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.

 

Sea Lice from local fish farms 50,000 fin clipped smolt release in Lochy – even balance on all 4 private beats and river mouth.

Treated against lice when necessary based on late winter lice figures

Ongoing liaison with fish farm industry, Highland Council and Marine Scotland about the relocation of the inshore fish farms to deep-water locations (short term) or to land-based or closed containment units (eventual goal).

Declining 1sw grilse numbers Undertake an annual 16 site electro-fishing survey to identify areas of poor recruitment

50,000 – 100,000 fed fry released in areas identified by the electro-fishing survey

200,000 from 2019 onwards due to additional captive broodstock maturing in hatchery

Improved access to some smaller tributaries including working with LFT to install new fish passes on barriers on the Inverlochy and Distillery burns

Roy/Spean below min spawning target 25,000 fin clipped pre-smolts released in October 2017

From April 2018 onwards release of 25,000 fin clipped full smolts

Ongoing talks with Braeroy re bankside fencing

Predation in river Responsible person to deliver a predation control plan including goosanders, gulls and trout

eg. YEAR-ROUND goosander target = 1 birds per 24 acres (research by Dr PF Elson)

Mucomir Counter below min spawning target New smolt trapping, captive broodstock and eyed ova stocking programme agreed with SSE and Lochiel estates. Starts in April 2018

Ongoing negotiation with SSE in to improve downstream and upstream fish passage at Mucomir including the design of a new operating regime using the new turbines and floodgate control


 

 

 

 

 

 

50,000 Spring stocked fin clipped smolts main stem River Lochy April 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

25,000 Late autumn parr stocked into Roy Catchment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of our young helpers!

A short report this week.

A big well done to Colin Nice and David Lake for catching the only 2 fish of the week from the main beats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, well done to Andy Burton on his 2 fish from the Spean. He’s still on course to land a salmon every month this season!!

Forecast still looks unsettled so water levels will remain high.

 

September has been and gone and will go down as one of the worst in recent times.  Although we managed 3 fish this last week, it still only brings our monthly total to 8………which is over 80% down of the 5 yr average.

Understandably so,  the angling pressure on both club and private beats drops significantly when times are as tough as this.  However I must praise Wilson and Spencer parties this last week, who fished hard and proved that perseverance sometimes pays off.  They landed 3 salmon and lost another.   Well done!

We now move into October and the last 2 weeks of our season.   Some significant rain is arriving today (so they say) so this will surely increase water levels and may just start to push fish back down the Spean into the Lochy, where they will eventually spawn.   This can often present an opportunity for the angler as the salmon look to take up new lies.

I am not as confident regarding any new fish arriving now, but in a season like this, you just never know.

A few more of these would be nice!

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!

Unfortunately I have very little to report on this past week.

The stock levels in the river remain low,  but we are still seeing odd fresh fish running.   The conditions continue to be challenging with the continual rain and high water – which has persisted since June.  I believe the official stats show that the West of Scotland has been the wettest area in all Europe this summer.  (I don’t disagree!)

On the smaller spate rivers this can often be seen as a good thing, allowing timely migration of salmon upriver. However, as we know, the salmon are just not present in any numbers so waters levels actually become irrelevant!  The Lochy is not a typical spate river and so,  wet summers such as this,  actually have a negative impact on the catches as the salmon can run quickly through the main beats and up to the main tributaries – Spean and Roy….without stopping!  (particularly when salmon are not in abundance)

This is reflected in the catches as the Spean (with very light rod pressure and much of it unfished) has produced almost half of the total catch on the Lochy thus far.

As for last weeks catches, the main Lochy beats produced only 3 grilse (1 fresh).

With further wet weather forecast I can only predict that the fishing will remain challenging unless we were to see an upturn in fresh fish entering the river.