Steve gets his Loch Spey badge at last

Steve Burns has worked for the Spey Fishery Board/Foundation for 23 years but today was the first time he had made it up the source of the Spey at Loch Spey. Thanks to the gamekeeper in the area we were able to get through the locked gate and drive to within 2.5km of Loch Spey. Gathering up the electrofishing gear we set of on a “yomp” to Loch Spey. We stopped on the way to survey the Shesgnan Burn where we only found two trout fry. The main aim today was to see if salmon made it up to Loch Spey and to investigate the upper limit of salmon distribution. One of the two main tributaries flows into the loch beside the outlet so we figured that if there were salmon to be found we would find them in that burn.

Steve reaches the shores of Loch Spey

After taking in the scene we did a quick survey of the inflowing burn. We didn’t find any fish for a while and we were beginning to think we had walked all that way for nothing. Then there was a flash of silver underwater …… a minnow! At the top end of the site we found a few trout but no salmon. I’m sure that salmon have reached the loch in the past but the habitat in the river for a kilometer below the loch is not suitable for salmon spawning, downstream of that point it changes to become excellent.

Steve and Callum on shores of Loch Spey

Bonnie trout from Loch Spey burn

We headed downstream to below the confluence with the Allt Coire Bhanain where the river bed changes from peat to gravel and cobbles. This looked prime salmon habitat. Starting our survey we missed a fish (very low conductivity water makes electrofishing a challenge). Both Steve and I thought it was a salmon parr and sure enough within the three minute survey we caught a few. No salmon fry just parr. This suggested we were upstream of the upper spawning site for salmon this year.

Highest Spey mainstem site

The substrate at the site was a mix of cobbles and weed, with the cobbles on the Allt Coire Bhanain side of the river.

The picture below shows one of the salmon parr we found at the site. Using Google Earth I calculated that Loch Spey is 186km river length from the sea and the survey site was 1km from Loch Spey. These parr are almost certainly the furthest travelled in the Spey catchment, maybe even in the whole of Scotland.

Salmon parr – 185km from the sea

We headed downstream for another 1km and did another site where we found quite a few salmon fry, 2 trout fry and a salmon parr. We had found the likely upper limit of salmon spawning on the Spey last year.

Upper salmon fry site, upstream of Shesgnan bothy

All in all a very satisfying day, its always good to find answers to questions. This week I have been pleasantly surprised by the extent and number of juvenile salmon above Spey Dam!

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