Thursday, December 31, 2015

Salmon Fishing Scotland Tay, Perthshire Salmon Season Review 2015.

Salmon Fishing Scotland Tay, Perthshire Salmon Season Review 2015.

Tay Salmon Fishing Review 2015.

The river Tay in Perthshire, Scotland has had a reasonable salmon fishing year by modern standards as the FishTay web site have reported 5499 Salmon and Grilse being caught for the 2015 fishing season. It must be said that salmon fishing catches are no longer easily achieved with this situation being mirrored right across the north Atlantic sea board due to problems at sea with a continued increase in smolt mortality that is out of the rivers control. In terms of the salmon and grilse catch, the 2015 season total shows an 15% increase on 2014 and a 18.3 % decrease on the 5 year average for FishTay beats. It should also be noted that there were no catches in the last 2 weeks of October this year due to the extension fishing being stopped halfing the October catch effectively.
Catches reported per month through the season were as follows Jan 34, Feb 89, Mar 307, Apr 499, May 699, Jun 657, Jul 487, Aug 907, Sep 1141 and October 679. The spring period from January to May continues to be a positive part of the season, showing a similar catch to 2014 and representing a 13.8 % increase on the 5 year average. This confirms the trend starting on the Tay 3 years ago with much better spring fishing. The early spring was steady but the late spring was very positive especially for the middle river confirming the spring proportion of the catch on the Tay is increasing year on year with this years catch being 30 % of the total. We are continuing to see the start of a change in the cycles as in the past. Further evidence of this phenomenon was the superb June ending the 2015 spring run. The summer period including June to the end of August increased by 81% on a disappointing 2014 which was very positive. The autumn period was not as good as in 2014, September to October showed a 10 % decrease on 2014 due to the lack of rain and very weak run. The Grilse run improved in 2015 however there was a distinct lack of larger fish. September was the most productive month of the year due the extension ceasing in 2014 curtailing October figures. Another aspect of the catch was the continuation of larger multi sea winter salmon being caught throughout the Tay system in the 20 to 30 pounds class, which the river has been famous for over the years.
To provide some context it has to be said the 2015 salmon rod catch was an improvement on 2014 with a great late spring run but with disappointments in the autumn, hopefully there will be improvements to come in 2016. The spring was again the big plus which is all ready creating massive interests in spring fishing for 2016 with much anticipation after this years autumn failing. The summer was better with the end of the spring run and a few more grilse about but the autumn was more difficult in most areas with a distinct absence of a run possibly due to the north Atlantic problems in the sea and also long periods of very low water at the end of the season. October catches were well down due to the lack of water and even the extension would not have made a difference. The river debated the extension period (last 2 weeks of October) for the future at the end of 2014 season and decided not to continue it in 2015. The rains well and truly arrived at the end of November and have continued right through December with water levels not going below 8 feet on the Ballathie gauge. There is no doubt damage has been done to the spawning especially on the main stem. Thankfully we have a hatchery at Almondbank to help, this maybe something to further develop for the future with all the weather extremes being thrown at us in recent years.
The river has had a reasonable year with some positives but everyone expects a lot more so every effort must be made to take the river forward to the levels of the past and put the mighty Tay in its rightful position of being the premiere salmon fishing destination in the world. The river has had another good spring run and catch this season, which may just be down to the majority of anglers returning salmon over the past seasons. Thank you to all anglers who have this season returned their salmon and in particular spring salmon to maintain our sport for the future, it is vitally important and is a great contribution by individuals who care for their sport and the river. Well done! It should be pointed out there are a number of beats that do not report catches on the FishTay website and the full rod catch for the River Tay in 2015 will be a bit higher than shown on the FishTay website.

This part of the report came from Tay Board annual report written by D Summers.

Season 2015.
The 2015 Tay salmon season opened on Thursday 15 January, a wintry feeling day with the Tay running high, as it had done since the start of the year. Despite poor conditions, four springers were caught on the opening day, all in the Dunkeld-Kinnaird area. Although water levels did settle for a period, January ended with the river running high again, and catches reflected this. Only some 34 fish were reported on the fishtay website for the first two weeks, a little below the recent average, but conditions were not great on average.
The first half of February was generally frosty and saw relatively settled conditions, but catches remained modest. However, the second half was quite unsettled. With 89 fish reported on the website, things were again a little down on the recent average. Some fish were caught on Loch Tay, however.
In the first half of March the river generally ran very high and was very unsettled. Conditions were difficult for the main river, but some fish at least did push well through the system, with some more caught on Loch Tay but the Tummel was very quiet. Fortunately things improved in the second half when the level gradually fell away under drier, generally chilly, weather. 307 salmon were reported on the website for March, which was just under the recent average. However, about 200 of those were caught in the second half of the month after the floods subsided. Indeed, from mid March onwards the fishing was steady. The River Tummel also picked up, Loch Tay continued to produce fish and the Dunkeld area started to become something of a hotspot, as it would continue to be. A significant proportion of the fish reported appear to have been 3SW fish, with some bigger fish among them. For example, Taymount reported a 31 pounder and Cargill, one of 29 pounds.
April opened with the river running moderately high, but it basically then fell away for the rest of the month. The early part of the month was cool, but after a few unseasonably warm days the end of the month saw a return to cooler weather, even with snow on higher ground. Catches were quite reasonable, however. The 499 reported on the website, though not as good as April 2014 was better than the recent average. The Tay between approximately Murthly and Dunkeld fished relatively well as did the River Tummel. Notably, one angler had three fish to 32 pounds in one day on the Findynate beat on the upper Tay. Another of a similar size was caught on Loch Tay while one estimated at 35 pounds was caught on the Chesthill beat of the Lyon.
The first week of May saw wetter weather return and it was a wetter month for the most part. However, it proved to be a good month fishing wise. The 699 fish on the website was well ahead of the five year average (520), possibly making it one of the best Mays in recent times. In 2014 the fishing had been good in March and April but then crashed in May. That did not happen this year. The catches remained steady all month. In particular, beats in middle river did really well in May, especially between Murthly and Dunkeld. The Dunkeld House beat had 76 salmon for the month including one day on which 11 salmon were caught. The River Tummel also did well, perhaps aided by the fact it was the coolest May for a number of years meaning fish were slow to start ascending Pitlochry Dam. Through May, catches on Loch Tay slowed down, where they appear to have been quite reasonable earlier.
June was also a good month. It opened with another spate but was essentially dry thereafter. Good catches continued throughout most of the month, again especially in the Murthly to Dunkeld area, only really faltering in the last week. This time it was the turn of the Murthly 2 beat to report 76 for the month but other beats in the area continued to fish well as they had for several months. Indeed, one angler fishing on the Dunkeld Angling Club water apparently had something like 30 salmon for the season to June. And not only did that area continue to do well, the Tummel also continued to do well and did not slow as it often does at that time of year. In total 657 salmon were reported on the fishtay website, compared to an average of 450 and only 237 in 2014. Of course the full catch including beats whish do not report on the website will have been even higher, making it one of the best Junes since official reporting started in 1952.
July started with relatively low water and warm weather and catches had fallen well back from the better days of June. However, the summer rapidly disappeared and the weather turned cooler and showery. Then on Friday 17 July there was torrential rain that saw the Tay rise to over 12 feet. Significant damage was caused in the village of Alyth where the burn there burst its banks. Thereafter the weather remained somewhat unsettled and unseasonably cool. While catches did improve from the start of the month, and there was overall a marked improvement over the very poor catch of 2014, with 487 on the website as opposed to 196, it was still under the recent average. The best catches continued to be in the Dunkeld area.
August saw a bit of a rise in the first week but with drier weather setting in it fell thereafter. Again catches were better than in 2014 (907 opposed to 699 on the website) but still below average. Once again, the main summer grilse run, which once came in early July, was well late. On the River Tummel at Pitlochry Dam, for example, the main influx of clean and small grilse did not appear until around mid August.
September was generally a dry month. Despite starting at about three feet, the Tay fell to less than a foot by the end of the month, with only a short lived rise in the middle. The month ended with levels really quite low for that time of year. Catches again reflected the pattern of August. Better than 2014 (1141 opposed to 794 on the website) but still well below even the recent five year average (1609). While more water would have helped, there did not appear to be a big head of larger fresh fish at least as might be hoped for at this time.
October started dry as September had ended but with about a week of the Tay season to go, there was a quick rise and fall, much too late to do anything for Tay fishing. On the River Earn, which remains open to 31 October, the first rise of over two feet since August only occurred on the 29th, again much too late to help. 679 fish were reported on the fishtay website for October, which was slightly less than for the same period last year (in 2014 of course there was a season extension) and well down on the five year average. Curiously, small fresh grilse were reported right to the end of the season.

2015 was therefore something of a strange mix. A better grilse run than in 2014, albeit late and still not really that strong, and a decent mid to late spring run, particularly to western tributaries (the Ericht did not appear to do quite so well). As has been the trend for a few years, the spring run seems to have consisted of more 3SW fish than was the case up to a few years ago. At the end of the 2014 season, there were concerns as to what the very poor grilse run would mean for 2SW salmon in 2015. Had the fish all died at sea and would there be none to return in 2015? However, it is clearly the case that for 2SW spring fish, the 2015 run was not in proportion to the poor run of grilse in 2014. Maybe then, some of the fish that did not return as grilse in 2014 did come back instead as salmon in 2015.
This is an extract from TDSB chairman’s report by B Jack.

“Regardless of the final outcome, it is clear that conservation of salmon stocks is going to be higher on the political agenda than it has ever been. With government determined to show that they comply with the European directives they have signed up to, particularly for rivers that are designated special areas of conservation, of which the Tay is one.”
“The Tay, as the Director's report shows, kills more spring salmon than any other river in Scotland. If we are to be left free to regulate ourselves, then we must make even greater efforts to encourage the release of spring fish and I, once again, urge those few within our river system who continue to kill these precious fish, to think again and to put the interests of the whole river before their own.”
“I would like to thank all anglers and angling clubs who participated and the Ghillies Association who supported the Board's efforts.”

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