Spey River superintendent report – 10th November 1941
“On Saturday 11th October there was a spate in the Chabet Burn which runs into the Avon and the Inspector Bailiff observed during the day 18 anglers fishing in the lower part of it. According to the bailiff, they caught approx. 100 fish of the salmon kind (mostly females) also a similar number were fouled hooked and thrown back no doubt because the bailiff was watching them”
The reference above caught my eye as I read through a file containing old poaching reports. There were plenty reports of poaching at Delfur or in the Dulnain, even Sunday fishing at Tulchan, but the number of fish quoted running the Chabet Burn was interesting. I didn’t know where the Chabet Burn was, and there was little info in the office. However a scan of the map found that it joined the Avon downstream of the Conglass. We had only electrofished it once before and that was a paper record only from the early 90s.
Someone mentioned that there was a culvert at the bottom that may be a problem. Anyway it obviously used to be a productive burn so a visit was required. As it was such a nice day and I needed to recharge the batteries I went for a look, starting at the culvert.
The culvert turned out to be twin concrete pipes of over 2m diameter, one set slightly lower than the other, and about 15m in length. Water depth in the main culvert was over 6″and the water speed not too bad, so should be passable at a range of flows.
The burn was a bit bigger than I thought at about 6m width in the lower reaches.
The neighbourhood dogs arrived providing scale in the photos. The dogs owner said that there used to be a bridge, a common tale, but at least this particular culvert looked passable, although one of the pipes at least should have baffles fitted to roughen up the flow, a good project for the future.
As I crossed the burn below the culvert the remains of a hen salmon surfaced. Finding dead salmon on the banks is good evidence that they spawn in the burn, but this one was below the culvert proving nothing about it’s passability.
Reasonably satisfied that the culvert was passable I drove up the Glenconglass Farm to have a look at the upper burn. Here the burn was 1-2m wide flowing through rough pasture.
The instream habitat looked very good with cobbles and lots of trailing moss growing. The Chabet Burn looked similar to other nearby tributaries of the Avon. It is certain to be stuffed with trout at least, although I wasn’t sure if salmon would be present this far upstream.
A short distance downstream I can across a stone structure which looked like the remains of limekiln, located just below a rock outcrop. Industry doesn’t get much more local than that.
As every fisher knows limestone is useful stuff to have around; it generally results in a productive instream environment. I’m no geologist but the rock looked like other limestone I’d seen, mainly in Ayrshire as it is quite rare in Speyside. However a check on the geology map later showed that there was limestone in the area.
Carrying on downstream I came across what I’m sure were salmon redds. We will survey the burn this summer to check just exactly what the fish population in the burn consists of but I’ll eat my hat if there are no salmon within 1km of Glenconglass Farm.
The upper stretch was mainly rough grazing but there was good overhanging cover from the banks. One area was badly trampled by cattle at a feeding ring station but that affected a very small part of the burn only.
Several small tributaries increased the size of the burn making it very suitable for salmon.
These erosion points are essential to provide a source of new gravel. There were several new fenced off areas with riparian tree planting and the lush new bankside growth can cut of the supply of gravel. When the new trees grow and mature some will fall into or across the burn and the subsequent erosion will then mobilise gravels but there can be an extended period in the life of a riparian scheme when gravel starvation can be a problem. The right balance between habitat improvement and erosion needs to be found. The big erosion point in the picture above was providing a steady supply of all sizes of material.
There were mounds in the gravel in the middle of this flat that looked very like salmon redds. It looks like a pool in the photo but there was a good enough flow down the full length for fish to spawn.
I like the way landuse changes along these small burns and just below this open stretch it flowed through a pine plantation. It was noticeably colder within the plantation but there was some nice habitat and a few fallen trees providing cover.
Below the plantation the banks were heather and shrubs, grazed by sheep.
I turned back at this point, enough seen, the Chabet Burn looks to be an excellent wee burn. I don’t think fish access is a problem although there is still another mile or so to check but I want to ask the farmer before I go through his fields, the fences were 8′ high and there were herds of what looked like reindeer in the distance.
I thought the reference to fish of “the salmon kind” in the original quote was interesting. Did that mean they were actually sea trout? To foul hook 100 fish in a day in that burn nowadays is inconceivable but it was interesting to investigate a burn that seems to have been below our radar for a while.
That River Superintendents report, and others like it were instrumental in the shortening of the Spey fishing season from the 15th October to the 30th September. The reasoning was that whilst mature fish were often returned in the main stem and fishing curtailed at that time of the year the fish were exposed to new pressure on the spawning run into the burns, unjustifiable exploitation of fish on the point of spawning. If the original report did mean salmon rather than sea trout, then spawning is a good deal later now that in the 1940s. It would be into November before I’d expect salmon to be spawning in the Chabet Burn now.
I look forward to surveying the burn this summer.