River Tay – confirmation that the “dry” River Garry tributary will flow again

SB - Cock Salmon

Spawning salmon will have access for the first time in over 60 years following landmark agreement

A section of one of the River Tay’s most important tributaries is soon to have consistent flows restored after decades of very extensive water abstraction. Ten miles of the River Garry (much of it clearly visible from the A9), which has been essentially dry since the mid 1950s, will run again, promising major benefits for adult salmon spawning and juvenile production.

The formal announcement is to be made at the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board’s (TDSFB) annual ceremony to celebrate the opening of the River Tay salmon fishing season, which will take place at Meikleour on Monday 16 January.

SSE will confirm that engineering work will commence in a few weeks time to restore flows to the River Garry, some 15 miles north of Blair Atholl in Highland Perthshire. An initial breach has already been made at the Struan Weir to begin this process.

Jim Smith, SSE’s Managing Director of Generation, said: “Ever since its inception as the Hydro Board in 1943, SSE has been charged with the responsibility of managing the waters carefully where we operate our hydro assets. Our guiding philosophy is to work with all parties to balance the nation’s need for power with our environmental responsibilities. We recognise this stretch of the River Garry as a special case for water restoration. Although it will result in a loss of potential hydro energy for SSE we are delighted to play our part in restoring water flow and allowing salmon back to the upper Garry.”

Bill Jack, chairman of the TDSFB, added: “This most welcome news is a milestone in salmon conservation. Some ten miles of the main river and seven miles of tributary will once again be capable of producing salmon. We estimate that this is likely to produce an additional 1500 adult, predominantly spring, salmon returning to the river annually. It is difficult to envisage any other single project that would benefit salmon in the Tay system as much as this will. We are very pleased to have been able to work with SSE and SEPA to a successful conclusion.”

Ian Buchanan, Head of Regulatory Services at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), said: “It is most satisfying that an agreement has now been reached whereby flow will be restored to the River Garry that is sufficient to restore the river’s ecology while minimising the loss of renewable energy generation. This is by far the most significant river restoration project of this type that has been achieved to date in Scotland, if not the UK, thanks to the EU Water Framework Directive.”

The ceremony to mark the beginning of the new salmon season will be held at 9.30 am on January 16 at the Meikleour boathouse (by Kinclaven Bridge) and hosted by Meikleour Fishings. The traditional blessing (with a quaich of Glenturret whisky) of the boat and river ceremony will be performed by James Smith of SSE. The event is supported by the Perthshire Chamber of Commerce. “Goody bags” for anglers are being generously provided by Glenturret Distillery (Scotland’s oldest distillery), Pol Roger Champagne (the late Odette Pol Roger was a renowned Tay angler) and The Meikleour Arms (which has been serving anglers for almost 200 years).

Following the ceremony anglers are welcome to fish the Upper Islamouth beat in exchange for a £10 donation to Angling For Youth Development, the Scottish charity that aims to offer people of all backgrounds and abilities the opportunity to participate in angling and angling-related activities.

On January 16 anglers compete for the Redford Trophy (on display at Crockart’s of Blairgowrie), awarded for the biggest spring salmon caught and safely released on the main river.