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Loughs Agency Partnership
At the beginning of September 2013, Andy Thomas and Tim Jacklin spent a week in Ireland carrying out four practical habitat improvement demonstration days in the Foyle catchment. Organised in partnership with the Loughs Agency, the events provided an opportunity for angling club members and staff from various government agencies to get hands-on experience of a number of habitat improvement techniques and to share ideas and knowledge.
The first two days were spent on the Murlough Burn, a spawning tributary of Lough Derg, Donegal. Hosted by Pettigo and District Anglers Association (PDAA), the days focussed on introducing brushwood structures to provide cover for juvenile trout and to boost productivity in this upland watercourse.
The area is heavily forested with conifer plantations and a 2010 WTT advisory visit had recommended clearing trees alongside the burns, which at the time were completely “tunnelled”. It was fantastic to see the progress made by PDAA since the advisory visit; working with Kieran Moloney of Coillte (the Irish forestry service), a wide buffer zone had been cleared alongside one side of the Murlough Burn and on both sides of another. The reduction in shading and improved bankside vegetation, along with the structures introduced on the demonstration days, will provide great benefit for juvenile trout production in this burn.
Volunteers work on the Altnaghee
Brushwood structures on the Murlough Burn provide good juvenile trout habitat
The next two days were spent on the Altnaghree, a tributary of the Burndennet. This river hosts a run of sea trout, but has been heavily impacted by historic land drainage works and inputs of fine sediment. Woody debris was introduced and various anchoring techniques were demonstrated; the structures will provide vital submerged cover for juvenile trout at a range of flows. Using an excavator, techniques for re-shaping the uniform, engineered river bed and grading the gravel substrate were also demonstrated; the deeper pools and clean gravel shallows created will provide adult holding water and good spawning areas.
The visit was funded through the IBIS project, a partnership between the Loughs Agency, the University of Glasgow and Queen's University Belfast. It is a cross-border project to help protect aquatic resources across Northern Ireland, the Border Region of Ireland and Western Scotland.
Many thanks go to Loughs Agency staff, particularly Art Niven and Lionel Knobbs, for organising such a successful visit.