Tay Ghillies Association joins Salmon and Trout Conservation SmartRivers programme

Over recent years, anglers on the Tay system have raised concern about decreasing fly life and reduced numbers of wild fish, particularly in some spawning areas of the river systems upper reaches. At a first glance the river looks healthy, but signs are that something must have changed. The Tay Ghillies Association (TGA) has decided to sample the river for water quality pressures, and take action to improve its health, as part of the Salmon & Trout Conservation (S&TC) SmartRivers project.

The TGA will concentrate initial efforts on two important rivers in the Tay system – the Ericht and the Lochay – with a view to volunteers covering all rivers in the system over the next few years. On the Ericht and its tributaries (the Ardle, Blackwater and Shee) the TGA will be partnering with Blairgowrie and Rattray District Angling Association (BRDAA).

The River Tay, Scotland
The River Tay, Scotland

Cohn O’Dea, TGA Chairman, is delighted to be joining SmartRivers and believes the partnership will deliver real benefit in helping to highlight salmon conservation in the Tay system. Cohn said: “For years the TGA has, perhaps, been too silent in its approach to conservation of the beloved salmon. In the last 12 months we have expanded our membership criteria to encourage people, passionate about Atlantic salmon and the river environment, to join us and help in making a real difference.

“We have joined S&TC’s SmartRivers programme to supplement our understanding of the river's health. At first glance the system looks healthy enough, but many anglers comment on the lack of fly life, fry, parr and brown trout where there was an abundance many years ago. SmartRivers will help us to identify any underlying water quality problems in the first two rivers and allow us to engage with the relevant organisations to introduce appropriate fixes. We look forward to working closely with S&TC in this venture.”

Lauren Mattingley, S&TC SmartRivers Project Manager, said: “SmartRivers uses aquatic invertebrates as a diagnostic test to indicate possible pollutants impacting the habitat of wild fish. Launched in 2019 we have 8 established hubs and have trained over 50 volunteers, bringing SmartRivers intelligence to the spawning headwaters of many important salmon rivers. We are delighted to be working with TGA to collect this vital data and help drive action in the Tay system. SmartRivers turns science into meaningful local action that supports improvements in freshwater habitat’s and healthy populations of wild fish.”

A salmon leaping over waterfalls on the River Tay, Scotland
A salmon leaping over waterfalls on the River Tay, Scotland