before lunch, landing 6 salmon in 9 casts, the largest of which was a hen of 18lbs. As the day drew to a close, the ‘A team’ had landed 19 fish including a few more lost. Tony led the field with 10, River Earn Ghillie John Young landed 5 and Jim Reid with 4. This is exactly the sort of result that can be achieved when you think outside the box as highlighted above. The guys were treated with an exceptional lunch from Lesley Calzetti who owns the finest B&B in Speyside and she also provided overnight accommodation as a charity donation. Casting for Recovery are a very worthy charity and we were delighted not only to raise almost £2000 for them but also that the team had such a wonderful Speyside experience.
Tony Black with number 10 from the Little Turn.
The pups at week 4. Still 2 black dogs and 1 yellow require new homes!
With non-stop rain throughout today, I’d be very surprised if the river was in any fit state to see any fishing tomorrow however stranger things happen. This high water will move a few of the resident fish from their lies, therefore fishing could be reasonably good by the middle of the week. With the autumn fast approaching, these shorter days will make life pretty tricky for us Salmon Fishermen however life is one long journey with many ups and downs. We'll just have to make the most of every daylight minute in our persuit of happiness! Fish like that of Wayne Davison's caught last Friday might be considered by some as just 'pie in the sky' however as another old cliche goes - you can never say never!
Week ending 20th August.
What a difference a week makes!
Whether it’s fishing conditions, fly selections, or indeed the various challenges encountered in daily life, a great deal can happen in a week.
Tom Dunn with one of three he caught in 2 hours.
The River Spey has settled in terms of conditions and actually, last week has seen by far the best fishing conditions of the past month. Unfortunately as far as the middle reaches are concerned, the fish are still very much finicky at best. As an example, we have had a very experienced team of anglers fishing at Kinermony over the past fortnight, including our record breaking team of James and Julia Smith. No stone has been left unturned and every daylight hour has seen a fly of some description land on the water, however catches have been patchy verging on disappointing. What was certainly not disappointing was the ambiance, fine wines and culinary delights exuding from the Kinermony hut. Below is the menu from last Wednesday which might just whet your appetite. (Simply amazing what can be produced from a wee gas ring!) These rustic huts along our river banks have many a fine tale to tell and I’m sure there will be many more to come!
Good heath and smiles all around.
Fresh fish are few are far between above Craigellachie however the lower beats, especially from Rothes down are continuing to record good numbers of fresh sea-liced fish. Speymouth anglers will be making the most of their last week before their beat is taken over by the Gordon castle rods. Fresh fish have routinely been entering the river and many are now lying up below Fochabers.
Monday morning with James Smith in the Little Turn - need I say more?
With stable conditions continuing in the first past of this week, anglers will at least have the opportunity of enjoying the river, in terms of fishing conditions, at its best. The bottom line however is that no matter how beautiful the scenery or how fine the whisky, the Spey is renowned for its Salmon. Don’t slip into the routine of simply going through the motions. Keep in the zone and consider that ‘Karma’ moment - performing positive thoughts/actions results in a positive experience.
Trust me – it works!
3 weeks and counting!
The new pup's Father and Grandmother (Fly and Fern)
Fly again - A very proud looking father.
Week ending 6th August.
After weeks of deliberation and hope, most Spey anglers have now pretty much resigned themselves to the fact that the long awaited Grilse run might have already arrived. Their numbers have been so low that indeed many of us may have blinked and missed it. The lack of Grilse can be attributed to a combination of factors however the larger spates in prime spawning time over the past few years would certainly play its part.
Murray McCheyne into his first Spey salmon.
Michael was top rod for the week with 3 fish.
I personally feel that it has never been more important than now to carefully monitor, manage and enhance our juvenile population as without good numbers of smolts going to sea, we certainly aren’t going to get decent returning numbers in the future. There have been a number of statements recently regarding hatcheries and their worth. One such report rightly states that of 558 rod caught salmon over the period 2008-2009 only 3 emanated from the hatchery.
With statistics like that, there is little wonder that purely from a business angle the future of the hatchery looks bleak at best, however before we simply take the numbers as fact we must consider a quote from Benjamin Disraeli ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics’ I firmly believe that 3 out of 558 is no short of a miracle considering the previous stocking policy. Fortunately, the stocking policy is currently under review and hopefully the introduction of a later stocking of Autumn parr will provide far better returns and ‘stats’ in future years. Whilst sticking with the Disraeli theme, another favourite of mine is ‘Ignorance never settles a question’. Oh how I wish that our current politicians had such wisdom.
Malcolm McPherson lands his second Grilse at Pol Shuan.
Jim Kilcullen shows that better anglers catch better fish!
Most of the pools on the river have a good head of fish in them however very few are fresh and these residents are more akin to the September fish rather than their early August counterparts. At Kinermony we caught 5 fresh Grilse last week, 2 of which had long tailed sea lice. Our other 5 fish were Salmon, similar in colour to crocodiles and with similar strength!. Our new tenants thoroughly enjoy their first Kinermony experience and all but one landed a fish. He will remain nameless for now but has left Kinermony with a memory that the Rhynd can be a very tricky wade!
Saturday afternoon fun with the AFs and sinking tip.
With heavy rain throughout the day and flooding on the A9 the river will be high tomorrow. This will hopefully move a few of these resident fish around but I doubt if we will see good numbers of Grilse at such a late stage in the season. All is very much not Doom and Gloom however – A large percentage of Salmon fishing is all about the expectation and we must maintain positive thoughts – after all that fish of a life time is only a cast away.
It is often difficult to come to terms with the many insecurities encountered throughout our daily lives. In an ideal world, our rivers would be full of silver salmon and we would all be living healthily in our dream homes with 'a river running through it'. In reality, perhaps the more we strive for perfection, the further away it becomes!
I’m confident that when the water drops back, anglers will have good sport this coming week. Intermediate lines and larger flies will work best in the higher water. Fly choice is very much a personal choice and funnily enough, I was recently reminded that our lives are very much governed by the choices we make. Let’s hope we make the correct choices as far as fly selection is concerned!
2 Pups now a week old. Eyes open next week hopefully!
Week ending 30th July.
Due to a lack in numbers of fresh fish in the middle Spey, some weeks of late may have had a tendency to drag a little. Let me tell you this; considering the fragile world we live in, the last thing us humans need to do is wish our lives away, therefore we need to think outside our comfort zone a little and consider alternative methods of catching these fish on the fly. This past week at Kinermony, tenants Joffy Grant and Fred Morris did exactly that and recorded fish every day. Whether is was the conventional No8 Munro on a floater, a large Francis fished on fast sinking lines, tungsten micro-cones fished on long leaders or Sunray Shadows pulled across the surface, all produced a reaction of sorts.
Fred Morris in the zone and doing his 'I'm a little tea pot' impersonation.
Joffy Grant with eager anticipation of that next cast.
Highlight of the week was Anna Morris playing, landing and releasing her first Grilse. Anna’s older brother Jack caught his first Kinermony Salmon last year and not to be outdone, Anna took on board all the advice and practiced her casting on a daily basis. The outcome – a very proud Mum and Dad, especially considering Jack was given sole responsibility of ghillie duties and performed the task with consummate ease. Certainly one for the family album!
Anna Morris proving that timing is the key. Check out that lovely 'D'
An energetic grilse - next splash is the camera hiting the water!
Fantastic work by Anna, assisted by Joffy whist Mum and Sidney watch on with encouragement.
Ghillie Jack Morris smiles with joy and relief - Phew!!
Anna with her very proud Dad Fred Morris about to release her first fish - her choice!
A Speycaster and let's hope a Spey tenant of the future. Anna Morris.
July coincides with the middle of school holidays and as such the Spey banks are warmed by the footsteps and antics of our younger generation, all of whom we are trying desperately to encourage into this wonderful sport. Let’s make no mistake here – they are the future! Pictured below is exactly what I mean - Firstly 10 year old Thomas Boulton with his first Salmon from Dalmunach at Carron and Laggan, on the very first day he picked up a salmon rod!!
The smile says it all - 10 year old Thomas Boulton with his first River Spey Salmon.
The next photograph is of Beatrice (Bumble) Taylor with her first fish from the Macallan beat. Within minutes of picking up a rod and with instruction from all and sundry, Bumble, a very intelligent and capable young lady, was able to filter through the bullshit and was casting a lovely line of 25 yards or so. She was duly rewarded and the sheer delight from Willie Bremner (Macallan ghillie) Father Robin and Mum Fiona can be seen below. Enough to brighten any day!
One for the family album. L-R Wille Bremner, Robin Taylor, Bumble Taylor and Mum Fiona wiping away a tear!
The lower beats continue to fish well and I would encourage any visitors to give the association waters of Fochabers and Speymouth a go. Whilst the river level remains low, these beats can be very productive.
We still remain hopeful of a decent Grilse run and we just need to look back a couple of years to 2008 to remember that they arrived late in numbers. As an indication how good August was in 2008, up until the end of July, we had 4 Grilse in the book and over 60 by the end of August. These one winter Salmon have few limitations and can ‘run up a wet door’ if so inclined. Let’s hope that they begin to do that over the next couple of weeks.
Cerys with her first new-born puppy.
On a final note – the reason for last weeks missing weekly report was two fold. Firstly I was preoccupied with the anticipated arrival of my new pups and secondly my evenings were such, that priorities lay elsewhere. The outcome was 9 pups and a huge smile on my face. 2 were girls and 7 boys. 5 yellow and 4 black and although the photos might resemble an Andrex factory, the back boys are just as handsome. All are currently healthy however we already had one porker and one half his weight. Who said dogs aren’t like humans!
Twister - played Labrador style.
Week ending 16th July.
Salmon fishing to many of us is one of life’s great pleasures. Occasionally though, like many other 'enjoyable pastimes', there are frequent ups and downs! The past couple of weeks have seen a few of these ups and downs - wonderful fishing conditions in terms of both water levels and overhead conditions, but as far as the middle river especially has been concerned the down side has been the omission of one vital ingredient – Fish!
After a lifetime of searching, I have yet to find something tangible that lasts forever, however funnily enough, have recently developed a growing optimism on that score! We Salmon anglers must apply a similar optimistic mindset to retain some form of sanity, as our quarry has proved over the years to be a great survivor in the face of adversity.
One of life's great survivors.
Now we are well into July, the spring run has finally come to an end and we are now waiting in anticipation for the arrival of the Summer Salmon and Grilse. The lower beats are still producing good numbers of fish, notably downstream of the Craigellachie bridge and upstream of Fochabers. The first Grilse have been with us for 3 weeks now and hopefully over the coming weeks their numbers will continue to build.
Richard Found with a fish from the Bridge pool at Delfur.
By this time of year, our local Farmers should have 'made their hay whilst the sunshines'. Fortunately I am in the highly enviable position to be allowed to do this much more often as shown in the pictures below. I have to say that strimming is a very therapeutic and completely underrated passtime. If anyone would like to brighten up thier lives just let me know and perhaps, even free of charge, I will allow you to give it a go!
Speyside in all its glory.
Cerys doing her baby seal impression - pups due on July 29th.
Fishing Kinermony this past week have been long-term tenant Dick Oldfield and party. Dick has been visiting the Spey for the past 39 years and during that time has fished the majority of beats. Over the years, Dick has seen the river at its very best and unfortunately last week wasn’t one of them. Nonetheless, this didn’t phase him one little bit and I fully expect his return to the lower brae beats in late September to be greeted with ' silver tourists' a plenty. Dick was ably assisted by Terry Tyrell and Mark Freeman and the banter was terrific. Every story contained an element of truth however, we all know that truth gets in the way of a good story so naturally by the end of the week the tales had grown tails! Great fun was had by all and I look forward very much to their return next year. Top rod for the week was Mark Freeman and he is pictured below with his best fish of the week from the Rhynd.
Mark Freeman with a sea-licer from the Rhynd.
There have been a good number of larger fish caught including two of over 25lbs, one from Delagyle and the other a few miles above. The photo below was caught by Mr Vilaseca and fought very well indeed prior to release.
The Alba Orvis Flyfishers recently won the Scottish Heat of the Lexus International competition at the Lake of Menteith and will head off to Rutland Water mid-September for the International Final. The team performed very well and had a comfortable vicory with new addition Gregor Fleming leading the field as top rod.
Team Alba Orvis with smiles all around - Pictured from L to R
Calum Crosbie, Davie Bonnington, Gregor Fleming, Paul Garner, Jock Royan, James Gardiner.
Week ending 2nd July.
River Spey anglers have had consistent sport throughout the entire month of June. Good numbers of fish have been reported from Fochabers to Kinchurdy and amongst them, a respectable number of larger fish. The majority of beats have now recorded at least one 20 pounder and those fortunate enough to fish the Golden Triangle, from Easter Elchies to Delfur have encountered quite a number of these larger fish. These beats in particular have fished exceptionally well throughout June and with a combination of over 90% of their fish released, they really do set a fine example for other beats to emulate.
A nice cock Spey salmon prior to release from the Boatpool at Kinermony.
The water level has behaved in general, however those visitors fishing in weeks that have seen a rise, might have missed out on a day or so but certainly made up for it later in their week. Towards the end of June, we saw the river rise 8” in just over 30 minutes, which for a River the size of the Spey is quite remarkable. Fortunately, it stabilised quickly leading to one of the best weeks of the month.
With a number of entries in out Glenfarclas Fish of the month competition, our winner is Niki Harding. Niki caught her first ever Salmon from the Junction Pool at Rothes & Aikenway on the 25th June. The fish was caught on a floating line with short 5’ sink tip and Munro Killer tube and she was ably assited by ghillie Robbie Stronach. Although not the largest fish entered, Niki fully deserves the award and our hope is that her prize, a bottle of Glenfarclas 105, will add encouragement as she sets out on the beginning of her Salmon fishing career. These first fish are so very special and the vivid memory will remain with her forever, although I think it’s fair to say that the Whisky will not! Congratulations Niki.
Niki Harding with her prize winning Fish of the Month, assisted by Rothes & Aikenway ghillie Robbie Stronach.
With Wimbledon fortnight just ended, our hope is the Grilse (one winter salmon) will begin to arrive in good numbers. I’d recommend that anglers tone down in their rod, line and fly choice and enjoy these wonderful fish for what they are. 15’ 10-11 weight rods just don’t cut the mustard and it is little wonder that so many fish are lost. With an average size of 4lbs, a far better outfit would be a 13’ 8-9 weight combination. I’m confident that you will find a far better hooking ratio and more importantly better sport all round.
Monday morning in the Little Turn - A great place to be!
Kinermony anglers last week were ably led by Mark Newcombe who was top rod with 5 fish, the largest being 14lbs. Iain Gavin-Brown began the week in fine form hooking and landing his first of the week from the Little Turn after the Wester Elchies bank had moments earlier taken a fish for exactly the same spot. I was in a privileged position to watch his line slide away before he even registered the take and was on hand during the ensuing battle. You can see Iain’s sheer delight captured below. My highlight of the week was encouraging John Crofts to fish the Little Turn on 2 occasions. Due to a medical condition, John has no feeling below his knees, yet we navigated our way across the tricky river bed and once there thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
Iain Gavin-Brown with the first of the week... Thank God for Sundays.
As we enter July, anglers should be prepared to fish unsociable hours if they intend making the most of their fishing. First and last light would be my preferred choice, however the majority of visiting anglers combine their fishing with a family holiday therefore a compromise has to be met. If there is enough room for a set of Golf Clubs, chuck them in for those hot sticky afternoons. With an abundance of top quality courses in the local area and at very reasonable prices, it’s a great alternative and welcome break from casting practice in the baking sun!
Week ending 25th June.
A week of pretty mixed conditions on Speyside. Monday was a lovely day, however heavy overnight rain around Glenlivet made the middle river, below the Avon almost unfishable by Tuesday lunchtime. Interestingly, the river rose by 9” at Kinermony on Tuesday morning between 08:40 and 09:20, with water clarity poor and pretty much brown in colour however, it settled after the 40 minute deluge and lower beats fished well until mid afternoon. Wednesday and Thursday were far better fishing days, with a large number of ‘older’ fish amongst those being caught. Friday again saw the river rise, this time the Dulnain tributary the culprit however good conditions once more on Saturday.
Tom Robinson with a fish from the Bridge pool at Gordon Castle on Monday. Looks like it beat the seal - just.
Carron and Laggan had their best combined week of the season with Laggan guest landing 8 fish on Friday alone. Delfur were over the 60 mark, which included a blank day! They had some real quality fish in the mid teens and up to 20lbs.
Above and below - a brace of crackers from Delfur.
Aberlour AA made use of the high water and both Wednesday and Thursday saw them well into double figures. Visiting from the borders, Colin Tait was amongst those lucky rods, however all his fish were fly-caught.
I spoke with Gordon Castle head ghillie Ian Tennant on Saturday and he confirmed that towards the end of the week especially, there were very good numbers of fish running through. Unfortunately for his guests, at that stage their heads were down and tails going like the clappers! This is certainly promising as far as visitors are concerned with this forthcoming week and a good head of fish should now be spread throughout the entire river.
Spey regular Ian Sinclair with a 20 pounder from Gordon Castle.
Kinermony tenants last week were Robin and Fiona Taylor who celebrated their 25th year at Kinermony in style. Fiona ended the week as top rod and photos will appear within the next few days.
Top Kinermony rod last week Mrs Fiona Taylor with a rather surprised look.
A more relaxed pose with fish now under control.
Orvis Alba team mate Paul Garner with a sunray caught fish from Craigellachie.
Just before I left work last Tuesday evening, I was privileged to share in one of life's special moments. The view and ambiance were absolutely stunning and amid such beauty, I was able to contemplate life and take great comfort from my decision to concentrate less on the monetary and material distractions in life and more on the fulfillment of happiness. It goes without saying that from that point, my week just got better and better, which I suppose in a way proves that there some things in life that money just can’t buy. Having said that, I’m still rather hopeful that my new weekly lottery line will come up one day very soon! The prize money might not be essential in my persuit of happiness but may well help!
Week ending 18th June.
No report last week I’m afraid as my last 2 weeks have been pretty hectic with 3 evening competitions at the Lake of Menteith. The outward journey down the A9 to the Trossachs is full of anticipation however the return trip, home alone, leaving Menteith at midnight with 180 miles to travel can be rather tiresome at best. Having said that, the fishing was terrific and with few traffic police en route, I was home in good time. The Menteith trout really are quality fish and I’d highly recommend you spend a day out in truly magnificent scenery.
Angela Fisher with an early Monday fish.
Fishing on the Spey has been steady over the past fortnight with most beats recording fish on a daily basis. Tulchan had a great start to last week recording an excellent number of fish, as did Laggan and a special moment for the Delahooke family as daughter Eve assisted in releasing her father’s 16 pounder below.
One of those priceless Father and Daughter photos.
Delfur has been most consistent of the lower beats, which is not surprising given the quality of the pools and ghillies. It really is the Mecca of Spey fishing and if you are ever fortunate enough to get an invitation, don’t give it a second thought. In the words of my son, ‘Duh It’s a no brainer’
A salmon's eye view from Delfur.
Kinermony tenant 2 weeks ago was Ralph Green, one of the finest hosts to step foot on Speyside. Unfortunately Ralph didn’t land a fish as he was too busy catering for the needs of others however, he did make sure that most of his guests caught fish and the photo’s below show clearly that a great time was had by all. I have to add that the daily BBQ’s are a special event and like the Delfur invitation described above, certainly not to be missed.
Now that's what you call good Scottish Lamb. Trust me it tastes even better than it looks!
Above and below - Party host Ralph Green with tools of the trade.
Geoff Harris into a good fish - no need to guess the fly. Munro No8!
Alastair Ingles playing a strong fighting fish in the Little Turn.
This past week has seen the visit of David Hart and his motley crew. The first fish of the week was caught by Angela Fisher from the Boatpool on her third cast and you can see her delight above, before the fish was safely released. Husband Barry added a further 3 before their departure on Wednesday and other successful rods on Monday were host David Hart and partner in crime John Grant. Michael Outred testing a shooting head set-up in the Little Turn, was amazed how easily the line behaved and was also awarded with a tug on the end, resulting in a lovely fresh 9 pounder.
Michael Outred with a lively one.
Last Thursday, I had an unexpected but most welcome visit from a very good friend who I had not spoken to for 15 years. We shared many memorable experiences, both professional and socially whilst together in the RAF, and were both amazed just how quickly time had flown past. Unfortunately life in the RAF at that time had it complications, however the years simply roll back as we reminisced and suffice to say that it won’t be 15 years before we meet again. The visit really did put a renewed spring in my step and I look forward very much to our next encounter, this time with rods and glasses in hand.
Another on the Sunray.
Week ending 4th June.
The majestic River Spey certainly didn’t let us down in May and confirmed its position as one of the finest Atlantic Salmon fishing destinations in the world at this time of year. It has been very refreshing to see Moray producing something positive throughout all the current doom and gloom regarding the RAF’s future role in the area. Whatever the future holds for Moray and Speyside, we need to continue to carefully nurture and promote our more natural resources like the farming, whisky and fisheries industries, which have historically never let us down. In fact these factors have contributed greatly to our vibrant community spirit and enviable reputation as one of the most desirable holiday destinations in the UK.
Henry and Camilla Mountain, a very capable couple on Wester Elchies.
The result, Camilla with a cracking Spey salmon from the Boatpool.
Winner of the Glenfarclas Fish of the Month competition for May is Mr James Burges-Lumsden. James caught the fish on Friday 13th May at Easter Elchies, dispelling the myths of superstition. Fingers crossed, our monthly competition will continue to attract such entries!
Glenfarclas Fish of the Month held by Easter Elchies ghillie Orn Sigurhansson.
Over the past week, catches have once again increased with again fish spread well from Fochabers to Kinchurdy. Mr Jervis, 90 years old this year ably led the party at Delfur and his largest of 15lbs fought particularly well. All the Gordon Castle beats once again produced good numbers of fish and I believe that there is still limited availability on a couple of beats, which I’d highly recommend.
A fish from the Jervis party at Delfur last week. Nil points for the camera man!
The middle river beats of Wester Elchies, Kinermony and Delagyle accounted for over 50 fish and Craigellachie just below almost made 20. Easter Elchies and Upper Arndilly also had excellent fishing with Monday to Wednesday being especially productive.
A lovely angle of the Gean Tree at Delagyle.
Peter Kyte was tenant and Kinermony in his Silver Jubilee year! Last week proved to be his best to date and his Captain’s role of 6 fish certainly played a major role. Peter had a remarkable 40 minutes in the Little Turn on Tuesday afternoon landing 3 fish, 2 of which were is successive casts. This achievement would not have been possible without the good will of a canoe party who kindly went out of their way to ensure his pool was undisturbed; a fine example of good communication and mutual respect. Peter’s 3rd fish was his largest of the week however as you can see from the 2 photos of the same fish below, he has yet to master the proper fish pose angle. Peter has created a unique hooking system whereby on feeling a resistance on his line, he looks at his watch, shouts out the exact time and lifts into the fish. Most folk just ‘hud on’ – but this quite bizarre technique certainly appears to work for Peter who only lost 1 fish last week. That is another story!
Peter Kyte in action.
Happiness personified. The look of ' I can feel a nice glass of claret coming on'
Same fish as above but arguably a better background!
Peter was however outdone by good friend Dave Johnson who landed 4 fish in an hour on Wednesday morning from the Rhynd. The Rhynd was at its very best in terms of height and with complete cloud cover and running fish present Dave made the very most of it.
Dave Johnson with one of his remarkable 4 in an hour.
The first fish of last week was caught by Lee Vernon who had the best of the fishing at the beginning of the week before old campaigner Ian Pawley flew up to take over. Lee caught his first on Monday morning, first time down the Little Turn. It really is a fascinating ambush position, especially given the minimum of a 36 hour rest period. Thank God for Sundays!
Lee Vernon with our first of the week.
Ian Pawley landed possibly our best fish of the week on Friday in bright sunshine from the Boatpool, however as it’s size was never verified, therefore the jury will remain out until next year. It was our best week of the season to date and from my point of view very enjoyable to see Peter and his team enjoying the river at its very best. Jubilee medals will be presented in 2012.
Week ending 28 May.
A very blustery old week was had in Speyside by all. One of those weeks in fact that you are glad that you don't have long hair!
Monday began with very high westerly gusts making Spey casting very challenging indeed. We had our second French party of the season visiting Kinermony and Phillipe Berge was first off the mark with a lovely fresh fish of around 10lbs from the Dykie. This is only our second fish of the season from this pool and Phillipe proved that perseverance, especially against such elements can pay dividends.
Phillipe Berge with a fine Spey salmon in blustely conditions.
With heavy rain throughout Monday, especially overnight, it was no surprise to find that the water had risen by almost 3’. My guess is that there were very few fly-caught fish on Tuesday.
Wednesday brought a dropping river accompanied by good overhead conditions. The Aberlour AA had landed 8 before most of us had got out of bed and there was evidence of a number of fish on the move. The 6 visiting anglers on the Aberlour Town water had a great week and I know of one who caught 3 on Thursday – all on Fly! In fact, I had an opportunity for a very rare photograph last Friday morning when there were 6 fly fishers in a row between the Lour Burn and the suspension bridge. Unfortunately no camera on that occasion so alas my evidence is purely anecdotal and won’t stand up to scientific scrutiny.
French team leader Mr Jean Pucci with a strange French fly - The Moulin Rouge!
Craigellachie had one of their largest of the season, caught in Broom Isle and measuring 41’’ and went on to comfortably reach double figures by the weekend.
Gerard Pouchain with a good bend in his rod.
Easter Elchies again fished very well, especially in the middle of the week, as did Rothes and Delfur. Further up river, Grantown AA continued to add to their catches, however surprisingly none on the fly. Laggan had a good week, with their best fish weighing 22lbs and caught by Mr Edward Appleby from the Bothy. With only a couple of days to go before the end of the month, a timely capture with regard to our Glenfarclas Fish of the Month award.
Delighted Laggan angler Mr Edward Appleby with a 22 pounder from the Bothy.
My good friend David McKay came for a cast last Thursday evening and left with a nice smile on his face displayed below. It was only a matter of time before he played his first Salmon and boy did he enjoy it.
David McKay with a fine fish and smile to match.
We have a pretty stable forecast over the next week and with the water level sitting around 2’4’’ on our gauge, I’d expect a good week’s fishing ahead. Bearing in mind conditions, you just can't go far wrong with a Kinermony Killer Flamethrower size 9.
Week ending 21 May.
Another good week on Speyside with catches spread throughout the river system. The earlier part of last week was particularly enjoyable due to the near-perfect condition and rods were bent on a regular basis. Andrew Allen, ghillie on the Kinchurdy beat sent me the 2 photo’s below of Kevin Reid from Aberdeen. Kevin caught 2 fish from the Kinchurdy pool on Tuesday morning, the second pictured below weighing 17lbs.
Kevin Reid with a fine Kinchurdy Salmon of 17lbs.
Back she goes.
Dropping back down river, Grantown Angling association recorded 12 fish with over half of them caught on the fly. Tulchan also fished well as did Carron and Laggan.
Delagyle, Wester Elchies and Kinermony accumulated almost 30 fish by the end of the week, with most of these caught in the early part. I witnesses one lucky angler land 3 fish and loose another 2 in his first 2 hours of fishing the Rhynd and Little Turn.
Jonathon Rowley - the Rhyndmeister in action.
The net result.
Jonathon Rowley led a very capable team of rods on Kinermony and added another couple to his record of Rhynd caught fish. Mrs Elizabeth Rowley almost doubled her score on the Rhynd but alas, on this occasion the fish won the battle. Mark and Jane Hawkins fishing Kinermony for the first time had a very memorable 3-day trip. First Jane caught a 9 pounder from the Little Turn, before Mark added a brace from the boatpool. Mark then went on to catch another from the Boatpool of 14lbs but was outdone by wife Jane who caught our fish of the week of 17lbs. Unfortunately, Jane was unable to hold the larger fish for a photo but you can see her sheer delight below from landing her first.
Mrs Jane Hawkins in action.
One from Mark Hawkins - note the sea lice.
As always, the Rowley party were full of enthusiasm and a pleasure to look after and I already look forward to their ruturn.
Gordon Castle beats also had a great week with Ian Gordon’s team leading the way. Keen on returning these pristine specimens, they lost as many fish as they landed but with a weekly total of 26 fish, I’m sure all left with sore arms and sore heads. I heard from Ian of one memorable fish that he caught on his birthday from the Ewe pool. He suggested that it was about high time that I had a good-looking guy on my site. Well here you are Ian but I’m sure that most of my readers would settle for good looking ladies!
A fine looking cheel on his birthday - Happiness personified.
Craigellachie had a Geordie invasion and it didn’t long for this very accomplished bunch to get on the score sheet. Tom Robinson had a great week, not only landing 2 on Craigellachie but also a brace on the Aberlour AA and at Macallan. Ian Henderson sent me 2 photos before 10am last Monday and I have added both below. From a ghillies point of view, it’s clear and simple that good rods catch fish and I’m sure with champion caster James Chalmers leading a team at Carron last week that they would agree.
Ian Henderson with one from Broom Isle.
The first of 6 for Tom Robinson.
The Golden triangle of Arndilly, Rothes and Delfur had over 100 fish between them and just above Easter Elchies had at least 20 that I know of. The Spey in May is certainly the place to be and with this recent rise in water long may it continue. Very high winds will have impacted upon catches today but let’s hope that it drops off tomorrow and that the rain forecast holds off long enough for all our guests to enjoy the river at its best.
A very possible Glenfarclas fish of the month caught at Easter Elchies by James Burgess-Lumsden on Friday the 13th.
Ghillie Orn Sigurhannson with a quick photo opportunity prior to release.
Week ending 14 May.
This past week has been by far the best of the season to date. With near perfect conditions, the majority of beats from Gordon Castle to Grantown were into double figures.
The largest fish of the week was caught at Easter Elchies, measuring 41” and estimated at 25lbs. Gordon Castle were close on their heels with a fish of 23lbs and another of 20lbs. Delagyle also caught a 20 pound cock fish last Monday evening from the Gean Tree so indeed very refreshing to hear of fish of that quality.
Regular Spey Rod, Alex Ritchie had another good week at Upper Arndilly, catching the lion’s share of the parties fish once more. I believe he landed 5 on Friday on one of his favourite traditional flies and I look forward to catching up with him for an extended debrief.
A nice spring brace from Craigellachie. Doo's nest and Slabs respecively.
Craigellachie had a good week reaching double figures. Rachel Kirby caught their best fish of the week at 17lbs. You can tell by her smiles that she was delighted whilst the smile of ghillie Dougie Ross displays that of sheer relief! Like many ghillies around the middle Spey this season, it’s been a long time coming!
Rachel Kirby celebrates with a smile.
George Pullen in action, a fine Spey caster.
The Fletcher party fished Wester Elchies and landed fish every day ending the week well into double figures. Across the water, we had a good week with Mark McCelmont starting us off with his first Spey fish from the Rhynd. Richard Anderson followed suit, again from the Rhynd and surprised us all by doing a victorious forward roll with a twist, before full submersion. Fortunately these ‘laps of honour’ are not yet compulsory but apparently this quite bizarre ritual hails from the strange notion of waltzing around a maypole. Each to their own! We had a bottle of the finest Kings Ginger on hand, so Richard was well revivified!
Mark McCelmont with his first Spey Salmon.
It's that Fly again!
The majestic Rhynd fished very well from both banks during the week and its little wonder why John Ashley-Cooper rated it so highly. Having fished many Spey pools over the years, the Rhynd would certainly be up there amongst the best with regard to catching running fish. The wade adds a little spice but makes the battle even most rewarding.
Richard Anderson into a good fish in the Rhynd.
The cream of the Spey – Delfur, again led the field and on Friday landed 10 fish. On this occasion, 2010 Malloch Trophy winner Huston McCollough was a mere spectator however with a 36 pounder under your belt, it is quite easy to simply watch on as others in the party try very hard to emulate your feat! Below, you will see that Huston was presented with our Glenfarclas Fish of the Season prize for 2010. Coincidentally, it was Houston’s 60th birthday which made the 3 litre bottle of 60% Proof Glenfarclas 105 even more mouth watering. Both Delfur ghillie Grant Morrison and Houston’s bottles had their photos on the labels and a suitable citation to match. We are very much indebted to John and Ishbel Grant and all at Glenfarclas to their kindness in suggesting and providing such a memorable prize.
Glenfarclas Fish of the season winner Huston McCollough celebrates his birthday in grand style.
Glenfarclas Director Mrs Ishbel Grant, Delfur ghillie Grant Morrison and head ghillie Mark Melville look on.
I wrote in last week’s Northern Scot that there is nowhere I would rather be that the Spey in May. The daffodils have slowly been replaced by the Rhododendrons and with foliage and Trees now in full bloom, Speyside is the most wonderful place. The addition of an increasing number of Spring salmon add icing to the cake and I’d hope that fishing over the next week will be quite productive.
Week ending 07 May.
I suppose it would be fair to say that last week was a week of 2 halves. Monday morning to Wednesday evening was comparable conditions with the height of summer however and fortunately, heavy cloud arrived and Thursday until Saturday lunchtime saw good overhead fishing conditions.
Fishing above Craigellachie was again disappointing and pretty sporadic at best. Wester Elchies fished reasonably well, especially on Thursday and 90 year old Frank Whitley had three of their six fish for the week including the one pictured below caught in the Little Turn. I looked on with great pleasure and video’s the entire fight as Frank expertly played the fish to the net.
A jubilant Frank Whitley - photo thanks to Malcolm Newbould.
Alex Ritchie dropped in past on Friday with news of his week so far at Phones – the middle Knockando beat. Although restricted to only a few pools due to low water, Alex and regular Spey angler Dave Sadowski both landed fish as well as losing others. Alex is pictured below returning a good fish to the Pouches.
Alex Ritchie on fine form.
Retired Spey ghillie and excellent salmon angler George Michie landed 3 fish from the Inverfiddoch pool last week. My good friend Graham Ritchie was hot on his heels with 2 on Saturday, both of which are pictured below. It’s quite incredible to consider that there were more fish caught in that one 300m pool last week than the 3 miles of double bank fishing above. Salmon fishing really is a funny old game!
A lovely spring brace from Graham Ritchie at Inverfiddoch.
Further down river, Brae beat 2 picked away and I believe Delfur, with a very capable team of rods, recorded their best week of the season so far.
I'm afraid that on Speyside, as far as the season to date is concerned, its still very much the case of ' if you haven't got anything positive to say - say nothing' hence the brevity of this report. Like many of my weekly readers, we all long for more to write home about!
Week ending 30 April.
As far as the last 2 weeks have been concerned, I’m afraid that no news isn’t good news!
Fishing on the Spey has been mediocre at very best. Most beats above Craigellachie have seen pretty dismal catches and those prime beats between Craigellachie and the sea, although catching fish, would I’m sure, consider this season so far to be well below par. Every cloud however does have a silver lining and that comes in the shape of the Brae beats where catches are well up on last season.
We were shocked on Speyside to hear of the tragic death of 77 year old Mr Frank Hough from Lancashire on 22nd April, whilst fishing on the Orton beat. Our deepest sympathy’s and heartfelt thoughts not only go out to his family and friends, but also to the ghillies of both Orton and those involved with the recovery of his body on the Gordon Castle beats. From a ghillies point of view, there quite simply cannot be a more distressing experience, however the reality is that it could have happened on any beat throughout the river at any time of the day or night.
Regarding the spring run to date, it is incredibly difficult to come up with anything positive to say, especially when we consider the catches on the other ‘big 3’ rivers. Let’s just say that with a constant river temperature above 50 Deg F and with more than enough water to encourage them to run, there are very few excuses as to why we are under-performing. The clear and simple fact is that the fish are just not here in numbers. Perhaps I should add a (YET) to my last sentence, however bearing in mind the catches from the early part of last spring, I think its safe enough to leave it out.
It would be pretty hard to argue that we do not now have a trend proving that the Spey spring run is in steep decline, especially when we factor in a recapture figure to the data. Now that we are into May, I’d stick by my prediction in my last report that we will be lucky to reach 350 salmon so far this year.
Worryingly, of the 12 Salmon that we have caught at Kinermony so far, 5 have had clear evidence of seal encounters. On a positive note however, one of our fish was a repeat spawner returning to the river for at least a second time. The number of kelts reconditioning is deemed to be below 5% but the clear fact that we caught one, albeit seal damaged, proves that the careful handing of these spent fish is well worth the effort.
Kinermony tenant last week was Mr Tony Hutley. Tony brought along his son Mark and Osprey watch director John Oxley. Mark was the only lucky angler of the week, catching a fish on 10lbs on Saturday morning. Over lunch Mark admitted that the thought of keeping the fish never entered his mind. Far more important was his hope that considering the current plight of the river, that the fish would survive to spawn. All were quite amazed why we didn’t have a 100% release policy throughout the river on these prized early spring fish. John attracted an Osprey at 14:00 on a daily basis and on 2 successive occasions we were privileged to watch its successful technique. Both were trout around the 1-2lb class and unlike all other Kinermony trout they were not released!
One of the largest fish to be caught on the Spey this season was landed recently on Brae beat 3 in the famous Aultdearg pool by Mosstodloch angler James Milne. The fish measured 40” and head ghillie Ian Tennant estimated its weight at just over 25lbs. The photo below doesn’t do the fish justice as there is no benchmark however it was one lovely fish and showed real power on release, hence no better photo!
A 25lb fish for local Mosstodloch angler James Milne.
Winner of our Glenfarclas fish of the Month competition for April is Mr Bob Charlton from Hampshire. Mt Charlton drove up to Speyside on Wednesday having never fished before. He was led through the basic principals of Speycasting by Rothes & Aikenway ghillie Robbie Stronach in Jameson’s and 3 hours later, with a No 6 Cascade fished on a floating line with a sink tip, caught a lovely hen fish of 13lbs. You can clearly see from the photo, a very happy Mr Charlton who without hesitation released the fish. We hope his prize, a bottle of the finest Glenfarclas 105 will remind him of this very special achievement.
Mr Bob Charlton with the Glenfarclas Fish of the Month for April.
Finally with national elections taking place this coming Thursday, as salmon anglers we really do need to make our presence felt. The SNP Government have openly demonstrated their lack of consideration for the plight of one of Scotland’s finest natural resources – The Atlantic Salmon. Their on-going support of and proposed increase to the fish farming enterprises in the West Coast, tied in with their ludicrous support of an EU grant of £100,000 to Scotland's largest salmon netting concern, very clearly proves where they stand. Like many, my view of politics is very much apathetic however, I will be voting this week, only if to ensure that there will be one vote against such an organisation.
Week ending 16 April.
Firstly I must apologise to the faithful followers of my weekly reports for an absence of last week’s report and the delay in this weeks. I had a mini-busman’s break to Rutland water followed by some serious gardening duties yesterday so there we have it. Rutland fished exceptionally well and I returned with a sun tan and very sore arm!
This past couple of weeks has seen a gradual increase in catches throughout the river however ‘rose-tinted’ views of far greater numbers than last year are very much just that. It would surprise me if the catches up until the end of April for the entire river were much above 350, however having said that, we have had a reasonable past week and with a further 2 weeks of fishing to go, let’s hope I am very much wrong.
Castle Grant caught the lion’s share of fish last week including 2 fish of almost 20lbs. Brian Shaw landed his first ever Spey Salmon from beat 3 assisted and guided by ghillie Simon Crozier. The following day Spey regular Alex Robertson added to their tally with a fish around a similar size and on a very similar fly, tied overnight. It looked very much like the deadly Kinermony Killer Flamethrower going by the photo’s below, they obviously followed the guarantee verbatim!
Brian Shaw with his first Spey Salmon from Castle Grant 3.
Alex Robertson starts his season off in fine form, again at Castle Grant 3.
I arrived home to find en e-mail and photos from my good friend and author of the Salmon Atlas, Roy Arris. Roy had been fishing on the Brae beats and landed 4 beauty’s - Tuesday in Aultdearg on Beat 3, 9lb; Wednesday in Cruive Dyke on Beat 4, 11lb; another from Aultdearg on Friday, 8lb; and just after the Grand National had finished one in Lower Aultdearg on Beat 3, 17lb. It’s quite puzzling to appreciate why the Brae beats have been so lightly fished so far, considering their success so far. From our point of view, it’s very refreshing to see them fishing well again this early in the year and I urge local anglers especially to treat yourselves to a day or two.
Roy Arris with a lovely Brae Fish.
Graham Ritchie and guests were fishing at Kinermony last week and one thing that I was very confident of was that the water would be covered well. Graham is an exceptional angler and needs no introduction to this blog and his name can be seen on almost every beat catch record book on the Spey, Deveron and Dee. Amazingly, Graham’s Spey season was still blank on his arrival but fortunately not so on departure.
Graham Ritchie in action.
Off and running!
One bonny Flee!
Malcolm McLeman who fished the Forglen beat of the Deveron with me in our younger years landed his first Kinermony Salmon, which interestingly was a repeat spawner. You can clearly see from the photo below that it had to run the gauntlet and only just made it!
Not so fluffy furry creatures after all!
Wader repair expert Diver-Dave Gordon also recorded is first Spey Salmon from the majestic Rhynd. I’d highly recommend Dave’s wader repair service to anyone experiencing wader seam problems with a guaranteed service.
Safely in the net for Diver Dave.
A bonny sight.
Dave Gordon - One happy chappie.
Josh Walker put his enviable casting skills to good use last week on the Aberlour Association beat and caught his first Spey salmon of the year whilst casting off the bank. Rumour has it he was even beating the crankers for distance!
Excellent sport from Josh Walker - but alas more evidence of seal encounters.
Week ending 2nd April.
Hallelujah, the first daffodil finally emerged this past week on Speyside bringing with it increasing numbers of spring salmon. Most beats from Grantown downwards recorded catches with Tulchan beginning the week in fine style with 3 fish on Monday.
Kinermony tenant Mike Broadey was invited to fish the hallowed waters of Delfur last Monday & Tuesday and the anticipation of his trip had let to many sleepless nights, especially considering recent river fluctuations. Fortunately the river was steady and dropping, and his anticipation was to become a reality as he landed an 11lb fish from arguably the finest pool on the River Spey – Sourden. Mike quite simply described his experience in one word – awesome!
Delfur ghillie Grant Morrison carefully holds Mike Broadey's first Delfur Salmon.
Gordon Castle water has been very lightly fished however most days that there have been rods out, results have been exceptional. As an example, Andrew Brundan, visiting beat 5 last Wednesday had 2 fish of 9 and 6lbs respectively from the Intake on 3 casts. He was fishing very simple methods – Floating line, sink tip and a cascade. According to ghillie Blair Banks, the fish took the fly off the surface and fought like demons! Running fish have been seen on a daily basis and I’d highly recommend that especially local anglers treat themselves to a day out on the Brae.
Andrew Brundan proudly displays his catch from Brae 5.
Easter Elchies had a good week with 6 fish up until Thursday and we landed 4 at Kinermony with the largest at 14lbs, caught by Bryan Herbert. It was Bryan’s first Spey salmon on the fly and he caught it in the Craigs on a Black and Yellow tube fly.
Bryan Herbert with his first Spey salmon on the fly. Prefectly proportioned.
We ran a couple of Orvis Spey Salmon schools last week as an introduction to Spey casting. One common denominator that shone through was the role that wading played in the sport of salmon fishing. More experienced anglers often take for granted their ability to leap across boulders like some form of Mountain Goat, often without the need for a wading stick, however to some, the wading is as much a challenge as fishing itself. I recommend to all of my guests that if wading, they wear life collars. From a ghillies point of view, hopefully at some time in the near future, such items will become a mandatory requirement, either that or a signed declaration that individuals have refused to accept the recommendation. I digress!
Orvis client Robert Adams from Leicestershire not only displayed a great appreciation of the dynamics of Speycasting but also went a step further and caught not only his first Spey salmon but also another 2. I have a canny feeling we will see Robert return!
A few photos of Orvis client Robert Adams.
The 'net' result.
Highlight of this past week is without question, the capture of a 24lb Salmon from another world famous beat Rothes & Aikenway. The size of the fish alone is worthy of headline news, however additionally, it was caught by Mr Lee Henshaw who had until last Monday, never held a fly rod in his life before. Lee caught the fish in the Burnmouth pool on a floating line, 5ft sink tip and gold bodied Willie Gunn fly, under the watchful eye and very capable hands of head Ghillie Mike Ewan. Some of us mere mortals can only dream of such fish but it again highlights the old saying that ‘If your fly is in the water, there is always a chance and who knows what it will catch’ Lee is our obvious winner of the Glenfarclas Fish of the Month competition for March and was presented with his bottle of Glenfarclas 105 last Saturday. Congratulations Lee.
Lee Henshaw with his first-ever Salmon. What a beauty!
I apologise to all but there will be no report next week as I will be afloat on Rutland Water. The following week however is our ‘Ritchie week’ at Kinermony so with luck plenty action to share.
Week ending 26th March.
Well I hope that your prediction of the fishing conditions last week came to fruition. As I said at the end of last week’s report just use your imagination!
Expectation has great influence on planning our fishing trips, especially for those holiday anglers who can only justify one annual bite of the cherry. Whilst occasionally, they will be met with prefect conditions, more often than not, conditions will vary from year to year. Imagine last Sunday night’s expectations over dinner then, when parties old and new were considering what the week ahead was going to bring. Not perhaps the sights below.
Kinermony gauge under a foot of water.
As you can see from the photos above, the river was not exactly the ideal destination for an up-steam dry fly fisherman. You will however see from the photo below that if you are desperate enough and have something heavy and shiny in the water that there is always a chance. We had just shut up shop and were walking back en route to a local hostelry to ‘test the water’ when we came upon a Heron admiring his catch! Visiting Kinermony rod and 'Edzell Rat' Derek Keenan has never been known to miss out on a photo opportunity and took full advantage.
Never say never!
It was Wednesday before reports spread of further action. Hamish MacDonald made use of a break from stick cutting activates and donned in his finest boiler suit, had a few cast at Delagyle whilst he and Willie were waiting for the kettle to sing. He was rewarded by a lovely deep 14 pounder in no time at all, on a fly given to him the previous week by Tom Robinson.
Well known Spey ‘gillie’ Malcolm Newbould took full advantage of the dropping river and for the second time this season, caught 2 fish in the same day. This time they were 4 hours apart, from different pools and from Wester Elchie, srather than Rothes. You will see clearly below that the more time Malcolm and his faithful companion Duffer spend together, the closer they become!
A cracking 'springer' or is it a cocker!
All the beats from Grantown Angling Association down to Fochabers have now recorded their first of the season and with a reasonable forecast next week, I’m sure we will hear of numbers increasing. Aberlour secretary Ian Morrison added a further 50% onto their total at the end of last week with his first of the season. There were a good number of anglers out on the AA water at the end of last week and perhaps their lack of success in ideal conditions was an indication of the ‘abundance’ of the spring salmon. Delfur and rothes maintained their weekly averages and at Laggan, Sandy Wilson pictured below, one of the finest Gamekeepers in Moray, showing that he can handle a rod as well as a gun.
Pluscarden Gamekeeper Sandy Wilson on location!
Kinermony tenant last week was Paul Garner and he kept up his average catch on his own week. Good friend Davie Bonnington was also fishing at the end of the week, hot off the Tweed at Sprouston, where he caught the fish below. It may appear unusual to display fish caught on other rivers but that’s what friends are for!
David Bonnington - one happy chappie.
Week ending 19th March.
Following the weather over the past week, I think I am going to keep any thoughts on the forecast and subsequent river conditions to myself! After the deluge of last Sunday, accompanied by relatively mild temperatures, I was completely shocked to find the water on Monday morning at exactly the same level as I left it on Saturday evening. What’s more, throughout the week, the daily warm lunchtime sun brought in heavy water from our surrounding burns and yet the river level never moved up by more than 2”. Granted we were greeted with frosty banks every morning but I am still slightly confused by the reaction of the river to all the local snow melt. One thing is for sure – It will eventually come!
Compo, Clegg & Foggy in no particular order!
Ballindalloch began fishing in earnest last week and were immediately rewarded by a 14lb fish. Not much to report between there and Aberlour but Craigellachie landed their second fish on Friday from the Lower Slabs. My good friend Ian Henderson was offered a cast on the holy water of Arndilly on Thursday and was soon on the phone with news of a 7lb fish from the Bulwark. Ian followed this with another of 10lbs from the Piles after lunch. Such is the reputation of this majestic beat that Ian went with great confidence and was duly rewarded. I think we often underestimate the need for an inner belief in our methods and ability.
The Gordon angling group ended their Rothes and Aikenway fishing in fine form landing 6 fish. 2 cracking ‘springers’ fell to the rod of the River Spey Boards ‘faithful scribe’ Malcolm Newbould. Malcolm was expertly guided over the fish in Burnmouth by head ghillie Mike Ewan and caught the two fish in quick succession. Other successful anglers included Kevin James and River Spey Anglers Chairman Mel Macdonald.
Rothes & Aikenway head ghillie Mike Ewan with a canny smile and the scond fish caught by Malcolm Newbould.
Gordon Castle beats were again amongst the action, as was Orton where Mark Morrison recorded the seasons best so far at 20lbs. Mark caught the fish from Upper Cairnty on a Willie Gunn tube and after a quick photo it was released and sent on its way. Other lucky anglers at Orton on Saturday were Jim Sievright and Mark Philpot.
With fish being recorded from Tulchan to Fochabers there is a realistic chance of being amongst the action. There is still availability on many mid-river beats which can be viewed through the Spey Boards own website and of course, as I highlighted last week, at Gordon Castle estate office on 01343820244. I’d highly recommend a day on the Brae where in the company of a very experienced ghillie, you will fish some of the finest pools on the river.
Mark Morrison displays his cracking 20 pounder, caught at Orton.
Last week at Kinermony, we had our annual visit from the Corbridge & Hexham Home Guard! Captain Tom Mannering, led with the way with his boundless enthusiasm and was ably supported by Privates Clegg and Foggy! It was indeed a mixture of Dad’s Army and The Last of the Summer Wine and speaking of wine, at least this years selection was slightly higher in alcohol content than their normal 5%! As usual, a great week was had by all and the only ingredient missing was the obligatory spring salmon.
Finally, I watched Match of the Day last night and as well as being delighted by the late goal in the Manchester Utd game, was relieved that the bleeding head wound of West Broom mid-field player James Morrison in their match against Arsenal didn’t result in him being dispatched. Perhaps this example should be considered more often with regard to Salmon fishing!
There are very rare occasions, less than 5%, where Salmon are so badly hooked in the gill rakers that there is no hope of further survival. There are however far more frequent instances where fish are retained through bleeding from the mouth area as a means of justification. Two points – the Salmon is a very resilient creature, far more so than we give credit and secondly, we ghillies have a canny knack of identifying such people long before they even catch a fish.
If you feel that you want to keep a fish and are within the conservation guidelines, just keep it, but do it honestly!
Tom Robinson - aka Captain Mannering into a fish. ( Don't tell him your name Kelt! )
After last week, use your imagination, I normally do!
Week ending 12th March.
The early March lamb described in last week’s report roared into a lion last Thursday as speyside was wind swept with strong south westerly winds. As I write this report (Sunday) the weather outside is atrocious but thankfully, unlike our counterparts south of the border, there is no need to be on the river bank today! God bless Sundays.
Wintery conditions viewed from the confines of a nice warm hut yesterday afternoon.
Last Monday was the day that the Aberlour Angling association recorded its first fish on 2011. Although he tried might hard to maintain his 3 year record of the first fish, Ian Morrison had to stand and watch in tears as Sandy McWilliam – A.K.A. the Heron, landed the 8lb springer!
Gordon Castle waters were amongst the action again last week. Visiting angler Richard Maplethorpe, caught the first, his second from the Brae beats this season, weighing 16lbs. Richard caught the beauty pictured below from the grassy bank on the world famous Lord March pool on beat 3 last Thursday on a No6 Ness C. Head Ghillie Ian Tennant caught another of 9lbs from Aultdearg the following day on a fly of his own creation.
Gordon castle head ghillie Ian Tennant displays Richard Maplethorpe's fish.
Elgin couple Alan and Veronica Sinclair were fishing at Delagyle last week and had a flying start with a 9lb fish on Monday morning. Their luck was to run out soon after when Alan broke is 15’rod however, a replacement was sent out from Airflo and by the following day, he was back in the water. It’s great to hear reports of after sales services similar to those provided by Airflo and it certainly gives anglers the reassurance that the support is there when required.
Delfur and Rothes were again as reliable as ever with amongst them, the fish pictured below caught by Michael Ritchie. The Ritchie brothers are a pretty formidable force when it comes to salmon fishing and it’s seldom that they are not amongst the thick of it. Michael’s fish was caught in the Junction pool at Rothes as released none the worse. Judging by the photo, it was just as dreach at Rothes as it was at Kinermony!
Damp looking Rothes ghillie Robbie Stronach about to release Michael Ritchie's fish.
Catches in comparison to last year as up, however before we all get too excited, we have to remember that there has been far more fishing pressure this season. Due to inclement weather last year, we missed at least 8 days fishing in February and high water in March made fishing conditions very challenging indeed. Having said that, the glass is very much half-full and our hope as anglers and ghillies alike is that our dismal spring run of last year will be long forgotten as numbers once again increase.
As the season progresses, availability will become harder to find. For anyone wishing a realistic chance of catching one of these early season bars of sliver, contact Gordon Castle estate office on 01343820244. For the cost of around £30 you will be given the opportunity of fishing in the company of a very experienced ghillie over some of the finest pools on the river, both in terms of historical catches and scenic value.
Spot the celebrity!
Bearing in mind the deluge over the past couple of days, tough going early in the week would be my guess. The fish are there for the taking, therefore if you can fish a fly slowly enough, perhaps is a slack eddy, you might well be pleasantly surprised. Forecast wise, fishing conditions will improve as the week goes on.
Kinermony regular Ian Henderson with a lovely fish from the River Tyne last week. Who says hatcheries don't work!
Week ending 5th March.
March can be a pretty changeable month and we have certainly been privilege to warm spring-like temperatures over the past week here on Speyside. Whether you call it a myth or urban legend, the truth is that we live in hope that as March has now come in as a lamb it will not go out like a lion, well not a fierce one anyway! Like any of these ‘Old Wives tales’ the key word is hope! Over the past couple of weeks we have seen the numbers of Oyster catches increasing and my predecessor Geoff Harris believed that they led the way for the salmon, so again, here’s hoping!
Orton were first off the mark last week with a 12 lb sea-liced fish taken from the tail of lower cairnty. The fish was caught on an orange pot-bellied pig and I’m pretty confident that it hadn’t seen too many of them at this time of year! Craigellachie are now off the mark with ghillie Dougie Ross catching their first fish of the season last Wednesday weighing 8lbs.
Wester Elchies tenant for the week was local businessman Arthur McKerron and at least two of his guest landed fresh fish. The first was Mrs Moira McColgan from Airdrie, who caught her fish, which was in fact her first ever from the Brock. Rumour has it, she caught it behind her husband which could lead to an interesting debate over dinner in coming years!
There have been a good number of locals fishing the Aberlour association water but with relatively low water, the vast variety of metal-ware on offer has yet to come up with a positive result. One of their members Bruce Cameron came up and fished with us at Kinermony for 3 days at the beginning of the week and caught a ‘reel’ mixed bag. He has a finnoch, baggot, rawner, 11 kelts and a spring fish of around 10lbs. The fish was caught on Wednesday on a Willie Gunn tube fished on a Carron intermediate line.
Bruce Cameron's first springer of the season.
Delfur had one of those special, first ever fish this past week to Andrew Elcock. It was only the second time that Andrew had ever held a fishing rod and under the expert guidance of the Delfur ghillies, he hooked and landed a 12lb salmon in the Holly Bush. It will be a day that Andrew will never forget! Visiting angler Kent Hakansson, fishing as a guest of Willie Mair also landed a fine 9lb fish from Collie. Willie, an off-shore worker has developed the fine art of bad timing however like all seasoned salmon anglers, his time will eventually come!
Delfur ghillie Grant Morrison with a quick photo of Kent Hakansson's fish from Collie.
The highlight of the week was a double celebration for Carron ghillie Ian Borthwick. Ian landed Carron’s first fish of the season from the Bothy on a Green Highlander fly. On the same day, his new grand-daughter was born and both weighed exactly the same weight; fortunately, Ian caught a 7lb Salmon! Bothy and Green Highlander were not considered suitable names by the proud parents so they settled on a more suitable choice of Olivia. Congratulation indeed to Ian and his wider family at this very special time.
Andrew Elcock proudly displays his first-ever Salmon.
The 7 days forecast is again quite settled with rain forecast on Wednesday. It’s a real pleasure to be out fishing in the early spring sunshine and if you are lucky enough to connect with one of these lovely springers, the day simply becomes better. Add a nice Speyside dram over lunch and you can almost hear the angels sing! Like previous early season reports, concentrate your efforts on the warmest part of the day with flies of around 1.5-2” fished slow and on intermediate lines.
Week ending 26 Feb.
This past week has seen a variety of fishing conditions. The week began with relatively low water and frosty mornings but the temperature gradually rose until by Wednesday we were fishing is shirt sleeves; the lunch time air temperature reaching 16 degC at Aberlour. By Thursday, the water had risen by 2’ and it continued to rise before stabilising and fining off on Saturday.
Catches were obviously affected however there were still around 10 fish recorded. Rothes & Aikenway was top beat of the week, with Gordon Angling group members Bill Goodlad and Bob Hughes amongst the luck rods. Keen Spey angler Michael Ritchie from Fraserburgh caught a cracking fish of 13lb fresh from the sea, still displaying evidence to that fact.
Local loon, Mark Morrison caught a nice fish from Delagyle, their second, and retired solicitor and well know Spey angler Bill Johnston landed the first fish at Kinermony in 2011. I was delighted to play a small role in its capture and more so in seeing the expression on Bill’s face as it slid into the waiting net.
Bill Johnston from Keith keeps a close eye on his first of the season.
Eric Patterson, pictured below, a visiting Free Church Minister was present and indeed fishing with us. Eric suggested that although divine intervention may well have played its part, the skill involved in catching this prized springer was all of Bill’s making.
Eric Patterson warms up to tackle the boatpool.
My good friend Duncan Egan was over on Deeside last Friday Saturday and although the River Dee was still very much on the high side, he weedled out a cracking 13lb fish from the Lower Ferroch at Cairnton on Saturday.
Duncan Egan with a bonny Dee fish, his first of the season.
The 7 days forecast is quite settled. With the fluctuation of water levels last week, we are very much hopeful of more stable condition this coming week. I’d be very surprised if there weren’t a few fish reported over the next few days and hopefully some fish caught further up-river. As we enter March, numbers of fish will gradually increase and I’d recommend that you get out and wet a line, after all, these early fish are at their very best. Again, concentrate your efforts on the warmest part of the day and whilst the water temp remains low, stick with flies of around 1.5-2” fished slow and on intermediate lines.
Week ending 19 Feb.
The opening week on the Spey has been blessed on the whole with good fishing conditions, both in terms of water height and ambient temperature. After the flurry of activity from the kelts over the first couple of days, action has very much settled down. There have been 15 fish recorded so far with Upper Arndilly catching 5 of them. Forres tackle dealer Kenny Walker was one of those lucky enough to land a springer this past week and his weighed 8lb and was caught on a Willie Gunn tube. Delfur didn’t take too long to get off the mark and did so in fine form. Mrs Anne Cameron landed 2 fish weighing 10 and 15.5lbs respectively and lost a third. Both were caught on an intermediate line and a Black and Yellow tube fly, tied by ghillie Grant Morrison of Malloch Trophy fame! Annie caught the fish under the watchful and very capable eyes of Delfur head-ghillie Mark Melville whilst fishing the Hollybush Pool. This pool can be a pretty cold place in the spring, yet I don’t imagine for a minute either Mark or Annie felt anything other than jubilation as the first fish slid over the net. Mrs Cameron’s husband Neil won our Glenfarclas Fish of the month last April with a 25lb salmon, so perhaps with only a few fish caught this month, Annie might join him.
Mrs Anne Cameron with a fine River Spey Springer.
Aberlour taxi owner and former ghillie Willie Roy added to Delfur’s total on Thursday with another fish again coming again from the Hollybush. Knowing Willie, even without the morning sun, I don’t think he would have felt the cold too much either!
Spey fishery board correspondent Malcolm Newbould was also amongst those fortunate enough to record their first fish of the season this week. Malcolm caught his fish of 10lbs in the Junction pool at Rothes on Saturday.
Master Fly tier Duncan Egan fished at Kinermony on Saturday and as you can see by the photo below, he arrived from the south bearing gifts. Just click on Duncan’s name for details of how to order his flies, including the Kinermony Killer Flamethrowers pictured. We fished the water very hard but nothing fresh to report. I now know the reason for his nom de plume ‘Lastcast’. Duncan fishes until he can no longer see his rod tip, no matter what time of year. I am mighty thankful that his rod was 13’7” and not 7’13” !
A fine evenings work!
The annual Ghillie supper took place at the Archiestown Hotel last Friday. We were given the customary warm welcome from Alan and Jayne Hunter before sitting down to enjoy a wonderful 3-course meal. The meal was delightful as were the fine wines and Speyside malts on offer. A thoroughly first-class time was had by all present and when the dulcet tones of ‘She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes’ were heard, we all knew that it was well past bed-time. On behalf of all ghillies and wives present, I’d just like to thank Alan and Jayne once again for their kind hospitality.
Finally, Orton, Delfur & Arndilly have now all recorded their first fish of 2011 to women anglers. Whether this is simply down to ‘lady luck’, skill, perseverance, female pheromones or simply a mixture of all is a matter of opinion, but if they could bottle it, I’d certainly be one of the very first in the queue.
Duncan Egan playing a kelt in the boatpool at Kinermony.
The 7 days forecast is pretty mixed on Monday but more settled towards the weekend. Having said that, weatherman Michael Fish didn’t quite get it right overnight back in 1997 so at the very best a guess! Compared to this time last year, fishing conditions are great. February fishing can be pretty sporadic on Speyside but although scarce, these early fish are just that wee bit special. I’d concentrate my efforts on the warmest part of the day and whilst the water temp remains low, stick with flies of around 1.5-2” fished slow and on intermediate lines.
River Spey Opening Day
The River Spey was opened in grand form last Friday 11th Feb by Mrs Ishbel Grant, director of Glenfarclas distillery, by pouring a bottle of Glenfarclas finest malt whisky into the river from the Aberlour suspension bridge. This was preceded by an introduction to all rods by local businessman and keen Spey fisher Brian Doran. Mr Doran welcomed all guests and gave a brief synopsis of the 2010 season before wishing all present a successful season ahead. The gathering and river were then blessed by Aberlour & Craigellachie minister Rev Shauna Dicks. To help celebrate the start of the season, Kate Wright, Sales & Marketing Executive for Glenfarclas, offered a dram of Glenfarclas Single Malt Whisky to all present. Walkers Shortbread also provided samples of their renowned biscuits during the opening ceremony, all of which were greatly apprecieted.
Marjorie Walker, Ishbel Grant, Rev. Shauna Dicks & Brian Doran greet anglers.
Glenfarclas Director Ishbel Grant opens the River Spey.
Piper Alan Sinclair can't quite believe his eyes and wishes he was somewhere below!
Watch the footage below at your peril......
First fresh fish of the season was caught by Mrs Evie Glass on the Orton beat at 10:25am. The fish was estimated at 13lbs and verified by ghillie Andrew Hall. Andrew also netted the first fish on 2010 and has quite a taste for the delightful Glenfarclas! Evie was presented with the Spey Quaich, a Walkers of Aberlour Luxury hamper and a bottle of Glenfarclas 175th Anniversary Highland Single Malt. Andrew was also presented with a Walkers luxury hamper and a bottle of Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength Highland Single Malt.
Josh Walker, Ishbel Grant and Spey Quaich winner Mrs Evie Glass.
Mrs Evie Glass displays her catch with and Orton Ghillie Andrew Hall
The next fish registered was caught by Spey regular David Smiley fishing with his old pal and Delagyle ghillie Willie Mearns. Dave caught the 11lb fish on his 3rd cast and Willie was on hand to assist in its release. Willie commented that it was the 5th opening day fish that he had recorded in his 23 years as Delagyle ghillie. The last coincidentally was also caught by Dave Smiley 5 years ago. Dave was presented with a bottle of Glenfarclas 40 Years Old Highland Single Malt and a Walkers luxury hamper and Willie Mearns was presented with a bottle of Glenfarclas 12 Year Old Highland Single Malt and again a Walkers luxury hamper.
A happy crew - Josh Walker David Smiley, Ishbel Grant and Willie Mearns.
There was a third fish registered and it was caught by Port Gordon angler Mike Clark from Upper Arndilly. Mike was presented with a fantastic arrangement of Salmon flies tied by River Dee ghillie Sean Stanton. It was very thoughtful of Sean to send over a box of his first-class flies, especially considering he is currently suffering from Limes disease. We can only thank Sean for his generosity and wish him a very speedy recovery. Sean’s flies are available from www.theghilliesflybox.co.uk
Mike Clark, Ishbel Grant and Josh Walker.
Mike Clarks's Springer caught at Upper Arndilly.
On behalf of all River Spey anglers, I would like to congratulate all the prize winners and thank all at Glenfarclas and Walkers of Aberlour most sincerely for their continued sponsorship and commitment to the opening day and beyond.
The conditions on opening day were very good and reports were that most rods tightened their lines at some stage with the kelts from last seasons. We were again blessed with good fishing conditions today although I have not heard of any further fresh fish being caught. Let’s hope for a good spring on the Spey in 2011 and increased communication within all river agencies. I leave you with a few words taken from the River Spey Fishery Board annual report 2011, Chairman’s Foreword -
The ‘art’ of running a salmon river is very definitely in communication.
River Dee Opening
Just returned from 2 days at Lower Crathes/West Durris on the River Dee. The beat is managed by Laxa and is probably the most productive on the Dee. Head ghillie Robert Harper is simply one of the finest and most experienced ghillies that I have ever met and considering the surroundings and company, there was no where that I would have rather been.
Lower Crathes / West Durris beat map.
I arrived on Wednesday morning after a drive from Speyside to find a water in perfect condition. I was greeted by new assistant ghillie Chas Booth with a coffee and a dram, and enjoyed a chat before we set off for the Greenbank. I began with the Rio AFS hover with 15’ 5.6 ips versi-leader and copper Kinermony Killer Flamethrower tube but was quickly unhappy about the speed that the fly was fishing. I changed over to the Sink 1/2 and within 4 casts had my first pull. I continued through the pool which was in excellent order, for the next hour and although no sign of anything fresh, landed 4 kelts.
Looking down river from Greenbank
My next allotted pool was the Kelpie, a nice deep channel from the left bank. It had already been fished from the opposite bank to no avail, however it just looked a better cast from our side at that height. Although, I had never fished the beat before, there are always parts of pools which give you that ‘feeling’. Half way down, I knew the fly was fishing perfectly and I just smiled at Chas as the line tightened again. Unfortunately another kelt, followed swiftly by two more, but nonetheless great sport.
Looking down river from Kelpie
We gathered at lunchtime to find that Patrick Fotheringham from the Forth Fisheries Board had landed 3 springers from the Upper bridge pool. Lower Crathes regular, retired dentist and part-time ghillie Malcolm had also landed one from the Lower Bridge so lunch was scoffed down with only enough time for a couple of drams before we headed out again. This time my allotted pool was Upper Bridge and bearing in mind the morning’s action, both Chas and I were pretty confident that if they were there that we’d at least manage to put a fly in front of them! I waded out into the neck of Upper Bridge and knew that due to the current, if I did get an offer, it would be most likely be from a 2011 model. Nothing doing until I got level with the hut on the opposite bank and the line tightened again. This fish fought a lot harder that those the morning which might have been down to the current or the fact that it was fresh, however we will never know as it threw the hook unseen after 2 minutes. A couple of cast later and the fly stopped again mid-drift, after a few dull shakes, it was obviously a kelt and was quickly played at released. Over the next 2 hours, I fished the majestic Upper Bridge with different depth and fly combinations and caught nothing other than 2010 models. The temperature dropped around 4pm but time for a few more casts before so we headed back to the hut for the warmth of the wood burner and of course the obligatory dram. From my point of views a super day, spent in wonderful company.
Visiting rod and cardiologist Sandy Scott, whom I had previously met on Speyside and I then went to the Stag in Banchory for a post match discussion and later in the night we met Tay ghillie Tony Black and his merry crew who had landed a further 6 fish from Little Blackhall & Inchamarlo. They have set a remarkable record over the past few years and over conversation, you can sense their passion, delight and love of the river.
Next morning we were greeted with a hard frost and dropping river – perfect! I was drawn with the right bank top pools and began with Balbridge. We fished off the bank as the water was too high for wading and easily covered from the bank side. Half a dozen casts and the line tightened but alas the first kelt of the day. We landed a second before heading down to the Mill Pool. Jamie Hammond had already begun fishing it from the opposite bank and it was clear that he was covering the water very well. The wading was very easy and the speed of the fly was perfect. My guess was that this was an excellent pool for running fish and as we approached a couple of large boils in the middle of the river, around half way down the pool, I had that ‘feeling’ again. No matter how much you wish a fish on to the end of your line – they take it when they are in the mood and it was obvious that they weren’t! Around 12:00 we headed down to the Upper Bridge from the right bank this time for a cast before lunch. Jamie was again fishing from the opposite bank and indicated that he was blank so far. I immediately caught 2 kelts in 2 casts but the pool was again fishing perfectly and further optimism was that Sandy Scott had just landed a springer from the Greenbank. My next pull was mid-river in streamy water and within 30 seconds I told Chas it was a fresh one. We landed it 5 minutes later with a quick photo before it was released. It was clear that Chas had little experience with the digital camera age and took 2 photos of himself before even turning the camera our way. The next, his finger was over the lens and finally he took a long range photo whilst water was flowing over the lens – a comedy of errors which made a good addition to the story!
Caught on film by a particularly dodgy photographer!
One of the other rods, Iain Law from Perth was fishing below the bridge and I sent Chas down to assist him when I saw a good bend in his rod. Iain had fished with me before at Kinermony and was an experience fisher so it was pretty evident that he was into a similar springer. Chas was put in charge of the net this time whilst I took over the role as official photographer! After around 10 minutes Iain drew a lovely fish of around 12-13lbs over the waiting net and again, it was celebrations all around.
Iain Law and Chas Booth (ghillie on left) share the joy.
After lunch, I was given the Lower Bridge and was pretty confident that if there was a fish there that we would cover it. First cast – fish on! Yes, another kelt followed by another 2. Around 15 yards below the large stone when again I had that ‘feeling’ that all was just about perfect, the line tightened and I clamped. A good battle ensued and again it was immediately clear that this fish had the power of feeding in the sea behind it. There was a loop in the versi-leader which doesn’t really instil confidence but I was optimistic that it would hold. The fish fought very well and weighed around the 16-17lb mark. Unfortunately, I had to reply upon Chas to operate the camera and we had some laughs whilst he tried to get both fish and captor in the frame. Although the angle doesn’t do the fish justice, take it from me – a better proportioned high teen springer, you will never see! Good news again was that Sandy had landed his second of the day, fishing from the boat at Birkenbaud/Castintrough.
Looking downstream from Lower Bridge.
Looking upstream from lower Bridge.
Looking under water at Lower Bridge!
The rain began as forecast at 15:00 and boy did it rain! We packed up and met in the hut for a final debrief before parting our separate ways. It’s always lovely to catch an early season springer, let’s face it you do after all, go fishing to catch fish. Whilst it’s enjoyable to improve your casting skills in such delightful surroundings and in the company of like-minded folk there is nothing quite like the sight of a spring salmon. Fortunately the fish were well spread amongst the other rods, which from a ghillies point of view is even better. I can not recommend Lower Crathes/West Durris highly enough. As a 4 rod beat, it has a very generous amount of water, fishable at most heights, is very productive and you will be very well looked after by Robert Harper and his team. Please be assured you will only leave with fond memories. For booking details contact email@example.com and she will arrange everything from there.
A magnificient opening day 25lb fish caught at Park South by Gary Webster.
The AGM of the River Spey Anglers Association (RSAA) was held at the 8-Acres Hotel in Elgin last week and was well attended with a variety of topics being actively discussed.
Young angler Bailey Mackay won the Alan Smith trophy, awarded to the most improved junior angler and having personally seen his casting skills, he very much deserves the award. We look forward to Bailey's continued development in 2011.
The main discussion point was whether the RSAA would be able to continue their position as a representative body within the River Spey Board (RSB). In his annual report, RSAA chairman Mel Macdonald informed all present that he had been warned by the RSB chairman that unless he could give the RSB an assurance that he would not speak to the press and politicians “at any level” about RSB policies, his position on the RSB would be revoked. Mr McDonald said the ultimatum stemmed from the RSB’s concern that the opinions of some RSAA members – particularly about the board’s current hatchery management policy – “do not concur with the board’s own science-based direction and objectives”.
The members present voted unanimously not to comply with the RSB’s demand.
Guest speaker was International Fisheries consultant Mr Peter Gray. Mr Gray has spent 45 years in hatchery management and his record at Kielder hatchery on the River Tyne speaks for itself. I found Peter to be a particularly genuine, hard working and honest guy as expected and he was quite happy to state that he made lots of mistakes in early years but learned from them and then some. Following 45 years of fishery management he has amassed a great deal of practical experience and has recently completed and published a book titled Swimming Against The Tide.
His theory's aren't based upon science, but instead are very straightforward and practical. The results are fully transparent and based upon rearing quality parr and importantly planting them out at exactly the right time. Furthermore, he agreed with all the points that I put forward to him regarding our hatchery operation on Speyside and was completely baffled as to why we don't mark a percentage of our fish. His team of 3 guys marked 1 out of every 30 reared parr and up to 5000 fish a day between other jobs.
After hearing Peter Gray, I am more convinced than ever that the Spey hatchery isn't operating to it's full potential. Indeed as we keep hearing, there is currently no evidence to prove that it is working at all, however there is also no evidence yet to prove that it isn't working. A simple identification mark on a percentage of hatchery fish could easily answer this most important issue without the need of expensive DNA sampling and other such costly measures.
As it currently stands, I have a feeling that within the next couple of years, moves will be brought about to close the River Spey hatchery. After all, if you want something to fail - don't give it a real chance of working in the first place. This past year has been particularly frustrating from my point of view and I guess it's only because I feel so passionately about the river and its future. There is a great deal that can be done, however quite honestly I don't think there is currently any middle ground; there are very simply two distinctive camps, those in favour of hatcheries and those firmly against.
Collectively, all we want are more fish in our rivers, however, in my opinion, some of the decision makers are too obstinate and not prepared to ‘test the water’ in fear of denting their pride, after all, new ideas might just work!. Here is a brief analogy based upon the survival rate of hatchery reared parr, comparing early summer stocking against early utumn stocking - If you had a spare £1000 and had the opportunity to invest it at a fixed rate of 1% or 10%, which would you choose ? Even us ghillies could make an 'educated' guess on that one!
2011 River Spey Opening Day.
At 9 A.M. on Friday the 11th February, the opening ceremony for the River Spey Salmon fishing season will be performed at the Spey Foot Bridge, Alice Littler Park, Aberlour.
This year, Ishbel Grant, Director of Glenfarclas Distillery will perform the traditional opening ceremony by pouring an entire bottle of Glenfarclas Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky into the fast flowing waters of the River Spey – a toast to bring luck to all those in pursuit of the elusive Spring Salmon.
Mr Brian Doran has also very kindly agreed to say a few words on behalf of the anglers.
To complete the ceremony Rev Shuna Dicks, Minister for Craigellachie & Aberlour, will bless the river and Alan Sinclair will perform on the bagpipes. Anglers are invited to attend the opening ceremony, before starting on their quest to catch their first Spring Salmon of the new season. To help celebrate the start of the season, Kate Wright, Sales & Marketing Executive for Glenfarclas, will be offering a dram of Glenfarclas Single Malt Whisky to anglers and spectators, and Walkers Shortbread will be providing samples of their renowned biscuits during the opening ceremony.
The ‘Spey Quaich’, sponsored by Glenfarclas, will be awarded to the angler who catches the first salmon on the opening day. This year Glenfarclas Distillery will celebrate 175 years of legal distilling and the winner of the Spey Quaich will also be presented with a bottle of Glenfarclas 175th Anniversary Highland Single Malt and a Walkers of Aberlour hamper. The ghillie in attendance will receive a bottle of Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength Highland Single Malt, together with a Walkers hamper.
There will also be a generous prize of a bottle of Glenfarclas 40 Years Old Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky for the heaviest Salmon caught on the opening day out with the Spey Quaich winner. The Ghillie in attendance will also receive a bottle of Glenfarclas together with a Walkers hamper.
River Spey Opening Competition Rules
Fish must be caught by use of fly rod and line only and any catch must be verified by the ghillie in attendance.
Awarded to the angler who catches the first salmon on the opening day.
Awarded to the angler who catches the heaviest salmon.
The Heaviest Salmon prize cannot be won by the Spey Quaich winner.
If the Spey Quaich winner (first fish) is also the heaviest, then the heaviest prize would go to the second heaviest fish caught.
If there is only 1 fish caught on the opening day the heaviest fish prize would go to the captor of the 2nd fish caught later in the week.
Registering Catch for prize
All catches must be reported to J.A.J. Munro Tackle and Countrywear, 77 High Street, Aberlour by 4.00 p.m. on the opening day. Tel: 01340 871 428.
A copy of the competition rules will be on display at the J.A.J. Munro Tackle and Countrywear.
Early January Report 2011
As we brush the cobwebs from our tackle and consider another new salmon fishing season, we can also reflect for a moment on the River Spey catches of 2010. According to Spey Fishery Board (SFB) figures there were 9,231 Salmon and Grilse caught in 2010 of which 81% were released. This figure was slightly more than the poor year of 2009 both in terms of catches and releases however nonetheless disappointing on the whole. On a more promising note, Sea-Trout catches rose to a more historical level of 3,290 with 68% voluntary released. This quite significant rise in Sea-trout numbers is attributed mainly to an equally significant rise in numbers of their main food source at sea, the sand eel. Additionally, due to a distinct lack of Spring salmon in 2009, more anglers were targeting the sea-trout which in turn also led to improved catches.Let's hope that Sea-trout numbers continue to increase as with light tackle, there is nothing quite like Sea-Trout fishing, especially at dusk.
John & Ishbel Grant of Glenfarclas kindly sponsored our Fish of the Month Competition in 2010 and we had some notable winners amongst the entries. Amongst the entries were quite a few ‘first fish’ and I make no apologies for mentioning again that from a ghillies point of view, being involved and watching the pleasure that anglers receive in catching their first ever salmon is simply priceless. These special memories remain for life and the additional reward of a bottle of the finest Speyside malt whisky certainly marks the occasion in style. Here are our winners from 2010
March - Mr Chris Ponting - Salmon 18lbs - Delfur
April - Mr Neil Cameron - Salmon 25lbs - Delfur
May - Miss Claire Roberts - Salmon 13lbs - Kinermony
June - Mr David Williams - Salmon 30lbs - Rothes
July - Miss Molly Melville - Salmon 6lbs - Delfur
August - Mr Anthony Di Lorenzo - Salmon 30lbs - Rothes
September - Mrs Anna Rollings - Salmon 21lbs - Craigellachie
The recipient of our Fish of the Season prize is Mr Huston McCollough, who will receive his special prize in due course. Huston caught a 36lb fish from the two stones pool at Delfur on the 15th May 2010, ably netted by ghillie Grant Morrison. This superb fish also won Huston the Savills Malloch Trophy, awarded annually to the captor of the largest Salmon, caught on fly, verified and released in Scotland and mentioned in more detail below. Congratulations Huston! On behalf of all our winners, I’d just like to express our sincere thanks to Glenfarclas for their generosity and continued support, not only of our Fish of the Month competition but also importantly for their patronage of the River Spey in general.
The River Spey Angling Association are holding their AGM is the 8-Acres Hotel in Elgin on the 20th January at 6.30 for 7pm. Guest speaker will be International Fisheries Consultant Mr Peter Gray. Mr Gray is well known in angling circles for his very successful work in managing the Kielder hatchery and restocking policy, leading to the subsequent resurgence of the River Tyne’s Salmon population. As an open meeting, I’d urge all those with any interest in the current management of our Salmon river’s and their stocks to come along for a very enlightening experience. All welcome.We now look forward to the opening day with eager anticipation where we can again gather in the freezing cold to catch up over a Speyside dram before dispersing in search of that illusive Springer. Tight lines to all.
Food for thought.
Here is an extract from a letter published in next months (January) Trout & Salmon magazine,written by Orri Vigfusson who needs no introduction. The letter is titled Scotland’s Mortgaged Salmon.
I would urge the desperate need for a change in attitude. First, stop the netting and compensate fishermen for their loss in income. Then go back to basics and use simple commonsense to seek profitable solutions that can restore sustainability. Fire those whose regimes have not produced results, bring in new creative thinking and adopt high-potential market-driven strategies through innovative projects and young entrepreneurs. Draw on the wisdom of ghillies who dare to stand up and be counted. Give more power to new operators who dare to audit and question the old practices. And to the EU, I would say. Ignore the manoeuvres of the Scottish politicians who seek unfair international handouts and make them stand on their own two feet.
Only then will Scotland’s wild salmon stocks have a future.
On a personal note, it’s very refreshing to note that many of Mr Vigfusson’s views mirror what I have highlighted on this site, especially during the past couple of seasons; The need for a change in approach and direction in the way that our salmon stocks are managed. Finally, I'd just like to wish all readers a very Happy New Year and continued Tight Lines for all 2011.
Malloch Trophy won by River Spey angler.
Huston McCollough caught a magnificient 36lb salmon on the 15th May in the Two Stones pool at Delfur on the Spey and has been awarded the Malloch Trophy. The trophy is awarded to the captor of the largest salmon caught and released on the fly in Scottish waters. Mr McCollough commented on being told of the decision of the Savills Malloch Trophy Committee on December 15th: “I am delighted to have won the Savills Malloch Trophy. The winning fish is a testament to the great work performed by the many charitable organisations devoted to restoring our salmon stocks, as well as to the management of the River Spey itself. In addition, the Mountain family, owners of the Delfur beat, and their team of highly professional ghillies deserve great credit for their stewardship of the river. I must also cite Grant Morrison, my ghillie at Delfur, without whose help and advice this notable catch would not have been possible”.Mr McCollough will also receive a special silver sculpture of a salmon, commissioned by Savills from the highly acclaimed artist Patrick Mavros and a £250 voucher (kindly donated by The House of Bruar where the trophy is on display). In addition he will be invited as a guest to a special River Tay event later in 2011 where he will receive the trophy. Grant Morrison, ghillie at Delfur, will receive a fine decanter with a leaping salmon stopper and a bottle of the Dalmore Tay Dram whisky.
Above Huston McCollough with his fish and below ghillie Grant Morrison releasing it.