The source of the Wye is in the Welsh mountains at Plynlimon. It flows through or past several towns and villages including Rhayader, Builth Wells, Hay-on-Wye, Hereford, Ross-on-Wye, Symonds Yat, Monmouth and Tintern, meeting the Severn estuary just below Chepstow. The Wye itself is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and one of the most important rivers in the UK for nature conservation. Much of the lower valley is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Wye is largely unpolluted and used to be considered[by whom?] one of the best rivers for salmon fishing in the United Kingdom, outside of Scotland. However, in recent years the runs of salmon in the Wye have declined dramatically and according to the Environment Agency rod catch returns for 2009 it is not even the most productive salmon river in Wales, as more salmon were caught from the Welsh Dee. In England the Tyne, Ribble, Wear, Lune and Eden all had larger catches in 2009.
75 St Martins Street, Hereford, , HR2 7RG
The practice was established by Bob Binnersley in 1989. It has gradually expanded ever since and now boasts three dentists, two dental therapists, oral health practitioners, dental radiographers, a practice manager, a receptionist and dental nurses.
added: 4th Dec 2013
posted by: Oliver Burch
Practically the whole Wye system is now at a good winter fishing height, running cold and clear. Possible exceptions are the Lugg and Arrow tributaries, which are fishable but still have a big current...
to be ideal for grayling. It is remarkable how the springs in Radnor Forest keep those two streams running high long after the main river and other tributaries have dropped. Grayling fishing has generally been good, both for those long trotting with bait and those fishing heavy nymphs with the fly rod. In fact Moccas angler Dave Collins had one on the dry fly last week, which must be unusual for late November. Most afternoons I have seen a few dark olives coming off, these being the autumn version of the fly which is slightly smaller than those we will see in spring, but rarely a reaction at the surface. On the main Wye, the chief hazard for grayling anglers has come from out of season trout, some of them already spawned, which tend to push in ahead of the more timid grayling. Coarse fishing has also benefitted from the moderate conditions, and winter chub have been taken in numbers from the lower river. A drop in temperatures should bring the pike on to feed properly.
The “beck watchers” or our local equivalent have reported good salmon spawning results with redds already cut in many of the tributaries, although fish have dropped back to the main channel as water levels dropped. I have also seen plenty of coloured salmon in the main river.
Wind and some colder temperatures have been predicted in the short term, but the weather forecasters seem to be agreed in predicting little in the way of rain as far forward as Christmas. If they prove right about that, there should be several weeks of good winter fishing ahead of us.
4th December 2013
added: 1st Dec 2013
posted by: Atlantic Salmon Trust
The role of the AST blog is to give comments on or flavour to AST's activities. I hope our readers will appreciate that its purpose is only to give brief descriptive overview of the stocking conference,...
which ended last Thursday, and that full details will emerge later.
The proceedings of the conference will of course be posted on the AST website in due course. In the meantime the job of this blog is to give our readers a flavour of what took place. I find it instructive that the event was oversubscribed. The fact that so many people wanted to attend the conference says something about how we should engage with people in the world of salmon management. It suggests, for example, that people with an interest in salmon who are very often not scientists, need to receive information in clear, plain English, and not in the sometimes obscure language of the scientist. Perhaps, more importantly, it suggests that by declaring that we are ready to listen to all points of view, to avoid being prescriptive or proscriptive, we can open up a good natured debate, however different views may be.
I think it is also important that there is clarity in distinguishing between the role of the scientist, whose job is to advise on the basis of available facts, and the manager, whose task is to make decisions taking into account all the aspects and needs of the fishery. The two roles are separate and distinct.
[b]IBIS - Integrated Aquatic Resources Management Between Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland[b/] - an EU initiative, provided the funding for this event and it was because IBIS covered all the conference costs that numbers were limited. While it was certainly a pity that we didn't bring in everyone who wanted to attend we did have an exceptionally knowledgeableand broadly based audience. In terms of who the conference attracted, it really could not have been better; 150 practitioners, anglers, scientists and managers gathered together to debate this contentious subject. Our congratulations and thanks go to our IBIS partners for excellent organisation and a successful conference.
[b]Stocking as an instrument of salmon fishery management[b/] has for many years been a matter of contention between those who advocate its use as an immediate reaction to counter perceived reduction in numbers of fish, to those who see its use as an action of last resort. The debate has become polarised. One of the objectives of the conference was to remove that polarity in views by dealing with the issue objectively.
The key questions that emerged from the debate were; [b]"What is the purpose of your stocking project? What outcomes do you want/expect, and how are you going to know whether you have achieved them?[b/]
Those questions were dealt with effectively over the course of the two days. While I have no doubt that there are some people who arrived at the conference as advocates of stocking as the first 'go-to' instrument of management, it is fair to claim that the debate gave recognition to all views on the basis that in each case the desired outcome of the stocking action was clearly stated. The antithesis was inferred - that without clarity of desired outcome there can be no place for stocking as a rational instrument of management.
[b]An excellent example is the SAC (Special Area of Conservation)[b/] catchment where natural biodiversity is the stated outcome. The conference agreed that in all SAC salmon rivers there should be a presumption against stocking. In other words, in those rivers, because the objective is natural biodiversity, there should be no human intervention that in any way interferes with the natural process of smolt recruitment.
On the other hand, where the manager's desired outcome is a profitable recreational fishery, and in circumstances where the capacity of that fishery to recruit sufficient naturally recruited smolts is impaired, it may be necessary to introduce stocking as a means of boosting numbers. Examples such as the Ranga in Iceland and the Lochy in Scotland were cited as rivers where for specific reasons - poor spawning and juvenile habitat on the Ranga and impacts of salmon farming on the Lochy - it is expedient and effective to boost salmon numbers artificially, despite the costs of so doing.
The conference achieved a consensus that, provided the manager is clear about why he is taking action and what outcome he wants, stocking does have a place in a toolkit of intervention instruments available to him. Underpinning and informing the moment of decision is the absolute necessity of the fishery manager to understand his stock, in terms of structure, quality (of the individual fish) and numbers. The example of the Moy catchment in Ireland, that supports populations of salmon with different run timings and destinations within the catchment, made the point that stock structures can be complex and require sensitive treatment. The underpinning aspect of stock definition is of course genetics, and that there is some way to go before genetic differentiation between populations within a river's stock will be extensively available.
If there was a simple message for the fishery manager, dealing with a complex issue, it was "If you think you have a problem with your river's salmon stock, pause and think hard before you take action". The 'thinking' requires knowledge of the stock, an understanding of the perceived problem, evaluation of available options and a clear statement of desired outcomes. That considered approach should encourage managers to make the right decision.
I feel the conference did much to clear the air. It certainly seemed to erode a few prejudices! Speaking for myself, it also cleared my head on a few issues!
AST 1 December 2013
added: 26th Nov 2013
posted by: Oliver Burch
Now that we seem to have found a patch of high pressure weather, clear and cold conditions prevailed over the last few days and the Wye and its tributaries have been dropping very slowly. Currents were...
powerful, but the rivers have mainly been running clear except for the usual autumn freight of drifting leaves. Grayling anglers turned out in numbers on the upper river and some good catches were made, beginning with the Irfon which is always one of the first tributaries to come into condition as the levels fall. I tend to use the trotting rod where I am allowed at this time of year, and I was lucky with several good days at Cefnllysgwynne on the Irfon, and Pwll y Faedda, Abernant and the Builth Town water on the main river, catching some handsome grayling to 18 inches. The Lugg and Arrow, unfortunately, were still too high for good fishing this week.
It’s noticeable that coloured salmon are showing in large numbers on the upper river this year – always an encouraging sign. We do try to avoid them while grayling fishing, but I did release unharmed one small coloured grilse which picked up a maggot on the Irfon. Another grayling angler fishing the Monnow at Skenfrith released one which took a bug fished along the bottom. Reports of salmon in the Monnow are particularly interesting as a lot of work has been done to increase access for migratory fish. The Monnow is one tributary which has been running coloured, as it tends to during the winter nowadays and I think we can blame a switch to arable farming in the catchment for that. Nevertheless, I fished it at Monnow Valley last week and picked up a couple of grayling amongst the chub.
Barbel catches on the middle river seem to have dropped off during the last couple of weeks. Plenty of chub have been caught in their place however, and Woody’s Tackle Shop in Hereford reported roach over 2 pounds, a big perch just under 4 pounds, and a 26 pound pike. The lower part of the river is just now coming into condition.
Whether you are interested in grayling on the upper river or coarse fish lower down, the outlook while the weather remains cold and dry looks good. However, when planning a trip be aware that the ground is still pretty much saturated, so the next bout of rain which does come along will probably produce a rise in levels quite quickly.
26th November 2013
added: 15th Nov 2013
posted by: Oliver Burch
There is very little to report after weeks of rain and flood. Grayling fishing was virtually impossible everywhere. A few brave anglers on the middle and lower river managed to catch barbel, despite the...
power of the current. I haven't seen a report of a big bag - twos and threes would be typical - but fish to 10 pounds have been taken. The weatherman is now promising slightly drier conditions for a few days, and the water levels are slowly dropping off, so there is reason to hope there will be some grayling fishing opportunities, probably beginning with the Irfon.
15th November 2013
added: 2nd Nov 2013
posted by: Oliver Burch
With the salmon and brown trout seasons now ended, let’s take a reflective look at 2013 on the Wye. The Foundation now have a rod catch of 1,078 salmon recorded (which must be taken as a minimum figure,...
as there are always reporting failures). This is a little down on the wonderful 2012 season (during which 1,272 fish were recorded while exceptionally good running water was experienced through the summer) but there are still good reasons for optimism. The overall upward trend of rod salmon catches continues – 1,078 compares with a 10 year average of 751 and a 5 year average of 875. The percentage of big fish over 20 pounds during 2013 is an interesting statistic. Over the whole season it was 9.4%, compared to 6.4% in 2012, 2.7% in 2011 and 3.5% in 2010. Most of these heavy 3 sea winter fish were caught early in the year, representing no less than 27% of the March and April catch. A few more big ones were showing up by the back end. So it would seem that the Wye is once again resuming its reputation as a river where you might catch a really big springer. You might even hope for one of those 4 sea winter monsters – the largest this year was the very big cock fish from the Seven Sisters beat which was rather conservatively (I suspect) estimated at 37 pounds.
The main difference between this season and last was that in 2012 the continuing summer floods gave wonderful fishing to the upper river beats. However, the low water conditions for much of the 2013 season favoured those expensive and hard-fished beats between the tide and Monmouth and at times during the drought it hardly seemed worth fishing further upstream. With a few exceptions, there was not much doing at the very top of the river or in the tributaries, even during the last week of the season. However, since the season’s closing there has been a high flood over a number of days; at the time of writing, the gauges are below the surface, we have saturated ground and more rain on the way. One likes to think that these conditions will allow any salmon now in the system to reach…well, wherever it wants to go. It will be interesting to see firstly how many spawning salmon are seen by the river watchers and the winter grayling fishers, and, secondly, how many kelts show up when the fishing starts again in March. There were exceptional numbers of well-mended females still in the river this spring, which is an indication that 2012 was a very successful spawning year.
Trout fishing was not quite so wonderful during the past season. The exceptionally cold spring made for a slow start and once we got into July, hot weather and low water levels limited the possibilities almost until September. It was a very disappointing summer in particular for those who like to fish the brooks and smaller tributaries. It seemed that not long after we had the mayfly on charming streams like the Escley and the Dulais, we were afflicted by drought for the rest of the year. Still, there were good times and good catches for some during 2013; I have very happy memories of blue winged olive hatches on the Monnow in high summer.
The grayling were not affected by the drought quite as much as other species and there were good catches from the upper river as soon as we got into September. The Irfon also began fishing well. It’s all halted now with the present floods and we shall see how it goes on when the water level falls off. In any case, with Guy Fawkes Night coming up, we are just about at the end of top of the water grayling fishing with dry flies and spiders; once we get properly into November I am normally looking to trotting and bugging as the primary methods. It would be nice have some good grayling fishing on the Lugg and Arrow tributaries this winter; last year they were affected by high water throughout January and February.
Most people would find coarse fishing incredibly difficult (and possibly dangerous) under present circumstances, but the water has stayed relatively warm for the time of year and barbel are one species known to feed hard in times of flood, relying on their acute sense of smell in the thick water. Those anglers who know the banks, are confident in the use of heavy 4 and 6 oz leads, and are prepared to clear the line regularly of drifting weed and other debris have taken some good barbel to 10 pounds by fishing slacks just off the “race track” of the flooding river.
2nd November 2013
added: 19th Oct 2013
posted by: Atlantic Salmon Trust
Scottish east coast Salmon and the Usan Mixed Stocks Fishery
A mixed stocks fishery confirmed
Marine Scotland’s South Esk Tracking Project is designed to find out where the River’s...
early running salmon go within the South Esk catchment to breed. Following identification of spawning and juvenile habitats locations it is hoped that an assessment of the physical condition of the river in those places will lead to targeted improvements. To some extent at the end of year 2 (of 3) we can say that objective is being met, although sample numbers are very low.
It is no surprise to learn from the MS tracking project that Usan nets are killing spring salmon from many, if not all east coast rivers. With proof that the Spey is also impacted by the activities of the Montrose-based nets it is now established that the Rivers Spey, Don, Dee, North Esk, South Esk and Tay are affected. It is not unreasonable to assume that the Earn, Deveron, Ythan, Uigie and Findhorn may also be included in the list, not to mention the smaller rivers – The Rivers in Between - such as rivers Bervie, Cowie, Lunan, Eden, about which I wrote recently.
All Scotland’s east coast rivers are affected.
In other words, all the main North East salmon rivers – the jewels in the crown of Scottish wild spring salmon – are being impacted by the activities of one small operation near Montrose. That is a high price to pay for the part-time jobs of a small family business. It is not fanciful to claim that Usan Fisheries Ltd is holding the survival our national reserve of these iconic spring fish to ransom, apparently supported by our government. Why?
Disagreement on the ‘natural capital’ value of wild salmon.
Conflict between conservation & mixed stocks exploitation.
There has been a lot of talk over the years about the effects of exploitation of both Atlantic salmon and sea trout by the coastal nets sited South of Montrose. Quite a lot of what has been said has been speculative and sometimes exaggerated, but no-one can deny that feelings on the subject have been running high on both sides of the debate. An early casualty of emotional arguments is truth, and the Usan nets issue is no exception.
It is unfortunate that during their fishing season the nets have first opportunity to kill incoming salmon and sea trout migrations. Imagine a situation where nets and rods had equal and simultaneous access to the fish. In that scenario there’s not much doubt that agreement would have been reached long ago on how to share the ‘harvest’. Sadly it doesn’t work like that.
Every returning adult salmon is a survivor
After their long migration salmon arrive off the Scottish east coast. Swimming close to the shore, many become enmeshed in carefully sited coastal nets. These fish, so close to their destination, are survivors of about 95% marine mortality between their departure as smolts from fresh water to their return as adult fish. All netted fish are of course killed as they are brought into the boat. Those that avoid the nets might then enter their river of choice. Alternatively they might move on up or down the coast; or, especially if river levels are low and there is only a weak chemical signal inviting them into fresh water, they may just hang around close to estuaries, remaining vulnerable repeatedly to being netted.
Before any fish can enter the river, they therefore have to run the gauntlet at least once as they either caught in the nets, or bypass them. All this happens before a single angler has seen, let alone caught, even one fish.
Perceptions among fishery managers and anglers are that the high-value visiting angler only gets to fish for what the nets have failed to catch. It is the resulting sense of unfairness – crumbs from the laird’s table as it were - among anglers that fuels the argument between netting and fishery management. Isn’t it an irony that those who defend the rights of the netsmen often do so on the grounds of wealth and class? That over-used argument tells us that salmon anglers are wealthy leisure seekers – while the owners of netting interests feast sumptuously off profits from killing survivors of returning migrations of salmon.
The modern angler is more environmentally sensitive than their predecessors were even ten years ago. During the main part of the season they are left to fish for what is left behind by the nets. Moreover, the number of fish killed has decreased through catch & release (70%+). Meanwhile there has been no move towards quotas or increasing the nets slap times. On the contrary, weekend slap times are routinely ignored, more coastal netting stations are being reopened, more salmon killed and financial incentives and support is offered by the Scottish Government and European Commission to the netsmen.
Who are the beneficiaries?
The local economy?
Who benefits from the nets?
Who benefits from the visiting angler?
Where is the sense in all this?
What is significant in biodiversity terms about ‘mixed stocks’ exploitation?
Salmon, and perhaps to a lesser extent sea trout, tend to be ‘loyal’ to their rivers of birth. I say “tend” only because there are many examples of salmon straying. How else could salmon in the River Mersey have re-colonised a river that was to all intents and purposes dead as a result of industrial pollution? There are also many examples of ‘hatchery stocking’ using ova or fry from other rivers, or of fish ‘going up the wrong river’, or changing their minds having entered one river only to go to another one to spawn.
The 'core stock' of a river, with its unique DNA signature(s) is pretty robust, having withstood challenges from straying salmon with different genetic make-ups for millennia. Unless the core stock is swamped, as has happened in rivers where farmed salmon in unprecedented numbers have interbred with the wild fish stock, the genetic integrity of the salmon ‘belonging’ to a river is likely to survive. Intermittent hatchery stocking or salmon straying naturally from other rivers are unlikely to damage the core stock. On the contrary, they may even strengthen it, in much the same way as antibodies strengthen resistance to disease. Of course there are other examples, especially in USA and Canada, where huge dams have eradicated the stock, and the genetic signature of that river is gone forever. That is a tragedy because those genetics have evolved over centuries in response to the physical, geological, chemical and biological characteristics of the river. We must therefore make every effort to preserve the signature DNA of all our rivers where irreparable damage hasn’t already been done.
We should recognise the value of natural biodiversity as the fruit of evolution in the context of every ecosystem. Therefore we shouldn’t be misled into thinking that the tendency of wild Atlantic salmon to stray to other rivers conflicts with the genetic predisposition of nearly every fish of a particular river to return to its home waters to breed. Nothing is so jet black or marble white in the natural world. That genetic preference is part of the DNA makeup of wild Atlantic salmon. In situations, such as the South Esk, where populations of fish within the overall stock of the river can we think be distinguished from each other by their genetic differences, together they define the structure of the river’s stock that has evolved since the last ice age. Scientists and managers are continuing to fill in the detail of genetic attribution maps.
As things stand there is a varied picture of genetic description of stocks and their populations in the NE Atlantic bioregion, ranging from tributary-specific attributions to broad-brush regional ones. Over time, like the detail of a landscape painting being added after the structure of the painting’s composition, the detail will describe with some accuracy which genetic groups of fish belong to which rivers. It is work in progress.
The impossibility of effective fishery management.
Growing awareness of the importance of gene types should persuade us to take special care of rivers where we suspect that some populations, or even the whole stock, may be in a fragile condition. Fishery managers try to use the precautionary principle as a safety net to justify making timely interventions to protect threatened groups of fish. Unfortunately it is not possible to protect any population in any Scottish east coast river while mixed stocks coastal netting as practised by Usan Fisheries continues. The existence of an interceptive fishery that kills salmon indiscriminately from six identified rivers, and almost certainly many others, prevents effective management taking place in any of them.
What does the term “sustainable” mean in this context? It is a situation apparently summarised by the politically motivated thought, “the rod fishery will have to be managed with the Usan fishery continuing its lethal exploitation of unknown stocks”. In fact it is impossible for fishery managers to take effective decisions to protect stocks while that mixed stocks fishery exists. You would have thought that, while genetic mapping continues to fill in the detail of populations attributable to rivers, at least a pause would be called on killing fish from stocks where there is a degree of concern that some populations may be fragile (or in technical parlance, ‘below conservation levels’). That pause should include both rods and nets i.e. no killing at all. If Catch and Release is shown to be politically unacceptable in terms of perceived equity and fairness, then both fisheries - rods and nets - should be closed. After all, the priority is to conserve the fish, not the people that exploit them!
added: 17th Oct 2013
posted by: Oliver Burch
October was a rather quiet month for salmon on the Wye by the standards of recent years, although angling pressure has been high as it usually is as the season comes to an end. Most of the action has been...
at the bottom of the river below Monmouth. However, I’m writing this on the last day of the season (for the main river) so salmon catch reports are still coming in. In fact there is a bit of a flood under way at the top end after yesterday’s rain, so there may well be a rush of last minute catches this evening. We have fishing until 25th October on the top of the river and tributaries, so I will provide a full summary of the season in the next report. Provisionally, with a total of 1,021 salmon recorded so far, I can already say that overall we are well ahead of the 5 and 10 year averages. Again we had a very good spring, with the big fish for which the Wye is famous putting in a showing, but then we suffered from a lack of rain from July right through to the end of the season, particularly on the upper beats. I’m feeling just a bit pleased with myself today. At Pwll y Faedda near Erwood I was lucky enough to get a coloured hen during the rain yesterday, probably brought on to take as the level just began to rise. We still only have 5 for the beat, compared with 28 during 2012. The totals by section of the river for the year to date stand at: tributaries – 1; above Builth – 10; Builth to Glasbury – 87; Glasbury to Luggsmouth – 115; Luggsmouth to Monmouth – 250; below Monmouth – 558. Largest fish remains the 37 pound springer caught by Adam Fisher on Seven Sisters, although a few big ones have begun to show again this month.
If you are still keen to get a Wye salmon, the very top of the river and some of the tributaries will be open until 25th October. You won’t need your double-handed rod for this game and a 10 foot sea trout rod of 7 or 8 weight will be perfectly adequate. If I had to put money on it, I would try one of the Irfon beats such as Cefnllysgwynne or one of the Cammarch Hotel’s waters. Searching the deep holes with a small but heavy tube fly, something like a Willie Gunn, could produce a result. Craig Llyn on the main river near Rhayader might also be a good bet.
Grayling fishing has been fairly good during mainly low water and, despite strong winds and showers, fish have proved quite prepared to come up to the dry fly, although of course other methods have worked. A friend and I took a pair of 18 inch grayling on dry flies as the first two of a session on the Irfon at the Cammarch Hotel the other day. That brace seemed to be a tribute to the size and quality of Irfon grayling. Rain fell continuously, but dark olives were hatching and this seems to have created the opportunity. Grayling fishing should continue to be good on the surface for a couple of weeks more; once we get properly into November, however, it will probably be necessary to fish for them on the bottom.
The weather has been warmer than usual, particularly at night, so the water has remained warm and barbel and chub catches continued to be quite good. One remarkable report came from a Peterborough angler who fished at Courtfield, lost a fish, moved swims some distance and then caught what he is absolutely certain was the same fish, still with his broken hook link in its mouth. It weighed 8 pounds 5 ounces and was the only fish of the day – this one was just determined to co-operate apparently.
I’m away on holiday now (without a fishing rod), so there will be a gap in reports until early November, when we should have the final figures for the Wye salmon season.
17th October 2013