2006 Chairman’s Report
This has been a year of both consolidation and progress. It is three years since the open meeting of the RSFB at Grantown after which the RSAA came into being to support work towards a healthy and sustainable fish population in the river and the catchment and to promulgate the views of anglers. Since the inaugural AGM, held a year later, the structures are in place and we have ever increasing contact with both the RSFB via a number of routes and with others involved in the wider processes of fisheries management.
Grenville Johnston continues to wear the RSAA hat at RSFB meetings and I remain a member of the Publicity committee. A synopsis of the Board’s year, compiled by Grenville will be on the members’ area of our web site shortly – this covers a raft of matters from wind farms to catch and release and from the impending legislation to the girodactylus threat. The publicity committee has been concerned mainly with the early stages and development of the Fishspey website.
In addition we continue to have an excellent rapport with James Butler and Bob Laughton and their team and have co-operated over a number of projects – the Dufftown Outdoors day, pike fishing, the post season research, the continuing debate over river usage and we are presently preparing a lottery bid to support the work of the RSFB’s science team in a trout related project along the river. We hope to provide some voluntary help from members with this project and all being well some additional funding towards too. We are delighted too that the incoming Chairman of the RSFB, Alan Williams is with us at our AGM.
We are sad that James Butler is leaving shortly to head for the other side of the world, he has been a great source of information, advice and friendship during this early time for the RSAA and we shall most certainly miss him – we wish him every success in the future.
This year, membership has increased by 50% to 180, including a most encouraging junior section. Given the number of anglers who fish the river, there remains great potential for expansion and I urge all members to exhort their fishing friends to join us. In spite of leaflets and promotion through the beats, where some have been very helpful, the best results are achieved on a personal level and I do urge everyone to aim at recruiting at least two new members this coming season. We are grateful too for the support from ghillies up and down the River in all this – their input is always pertinent and informative.
With the up-coming fisheries legislation planned for 2006, to be followed by further changes in the short to medium term, a body such as ours, already involved in the Fisheries forum and in the debating process can be a strong force for good. We already have strength in diversity with members from a wide constituency with a correspondingly wide range of views, we need to add strength in depth and for that we need the assistance of the membership.
Tremendous support is already being shown, not only by large numbers of the membership paying their subscriptions promptly but also by the very generous donations, which accompany a great number of these renewals. I urge all those who have not yet paid for the coming season to do so without delay.
In addition to the membership subscriptions and donations, we have been delighted to receive most generous annual support from an anonymous donor and also a further generous donation, made possible by John Grant of the Glenfarclas Distillery.
All this lead to our being able to go ahead with the formation of our Junior Section as planned, which has had an excellent beginning this season. It has been enthusiastically supported by nearly 30 young members with further support from parents and grandparents.
This was launched in April with the help of Ian Gordon who lead two coaching sessions at Macallan and which was followed by two well attended coaching outings for Rainbow at Forgue and Artloch and to the first fly tying afternoon lead by Leslie Pritchard from Findochty. We are looking forward to developing further in the coming year with the first outing for the Junior section sponsored by The Brae Water when the youngsters have been invited to fish Brae Water beats 1 and 2 for a day during February.
All being well, we hope to arrange further days along the river during the early season. We also plan outings for our juniors and any members who have any fishing days – for all species – which they may like to sponsor for the youngsters are asked to get in touch. Likewise, any member who might like to assist with the junior section is asked to let us know. There will be further fly tying sessions too.
There is a complementary junior fly tying initiative in some of the Schools on Speyside overseen by Bob Laughton of the RSFB science team and anyone who would like to help with this is asked to contact him.
Through the year there has been much activity and debate. We have attended the SANA annual conference, which reviewed the forth-coming legislation, we remain in touch with the Fisheries Forum– the draft bill has been produced and we will be attending the next meeting at Dundee in February. The bill takes a comprehensive look at all aspects and species and contains much food for thought. Comments are invited by 24th February. These can be made at < http//www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Fisheries/afBill >
The Spring meeting last April proved a most stimulating evening. The keynote speaker was Andrew Wallace, Director of the ASFB who gave a fascinating and lucid presentation on the likely direction of fisheries management and the complexity and there was some stimulating discussion. Although the average age of anglers remains high (we are trying to change that) any of us who are likely to be able to fish towards the end of the coming decade will be affected by the proposals and I urge all to take an interest in the debate.
As part of the efforts to increase understanding and knowledge of river management and the wider issues, your committee assembled a series of questions, based on emails and views from members, which were put to the RSFB. On behalf of the RSAA, I would like to thank all at the RSFB for their co-operation with this and for the work, which clearly went into providing the responses. It has all stimulated vigorous and sometimes enlightening debate!
We have also been represented, in conjunction with the RSFB, at the Dufftown Outdoors Show and joined in a pike fishing day sponsored by SNH and RSFB and others to see one the other species which inhabit the catchment. This was a fascinating and hospitable day and some good fish were caught. We hope to return the compliment quite soon.
We have also sent out spring and autumn newsletters to members and the RSAA web site
< www.riverspeyanglers.org.uk > has been completely revamped. We welcome comments and information on any glitches! and hope that the new look keeps members informed and in touch. We have also put in a link to the new Fishspey website which is promoting the River to the wider world. This can be seen at < www.fishspey.co.uk >
In the coming year – with the flourishing Junior section, the forthcoming legislation, the quest for members and good member contact, the search for sponsors, the continuing liaison with the RSFB, SANA and others, the Spring meeting, the lottery application and proposed tagging projects, preparation of the news letters and up-dating of the web site – we hope to get to the River too!! Tight lines for 2006.
2007 Chairman’s Report
As we meet, the Spey Fishery Board has reported another rise in the salmon catch for 2006 and an increase in the proportion of fish released. Good news indeed given that some of the conservation measures in place and the effect of the increased hatchery provision are still to be realised.
The aims of the RSAA as an association remain the same but there are some proposed modifications to the constitution, which you have received and on which we will vote at this meeting.
The RSAA finances are sound – the treasurer will report on this at this meeting – and the membership has risen above 200.
There have been two committee changes during the year – Iain MacDonald, our founder secretary resigned – we thank him for his hard work, knowledge and input, and for his flamboyant style – he is still keeping an eye on our progress. His place has been taken by Mel McDonald, well known to many of you and we are grateful to him for stepping in and for his particular talents in the search for sponsorship and funding. Our thanks also to David Fleetwood who resigned from the committee during the year – his place has been taken by Graeme McKenzie who has been a key and regular member at our Junior outings.
I also have to report that our founder treasurer, Grenville Johnston is standing down from this role with effect from this evening. Grenville has been a diligent and safe pair of hands through this first four years and we thank him for this – we are delighted that he will remain a member of the RSAA committee.
Our engagement with the river management and with those who have input into life on the river continues and we are particularly grateful to the proprietors for their assistance with access for junior fishing days and to the ghilles for their help both with junior salmon days and at the trout fisheries.
We continue to liase with the SFB and were pleased to be able to support the research team with an “Awards for all” grant of £5000 to the RSAA, which was designated to assist the SFB funding of the brown trout/seatrout tagging project. Some RSAA members also assisted in the close season salmon tagging project, which will be reported on later in this meeting.
We remain represented on the Publicity committee and our treasurer, Grenville Johnston is a member of the board. Through his efforts and through regular contact we are kept in touch with matters of concern and also with the myriad of projects undertaken and of other developments. These can also be accessed through the SFB website and SFB briefings. Early in the year your chairman and treasurer met with the SFB chairman to discuss the RSAA relationship with the SFB with a look at closer ties through co-optee membership. This is determined at the triennial elections to be held early in the new season after the AGM of the SFB. As an association, we think that our record of profile raising through meetings, press coverage and junior angler promotion and funding, liaison, and responsible engagement with the SFB, the diversity of our membership and the information exchange and debate speaks for itself.
Also during this year, your committee have attended information and discussion days arranged by the SFB with canoeists to maximise understanding and co-operation – successful to a point although there is still much work to be done and the increased pressure of rafting, particularly higher up the river, remains a serious concern. We also attended a meeting with SFB representatives and the Ghillies held to meet our MSP Richard Lochhead and share information and concerns as the fisheries bill came to debate.
Of particular importance was the threat of GS, acknowledged by the Executive, – a policy on this is yet to be formulated. Sadly this bill is a watered down version of that originally discussed at the |Fisheries forum, also attended by a member of your committee, but it is a start and does cover some of the key issues.
During the year, the production of an RSAA passport was progressed and will become a reality as the new season opens. This will take the form of an RSAA membership card in which members can record their catches. It is a tribute to anglers on the River that the release rate has risen to 71% from low beginnings only 3 or 4 years ago and as both this and the other measures begin to come to fruition we look for a continued rise in the numbers on returning fish.
The RSAA web site has undergone a transformation under the watchful eye and regular up dating of information byTony Smith. We are now able to log the number of visits to the site and the various pages. All events and news items are posted and there is a good photo gallery. There are useful web links and our sponsors are highlighted and their web sites linked to ours.
A high point of the year was the well-attended autumn meeting – held in this room when Dr Ronald Campbell of the Tweed Foundation was our keynote speaker. His views on fishery management were well received and his explanation of the non-hatchery route well argued – there were some lively questions. Roger Knight, incoming Director of the RSFB spoke of the threat of Gyrodactylus Salaris and Bob Laughton up dated us on the project work of the Board. Ian Robertson of SNAP – the Scottish National Angling Programme – also addressed us on the work being done to introduce young people and others into angling. He was impressed by the RSAA junior model and is hoping to encourage other fisheries to set up similar programmes.
Above all, this has been the year of the Juniors – the Junior section, started in 2005 with our coaching day at Macallan with Ian Gordon, the enthusiasm of youngsters, parents, members and committee has paid handsome dividends and, together with some generous sponsorship and support from members and others, we have been able to buy trout and salmon rods and tackle and life jackets (one of which was tested by a 5 yr old member at Rothiemurchus – credit to both him and his mum – he was home and dried and back fishing within half an hour!).
We also purchased safety glasses and fly tying kits. Particular thanks to Derrik Smith of MacDonald’s, Toby Metcalf of Smith’s Gore and Sportsmatch and to Frank & Carol Henderson of Turriff Tackle & Trophies for their generosity – and to the many members who donated generously over and above their subscription.
At this point, I would like to pay tribute to the late Alan Smith – and to Chris – long time dedicated Spey fishers. Following Alan’s death, contributions at his funeral were dedicated to the RSAA junior development. We thank Chris for this generous gesture and also Alan’s family and friends as the fund reached £1000. As well as helping with junior angler development, we plan to present a junior trophy in Alan’s memory.
We are also indebted to The Gordon Lennox Estate co Ltd and their fishing tenants for access to the Brae water early in the season – a first fish for 14 yr old Duncan McBean came as a result. During the course of the season, there have been two junior salmon outings on the river and five outings to the trout lochs at Rothes and Rothiemurchus. There was also a fly tying demonstration and practice session organised by SFB with which committee members assisted. Members of the committee also assisted Bob Laughton and his team with a Spey Board junior schools’ outing on the Avon.
Throughout, it has been truly gratifying to see the enthusiasm of the youngsters who come – usually between 25 and 30 aged 5 to 16. All are accompanied by parents and or grandparents eager to assist too. In all these activities, the committee and members have given freely of their time with the behind the scenes organisation and nitty gritty of looking after the kit and organizing the days being carried out by Wendy Hayward as our junior coordinator. And a grand job she has done. I’m sure the section will grow again in the coming year when we have even more salmon outings planned and further regular visits to the trout fisheries.
Any member who would like to help with the junior section will be most welcome- please let Wendy or any one of us know.
In closing, I would like to thank the committee on your behalf for all their hard work through the year to keep all these strands in place. We look for another good year and season to keep our spirits high – and I urge everyone to encourage their fishing companions who are not yet members to join us. I also ask those members who have yet to do so to pay their subscriptions – tonight would be good! And of course please add a donation – which as we said in the winter mailing, may become eligible for gift aid if our application to CASC (community amateur sports clubs) is successful.
James D. Thomas (Chairman, RSAA)