River Fiddich spawning

A walk up the lower River Fiddich in good conditions revealed quite a lot of redds with the occasional fish still spawning. The average size of the fish was high, most were double figure fish with only a few grilse to be seen.

A big redd on the Fiddich. Probably more than one pair of fish involved to make a redd of this size. A single cock fish can be seen just upstream (to the left)

A very big redd on the Fiddich. Probably more than one pair of fish involved to make a redd of this size. A single cock fish can be made out to the left. No shortage of top quality spawning gravel in the lower Fiddich.

On the right bank of the Fiddich there are the remains of what looks like infrastructure associated with an old water power system.

This structure looks like a sluice to control water levels in a lade. Perphaps there was more than one water powered machine in the system.

This structure looks like a sluice to control water levels in a lade. Perhaps there was more than one water powered machine in the system. Warning: don’t go walking in the woods in this area at night, the place is littered with traps like this!

The remains of the water lade along the right bank

The remains of the water lade along the right bank

There must have been a weir where the water was taken from the river and sure enough a short distance upstream there were the remains of what could have been such a thing.

The remains of an old weir?

The remains of an old weir?

At the potential site of the old weir what looked like the lade could be seen on the opposite bank and a little further upstream there was the remains of an intake from the river with an old screen and a tunnel visible. I didn’t cross to examine it closely but if it was an intake the lade must have crossed the river. Maybe the remains of the weir were actually the remains of an old aqueduct to carry the lade across the river?

Screen and what looks like a water intake on the opposite bank of the Fiddich

Screen and what looks like a water intake on the opposite bank of the Fiddich

Due to the steep terrain I returned to the Craigellachie to Dufftown path from where I spotted a pair of salmon spawning.

I arrived just as they mated but too late to get the money shot! This photo shows the hen burying the recently laid eggs with gravel.

I arrived just as they mated but too late to get the money shot! This photo shows the hen burying the recently laid eggs with gravel.

Click here to see a short video clip of this pair of salmon.

Redds were present throughout the lower few miles of the Fiddich, salmon and sea trout, never in abundance but there was the odd cluster of three redds or more but mostly single redds.

A single salmon redd in good fry/parr habitat in the Fiddich.

A single salmon redd in good fry/parr habitat in the Fiddich.

There was a more than adequate number of redds to be seen in the lower Fiddich but it will be one of the last places in the catchment for a dip in juvenile densities to occur. Other more peripheral areas in the margins of the catchment will be the first to respond if the low numbers of adults seen over the last couple years continues.

There are 7 comments for this article
  1. Andy Logan at 8:38 pm

    The water lade was used to feed the water wheel at the cooperage at Popine where the first two photos were taken. That area has always been great for spawning – there is normally a lot of grilse and usually spawning fish can be seen for at least another fortnight and I have seen them as late as Christmas Day in that area

    • Brian Shaw Author at 9:28 pm

      Hi Andy,
      Thanks for the info. On the NLS online map website I found this very detailed 1872 map of the area http://maps.nls.uk/view/74478213 . There was quite an industrial complex beside the Fiddich at that point. The weir looked like a major structure.
      Cheers
      Brian

      • Andy Logan at 8:10 pm

        Hi Brian, I can remember the buildings – my father served his time as an apprentice cooper there in the early 1950’s – it was just a cooperage by then. It was abandoned in the early 1970’s I think. We used to play in the ruins growing up just after that. I have seen some photos with all the buildings and it covered a fair site. I dont remember the weir or hearing of it though

        • Brian Shaw Author at 10:07 pm

          Interesting to hear that it was an active site until so recently. I suppose by then the age of water power was over, the weir was maybe gone by then?
          Brian

          • Andy Logan at 9:50 pm

            Hi Brian I spoke to my father, he had had no idea that there had been a weir there so it was gone long before the 50’s. He did say that they used the water wheel for powering most machinery up till 1969 when he left although there was also mains electricity. Some salmon used to get trapped and killed in the lade during the autumn every year but nobody thought much about it in the days of plenty! They used to fish with a worm in the pools beside the coooperage in Septembere and catch a few coloured fish which were definitely not returned!

          • Brian Shaw Author at 11:03 am

            Hi Andy,
            Another feature I noticed was that the lade appeared on the opposite bank at the site of the old weir. Further upstream there was what looked like an intake directly off the river. I have added an additonal photo and description to the original blog post. I thought at the time that the lade must have crossed the river and sure enough this later OS map http://maps.nls.uk/view/75496869 shows the lade crossing the river and the intake exactly where I had taken the photo. If the lade crossed the river there must have been a pretty substantial aqueduct to carry it safely across a river the size of the Fiddich. As the cooperage was water powered until the 60s there must have been an intake from the river at some point but the lade on the railway side of the river is too high above the existing bed of the river, the intake must have been further upstream.
            I like finding out as much as possible about the heritage of the river, industrial included. The maps suggest that the weir disappeared sometime between 1870 and 1905. If I get a chance I will have a look at the Spey Fishery Board minute books from that era to see if it is mentioned.
            Thanks for your comments.
            Brian

          • Andy Logan at 1:32 pm

            Hi Brian

            the photo of the remains of the weir could be what that is – that is the spot where the water for the cooperage power crossed the river and the photo of the intake is the right spot – as an apprentice my father’s first job of the day was to walk up and clear the lades of any obstruction, not too bad a job to start your day!

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