River Don Monthly Report May21

River Don Monthly Report

May 2021


May turned out to be a wet and miserable month for angling. Whilst the occasional decent day was encountered heavy rainfall fell over the catchment for several weeks and subsequently several fishing days were written off due to either high or coloured water. One positive was that the higher flows would have assisted the swift migration of salmon smolts downriver and perhaps reduced predation pressures in the river as a result.

Catches of salmon improved as the river began to clear and drop, news spread as anglers reported seeing small runs of fish running hard through the lower and middle reaches. A clear indication of this became apparent above Alford with fresh fish being landed later in the month. Considering the number of fishing days lost (nine on the lower reaches) it has been a much better period for salmon angling and most beats are now at least off the mark for the season. The volume of fresh water exiting the river has encouraged any fresh fish waiting in the bay to enter and boosted numbers in river.

Amongst the normal run of 7-10lbers were some larger fish from 18lb to 21lbs, but the highlight of the month was news of another fantastic fresh fish of 25lbs landed from Fetternear beat. The successful local angler also went on to land another large fish of 19lbs a few days later, both were taken on the fly. (See Photo Below).

Small runs of sea trout appeared off the tides and quickly spread throughout the river. Although evening fishing for these sporting fish has yet to get firmly underway fresh fish up to 4lbs were landed during the daytime at Parkhill, Kintore, Inverurie and Fetternear beats.

A fantastically well-proportioned salmon from Fetternear

Trout anglers were also left frustrated for most of the month with many visits to the river ending early due to rising coloured water. However, by mid-month decent hatches of Grannom, Hawthorns and Olive Uprights were being reported, although predominantly on the middle and upper river. Some great dry fly sport was encountered, and some superb catches have been reported with quite a few trout from 4-6lbs being landed on beats across the river. It’s encouraging to note that more and more local and visiting trout anglers now practice catch and release throughout the river.

Typical, heavily spotted Don Brown trout around 1lb in weight


Throughout the month Fisheries Officers maintained regular foot and vehicle patrols across the river system. Despite sustained high river levels several youths were encountered on the lower reaches fishing for migratory fish without permission to do so. These individuals were subsequently given a warning.

Two anglers were also found breaching conditions of the River Don Brown Trout Protection Order by fishing for Trout with no written permit. Both were issued with a warning and their details passed onto the police.

A total of eight incidents were recorded over the month all involving illegal fishing with rod and line.

River Predation

The last piscivorous bird survey was completed on the 28thof May from Poldullie Bridge at Strathdon down to the estuary limits. A total of 83 Goosanders were counted on the day. Higher than normal river levels kept bird sightings lower than was expected for the time of year. A few broods of juvenile birds were also observed on the river during the count. The quota of given birds on the now expired licence was fulfilled for the year, many thanks to those individuals who helped assist with the control effort. Surveys will commence again starting in September.

Habitat Improvement

Another month of interruptions due to water conditions, thankfully the willow bank restoration on Bandley site by Alford was almost completed just in time before the river rose significantly. Once conditions allowed it was reassuring to revisit the site and find that the newly installed willow structure had stood up well to the flooding and experienced no damage. New growth has already started to shoot from the willow canes and the living structure will quickly become established. This is the last willow bank repair site for the season. Many thanks to Leys Estate for donating the willow canes and posts for these restoration tasks.

Willow bank restoration at Bandley by Alford, signs of fresh growth on canes already.

INNS Plant Control

The control of giant hogweed is now underway and will continue throughout June and into July. Due to continued control over the years the mature plants visible on the upper mainstem between Alford and Strathdon has significantly reduced and is currently at a more manageable level on all beats.

Alford Bridge downstream to Inverurie will also be treated this summer and any visible plants sprayed.

Another invasive plant found at this time of year along the River Don is the American Skunk Cabbage. Whilst present in smaller numbers at this time we do not want it to establish due to its dense leaves shading and outcompeting native vegetation leaving large areas of bare earth in the winter at risk of erosion. This plant is controlled at the same time and using the same methods as giant hogweed.

Giant hogweed (left) and American skunk cabbage (right).

Compiled by Martin Webster, Fisheries Officer Don DSFB