If Carlsberg made spawning burns…

I liked the look of this burn in the spring and promised myself to return at spawning time. It is too early for much salmon spawning yet but the sea trout are well underway. On the walk up I took a short cut through the wood and missed out the steep lower section of the burn; the best habitat was in the middle and upper reaches.

The first redd I came across was salmon sized but as I haven’t seen any salmon in the burns yet it was probably made by a large sea trout.

Sea trout redd typical of those seen today

Sea trout redd typical of those seen today

The habitat in the middle and upper reaches of this burn is first class: mixed woodland on the banks, fine mixture of pools and runs, undercuts and tree roots, it doesn’t get much better. It was also a perfect autumn day; fine and sunny with the air temperature around 10 -12 oC.

Mixed riparian woodland

Mixed riparian woodland

There is obviously no shortage of gravel in the burn, an essential ingredient in any salmon/trout spawning burn.

There is obviously no shortage of gravel in the burn, an essential ingredient in any salmon/trout spawning burn.

I was fortunate to spot a couple pairs of spawning sea trout before they had clocked me. A video clip of these spawning sea trout can be viewed here.

There was a hen sea trout cutting aredd under the bank in this photo. There was a large male and a couple smaller ones jostling for position. I took a video which I will ask Polly to uplaod to our vimeo channel tomorrow.

There was a hen sea trout cutting a redd under the bank in this photo. A large male and a couple smaller ones jostled for position.

A small cock sea trout "guarding" a redd

A small sea trout, which looked like a cock “sitting” on a redd

The water level was quite low but there were redds in pool tails, necks and runs in between.

Two redds side by side in a wide gravel run/glide

A pair of sea trout redds side by side in a wide gravel run/glide

Small redd close to the bank, very typical of a sea trout.

Small redd close to the bank, very typical sea trout spawning location.

This one was mid stream

This unmissable redd was mid stream.

In the upper reaches the burn narrowed but the habitat quality remained excellent.

Nice habitat in the upper reaches

Nice habitat in the upper reaches

Just about where I decided to turn back I saw a small herd of red deer, mainly hinds but there were two or three stags hanging around.

Small herd of red deer

Small herd of red deer

The largest stag had quite a small set of antlers but it was a fine looking beast.

Small head but this appeared to be the dominant stag in the group.

Small head but this appeared to be the dominant stag in the group.

As I turned back I spotted another sea trout cutting her redd. Luckily they hadn’t spotted me so I was able to observe them for a while and take some video see here tomorrow (second half of clip).

The upper limit if the walk today. There was a sea trout hen and various trout cocks spawning to the right on the light coloured midstream stone int he picture.

The upper limit of the walk today. There was a sea trout hen and various trout cocks spawning to the right of the light coloured midstream stone in the picture. The substrate here was quite large, orange sized cobbles rather than the finer gravel often used. What a beautiful location for a love nest!

After watching these trout for a while I headed back downhill. I don’t think there are any barriers to fish passage in this burn so the sea trout probably go a good bit further upstream. Salmon spawn in this burn as well but our electrofishing over the years shows that the trout dominate in the upper reaches with salmon more prevalent further down. The salmon will appear in a few weeks. I have been told that there were some years hundreds of salmon spawning in this burn in the past. I don’t doubt it but I won’t be expecting to see that many this year. Hopefully we will manage a formal redd count later.

For the avoidance of doubt I didn’t see, nor claim to see, thousands of sea trout redds today but there were reasonable numbers, certainly enough to produce good fry numbers next year if the incubation conditions are not too severe. We will be electrofishing this burn next summer when we will find out. The videos I took today need a bit of editing, they are out of focus in places, but they do show some spawning activity, hopefully we will have them online tomorrow.

2013 was a poor year for sea trout fishing on the Spey, a very poor year, but it is good to see that there are still reasonable numbers of fish around in the spawning burns. On a more encouraging note some of the lower beats reported catching a lot of finnock towards the end of the season, hopefully a better sign for 2014.  I haven’t done much night time fishing for sea trout but when I did I enjoyed it very much. I know I am not alone in hoping for an upturn in the runs of this sporting fish.

This burn is probably one of the nicest spawning burns in the whole of the Spey catchment; quite an accolade, it would even be a runner for the nicest spawning burn in Scotland awards. It doesn’t have the basic productivity of a Tweed burn but the habitat could not be bettered. There is absolutely no pollution, no modifications, no commercial forestry (lower reaches only) just a perfect natural burn – even the windfarm on the hills doesn’t seem to have had an impact!

 

There are 5 comments for this article
  1. John Carmichael at 7:19 pm

    Hi Brian.
    You write that the ‘Carlsberg’ burn “does not have the basic productivity of a Tweed burn”.

    Is the difference the water conductivity?

    If this is the case how does this burn compare with a Tweed burn?

    • Brian Shaw Author at 9:02 pm

      Hi John,

      By basic productivty I was referring to parameters such pH and nutrient levels such as nitrogen and phosphorus. In the same way that a farmer wouldn’t expect the same yield from acid farmland than similar land with a higher pH the fertility of waters varies. Conductivity is just a measure of the dissolved substances in the water so in the absence of any pollution sources conductivity is a good indicator of productivity. I could just have easily have compared the burn to the Livet or other Avon tributaries such as the Conglass. The conductivty in the lower Conglass is typically 150, five times higher than the “Carlsberg burn”. Some of the electrofishing surveys in the Conglass have recorded very higher densities of fish, comparable with many Tweed burns I’m sure.

      There are relatively few of these higher productivy burns in the Spey catchment than somwehere like the Tweed but we still get high parr densities in a lot of places. But high parr densities are not the same as high productivity. The production of three year old parr takes a lot of time and space compared to one/two year old smolts.

      It has still got the best habitat – rich soil is often associated with agriculture or other development and all the associated impacts.

      Best regards

      Brian

  2. Charlie Herd at 11:23 pm

    Brian,

    I felt very envious of your autumn walk, it looks wonderful.. Has this burn ever been stocked ?

    Charlie.

    • Brian Shaw Author at 10:07 am

      Hi Charlie, that was one of my best spawning walks. Very good of the sea trout to spawn earlier, more often than not the weather is dreich at spawning time of year and you can’t see much but Sunday was superb. According to our records that burn has never been stocked.
      Best regards

      Brian

  3. Stuart brabbs at 8:31 pm

    Nice report Brian and nice to see unspoilt habitat for once.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.