The conditions weren’t too promising but we are running out of time for redd counting so together with three Tulchan ghillies a redd count was completed in the Tulchan Burn. Aside from the lying snow it turned out to be a lovely day for the task. I met the ghillies at the bottom of the burn before we set off for the upper reaches by the track that follows the burn.
We started just below where the burn starts to split into hill burns, at an altitude of 330m (1000ft). Just to add a little spice to the day we had a wee sweep on the drive up to see who could guess the number of redds we would find. I knew what had been recorded in the past but not wanting to show myself up in front of three esteemed ghillies I went for a very conservative 40, the most ambitious guess, although I expected more.
The Tulchan Burn up here is only about 4m wide but it wasn’t long before we found the first salmon redds, and the occasional lonely looking cock salmon. Habitat quality was first class although there were no big areas of gravel for spawning, but the fish were utilising any little patch of suitable substrate.
On the drive up we had spotted a dead fish lying at a ford. It turned out to be a nice sea trout, an otter kill.
It wasn’t the easiest walk in the snow, especially further down where the pine trees were denser. Some had fallen in and across the burn but the ghillies had earlier pruned some of the branches to clear obstructions but leaving some cover – an excellent job. There were many redds in this upper part of the burn and importantly they were well spaced out. The furthest I went without recording a redd was about 300m.
Most of the cock fish seen were marked with scars or fungus on the back. I only saw one hen, a poor fish on its last legs sheltering behind a rock, but I’m sure it had done its business. Further down a few dead cock fish were seen including this fine fellow that would have been about 12-14lb.
As we approached the lower reaches I expected to come across some bigger spawning fords but there were none. The gradient of the burn was quite uniform at about 3.5%, too steep for big beds of spawning gravel, so the fish had to work hard to create redds where ever there was a little patch of gravel.
If anything the number of redds in the lower reaches reduced, although still relatively frequent. It was good to see so many redds in the upper reaches, better that than all concentrated at the bottom. I was marking the redds on the GPS on the way down so it wasn’t until I got back to the office that I was able to count the salmon and trout redds. The total was 82 salmon redds and 9 trout redds. We were only recording certain redds, the type of spawning habitat available meant that there were many other small cuts where there were probably eggs deposited but they weren’t really big enough to count as a redd. Previous redd counts in the Tulchan Burn were about 80 but that was for a shorter section than we counted today. Todays count for the comparable area counted in the past was 42 salmon redds.
Just like the Rothes Burn the other day most of the redds were fresh. Ghillie A reported that he had seen many fish running up the burn last week, on the same days as they had been seen in the Rothes Burn. It is surprising how late the bulk of fish spawn in the Tulchan Burn? The number of redds was about half of that counted several years ago, but they were very well spaced out. At 5000 eggs/redd that is equivalent to a deposition rate of 16 eggs/m2, a nice high density that will ensure the habitat is fully saturated. I was very impressed by the Tulchan Burn, not the greatest spawning habitat but the parr habitat was the very best, no wonder it supports a high density of juvenile fish
It was good to get that count done today as I won’t have much time from now on. It was also very nice to have the company of the ghillies, we had a chance to chew the fat and I ended up the day £1 better off. To be honest I’m not really much of a gambler; I always fail to make the most of a racing certainty, if I’d been braver I might have got a days fishing on Tulchan out of that little wager!