Archive for the ‘Sea Trout’ Category

Finavon Castle Water & Sea Trout

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

Memories of Fine Summers at FCW.

Finavon Castle Water has a reputation for night fishing for sea trout. The pictures in this section show how in low water, when many rivers are unproductive, the pools with their long tails provide an idyllic setting for fly fishing through the night.

fishers down the Flats

Milton Beat FCW. The pools in this photograph contain sea trout, often in considerable numbers, from the middle of June through to mid August. The level of the river in this picture is perfect for night sea trout fishing.

The long days and dusky nights, when it never gets truly dark, of late May, June and July, are the setting for thrills of big fish (as opposed to the sight or sound of a splash in daylight!) moving close to the surface, sometimes only feet away from the wading angler. Quiet ripples against your legs as you wade sometimes reveal the whereabouts of a shoal of sea trout. On other occasions you hear soft swirling splooshes beneath the overhanging branches of the opposite bank, and sometimes a sea trout will leap clean out of the water, re-entering the river with a loud splash, shattering the still night. Scudding clouds, starlit nights, stoneflies on the warmest nights crwaling over your face and naked arms, the continuous moving shadows, sounds of birds and fauna above the cello sounds of the river at night. That is night fishing. It twangs the pre-historic hunter in you and reminds you of the people of Finavon Hill two thousand years ago, who fished these very pools, albeit with spear, trap and net.


This view of the head of Tyndals Pool with ‘the armchair rock’ (ACR) is well known to people who fish at Finavon because this is the view monitored by the live webcam on the FCW website. In this photo the river is at low summer level: the measure is that there is very little, if any, water betweeen the ‘ACR’ and the left bank.

Fishing quietly at night, while blending into the natural environment, gets you very close to wild creatures such as otters, who sometimes surface inside a rod’s length from where you are wading, shocking you by expelling air from their nostrils with a soft snort. They are efficient thieves and will nick any fish you may have left on the bank to pick up later and take home to eat. Nowadays we don’t kill any sea trout, because they are in a low numbers phase of their natural abundance cycle, or perhaps there are other problems of their survival yet to be identified.


The fisherman in this photo is fishing the head stream of the Red Brae, opposite the confluence with the Lemno Burn. In past years I used to check the numbers of salmon and sea trout in the Red Brae during periods of low water by beaming a powerful spotlight onto this stream. On many occasions I have seen and counted MSW salmon and sea trout in numbers exceeding 50 – all in this short stretch of streamy water. In the light of the lamp they appear like airships as they hold station in the clear water. The stream in the photo is always a potential taking place for both species.

Sometimes, usually on a half-moonlit night, you can establish an absurd conversation with tawny owls – if you are a bit of a mimic, and prepared to embarrass yourself and anyone else in the vicinity. One night a few years ago I managed to gather a whole family of tawnies around me as I quietly (while noisily hooting of course!) waded down Upper Boat Pool. I could distinguish between members of the family by the tone, structure and duration of their hooting. Some of them were very close to me, and must have seen me and realised it was a member of the species Homo Sapiens, and not another tawny, doing the hooting. I think they were playing with me, or maybe they just thought I was an Alpha male tawny!

Copy of Flow into Craigo

Low water in mid summer at FCW. This is the view looking upstream in Craigo Stream towards the suspension bridge. Behind you in the photo is the comfortable and atmospheric Red Brae Hut with its wooden cut outs of big salmon and sea trout, with the name of the fishereman, the date, the fly and the pool. This is the place to be atr 4 o’clock on a July morning, while the human world is asleep and the natural world at its most active, innocent and approachable. Heaven!

Beach ST on Hoy

Perfect fins, a hard & muscular body and unmistakeable tail shape of a fresh run sea trout. In fact this fish was caught in salt water in Orkney.

Sea trout fishing at night is pure magic. There aren’t many places where you can do it, and Finavon is among the best – when the sea trout are ‘in’ of course.


What a way to run a country!

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

These bulletin blogs represent news about Finavon and the South Esk, and my views as a riparian owner. While I may digress at times to write about other places, these are not the views of any other organisation, nor are they designed to promote the interests of any individual or organisation other than Finavon Castle Water and factors affecting the fishery. Tony Andrews

I saw the post below on the Salmo Proboards Forum and thought it so apposite to the current situation on the Esks that I thought I could do no better than quote it in full in one of my bulletin blogs.

The author calls himself/herself ‘Adipose’ and this is what Adipose wrote:

Very few fishery owners make money from letting their fishing. Costs of managing  a rod fishery are huge and rents, especially on beats showing average catches of  less than 150 salmon each year, are insufficient to cover those  costs.

Let me give you an example of one 150 average catch fishery I know  on the South Esk

Annual rent from all sources is just under £20,000

Fishery Board levy £8000
Maintenance and cleaning of huts £1500 – £2500
Cutting of grass paths and maintenance of pools £5000  +
River watcher and Ghillie wages about £8000

The owner, who manages  to let a good proportion of the available weeks at an average of £60 per rod  day, ends up subsidising the people who come to fish. But he doesn’t resent  doing that (see below).

So why would someone do that? Why would they  knowingly lose money? The answer is very simple (and I am now thinking of three  owners on well known east coast rivers). They enjoy managing a fishery, living  close to the river, meeting their visiting fishers, looking after the natural  riverside environment and wildlife. it is a way of life. None of the three  people I have in mind wants to make a quick buck. Nor do they want to sell their  beats and benefit from the very considerable capital locked up in their  property. Actually, the only possible profit they might make would come from  selling their beats. And then they would have lost their way of  life.

Isn’t it a wonderful thing that there are idiots around who are  prepared to look after our rivers and lose money in the process? Most of these  beats are well looked after too!

It is an absolute myth that riparian  owners are “pocketing” huge amounts of cash. There is no such cash available,  except on the very few big river or famous premium beats. If you disagree with  me please give me examples and amounts of money involved. I think you will find  it hard to find a single example of profiteering by riparian owners on ‘modest  beats’ (150 salmon per year average).

Now, let’s put that scenario in the  context of what the netting interests are doing:

Their levy is far less  than the riparian owner’s levy. why?
They reap huge amounts of money from  selling dead spring salmon. In May 2011 Usan Fisheries killed 2307 salmon worth  over £300,000. Just one month!!! If you want to know who is profiteering from  our salmon you need look no further. The Usan company employs very few people,  pays very little money to conserve salmon and sea trout and kills 100% of their  catches.
What a way to run a country!”

Read more:

It is time for riparian owners and angling club owners/long lease holders to retaliate for all the first-nation-type (you know the argument: “we are Scotland’s poor, working class workers being exploited by the super-rich toffs & foreigners”) garbage propaganda being pedalled by the netting community!

Perhaps, if anyone agrees with me, they should let me know. Maybe we should mount a campaign of truth? I say that because the Scottish Government is either being duped by, or is conniving with, the propaganda which is ‘un peu economique avec la verite’ as my schoolboy French might have it.

A Very Poor Season for Anglers

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

These bulletin blogs represent news about Finavon and the South Esk, and my views as a riparian owner. While I may digress at times to write about other places, these are not the views of any other organisation, nor are they designed to promote the interests of any individual or organisation other than Finavon Castle Water and factors affecting the fishery. Tony Andrews

October remained mild to the last, which may have affected the willingness of salmon to take the fly. Certainly it has been very strange year, dominated by low water in the 122 days between the end of May and the beginning of October. There might be some compensation if it was a good vintage in Bordeaux!Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

Very low water in the summer of 2013

Salmon and sea trout have been hard to catch, except for a brief flurry of catches in April and May, and again towards the end of October. The height of the sea trout season in June and July was severely affected by low water. There were large shoals of sea trout lying up in the Boat Pool for a short period in July, which I mentioned in a previous blog.

The late Earnley Gilbert, son of H.A. Gilbert, author of ‘Tales of a Wye Fisherman’, made a perceptive comment about the South Esk at Finavon in 1990 when he remarked during a dry spell in September of that year, “Nae water, nae fish”. How true! Even with a few fish in the pools, as indeed there were all summer long, without water, and with the low river exposing stones seldom seen, the chance of catching a fish was remote. We ended our season with 57 salmon and grilse and 31 sea trout. That is Finavon’s lowest catch since 1984.

Usan Nets 4

Regular readers of these blogs will recognise these nets in Lunan Bay belonging to Usan Fisheries Ltd. As we learn more about the extent of the ‘influence’ of this mixed stocks fishery and of the potential threat to ‘the rivers in-between’ (See previous blog; ‘Rivers in Between’ dated 22 September 2013) we have to answer the question, “How can fishery managers of any Scottish east coast river take effective action to conserve fragile populations while this indiscriminate anachronism continues?” If politicians are worried about fair play let us call their bluff and close the whole South Esk District to all forms of exploitation (rods and nets) of both salmon and sea trout. Noone, not the netting interests, not recreational fishery owners, has any right – commercial, legal or human – to exploit a threatened natural species. Conserving wild salmonids must be our number one priority.

Did other South Esk beats fare any better? As regular readers of these blogs will know, I make an assumption that the declared catches from 4 major South Esk beats probably represent two thirds of the total South Esk rod catch. Here are the 2013 catch returns from those 4 beats:

Beat Salmon before31st May 2013 Salmon total Sea Trout
Cortachy & DP  24 110 74
Inshewan  23   84 31
Finavon Castle  20   57 31
Kinnaird  54 156 57
Kinnaird nets  22
TOTALS 143 407 193


Upper Kinnaird did well in the spring and Middle Kinnaird caught up in the autumn. Cortachy and DP caught reasonable numbers of fish in the spring and back end, although their seasonal total is well below average. Inshewan did better than Finavon for salmon and grilse, and caught the same number of sea trout. Both beats’ catches were well below average, especially Finavon with about 30% of its ten year average for salmon.

With a season’s total of 407 salmon and grilse from these four beats we might expect the total rod catch for the whole river to be in the order of 610, which is a bit over half the long term average. As for sea trout, if we apply the same crude formula as above, the total rod sea trout catch for the South Esk could be as low as 290.

In an extended low water year, as 2013 certainly was, we cannot expect a high rod catch. Similar previous dry years, such as 1975 and 1976, show catches of sea trout at Finavon as 12 and 17 respectively. Catches of salmon and grilse were 17 and 15 in those two dry years. But there are anomalies such as 1994 when, in another dry year, Finavon caught 242 sea trout. In that same year the net and coble fishery in Montrose Basin caught 2,200 sea trout, c.650 grilse and about 280 salmon. That was the last year the Basin was netted.

A low river, low angling effort, and a shortage of both salmon and sea trout could not add up to a successful season, as indeed it did not! Put in those stark numerical terms it is all too easy to argue that the South Esk’s stocks have collapsed. But, if we look at the big picture, the last hundred years as opposed to the last five, we can see that we have been here before. Of course the most dominant ‘big picture’ factor is marine mortality, which is currently about 5% survival for MSW salmon and maybe between 6% and 10% for grilse.

Our natural freshwater smolt ‘factory’

While there are undoubtedly improvements that need to be carried out within the river catchment, it is perhaps fair to claim from observation that the South Esk is sending reasonable numbers of smolts to sea. With more than 90% of those smolts dying at sea and some serious doubts over the viability of certain populations within the stock, is it really wise to continue with a commercial fishery, let alone a mixed stocks one, in the South Esk District?