I had a meeting yesterday but Steve, Michael (Hi Mum) and Polly continued the mainstem surveys in the Kinrara to Newtonmore area. Today we continued upstream with surveys from the Truim confluence to above Spey Dam.
Excluding the 3 sites above Spey Dam the mean salmon fry numbers from the last 2 days surveys were 64.1 (47.4 in 2012) whilst for salmon parr the mean was 11 (6.7 in 2012). The lowest fry count was at the Truim confluence site were we found 13 compared to 66 the previous year, however almost all the other sites fry counts were up (note that all the figures I mention refer only to salmon, trout are rarely encountered in the mainstem surveys).
From the Truim confluence upstream the gradient of the river is low and there are few areas with suitable run/riffle habitat for fry surveys.
The site at the Allt na Cubhaige confluence provided just enough habitat for surveying.
Closer to Spey Dam the more stable the flow regime in the upper Spey becomes as much is derived from the compensation flow. The site at the mouth of the Gergask Burn at Laggan provided almost twice as many fry as last year and more than twice as many parr. The next site at Blargie is the last survey site before Spey Dam, here the flow is very stable, rarely changing unless the dam spills which only happens a few times a year. The results from this site would help inform the debate about whether the good survey results from the river this year were due solely to the current low water conditions!
The results from the Blargie site were good with 75 fry and 33 parr compared to 54 fry and 18 parr in 2012. The habitat at this site is perfect mixed habitat for fry and parr. The improvements in both fry and parr counts recorded reflected pretty closely what we had found across the river.
So the results in the upper Spey below Spey Dam were generally good, with significant increases for both fry and parr, what would we find upstream of Spey Dam?
We had time to do 3 sites above Spey Dam today, all in the same locations as last year. The mean results for fry were 5.0 (4.7 in 2012) and for parr 13.3 (5.0 in 2012). Fry numbers were almost identical. We still have one more day surveying to do in the upper river but the results from today confirm the pattern we found last year – a step change downwards in fry above Spey Dam. Let there be no doubt about it; the habitat in the Spey upstream of Spey Dam is far superior for salmon than anywhere between Loch Insh and Laggan, it should be supporting an abundant juvenile salmon population – sadly reservoirs and everything associated with them rarely improve the lot of the salmon. The parr counts were good but the habitat here is absolutely top drawer, it would support more if there were more fish spawning.
The other two sites were close to Garva Bridge. Similar fry counts to last year were observed but once again the parr counts had doubled.
There endeth another very interesting and encouraging day. One more day will complete the Spey mainstem surveys. This level of surveying represents very intensive monitoring but as 60% of the available habitat in the catchment is found there understanding what is happening in the mainstem is of fundamental importance.