The catch returns from 2019 are now collated and can be viewed below.

In what was an incredibly wet year, with a river that was unfisable for much of the time and with a much lower rod fishing effort than in recent seasons, the rod catch of 216 salmon and grilse was perhaps reasonably encouraging. It is the largest catch for 3 years.

Had the river been fully fished, or in better order for longer, the total could have been a great deal higher. Especially encouraging was the presence of reasonably good numbers of 1sw grilse that ran all the way through the year from late June to mid September. We have not seen this extended grilse run for a couple of years and this might point to better times ahead (have the fish begun to adapt to whatever problems are facin g them as 1sw fish at sea?) The 2sw salmon run in 2020 could be very interesting to watch as it might point further towards better runs in the coming years.

As part of our fishery management operations we undertake annual electro-fishing surveys throughout the entire catchment – the main stem Lochy, Spean, Roy, Arkaig and all major tributaries. The reports for Lochy, Spean and Roy are below.

Generally speaking these surveys demonstate that, by in large, densities of fry and parr are good throughout most parts of the catchment. This may come as quite a surprise to some, as parts of the river system ‘appear’ to be low on adult numbers. Neverthless these results demonstrate that it does not take many adult spawners to fill the system with young fish – it is the habitat rather than the sheer number of spawners that dictates this.

Where we do have low numbers we can respond to this using our hatchery facility and our prefered approach is currently to reseed these areas with eyed ova in artificial redds bred for captive reared indigenous broodstock (fish that have been trapped as smolts and parr and reared on to adulthood in the hatchery).

The fact that the river system continues to support good numbers of fry and parr means that the river is in good shape and we can only hope that the salmon themselves adapt to whatever challenges are clearly facing them when they reach the sea.

Another hard week on the river with the fish really in ‘end of season/pre-spawning’ mode. A lack of any fresh water through the week did not help the situation but it now definitely feels that it will take a hard frost to bring the bigger residents out of their deep summer lies and switch on their aggression again. With only one week of the season left though we may be rapidly running out of time for a late season flurry.

Well done to everyone who persevered in the tough conditions though, especially to some of our newly visiting parties – I hope that fishing the beautiful Lochy pools will have wetted your appetite to come back next season when the fish are a bit more switched on.

There were some catches in the week and Guy Rasch led the charge with 2 grilse landed in the first half of the week – both were around the 4lbs mark with one from Garrabouie Stream and one from Croy Pool. The Garrabouie Stream is certainly holding reasonable numbers of fish (even though they are not always showing) and DJ Gillies had a 4lbs grilse there one day quickly followed by losing 2 more in quick succession later that afternoon. Not unusually for the time of year, the few fish that are coming up to take the fly are doing so without any real commitment. There were many more fish plucked and lost during the week.

Best fish of the week fell to local rod Ross McCubbin of the Spean Bridge Angling Club – an 11lbs salmon, again from the Garrabouie Stream. The club were giving it a really good shot this week on their allocated club week on the private beats. Chris Foster landed a fine 8lbs salmon Lucky Cast and, finally, Andy Burton landed a 4lbs grilse in Upper Camisky – and the marvellous photo of him and his ‘ghillie’, club member James Porter, takes pride of place this week in our rogues gallery below!

A quiet week on the river when it felt that the fish had definitely gone into lethargic mode prior to preparation for spawning. We will need it to turn a good deal colder if we are to expect those fish that have been resting up all summer to become aggressive and come back on the take. Looking at the forecast for the next fortnight or so it looks like some cold nights may be on the way. This may well do the trick and might provide some late season sport for some of our last visitors this season. Even though the fish have been reluctant to show much all year, we do know there is a reasonable head of fish in the river.

There were nevertheless one or two fish taken during what was a very hard week. Local rod Chris Cairns continued his productive season on the private beats by landing a 5lbs grilse in Lucky Cast on Beat 4. Regular Lochy rod Howard Evans got another 5lbs grilse in Lower Camisky while another member of his party, Steve Penn, landed another grilse of the same sort of size in Bulls Run at the top of Beat 2. Harry St John, fishing Upper Camisky, also took a fish of around 7lbs.

The least welcome sight on the river all week was a small common seal cavorting around the Falls Pool on Beat 3 midweek. These animals have no place in freshwater and very considerable damage can take place if they get amongst deep-lying and resting fish at this time of year.

With my apologies if the fishing reports this year are becoming somewhat repetitive…….but once again we had a week that was largely spoilt by constantly high water. It doesn’t take much to switch fish off at this time of year (especially as the bulk of them are resting at the bottom of deep pools conserving energy prior to spawning) but having the hydro dam at Mucomir spilling out its ‘stale’ loch water at a constant 2ft down the river pretty much puts the kybosh on any productive salmon fishing.

For some reason the generation department in SSE seem to be hell bent on generating as hard as possible these last 2 years since they installed a new turbine at the dam. Other catchments, such as at Loch Morar on the western coastline of our region, are seeing a similar pattern. We have raised this with SSE on several occasions and have yet to receive a satisfactory answer – but we will persevere. There is definitely the perception on the river and by those that know it well that in the past the water would have run off from the loch much more gradually, thus mixing the ‘fresh’ spate water from the Spean with the ‘staler’ loch water from Mucomir. Of course it doesn’t help that it has been one of the wettest summers on record too.

Nevertheless there were some successes in the week, even though fishing effort was notably light through the whole week. Andrew Shaw had an early fish with a grilse from Beat One and his party had some near misses through the week as well with fish hooked and lost. Well done to Susie Oliver though who landed a cracking wee 5lbs grilse from the Fence Pool and I am told it made very fine eating (the River Lochy allows limited taking of grilse in line with its conservation policy and its status as one of the few Grade 2 rivers on the West Coast of Scotland).

Brian Tolmie landed a 7lbs fish from the tail of Beech Tree on Beat 4 – fish are lying this year at the rocks that we put in the river way back in 2002. It is interesting that these three huge boulders are the only ‘artificial’ lies that have worked in the river (with every other stone or croy added either filled in or washed away) and it is perhaps telling that the river here is at its widest and least powerful point where we put these boulders.

James Wills also landed a 5lbs grilse in Upper Camisky and encouragingly I heard of fresh fish being seen and lost in the same pool on Saturday. Andrew Shaw’s party reported that there appeared to be a fresh run of fish going through the pool. The run has certainly been noticeably more extended this year and it would be great to think that there are more fresh fish to come. If we get some fresh water in from the Roy to counteract the less attractive water from Mucomir then there could be some good sport to be had. The forecast is unsettled so rods this week may be in luck.

Susie Oliver with her grilse from Fence Pool on Beat 3

With yet another week of high water, peaking at an astonishing 8 feet on Saturday night, fishing was far from easy these last few days. Coupled with this were clear signs that the numbers of fresh fish coming into the river were beginning to diminish.

Nevertheless there was sport to be had and those that persisted once again did well. Local rod Chris Cairns continued his good season and fished hard for the first few days of the week. He was duly rewarded with 4 cracking fish – 2 grilse from Lucky Cast on Beat 4 on a rising river, and 8lbs summer salmon from Beech Tree a little further downstream and finally a lovely 12lb hen fish from the Jetty on Beat 1 (one of the few rods that managed to wade over to fish this pool this week due to the constantly high water).

Anne Shaw’s party on the rotating private beats found some fish in the challenging conditions with Lochy regular Sir Robert Clerk landing a couple of grilse – one of these was in Loy Mouth, not normally a high water pool but it just goes to show it is always worth a cast. A simple and sparsely tied dark fly did the damage on both occasions. But biggest fish of the week was netted by John Shaw on his annual visit from Finland – a lovely 14lbs hen fish which he took on a Sunray Shadow in Upper Camisky under the watchful eye of ghillie Billy Neil.

Other local rods added to their season’s tally with Brian Tolimie landing a 7lbs fish in Blackcairn Flats and DJ Gillies winkling a 5lbs grilse out of Lucky Cast. I have also heard reports of good catches being made on the Spean beats upstream by local club members.

John Shaw with his 14lbs fish from Upper Camisky

We have landed over 30 fish since my last report on a fairly light fishing effort. This a most encouraging result especially as not all were ‘river residents’, with many amongst this total being fresh grilse and late summer salmon caught at the bottom end of the river. This is a big change from recent years when the run appeared to have largely dried up by the middle of August. Having fresh fish running into the lower river is a notable return back to what we always saw a few years ago.

The fish have been spaced fairly evenly over the 4 beats but once again it was the high water pools that did best as the river peaked at 7ft and has barely been down below 2ft. It really has been the most ridiculously wet summer here in Lochaber. We would almost certainly have caught a lot more fish had the river been at a more fishing-friendly height this season.

The club beats picked up a few and fairly steady reports are also coming in of catches on the upper Spean beats. Many of the local rods have been put off fishing the lower club beats on the Lochy this year due to the constantly high water (these beats traditionally fish best in low water conditions) but I was very interested and encouraged to hear the experience of new FWAA member John Cameron who has moved to the town in the last fortnight. Fishing before and after work, John has picked up at least 7 grilse in this short period and many of these have been fresh fish from the Sluggan Pool. Needless to say the Sluggan Pool has been a busier place these last few days!

Biggest fish of the last week was Rory Campbell’s 15 pounder taken on his first cast of the day on Croy Pool. This just beat a 14lbs salmon landed by Robert Ralston on Upper Camisky.

Other successful anglers are too many to mention but local rods Brian Tolmie and Terry Macfadyen did well on Beech Tree and Rail End on Beat 4 landing 4 fish between them. Ian Lamont had a good day with 2 good fish on the Spean followed by a grilse on Blackcairn Flat’s on the Lochy’s Beat 4. Ian Gregson’s visiting party had a couple of grilse on the private beats while Scott Henderson had a good day landing fish of 6lbs and 10lbs on the Falls Pool and Mucomir.

With (slightly) less rain in the forecast we might at last see the river come down to a good fishable height. If it does flies should be small and dark – although sometimes something quite large can be used sparingly to wake up resident fish in a pool. Successful patterns this last week were both Monkey tubes and a small black Francis. If the expected drop in river levels coincides with a further drop in air and water temperature then I am quite hopeful we should see catches remain buoyant.

Brian Tolmie with an 11lbs fish from Beat 4
New club member John Cameron with one of 7 fish he has landed in 10 days

It has been the strangest week on the Lochy that I can remember for a long time. In what should have been near hopeless conditions (constantly high water fluctuating over 6 days) we had a great week with 25 fish landed and probably double that hooked and lost.

For the last few weeks I have been stressing the need to keep fishing to reap the rewards this year and at no time has this been more apparent than this week. With the subtle mix of ‘hydro water’ from Loch Lochy and fresh ‘spate water’ from the Spean being critical to success, in a week of heavy showers in the varying geographic  parts of the catchment this general truth became vitally important over the last few days.

If you hit conditions just right (perhaps also with a fresh fish or two running through the beat to stir things up) then you did very well. Otherwise there were some lengthy spells of inaction. This was very clearly illustrated on Monday when we had a team of seasoned ghillies and local rods fishing one beat and a team of youngsters (all under the age of 11) fishing another. The beginners landed 5 salmon and grilse between them, the experienced rods landed zero!

In a remarkable morning of sport on Upper Camisky on Beat 3, young Jim Norman (age 10) landed 2 sea-liced beauties of 7lbs and 5lbs, while Tom Norman (age 8) had a 7lbs grilse from the same lie.  Dad Rich Norman added an 8lbs fish to the tally, while I was very pleased to hear that a fin-clipped (hatchery origin) fish was landed by 9-year-old Paddy Philipps – a cracking 12lbs hen fish that would have been released as a smolt in May 2017.

It is particularly pleasing to see the younger generation enjoying the river as they are the future of our sport. Also that they were grandchildren of long-standing Lochy tenant Tony Norman. Well done to all involved!

As the week progressed the story of feast or famine continued – although most rods that were out through the week had a fish or two, some rods hit conditions just right and did particularly well.

Local rod Neil MacNeil, who hadn’t landed a fish in six years, had a frenetic hour of sport on Rail End on Beat 4 landing fish of 7lbs, 6lbs and 5lbs. I was really delighted for Neil because he has really been putting the hours in over the years on the river (as well as being heavily involved in the organisation of local angling in Fort William) and was long overdue some success.

Another local rod who puts in many hours organising the Inverlochy Angling Club is Chris Cairns and it was great to see that he also had a very good week with fish of 8lbs from Pollock on Beat 2, 9lbs from Mucomir Pool and then followed by fish of 12lbs, 4lbs and 4lbs all from Blackcairn Flats on Beat 2. He also lost several others.

Best daily catch of the week though went to the Lochy Fishing Coordinator Billy Neil who had a red letter day on Beat 2 landing a trio from Pollock of 12lbs, 3lbs and 2lbs, followed by another trio a few hours later from Blackcairn Flats of 9lbs, 8lbs and 3lbs.

The fish throughout the week were a mixture of residents and fresh liced fish. The fact that we are still getting fresh fish coming into the system on most tides is encouraging as in previous years we have seen things quieten off in the late summer. The fish are not showing this year at all but I believe that they are there in pretty good numbers. As they say though – you just have to ‘keep your fly in the water’ to hope to hit those perfect water and atmospheric conditions that can magically arise every now and again during the day.

8 year old Tom Norman with his grilse
10 year old Jim Norman with one of his 2 fish
Paddy Philipps with his 12lbs fin clipped salmon
A happy Neil Macneil breaks his duck with 3 fish in an hour from Beat 4

It seems almost as if it will never stop raining this summer. Once again just as the river started to approach a nice fishable and steady height, heavy showers in the headwaters put it back up and dirty again. This combined with a feeling of mid-August doldrums, and it was a quieter week than expected. Rod pressure on at least 2 of the 4 beats also remained very light indeed.

There were fish running through however and there was sport to be had. Local rod Robert Ralston landed a nice fresh grilse of 4lbs on the Tailrace on Monday. Robert has landed quite a few this year and, in his own words, he is ‘just putting the hours in’. How true he is – while it has perhaps not been a bumper run so far this season (although the grilse are a lot more plentiful than the last couple of years), the rewards have most definitely been there for those that put the effort in.

Later that day I was delighted to hear that Paddy Lynch-Staunton landed a 6lbs fish from the Falls Pool, especially as it was his first salmon. Well done Paddy!

Anthony German-Ribon had another grilse of around the same size on Upper Camisky and Christopher Zawadski had a smaller one from Pol-Na-Ha on Beat 4.

Inverlochy Angling Club member Brian Tolmie had a late fish on Friday of around 6lbs from the Falls Pool at around 9.30pm. With water temperatures still on the high side and fish often exhibiting unusual shyness in the mid-summer period, it can often pay dividends to fish well into the gloaming. And of course there is always the chance of a good sea trout for those that forgo the post-dinner bonhomie and stick it out on the river till late.

A lovely fresh grilse for Brain Tolmie from Falls Pool in near darkness

A week of localized thunderstorms and persistent heavy rain at times resulted in a wildly fluctuating river and water than ran dirty and brown intermittently. Hardly conditions for good productive salmon fishing!

What also became very noticeable this week was that Loch Lochy and Loch Arkaig have now warmed up considerably relative to the eastern rain-fed arm of the system and unless there is some (clean) spate water coming out of the Roy and Spean the fish are very quick to go off the take in the predominantly stale loch water. It even started to look this week that fish were perhaps more reluctant to enter the river when the loch-fed conditions prevailed.

We did catch some fish this week, but it was certainly quieter than the previous fortnight. Some of the usual local rods scored again – showing that persistence pays off in these very hit-and-miss conditions. Robert Ralston, Steve Wellard, Chris Cairns and Ian Lamont all caught grilse and I even managed a fresh one myself from Lundy Mouth at the top of the tide one evening when the river was running clear and fining off after a spate.

But by far the best 2 fish this week were hooked by brother and sister double act Sam and Isla Allen, grandchildren of RLA member and Lochy stalwart Rodney Mann. While other beats were being thrashed (largely unsuccessfully) by some seasoned and experienced rods, Sam, aged 9, hooked a lively grilse in the Falls Pool which unfortunately eventually came unstuck after quite a tussle. But meanwhile further upstream his younger sister, Isla aged just 7, under the watchful eye of head ghillie Billy Neil, hooked and played out a cracking fresh grilse of around 5lbs in Upper Camisky. Well done Isla – you showed us all how to do it that day!

With slightly cooler temperatures forecast for the week ahead and (yet more rain) this may give us slightly better fishing conditions. What we probably need though is some fresh fish into the system to keep the sporting momentum up.

7 Year old Isla Allen with her fresh grilse from Upper Camsiky
Isla and her proud ghille Billy Neil
9 year old Sam Allen playing his fish in the Falls Pool