Water Height – 8-1ft

Water Temp – 50deg F

Our first tenants of 2018 arrived to blue skies and sunny conditions……Spring had finally arrived in Lochaber!

These conditions are usually seen as detrimental to catching fish, but this is not always the case.   Fresh,  sea-liced salmon are not so fussy when it comes to overhead conditions and almost all our May fish are straight from the sea. The key to success is keeping the fly in the water and finding a fresh run salmon in a likely resting spot.

The start of the week passed with a few sightings of running fish but only one hooked and lost.  As the river levels dropped below the 1ft mark the salmon started to hold a bit longer in the pools (As expected) and it was our man Ron Powell from the Oregon-USA that got the first one in the book – a lovely 12lber from Larch Tree on Beat 4. He quickly added another but this one was double the size of the first. A cracking 39in Lochy springer.  (Unfortunately his phone camera would not work, so no trophy shot for Ron!!) Not settling for just the two, he then hooked another (in the same pool) but unfortunately this one didn’t stick.  However not a bad mornings work for Ron. All 3 were hooked on one of his Steelhead intruder flies……and in bright sunshine!!  Well done Ron.   A couple more were lost on beat 4 that morning and then the fish moved on!  Surprising nothing was seen above on Beat 3 in the afternoon.

Friday produced another fish (an 8lber-small for this time of year) for Michael Mann on Beat 1 and another lost on Beat 2. Saturday was quieter with no fish seen and just 1 other lost on Beat 1.   It would seem we are awaiting the next batch of fish to come in!

Next week sees the tides dropping back but there maybe some rain in the catchment on Monday??  From Thursday it looks to be turning much warmer. Spring to summer in the space of a week!   With current water levels, salmon should move through slowly, giving the anglers some chance on intercepting.

 

 

 

 

 

This is a fabulous new film about the full life-cycle of the Atlantic Salmon. Well worth watching to see all of the threats this amazing fish must overcome to complete its ultimate journey – to spawn back in the river of its birth. I hope you enjoy it much as I did.

Jon Gibb

 

 

It’s been a busy last few months at the hatchery and in our representational work at a national level.

The winter was particularly cold this year and this meant that both stripping of broodstock and the development of ova was a good 3 weeks behind normal due to the lower than usual water temperatures. At times the snow was quite a challenge…


Nevertheless we successfully grew on all of the eyed ova required for outside contract work (currently the Ness DSFB project to restore the Upper Garry is the largest of these) as well as growing on all of the Lochy eggs with near 98% survival through to alevin.


The first of the alevins are now only now just beginning to absorb their yolk sacs and they will be introduced to feed over the next few weeks. These fish will be stocked as fed fry based on an electro-fishing survey being undertaken in July to identify poorly populated areas of the catchment.

Meanwhile stocking of fin clipped smolts was undertaken in April and early May. 15,000 fin clipped smolts were released in the Roy and 50,000 fin clipped smolts were released in the main stem River Lochy. The latter fish were treated with the infeed anti-sealice medicine SLICE which should give them 6 weeks protection from infestation as they find their way out to sea.

Probably the most important event of the last few months for us has been the Scottish Government’s enquiry into salmon farming. This is due to report some time this summer. We have made sure that the Lochy and surrounding rivers have been at the forefront of their considerations and, as well as written representations, I was invited to give evidence as a witness to the Committee as part of their enquiry. Following this I hosted a site visit for the REC Committee to the River Lochy and Drimsallie Hatchery. These were both very good opportunities to express the view that, while we view fish farming as critically important to the West Coast economy, we do not believe that it is currently being undertaken in suitable locations or that regulation is tight enough to protect migratory fish. So we now all wait to see whether the MSP’s will be brave enough to tackle the problem head on and introduce new measures to see the genuinely sustainable expansion of the fish farming industry.

So as a new season starts we all wait to see what it will bring. Will the spring and early summer run continue the trend of recent years (2017 aside) and continue to increase? Or will the summer and autumn grilse runs improve on recent years? We won’t know unless we are out there with a fly in the water.. so I wish all visiting and local anglers Tight Lines for the season ahead…..and don’t forget to check for those adipose fin clips!

Jon Gibb, Hatchery and Restoration Manager.

Exactly a year to the day the Lochy has its first fish of the season.   Well done Craig MacIsaac….a lovely 10lb sealicer from Mucomir pool.

Let’s hope this is the start of some good spring fishing.

 

 

As Spring 2018 fast approaches, how will it shape up??
Well, without my crystal ball it’s extremely hard to predict with any degree of certainty……there’s just too many variables.   However, we can look at previous figures and trends to help us understand what MIGHT happen!
If I remove 2017 out the equation for now (will come back to that later), 2012 to 2016 shows an improving trend for MSW salmon, for both weight and numbers. This statistic seems to confirm we are in the early stages of salmon cycle, linked with improved early season fishing and the downturn in the Autumn timeframe.
Of course within these cycles and changes, nothing is ever certain nor 100% predictable and stable, but we can clearly see an positive movement over the last 5 years in the May-July period.
Number of salmon (May-July)
Number of salmon 15lbs and over from Beats 1-4 (May-Oct)
Even if we take a look back further the upward trend for MSW salmon is much more evident across the whole season. Its worth noting the sudden dips throughout this period but also the movement to higher peaks and higher troughs – showing a positive trend.
Total salmon number (May-Oct)
In 2017, the MSW salmon run failed to materialise.  It is fair to say this is a direct result of very poor smolt survival from the 2015 smolt run (e.g. Grilse numbers in 2016 were the lowest since 1998). These things happen!
Like I stated above, salmon runs are far from predictable on a yearly basis and thus, even in an upward trend there can always be isolated years where a combination of factors create a collapse in numbers, hence it is better to focus on trends rather than one-off years.
So, what does this mean for 2018?
Let’s focus on 2 areas which might aid the thinking process –
  1. The Trend – MSW salmon survival at sea seems to be fairing better than the Grilse so there’s no reason to think that this trend won’t continue.
  2. Smolt survival from 2016 – The 2017 Grilse returns, although not spectacular, we’re an massive improvement on the 2016 numbers, leading to the conclusion that the survival rate was much better for these smolts than the 2015 smolt run.   On this basis, the 2018 MSW salmon returns should be much improved also……. and will hopefully improve over the next 2-3 years.
So, if we extrapolate some figures, the graph may look something like this?
Looking further ahead, I would predict 2019 would see a further increase and then 2020 and 2021 could be back too much higher numbers. (peaks)  This of course is my own speculative view but it is based on factual historical data trends.
So, in amongst all the doom and gloom after such a bad season it’s good to reflect on what has gone before and relate it what may happen in the future.  Food for thought anyway!
……And remember it’s always harder to secure good fishing when the peaks are at their highest!!
With that in mind, I still have some excellent fishing available this spring/summer. See below.
Tightlines…
JV
————-
Availability :
Weeks Commencing :
May 14th and 21st
June 4th and 11th
July 9th, 16th and 23rd
Some other split weeks available also.
Email me : JVeitch34@gmail.com

A typical MSWsalmon from the Lochy – they don’t come much better in Scotland!!   I have availability when these big fish are running. See latest dates below : 
Weeks Commencing:

May 7th and 28th

June 4th, 11th, 18th, 25th

 

July 2nd, 9th and 30th

 

Email me @ John.Veitch@riverlochy.co.uk

There’s never been a better time to secure a prime week on the River Lochy.

Last season’s disappointment = next season’s opportunity.

If you wish to inquire please get in touch with me ASAP.

Thanks

John Veitch.

 

Availability

May :
Week comm 7th May – 4 rods/week

June :
Week comm 11th June – 4 rods/week or 3 days
Week comm 18th June – 4 rods/3days
Week comm 25th June – 4 rods/week or 3 days

July :
Week comm 2nd – 4rods/week or 3 days
Week comm 9th – 4/rods/week or 3 days
Week comm 23rd – 4 rods/week or 3 days

August :
Week comm 20th – 4 rods/week or 3 days
Week comm 27th – 4 rods/week or 3 days
Priority is always give for parties taking 4 rods for a full week or 3 days but other options are available.

 

Just about all of the fisheries management world is now agreed that we are currently entering a MSW salmon cycle and are fast coming out of a 1SW grilse cycle. If history repeats itself, it may last up to 60 years! We are at a pinch-point in that transition and all it takes in any given year is for a poor MSW salmon run (as happens frequently, even in normal times) and the whole season collapses, as the salmon component of any annual run in a river is always far less numerous than grilse. I suggest this is probably exactly what we saw in rivers such as the Awe and the Lochy in 2017.

We are still fortunate though that the Lochy, compared to most west coast rivers, supports a strong genetic strain of large MSW salmon. Their time to shine might well be about to happen! It can be certainly no coincidence that only last season (2016) we had the best MSW spring salmon run for decades but the poorest grilse run in recent memory…

The reason for this grilse to salmon shift appears to be a warming sea (especially in the western edge of the NE Atlantic) and the complex changes it is having on (parts) of the ocean. Some areas of the NE Atlantic are still fairly stable, probably due to lesser impacts from shifting warmer currents (there is a known ‘cold blob’ just west of Norway for instance) but in other areas the lack of ‘grilse sized’ food is catastrophic: West of UK and South of Iceland being 2 examples. This is probably the reason for the northern Scottish rivers holding up particularly well and the southern and western rivers on the point of collapse in some cases. In times of grilse abundance (1960’s to 1990’s) the much cooler ocean would have held food uniformly all over – nowadays the food supply (and temperature) is highly patchy.

Sand-eel numbers have spiralled downwards due in part to the explosion in numbers and the unprecedented geographic spread of mackerel and other pelagic fish as waters have warmed. Grilse require abundant sand-seels to grow strong enough to survive their first winter at sea. A post-smolt salmon is a relatively rare creature in the vast ocean and the competition from any super-abundance of any marine species such as mackerel will completely swamp the vulnerable post smolt’s ability to compete for the same food source.

Conversely, MSW salmon travel further north for food where the problem is less pronounced. MSW salmon may also benefit if they can survive the first winter at sea and grow big enough to predate on the mackerel themselves. Possibly why, in amongst the current declines of most salmon rivers, some MSW salmon are returning at huge sizes (you grow fat quickly if you become big enough to eat mackerel!)

Anyway, all of the above is having an equal impact of sand-eel eating seabirds such as kittiwakes (doing very badly) but is favouring deep diving fish eaters such as gannets (doing very well). I cannot recommend highly enough the following programme which explains all of these oceanic changes on seabirds (and salmon) far better than I can. The mechanisms at play for both species are exactly the same.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b072wwv9

Jon Gibb, Hatchery Manager.

 

Jon Gibb.     The rationale behind the agreed 3-year stocking plan

It may be helpful to recap the advantages of various stocking strategies and why (even when marine survival rates are at all-time lows) it is still worth removing a small amount of the overall spawning adults from the river to maximise the future benefit the progeny of those fish bring to the population.

The table below uses accepted wild salmon survival rates (Mills and Shelton, AST, 1986) at all life cycle stages, compared to the survival rates of reared hatchery smolts. Clearly it makes sense to take a small proportion of your spawning fish and utilise them in this way as the eggs generate proportionally far more returning adults. However, any such activity must be done within the bounds of what is an acceptable risk to genetic variation (this is why we stock only 50,000 smolts as opposed to a million!)

In terms of which life stage to stock at, it makes the most sense to stock smolts…. if you can afford to do so. In our case it makes perfect sense to do so as, due to funding, it costs the RLA a fraction of the normal price of running a smolt hatchery (normal cost for 50,000 smolts = £100,000pa @£2 per smolt)

This next table shows a comparison of 2 different stocking strategies – smolt stocking and fry stocking.  It demonstrates why the most productive strategy is smolt stocking, even when marine survival rates have collapsed (as they almost certainly did these last 2 years). It is also why the 3-year hatchery plan (agreed in February 2017) is to stock both smolts and fry if enough broodstock can be obtained.

Fundamentally though, until marine survival rates of both stocked/wild smolts return to their recent range (circa 4% for wild, 1.5% for stocked) then the hatchery will not be likely to be benefiting fishermen in the short-term, but the long-term benefits of extra egg deposition remains. Importantly, it takes a very small shift upwards in survival rates to have a very large impact on returning numbers (including those to the rod). Meantime, using the hatchery, we can create significantly more eggs deposits than if we had left the fish in the river, and hope for a turnaround very soon in marine survival.