Brian Tolmie with his perfect 13lbs deep-bellied salmon from the Tailrace

Another bone-dry week meant another slow one. It seemed at times that all around us the rain was falling, with rivers to our East filling with much-needed water but barely a drop fell on Lochaber.

With the river at at minus 4 inches it was verging on a miracle that Henry Anson got us off the mark this week with a fresh run 10lbs fish from Croy Pool, our most upstream pool! It just goes to show that fish will run even in these conditions. A ‘large and glittery’ Sunray Shadow did the damage.

Even the tidal Tailrace Beat seemed quiet considering the low water conditions, but it has been so long since we have had any fresh water that the bulk of our springers are probably still well out in the estuary in deeper water. Nevertheless Inverlochy Angling Club member, Brian Tolmie, landed a stunning and split-fresh fish of 13lbs mid-week. Brian has been fishing hard since the start of the season so it was good to hear that his persistence has been rewarded. Knowing Brian, it will be the first of many for him this season.

Meanwhile upriver, Steve Wellard’s party had a week mainly targeting the trout, both on the river and on the local lochs (Lochaber has some of the most outstanding loch trout fishing in the highlands). Steve reported many good trout caught on all 4 Lochy beats, taken mainly on CDC dry flies. The best was a stunning fish of 3.5lbs from Larch Tree on Beat 4. It was full of smolts!

The forecast is promising rain. We wait. We pray……

With the last fortnight offering nothing by way of any rain, it has been an understandably slow start to the 2019 season. The river has barely budged above minus 4 since we started fishing!

Nevertheless persistence pays even in seemingly hopeless conditions and regular guest of the Mann party, Ron Powell from Oregon, got our season off the mark with a 9lbs springer from the top of Pollock on Beat 2. It was taken at 6.30am and several fish were seen on the beat that morning before the sun got up. Interestingly the fish was slightly coloured, suggesting that they had been creeping up despite the desperately low conditions. Indeed the mix of visiting and local rods out this week all reported seeing the odd fish here and there on the beats.

For those who accepted the state of affairs and took out the trout rods, they had some tremendous sport. I would estimate that well over 100 decent trout were caught by the relatively small number of rods fishing, many of them taken on dry fly off the top. The biggest reported weighed 3.5lbs.

Not much in the way of decent rain is forecast for next week but there is due to be more cloud cover. This may encourage more fish to creep up the river under the cover of darkness. We may also start to see some fish appearing at the Tailrace, which can fish well in these conditions.

LOCATION OF PROBLEM NATURE OF PROBLEM ACTION OR MITIGATION SUCCESS MONITORING
Main Stem River Lochy

 

 

Low number of spawners in lower river due to lack of autumn-run fish Electro-fishing survey undertaken to inform areas to seed with 2g summer fry in July Electro-fishing survey the following year to count corresponding parr numbers
Main stem River Lochy

 

 

Predation from goosanders, particularly during smolt run Predator control through non-lethal bird scaring undertaken throughout the year with emphasis on spring and late autumn Visual counts of goosanders throughout the year
Main stem River Lochy

 

 

Predation from cannibal trout, particularly during smolt run at pinch points Spring trout fishing at river pinch points (open trout fishing up to known local angling clubs) Cumulative visual and trout rod catch evidence every year
Main grilse spawning tributaries (Loy, Lundy, Cour etc)

 

 

Critically low number of spawners well below minimum spawning targets. Due to low marine survival of 1sw grilse in particular.

Habitat degradation in areas of commercial forestry and Smelter intake dams.

Wild Lochy smolts grown on to produce captive broodstock. Eyed ova from these broodfish planted in artificial redds in all tributaries in late winter.

Live discussions with new owners of smelter and Forestry interests to improve flows and riparian habitat in Lundy and Cour tributaries.

Annual electro fishing survey will inform whether corresponding fry numbers are healthy in stocked locations the following summer
River Roy headwaters

 

 

Critically low number of spawners well below minimum spawning targets. Due to low marine survival rates (and long-standing habitat issues?) 25,000 fin clipped autumn parr stocked out in September. Talks with Estate on improvements to bankside fencing and riparian planting Catches and electro-fishing will inform the success of this project funded by Braeroy Estate
Loch Arkaig catchment

 

 

Critically low number of spawners well below minimum spawning targets. Several cumulative local factors possibly at play (low marine survival, Mucomir Dam, smolt farms and forestry). Loch Arkaig Restoration Project – trapping wild smolts, growing captive broodstock and planting out eyed ova. Ongoing talks with SSE about improvements to flows and fish passage at Mucomir, coupled with ongoing dialogue aimed at improvements with all catchment neighbours Fish counters and cameras at Mucomir Dam and River Arkaig hydro Dam, rod catches and annual electro-fishing, will inform the success of this multi-partner project (RLA, SSE, MHS, Lochiel Estate etc)
Estuary (Loch Linnhe and the Sound of Mull)

 

 

Sea lice, escapes, disease from fish farms Direct involvement with local fish farmers on a regular basis seeking to reduce lice or remove fish entirely during wild smolt run. Through very active membership of FMS Aquaculture Committee, working towards better cooperation with national industry and Scottish Government initiatives Lice numbers, disease issues, escapes and unexplained mortalities are received on a monthly basis for all of the fish farms in Loch Linnhe and the Sound of Mull. Success of these industry-led initiatives and improvements becomes quickly apparent
High seas (ocean migration and marine phase from West Coast to North Norwegian Sea and East of Faroes).

 

 

 

Lack of food due to major changes in the oceanic eco-system. Competition by pelagic fish. Predation by other species coping better with the changing climate (dolphins, seals, other fish species etc) Working closely with key international scientists in the field with an objective of raising pelagic fishing quotas. Supporting the work of the AST, and particularly liaising closely on a west coast smolt tracking project proposal Success may be slow but it may look like this – improvements to summer and autumn runs; increase in weight/condition of grilse; reduction of red vent syndrome in grilse (a sign of weakened immune and poor condition)

Water height : 3-4ft6

Water temp : 50-52F

The Penultimate week of the season saw few anglers on the river but this probably had a positive impact on the fishing.  A total of 13 salmon were landed – equalling the 2nd best week of the season. All from Beats 1 and 2.  Unfortunately, Beats 3 and 4 are holding very few fish but this is normal in years with such low stock levels within the catchment.

The light fishing effort allowed pools to be rested which, at this time of year, can make a big difference to finding a taking fish.

With a dropping river after Thursdays heavy rainfall, Friday and Saturday were productive days. Kenny MacGregor managed a couple form Garrabduhie stream while Howard Evans finished off his season with an old 18lb cock fish from Garrabudhie flats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next week will draw a close to season 2018. A similar catch return to this past-week will take the total to 100 Salmon/Grilse – better than 2017 but less than half of 2016 and the current 5 yr average.

 

 

 

Water height : 5ft-12ft

Water temp : 50-52F

With continual rainfall in the catchment the river remained high for the whole week.   Monday through to Wednesday were wet and windy days and not the easiest of conditions for the anglers.  River levels peaked at 12ft on Tuesday morning and then 8ft on Thursday making actual fishing somewhat challenging…… but not completely impossible.   Some Lochy pools can often produce at very high levels and indeed two fish were landed at the start of the week with a further 7 caught on Friday and Saturday as water levels steadied off.  Once Again, most were MSW salmon.

On the Upper catchment, the  River Spean benefits greatly from sustained high water and I’ve heard a reasonable number of fish were landed.

The forecast is showing some further heavy rain middle of next week which is bound to increase river levels once again….but this may not be a bad thing!

 

 

Water height – 2ft6-6ft6

Water temp – 52-54F

This is the first September week for a few years that it actually felt Autumnal!  Water levels reached their highest since January-peaking at over 6ft, but more importantly water temperatures dropped from around 60F to low 50s – a key trigger point for salmon migration.   This significant change in conditions was welcomed by the anglers and they took full advantage.

A dozen fish were caught and a few more lost  – not record breaking by previous years standards, but with so few Grilse in the system,  this was a very satisfying result!

As expected,  most of the fish landed were MSWsalmon.  Some had been in river for a good few months, others only a few weeks or quite possibly they were sitting out in the Sea Loch awaiting both water conditions and temperature to change?

Steve Wellards party had the lions of the catch with an average weight of 14lbs.

 

Pat Webster – a new Lochy tenant and relatively new to salmon fishing, hadn’t landed a salmon before this trip. Not only did he manage 1, but he went on to land a further 2 and lost a couple more.  I should mention he was aided and guided superbly well by Andy Burton – well done to both.   Suffice to say Pat left with a rather large smile on his face!


With further rain and cooler temperatures forecast next week fishing prospects look quite promising.

 

 

There was some minor room for optimism at the start of last week.  River levels finally steadied off and starting dropping back to just over 1ft on the beat 3 gauge. Fishing conditions, for once, were almost perfect.  More encouraging was the appearance of some fresh fish into the system.  Ok, it wasn’t significant numbers but it was enough to provide some action and sport to the anglers.

The best of these was caught by Christopher Zawadski – a fine 18lb fresh cock salmon from beat 2.  A fresh Grilse was also landed on Beat 2.

Unfortunately, this flurry of activity did not last and the latter half of the week was much quieter again.

It looks like the rain is making a return for this coming week so river levels are likely to rise again.  Hopefully it may encourage a few more fresh fish in!!