River Don Report October

River Don Monthly Report

October 2021


The last month of the season saw a significant increase in angling activity throughout the river. On the whole weather conditions remained unseasonably mild but thankfully for angler’s much wetter than the previous month. River levels maintained a decent height for angling, this helped keep fish on the move upstream providing rods on the middle and upper reaches with some sport, several beats reported improved catches which improved their seasons tally. The majority were coloured grilse ranging from 3-6lbs alongside the odd bigger specimen up to 20lbs. Beats on the lower reaches struggled for action as dormant resident fish moved out of the pools upriver. Unfortunately, these fish were not replaced by any substantial run of autumn stock, the odd one or two was seen and landed at Parkhill and Fintry but overall it was a slightly disappointing end to the season for many salmon anglers on the lower beats. The final day of the 2021 season was a complete washout and anglers were forced to turn around and head for home due to torrential overnight rainfall which put the river into flood conditions peaking at 6ft.  

A male and female salmon in spawning colours

River Predation

The second autumn predator bird survey was completed on the 28th from Poldullie Bridge at Strathdon downstream to the estuary limits. A total of 75 Goosanders and 8 Cormorants were counted with birds being seen evenly distributed throughout the river. Marksmen are currently being contacted to sign off the declaration forms. Please contact jim@riverdon.org with any queries regarding the new licence.  

A single common seal was reported seen in river on 5 separate occasions over the month the furthest upstream witnessed by anglers at the House pool (Lower Parkhill) This is the same loan seal reported over the past couple of months. Fisheries officers have been assisting to collate photographs for identification and help displace the seal downstream with the use of non-lethal methods.   


Fisheries Officers maintained regular foot and vehicle patrols throughout the catchment, an increase in legitimate anglers on the beats coupled with sustained higher river levels helped deter unwanted attention with only 1 incident of illegal fishing reported over the month. Several anglers were given guidance by Fisheries Officers on their inadequate fish landing and handling techniques.

Fish passes were regularly inspected to ensure free passage for fish heading upstream this included the recently installed pass on the Newe weir at Strathdon where staff have also been monitoring fish activity at various water heights.  

Redd Surveys

Fifteen sites across the catchment are surveyed on a weekly basis from the middle of October until spawning completion normally around mid-December. This season’s surveys commenced on the upper reaches on the 18th with the middle and lower sites following on a week later. Trout redds were already visible on a few tributaries with sightings of salmon pairing up on the suitable gravel areas also visible. Several early salmon redds were evident on a few main river sites the following week. The significant rise in water levels witnessed at the end of the month will greatly assist fish into the tributaries.

Photos below show areas of cleaned gravel (redds) found recently on the upper reaches. These are made by the hen fish, after choosing a suitable site she flexes here body to direct the water flow and uses her tail to create a depression in the gravel which will be filled with her deposited eggs during mating. Afterwards the hen fish moves slightly upstream and then displaces more gravel to cover the eggs. After completion she moves off leaving the male fish to guard the finished redd for a few days.   

Montgarrie Weir Alford

Is a structure on the Esset burn catchment which is regarded as a partial barrier to fish migtration. Upon inspection it was found that the previously used intake lade for Montgarrie Mill was leaching a substatial amount of water and attracting any migrating fish heading upstream away from the adjacent weir. Fish ascending into the intake would have became trapped and unable to get further upstream to spawn. The intake breach has now been temporarily repaired using submerged ton bags filled with sand bags to plug the hole. The additional water has now been restored over the main weir creating an incresed flow during all water levels.

After repair showing rediverted flow going over the weir.


Compiled by Martin Webster

Fisheries Officer DonDSFB