Spey Ghillies River Reports 2013
River Reports 2013
Week ending 14th September
We had a far better week at Gordon Castle with over a hundred more fish caught than the preceding one. It was very much a mixed bag in terms of weather and having just checked the forecast, expect to a similar outlook this week. As I write, it has been raining heavily throughout the day in Elgin therefore it’s anyone’s guess what will greet our anglers tomorrow.
Before I mention some of the catches, I’d just like to give a brief update on the recent River Spey Open Meeting in Aberlour. The meeting was well attended and as well as results from the Genetic Study & Juvenile Studies, presented by our biologist Brian Shaw, Dr Phil McGinnity gave his interpretation on the positive and negative impacts of hatchery reared fish.
The Genetic Study proved that the hatchery had not contributed much in terms of increasing the river’s Salmon population, however when questioned whether these figures had been influenced by the stocking policy between 2004 and 2010, such was the body swerve that even Jeremy Paxman would have struggled to get an answer. The stocking policy can be viewed by clicking on this link http://www.speyfisheryboard.com/sfb-publications/and downloading the Annual reports, looking closely at the Management Reports. Alternatively, I’m sure the research office has hard copies available for those without computers. The stocking policy would be especially interesting for anyone involved in a peer review of the study, purely as background information. As an example, I cannot recollect at first hand how much water is abstracted above the Spey Dam but believe the figure to be very high. This being the case, it would be fair to say that a large percentage of the 1.7 million fry stocked above the Dam between 2004 & 2010 had very little chance of survival and if they did survive, are probably now in a different river system!
Dr McGinnity presentation was very interesting. He suggested that the actual genetic make up of salmon reared in a hatchery environment changes during their few months in “captivity”. Whilst this may be the case, surely when released into the wild, their genetic make up will continue to develop and change as they mature and adapt to differing environments. As I said recently, if I had married a Chinese girl, our children would be markedly different to my current pair, however they would have survived, even if they had been fed at McDonalds in their early years! I am completely unconvinced by this entire genetic argument and believe instead that nature is simply a case of continual adaptation. The entire genetic subject has so many grey areas that it does nothing but create 2 entirely different camps. Those who believe it to be worthwhile and money well spent and those who don’t. I believe the meeting proved that amongst fishermen there are more in the latter bracket.
Over the years, the Spey Research Trust, now renamed as the Spey Foundation, have made recommendations to The Spey Board based upon such information but thankfully, all final decision have to be ratified at Board level. Although the Foundation is strictly a scientific body, I believe that in the future, especially under new leadership, the Board will rely more upon a combination of practical experience in conjunction with scientific evidence, rather than leaning more toward one than the other.
Witching Hour on the Spey
Back to the catches – There were no blank beats on Gordon Castle, even on a daily basis and at least 2 fish of over 20lbs were recorded. The fish, as you would expect at this time of year were a mixture of old and new however no matter the colour, they all fought as Spey salmon do. Tuesday was the best day of the week in terms of catches and conditions with 100% cloud cover with a rising barometer, the experienced Fulling Mill & Orvis teams caught 18 Salmon on Lower Water 1 alone, ranging from 3lbs to 39”.
Shawn Brillon with his best of the day.
From a ghillies point of view the day was made even more memorable as everyone caught a fish and we had 2 newcomers to the Spey and Scottish salmon Fishing. Orvis Managers Shawn Brillon and Tim Daughton visiting from the US caught their first ever Atlantic Salmon and you can clearly see from the photos that they thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Both celebrated in style with a cask-strength Speyside Dram at Lunchtime, which made the glow from the inside match that of the outside!
Team Fulling Mill - Old & New!
The Fulling Mill team of Barry Unwin, John Wolstenholme, Steve Carew & Will Landale pictured above, field-tested a few new patterns, so watch this space, especially for the Ghillies Collection!
Richard Banbury at the Quarry.
As well as catching a few salmon, Orvis Field Sports Director and keen photographer Richard Banbury took some great images which will accompany Shawn & Tim back home.
Barry Unwin in the Snorkel.
Finally I couldn’t end the report without mentioning Dave Duncan or as he is becoming more accustomed “The Jammy Factor”. Dave’s enviable record in 2013 extends to catching a fish every time he has ventured out. All have been caught on a “shitey whitey” flee, fished on a floating line with intermediate tip. The words ‘Nae Him again’ are common on every beat, LW1 being no exception. Dave had a brace on Wednesday whilst fishing with his pals and we all enjoyed the tales over a wonderful lunch.
Gordon Castle Factor Dave Duncan in action - again!
I hope to gather more information from the other Gordon Castle beats over the next week and will compile a more comprehensive report in due course.
Week ending 31st August
Having just spent my first full week at Gordon Castle, looking after their Lower Water 1 beat; I thought I’d take the opportunity of sharing this newexperience.
The first thing that impressed me was that all the Gordon Castle ghillies meet on a daily basis in the Gordon Arms hotel car park around 08:30am, awaiting the arrival of their guests. Although the fishing can currently only be described at mediocre at best, the banter and enthusiasm is very refreshing which most certainly spreads throughout their guests. David Duncan, factor of Gordon Castle also normally makes an appearance and can hear at first hand how the river is fishing and how the clients are enjoying their stay. This clearly makes for a great working relationship and ensures proper, channelled communication is spread throughout the estate.
Another very positive aspect of fishing at Gordon Castle is that the guests on the Castle water, LW1 & LW2 rotate on a daily basis, as do the anglers on Brae Beats 3, 4 & 5. This ensures that even when the fishing is challenging that guests can enjoy casting over new pools with different personalities looking after them.
Head ghillie Ian Tennant updates the catches daily on his Facebook timeline as do Gordon Castle on Twitter and I’m sure either would be glad to accept any interested readers to his column of followers.
Whilst it was very refreshing to see fresh silver Spey salmon, the truth is, that in terms of numbers, they are currently pretty scarce. Although I have only been there a week, the long serving tenants who fished the beats last week fully supported my thoughts. The prolonged low water conditions of this summer certainly suit these lower river beats and given such conditions my expectation was perhaps a little too high.
Ian Gordon introduced over a dozen rods to Gordon Castle last week, which I'm sure they really apprecaite. Even during times of attrition, the Spey retains a certain majesty amongts other Scottish Salmon Rivers and with Ian as a travelling ambassador, many foreign anglers are given the opportunity of casting a line on this hallowed ground. The party were predominantly German visitors and most of them connecting with a fish or two. Robert Stroh brought his entire family across and 15-year-old son Valentine caught his first Atlantic salmon from beat 2. Robert's daughter Lara unfortunately lost 2 fish from the Bridge Pool on the Castle Water and then broke with a large fish in the Quarry on LW1. I have never seen a better Speycaster, yet to land her first fish than Lara and it’s certainly only a matter of time before she does. Sir Henry and Lady Elwes had 10 fish for their week, with Lady Elwes landing 3 including a 20lb fish from the Bridge Pool. All 3 fish were caught on a sparsely dressed size 12 Munro Killer. Gordon Castle Factor Davie Duncan was invited down and true to form, fished for 20 minutes in the Birks and added another to the book. Geordie Gordon Lennox was a very impressive young man both in terms of his personality and his casting skills. He caught 3 fish on Tuesday on a size 11 Kinermony Killer, however not be to out done, father Angus landed a 20lb from LW2. The fly was kept secret but having seen his fly box, it probably represented some kind of ancient moth! All in all, we have a very pleasant week and I thoroughly enjoyed myself amid different surroundings, new clients and a great team at Gordon Castle.
There have been many differing opinions as to why the river has produced so little in terms of catches this season, my opinion being that if we haven’t enough smolts heading to sea, we simply cannot expect too many to return. I had a superb midweek lunch with Ian Gordon and Colin Reid and although the craic was great, the sheer fact and frustration that the Spey was underperforming on such a large scale could not be hidden.
This leads me on to the Spey Fishery Board Public Meeting in Aberlour next week. What exactly will you hear in terms of factual information? Well the genetic results are factual as are the juvenile surveys but, and it is a very big BUT, what about the rest? The questions that we would all like to hear answers rather than opinions to are -
How many smolts does the Spey produce?
How many returning adults do we have?
What is the rod exploitation?
How many salmon are re-caught?
How many more fish would be produced if they were all allowed to spawn naturally?
What is the marine mortality figure for the Spey?
I doubt whether we will have answers to such questions in my lifetime however until we do, I feel we will simply continue to go around in circles gathering costly data whilst the Salmon population declines. As far as I am concerned, it’s about time that those scientifically minded concentrated on the facts rather than their opinions, no matter how well informed they think they are. I could go on and on, but guess that you all get it by now: there are far too many questions and not enough factual answers!
“Renowned” Fisheries Scientist Dr Phil McGinnity will be presenting his recent research into the impact on natural reproduction, which MAY result from hatchery-reared fish subsequently spawning with wild fish. Whilst I have never read any of Dr McGinnity’s work, I’d hazard a guess that any impact from his findings on his research above, with regard to hatchery fish will be negative! It is however best to keep an open mind and I’m sure that the Spey Board & Foundation will turn out in force. Interestingly whilst mentioning “open minds”, in comparison, there were no Spey Board or Foundation members present apart from Knockando ghillie Sandy Smith and myself at the River Spey Anglers AGM a couple of years ago when ‘Renowned’ hatchery manager Peter Gray made a presentation of his life’s work! Often, the "facts' speak for themselves.
I hope that the meeting is far more than just a propaganda exercise. Whilst the juvenile results have been very positive this year, they are of little consolation to the thousands of anglers visiting the Spey over the last couple of years. Until these juvenile surveys directly correlate with smolt output and returning adults, the figures can be seen as no more than comparative data – fact! It is far too easy to blame marine mortality as the reason for low numbers of returning fish when we have absolutely no idea how many are heading to sea in the first place! In the words of a good ghillie friend of mine, “I might be daft but I’m not stupid”
June began with pretty unsettled weather in fact we had sunshine, hail & heavy rain showers all in the same day! As the month progressed however, the temperature rose and the weather settled to more traditional June conditions. As fishermen, we have been blessed with wet summers in recent years bringing with it excellent fishing conditions. Over the past month however, successful anglers have grown more accustomed to early morning and late evening fishing, which clearly is far more productive. Some of our more demanding guests have been grumbling due to the lack of fish during their 9-5 shift however, I’m sure their ghillies have been encouraging them to make better use of the ‘right light’ conditions. I personally feel that instead of thrashing them to a foam, it is vitally important to rest the pools during the afternoons on hot sticky days.
Fishpal Marketing Manager Anne Woodcock recently ran a ladies day on the River Deveron at Mountblairy. We had a great day out with 12 ladies eager to learn the basics of Speycasting and salmon fishing. Anne is pictured above, with a cast of the largets fly caught salmon in the UK caught by Clemintina Morison.
The fish have been running hard throughout June with sea-lice fish caught as far as Grantown on Spey. Lower water shouldn’t lower expectation too much as it’s been said many times that Grilse and Sea-Trout especially can run up a wet door! We have had good tides throughout the month and my neighbour who fishes the Speymouth Association water has seen fish coming in on every tide.
Gordon Castle beats have averaged somewhere around the mid 30’s a week during June. There were notable fish for returning Italian visitor Vittorio Spasciani (Lord March) and Kate Howies who caught the 18lb cracker below from the Otters Cave.
Gordon Castle Head ghillie Ian Tennant with Katie Howies 18 pounder.
My very good friend Fred Morris hosted a 3-day trip to Gordon Castle during the second week of June. Ghillie Bob Harold suggested they try an early morning session and Graeme Greenock caught 3 fish from the Bridge Pool within an hour. Sportingly, he encouraged George Watson to play one of them, as he had never caught a salmon before. A superb mornings sport and further confirmation of the rewards that can be gained through fishing at the best times.
A delighted George Watson after playing his first Salmon from the bridge pool on the Castle beat.
New Kinermony ghillie David Brand, hot from the River Conon had a great start to his new career netting a fish for Peter Kyte from the Rhynd at 09:30 on Monday morning. According to Peter, ‘water levels were perfect but awful wind conditions made casting difficult on Monday’. In other words, he had an upstream breeze! Peter went on to catch further fish from the Boatpool, Dykie and Rhynd, all with long tailed sea lice. Guest Phil Simmonds 9lb fish from the Boatpool was the highlight of their week as it was his first ever fish. They ended the week with 10 fish with Peter being lucky enough to catch 6 of them, equaling his best personal tally.
Peter Kyte with a nice fish from Kinermony.
Across the river at Wester Elchies, there was also a first ever fish for Leonora Twynam who landed her first salmon of 8lbs from Pol Ma Cree on the deadly Munro Killer. One beat up-river at Laggan Henry Giles wrote – 'Four - A First Good Day On The Spey'. We caught four fish on the Spey yesterday and I caught my first-ever Spey salmon. Christopher caught one an hour later in the same spot, both fish 10lb. So an encouraging first day all round. Good cloud cover helped a lot in the lowish water but with fresh fish about you can't complain!
Stuart Yates with a fine fish from the Castle water.
Our Glenfarclas Fish of the Month was also caught at Laggan by ten year old Daisy Hill. Daisy caught her first ever salmon from the boat on Delchapel on a Kinermony Killer, under the watchful and very experienced eye of ghillie Mike Murdoch. These moments really are priceless and although a little too young to receive the normal prize of a bottle of Glenfarclas 105 cask strength single malt, Daisy will instead get a dozen Kinermony Killers. After all, she clearly knows how to use it properly!
Fish of the Month winner Miss Daisy Hill.
Rory Campbell hosted a few friends at Knockando on the Lower Pitchroy beat and his experienced team landed sixteen for the week. Nigel Bazzioman had the best estimated at 16lb, whilst Alex Smith and James Holder both broke their Spey ducks after several years of trying.
Vittorio Spasciani makes a habbit of catching yet another classic Spey salmon.
Grantown Association have had a very steady month, which should be very encouraging especially for the visitors. Unlike most beats on the Spey, Grantown’s catch are well ahead of last years and similar to that of 2010 and 2011. Whilst we shouldn’t get too carried away, it is refreshing to see some positive news on Speyside. Grantown remains a top destination in terms of visitors and their new weekly reports certainly confirm their title as the finest Association waters in the UK.
Otters Cave, right bank on Brae Beat 3.
Finally, my proposed occupational change to the oil industry has been put on hold. These oil companies appear to be booming and clearly have a very valuable resource however, from my experience to date, they need to invest a little more effort into their Human Resources and Training & Development departments. Fortunately, in the meantime, I have been offered a job for the last 6 weeks of the season at Gordon Castle, looking after Lower Water 1 (Fochabers AA). I believe there are still a few rods available for anyone interested – Contact 01343820078 or http://www.gordoncastle.co.uk/availability-and-booking/
Week ending 18th May
Last week, the May fish which the Spey is renowned for, arrived in decent enough numbers for most beats to enjoy. The week began with relatively high water, which encouraged the fish to run hard, so much so that they were quite tricky to catch in places. I saw more fish on Monday than I have seen all season yet we didn’t even register a pull at Kinermony, however down river at Delfur, they had an excellent start with 7 fish.
Mr. Jeff Loud with a bar of silver from the neck of Otter at Delfur.
The water dropped slowly throughout the week before heavy rain overnight on Friday and again prolonged showers on Saturday sent it back up again. The river is currently sitting at 2’10” on our gauge, which roughly translates to a great height for any Monday! Once again, we have a pretty mixed forecast, which as far as fishing conditions are concerned is promising. I’d expect fish to be caught throughout the system this week in good numbers.
A couple of excellent photos from Delfur head ghillie Mark Melville.
Grantown association had their best week of the season to date with 6 fish caught on Tuesday. Their total for the season now stands at 38 and given current conditions, I’d expect that figure to double by the end of the month.
All 3 Knockando beats fished well with Lower Pitchroy and the home beats just out-fishing the middle Phones beat. Dave Sadowski had a brace on his birthday from Slioch under the watchful eye of Sandy Smith. I may have mentioned in other reports that Sandy’s hut has one of the most picturesque views on Speyside as well as one of the finest ghillies.
Alan Robinson with a Craigellachie fish and smile to match.
Wester Elchies also had their best week of the season with almost 20 fish. The boat pool appeared to be more productive from the left bank for a change, with Ian Muir making the most of it. One of the parties changed mid- week and excellent angler Mark Bird and friends took over. This week last year was spoiled to an extent by high water therefore it was great to see Mark enjoy his visit Speyside with the ability to fish all the pools. He had 5 fish for his 3 days and Saturday was particularly rewarding when he landed 3 on the Sunray.
Chris Higham clearly enjoys the Wester Elchies experience.
Across the water, we had the Rowley party fishing at Kinermony. Like Grantown, Tuesday was our best day with 5 fish. Hosts Jonathan & Liz Rowley landed fish from the Rhynd whilst Howard Edge caught a lovely 8lb sea-liced fish from the Boatpool. We continued to pick away throughout the week and as usual, had a great deal of fun doing so. With guests like the Rowley’s, the reality of leaving the river certainly brings with it, a great deal of sadness.
Above, Elizabeth Rowley with her first of the week and below husband Jonathan.
Craigellachie had without question their best week of the season ending the week in the mid-teens. There is generally a close battle between northern rivals the Geordies and the Lancashire crews. This year however, the Geordie team of Ian & Annie Henderson, Tom Robinson and Mike Broadey were comprehensively trounced by Graham Salisbury and Alan Robinson. I believe the final score was in the region of 13-1, which certainly sent them homewards to think again! Fish of the week however was a 15 pounder from the tail of the lower slabs, which fell to the rod of octogenarian John Neal. John and friend Tony Asher are real gentleman and I know that both Craigellachie ghillies Dougie Ross and Chris Hallas were delighted to see John’s rod bend.
Graham Salisbury with a cracking Spey Salmon.
86 years young, Mr John Neal with his 15lb salmon from Craigellachie.
Ian Gordon had a large cosmopolitan party fishing the Gordon Castle beats last week with notable first Spey success to Japanese visitors Mr. Saito Mr. Kawamnra. It really makes my day to hear of anglers catching their first Spey salmon and much to his credit; Ian continues to attract many new clients to Speyside on an annual basis. Beat 3 appeared on paper to produce most fish with Aultdearg providing fish for the Norwegian team of Christian Mortvedt Guttorm Hansen.
Mr. Saito from Japan with his first Spey Salmon.
With the competitions season now underway, our Orvis Alba Flyfshers 3-man team fished the Scottish Clubs competition on Saturday night and we not only won the heat with 22 fish but also had top individual with 12 fish. It poured from start to finish and we were all fair drooked by the 22:30 weigh-in. Our next events are the Anglian Water and Lexus Internationals in June.
Mrs Annabel Wade in the Little Turn at Kinermony.
This is my last week at Kinermony and it is with deep regret that I leave. I’d just like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all my wonderful and loyal guests for the support, generosity and most of all friendship that they have shown over the past 7 years. I'd also like to thanks the ghillies and anglers who have freely shared so much information and hope very much that they continue to do so. My reports have always been an honest appreciation on the river's performance and although at times, my comments have become somewhat political, they come from the heart and not the wallet! Boom Boom! I have decided to take a short break from my weekly reports however, they will continue at some stage in the near future.
Tight lines and lots of them!
Week ending 11th May
Yet another frustrating week in terms of the middle part of the river Spey. Following the previous week of mild weather and prolonged rain, the river level remained relatively high for the first part of last week, however by yesterday, it was an excellent fishing level. Our visiting anglers can look forward to good fishing conditions tomorrow, although the week ahead is a pretty mixed forecast.
Delfur had one of their best weeks of the season so far with Oliver Devictor leading the party. The catches were pretty evenly split between the party, which is always the aim but normally very had to achieve. Malloch Trophy winner of 2010 Huston McCollough returned in search of yet another leviathan but instead, left with the memory of a brace from the Hollenbush on his birthday. You just can’t win them all Huston! I imagine the Champagne at 5pm last night was yet another magical moment in Delfur history.
Oliver Devictor on the bank of Collie at Delfur.
Gordon Castle continued to pick away last week with 14 Salmon and 3 Sea-Trout for their combined beats. The Castle water produced the most consistent sport with the Bridge Pool in particular fishing well. Stuart Lynch caught the 9lb fish pictured on Aultdearg – Beat 3.
Stuart Lynch on Gordon Castle Beat 3.
Slightly further donstream, Scott Baillie had the first fish for the Fochabers Association. Scott caught the fish from the Snorkel on a cascade copper tube and as you can see below, certainly knows how to take a great fishing photograph.
Scott Baillie's cracker, the first from the Fochabers AA.
Picking away is a term that best describes the fishing from Delfur up-river. My good friend Brian Doran was tenant at Upper Arndilly and Alex Robertson was first off the mark with a 13 pounder from the Lower Dips. Brian added a 15lb fish to the book on Wednesday but as with many beats last week, it was very much thin pickings.
Aberlour AA ended the week in double figures with Jim Sievwright, captor of their first fish and Jimmy Shand amongst the lucky anglers. I believe Jim has now caught 7 fish this season, which must be one of the highest individual totals of the year so far. Having “only kept his quota” of 2 pristine spring fish, Jim has clearly recognised the need for conservation of these early spring fish, although the fact that the association had to wait until mid April to register their first of the season, might in itself have suggested their scarcity.
Underwater action from Alex Robertson
Wester Elchies had in the Fletcher party, a very experienced and capable team of rods. Although the wind proved a little challenging at times, finding a taking salmon proved even more of a challenge. I saw Duncan Fletcher catch a lovely fish from the Boatpool on Wednesday but apart from that, I haven’t heard any further reports. Across the water, we ended the week at Kinermony with 2 fish, the first caught by Michael McIntyre/Fred Flintstone impersonator, Richard Anderson. We had an excellent week and made up for the clear lack of fish, by building a weapon capable of firing a variety of fruit and vegetables incredibly long distances. Click on my YouTube link to view the evidence!
Richard Anderson poses for the camera with very helpful Alasdair Poulson looking on.
Our tenant Brian Holden had to leave early so I invited Aaron Ewen, grandson of Rothes & Aikenway ghillie Mike up for a cast, or should I say casting demonstration. Having already seen Aaron in action, I knew that he was without question the finest caster of a double-handed rod for his age that I had even seen, however it gave me great delight in standing back and watching the gob-smacked looks of those who hadn’t. Aaron is a very wise head on young shoulders and a clear example that you don’t need instruction when it’s in your blood!
Another Kinermony fish expertly netted by Aaron Ewen.
Trout & Salmon editorial consultant Sandy Leventon fished at Castle Grant last week hoping to emulate his success of catching the largest fish of the Spey in 2012. This year Sandy had to settle for a slightly smaller version but at 37.5” and estimated at 20lbs, well worth the trip.
Considering the water level, Grantown Association had a relatively quiet week, which again confirms a lack of fish. Local member Jerry Gallienne managed two fish yesterday, including the best of the week, a sea-liced 11 pounder from the Lower Bend. Once again many thanks to Jimmy Mitchell for his reports.
One of Jerry Gallienne's brace from the Lower Bend at Grantown.
Well we are into May and the river is currently at a very good height. Water temperature remains slightly colder than normal, which means that some sub surface tips will be required. The fish will be in excellent condition no matter where on the river you fish. This is very much prime time on the Spey and my personal feeling is that our season will to en extent be judged by catches over the next 3 weeks. That is of course unless the increased smolt numbers predicated last year return in the summer as Grilse. Size 6-7 flies of the normal patterns will work well, fished on floaters with sink tips or hover/intermediate shooting heads.
Week ending 4th May.
As I write, in golfing terms, it is one of the nicest days of the year. Having said that, it’s very clear that I know very little about that frustrating game scoring 11 at Elgin’s first hole late yesterday afternoon. Fortunately golf is a little like Salmon fishing in that you always remember the good days!
The KK Pig.
Last Monday we were greeted with a river fining off to a good level. The water temperature remained around 45F with a somewhat southerly breeze. As the week progressed, the level dropped slowly until heavy rain on Friday brought the river up again with a dirty tinge, making fishing almost impossible. With a slightly milder outlook ahead and the wind changing to South Westerly, I hope that once again, the snow doesn’t all melt at once!
Last Monday was a good fishing day around Aberlour with the association catching 4 fish. Bruce Cameron caught the first of around 10lbs on a fly of his own creation. With a water level of 2’6” on their gauge, the beat was in perfect order and the level also suited us a Kinermony.
Jean-Paul Coueret with a Monday morning fish at Kinermony.
This was the first week of our French visitors, returning for the 32nd time. Guy Nardin opened their account with a 7lb fish from the Rhynd of one of our new Kinermony Killer Pigs. He then hooked a better fighting fish at the tail of the Rhynd, which slipped the hook. Guy proceeded to the Dykie where he landed a well-mended kelt, most likely held back by the unseasonably cold water. Due to the water level, the remainder of the party, Robin Gillespie and Jean-Paul Coeuret fished the Boatpool where they also had a fish each of around the 8-10lb mark respectively. The angler fishing opposite on Wester Elchies hooked 3 fish but unfortunately lost the lot. From Monday onwards, it was pretty thin pickings and although we added a further 2 fish, one of 15lbs, it was clear that there weren’t many running through.
Above Guy Nardin playing his first of the week and below, the result.
Easter Elchies and Upper Arndilly had a better week than of late and ended the in mid-teens, caught on a variety of methods. They also caught Kelts last week, as did Rothes & Aikenway amongst their 7 clean fish.
As I wrote earlier, Wester Elchies had an unfortunate start to the week but things did pick up slightly. Their best of the week was estimated at 18lbs and was caught midway down the boatpool and sent to me by Mr Tom Walker. Tom caught the fly on a No6 Gold Willie Gunn.
Tom Walker with a nice fish from Wester Elchies.
Grantown on Spey made use of the higher water and landed at least 4 fish last week with the best weighing 17lbs caught by Mr Shungo Yoshino from Tokyo. Shungo is a regular visitor to Grantown and caught the fish from Poll na Gower on fly. Many thanks to Grant and Graeme at Mortimer’s Tackle shop in Grantown and to reporter Jimmy Mitchell for their weekly updates at – www.speyfishing-grantown.co.uk
A delighted Shungo Yoshino with his 17lb from Grantown AA.
Winner of our Glenfarclas Fish of the Month for April is Chris Hallas, ghillie at Craigellachie. Chris caught probably the largest fish of the month from Broom Isle at Craigellachie on a turbo disc. The fish was by far his largest to date and was estimated at 25lbs. In his typical generous fashion, Chris has donated the bottle of Glenfarclas 105 single malt to a charity raffle or auction, so once again congratulations and many thanks to Chris, a very worthy winner.
Chriss Hallis (left) receives his prize from Craigellachie colleague and head ghillie Dougie Ross.
Gordon Castle beats reported almost 20 fish for their week. Beat 1 began the week well with a 19lb fish from the turn pool. The best fish of the week however came on Thursday from the Ewe pool on beat 2 weighing 23 lbs. Norwegian angler Dag Midtgard had a cracking brace on Thursday, the first a 12lb from Lord March followed by a 10lb from Aultdearg. Earlier this week, I saw a photo that Ian Gordon had shared of Aultdearg taken in 1903. Just the thought of fishing such pools, steeped in history, make you wish to turn the clocks back 50 years armed with today’s tackle!
The Rhynd minus Big Pig yesterday morning.
Finally, I’d like to report that with regard to this year’s conservation code, where the Spey Board are urging all angler’s to release their fish until the end of May, the penny has finally dropped and communication has spread throughout the river. I actually found it quite incredible that a minority of anglers could justify keeping fish in the knowledge that the remainder of the river was returning them all. Hopefully the next penny to drop will make it clear to all that the Salmon population has already suffered too much through the greed, ego and tampering of mankind!
Week ending 27th April.
Last Monday, anglers were finally greeted by a dropping river with good clarity and following the conditions over the past month, I can assure you it was a very welcome sight! The water temperature remains in the mid 40’sF and considering the forecast for next week, I doubt whether that will change much. With some snow falling on lower ground yesterday morning, the water level should remain consistent.
Aberlour's jim Sievwright with the first of the week.
Following the capture of their first fish of the season, Aberlour Angling Association continued with 5 fish on Monday, one to first time visitor from Wales Terry Evans, which was duly returned. Terry added a further fish on Friday making his trip a worthwhile and memorable one. I believe the Association finished the week with around 15 fish, of which most were released. Further up-stream, Grantown Angling Association added a further 7 fish to their seasons tally caught both on fly and spinner. I’m sure they will see more action this coming week and both association waters should be well worth a visit.
Photo by Mark Melville.
Tulchan also registered a few more fish last week and with the water at a good height, there should be some positive reports from their majestic beats over the next few weeks.
Craigellachie began their week in fine style with first-ever Salmon for Oliver Daniels and Martin Clark. You can see from their delight below that both Oliver and Martin are now truly hooked and after a trip to a decent hat shop should look more like experienced Salmon anglers!
Oliver Daniels and Martin Clark with their first salmon on the fly.
Craigellachie top-half ghillie Chris Hallas caught a personal best from the Broom Isle after being offered a cast just before lunchtime. As you can see below, the fish is a real cracker and estimated at 25lbs. I have some prime time fishing available on the Craigellachie beat for 1 rod, 3-5th June where you will be well looked after by Dougie and Chris.
Craigellachie ghillie Chris Hallas with a personal best.
Laggan had an excellent week, led by experienced Spey angler Mr Charlie Herd. They ended the week in double figures with notable success for Charlie and friend Charles Tweedie, who incidentally had never caught a Spey Springer before. Ghillie Mike Murdoch was busy with both net and camera but also found time to catch one himself. A master of multi-tasking!
One each from Charlie Herd (above) and Charles Tweedie (below)
Our Kinermony tenant last week was Mr Tony Hutley, who was once again joined by his son Marc and his partner in crime, John Oxley. John was very unlucky losing 2 fish at the net whilst Marc landed the largest and the most! It was good to see the Craigs being fished regularly again and Marc caught the fish pictured below opposite the Larch Tree. For the 90% of our Kinermony tenants who don’t bother fishing the Craigs, its situated between the Boatpool and Pol Shuan and as you can see is a great cast at 2’6” on our gauge! Marc’s best fish of the week was measured at 39.5” and was estimated at 24-25lbs. All our fish last week were sea-liced.
Marc Hutley with a well proportioned Spey Salmon.
Delfur had their best week of the season with a very capable party led by Mr David Wood. Adrian Harrop was top rod with 7 fish but my guess is that Andrew Dodds will have caught the most memorable on his first visit to the Spey. As you can see below Andrew was in the very capable hands of Delfur head ghillie Mark Melville and caught his fish in Sourden, arguably the best Salmon pool in Scotland.
Andrew Dodds above with his first Spey Salmon and below Davis Casswell from a similar spot.
For those who follow Gordon Castle & head ghillie Ian Tenant on Facebook, you will see that they had 13 salmon last week, with beat 2 being most consistent. The recent high water has moved the larger heads of fish on from occupying a handful of pools and for the time being, fish can be caught almost anywhere on the river.
The water temperature will remain well below the magical 50DegF mark and as such anglers should continue to fish with a variety of sink tips. It’s not so much the depth, but more the speed at which your fly fishes around in the current. 10’ type 3 tips have been working well with floating lines, as have hover/intermediate shooting heads. 1” tube flies or 6-7 hooks will continue to produce results. As for the fly – find a fish first before you start worrying too much!
Week ending 20th April.
A very frustrating week on Speyside with the river high and coloured for the majority of the time. It wasn’t until Friday that rods could fish with any degree of confidence and even then, the current made controlling the fly speed and depth very tricky. Many of the beats just went through the motions and realistically shouldn’t have even bothered. However we must remember that our guests look forward to their opportunity of coming to the Spey from the day that they depart and even though conditions are very much against them, if your fly is in the water, you always have a chance. The only fish I heard of on Monday was a Sea-Trout caught at Easter Elchies, which was quite amazing considering the conditions.
It was Thursday before any reports of further fish filtered through. Neil Cameron had the magnificent 21lb fish pictured below from Delfur. It was caught in one of the finest pools in the UK, Sourden. You can clearly see evidence of blood around the scissors area on the fish, however I can assure you it is only superficial and anglers catching such fish can release them in total confidence that they survive.
Neil Cameron and Delfur ghillie Davie Mackintosh in Sourden at Delfur.
Aberlour Association opened their account this season last Friday with local angler Jim Sievwright catching the first fish of the season. I spoke with a number of senior members last week and none can recall the first fish being recorded so late in the season. Jim decided to release the fish rather handing it over to the local hospital as tradition dictates. He was confident that the hospital would receive one at a later stage in the season when the fish were more abundant. Disappointingly, the Aberlour AA have decided to allow all members and visitors to retain 2 spring fish and a maximum of 6 for the season, rather than following the plea by the River Spey Board to release all spring fish where possible until the end of May. Whilst I’m certain that the vast majority of members will follow the Boards advice, it’s disappointing that the Association as a whole don’t feel the need to conform when all other beats are doing so. A clear example of what can happen when you create you own rules was displayed last week when a visiting angler from Edinburgh caught 3 fish last Friday and another on Saturday morning. He was encouraged by a local member to return his first fish but killed his 2nd and 4th. He also killed 2 large brown trout of 4 and 5lbs. I believe very few salmon have been intentionally killed on the river so far this season and whether the two above were cocks or hens, only the angler concerned knows! One thing is certain; more work needs to be done by the board in ensuring that the entire river is united in its conservation policies.
Grantown Association had 2 fish yesterday, one of 9lbs from the Upper Bend and the fish below of 12.5lbs caught by Darren Grant from the Long Pool. They also recorded the first Sea-Trout of the season from the Saddle pool.
Darren Grant with his fish from Long Pool. (Photo by River watcher Shaun)
Gordon Castle recorded 6 fish last week and they were pretty spread out. Stuart Yeats was back again in search of his second Spey fish of 2013, this time on Brae beat 1. It was his Dad Graham who caught the fish below which weighed 8lbs in the net. Stuart said “It gave him a good tussle and cartwheeled 4 times taking him down to his backing. It wasn’t a deep fish but what it lacked in girth, it made up in energy, shooting off into the depths of the turn pool”. All the beats recorded Salmon or Sea-Trout apart from Beat 3 however I’m sure that Ian will make up for it this week.
Graham Yeats with a lively 8lb from The Turn Pool – Brae Beat 1.
A little unsettled according to the forecast however as it currently stands, the river is in perfect order for the beginning of the week. I’d expect fish to be caught from Grantown to Fochabers therefore anglers can finally fish with a little more confidence. Flies around the 1” mark would be appropriate coupled with intermediate lines or floaters with tips. Please bring a camera and send any images/details to email@example.com
I received 2 photos from Elgin angler and Spey regular Graeme Mackenzie this week. Graeme had been fishing at Orton as mentioned in last weeks report and headed off on holiday soon after. The 10lb Sea-Lice Salmonin the top photo was taken on a size 12 Peter Ross and the Brown Trout was caught on a size 12 Malloch's Special. Fantastic sport on a 9ft single handed fly rod!
A welcome brace from Graeme Mackenzie.
Week ending 13th April.
The weather is finally on the change as I write and I’d expect the Spey to have a great deal more water in her tomorrow! Let’s hope though that the warmer southerly breeze and all that brings, doesn’t change a famine into a feast in terms of water levels! The middle river struggled again last week although there was one beat in particular that did very well in comparison to others. Carron owners and guests fished last week with Jimmy Jack landing 3 fish and guest Brian Poe catching a brace. In mid April, such numbers wouldn’t normally make headline news however, when you consider that Carron recorded almost as many fish last week as the combined catches of all the beats above Craigellachie, then that certainly does!
Don Milne amongst the action once again.
Knockando also had their first fish of the season, whilst Tulchan beats recorded their first Sea-Trout. Grantown Association added another to their total and with this lift in water, I’d expect a few more anglers to venture out this coming week. For any visitors fishing the Grantown beat, please do share your catches and photos with Grant and Graeme at Mortimer’s tackle shop.
A fish from Dave Sadowski caught in the Holly Bush at Delfur last Thursday.
We had a very experienced team at Kinermony last week led by Graham Ritchie who over the past 10 years has caught more Spey salmon than anyone I know. Wester Elchies also had a very capable team led by Rory Campbell another exceptional angler. Both banks were fished as well as they ever have been and although a number of Kelts were caught, nothing fresh was recorded.
Delfur head ghillie Mark Melville with a quick photo of the fish caught by Mike Broadey from Collie.
Delfur also had a very good team of rods last week with Spey Fishery Board reporter Malcolm Newbould, leading the team. They had a great start to the week with 5 fish in the first couple of days and although sport slowed towards the end of the week, they ended the week in double figures. My good friend Don Milne, mentioned in dispatches in earlier reports was amongst the fish as was keen Spey anglers Mike Broadey and Dave Sadowski. Dave is currently half way through his annual Speyside pilgrimage and after 3 days on the Phones at Knockando, followed by 3 days on the hallowed ground at Delfur is now heading for a week at Carron.
Ronnie Fraser with one of his 4 from Cairnty at Orton.
Orton were also into double figures with Ronnie Fraser leading the field landing 4 fish for his 5 days. Cairnty was yet again the place to be with a yellow cascade tempting the fish. Ronnie caught 2 fish on Tuesday morning, both sea-liced and around the 9lb mark and another brace on Friday evening, the second of which he caught whilst lengthening his line after releasing his first. Elgin angler Graeme Mackenzie also landed a 10lb fish at Orton but his was on a trout rod, coupled with a Malloch’s favourite and a size 12 Peter Ross catching the fish. Graeme also caught 2 good trout weighing 2lbs and 4lbs respectively.
Gordon Castle beats continued to dominate catches with a combined total of 25 fish. Retired ghillie Colin Reid was amongst the action landing a cracker of 8lbs from the rock pool on beat 2. Colin will have been pleased to see his old beat leading the catches with 12 fish for the week, along with the largest caught by Derek Wiseman. Although a very experienced angler, this was Derek’s first Spey salmon and he caught it on his very last cast with the rod over his shoulder on his way out of the Dipple Pool at 5pm!
Derek Wiseman with his first and a cracking Spey Salmon.
Welsh Wizard Illtyd Griffiths landed 4 of the the fish from Beat 5 and his party contributing ¾ of the weekly catch over their 2 days on beat 5. Anglers capable of landing the fly precisely where the ghillie wants it are a delight to have and Illtyd and his party certainly fall into that bracket.
I’d like to think that the fish being held up in the lower part of the river will spread out a little further afield next week and any newcomers will also head up-river. This might of course be wishful thinking however only time will tell. We will be back to heavier lines and flies due to the high water but you will all receive more specific advice from your excellent team of ghillies.
The March Browns were out consistently last week and I’d expect the trout fishing to very good over the next fortnight. For anyone wishing to catch a specimen brown trout on the Spey, April is the month to do it!
Week ending 05 April.
Mixed fortunes in terms of catches and weather last week on Speyside. The water temperature remained below 40F but I did see the first March Brown last week. The Easterly Breeze is forecast to continue but there is rain, snow and increased temperatures expected throughout the week.
First fish of the season for Spey expert Malcolm Newbould. Almost worth it's weight in gold!
2 particularly good fish were caught last week, the first weighing 23lbs in the Birks Pool at Gordon Castle and the second weighing 21lbs at Arndilly. Ian Gordon assembled a very accomplished team of rods to fish on the Castle Beat and Paul Davidson was first off the mark with a 23 pounder on April Fool’s Day. Paul lost another just before landing the cracker pictured below on 23lbs.
Paul Davidson with a magnificient Spey Salmon
German visitor Herman Zwisler was next off the mark with a lovely fish from the Lower Slabs. The Birks was by far the most productive pool though and Alex Ross and Tam Brown added to the party’s total of 8 fish over the 3 days. I’m pretty sure that Gordon Castle is very grateful to Ian for bringing visitors to the area on a regular basis, as I know only too well that the river needs a regular turnover of new clients.
Herman Zwisler celebrates in style.
Swedish angler Hasse Larsson had a memorable half hour on Saturday in the Grilse pool on beat 5. First he landed a fish of 10lbs followed half a dozen casts later by a 20lb Sea Liced fish. Local angler Allan McKay also had a brace of 12 pounders from beat 5 on Thursday. The first again from the Grilse pool and second from Dipple.
The photo belowis one that Brae beat 4 ghillie David Buley sent me of Neil Drummond’s 18lb fish. The average size of the Spey fish this season has to be in excess of 10lbs, which although good for the anglers, isn’t historically great news with regard to the season ahead.
Neil Drummond with an 18 pounder from Brae 4.
Grantown Angling Association added a second to their seasons total with a 12lb fish from the Craggan sands pool caught on the spinner. The anglers on Lower Wester Elchies indicated that they had 2 fish last week, however it was unclear from their scandanavian accents whether they were fresh or not. Hopefully the photographs will assist in identification. Delfur and Rothes improved on their catches over the week and pictured below are Jeff Hatton’s brace. The first from Beaufort weighing 7lbs and the second, a 9lb from Sourden. Clearly Jeff is dreaming of future Malloch trophy contender!
Delfur Head ghillie Mark Melville with Jeff Hatton's first fish last week.
Jeff Hatton's second fish of the week from Sourden at Delfur.
Finally, talking earlier of April Fools, there was a story circulating last Monday through the River Spey Board Biologists Blog that the Spey Foundation had found groundbreaking biological control measures for the dreaded invasive plant Ranunculus. I’ve been led to believe that on the same day, an independent body was tasked with conducting a survey to determine how many of the other blog posts were April fools!
As the weeks progress, the fish will begin to move up-river. Temperatures remain low but I’d expect to hear of a few more fish above Craigellachie over the next week. We have an excellent team of rods at Kinermony next week and there won’t be many fish that don’t see a fly. Delfur also have a very experienced team fishing next week and both beats will at least give an indication of how many fish there are in these particular areas. Line densities will again be selected upon current rate but I expect intermediate lines or floaters with tips should be enough until the rivers rises. Flies around the 1-1.5” size and normal spring colours of black, yellow, orange should work.
Week ending 30th March
The cold weather continued on Speyside last week however the easterly breeze was more a little more subdued towards the end of the week leaving middle of the day conditions reasonably pleasant.
I had a few reports of fish being caught further up-river with the Grantown on Spey Association landing their first fish of the season last Thursday from Tarric Mor. The fish was caught on the flyby local angler John Davis and was weighed at 13lbs and released. Castle Grant also landed a further 2 fish last week and Carron also had a fish on Monday.
At Kinermony, we had a mini Geordie invasion, led at the beginning of the week by Dad’s Army team of Tom Robinson, John Arthur & Steven Forster. A few Kelts were landed and many laughs and tales were shared as normal. We had a changeover of rods midweek and the ‘antique team’ headed down to fish Brae 5 on Thursday. Mike Broadey & Ian and Annie Henderson took over at Kinermony and it wasn’t long before the jungle drums signified a fresh fish of 15lbs for Tom in the Dipple pool on Brae Beat 5. The fish weighed 15lbs and was caught on a sunray shadow. Tom decided to copy the winning combination of local angler Gordon Smith, who had landed a fish of 6lb earlier that morning.
My good friend Stuart Yeats and his father visited Orton last Friday and Brae beat 2 on Saturday. Orton produced a few Kelts as did beat 2. At 16:30 Stuart caught the fish below, which fought exceptionally well. As the hook was being removed, they noticed the fish had gill maggots so assumed it was a Baggot. As you can see from the photo, the fish is perfectly proportioned and solid. It also has more spots than normal on the gill plate.
Stuart Yeats with the fish caught yesterday on Brae beat 2 & below another angle.
We have caught 2 such fish at Kinermony in my time and both had scales taken and were proven to be repeat spawners. The maggots do not always drop off in salt water and the additional spots on the gill case are typical of re-spawners. The reason I know is that we killed a re-spawner in April 2007 and as I carried the fish back to the hut, I was horrified to see the gill maggots. I immediately cut the fish open thinking it was a well mended Kelt or baggot but was quickly reassured by perfect pink flesh and 2 small egg sacs. Further evidence came from the Freshwater Fish Lab along with an interesting report on repeat spawners by the Tweed Commission. I look forward to hearing the results of Stuart’s scale sample and looking at the photo would be shocked to hear anything other than verification that the fish was fresh.
The winner of our Glenfarclas Fish of the Month for March will come as no surprise. Having waited 15 years for his first fish and then catching 3 in a week, including one of 23lbs, our bottle of Glenfarclas 105 Single Malt goes to Tony Palmer from Lincolnshire. Congratulations Tony and I hope that the whisky enables you to recount your fantastic week in even greater detail!
Glenfarclas Fish of the Month winner for March - Tony Palmer.
Spey Quaich Winner in 2012 Bruce Cameron from Aberlour added a second fish to this years total on Saturday in the neck of the Cairnty pool at Orton. The fished weighed around 9lbs and was caught on a Monkey. Further downstream, I heard from Speymouth Angling Association secretary Moira Brown that Stephen Johnston landed a fish weighing 7lbs from the Essil Pool yesterday and another of 6lbs was caught above the same pool by David Smith weighing 6lbs. Both were released in line with the Spey Board Conservation policy.
A delighted Nigel Cutmore (left) with Delfur ghillie Rory Patterson and his fish from Broom.
Finally, I’d like to share a brief outline of their vision for the new-look Dowans Hotel in Aberlour by manageress Steph Murray. Having met them again recently, the Murray family have worked tirelessly since their arrival and have completely transformed the hotel in terms of appearance, ambience and quality.
'The focus of our vision here at the Dowans with regards to the food is to openly and actively source local ingredients in order to fully recognize the wealth of produce that is available to us here not only in Moray but further, in Scotland as a whole. As such, we seek to use ingredients that, as far as possible, represent their availability throughout the seasons and take a focus on sustainability.
‘57’, our Bistro, offers a relaxed and comfortable dining experience where the cuisine is influenced by that of several countries and is updated on a monthly basis, taking consideration of seasonal changes in produce. Come in with some friends, sit back and let us entertain you for the evening!
‘Spè’, our fine dining restaurant, offers an experience that is on a slightly different scale to our bistro although the emphasis remains on utilising locally sourced high-quality produce to the best of our abilities. Taking inspiration from food combinations that are known to be successful; and sometimes working out-with those boundaries in quirky and unique ways, the fine dining aspect of Spè is intended to please the palate but also offer an individual dining experience that is different to anything else in the area. With a wine list that has been specifically chosen to compliment the dishes on the menu, it is our hope that dining in the Spè will be ideal for special occasions and nights where the perfect combination of wine and food is what is desired.' - Steph Murray.
I’d highly recommend a visit to the Dowans to any anglers visiting Speyside. The Spe fine dining experience and the 57 Bistro will be open sometime in May so keep an eye on their website for further information. You will not be disappointed!
A continued frosty outlook will prevent the snow from melting enough to affect the river level. There have been fish caught further up-river over the past week however not yet in any real numbers. The lower part of the river will continue to produce more fish and with day tickets available at Gordon Castle and the association waters below, visiting anglers keen on maximize their chances should target these areas. Floating lines and sinking tips appear to be the favoured method, accompanied by flies of around 1-1.5” overall.
Week ending 23rd March.
No matter how much you flower it up, salmon Fishing on Speyside could not have been described as an enjoyable experience last week. For those anglers lucky enough to connect with fresh fish, perhaps the initial pull, subsequent fight and the joy of releasing their prize might have brought about a little inner warmth, however the gusty, bitterly cold south easterly breeze would soon have penetrated the skin once again. A wood-burning stove, accompanied by large Speyside malt and a story or two was the only remedy. At Kinermony we live in hope of the warmth of a stove but have to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day!
Gordon Castle beats once again dominated catches, recording 14 Salmon. The Dipple Pool on Beat 5 led the field with 6 fish, the last of the week falling to the rod of Ghillie Blair Banks. Hi wife Lisa chose the fly as it was her birthday and although it would have looked better on her evening dress than his line, Blair duly obliged and not only landed a 6lb sea-liced fish but also lost another. Who says romance is dead!
Gordon Castle Ghillie Blair Banks with Craig Campbell's 18lb Fish.
Keen angler Ian Robertson from Buckie, started the week with an 11lb fish from Dipple and Grantown chums Charlie Whelan and Craig Campbell added to the tally on Thursday with fish of 13 &18lbs respectively. Although both Charlie & Craig had fished the beat before, Blair ensured they were quickly updated with the latest information, which meant that rather than wasting time following their instincts, they were correctly prepared from the outset. Never underestimate the knowledge of the beats ghillies who spend every day on the river! The Lord March pool on Beat 3 also produced a good number of fish throughout the week including the season’s smallest to date at only 3lbs.
Slightly further up river, Orton also had a good start with 3 fish on Monday and continued to pick away during the week. The Cairnty pool in particular is producing a good number of fish. Tactics seem to mirror that of the Brae beats with floating lines and a variety of sinking tips. Day tickets are available from the estate office at a discounted price to local anglers on 01343880240. My good friend Ross Wood landed the fish below on a sparsely dressed No8 of his own creation from Cairnty last Monday.
Ross Wood's chunky fish from Orton.
Laggan added another fish to their records last Wednesday when Jason Parrott landed a salmon measuring 26” and estimated at 7lbs from the Bridge pool.
Paul Hainey landed his first ever Spring fish last Thursday. He wrote “ I would just like to report a nice wee springer that I got on Arndilly yesterday. Approximate weight 6lbs and caught in the Sou pool on a 2”Cascade Conehead. This was my first spring fish and I was over the moon to have caught it on the Spey. Hopefully there will be many more to come.” Well done Paul and I can imagine the experience of fishing at and catching your first springer at Arndilly will remain for many years.
Paul Hainey's first Spring Salmon.
Finally, I’d just like to highlight a few simple points on releasing fish and determining ‘bleeding’ fish.
When releasing -
1. Try to maintain a good pressure on the fish and don’t prolong the fight.
2. Keep the fish underwater in the net whilst removing the hook.
3. Support the fish in 2 places when lifting.
4. If alone take a photo of the fish in the net. If lucky enough to have a companion, take a quick photo as you lift the fish from the net and into the water.
5. Allow all the air bubbles to exit through the Gills.
6. Do not let the fish go until it is ready! The first kick does not signify this!
Bleeding Fish -
As far as bleeding fish are concerned, in my 7 years at Kinermony, we have only had to kill 3 fish from almost 1300 caught due to heavy bleeding. All 3 of these fish were hooked deep in the Gill Rakers. In my view, a bleeding tongue or inner mouth is not enough to justify killing the fish and neither is predator damage. If you wish to kill a fish, then do so, but please do not distort the facts as some means of personal justification. Be assured the ghillies can spot those more likely of catching bleeding fish before their rods are set up!
This past week has seen the river drop to well below seasonal level, although having said that, this week last year we were sunbathing again in low water conditions. The water temperature remains around the mid-high 30’s which doesn’t encourage the fish to run the river in any real urgency. Any fish caught and released are encouraging others to stop hence the relatively patchy fishing. If you are fortunate enough to be fishing such pools, your chances of intercepting fish are hugely increased therefore, listen carefully to the advice on tactics and enjoy the experience. Unless we have a sudden thaw which isn’t forecast, stick with intermediate lines or floaters with sinking tips. Fly size 6-8 with tubes around the 1.5” mark. Willie Gunn’s, Black & Yellow, Posh Tosh and if in need of inspiration try the KKF.
Week ending 15th March.
A rather strange phenomenon appeared on Speyside this past week. We had a fair few inches of snow at the beginning of the week, followed by relatively mild weather during the middle/latter part of the week, which led to the snow melting on lower ground. I checked the river levels every morning expecting to see a rise however it wasn’t until the rain on Thursday that the river showed any signs of moving and then only a few inches. It is now raining as I write and the water is sitting around 2’ on the Aberlour gauge which is a reasonable height for most of the river.
Other than my pal Mike Murdoch at Laggan, who had an early fish from the River Dee, I hadn’t heard of any ghillies recording their first of the season until Robbie Stronach at Rothes on Aikenway on Thursday. Well done Robbie! Always good to keep your hand in whilst the guests are having a comfort break!
Wester Elchies had a fish from the Little Turn on Tuesday which looked in the high teens. The beat still remains pretty lightly fished, therefore a great opportunity for anglers to fish a good beat at a realistic price. Rods available of Fishspey.
A happy Nigel Badiozzaman with his fish from Brae Beat 1 yesterday.
Tulchan registered their first of the season on Friday. The fish was caught by my great friend Joffy Grant from the Cragganmore pool on D beat and true to form, mayhen ensued until the fish was finally netted by ghillie Robert Mitchell’s good lady! On a more serious note, Tulchan has a variety of fantastic fly pools over their 4 beats and a very experienced team of ghillies. Most beats have early season availability and I’d encourage you to make the very most of the opportunity.
Mike Rhoden and his good friends Alan & Gavin had a couple of days at Kinermony last week and all caught fish, albeit mostly kelts. Fishing the Rhynd, one of the most challenging pools on the river in terms of wading, Mike landed a fine fish of 13lbs on Friday on a No7 Tiger-Backed fly tied by Ron Sutherland. Due to it’s dynamics, there are few pools on the river that encourage a Salmon to fight quite so hard and it was very clear by Mike’s expression that he enjoyed every one of the 15 minutes it took to subdue the fish.
Mike Rhoden with his strong fighting fish from the Rhynd at Kinermony.
Further downstream at Gordon Castle, Lincolnshire angler Tony Palmer had quite a week. Tony had been in search of that first elusive Salmon for the past 15 years and was finally rewarded last Wednesday with a 12lb fish from the Cruive Dyke pool on Brae beat 4. They say that good things come to those who wait and Tony deserves complete respect for hanging on in there. This fish however was only the start of great things to come. The following day, Tony was allocated Beat 5 in the very capable hands of ghillie Blair Banks. This time, his fish was again a 12 pounder but with sea-lice, caught in the Intake pool. To cap a fantastic week, not only did Tony catch a 3rd fish, but a fish of a lifetime weighing 23lbs from the Dipple pool on Saturday. Again the fish had sea-lice and was caught on his trusty set-up of a floating line, 10’ fast sink tip and a No6 Cascade.
Above, a delighted Tony Palmer with his first Salmon after 15 years of trying.
Tony's second fish. A 12lb from the Intake pool on Brae beat 5.
Other than Tony’s success, Brae beat 5 also had fish for Jimmy Jack from Fraserburgh and Edwin Whyte, both again from the Dipple Pool. Local angler Stephen Johnstone also had a brace from Beat 3. The first a 15lb from Lord March pool and the second weighing 10lbs from Aultdearg. Beat 1 also had what they thought to be a cracker of a Sea-Trout weighing 8lbs. Scales have been sent for further identification to the marine lab. It was caught by Nigel Badiozzman from the Junction pool on a Monkey style fly. With all 5 Brae beats registering fish last week and a total of 10 fish caught, rods are still available next week at a great price through their website.
Brae beat 5 ghillie Blair banks with Tony Palmer's last of the week and P.B.
Considering the encouraging catches on the lower part of the river last week, anglers should have increased confidence in intercepting fish this coming week. The Salmon is by no means a solitary fish and as the season progresses and the temperature rises, the number of fish entering the river will increase. With a wide range of availability on offer, visitors should make the very most of these opportunities to fish beats, the majority of which and due to their appeal, simply cannot be accessed from mid April onwards. Tactics will be determined by water height but should include those mentioned in my report. Running fish are in general pretty close to the surface therefore intermediate lines or shooting heads with type 3 tips and flies around 1.5’ should suffice.
Week ending 09 March.
February was very much a tale of 2 halves with regard to catches. Below Craigellachie, the prime beats of Arndilly, Rothes & Aikenway, Delfur and Orton picked away steadily however above Craigellachie, I believe that by the end of the month, there were only 3 fish caught.
2 anglers in particular were very consistent during February. It will come as no surprise that the fish came from the lower part of the river. Both John Grant from Inverness and Don Milne from Aberdeen, caught 3 fish from Delfur in February which in terms of the Spey in recent years is excellent angling. All 6 fish were very typical in size of our early springer’s, weighing 6-8lbs. Don then went on to catch his 4th fish of the season at Rothes & Aikenway on 4th March. Due to this consistency Don Milne wins our Glenfarclas Fish of the Month award for February, a bottle of Glenfarclas 105 Cask strength single malt whisky. Incidentally Don was also the captor of arguably the largest Salmon caught in the UK over the past 60 years. Having seen the photos and heard both Don’s account supported by the witnesses involved, I have absolutely no doubt that the fish was in excess of 50lbs. Anyone knowing Don as I do, would agree that if anything he underplayed the whole affair. Therefore on both accounts Don – hearty congratulations!
Delfur's new ghillie Rory Patterson with one of Don Milnes Feb Fish.
Local angler Brian Herbert had a couple of days on the middle river last week. Brian makes the very most of the variety of availability on the river in the early spring. Having already fished at Gordon Castle and Orton and with a day out at Tulchan on Saturday, he fished both Wester Elchies and Kinermony mid-week. Surprisingly, he was the only rod fishing Wester Elchies last Tuesday and took the freedom of the whole beat to his advantage. In addition to a good number of Kelts, he landed a fresh fish from the Rhynd late afternoon.
Brian Herbert's first fish of 2013.
Whilst in Cuba, Geoff Harris manned the ship for a few days and he plea with the ‘Rhynd to be Kind’ paid off last Saturday when he landed 2 fresh fish in a magical half hour period. The first approximately 11lbs was caught on his third full cast and the next fish came from exactly the same lie and weighed approx. 12lbs. Both fish were caught on a floating line with type 3 tip and a Kinermony Killer 1’ copper tube. It’s quite amazing how often fish are caught in pairs and with little difference in size. My belief is that it’s far more than coincidence and perhaps these fish have travelled to sea and back together. For you more experienced anglers, just consider for a moment how many times especially pairs of large fish have been caught within a few hours of one another. Importantly, for any scientifically oriented readers, it’s only a theory & I couldn’t care less whether it right or wrong, so there is absolutely no need for yet another costly scientific report!
Spey regular Alex Robertson with yet another lovely proportioned Spey fish.
The Gordon Castle beats have been relatively lightly fished since opening day. This was quite surprising news to me as considering the water level and temperature, fishing the Brae beats would have been a very attractive prospect. I would suggest especially to local anglers that a visit to beats 2,3 & 5 especially would be well worthy of consideration.
The jungle drums of Speyside have been beating in recent weeks with regard to my own future on the river. There is obviously not enough gossip on Speyside before I make headline news! Just to set the record straight, my daughter is currently in Edinburgh and my son is doing very well at school and will almost certainly head to University in the near future. My responsibility clearly lies with giving them the best possible start in life but unfortunately the financial constraint of a seasonal job made it increasingly difficult to support them as well as I would have liked. I was recently offered an offshore job in the oil industry, which solved one problem but created another one! Ultimately, my family comes first so my decision was based solely upon that.
One thing of which I’m certain, whoever is fortunate enough to become the new Kinermony ghillie will have a very easy task ahead. The current tenants are much more than just tenants. I would count every party as my dear friends and as such, I’m sure they will all appreciate my dilemma and subsequent decision. Due to the nature of my new job and with the continued support of my friends on the river, I hope to continue with my weekly reports and also hope to help out the ghillies on an ad-hoc basis.
My good friend Peter Kyte recently took part in a birthday bonanza and caught the fish above on a size 6 Kinermony Killer. Big Dave Johnson also caught a fish of 12 lbs and party host on the Dess beat, Ian Pawley landed a 6 pounder.
I have added a link to my recent Cuba trip on the photo below. Simply click here or the photo to take you on our journey of last week. The trip was even better than anticipated and I would highly recommend that anyone capable of handling a single-handed fly rod give it a go. You will not be disappointed!
Cuba Feb-Mar 2013.
With a scattering of snow as I write and a mixed forecast ahead, fishing could be tricky over the next week or so. This bitterly cold easterly wind just doesn’t suit the Spey in March so our hope is that the breeze swings around to its more prevailing route. Full Intermediate lines or floaters with tips will work as will hover/intermediate shooting heads with tips. The good old Willie Gunn or Black & Yellow tubes are the favoured flies in early spring but it’s more important to find a fish than worrying about the fly.
Week ending 16th Feb.
Apart from a snow flurry on Wednesday, fishing conditions throughout Speyside have been superb during this opening week. We had a 2’ rise towards the end of the week due to the mild weather with the river then fining off slowly. With a good number of Kelts around, we are all hopeful that there has been a decent spawning season.
The ghillies were treated to a lovely dinner by Alan and Jayne Hunter of the Archiestown Hotel last night. Unlike the past 2 years when weather conditions have hampered numbers, there was a very good turnout, especially from the middle river beats. The food was delicious accompanied by an endless supply of fine wines. On behalf of us all, I’d like to thank Alan and Jayne once again for their kind invitation and to their staff for looking after us so well.
On Wednesday, Delfur added another fish to their opening day account, this time a 13lb fish caught by Alan Rennie in the Broom Pool, one of my favourites. Mike Grigor from Auldearn also had a 10lb on Friday and both were netted by ghillie Davie Mackintosh. Unfortunately Davie’s antique camera had run out of steam so no photos available. Gordon Castle was also off the mark on Wednesday with 2 fish from Brae beat 2. The first weighing 12lbs from the Rock Pool and the other weighing 11lbs from the Lower Ewe.
At Craigellachie, John Prince landed a fine fat fish of around 8lbs from the boatpool. Next day however, the elation was sharply curtailed when he buried a treble hook in his thumb, resulting in a quick trip to casualty. Excellent angler and good friend Graham Ritchie got his season underway in style landing his first of the season during his first outing of 2013 at Rothes and Aikenway.
I visited the Dowans hotel earlier in the week to meet the new owners, the Murray family. Michael, Marie, Steph, Lauren and Sean were all heavily involved with the renovations and together have a fantastic vision of what they hope to achieve. It’s exciting times for them, which certainly rubbed off on me and I’m sure that the whole area will benefit from their arrival and the Dowans makeover.
I’m off to Cuba on Thursday for 10 days Saltwater fishing with 9 friends in Jardina de Reina. There will unfortunately be no reports for the next 2 weeks however, I’m sure the river will continue to pick away. You will have noticed that I have not added any images with this report. I have just moved from Windows to Mac and haven’t quite worked out how to add photos to Dreamweaver. I’m sure the kids will help with my next!
Opening day 2013.
Anglers were greeted with what can only be described as near perfect conditions at the opening of the Spey last Monday. New Sponsors Glenfiddich’s Global Brand Ambassador, Ian Millar said a few words on behalf of the anglers and declare the river open, followed by a lament on the pipes from keen anglers Alan Sinclair. To complete the formalities, Rev Shuna Dicks, Minister for Craigellachie & Aberlour, blessed the river and last year’s Spey Quaich winner Bruce Cameron poured a bottle of 12 year old Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch Whisky from the suspension bridge at Aberlour into the river as a toast to bring luck to all those taking part.
2012 Spey Quaich Winner Bruce Cameron toasts the River Spey.
Before heading out in search of the spring salmon, anglers were offered a small dram of Glenfiddich Single Malt Whisky along with some delicious Walkers shortbread. The mild weather resulted in most beats being fully rodded and the conditions ensured that the majority of anglers connected with fish although admittedly, mostly were Kelts. In recent years around 4-6 fresh fish had been caught on average and this years opening day was no different.
At the presentation, held in the hospitality suit at the Glenfiddich distillery, 4 fresh fish were confirmed. 2 were landed at Rothes & Aikenway, the largest of which weighed 11lbs and earned Bill Lasseter from Craigellachie a bottle of Glenfiddich18 year old Single Malt Scotch Whisky a luxury Walkers of Aberlour hamper.
Head Ghillie Mike Ewan was also presented with a bottle of Glenfiddich 15 year old and a Walkers hamper. The other Rothes fish was caught by Bill’s son Ross which incidentally was his first ever fresh Salmon! A fantastic achievement especially at this time of year and a very worthy entry for our Glenfarclas Fish of the month Competition.
Delfur also registered a 7lb fish caught mid way through the afternoon by Alex Robertson in the Holly Bush. There was little surprise that Delfur registered a fish and again few surprises that Alex landed it as his spring record speaks for itself.
The first fresh fish of the season however was caught at Kinermony by 80-year-old Davie Leith, who incidentally won the Quaich in 2006. The fish weighed 8lbs and was caught on a Kinermony Killer. Along with the Anniversary Quaich, Davie was also presented with 2 bottles of Glenfiddich; 21 and 18 Years Old respectively and a Luxury Walkers of Aberlour hamper. Along with Davie, I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and was delighted to receive a bottle of Glenfiddich15 year old Single Malt Scotch Whisky together with a Walkers hamper.
Spey Quaich winner Davie Leith with the first fresh fish from the river in 2013.
Another angle of the first Spey fish of 2013 prior to release.
Currently we are experiencing pretty mild weather on the whole, therefore I’d encourage all fair weather fishermen to visit the river. There is a variety of availability from Spey Bay to Grantown which can be seen on the fishspey website at www.fishpal.com and also at very realistic prices. You will always be made welcome the team of very knowledgeable and welcoming ghillies. If you’d like further information or have any stories to share, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
2013 River Spey Salmon Opening Ceremony.
At 9 A.M. on Monday the 11th February, the opening ceremony for the River Spey Salmon fishing season will be performed at the Suspension Bridge, Alice Littler Park, Aberlour.
The traditional opening ceremony will include last year’s winner Bruce Cameron pouring an entire bottle of 12 year old Glenfiddich 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. (Some of Bruce’s friends have asked me to remind him to keep his speech short as they want to get fishing whilst it is still light) Glenfiddich’s Global Brand Ambassador, Ian Millar has also very kindly agreed to say a few words on behalf of the anglers and declare the river open. Alan Sinclair will also play a few tunes on the bagpipes to entertain the gathering of keen anglers. To complete the ceremony Rev Shuna Dicks, Minister for Craigellachie & Aberlour, will bless the river.
Anglers are invited to attend the opening ceremony, before setting off to catch their first Spring Salmon of the new season. To help celebrate the start of the season, Glenfiddich, will be offering a dram of Glenfiddich Single Malt Whisky to anglers and spectators, Walkers Shortbread will be providing samples of their renowned biscuits during the opening ceremony.
The Anniversary Quaich sponsored by Glenfiddich, will be awarded to the angler who catches & releases the first salmon on the opening day. The winner of the Anniversary Quaich will also be presented with a bottle of Glenfiddich 18 Years Old Highland Single Malt and a Walkers of Aberlour hamper. The ghillie in attendance will receive a bottle of Glenfiddich 15 year old Single Malt, together with a Walkers hamper. There will also be a generous prize of a bottle of Glenfiddich18 year old Single Malt Scotch Whisky for the heaviest Salmon caught on the opening day out with the Anniversary Quaich winner. The Ghillie in attendance will also receive a bottle of Glenfiddich15 year old Single Malt Scotch Whisky together with a Walkers hamper.
Links to Sponsors.
Walkers Shortbread Ltd Based in the Speyside village of Aberlour, Walkers are known around the world for their Pure Butter Shortbread. www.walkersshortbread.com
Glenfiddich Distillery Based at Dufftown and famous for its whisky www.glenfiddich.co.uk
Fish must be caught, & released by use of fly rod and line only, must be fresh run, 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 Anniversary Quaich winner.
If the Anniversary 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 Spey Fishery Board Office by 5pm. Tel: 01340 810 841.
First Cast of 2013 - River Dee - Invery.
I headed out through driving snow at 6am on Saturday morning for my first cast of 2013 on the River Dee at Invery. Opening day had seen around 22 fish landed from Aboyne to Lower Crathes so they were well spread throughout the river. The team, led by Iain Wood had landed 3 fish on opening day so expectations were high.
The first opening day fish at Invery was a 13 pounder caught by Gareth Headland, who incidentally I had fished against in 2 International matches in 2008 & 2009. After some debate, Gareth was awarded the River Dee prize of a box of Salmon flies, expertly tied by Ballogie ghillie Sean Stanton. The debate was due to the fact that last year’s winner Charles Jeffrey & companion Ian Ross had also caught fish at the same weight but had agreed that since Gareth’s was first on the bank, that he should take the honours. Additionally it was Gareth’s first opening day fish which also swayed the balance and rightly so. It was however a remarkable achievement for Charles to land the largest fish on 2 successive years so sincere congratulations to him.
Gareth Headlands first opening day Salmon weighing 13lbs.
I was drawn to fish with Iain and we headed across the River to fish the Tail of the Glide from the Banchory bank, whilst Iain headed up to Station Stream. The conditions were almost perfect but even the Kelts weren’t overly keen on playing. Charles was the first rod in action, landing a grilse Kelt opposite me on the Greenbank. We fished pretty hard all morning in some lovely fly water but no signs of fish breaking the surface. The other rods turned up at lunchtime with a similar story but with a rising temperature we all remained hopeful of an afternoon of sport. River development officer Ken Reid arrived at lunchtime and presented Gareth with his prize from the day before and gave us a debrief of the opening day activities.
After lunch, Iain Katrina and I fished the top half but from the Invery bank. I headed down to the S pool whilst Iain began in the Greenbank. I caught a Baggot within a few casts followed by 2 Kelts. I then headed up past Iain to fish the Kiln Hatch and eventually fished all the way back to the hut. Both Iain had landed fresh fish whilst I was out of eye and earshot, both again around the same size as opening day. I then fished the Jetties, where Diver Dave Gordon had his amazing hour of sport on opening day of 2012. Alas only a very ragged and tired Kelt from there before my last cast back in the S pool. One more Kelt tightened my line before I packed up for the day. The ghillie Jim Turnbull was busy pottering about most of the day and his assistant Karl was recovering from a recent hernia operation but did pop in at lunchtime. Both very nice guys.
All in all, a wonderful day out on some cracking fly water. One thing I did notice was that you need a ‘fair cast’ to cover the water properly although there was some deeper water nearer the bank. Heading over to Ballogie for the first time on Wednesday to fish with my good pal Duncan Egan. Recent reports indicate that the water is dropping back slowly following some snow melt over the weekend so lets hope we can catch up with an early Dee springer.
Pre Season Report 2013.
We have been very fortunate on Speyside in terms of the winter weather so far. This perhaps doesn’t bode too well in terms of actual spawning conditions as historically our harsher winters coincided with bumper runs however, we’ll just have to wait and see with an optimistic view.
Opening day is less than 2 weeks away and if fishing conditions are reasonable, I’d expect every beat to have a fly in the water. There will be the normal opening ceremony by the suspension bridge at Aberlour where anglers will hopefully be greeted by a genuine Spey dram. After many years of sponsoring the opening day, Glenfarclas have decided to pass on the reigns to another Speyside distillery. Walkers of Aberlour will also be on hand to ensure a welcome supply of their wonderful shortbread.
There was a good spread of fish caught on opening day last year, all the way from Laggan to Gordon castle. Bruce Cameron caught the first fish of the season on the Aberlour AA. The heaviest registered weighed 15lb and was caught by Damon Harrison on Brae beat 4, however Ian Laing caught a larger fish weighing 18lbs further down at the bridge pool on the Gordon castle Water just after the 16:00 deadline. The last of the day was caught by ghillie Mike Murdoch on his own beat at Laggan around 17:00; his first opening day fish. I hope this year to see a similar spread of fish and would urge the organisers to extend the deadline for entries to 17:00.
Tactics – Intermediate/Sinking lines or shooting heads with tips. The choice will depend upon the water height on the day but intend to fish your fly approx. 18’-2’ under the surface if possible. The Spey salmon even in the early part of the season will rise to a fly, therefore if you are continually snagging on the bottom, you are fishing too deep! The most popular choices of flies in early season are Gold Bodied Willie Gunn and the Black & Yellow combinations like the Posh Tosh or Monkey. The fly below is another tweak on the Kinermony Killer, this time by Ron Sutherland of the Helmsdale Tackle Company. Ron has a Tigerback range of flies readily available and I think the KKT might well surprise a few fish in 2013.
Kelts (spawned salmon) will give a good account of themselves however, especially earlier on, they do tend to shoal therefore, if you are in a pool with a good number of Kelts, do try to move on, giving them every opportunity of returning to the sea. A fresh Spey Salmon is a wonderful sight and very distinguishable. If you need to look twice, there is a very good chance that the fish has either failed to spawn (Baggot-Female, Rawner-Male) or indeed a well-mended Kelt.
The Spey Board is urging all anglers to return all Spring Salmon until the end of May. Do take a photo to share with friends but please show restraint as these early spring fish are clearly in decline and are a very valuable commodity in terms of spawning.
I look forward to hearing and indeed writing about the Spey opening in more detail after the event. Please send any tales and photos from your outings to email@example.com in the knowledge that they will be shared with all those who love the Spey as you do.
Trout & Salmon Reports
The mild weather continues here on Speyside and we appear to be completely missing the deluge in the southern part of the country; well for now at least! From a salmon fishers point of view, it’s a real pity to see fishing conditions so unstable for those anglers, who wait patiently all season for the later running rivers to come into their own. Proof I’m sure that the autumn weather by its nature, like that of the early spring, often adds to the already unpredictable nature of our Salmon Fishing.
The December Trout & Salmon arrived as usual, on time last week. What I have noticed now as a contributor through the monthly fishing reports, is how fortunate the reporters are who have fishpal on their rivers are. The website allows an instant transparent view of catches throughout the river with finer detail and photographs in the weekly reports. The fishspey website has always been somewhat of a white elephant mainly due to the fact that the River Spey has little to offer fishpal in terms of availability. Fishpal clearly have a huge network of anglers and are able to offer availability on prime beats, which in the past was never possible. The obvious down side is that due to a higher demand, the prices have also increased to often-unacceptable levels, leading occasionally to prime beats being under fished. I think we have a good balance on the Spey where there is a great deal of loyalty and mutual respect between owners and tenants. I read recently that due to a decline in catches, Spey anglers were leaving in their droves. I can assure you that this most certainly is not the case! In fact, I have daily enquiries through my own website from anglers on a worldwide basis wishing to fish the Spey and could confidently, let our own beat twice over. Yes, the Spey has had a couple of mediocre seasons catch wise, however the majesty, charm and history of this wonderful river remains supreme. For now, I guess I will just have to keep badgering for information from my colleagues on the river and would like to take this opportunity of thanking them all for their support over this past season. I’d also like to encourage other beats and ghillies to send me details of their own notable catches through my website at www.speyghillie.co.uk or directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
The hatchery debate continues to smolder away given this years relatively poor catches, with the local press now taking a far greater interest. According to a Spey Foundation spokesman recently, we shouldn’t be too concerned by the poor catches, as the river appears to be in good health with a vibrant juvenile population. Considering that fishing conditions couldn’t have been much better throughout the past summer, I doubt whether that particular part of his statement will be of much encouragement to us ghillies or our visiting anglers! He continued that far too much focus was being placed upon a hatchery operation that had contributed very little to the rod catches over the years, however crucially omitting that the hatcheries failure was based upon a ‘PR’ rather than positive enhancement stocking policy.
Given purely the findings of the study, it makes complete sense both from a scientific and practical point of view to mothball the hatchery however, as I have said many times, the genetic survey results were based upon a historically flawed stocking policy, in terms of location, density and timing.
Purely from a business point of view, it’s quite incredible that such vast sums have been spent on the hatchery, over such a lengthy period with little or no monitoring as to its worth. In fact for many years, when the question was asked about the impact of the hatchery, the ball park response was ‘we cant prove it’s working but we can’t prove its not’. I’d like to hear Lord Sugar response to that one!
It’s very clear that the genetic survey results both suit and support the Spey Foundations recommendation to close the hatchery; after all, you just can’t beat scientific evidence, not matter how biased it may be! In my opinion, the responsibility for the prolonged failure of the hatchery lies solely at the door of the Spey Foundation and my fear is that any potential future success of the hatchery will be hindered in a measure to prevent further embarrassment. I hope I am wrong! From a riparian owners point of view, the time must be coming when questions are asked as to exactly what they get in tangible form, for their considerable annual rates.
On a far more positive note, World Famous Spey Caster Ian Gordon’s long awaited DVD, titled Blue Charm will be launched later this week. Having seen the trailer, I can’t wait to see the full-length version where Ian visits the Spey, Dee and Findhorn in his own charming and inimitable way. Ian has a very interesting and informative website – www.speyonline.com - where you can buy the DVD, arrange fishing or instruction and keep up to date with his many activities through his blog. His most recent entry describes a walk along Knockando’s upper beat, Lower Pitchroy where he ghillied for 20 years and like all his work, is well worth reading.
A Brace of Kinermony Killer Flamethrowers for 2013.
Now that the rods have been dismantled on Speyside, it gives us an opportunity to sit back and reflect upon the past season. The quality of the multi-sea winter fish was very apparent, especially from late April onwards. I doubt very much if there were any beats below Grantown that didn’t record fish of over 20lbs, with a good number of beats catching fish around the magical 30lb mark. These quality fish however didn’t mask the lack in number of spring salmon, grilse & sea-trout. Although the official figures haven’t been published yet, my guess would be around the 7500 mark for Salmon & Grilse and 1800 sea-trout.
There have been wide ranging discussions this season in particular on why the Spey has been underperforming recently. The trouble is that there is no definitive answer other than the clear fact that less fish are returning, meaning less fish are migrating. If recent ‘evidence’ is to be believed, marine mortality is actually on the decrease therefore, that’s one regular excuse no longer valid. Perhaps like many experienced anglers believe, there are simply good years and bad years. If that is indeed the case, then why do we bother with the expense of costly biological studies? Habitat restoration work has always been an on-going procedure however it was clear following the appointment of our new Biologist that this was going to become a far higher priority. This work is invaluable and although it will be a good number of years until any benefit is seen, this move has to be a huge step in the right direction and long overdue. Following on from their limited brood stock capture, the bailiffs and a few voluntary ghillies are currently walking a number of spawning burns carrying our redd counts as well as identifying possible habitat improvements. Our Spey Salmon stocks over the next couple of years are currently feeding at sea therefore there is nothing we can do about their welfare in the meantime apart from keeping our fingers firmly crossed.
The normal advice for any new tenants is that ideally, they should make a decision on the ‘value’ of their fishing over at least a 5 year cycle. Normally in that time, you will have one very good year, one very bad year and 3 somewhere in between, which I suppose supports the good year – bad year theory above. For those anglers more interested in chasing numbers, I’m afraid the truth is that they will eventually run out of beats and rivers to fish in. It may be an old cliché however one that’s supported by many passionate anglers. ‘There is more to fishing than catching fish’. As a ghillie, my aim to see the same expression on Saturday night as I do first thing on Monday morning and I am very seldom disappointed. The Spey is indeed a magical river and our loyal tenants wait in eager anticipation for 51 weeks of the year for their opportunity to once again cast their flies across her tantalising streams and glides.
Although 2012 won’t be a season mentioned in any record books, I do feel optimistic that the board do now have a structure based vision in place. Additionally, I expect far more transparency in all areas which will be welcomed by all. This can already be seen in part from the informative biologist’s blog on the RSB website. We are certainly due a good year on the Spey next season so let’s hope that the progeny form the relatively good spawning of 2008-2009 make an appearance in numbers.
Fun the Turn!
We are now into our final week of the season and as I write, the river is in roaring spate. I have never known a summer with so much rainfall however I’m currently well below the average age of a River Spey angler therefore, I’m sure there have been similar seasons in the past. What I do know is that due to this years growth, I’ve used more fuel to keep my strimmer head rotating than in previous years and that’s neither a good sign for me or my employer!
Having never fished the Phones beat at Knockando before, delightful Swiss angler Eliane Schleiffer decided to treat herself. The hut location has to be one of the most scenic spots on Speyside and with a ghillie of Sandy Smith’s experience and demeanour; the guests are always very well catered for. Eliane caught a fish measure at 38” and estimated at 22lbs from the Pouches pool, which is her second largest Spey Salmon. Her largest being 35lbs! Yet another example of female anglers and large salmon – if only we could bottle the recipe! Eliane is the worthy winner for September in our Glenfarclas Fish of the Month competition.
Having just mentioned the Knockando stretch, whilst idyllic, the downside on this part of the river is the considerable canoe and raft pressure. Their impact over time has clearly made a significant difference to the rod catches and number of resident fish, both juvenile and adult in this area. Having been a ghillie at Knockando for over 40 years, Sandy Smith has witnessed the increase in canoes traffic and subsequent decline in fish densities at first hand over a considerable period. As he approaches retirement, Sandy has expressed real concern for the livelihood of those starting out their lives as ghillies. In his opinion, this season has been the longest of his career!
The River Spey Board held its open meeting last night which was intended to discuss the general management of the river. The meeting was well attended with a diverse audience sharing a common passion for the future of the river. River Board Chairman Alan Williams opened the meeting with a very candid introduction which set an excellent tone throughout. Board Director Roger Knight presented the recent finding on the genetic study which brought about many differing comments as to its value. In my opinion, all it proved with any conviction was that fish born in the Spey return to the Spey and that the previous stocking policy was ineffective. Having said that, the fact that we now know through ‘scientific evidence’ that Spey fish return to their place of birth, which is a useful tool in regard to the on-going fight against mixed stock netting.
Brian Shaw (River Biologist) then presented his findings on the juvenile populations, habitat improvements and hatchery benefits or lack of, which was the main part of the meeting. Fry densities were on average 3 times greater than last year and additionally, he suggested that there was evidence to support the fact that marine mortality was decreasing. He then presented a reasonable case to support his lack of faith in the hatchery however, comments from the floor indicated that all things considered, the hatchery should be retained. This was agreed but with a great deal more thought put into stocking areas and densities. The hatchery manager was complimented on his work and it was highlighted that the failure of the previous stocking policy had absolutely no reflection on the standard of his fish. In my opinion, Brian conducted a very professional and fully transparent presentation which led to increased confidence in future biological studies. I was particularly impressed that throughout the meeting, rather than focusing on past failures in river management, the audience were far more concerned about the future and rightly so.
Ultimately, very little has changed with regard to the current state of the river and although some of the lower river beats will reach their average catches, the majority of beats will be well down on catches. I stand by my view that we don’t currently have enough Salmon in the river to populate all our tributaries and until we have, unfortunately, we anglers will have to continue to balance our current needs against future gain. To that effect, the Spey Board have issued a statement to support the conservation policy for next season, basically advising anglers the importance to the river of these early spring fish and to show restraint wherever possible.
I hope to concentrate more on catches and anecdotal tales next season rather than river politics, as quite frankly it’s all rather tiresome. The Spey remains the jewel in the crown amongst Scottish Salmon river’s in terms of history. My hope over the winter months is that Mother Nature accompanied by the resilience of the majestic Salmo Salar combine to ensure our loyal guests have a season worth remembering for the right reasons in 2013.
Knockando Ghillie Sandy Smith in fine form.
As we enter the final week of August, the water is fining down again after yet another rapid rise. There has been a more noticeable amount of silt than normal in these quick summer spates this year and it’s not surprising that the fish go off the take for a couple of days afterward. As far as the middle and upper river is concerned, there are now a number of familiar resident fish in our pools who have seen quite a collection of flies during their migration. These fish can still be tempted however a little more stealth and ingenuity is required rather than the old munro! Fresh fish continue to enter the river and anglers on the lower beats from Gordon Castle to Craigellachie will be in with a good chance of sea-liced specimens. It’s fair to say though that these later running fish, although bright silver in colour are well on the way to sexual maturity and will most likely spawn in the lower part of the river.
Carrying on from my last report, the Spey Mainstem Electro Fishing surveys have now been completed with some encouraging results. This year, Spey Biologist Brain Shaw and his team focussed almost exclusively on run/riffle habitat which is considered the preferred habitat for fry, therefore, in comparison, we cannot get too carried away with the results. However as I stated last month, we now have an accurate starting point to compare in future years. A far more important factor than the density of fry that we need to carefully consider is, how many of these fry make it to parr, then to sea as smolts & back as returning adults. More information on the survey and other pertinent information can be found on Brain’s very informative blog on the Spey Fishery Board website.
Due to modern tackle and far greater angling pressure that ever before, the exploitation rate of our Salmon has to be far higher than historical estimations. With no accurate approximation of salmon numbers in our river, other than the old adage that 10% were caught by the rods, river management, like lottery number selection is a tricky business! Whilst many River boards comprise of a wealth of managerial experience in external type-specific fields, collectively very few of their management principals are easily transferrable to River management. There is so much that we collectively don’t know about the Salmon that River Boards simply do what they consider best. Unfortunately due to a lack of knowledge and understanding, ‘best’ appears to be becoming more and more reliant upon the scientific viewpoint. Science of course has had a huge historical impact with regard to the human race however, in real terms it has proved very little in the complex life of the Salmon.
When it comes to strange incidents its only when you have a reliable witness that you can ever relay such tales without raised eyebrows. We had such an incident at Kinermony 2 weeks ago. A Salmon was hooked which immediately set off sea-bound at a vast rate of knots. It was clear from the outset that the fish wasn’t hooked in the mouth. When we eventually landed the fish 200 yards downstream, the leader had completely lassoed the fish by the tail, held by the fly which hadn’t penetrated the skin in any way. We were absolutely amazed, as were the other members of the party who, when hearing the story, needless to say, expressed raised eyebrows!
Our season of large multi sea winter salmon continues with 2 notable fish in particular caught in august, both coincidentally on the same day! The largest of the day was caught by Mark Charnock at Orton. The fish was caught on a cascade bottle tube and took Mark through the tail of the Cooperee pool and was landed half way down the majestic Cairnty. He made full use of his backing and was especially delighted as although and experienced angler, it was his first Spey Salmon. The question is ‘where does he go from here’? Well, Mark can carefully consider the answer whilst sipping his Glenfarclas Fish of the Month prize of a bottle of their finest 105 Cast Strength Single Malt over the winter months! The next leviathan was caught by AAPGAI Master Speycasting instructor Illtyd Griffiths. Illtyd was fishing Pol Ma Chree pool on the Delagyle beat using a Skagit line and T10 tip following an overnight rise in water. Due to the size of the pool, he was able to control the fish for most of the fight although there were a couple of moments when the fish had the upper hand. It was during one such moment that ghillie Willie Mearns suggested, ‘Well it’s nae a Grilse’! The fish Illtyd’s largest Spey salmon to date and was measured, weighed at 28.5lbs, photographed and released.
Further up-river under the expert guidance of Robert Mitchell, his guests enjoyed a particularly good week with Mr Gilbert Fenwick landing 8 in his 3 days, the largest of which was 22.5lbs. The Wood Pool was the most prolific pool, fished with a flamethrower on an intermediate tip.
Ian Gordon recently hosted a mixed group of anglers at Gordon Castle and every one of them caught fish. Due to Ian’s vast experience on Salmon fishing, expectations were set at a realistic level which is something that many river Spey visitors need to consider a little more carefully. Father and son team Craig & Brett Richings were first off the mark with Craig catching his first ever fish on the fly from the Birks pool. Brett was a little more experienced yet learned to begin with a short line at the neck of the pool, carefully extending it yard by yard. This resulted in a 10lb fish being hooked and subsequently landed on only 20 feet of line! The German duo of Kurt & Hanno Elsner caught their first Scottish Salmon from the Island Stream on Lower Water 1, both fish weighing 10lbs. For those keen to explore the ‘finer points’ of Salmon Fishing under expert guidance, have a look on Ian’s website at – www.speyonline.com