River Don Monthly Report March 21


The 1st of March produced the first salmon of the new season, Taking the honours this year was local angler Richard McHattie. Richard was fishing on Grandhome Estate beat where he successfully landed a 7lb fish on a Devon minnow. The fish was reported into the Don Board and upon verification Richard was duly awarded The David Paton Trophy along with a bottle of whisky. Click here to view.

River conditions fluctuated throughout the month due to intermittent snow melt, blustery cold winds made for less-than-ideal fishing conditions and angling effort remained low on beats. As the water temperature began to increase small runs of salmon were witnessed ascending the weirs on the lower river, and subsequently fresh fish were landed in small numbers at Parkhill, Inverurie and Alford beats. By the end of the month these fish were already well distributed throughout the system. with catch figures now into double figures.

Trout angling began for some beats on the 15th of March, blustery overhead conditions made dry fly fishing impossible at times and anglers who choose to fish nymphs enjoyed more success. Hatches of March Browns and Olives have been infrequent but improved as the air temperature rose encouraging fish to come up to the surface. Most beats saw some decent trout around the 1lb mark landed with a few specimen fish up to 5lbs also appearing in catches. Despite a long cold winter and several floods to contend with, those landed have been in good condition.  

Smolt Monitoring

The rotary screw trap was installed on Fetternear beat in readiness for next month’s tagging program. The River Dee Trust in partnership with Marine Scotland propose to tag a total of 75 salmon smolts which upon release will be tracked using the aid of 10 acoustic receivers which have already been positioned in the river at various locations downstream including one situated just above the tidal limits. These receivers collect data from each individual tagged smolt as it swims past. After migration has ceased typically around the end of May the receivers will be removed from the river and the collected data analysed. The gathered information will help us to gain a better understanding of the smolts migration, where tag losses occur and if any river obstructions such as weirs or hydro schemes encountered are cause any delay.

Map showing the locations of the in-river receivers.


Numbers of spring salmon are building each week, those already in river have quickly spread out preventing any build up however as water levels fall and fish become more congregated in the pools extra attention will be required. Fisheries officers maintained vehicle and foot patrols throughout the catchment including routine checks on various association and club waters to ensure anglers have in possession their 2021 permit.

River Predation

The first of three spring predator bird surveys was completed on the 26th of March from Poldullie Bridge at Strathdon down to the estuary limits. A total of 79 Goosanders and 3 Cormorants were counted, birds were mostly spotted in pairs as the breeding season approaches. Two further counts will take place one in April and May. No seals have been seen above Diamond Bridge although several Grey and Common seals were regularly seen hauled out just above the estuary at the Bridge of Don.     

Habitat Improvement

The job of posting along the toe of the riverbank has been completed at Waterside and Bandley sites near Alford. Nearly 70 natural willow posts are now in place in readiness for the next stage to begin. The bank restoration projects will now start to quickly take shape as the willow whips are weaved around each post. This creates a strong natural barrier and stabilises the remaining bank helping to prevent further erosion.