River Spey tribulations [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

River Spey tribulations

06-06-2002, 11:40 AM
Just found this forum, & no surprise to find Malcolm has found it before me. Malcolm does a lot of his fishing on the syndicated Spey beat I chair, & observations elsewhere that he must be a top Spey rod are pretty well founded!
He is also very responsible re Catch & Release. Restraint generally is our most topical issue over here at the present time. I say this as a member of the Spey Fishery Board & just appointed as the Chairman of its Research Committee. Salmon better not become extinct on Spey in the next 3 years! The long term average rod catch is still just under 10,000 salmon a year.

Largely private fishing may have stopped Spey runs from being overexploited historically, but there is no denying that the springer element is significantly reduced at present. It may be just a cyclical phenomenon, but river managers must do what they can & not rely on runs reverting. The overall problem of lower nos returning to rivers is felt to be most to do with global warming & a colder N Atlantic, but the evidence for it at present is purely circumstantial.
Meanwhile river managers attempt to optimise smolt output. Fortunately there are only small areas of the Spey catchment, which are not naturally turning out decent nos of juveniles. We have two small hatcheries to supplement the deficient areas.

Our current problem lies with getting rods to do their bit & practice restraint voluntarily. Although many UK rivers need 100% catch & release for springers, & the Environment Agency in England & Wales has mandated this, in Scotland the new Executive in Edinburgh is reported to have itchy fingers, but the handful of rivers including Spey, whose spring runs are reduced but not endangered, feel that 100% C & R is unnecessary. It may be that the most appropriate policy for these is that currently employed by the Tweed, where the first springer must be returned, but the second, fourth etc per rod week may be killed.
Responsible rods like Malcolm & myself return every springer we catch, but there are a lot of selfish rods out there with dinosaur attitudes (some proprietors too), who still want to kill everything & bring the heavy hand of Edinburgh ever closer with each swing of the priest.
American practice is at least 10 years in front of us on ths issue; we have a lot to learn from you guys.

06-06-2002, 12:32 PM
Too many Rivers in the US have pretty much shot their bolt, (or in Washington State that should be spelled "Bolt," as in Judge Bolt)especially those which had large runs of Atlantic Salmon. Many Pacific Northwest Rivers are in somewhat similar condition. Over-fishing, netting, etc. But the fellows/gals in Washington and Northern Oregon get the brunt of this.

The great thing about having the Rogue River in my back yard is that very little of it has any development at all from the mouth up to river mile post 155 where the dam is located. Of the 155 miles, 'development' of any kind may touch 10 or 12 percent of the stream. The rest is still total 'boonies.'

With luck we'll stay that way.

06-06-2002, 01:44 PM
Fortunately the Spey is very undeveloped too. In 100 miles there are only about 6 large villages & one that is called a town. Water quality is excellent, (I hope you have drunk some with the addition of some malted barley!), & it is the fastest flowing major river in Britain. Great for the fly. Spey casting a virtual necessity on a good proportion of the pools, & some like me have found they get greater & more reliable distance this way with the double handed rod.

The committee I chair is considering a range of possible restraint policies for Spey on which to canvas opinion. An outside possibility is to allow the killing of all grilse but only identifiable male salmon, particularly as it is difficult to sex springers. Anyone know of any such policies in Atlantic Canada, based perhaps on a minimum length of the male salmon's kype? It is probably not workable but worth asking?

Favourite policy is probably that practised on River Tweed here, i.e. first & third etc springer salmon per rod week must be returned, second & fourth etc may be killed.
Are there examples of this sort of policy in US/Canada, & have they been able to stick?

06-06-2002, 02:22 PM
Anthony -

First, it's a privilege to have the views from such an important part of angling heritage present in our community. Glad you decided to join Malcom in our online global angling club.

I am not familiar with any regulations that are based on gender of the species, nor do we have even/odd retention rules. The most fundamental rules (other than length) for salmonids include:

catch and release or catch and kill (by water)
hatchery fish verses wild fish (adipose fin not removed)
quota-based seasons (open till estimated quota killed)
seasons determined by expected (predicted) returns
seasons driven by time of year (spring natives for instance)
some combination of the above

If the C&R mentality of the US and Canada catches on in other parts of the world, it might be a way we can give something back for all that we've gained from centuries of angling lore and wisdom.

Welcome to the Forum!

06-06-2002, 05:23 PM

I will add one more to your list. At least up here in Washington State. "Maximum Sustainable Yield." The motto of the WDFW and the most damaging of all rules to anadromous fish in Washington.

06-06-2002, 06:04 PM
like an oxymoron.

06-06-2002, 07:29 PM
Great lakes salmon and steelhead luckily, do not have fish
return issues, so special catch and release, or no kill for hatchery or wild fish is limited. Lots of fish returning annually to each river, they do not even count them here, only estimated returns are made.

Some sections of high quality blue ribbon waters have special regulations of fly fishing only and/or no kill. Rivers which have essentially all wild salmon or steelhead have their head water nursery sections closed during the peak salmon and steelhead spawning periods.

On the blue ribbon wild fish rivers a strong catch and release philosophy has been adopted over the last 10 years. More anglers are realizing how precious these wild fish are.

Lets hope this philosophy continues to grow since this is a finite resource we need to protect for the future.

One other control which started last year on one river and is now spreading is citizen patrols by anglers who have been trained by the fishery division on how to monitor anglers for proper fishing methods and catches. If a violator is found they call a fishery officer who is close by to review the situation and approach the angler in violation.

06-07-2002, 06:37 AM
Any policy based on varying the length of the season is not likely to be a runner here because of the economic argument in a fairly remote area. There are a lot of jobs dependent on Spey having a very long season from February 11 thru Sept 30. This does not leave that much time for ghillies/guides to do maintenance work & have holidays, bearing in mind they work a 6 day week in season. There is also the hotel income issue.
In areas where springers are really in peril, the above issues would not rate, but on Spey the spring run is just significantly reduced but not in peril. It can stand say 5% mortality from responsible C & R. As an indication, our 2.5 mile, single bank, 6 rod beat has just caught 51 salmon to May 31, & I am pleased to say 35 have been returned in the first year we have advocated a C & R policy.
We are not keen on doing too much stocking except where juveniles are known to be deficient; we have a succesful strain of fish & we would like to keep it that way & not decrease their 'wildness'.
Most rods fish for a week & their catch expectation would be nil, one or possibly two in spring. If we can get that first fish put back, we will preserve perhaps 60% of the run that would otherwise get knocked on the head. That's probably the most likely outcome.