Archive for September, 2011

Another overnight freshet and a South Esk issue

Monday, September 26th, 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

Sunday night (25/9) saw black clouds looming over the Angus hills and, sure enough, the river was up 18″ and peaty this morning. Conditions will not be ideal for the fly until the suspended silts are deposited and the colour drains away. In these circumstances the most effective way to catch salmon is with a rapala or flying C, but I’m pleased to say the Graham Dutton’s party, who are fishing for the first half of the week, are all dedicated to using the fly. With drier weather and higher temperatures forecast they should have plenty of opportunities to fish the fly once the river settles back.

Fishing Melgund

This is ‘Big Dave’ fishing Melgund Pool at a great height for a salmon in the best lie from the north bank (Indies Beat). In fact this pool fishes well all the way down, and right into the tail. It is a very good holding pool.

A local issue: is the South Esk “a problem”? The purpose of these bulletin blogs is mainly to keep our visiting fishers and anyone with an interest in Finavon and the South Esk updated. From time to time an issue comes up which I feel ought to be aired as part of that update. I am referring to an article in last week’s Courier newspaper in which it was asserted that “the South Esk is a problem”. The Fishery Board member quoted was referring to the perception that numbers of salmon returning to the South Esk, especially in the spring months, are cause for concern. I have said before in these bulletins that noone knows how many salmon enter the South Esk, unlike the North Esk which, as a marker river, has a government funded fish counter at Logie. So how does anyone conclude that “the South Esk is a problem” when they have no data to support that assertion? The problem for managers such as myself is that the bad press for the river that comes from comments, such as that quoted in the Courier, damages our businesses, and therefore reduces the amount of money to invest in habitat improvements.

The particular aspect of recent catches which appears to have prompted the claim that runs of salmon into the South Esk are “a problem” is the spring catch of May  and June 2010, which happened to be one of the driest periods in recent years. If we are to judge whether or not stocks of salmon (and sea trout) in the South Esk are healthy on the basis of rod catches we are not going to get anywhere close to the reality of the composition and abundance of the river’s stocks of both species. There is wisdom in the words of the late Earnley Gilbert who regularly fished the South Esk when he said of salmon fishing here, “Nae water: nae fish”. The fact is that in very low water salmon catches drop away to virtually nil, however many salmon are in the pools. Using rod catches as the only measure to assess stocks is a crude and inaccurate instrument. But, using rod catch statistics intelligently, taking into account the prevailing conditions and corroborating other methods of assessment, is clearly helpful. You may want to look at my unscientific, and as yet unchallenged, assessment of South Esk stocks in the FCW bulletin of 14 June 2011.

Melgund Pool

 Melgund is a deep holding pool where salmon have been seen in every month from March to October in both 2010 and 2011. The lower section of the pool holds sea trout, which can be caught here in low water at night, and salmon which can be caught at the level shown in the photograph above. Melgund is a long pool (about 250 yards) with a narrow and deep throat where the current is focussed along the north bank before spreading out into the main pool and then into the tail, which ends with the cauld (or RPJ) at the head of Frank’s Stream. It is a lovely pool to fish, the head from either bank, and the mid section and tail only from the south bank.

There is it seems a mild odour of conviction politics pervading this whole issue, which I feel prevents us assessing the South Esk’s stocks objectively. As a riparian owner and hands-on manager of a middle river fishery on the South Esk, I can say intuitively that the last two years (and I include the 2010 period in question, when few were caught!) have seen noticeably more salmon than in previous years. I do not present this as data, but purely the conclusion I have reached after detailed daily observation of the river at all times of the year. I don’t have the means of counting fish comprehensively or accurately, but I do take account of the declared Usan net catches and I do count the fish I see, as does one of my upstream neighbours. Our conclusion is that we should continue to take special care of the early running salmon because, probably caused by high levels of marine mortality, there is a nationwide shortage of MSW salmon returning in March, April and May. In that respect, and that one only, I support the fishery board policy to continue protecting our early running salmon. But, for the rest of the year, and I include sea trout here, there is absolutely no data that supports the assertion that the South Esk is “a problem”.

So, what is the “problem”? We only have one problem I suggest and that is “we haven’t the faintest idea of how many salmon (or sea trout) run the South Esk in a season, or how the stock is broken down into genetically distinct populations” (I quote myself because until we do have a much better idea what the South Esk’s stock comprises we should avoid making damaging statements about the river being “a problem”). Our priority for the South Esk must be to mount a major stock assessment project and put an end to the speculation. In the meantime I await a science-based challenge to the figures I postulated in my blog on 14 June!



Plenty of fish, but hard work catching them!

Saturday, September 24th, 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 seen the South Esk in perfect conditions, with the exception of today which was a mite on the bright side. With the river fining down after an extended period of high water, good numbers of fish in all the pools, a high proportion of them fresh, and a gradually rising barometer, you would have thought that catching salmon would be fairly productive and uncomplicated. Not so I’m afraid, and this week has produced only 5 salmon and 3 sea trout to date (just a chance of a fish this evening as the light fades – always optimistic!). If it’s any consolation to people coming to fish the South Esk in the next few weeks, the last of the 2011 season, fish usually come back onto the take after the first frosts put a sharp dip into water temperatures, but we will need water and, with a ‘High’ developing over the North Atlantic, we may see water levels drop and the leaves start to give the river that minestrone look.

Paul Boston 10lbs

Paul Boston 10lbs

Congratulations to Paul Boston (above) who caught his second salmon – a hen fish of 10lbs – in the Bridge Pool on a size 12 Cascade. He achieved this by obeying the first law of successful salmon fishing – “perseverance catches fish”! In difficult circumstances, and with not much else being caught, this was a good fish. Well done Paul!

I mentioned in the last bulletin that fish have been hooked and lost, and that continues to be the case, but there was a nice 10lbs salmon caught in the Bridge Pool yesterday and plenty of fish were seen.I fished down the Marcus House Pool at dusk and saw good fish, some well into the teens of pounds, showing in the top section of the pool. I fished it twice, varying just about everything you can vary – angle of cast, size & colour of fly, speed of retrieve, depth etc etc, but nary an offer, although after I fished it through there was briefly a period of heightened activity, suggesting my passing by had stirred them up. But all to no avail.

Later on I fished through Harry’s Bar and Upper Melgund, all in perfect conditions. I saw salmon showing in the cheek of the stream at the head of Melgund Pool, but that was about it. That’s September for you, a month that can offer doldrums-type salmon fishing, but it can also be spectacularly productive! The uncertainty of which it will be – feast or famine – is why we go salmon fishing!







Big spate, a long run-off and fresh salmon

Wednesday, September 21st, 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

After heavy rain last Friday the river came up quickly and flooded the woods at Indies and Bogardo, no doubt spreading more Himalayan balsam seeds in the process. A tricky few days followed with high and turgid water, but a lot of fish, both salmon and sea trout, showing in all the pools but only one caught each day. Our visiting rods saw action, with fish pulling but not hooking, and a few salmon lost.

Lower Melgund

This photo is of the lower section of Melgund Pool, which has some well placed lie boulders in the tail and about 30 yards above. It looks perfect for holding salmon in high or medium water. Apart from one pile of boulders, it offers a reasonably easy wade. I recommend this part of the highly productive Melgund Pool for an autumn salmon. Melgund is in fact quite a long pool, of similar dimensions to House Pool, and just as likely a pool to catch salmon and sea trout.

I fished Marcus House Pool late in the afternoon on Tuesday, but the water was too high and fast for a pool that is at its best in a medium river height. Later on I fished down Frank’s Stream, which again was pretty big, and caught a lovely silver 9lbs salmon at the head of the pool. I also caught a lively four pound sea trout in the tail of Indies Pool, which at that water height is a pool of genuine scale, inviting you to open your shoulders and cast a long line right across the fan-shaped tail towards the jumble of accumulated flotsam at the top of Merrinwood. There were quite a few salmon showing in the run just above the right bank overhanging willow that marks the main boulder feature and holding spot of Indies Pool.

South Esk in Glen Clova

This photo is of the main stem of the South Esk just below Braedownie in Glen Clova. This section of the River provides spawning and excellent juvenile habitat for salmon and sea trout. People who fish the middle river of the South Esk often forget how many miles of river there is above the confluence of the S Esk and Prosen, just downstream of Cortachy Castle. Salmon are caught by Kirriemuir Angling Club members and anglers from the Glen Clova Hotel. The meandering and silty river in the flood plain of the glen provides good holding water for salmon throughout the summer and autumn.

Overnight on Tuesday the river dropped quietly to a much more manageable level and the water cleared. Fishing at 0700 on Milton Beat I saw a number of fish, especially in Willows, but, as in the previous two days, the fishing was dour and I moved nothing. However, late in the afternoon I had a report from Moray that he had landed a pristine 12lb fish in that magic place in the Red Brae that I described in the last bulletin. An hour later I caught another of exactly the same size in Frank’s Stream just below the willow groyne, a beautiful deep & sea-liced autumn salmon: bright silver and firm fleshed.

If the river continues to drop slowly, and the occasional shower provides freshets to keep the chemical signals bringing in more fresh salmon, the fishing should improve considerably during the rest of the week.  The totals for Finavon Castle Water for the 2011 season are 114 salmon and 95 sea trout, which, if October comes up to its normal productivity, should see us with over 150 salmon for the season, and perhaps just over 100 sea trout.

The beats are now fully booked for the rest of the 2011 season.