We don’t often report good news about fish stocks on the Ayr but I’m pleased to say we can today.

Well in fact it’s not the Ayr but the Ponesk Burn in the upper Ayr catchment. This burn was moved to allow coal to be extracted from below it in 2010. This wasn’t the first time the burn had been moved. Around 40 years ago it was diverted for mining purposes leaving it with impassable obstacles and rendering it a trout burn in all but the lower few hundred metres. After ART captured the salmon and trout prior to its latest move in 2010, within a few days the burn was moved to a new channel hewn out through rock and hillside. We moved the fish upstream and hoped one day we would be able to report good news of the recovery of the fish population. Today we can.

Unfortunately I left my camera in the van so you will have to take my word for this but Struan and I were pleased to see fish moving in most pools ahead of us as we walked upstream. We have found an occasional salmon fry and parr over the last year or two but numbers were low and I suppose this was to be expected as the channel was so new. Today’s results indicate that the fry that were produced in 2012/13 managed to survive in good numbers and parr were numerous. The fry population produced last winter was pretty encouraging too. We fished the upper 2 sites on the new stretch today (we have 3). The middle site is upstream of a large culvert and cascade and has produced salmon fry before but just a few. The upper site is near the top of the channel and has changed greatly over the 4 years since the water was sent down the channel. The site is full of gravel and the flow has cut into the man made channel widening and shallowing the site. Gravel from the natural habitat upstream of the new channel is starting to spread downstream and things are improving.

looking downstream from near the top of the new channel

Looking downstream from near the top of the new channel. Good parr habitat and deep pool for trout. Things are looking good for the Ponesk. This photo was taken earlier this summer

Taken in June this year in very low flow

Taken in June this year in very low flow

We were rapidly running out of time this afternoon and I wanted to check whether salmon had made it beyond the new channel last winter to spawn. We picked some nice gravel habitat and conducted a quick presence/absence survey and bingo, we found fry straight away. Tomorrow I plan to head to the upper reaches and see what we find 3-4 km upstream.

I’ve walked the burn regularly over the last 3 winters looking for spawning salmon and saw just a few but last winter there were more.  I am hopeful that this burn will become increasingly an important spawning area in years to come.

This is very encouraging and just shows that where high quality habitat is opened up and water quality is good, then the fish can very quickly repopulate an area themselves.