Newsletter No 1
Welcome to our first Newsletter! We have decided to publish a newsletter every quarter to inform Ghillies, proprietors, angling clubs and all those with an interest in our great river. We welcome input from anyone, informative or controversial!
Constitution Update. At the TGA AGM in January our constitution changed to better reflect our changing world and the need to embrace many outside organisations to ensure we achieve the changes we desperately need on our river. By engaging other interested parties, we can better understand their issues and they will better understand ours.
Membership criteria for TGA have expanded greatly and we now welcome members from angling clubs, river proprietors, the tourism and hospitality industry and wildlife organisations. Lockdown has meant that many plans have been put on hold but, hopefully, this will change over the next few weeks.
Our new constitution highlights our objectives as follows:
“The objectives of the Association are to promote the conservation and preservation of the Atlantic Salmon in the River Tay system for the benefit of all anglers, businesses, tourists, river proprietors and local people. To meet these objectives the Association will help fund specific salmon and environmental projects as well as raising river-related issues with the appropriate organisations.”
Cohn O’Dea, our Chairman and Taymount Head Ghillie, recently stood down from his position on the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board to allow another member, Bob Mason, to represent the TGA at the board meetings.
Bob, who is now retired, is also the Secretary of Perth and District Angling Association. As a former RAF Flt Lt and fast jet pilot, and a Director of a UK blue chip company, Cohn felt Bob was probably better placed to attend and deal with the “cut and thrust” of board meetings and represent the association membership.
As changes evolved John Ross (Ghillie at Stobhall) stood down as Secretary and Jim Henderson took up that position. Jim is a native of Perthshire, but left the district to join the Glasgow Police. He retired as a Detective Inspector and returned to Perthshire to live in Auchterarder. Both Bob and Jim have a passion for the river and its tributaries. The challenges facing both men in bringing about change in the district might be harder than they experienced in any conflict in the Middle East or the back streets of Glasgow! More on this to follow.
- Bird Counts
The TGA believes that predation from birds is a major issue. Acknowledging that Marine Scotland is running a survey on piscivorous bird stomach contents over the next 12 months, the TGA decided, last July, to start gathering information on the actual number of piscivorous birds in the Tay system.
This information would be collected on a monthly basis over the next 12 months, such that when the Marine Scotland study was published, there would be substantive evidence of the bird numbers on the Tay.
The count is carried out by the Tay Ghillies, and other volunteers throughout the system, and takes place on the lower and middle Tay, Loch Tay and feeder rivers/streams. The count follows the Scottish Natural Heritage counting protocol:
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) – Licences to control fish-eating birds for the purpose of preventing serious damage to fisheries: COUNTING METHODS FOR RIVERINE BIRDS.
A combination count is followed.
It is not possible to count on every beat due to lack of personnel but we try our best! We did ask the TDSFB to join us but this was refused, for reasons unknown.
The counts from last July are shown in the graph below:
b. PIT Tags
The TGA provided some funding to TDSFB to buy the tags. The TDSFB study is to tag smolts in the upper reaches of the Tay and record returns of tagged adult fish to the river. The study has been ongoing for over 3 years and the results on paper do not look good. The subject was the topic of much discussion between Dr Summers and the Ghillies when they met some months ago. The ghillies’ position is that the number of smolts leaving the river is an unknown quantity thereby skewing the returning figures.
Currently, we are considering a number of projects aimed at improving the Tay and its environment. Lockdown has severely curtailed our actions here and we must pick up the pace once we enter the later stages of leaving lockdown. Fundraising will be a priority. Standby for more news on that!
We are also looking at creating a website which will allow us to spread our news to a much wider audience.
The Almondbank Hatchery is an important asset for the River and allows us to give Mother nature a helping hand after many years of human intervention with weirs, dams, turbine generators, pollution, abstraction and predator protection.
However, the scientists in Marine Scotland have come up with a stocking policy which, if followed to the letter, could threaten our ability to stock the river where necessary. Our own policy has had some remarkable successes, with the most recent being the re-watered river Garry which now has adult salmon returning because of our stocking policy.
The future of the Hatchery is secure in the short term thanks to the generosity of John Apthorp – he is an elder statesman on the river and we are so grateful for his passion for the Tay and unbelievable generosity. However, we must ensure its long-term future and we need to work with the TDSFB and Marine Scotland to make sure that people actually on the River Tay can secure a future for our Atlantic Salmon.
It is important that the TGA works closely with the Board to ensure the wellbeing of our river, its environment and its people. We include the whole catchment – the health of every tributary and burn is vital.
Relations last year were strained and it was decided to hold a meeting between the Board and the TGA. This took place at the Tayside Hotel, Stanley. The meeting was positive in many ways, less so in others, but it was agreed that such meetings should be a regular occurrence. TGA reorganisation and Lockdown has prohibited another meeting but one will be organised as soon as allowed. It was also agreed that David Summers would attend meetings when asked. The first meeting with David, and Mike Brown, took place earlier this year and was very positive.
We must continue to work together – there are recent signs of the relationship souring and both sides must take steps to rectify this.
RIVER EARN MUSINGS
Now that the restrictions on fishing appear to be easing at last, it is perhaps time to anticipate what the remainder of the season may hold for those who pursue the gentle art on the banks of the Earn.
However, a brief resume of the foreshortened season from February to the latter days of March might be helpful. As February 2020 was counted as the wettest since records began, sport was at a standstill until water heights and colour improved. Thankfully as March progressed some of the beats became fishable and it became clear that a decent run of spring fish was present. There are reports that both Dunning and Trinity Gask got off the mark and the temperature barrier at Colqualzie Weir provided Innerpeffrey Fishings with an excellent start, recording some lovely fishing mainly in 8-10lb class. Kinkell took a little longer to reach the lower heights preferred there, but by the time the fishing was closing in late March, it was fishing well and amongst the tally a number of good-sized early sea-trout also came to hand.
Turning back at the present, it may be that sea-trout will provide most of the sport as we move from May into June. Although June may be relied on to provide the cream of the sea-trout season, there were signs that sea-trout were present in decent numbers from early May, as indeed was the happy situation in former years. It was impossible to gauge what stock was present in the absence of fishing for them. We will soon find out.
Many of the sea-trout landed on the Earn fall victim to salmon flies fished for their larger cousins.
The Earn also enjoys a reputation for providing good sport for sea-trout during daytime hours, even on hot sunny days occasionally.
However, what we really want is settled weather and river heights, a spring tide, a light SW breeze fading away at the change of light at about nine o’clock, a floating line and a wee Silver Stoat and ………….
Good luck and good fishing.
For over 18 years the river Ericht has suffered with its recurrent ongoing water abstraction This has been highlighted again this week with the warm weather and we are receiving reports of over 30 fish stranded in Smedley’s pool in 3” of water.
The BDRAA, SEPA, TDSFB and other bodies we know were engaged in talks on the subject in 2019 and we are ever hopeful of a resolution to the situation. However, we need action, not words and the regulatory bodies need to step up to the mark.
Contrast the above with last week when, with the heavy rainfall, substantial numbers of fish were seen “running”. Historically the Ericht is recorded as a major spawning tributary with record catches of fish in bygone days. There was a counter on the fish pass, but this counter has been removed. Sadly, the fish pass itself is now in a bad state of repair.
On a positive note, much work has been done by proprietor Andrew Lees in conjunction with a work party from BDRAA, to clear the paths and bankings. The river is much improved in appearance thanks to this work. Sadly, the beavers undo a lot of the good work on the river, by undermining banks and destroying trees.
When the conditions are right, this lovely river provides incredible sport! Give it a go!