The Spey Fishery Board is pleased to be able to declare that the Spey catch for 2022 has amounted to 5,439 salmon & grilse. This is up slightly on the 5,318 salmon caught last year and close to the 10-year average of 5,564. There were also 840 sea trout caught.
Given the hot and dry conditions throughout much of the season, and that the Spey has the shortest fishing season of all the major salmon rivers in Scotland, these are surprisingly good numbers.
Throughout the 2022 season, 98% of all Salmon and Grilse and 93% of Sea Trout caught were released. Once again, we would like to thank all Proprietors, Ghillies and all resident and visiting anglers for their continuing support for our voluntary Conservation Policies.
The 2022 season began after a mild winter, with no appreciable snow on the Cairngorms and little or no Grue in the river. These conditions led to an early run, with many fresh fish heading quickly to the upper catchment. To our surprise, a fresh fish was caught in a fishery board smolt trap at Dalwhinnie on the 7th of April, a clear sign of an early salmon run. As we mentioned in our Spring Catch news release, many Ghillies forewarned that if the fish come early and run hard, we are likely to have a long dry summer with low, warm water – which is precisely what happened.
Out on the river, the Grantown Water, Castle Grant beats, and Tulchan Estate beats had one of the best springs in living memory. Some of the middle river beats also performed strongly. Below Rothes, spring catches were poor.
Heading into June, the Spey found itself at the start of a long, hot, dry and sunny summer, which lasted throughout July and August. Rainfall was ominously absent, the only notable lift in water levels coming in July, with several hundred fish caught during that week. It goes without saying that these were challenging conditions for both salmon and anglers.
The worrying trend towards increasingly warm and dry summers is indicative of the impacts of climate change and highlights the need to protect our water source, particularly during the summer.
Our Release the Spey campaign, launched in autumn 2021, aims to raise awareness of the multiple issues caused by water abstraction from the Spey, principally for hydroelectricity generation in other catchments. We are now calling for the immediate release of more Spey water during drought periods. We have received widespread support for our campaign, including over 1,000 signatures for our petition. But more needs to be done to put pressure on the Scottish Government, SEPA and hydroelectricity companies, and this campaign continues to be one of our top priorities.
Featured image: A fish of a lifetime – Thomas Robertson (aged 16) with his 28lb springer, caught at Easter Elchies on the Spey. Salmon held by Ghillie Orn Sigurhasson.