Opening Day on the River Spey 2004 [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

Opening Day on the River Spey 2004

Willie Gunn
02-12-2004, 02:47 PM
Spey Opening Day Report.

The years fairly fly by can it really be a whole year since I wrote last years report? A crowd of more than 70, including anglers and their gillies gathered for yesterday's opening ceremony at Aberlour opposite the bottom of Wester Elerchies where I was fishing. The ceremonial pouring of the Glenfarclas single malt was performed by a woman to underline that the skill and expertise needed to hook and land a fish is not a wholly male preserve, Jenny Henderson, from Perthshire, earned the honour by grassing the first fish of last season - a 9lb salmon - on the opening day to win the Spey Quaich.
Local minister the Rev Elizabeth Curran gave a blessing before Mrs Henderson emptied the bottle into the river to the cheers of onlookers. This uncharacteristic waste of good whisky is reputably the reason why gillies will only drink whisky diluted with river water, as there must be some extra whisky there somewhere. Perhaps if I had been less keen to start fishing and had bothered to attend the blessing I might have been more successful but old habits die-hard.

The river was running high +4ft at a temperature of 38f and an air temperature of 55f. A recent spell of warm wet weather had melted the snow causing this mild spate. This year’s first salmon fell to a lucky angler fishing the Rothes beat with a fish of 17lb, another eight fish were taken from the following beats, Orton, Arndilly, Craigellerchie (2), Easter Elerchies, Delagyle, Castle Grant. The more observant of you will notice Wester Elerchies missing from the list. There is some disagreement that all the reported fish were fresh rather than kelts, but opening day is more a social occasion rather than a serious fishing day, lunch in our hut lasted an hour and a half, the days are short enough as it is at this time of the year!
Mrs I Grant who provides the Glenfarclas whisky that they happily waste fishes with me on opening day, this year she was accompanied by a German magazine team who are producing a feature on Speyside and after taking pictures of the opening ceremony they of course required pictures of a successful angler and their hopes were raised when they arrived where I was fishing to see me hook up with a fish. The photographer sprinted down the pool with his fancy camera, lenses, flashgun diffusers and fancy sliver case that I eyed up as a grand reel case. The gillie and I carefully explained that we thought this fish I was playing was probably a kelt as neither of us speaks German, the conversation was not going well. The photographers assistant or writer who was wearing stiletto boots and tight trousers was somewhat of a distraction but I played my part as best I could, my 4 ½ hardy perfect made all the right noises and the rod had an impressive bend in it. Eventually I landed the kelt and Sam the gillie popped out the hook and released the fish back to the Spey accompanied by more flashes and clicks.

I would like it recorded here and now that what ever appears in a German Life style magazine Sam and I knew the fish was a kelt, and I was aware that my padded waistcoat was too long and hung down below my fleece but trying to tuck in my waistcoat whilst holding a 16 ft rod attached to a lively kelt and trying to look serious is not easy. Don’t you just hate it when press photographers turn up and you are not properly dressed

G Ritchie
02-12-2004, 03:16 PM
I hope they have left some for Saturday Malcolm!
Good news, must be the best opening day total from the Spey for quite a few years. The Dee has also got off to a good start.

02-12-2004, 03:31 PM
Tweed seems to have been doing quite well too. 13 fish so far this week off the Junction, according to Fishtweed, in quite high water conditions. Any word from further north (eg Brora/Helmsdale)?

Willie Gunn
02-12-2004, 04:08 PM
Two fish so far, first from the Lower Faninch to Donald Cameron on a 3" Willie Gunn, what else?
The Deveron has had a fish as well which is most unusual to get a fish on opening day.

02-12-2004, 04:12 PM
Keep it coming!

"The Gang from the other side of the Pond."

02-12-2004, 04:18 PM
Mr. Gunn-- Your description of opening day on the Spey brought back wonderful memories for me!

In the mid seventies I spent several days fishing a popular beat on the Spey just outside Grantown-on-Spey. In those days I was a starving college kid and I had only a nine foot Fenwick glass fiber fly rod with a Medalist trout fly reel, not exactly the best tools for the job on that river.

I flogged the Spey for several days with not even a rap. By the third day I was quite discouraged and grew weary of the fishermen I met on the river bank who kept reminding me that I was wasting my time fishing the Spey with such "paltry gear".

On my last day I hooked a beautiful fish. I was astounded how violently it struck my fly. It took off downstream and with no more then fifty yards of backing on my reel I was compelled to follow. I stumbled off across the stones behind her, tripping and falling several times, drenched with sweat, legs palsied and useless.

I could not believe my good fortune-- the fish finally slithered up onto the beach. She was mine-- a gorgeous twelve pound henfish!

A couple stood behind me. They’d witnessed the entire fight. The husband had a movie camera and was filming me as I brought the priest down. His wife looked on flabbergasted. But it wasn’t murder that had shocked her so.

"Would you believe," she said, "would you believe that I've lived in Grantown-on-Spey all my life and I've walked along this path for fifty years and you're the first fisher I've ever seen catch a fish?"

She was in such a frenzy I didn't know whether I should apologize or offer her the fish.

After weighing and reporting where I'd caught it at the sporting goods store in town I returned to my digs. I was breathless with anticipation. I walked tall and proud through the door of Angus MacClellan’s Bed and Breakfast, certain that he would be thrilled when he saw what I carried.

Angus was the proprietor and indeed, he was ecstatic to see me with a fish draped in my arms. He’d been coaching me for several days, telling we where to go and what to use and I think he finally felt vindicated to see me return with such bounty. “Och, laddie, ya finally got one!”, he crowed. "That's just grate!"

There was a young lady in the room. It appeared she’d been booking a room for the evening. "That's a lovely fish you have there," she said. "Would you give me that fish?"

Her eyes were fixed on me. She hadn’t even looked at my fish. I mumbled something about taking it to the local smoke house. Yes, I said with more conviction. I'm going to have it smoked.

I was breathing more heavily then I would have liked. There was perspiration on my forehead. I had that feeling behind my legs I get when trying to converse with a stunner. And I couldn't wipe my forehead because my hands were covered with fish slime.

"Well, then", she said. "Would you give me the fish if I paid for it in kind?" Her voice was sweet and coy like honey. I even thought she’d winked at me but I might have been wrong. I just stood there in idiotic silence, cradling my dead fish like a Pieta.

And before I could put one and one together to finally arrive at two Angus stepped in front of me, facing this lovely woman. He bowed deeply at the waist and moved his arm through the air with a flourish.

"Young lady," he said in a magisterial voice. "I would be thrilled to give you a fish for payment in kind. And it will take me no time at all to return with a fish far larger and more robust then the one you see before you now."

I sat in my car the next day. I’d parked along side the Spey and watched the river flow by. I had just picked up a chunk of salmon from the Grantown smokery. I knew it wasn’t the same fish I’d brought them the day before. It was not what I’d expected. It didn’t taste very good. It was dry and crumbled in my mouth. And they’d used too much salt.

I sipped from my beer and watched the river flow by. Now I know the meaning of payment in kind. And I'll admit it: I hope the Spey never goes catch and release.

Willie Gunn
02-13-2004, 02:05 PM
Marketic, Nice story, how long ago did it all happen, when I first fished at Grantown a season ticket cost 2/6 or about an eighth of a pound.

The Spey has gone across to "Tweed Rules" the first fish goes back but you can keep the second, so you would have to work twice as hard for your smoked salmon. Unfortuately hygiene rules and "traceability" means the smokehouse no longer takes anglers fish. Has the world gone mad or is it me ??????????

Willie Gunn
02-15-2004, 03:35 PM
Originally posted by Gardener
Tweed seems to have been doing quite well too. 13 fish so far this week off the Junction, according to Fishtweed, in quite high water conditions. Any word from further north (eg Brora/Helmsdale)?

From Eddie McCarthy on the Thurso,

Wake up everbody!! Wake up. The Thurso produced it`s first fish of the year from beat thirteen on Valentines day. It was caught by Steelie (lover boy) Smith and weighed just under nine pounds. In truth, the river has only been fishable for a handful of days since opening day because of very high water. The forecast for the next few days is quite reasonable so, if we can get the rods on the water,we might well have a few more.
Before I forget-----Steelie told me that the fish was seduced by his three inch Willie-----Gunn


02-15-2004, 04:56 PM
hello, Mr. Gunn

That interlude in a Grantown-on-Spey Bed & Breakfast occurred in 1973. I lived in London at the time. I spent several hours one day going through a pamphlet I'd picked up at Farlow's on how to go about fishing salmon in Scotland. I was completely dismayed at the costs involved, especially for beats on the Tweed and the Tay, the rivers I'd hoped to fish. I finally drew the conclusion that I'd never be able to afford a Scottish salmon experience.

But then I stumbled on a river called the Spey. In fine print, I learned that one could fish the "town water" on the Spey for 2 quid a day, providing that the angler "stayed at a Bed & Breakfast in Grantown-on-Spey". What a smashing deal! And that's how I came to meet Angus Maclellan.

He was quite a character. I'd only just met him and five minutes later, after proclaiming me a "keen fisher indeed", he insisted that I accompany him in his Mini. With sublime patience he drove me up and down the river, stopping at all his favorite spots, relating to me in absolute impeccable detail the where, the how, the when and the what of salmon fishing on the Spey.

I absolutely had to catch a salmon after all that tutelage!

The evenings were marvelous. Angus had several wooden crates he brought out after dinner. Each was the size of a large laundry basket, absolutely packed to the brim with Brass Faced and Alloy Perfects, Dingleys and old Farlow's. Each was packed in a blue velvet bag. He removed them from these bags like rare jewels and handed them to me as if they were the Faberge eggs.

I think it was then that my perverse fascination with these reels began, although at the time I couldn't imagine using such monstrously large pieces of equipment for my fishing.

And of course it was Angus that taught me the meaning of Payment in Kind, although it seems to be a sad lesson of life that now that I know what the term means, I've never been in a position to consider such an offer again...

02-15-2004, 05:10 PM
Wonderful reports - brings back very fond memories of the old country!

02-16-2004, 04:05 AM
Willie. In line with the Spey Fishery Board's 2004 rule three policy " Where possible the number of hours and rods fished should be limited " Purely in the interest of conservation can I suggest you enjoy at least a three hour lunch in future !

Willie Gunn
02-16-2004, 04:35 AM
The Spey Fishery Board has decided to maintain the Salmon Conservation Policy introduced in 2003 for the 2004 season.

The policy encompasses three key elements,


Where possible the numbers of hours and rods fished should be limited.

Wester Elerchies reduced the pressure on the water and the fish by reducing the number of rods that fish the beat from 7 to 6. Then the time element was reduced to 12 hours /day. As you are aware, it is difficult to find 12 hours of day light in these short February days.

I sure Graham will back me up in saying that you could easily loose 7 anglers in any of the Wester Elerchies pools.

02-16-2004, 05:16 AM
WillieGunn. Presumably the fact that there is no Sunday fishing in Scotland is an additional benefit to conservation. The interesting question as far as I am concerned is this : Just taking the Spey as an example, the fishery board have stated that the benefit to the local economy is "some £50m and 50 full time jobs per annum" How much do you think these figures would increase if Sunday fishing was allowed ?

G Ritchie
02-16-2004, 05:39 AM
Malcolm is quite right you could loose 7 (or more) rods on Wester Elchies. The Sunday closure is another conservation aid which further reduces fishing effort. You have to balance fishing effort against the available resource, the money the fishing brings to the local economy is important, but should not be considered the most important factor. The wellbeing of the river is the most important factor.

02-16-2004, 06:26 AM
Graham. Are you saying that economics has no place in river management ? At the moment we are on a slippery slope if we conclude that the fewer the fishermen the greater the benefit ?!

02-16-2004, 06:32 AM
And I am sure the Scots know how to do that, too! Just raise the prices and wages by 1/7th (or more), then the "losses" for Sundays are made up for! And, besides, even the Creator took a day of rest!

I am sure Malcolm, A.K.A. Willie Gunn, had he been consulted, would have surely given this advice for a modest fee...... :hehe:

Hey, Malcolm, I haven't had a chance to offer my thanks for the advice on the Tartans - My wife and daughters now proudly wear the Tartan scarves of their ancestors.


G Ritchie
02-16-2004, 06:47 AM
Originally posted by mickgbell
Graham. Are you saying that economics has no place in river management ? At the moment we are on a slippery slope if we conclude that the fewer the fishermen the greater the benefit ?!
As I said in my post the revenue from the fishing is very important to the local economy but the well being of the river must come first. Sure, in the short term you can raise more revenue by increasing rod numbers or allowing fishing on a Sunday, but would this not increase pressure on fish stocks which are at an all time low. You have to look at things in the long term and not put profits first if you want to build up the fish stocks to their previous levels.

02-16-2004, 08:15 AM
mickgbell, you're misquoting the economic values for the Spey fishery - it's £12M/yr & 367 jobs. For Scotland as a whole in the order of £100M, as much as golf.
I don't think the ghillies would be very pleased if they had to work on Sundays!

Anthony Tinsley
Spey Fishery Board Member

02-16-2004, 09:01 AM
Anthony. The figures I am quoting are taken from the Spey Fishery Board Website. Go to the Homepage and look under "fishery".

02-16-2004, 09:42 AM
Well, I just checked there too & it may be £11.8M rather than £12M but it's certainly not £50M, & £11.8M & 367 jobs were the figures reported to the Board Meeting on February 3rd. About 50 of the jobs are ghillies.

Willie Gunn
02-16-2004, 09:52 AM
Economic Survey of Fishing

In 2003 the Spey Catchment Management Plan commissioned an economic survey of the value of rod fishing and other water sports in the Spey valley. Preliminary results show that anglers spent £11.8 Million in Strathspey, supporting 367 jobs. By comparison canoeing and sailing generated £1.7 Million and 48 jobs. Copies of the final report will be available from the SFB Research Office.

Cut and pasted from the Spey board website