What about day 4 I hear you say? Well I was at a meeting on Friday but of course I discussed the results with the team. From what I saw and heard the results from Ballindalloch, Castle Grant and SAIA water were good.
Today we started at Aviemore with 4 sites downstream to Broomhill Bridge, then 4 sites at Tulchan. The water appeared to be up a little but I would still classify it as low – ideal conditions for the salmon fry counts. As readers will I’m sure be aware the river between Aviemore and Grantown is relatively low gradient and consequently there are few areas suitable for fry surveys. Our first site today was entered via the timeshare complex at Dalfaber; some really nice looking lodges there! The survey site was a shallow run riffle with small grade cobbles and pebbles. We found 108 fry and no parr but there was very little cover for larger fish. It was noticeable that the fry were much more numerous in the areas with slightly larger cobbles rather than pebbles.
Next site was at Kinchurdy. The low water was ideal for this site as we were able to survey directly downstream of the groyne rather than inside as if often the case. The results here were also good with 135 fry compared to 17 last year. Surprisingly no parr were captured as some of the habitat looked suitable.
Until today I had never had time for more than a superficial look at this part of the Spey. The next site downstream, just above Boat of Garten Bridge was a lovely bit of water with a cascade upstream of a small salmon pool. This great habitat produced 159 fry and 5 parr compared to 69 and 1 last year. Broomhill Bridge was the next site. This is a pure fry site with small cobbles and pebbles providing no cover for parr. It was however excellent for fry and we caught 220 compared to 101 in 2012. This area is an important spawning area with an abundance of good spawning gravels upstream and downstream of the bridge.
Last week Tulchan were very busy with fishers so we were asked to come back today. We completed one site on each beat, starting at Beat A. This site is quite resilient to low flows, i.e. the habitat changes little when the river height varies, although we can obviously fish a little further towards midstream in low water. 114 fry and 5 parr was a good result although the parr count was down from 7 in 2012.
By this time the thunder clouds were gathering and heavy rain seemed imminent, however we were lucky and the rain held off until we had finished. The Tulchan B site (downstream Broom Pool) was quite different and more suited to parr with many small boulders and large cobbles. This showed in the mix of fish caught with 92 fry and 32 parr. The fry numbers in 2012 were similar but we only caught 8 parr then. C beat site was similar resulting in 105 fry and 24 parr ( 31 fry and 13 parr in 2012). The last site was the riffle above the March Pool in Beat D. This site was ideal for fry and we caught 197 and 6 parr (105 fry and 0 parr in 2012).
The mean results from today were 141 salmon fry per site and 9 parr. This compares to 61 fry and 3.6 parr in 2012. Very good results and to be honest by the end of the day I had seen enough fry, neither mine nor Steve’s knees are the most supple for kneeling down to measure the fish! We measured over 1100 fry today. All of todays sites were filmed for posterity and will appear on the website soon. (Note that the figures above were based on a quick bankside count, there may be some minor changes before the final electrofishing report is published).
Some have questioned the worth of this years survey findings; the river is too low, the fish are concentrated etc. but we are making the most of it; there has been and will continue be plenty other years when the river will be too high. We welcome this scrutiny and indeed we have pondered the results over the last week. Steve has vast experience on the river and I have little, but I know a site with a lot of fish when I see one, and I have seen a lot this year. Once we are finished the mainstem surveys we will between us complete a full appraisal of each site, looking at historic records for each as well as evaluating how each site is likely to react according to river levels.
We hardly had a blank sweep of the electrofisher today; a healthy sign on any salmon river, although some I guess will always be sceptical no matter what evidence is presented. I hope to get some videos online tomorrow.