IT is a short swim for salmon. But a great leap for salmonkind.

For more than a century a whiskymaker’s dam stopped migratory fish from reaching their spawning grounds on a Speyside burn.

Now - as part of a nationwide campaign to bring salmon and trout back to once blocked rivers - Tamdhu Distillery near Aberlour has righted a Victorian wrong.

Its owners, the independent Ian Macleod Distillers, have paid for a £120,000 fish pass that opens up a more than two-mile stretch of the Knockando Burn, a tributary of the Spey.

The man-made structure is 4.5 metres high and 16 metres long and one of the biggest of its kind in the UK.

It comes seventy years after the opening of revolutionary salmon ladder at Pitlochry, which is 310 metres long and designed to let fish pass an early hydro power scheme.

Along with other small-scale efforts to remove or bypass weirs and dams, often the legacy of legacy industries, the Tamdhu project is helping to re-open hundreds of miles of river to fish.

Tamdhu Distillery Manager, Sandy McIntyre, said: “We’re really excited to be working in partnership on this essential environmental project at the Tamdhu Distillery, which will see fish return to this section of the Knockando Burn for the first time in over 100 years.

“Water from the river has been used in the Tamdhu production process since we were established in 1897, so we’re proud to be giving something back.

“Located on the Speyside Way, Tamdhu is committed to protecting and enhancing its natural environment for the benefit of wildlife, anglers and the local tourism economy. “

The distillery paid for the scheme but worked with the Spey Fishery Board and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) , which is putting in place a new river basin managment plan for the Spey and Knockando.

The target date for reopening this section of the Knockando Burn to migrating fish was 2027 but the Tamdhu Fish Pass Project has allowed this to be completed nine years early.

Lisa Forsyth, of Sepa said the new pass was a “fantastic achievement”. She said: “The Tamdhu Fish Pass Project is a great example of an operator taking voluntary action and working in partnership to help improve the status of a waterbody. We hope this will see salmon and sea trout return to a significant stretch of the Knockando Burn soon.”

Brian Shaw, Biologist for Spey Fishery Board, said: “This has been one of the most significant barriers to migratory fish passage in the whole of the Spey catchment for the last century. We’re delighted to see that this has now been rectified. It is a significant achievement and we’re most grateful to Tamdhu for all of their efforts, as well as their enthusiasm, for installing the fish pass and other equipment.

“We now look forward to monitoring the number of fish that use it and to continuing to work closely with Tamdhu as we do so.”

Fish managers say it is not just dams and weirs which block fish, but culverts and channels. Sepa is currently helping to clear huge swathes of the central belt river systems. Two new fish passes were recently opened on the Almond. In Galloway an entire weir, which served an historic creamery, has been removed, as has an old stone culvert on Lewis.

There remain long-standing concerns over wild salmon stocks in Scotland with rod catches in the 2017 season the fourth lowest ever recorded. The complex migratory patterns and life cycle of the fish was not well understood when waterways were blocked in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Currently £20m is being spent on fish passes throughout Britain’s longest river system, the Severn, to fix problems created by 200-year-old canals.