No springers reported from Pitlochry so far but the first one can't be long now. The winter weather remains as dreich as ever. However, the oystercatchers are back. I heard a couple of them as they flew around Moulin piping away when we were walking our two labs the other night. Either that or it was damned high-flying pipers! No, the oystercatchers are always a welcome sight and sound when they arrive in mid-February, having spent the last few months nearer the sea. It tells us that spring isn't too far away.
A small party of our club members fished the Opening and the second days on the River Spey at Lower Arndilly this week (11-12 Feb), but we only caught a load of well-mended kelts, a large rawner and another very silvery baggot (image above left). There was some debate because some anglers who saw the photographs of this last fish felt they wouldn't have known it was mature and would have said it was a small springer. Take a good look at the distended vent and the slightly concave belly immediately anterior to it. The edges of the tail weren't as sharply defined as they should have been. Otherwise, the fish was in fine condition and was clearly freshly-run. The differences were further emphasised later when a recently-dead, small springer (c. 4 lbs) washed up on the bank. Maybe it had been played and lost or caught-and-released further upstream, for there was no sign of physical injury, although its vent was very inflamed, like the so-called "Red Vent Syndrome." There could have been some physiological trauma that caused its death. However, if you look at the image of this fish (which had scuffed about a bit on the gravel) and compare it with the baggot, you should see the differences described above. The very real difficulty for some anglers in correctly identifying very late-running, highly-silvered, mature fish is a perennial problem of early-season salmon fishing, especially so when we are all desperate to catch the first fish of the season. Then it is put back and no-one can be quite sure. Good ghillies, like the excellent ones at Lower Arndilly, know the difference, of course, but lots of salmon beats are much less closely watched. Even so, we are very confident that the first springer is due to be landed imminently on our Club Waters and will be unmistakable! Let's hope it's another of the big 3-sea-winter fish for which the Tummel is so rightly famous. Let the return of the oystercatchers be an omen!