Archive for July, 2011

Dry in the West; floods in the East.

Monday, July 11th, 2011

These bulletin blogs represent news about Finavon and the South Esk, and my views as a riparian owner. They 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 spent last week fishing the Gruinard River in Wester Ross. This was a rare moment of infidelity in my long relationship with Finavon. I am no philanderer when it comes to my love affair with the South Esk, but, if you are going to have a fling, there’s nowhere quite like the Gruinard and Strath na Shealagh. My upstream neighbour and riparian co-proprietor, Colin Gibb (see picture), has long held this view of East and West!

Low water on the River Gruinard below the road bridge

Colin Gibb, proprietor of Inshewan fishings on the South Esk, fishing on Loch Na Shealagh:

Loch Na Shealagh, head of the Gruinard River, Wester Ross.

While the South Esk had a week of heavy rain, high water and a tumultous flood on Thursday night, the Gruinard dropped away to a bare stickle by the end of the week. In fact it was only the East wind that kept water slopping out of Loch Na Shealagh, and when the wind died and then veered to the West the river level dropped by two inches. In such circumstances most fishers would have packed their bags, googled ‘golf courses Wester Ross’ or do what I did, which was to visit the incomparable Inverewe Gardens and some of my old haunts around the shores of Loch Ewe. Despite the low water in the Gruinard River we managed to catch 2 salmon, 19 sea trout and 34 brownies, all in the Loch, which in the circumstances wasn’t too bad.

The West in sharp contrast to the East….

The Flats (Milton Beat) and suspension bridge beyond

Back at home our tenants, Simon our web designer, and our mustard-keen syndicate members, all struggled to catch fish. When they did land one (many were lost) it was usually a cracker, exemplified by a beautiful 10lbs salmon caught by Ian Ingledew and a 4lbs 6oz sea trout caught by the Brattesani party. Then the floods came, the water coloured up and everything went quiet catchwise, although the river must have been sending a powerful chemical signal to its progeny of grilse, salmon and sea trout lying off the coast. I find the thought of these summer fish, a high proportion of which usually fall victim to the Usan nets, entering the river in response to the flood signal, most reassuring. It is inspiring to reflect on them forging their way upstream unobstructed, and more than likely being in a position to fulfil the object of their migration – spawning. We need a long term view of the River with the thought of another year when stocks will be naturally replenished without much in the way of impediments to that vital process. After all, it is that natural cycle that makes the world go round, a point repeatedly made by Ted Hughes in his salmon poems.

Upper South Esk Catchment: Glen Clova (once described to me by a well known fishery biologist as “perfect juvenile habitat for salmon and trout”)

The catch for the wet week at Finavon that ended on the 9th of July was 5 salmon (4 of which were grilse) and 4 sea trout. Not too bad in the circumstances. The grilse are now starting to appear, mostly under 4lbs, but over the next 6 weeks or so we should see the average weight rise, perhaps with the occasional fish into double figures by the time October comes. Prospects for the coming weeks look reasonable, provided the grilse keep coming in. My suspicion is that the sea trout run has peaked and that we will be lucky to maintain our average catch numbers of these fish. The River is in great condition, ready for the late summer and autumn runs of MSW fish. We have a few unlet days so please get in touch with Moray Macfarlane (07835 717 150)  if you want to fish for autumn salmon.


Difficult conditions: fluctuating levels

Friday, July 1st, 2011

These bulletin blogs represent news about Finavon and the South Esk, and my views as a riparian owner. They 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

These last few days have been hard going. Although we have had 13 sea trout and a couple of salmon so far this week, they have not been easy to catch and, apart from a flurry of both species showing in the Red Brae while Moray was fishing, and two or three salmon lost, very little has been seen breaking the surface. The truth is that June can be doldrums time on the South Esk, with the spring run over and the first of the grilse yet to appear.

In such conditions, with heavy showers making the water level rise and fall sometimes three or four times each day, the fish have been unsettled and the sea trout just kept moving on. People of the doomwatch variety will say, with absolutely no data to justify their pontifications, that this is a bad year for sea trout. I would simply ask, “on what basis are you making that statement, and anyway don’t you mean a bad year for the night fishing sea trout angler?” The likelihood is that this is a great year in conservation termsfor the sea trout of the S Esk when you think that the only reason the fish come into fresh water from the sea is to spawn. Lots of water in the

Elizabeth Petrie & Alison Andrews on Jock Barefoot’s Bridge

river means that their passage upstream to the spawning areas is made easy; much easier than in low water when they have to scramble and slither their way upstream through shallows, risking predation and damage to their fragile scales and fins.

Upriver I see that Inshewan, Cortachy and Downie Park are starting to catch fish, as is usual after the spring run have left the comfortable pools and streams of the lowland river for the gorges and cataracts of the highland river above us. But these are not the best conditions for the iconic sport of night fishing for sea trout. We need the river to settle and clear, when there may be some sea trout in the pools for us to catch. Let’s see. Next week looks as though it may be more settled.

Simon Walter, our website designer, testing Jock Barefoot’s Bridge

We may have seen a grilse or two, but the majority of the salmon we are still seeing are the remnants of the spring run of multi sea-winter salmon, with a few of their summer MSW cousins. Our syndicates on Bogardo and Indies Beats are doing well in these difficult conditions. If the river settles down and the grilse start arriving the fishing will improve. Let’s hope that George Pullar gets his nets out on time this Friday to allow a few grilse into the river. In the past the statistics show that the Usan nets snap up over 90% of our grilse. You could let a few hundred into the river this year, couldn’t you George? Surely you don’t need all of them?

Postscript written on 2 July. As the river level has dropped over the last 24 hours, and the colour faded from the water, we are seeing a few good fish – both salmon and sea trout – in FCW pools, but nowhere near the numbers we would have seen had there not been two weeks of continuously high water. I am in little doubt that the bulk of the sea trout run is now through the lower and middle river. Unless there is a further run of fish, that probably means that sea trout fishing will continue to be difficult for the rest of this season. But it will be interesting to see how Cortachy and Downie Park get on in the coming week, which is traditionally one of their big sea trout weeks of the year. As I said above, these conditions are fine for sea trout conservation, but not so good for anglers. Never mind: there’ll be another year!