While across Ayrshire, floods on the 30th December reached incredible and often record levels, we have suffered almost constant spate conditions since the middle of October and only recently have water levels dropped back to more normal winter levels. Spawning will undoubtedly have been impacted as salmon and trout struggled to find suitable areas and flow conditions in which to lay their eggs. Some of the reds that were completed will have been lost due to redd wash out and indeed, we have had reports of salmon eggs being found amongst debris stuck on fences in the upper Stinchar. Massive gravel shifts have occurred and pools that once were deep are now shallow and vice a versa. Where huge deposits of gravel have occurred, this can lead to further flooding where the channel volume/capacity has reduced.
SEPA has provided guidance on how this can be addressed but in most cases advice should be sought from the local office. We won’t know the full impact of these gravel movements and spates until we assess juvenile fry and parr stocks in the summer of 2016 but we are aware that that many young fish were washed up in fields and lost. It’s very worrying but salmon and trout have survived massive spates before and they will this although the impact of 2015 flooding may be felt for several generations. It is really too early to say more.
However, we have been looking at damage that occurred over the last few months and it was interesting to see that some areas were damaged by severe floods ahead of the 30th December record spates. Some burns suffered larger floods than during the big spates as orographic rainfall patterns across catchments isn’t normally uniform. The Beoch and Culroy Burns seemed to experience a huge spate at the end of November that was greater than that of the 30th December.
Yesterday we attended a meeting near Beoch on the Culroy catchment to offer some advice to a landowner who’s access road is threatened. This burn suffered a huge spate at the end of November that washed out trees and banking along it’s length. Some of the work that the Trust undertook for the Board to stabilise bankings further downstream was damaged too and will need some further attention but not all is lost and we noticed that gravel has been scoured and cleaned and spawning areas improved. We will reassess what has worked and how to overcome failures over the coming months. It is impossible to be certain of results when working in rivers and of course, nature can throw a spanner in the works at any time.
Elsewhere in the Doon catchment, on the Muck Water at Dalmellington, floods washed out the very popular footpath along the burn. We met with Craigengillan owner Mark Gibson to discuss the best approach and find an immediate solution to the problem. This burn has been heavily modified and in fact, 100 years ago this year, it was straightened and moved to allow an airfield to be built. The burn is attempting to cut back to a more natural course and in the lower reaches, it is becoming increasingly mobile. With that mobility develops more interesting habit that is more attractive to fish, both for spawning and for juveniles. We have plans to add boulders to the straightened area and had agreed with the Board to progress with this this year. In light of the damage that occurred recently, we may (with support of the landowner) consider a more dynamic solution that works with nature. Initially we will seek an immediate repair to the footpath as it is extremely well used and the damage makes it difficult for some to pass along it. Thereafter we will take advice from a hydrologist to come up with a longer term solution for the benefit of fish and habitat.
While not all this news is good news, lessons are being learned and the ambition of the Trust, DSFB and landowners is to make improvements wherever possible. Anglers often look for immediate improvement but of course where problems are 100 years or more in the making, the solutions shouldn’t be expected to be instant. By addressing known issues in a pragmatic but informed and carefully considered way, we hope that the improvements will be sustainable in the longer term.