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Trout and Salmon Spey Report 2003

For many years I wrote the Trout and Salmon monthly report for the Spey and have just came across some old ones. Over the next weeks I'll publish those I find interesting and relevant to today.

The C&R stats caught my eye, as did the number of fish in the Hatchery!

River Spey Report 2003

What makes a good fishing season?

I would think the main ingredients would be - A mixture of good steady water and weather conditions, along with some fish, good company, and to cap it all, a good spawning season.

Looking at the 2003 season, it would be fair to say we had most of the above.

The season got under way on the 11th February with midday temperatures reaching a quite sizzling 15oc. This brought many anglers onto the river, anglers, who normally would not have braved the elements. Three fresh salmon were caught on opening day, with a further five by the weekend. Large numbers of well-mended Kelts also provided good sport during this period, leading us to think that the spawning of 2002 may have been fairly successful. [Fingers and Feet Crossed]

The Mediterranean weather continued into March and showed no sign of changing through April. Rods fishing during February and March accounted for more than one hundred fish, which in itself gave rise to optimism throughout the valley, particularly the lower half.

The continuing dry spell had, by April, finally begun to seriously affect the water table, with the river level dropping to record lows for this time. This, along with what seemed to be precious few fish, led to a particularly disappointing spell for everyone, that is, everyone other than those fishing the lower middle beats.

The rain finally came in May and with it came the much-expected run of fish. I say “much-expected” because we had felt; given water, we may have quite a large run. Unfortunately the much expected large run failed to materialise. On saying this,

May provided, not only the best fish of the year, but for Mr Fred Duncan, it was also @ 32lbs, a personal best.

The extra water also saw fair numbers of Sea Trout running the river. Sea Trout hold a special fascination for me! How the distribute themselves along the river is often a guide to coming weather conditions. Watching early [May] running fish congregating in, or around deeper pools when water levels were still good, suggested to me that summer was going to be without rain. They seldom get it wrong and this year was no exception. The action of these fish was a clear indicator of a dry spell, and man, was it dry! The next rise in water after May came in the form of a two-inch rise in late July and after that, nine inches the week before the river closed in September. This was truly “ The Mother of all summers”.

2003 will also be remembered for a general lack of Grilse. There was also lots of concern over the apparent poor condition of these fish. In any normal year, fish of 2 – 3 pounds could be expected in May or June, but generally, by July, one would expect to see plenty Grilse of between five and seven pounds. This year, the average July-weight was around three. My concerns about Grilse don’t just stop with weight. For some years now the run of Grilse has been diminishing. Some say this is linked to food, whilst others will say it is cyclic. In the fifties and Sixties, when the river was producing large quantities of early running “Multi Sea Winter Fish [MSW], there were none, or very few Grilse. One could say however, the fact that Grilse seem to be in short supply may suggest a slow return to the river producing mainly MSW fish. Time will tell!

The conservation policy adopted by the Spey Fishery Board [SFB] For 2003, which targeted Spring Salmon in particular, was by late June, gaining in popularity. The much-debated policy, which asks anglers to return their first fish, has in general, been well received by the majority visitors and locals alike. This is borne out in the end of season figures for Catch and Release [C&R]. In 1996 the official figure for C&R was 6% most of which were coloured fish returned in the autumn. The official figure for 2003 is 70%. This is a truly remarkable and excellent effort from all anglers concerned.

Staying with the gathering of data -

The Spey Fishery Board [SFB], along with some students, took advantage of the very low summer water levels and carried out the most extensive Juvenile Surveys ever seen on the river. This will, in the future, provide a much-needed benchmark as to what are good juvenile numbers.

As the season neared its end, fishing on the Lower Castle Water, [a stretch used in the past for netting, owned by Gordon Castle] became what could only be described as world beating! A late run of fish had entered the river and decided to all hold up in these lower pools, the result was, rods catching between 10 and 20 per day. No one could ever remember the fishing being so good.

By the end of November, both the new and old hatchery were full, with a total of 2,000,000 eggs, most of which will be taken on to Parr stage and released back into the river in the autumn of 2004.

The season started and ended on a high note, with a little variation in between.


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