The Spey Fishery Board’s and Scottish Canoe Association’s joint “Guidance for Anglers” can be found under the section River access & paddlers.
The River Spey is the home of speycasting and one of Scotland’s big four salmon rivers. It has the third largest drainage area after the Tay and Tweed and is the second longest after the Tay. However, its major attraction is its size and the strength of its stream – in the middle and lower river it falls on average 12 feet per mile – the greatest of any British river.
An interesting aside, the Spey, unlike most British rivers, does not have a sizeable town at its mouth. The river is snow fed from the Cairngorm Mountains and in a good year this can mean the river staying high until early June.
The tackle required depends on the time of year and where you are fishing. If fishing the lower or middle Spey stout tackle will be needed during the spring and autumn, and even in the summer if there happens to be a flood.
When fishing in the spring or autumn long rods of around 15-18ft rods are essential, coupled with sinking lines or sink tips. In the summer a 15ft rod with a floating line is usually sufficient although in times of drought a single-handed rod may suffice. It is advisable to ensure that your reel has plenty of backing as a large fish in a strong current can take a lot of line. Salmon are not known as leader shy so do be frightened to fish with 15-18lb nylon in the spring and nothing less than 10lb in the summer.
The choice of flies depends on the time of year you intend to fish and the height of the water. In the spring ‘any fly will do as long as it is a Willie Gunn’ is a commonly heard expression. During the summer months try shrimp patterns like General Practitioner, Ali Shrimp and Cascade – and who would dare fish the Spey without a Munro Killer in their box? In low water conditions a member of the Stoat’s Tail family is always good for grilse.
Waders and Clothing.
Chest waders are usually required on most beats. These can be hired or bought and can be a good investment. Remember that when the season starts neoprene waders will help keep out the chill although as the year progresses wearing them in the summer months may make you feel more like a sauna. Warm waterproof clothes are also advisable as the weather in Scotland can be unpredictable; it is easy to take off a layer if you get too warm. In the interests of safety a floatation aid is highly recommended and is compulsory on some beats. A stout wading stick is also advised, having freezing cold water running down your waders is never a pleasant experience.
Spey Fishery Board Salmon Conservation Policy
1. Catch and release: Each angler must return the 1st, 3rd, 5th etc. salmon and grilse caught; All hen salmon and hen grilse must be released; Throughout the season all stale or gravid fish must be released; Escaped farmed salmon must be retained.
2. Method: Where possible anglers should be encouraged to fish with a fly; All hooks should be ‘pinched’ or barbless; Where spinning is allowed only one set of barbless hooks may be used on a lure.
3. Fishing effort: Where possible the numbers of hours and rods fished should be limited.
Salmon and Grilse Conservation
As part of its long term commitment to the protection of Salmon stocks, the SFB launched a Salmon Conservation Policy in 2003. The policy aimed to achieve the release of at least 50% of Salmon and Grilse, and to protect the depleted stocks of multi-sea winter Salmon in February-June. At least 50% of these fish are female, and therefore contribute an important part of the river’s spawning stock. Also, studies by the former Spey Research Trust (now Spey Foundation) have shown that these fish are particularly vulnerable to capture and re-capture having been released.
Until 30th June 2009, 76% of fish caught had been released, an increase on the 71% for that period over the previous year. By the end of the season the release rate had climbed to 77%, up on the 74% released during the whole of the 2008 season. This is a highly commendable result for a large River such as the Spey and we are grateful to all proprietors, ghillies and anglers for their support for the policy. In total, 6,639 Salmon and Grilse were released to spawn in 2009.
Despite the encouraging catches between 2005 and 2008, the SFB has maintained a precautionary approach and, following discussions with the Spey Research Trust, the Spey Fishery Board endorsed a recommendation by the Spey Research Committee in August 2009 to simplify its Salmon Conservation Policy. This followed recognition of an alteration in Salmon run times, which were often later than they had been in the past. Hitherto there have been references to 30th June, up until which the 1st, 3rd, 5th etc. fish caught must be returned, and after which all hen Salmon and Grilse must be released. It has now been decided to simplify the policy by removing these references to 30th June. Henceforth the policy is that the 1st, 3rd, 5th etc. fish must be returned and all hen Salmon and Grilse must be released throughout the season. The Sea Trout Conservation Policy remains unchanged. (See the section on Sea trout regarding Catch and Release for this species) Download our Conservation Policy leaflet here.
The Association of Salmon Fishery Boards and others have produced a useful guidance leaflet for anglers on the best approach to catch and release. Download your copy here,