Week Commencing 18th September 2023

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Good afternoon Everyone

As I write this penultimate report, heading into the final full week of the season, its been a bit of a week gone by and I am sure we will be glad to get to the end of the season, rods and ghillies alike.

I do not recall having seen a year like this in quite some time and I can only hope, along with others that this might be a cyclical blip.

The following is a summary of the current position with regards to the issues faced on the river a couple of weeks ago and I will update further is my last report next weekend. It has been a rather worrying time for everyone and i can only but hope that we can get to the bottom of the incident.

The Spey Fishery Board first learnt of some dead fish being found on the evening of Saturday the 9th September. More dead fish were reported on Monday the 11th September and the Board alerted the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), as the regulator of water quality, as well as the Fish Health Inspectorate.

The Fish Health Inspectors arrived on Wednesday morning, 13th September, and took pathology samples from 19 dead fish that had been kept in the water in nets by ghillies – the procedure requested by the Inspectors. The Board is very grateful to the ghillies who helped with this. Initial results have shown no signs of the dead fish having succumbed to any notifiable disease, but we still await news of further analysis for any toxicology.

Although water quality and pollution are SEPA responsibilities, the Spey Fishery Board’s staff have nonetheless been exceptionally busy conducting a thorough investigation following the recent fish deaths on the river. Their staff walked both banks of some 13 miles of the River Spey where dead fish have been reported. They looked for signs of potential contamination, discolouration of the water or riverbanks and any other causes of concern. Water samples were collected too, for analysis by a water chemists. Despite their efforts, nothing so far has been found to indicate any source of potential pollution. In reality, any contamination is likely to be washed-out of the system in what is Scotland’s fastest-flowing river.

The Spey Fishery Board has also been in touch with Members of the Scottish Parliament representing constituencies through which the River Spey flows. We wanted to inform them of the emerging situation, and they have been very helpful liaising with SEPA to ensure a comprehensive and robust response to this incident.

The Board’s Director, Roger Knight, also provided multiple media interviews, being interviewed by STV and BBC television, and speaking to reporters from The Times Scotland, The Press & Journal, The Northern Scot, Northern Sound and the Scottish Daily Mail. This coverage helped to raise awareness of this event and put pressure on the appropriate regulatory bodies to investigate the situation and the Board remains unwavering in its commitment to investigating this issue.

The weather has definitely turned autumnal in the week gone by with colder days and nights, along with some windy spells. The rain of course has pushed the river level up significantly in the week gone by and it was hoped that this might of given the fish a bit of a wake up but alas not.

The result up and down the river have been disappointing to say the least with very few fish captures reported, but her are a few of the highlights.

Abernethy ended the penultimate week with 3 salmon and 12 seatrout, Grantown ended the week with 7salmon and 6 seatrout. Once again thanks to Simon Crozier for keeping me updated with theses returns.

At Castle Grant, Simon Crozier reports with the long awaited “big rise“ arrived, the week started with a few old stagers landed on Monday, the water rose to over a foot on Monday evening. Tuesday saw sport with mainly seatrout coming on the take with quite a few taken across the beats to 6lbs, however Wednesday saw unfishable conditions. On Thursday and Friday salmon were landed across the beats, with some good fish to 20lbs landed including some big hens who were safely returned to do their business. On Saturday normal September service was returned with the fish refusing all manner of flies with equal disdain! We look forward to the last week of the season and hope for a taking fish or two.

Down river at Knockando Home beat, Archie Baillie reports they managed to wangle a solitary fish for the week.

At Laggan the story was the same advises Max McKinstrie with a single 9lb fish for their week to the rod of Craig Wilson. A couple others were lost. Some good conditions when the river dropped back and cleared but there is not the amount of fish there as expected and the ones there don’t seem interested in taking the fly.

Craig Wilson’s 9lb fish

David Smillie at Delagyle report that their week finished with one salmon, one grilse and 2 seatrout

Aberlour Angling Club report two fish this week one for Steve Grant and the one in the picture is Wee Gee. On Saturday we had six Dutch guys, total beginners who had a great day and they were all casting well for their first time. Great to see, well done to the Club.

The Dutch party
Wee Gee and his grilse

Across the river at Wester Elchies, one fish made it to the net/bank reports Malcolm Newbould.

Continuing down river, at Easter Elchies, Orn Sigurhansson reports a welcome flood this week. Perhaps a bit late for the fishing, still very good to see the big water this week. Affected fishing on the rise and fall, however should set fishing up good for the final week. All pools full of resident fish with sea trout rather than salmon keener last week.

The Gauge on Wednesday at Easter Elchies

Euan Reid reports the rods this week were John Elgar and his team, yet again, long-standing tenants of Arndilly. We had difficult water at the start of the week, carrying too much colour at times but welcome nonetheless. Arndilly can handle lots of water, so we were quite excited by what lay ahead, tempered by our knowledge that the numbers of fish this year are not what we hope or expect.
On Thursday, David Bell had a 9.5lb fish from Back of the Bog first thing in the morning, which raised our hopes,
but it was a false dawn!
Saturday was the best water of the week at 1ft 3″, and we had 2 fish. Ed Shaw had a fairly fresh 3lb grilse from town road and John Elgar had a 15lb fish from the boat in Jocks Tail.
So our concerns about low fish numbers were borne out by poor catches given what was, at times, a beautiful water for the beat. As always, this team met adversity head-on and with good humour.

David Bell with his fish
An arndilly end of season fish
Ed Shaw and his grilse
John Elgar with a resident

Robbie Stronach at Rothes and Aikenway confirms that a single fish was their only success for the week.

At Delfur Mark Melville reports that on Monday we finally got a descent rise of two and a half feet that we’d all been looking forward to all season!Followed by another even bigger double rise on the Wednesday!
We managed to pick up a solitary stale grilse on the Thursday caught by Tom Caswell. Friday, Toms brother Jonny had 2 stale grilse from Collie. The big switch on yet to happen, surely Saturday they would come on the take as the water cleared and dropped.
It wasn’t to be as Jonny Caswell caught another small grilse from the tail of Otterhole on the Saturday afternoon with no one else even getting a pull.
It’s a funny old game!
We will look forward to the last week of the season and hopeful that the fish have had a restful day off like all the ghillies up and down the river.
Tight lines to everyone.

Tom Caswell and his fish
Jonny Caswell with his prize

Finally at Gordon Castle/Brae Water, David Buley advise the river height and colour didn’t do them any favours unfortunately. Only a couple fishable days meant few fish landed. This week’s weather looks better so fingers crossed we’re able to finish the season on a better note.

Looks like the year could finish with the same predictable scenario of plenty fish but not wanting a fly but I am sure the rods who are out will persevere to see if they can winkle out a fish.

There is more rain in the forecast this week which may curtail the fishing over the last week but we will wait and see.

Tight lines to the hardy souls out and about.


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