- 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.
- 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.
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.
Jon Gibb, Hatchery Manager.
This could be the shortest fishing report I’ve ever done. Quite simply I have nothing to report catch-wise from the main Lochy beats. Despite fairly good conditions, no fresh fish entered the river! However on Saturday evening, ghillie John MacIsaac landed a nice female hen fish of around 24lbs from Mucomir pool…….probably a June fish!
With no fresh fish and very few residents in the main beats the fishing is extremely challenging….and it’s certainly a cause for concern looking ahead! It is without doubt that the run-timings of salmon are changing, and this is being seen across the country (not just west coast) with less and less fresh-run fish entering the rivers during the late Summer and Autumn period. Quite simply, we all may have to adjust our calendars and indeed our expectations to fit around these changes in the years ahead.
I will be discussing this very matter with the RLA in the coming days.
I am not predicting much of an upturn for the remaining weeks so the fishing will tough going! To have a chance of a fish, I’d fish the fly deep in the main holding pools with mornings and evenings being the optimum times…..conditions allowing!
Well, I’d love to start my weekly reports with photos of bright silver Lochy springers and happy fishermen, however I’m afraid it was the hillwalkers, golfers and tourists who were feeling much happier than the anglers this past week.
The conditions were as poor as they could be – bright sun everyday, north east winds and low water……very frustrating for our opening week! Even when the sun dipped in the evenings, the air temp plummeted and was then colder than the water temp (55deg F) I can’t recall the first week in May with such low levels and cloudless skies!!
Beat 4 with Ben Nevis glowing in the background
Fish were seen at the start of the week, so we know they were there, but as the week progressed the conditions deteriorated and the fish disappeared.
On a brighter note, the river is full of migrating smolts, more than I’ve seen for a very longtime, so lets hope we se some rain soon to get them flushed out.
Anyway, it wasn’t all bad news last week……
It was with great pleasure that we welcomed the team from Fishpal to present John MacIsaac (2016 Malloch Trophy winner) with this prestigious trophy. Tom Buchanan (winner in 2015) was kind enough to come up and present the trophy to John. John also won a Mackenzie DTX Rod, a box of flies from CaledoniaFly Company and £250 of Fishpal vouchers. Well done JMac!!
It was also great to see Lochy Ghillie Joe McGinty presented with his certificate in recognition of his efforts helping John successfully land, weigh and measure his magnificent fish. Well done Joe…good team effort!
Here’s Anne Woodcock (Fishpal) and Tom Buchanan with John MacIsaac….and Joe with his certificate.
It was also nice to see Marshall (my black cocker) receiving his prize for assisting Joe and John on the day. Happy dog!!
I’d just like to say a big thanks to Fishpal and Anne Woodcock for all their good work regarding this trophy and event. A big thanks to all those who donated prizes……Scott Mackenzie and Malcolm Anderson ….and a huge thanks who all those who attended and made John Mac’s day a special one.
Now, back to fishing and prospects.
The forecast is saying the wind is changing next week and we could get some cloud cover- this will be most welcome. The tides are building so I fully expect fish to run into the river, despite the low levels. Attention to tide times and fishing early morning and late evenings may provide the best chance.
I still have some rods in June – primetime for big Lochy springers!
THE RIVER LOCHY ASSOCIATION
Springwells Old Farmhouse, Greenlaw, Berwickshire, TD10 6UL
Email: email@example.com Mobile: 07712001693
Update on changes in the management and organisation of the River Lochy Associatioin
During 2016 I worked with John Veitch, the River Manager and Jon Gibb the Hatchery & Restoration Manager to review the viability of our structure. After many meetings and discussions we have decided to make the following changes with effect from 2017 season :-
John Veitch moves away from his role as River Manager to become the Sales and Marketing contractor under his own company. John will focus on promoting the river and securing a steady income stream through his online and media channels, his strong relationships with the RLA tenants and the sport Salmon Fishing industry at large. John’s value in this area is the key to sustaining and enhancing the RLA’s commitment to future investments on the River and in our Hatchery Operations. John will continue to manage all tenant relationships, bookings (incl ghillie arrangements), reporting and communications.
In addition to the above role, John will also have seasonal responsibility for Fishery Protection and Predation Control.
John will also retain responsibility for the RLA’s close relationships with our local fishing clubs. These clubs play very active part in our overall River Management Operations and are valued contributors to the rivers future success and sustainability.
Jon Gibb will continue in his valuable role of Hatchery and Restoration Manager, supported by Pawel Fowsak. This work and Jon’s on-going relationships with his Hatchery partners are key to the future success of the River Lochy.
Through Jon’s role as Clerk to the Lochaber DSFB he continues to represent the RLA’s interests in a wide range of other areas including fish farming, hydro impact and conservation regulations
These changes have given me the opportunity to create a new role – Fishing Co-ordinator.
From the beginning of April 2017 Billy Neil has agreed to accept responsibility for this role. Billy has lived in Lochaber all his life and will be well known to many of you through his club memberships, fishing competitions and ghilling on the River. We are very fortunate that Billy has accepted this role. There are few people with the depth of knowledge that Billy has of all aspects of the River Lochy. Billy will be responsible for meeting and greeting fishing parties on a Monday morning, all aspects of bank, hut and boat maintenance, assisting John Veitch is predation control and coordinating daily catch data.
As this is a new role on the river can I please ask you all to support Billy where you can and understand any bedding in issues we might experience.
If you would like any further information please feel free to contact me.
Andrew Shaw, Chairman