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What's Changed on the Spey since 2007?

Updated: Oct 12, 2022

Below is the Spey fishery report I wrote for the Trout and Salmon in December 2007. I'm finding reading through those really interesting, as regarding the issues, I'm not sure much has changed.

The month of December started with a week of prolonged rain, seeing the river rise to a dangerous “Gravel Moving” level, possibly compromising redds made by fish only a few weeks earlier. Fortunately, this was then followed by 2 weeks of very hard frost, which in turn, reduced the river to a more reasonable level, hopefully allowing eggs to become well established within the gravel and out of harms way.

It is thought that high water flow, and its affect on gravel during this period [Late November, early December] causes higher than average mortality during the egg to Alvin stage and may be one of the first key factors in the “natural” fluctuating nature of the fishery.

Areas such as those above Spey Dam, although having a plentiful supply of suitable gravel for fish to spawn, because of the physical nature of the Dam itself, are detrimental to the onward passage of fish. Although this particular Dam has incorporated into its structure a fish ladder, over time, natural smolt production has fallen dramatically. During the period between its building in the 1940s and the late nineties, Smolts have been in terminal decline, to a point of almost extinction above the Dam in 1999, when only a handful of smolts were counted on their downward migration. This prompted a study of the area, along with a much-needed re-stocking program, which in a short period of time has rejuvenated this area.

With over 4000 Smolts being counted in the spring of 2007, it looks very much like, in this area at least, stocking with carefully selected brood-stock has done the trick. Given the success of this project, negotiation with the Dams owners [British Alcan], is now underway to design and build a better fish ladder, thus allowing fish to access this area of their own free will. Readers will be kept up-dated on the progress of this through these columns.

Concern has been growing over the past 20 years regarding the depletion of Sea Trout stocks. These fantastic fighting fish, although regarded by some as being somewhat inferior to that of Salmon, have for many years, provided dedicated anglers with superb summer sport and as such add a high value to the fishery.

It is said that very little scientific data exists with regard to Sea Trout, or at least this is the public perception! Certainly there is very little modern data, which is why a full time Biologist is about to be employed to study and monitor these fish within the Moray Firth. In actual fact however, extensive study was carried out on these fish around the turn of the 20th century, providing at that time, radical new thinking, as well as a real insight into localised habits these fish. I would urge anyone with a keen interest, scientific or otherwise, to purchase a copy of “The Life of the Sea Trout”, by G H Nall, as this provides excellent data on every major Sea Trout system in the UK as well as Norway and makes fascinating reading.

Nall is quoted in almost every modern scientific paper with regard to Sea Trout, indeed his work provides us with a very good benchmark when relating today’s values to those of around 100 years ago.

I for one will be very interested in any modern scientific findings, as I feel the decline is directly linked to the demise of the inshore fishery around both the East and West Coasts. In basic terms, over the past 100 years, the biomass of Herring Sprats on the West and Sandeels in the East has dramatically decreased, leaving Sea Trout to forage further to find food, and as is the case with 3 and 4 SW salmon, the longer they spend at sea, the more venerable the become to predation. And we all know about the increase in Grey and Common predators around our coastlines!!! Again readers will be kept informed though these columns.

One final point of note with regard to “Spey” Sea Trout is that 100 years ago, a large percentage entered the river in the month of March, making the Spey fairly unique in having a proper “Spring Run” of Sea Trout.

The opening of the 2008 season will almost be upon us as this goes to print. As is now customary, the official opening ceremony will be 8.45am at the Alice Litter Park in Aberlour. The event, sponsored jointly by Glenfarclas Distillery and Walkers of Aberlour, will see the river blessed for the new season ahead. A prize, along with the “Spey Quaich” will also be awarded to the rod catching the first fresh Salmon of the year, the details of which must be sent to Munro’s Fishing Shop in Aberlour no later than 5pm on the 11th.

I wish all Spey Fishermen, Locals and visitors alike, the best of luck and tight lines for the season ahead.


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