Archive for July, 2012

Heavy rain, lots of fish & a dirty Lemno

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

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

There’s been an 11 day gap since I last wrote, and much has happened. The rain just keeps coming and with it the sea trout. We caught 67 sea trout in June which is better than for 8 years. But we shouldn’t use the catch figure to claim that numbers of sea trout in the S Esk are improving because the catch at Cortachy and Downie Park has been well below par. Inshewan meanwhile is plugging away on an average return. It is however encouraging to see that the Kinnaird Beats (near the estuary) are producing good numbers of sea trout, which suggests that fresh fish continue to arrive in the river. It will be interesting to see how long the run continues. In a good year July should be as least as good a sea trout month as June. What can be said is that our 2012 sea trout are in excellent condition. Most of them are female, and healthy and hefty females produce big fat eggs, which give the new generation a great start in life.

As far as South Esk salmon are concerned, we continue to see fresh run salmon and amongst them some very large fish. Judging by the North Esk returns and reports from other rivers there has been a resurgence of MSW salmon, as predicted by Jens Christian Holst, the Norwegian marine ecologist. He argued that good feeding in some parts of the North Atlantic Ocean has ensured that some salmon achieve prime condition. Of course, because these multi sea winter fish stay longer at sea than grilse, their numbers are reduced by predation and other causes. We should therefore not expect great numbers, but we can reasonably expect the fish that do survive to be in prime condition. As an example, Moray hooked a fine salmon in Volcano, which he estimates was well over 20lbs, and that is consistent with big fish reported by CC & DP on the South Esk, and Stracathro on the North Esk, not to mention the salmon estimated at 48lbs reported from Balmoral on the Dee. As yet there are no signs of grilse, although I hear that some have been caught in the nets. With a total of 27 salmon caught at Finavon in 2012 the season so far is about average.

Intensive Agriculture and heavy rain don’t mix! Rain falling on soggy and recently ploughed fields has washed topsoil into the burns, especially the Lemno. Recent digging and straightening of the Lemno Burn above Battledykes have released huge amounts of orange coloured subsoils into the river. At first we thought that late planting of potatoes had made the soil easily lifted by the floods, but now, into July, it seems that the Lemno has become a real problem in the quantities of silt it is now regularly spewing into the river at the Red Brae. The result is that below the confluence the river is running much dirtier than normal, clogging up gravels and making fly fishing difficult for some hours after the peak of the floods. I have reported the problem to SEPA and hope that some bales of straw or similar buffers to silt movement can be placed in the bed of the Lemno channel.

As I write this on the 2nd of  July the River is purling down in full spate. By 6pm today, if there is no more rain, we can expect to be able to fish for salmon in the quieter water of Willows and the Boat Pool with a large fly and a sinking leader. If sea trout are still running it should be possible to pick them up in the tail of the Boat Pool and Willows.

Radio tagging project on the South Esk: The report from the Marine Scotland website shows that, of the 153 fish tagged to date, only 43 have been recorded. Of these, 18 have entered the South Esk and 6 dropped back below the most downstream of the receivers. On the North Esk 17 fish have entered the River and 5 dropped back. 5 fish have been recorded at Almondmouth on the Tay and 3 fish caught by nets at sea. 

Lower Boat Pool

Lower Boat Pool

The photograph above is of Lower Boat Pool in high water. This pool is the best place at Finavon to catch salmon and sea trout in spate conditions. The pool is easily waded, even in high water, from the right bank and fish lie across the full breadth of the river from Volcano ‘squeeze’ all the way down to the cauld at the tail of the pool. It is one of those places where the fish come to you!

It is important to note that these MSW salmon are among the less than 10% survivors of the outgoing smolt migration of that year class returning from the marine phase of their lives. With 110 of these 153 tagged salmon unrecorded it is inevitable that there will be some consternation at the disappearance of so many potential spawners in prime condition being ‘lost’ at the very end of their return migration. Where are they? If we think of these fish as representative of the PFA (pre-fishery abundance) of the regional return (from proven mixed stocks ie from a number of different rivers),and apply the percentages from the 2012 stage of the South Esk project to all spring fish arriving off the coast (PFA), it is a reasonable assertion that more than 70% of the PFA abundance is unaccounted for, of which some are possibly lost through predation, poaching and other causes. Real cause for concern; perhaps it is now a priority for us to get our coastal waters in order

TA on 2/7/2012