The season opened as usual on 15 January. The opening ceremony at the Hilton Dunkeld House Hotel was performed by television personality Cat Cubie. While there had been very high water from mid December to the beginning of January, the run up to Opening Day was dry and stayed dry for the first week of the season. Thus, the river was falling and reasonably low for the time of year throughout this period. Given the previous high water, expectations were perhaps not that high. In the event, at least 21 salmon were caught on Opening Day, making it the best in a long time, certainly since the 1990s. However, the rest of the month did not equal that success. While we do not yet have full official catch returns, only 41 salmon were reported on the fishtay website for January, including 17 from Opening Day. Although water levels were good for most of the month, the weather was often very poor, snowy and cold and many beats were only lightly fished. Then, at the end of the month, there was a very large spate of over 11 feet which killed any hope of the first month ending with a flourish.
February commenced with very high water. But apart from a rise in mid month, the weather was basically dry thereafter and water levels fell away throughout the month. In total, 154 salmon were reported on the fishtay website. That was considered very encouraging at the time because the five year fishtay average was only 86 and indeed that for the all district catch only 114.
The month of March commenced with continuing dry weather and falling water. By mid month, water levels were low for the time of year and the weather remained cold. Indeed, hard night time frosts continued and many higher tributary burns were frozen. The only respite was a small rise on 19 March. Nevertheless, easterly winds continued to persist throughout the month maintaining average temperatures little over freezing. According to the Met Office website, the average air temperature in eastern Scotland in March 2013 was 0.7 degrees, the coldest since 1962 and the 6th coldest since 1910. March 2012, by comparison, was the warmest since 1938, with an average temperature of 7.1 degrees.
In terms of catches, March proved to be even better than February. 394 salmon were reported on fishtay as opposed to a fishtay five year average of 255 and a district average of 331. Even without what other fish will be reported from beats that do not report on fishtay, that made it the best March since 2006. When the final figures are obtained, it will probably be necessary to go back to about 1980 to find March catches that were consistently better.
The first ten days or so of April continued cold with frosts on most nights. Normally, by April, the fish are well spread out, but that did not happen this year. Instead, good salmon catches persisted in the lower Tay. In mid month, however, temperatures did return to normal levels and this precipitated a deluge of snow melt from the hills. Over one twelve hour period the Tay rose from just over a foot to over ten feet on the Ballathie gauge. In fact, there was so much snow to melt that the river ran very high for almost the whole of the third week of April.
Given the high water, it was assumed that the short spring “bonanza” was over. However, when the river did eventually clear on the Saturday, though still running at over five feet, over 50 fish were caught throughout the length of the river from Upper Redgorton to Loch Tay. What was particularly notable was that beats around Stanley still figured highly in the rankings. Normally, by this time,
springers pour through that area without stopping. And that proved to be no fluke. The following Monday saw a similar catch and this persisted for a whole week. Between 250 and 300 salmon were caught, making it the best April week in many years. In total, 722 salmon were reported on fishtay alone in April as opposed to a five year fishtay average of 358 and a full district average of 460. This was the best April since at least 2006 when 966 were reported for the full district. Depending on exactly how many more fish will be reported from beats that do not report on fishtay, it may be necessary to go back to 1978 to then get a better year.
In the first week of May there was another large rise. Thereafter, levels fell away steadily all month with the exception of a quick rise at the end. While the distribution of the catch did spread at last, May was another very good month overall. 949 salmon were reported on fishtay as opposed to a five year average of 411 and a district average of 533. If the final total exceeds the 1098 reported in 1994, as it most likely will, this will have been the best May in terms of reported catch since reporting commenced in 1952.
To download a copy of The Tay 2013 Report please follow this link
To check available fishing for the River Tay please visit the FishTay or contact the FishPal offices on 01573 470612 to speak with a River Tay Fishing Specialist.