Welcome to the River Forth Fisheries Trust Summer Newsletter 2015
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Remit of the Trust
The aim of the River Forth Fisheries Trust is to advance the conservation of all species of freshwater fish and the habitats they live in for the benefit of everyone. The area we cover includes all the rivers  flowing into the River Forth, the Forth Estuary and the Firth of Forth as well as coastal areas within the Firth.
We also have an interest in providing education to  the public and any association, local authority, governmental agency or public body in:
the understanding of aquatic ecosystems, including their fauna, flora and economic or social impacts, and river catchment management;

the need for, and benefits of, protection, conservation, rehabilitation and improvement of aquatic environments.
Volunteers helping Jo electrofish on the upper Avon.

Honor releasing fish in the Len Mill Burn (Avon).

Catch of the day on the Gogar Burn. Lots of Bullhead.

A few Eels from the Almond at Cramond 

Which one is the Salmon ? Look at the shape of the tail, the mouth, spot on the "cheeck" and the fins then you might be able to guess.

Honor and Fraser ready to measure and count fish.
Weirs and sewage are the main issues on the Almond.
Sylvian our new Trust Assistant.
A wee 0+ Bullhead around 25-30 mm.
The Trout fry are not much bigger ! This one is from Murieston Water (Almond).
Jo checking conductivity and temperature before electro-fishing on Gogar Burn.
Jo and Honor and the  Alva Primary School doing a fish survey on the Alva Burn.
The Mid Calder weir. One of 7 weirs currently being assessed for easement to improve fish passage on the River Almond.

Bogburn near Bathgate : a straightened and overwide channel with a poor water quality. This is one of the tributaries concerned by restoration works.

Confluence between Boghead Burn and Bogburn at Bathgate, you can clearly see that there is an issue.

Gogar Burn is also included in the programme. The burn is culverted as it flows below the A702 so for 1,7km.

A very straight and bank reinforcement on the upper Avon.
Another section of the upper Avon which has been dredged and straightened in the past.


Lawrence in Corriebeagh plantation area project.


Lawrence during a tree planting day on the Allan Water.


Eroded bank on the Allan Water.


Nice stretch on the Allan Water.



Above, you can see the most common invasive species you could find along the river in the Forth District : the Giant Hogweed, Japanese Knotweed and the Balsam. If you spot one make sure to report it to us via our website


Here is the animal who receive all this attention. Much bigger than other voles. Distinguished from the larger Brown Rat by its chestnut-brown fur, rounded nose, small, rounded ears that do not protrude from the fur and furry tail.

And this is an American Mink, even if this mustelid looks friendly it is still a threat for the water vole population.

You must not confuse the Mink with the Otter which is a native specie in Scotland.


Cracking Sea Trout from the River Esk caught during an electrofishing rescue. A few fish were stuck down Inveresk weir.

The old fish ladder on Inveresk weir!


It could be said that currently Fisheries Management is in a state of flux - the new consultation on Wild Fisheries Reform has been published (here) and both the Trust and FDSFB are working together to consult and respond.  There are significant changes ahead and both organisations are looking at the the opportunities as well as raising concerns. The Board and Trust has started to work much more closely together in anticipation of these changes and we are pleased to announce that Alison has taken the (unthankful task!) of Clerk to the Board and Fen Howieson is now also Chairman of the Trust having successfully taken FDSFB though the last year.  Our thanks to Dennis Toon for his commitment and input as Chairman of Trust previously and we are pleased that he is continuing as a Director.  The appointments of Fen and Alison in ‘joint’ roles allows for both Trust and Board to move forward together.
Unfortunately we have had to say goodbye to Callum Sinclair who has been a Director of RFFT for the last year as he has moved more permanently back to the south west of Scotland.  Callum as many will know was the Director of the Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland and latterly Operations Director of TCV.  His expertise and dry humour will be missed however he has offered to continue to help the Trust on Fisheries Management advice in the future and we wish him well.
The Trust also welcomes three new members of staff:
Lawrence Belleni has joined us from TCV as the Allan Water Improvement Project Officer and further information can be found from our earlier news release (here).  The appointment of Lawrence allows the Trust to further develop dedicated POs for catchment areas, following on from Jonathan’s role working on the Almond and Avon. Lawrence's experience with working with landowners will be of benefit to us all at the Trust and we look forward to working with him on the Allan Water.
Sylvian Barry is an experienced biologist and catchment manager from France who fortunately for us has found himself in Edinburgh.  He has taken on the role as Trust Assistant (which is as everyone knows just a title for someone who does everything!).
He has been updating our data bases, sorting out equipment, working on PR and will be leading our second electrofishing team this year (working closely with Jo). Great to have him on board.
And finally - working with Forestry Commission for Scotland (FCS) and Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park, Ryan Greenwood is now part of the Trust.  Ryan is the Project Officer for the Water Vole Reintroduction Project in Queen Elizabeth Forrest and is seconded to FCS on a day to day basis but is working with us at options to extend the project into other areas (see Ryan’s section later)
The future of the Trust looks good and we will work with our partners, groups, associations and clubs to make the most of the changes ahead.
Catchment Manager - Alison Baker
Biologist- Jo Girvan
Project Officer - Jonathan Louis
Project Officer - Lawrence Belleni
Project Officer - Ryan Greenwood
Ecology/Morphology - TrexEcology - Tommy Mc Dermott
Trust Assistant - Sylvian Barry

Electrofishing programme 2015
(Jo Girvan)

This season, the majority of our electrofishing will be strongly project related. This reflects the array of large-scale and nationally funded projects that the RFFT is currently involved with and will ensure that we are able to comply with the monitoring requirements of our funders. We have a lot of monitoring of fish (and invertebrates) to complete on the Rivers Almond, Avon and Esk, and this is already underway. As we are expecting to see morphological and habitat improvements on these rivers in the future, our project baselines will include fully quantitative sites so that we will be able to provide an accurate picture of how effective the restoration projects are. The Allan Water and River Leven will also be surveyed in support of future projects.
Baseline monitoring is planned for the River Devon, Black Devon, the Eas Cobain and the Upper Forth. In addition, we will be providing baseline fish monitoring on the River Carron ahead of the expected installation of a new fish pass at Fankerton Weir this summer. We would hope to see salmon colonising the newly accessible reaches of the River Carron as soon as next winter, and will be monitoring for the next few years to see how things progress. In partnership with numerous interested organisations, we will be installing a fish counter on the new fish pass, so that we can determine the number of breeders that are contributing to juvenile productivity upstream.

As always, we will rely heavily on volunteer effort to help complete our programme. Get in touch if you are interested in getting involved (

In August, we will be hosting a fully accredited Introduction to Electrofishing course in conjunction with Inverness College. The course will be held in Callander and the training provided by RFFT staff.

Forth Returning Adults Project
(Jo Girvan)

In 2010, the Trust took part in a genetics project where young salmon were analysed to see if fish from different rivers had different genes. The results showed that you could quite accurately tell what river a salmon came from by looking at its genes – a process known as genetic assignment. The project involved fish from the Rivers Forth, Teith and Devon and the Allan Water. It is useful to know that populations of salmon from different rivers have such genetic variation, and presumably this variation is related to adaptation to different habitats.

Now we are building on this baseline data in a project focussing on returning adult salmon. In 2015 and 2016 we will be collecting fin clip samples from taken rod-caught adult fish. These will be analysed to see if the adult has returned to the same river that it was born in, or if it has strayed into a neighbouring river system. If you are a salmon angler and would be interested in helping to obtain genetic samples for this project, we would like to hear from you!

The Almond/Avon Reconnection Programme
(Jonathans Louis)

It has been a busy two and a bit months for Jonathan and the rest of the project team developing the Almond/Avon Reconnection Programme. Kick-starting a project is always an exciting time and a project of this scale is no different. The Trust has initiated the development of all restoration projects with multiple tenders being issued to carry out scoping, feasibility and soon to be design of the Bathgate Water, Gogar Burn, Almond Barriers, Killandean and Upper Avon works.
The Almond Barriers Project has been kicked up a gear at the start of May as Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland (RAFTS) held the first of two community engagement meetings. RAFTS, the Trust and SEPA Water Environment Fund held two initial meetings to re-engage with the communities up and down the River Almond with all being able to give their views on the project. A survey for those that could not attend the meetings was also sent out with a great response and diverse range of views. The consultants for the Almond Barriers Project’s feasibility stage will now collate all the information they have gathered to determine the best possible option for improving fish access on the River Almond. The final two public meetings will be held in Livingston and Cramond Kirk Hall in Edinburgh to showcase the preferred option for each structure, see the below flyer for more details on the next set of public meetings.
The Killandean and Upper Avon projects have been scoped out by the Trust in-house and full walkover surveys have been carried out for both projects to highlight morphological issues within each river. The review of this information is currently being carried out by Tommy and will lead us on to carry out a feasibility and design study for each project. It is already clear that a range of improvements along each river corridor are needed to enhance and maximise the area for wildlife and people.

We have recently tendered our very first archaeological survey, an exciting time as we have never had to do this before. The reason we have had to carry out an archaeological survey is due to the field we hope to divert the Gogar Burn is thought to be an archaeological hotspot and artefacts have been found in the past. Everyone in the Trust is excited to see what might be found and if the results do come back positive then we will need to carry out a full archaeological dig.

A lot of the work is being designed with volunteers in mind, projects will have a strong volunteer aspect developed into them to try and maximise the opportunities for people to get involved, even during the development phase we will be trying to get as many people involved as possible.
Over the coming months, the project team will continue to develop and engage with the local communities to build the programme.

For more information please visit our website 
Allan Improvement project
(Lawrence Belleni)
The Allan Water Improvement Project (AWIP) is an innovative project employing an integrated catchment management approach to tackle issues within the Allan Water Catchment. The Allan Water lies in the very north of the River Forth Fisheries Trust District beginning in the Ochil Hills to the East of the village of Blackford, and flowing south to join the River Forth near Stirling. The issues affecting the catchment today are a combination of both industrial and agricultural historical developments and practices such as channel straightening and weir developments, and present day land management issues such as diffuse pollution. AWIP aims to improve the catchment by:
  • Improving waterbodies in the catchment to good ecological status in accordance with the Water Framework Directives (WFD);
  • Controlling Invasive non-native species (INNS), particularly Giant Hogweed;
  • Easement of barriers to fish passage to improve fish access;
  • Lowering diffuse pollution inputs;
  • And attenuating flood risk by using a Natural Flood Management (NFM) approach.
NFM is a sustainable low-cost approach to attenuating flood risk by restoring natural processes and functionality to our river systems, which provides opportunities for the system to slow and store water during a flood. Unlike traditional hard engineering approaches NFM also provides additional benefits to society by improving: biodiversity, wildlife, natural landscape, recreation opportunities and additionally, fisheries.

Over the summer I will be working on a number of projects to meet some of the above aims of AWIP. In the upper catchment I am working with landowners and land-managers to put in an application to plant a bare upland sub-catchment of the Allan Water with a large area of native woodland using the Scottish Rural Development Programme’s (SRDP) Forestry Grant Scheme. The native woodland will contribute towards NFM by helping to slow water conveyance in the upper catchment, as well as re-naturalising and improving the natural landscape with an additional wide array of benefits to both aquatic and terrestrial wildlife and biodiversity. Salmonid fish have access to the tributary in this upper catchment so it will be interesting to monitor how they respond to the restoration of native woodland to our uplands.

 On the floodplain of the Allan Water North of Dunblane, I am working with a farmer to put in an application for SRDP’s Small Farm Woodland Grant & Agri-Environment Climate Scheme grant to restore pockets of riparian native woodland on the floodplain of the Allan Water, which helps to stabilise banks and slow water conveyance in this reach. In addition, I am putting an application in for hedgerow creation across flow pathways in fields that flood and soft river bank protection using brash, the work is a combination of NFM, bank protection and sediment management. This section of the river and its floodplain suffers from an erosion issue as a result of historical dredging and lowering of the channel, therefore it is hoped the work on this farm can be replicated on other neighbouring farms in the Allan water Catchment that suffer from similar issues.

 I will be investigating the barriers to fish passage present in the Allan Water and targeting specific barriers where work is achievable, provides or improves access to good quality spawning channels, and/or would help improve the ecological status of the waterbody to meet the WFD objectives.

Lastly, I will also be hoping to find opportunities to work on diffuse pollution mitigation projects in the catchment. About a month ago I carried out a small low-cost experiment with a farmer, where we sowed white clover into a ditch that had recently been re-excavated to help bind the banks with vegetation. Currently, natural vegetation seems to have done a better job at re-colonising the disturbed earth in the ditch than the clover seed has. However, I will keep my eye on the ditch to see if the clover will prove me wrong with a bit more time. You never know unless you try….
The Trossachs Water Vole Project
(Ryan Greenwood)
The Trust has recently become an official project partner of the Trossachs Water Vole Project (TWVP) and will act as the employing organisation for the TWVP project officer. This is a fantastic opportunity for the Trust to play an important role in the conservation of one of Britain’s best loved riparian species. Water Voles were once abundant around British watercourses but have been lost from around 90% of their former U.K range due to habitat loss and predation by the invasive American Mink.
The TWVP has been working hard since 2008 to return water voles to their former range in the Loch Ard Forest near Aberfoyle. The work has included extensive restoration of riparian habitats, the creation of new wetland areas, an extensive programme of American mink control and the re-introduction of Water Voles. The reintroduction has been a huge success and the voles are doing fantastically well. They have spread throughout the forest from their original release sites and are now beginning to disperse into the wider area.
The project now hopes to facilitate the spread of water voles throughout suitable habitat in the Forth catchment. This will primarily be achieved by increasing the area of mink monitoring and control in the catchment as water voles will only disperse successfully without the pressure of mink predation. The project officer will be recruiting volunteers to help with the project. If you are interested in getting involved, or have any questions, please contact Ryan Greenwood on:
For further information check out the TWVP web page or Facebook page

Midlothian Esks Barrier Easement Project
(Tommy McDremott)

 The Trust is still engaged in developing fish passage and sediment mobility options for each of the 13 weirs on the North and South Esks.  A round of recent meetings were held in Gorebridge, Penicuik and Dalkeith to inform local stakeholders of the project and the potential project outcomes.  Once the options have been identified, a second round of meeting will take place to introduce the options and to inform interested parties on the likely next steps.  Make sure to keep an eye out along the river, in your local library or other public areas for notification of the the time and locations of the next meetings.
Interactive map
The Trust has launched a new interactive map of the Forth District. This new resource allows users to look at useful information that we have on the District and overlay it onto aerial images. We plan to continue the development of this resource by adding new information as we gather it. Just now you can see the outline of each catchment that makes up the District, Invasive Species sightings, and potential barriers along with SEPA’s water body classification information. The great thing about the map is that you can turn the different layers on and off depending on what you are wanting to look at. Check out our interactive map by going to our website, clicking the about us section and clicking on the Interactive Catchment Map tab. Alternatively you can view our new interactive map by clicking here.
Spot an Invasive ? Report it here
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