Loch Leven End of Season Fishing Report 2016

So another season on Loch Leven has come and gone and, as usual, anglers fishing the loch experienced mixed fortunes – but I dare say that is wild brown trout fishing for you.  And nobody has ever said fishing Loch Leven was easy or, if they did, it must have been a heck of a long time ago!

There were a number of encouraging plus points to be taken from last season.  The trout population looks in good shape with all year groups seemingly well represented.  The ones which were caught all appeared to be in cracking condition and are obviously finding no shortage of food sources in the loch. There were some lovely big fish caught too, and although Alan Campbell’s 2013 record still stands, the sheer numbers of 6 -7 lbs trout caught throughout last season suggests that pressure is mounting, particularly if one considers the frequency of anglers reporting being ‘broken’.

Some of the lovely brownies caught last season

Some of the lovely brownies caught last season

On the downside, they as often as not proved frustratingly hard for anglers to catch and land.  All Loch Leven regulars will have their own pet theories but one of the main ones relates to the sheer abundance of food stuff in the loch which means the trout are spoilt for choice.  As water quality and clarity has improved, so the loch has sprung back to life in spectacular fashion after being in dire straits just 25 years ago.  Light is penetrating deeper into the water column, encouraging weed growth at depths last recorded almost a century ago which in turn encourages other forms of aquatic life to prosper.  The trout are spoilt for choice and perhaps feeding on fly life becomes more of a trout pastime rather than necessity.  That said, they do still find it hard to resist a good fly hatch!

There were some very good buzzer hatches as early as April – and big buzzers they were too!  These hatches took place in relatively small, local areas and you needed to be in the right place at the right time. Some very nice baskets of fish were caught by those fortunate enough to be there during these hatches and, right from the very start of the season, the fish were found to be in excellent condition which suggested that they had been feeding through the winter months.  We had suspected before the start of the season that this might have been the case due to the myriads of corixa and stickleback that we had observed throughout the winter and spring months.

As the weather warmed up, we did get some evening hatches of buzzers and these tended to be rather better hatches than we have seen for 2 or 3 seasons although still nothing like those huge hatches we used to witness a decade or so ago.  What nobody knows is whether the decline in recent years in the size and frequency of fly hatches marks a low part of the cycle of the loch’s insect population (which will then bounce back in due course) or whether it is a structural change, being a by-product of the vastly improved water quality.  Obviously, from an angler’s point of view, we hope it is just a low part of a multi year cycle and the insect population will bounce back in due course – walkers and cyclists on the Heritage Trail around the loch will undoubtedly disagree!

April and May saw some very good pike fishing indeed and it has been remarkable how quickly the pike population has recovered in recent years.  Although we have not recorded the numbers and size of pike being caught, we will start doing so next season because a back of fag packet estimate suggested that probably over 1000 were caught during that 2 month period despite us not promoting pike-fishing in any meaningful way.  Pike has a relatively short season on Loch Leven (end march to early June) because it becomes far harder to track them down once the weed beds have become established because they become the pike’s favoured hunting ground.  As far as we are aware, the biggest pike caught was Rod McLellan’s 25 pounder which he caught just outside the harbour in the last week of April but there were several others caught of a similar size.  The 30 pounder must now be very much in pike anglers’ sights.

Rod McLellan with his 25 lbs pike

Rod McLellan with his 25 lbs pike

Connor Campbell with one at 25 lbs and 9 year old McKenzie's one tipping the scales at 17 lbs

Connor Campbell with one at 25 lbs and 9 year old McKenzie’s one tipping the scales at 17 lbs

 

May & June saw water clarity fairly steady at around 4.5 meters as measured on the Secchi Disc which resulted in the brownies seemingly reluctant to leave the depths and come up in the water column.  They were mainly being caught by anglers fishing deep using buzzer tactics.  Indeed, some very nice baskets of fish were recorded  during this period and indeed some very big trout in superb condition succumbed to these tactics.  There were numerous anglers who recorded their personal best brown trout in May & June.

Some more photos of lovely brownies caught during the season

Some more photos of lovely brownies caught during the season

July & August continued to produce big fish amongst the recorded catches and we experienced some very good hatches of Yellow Owl – indeed these were probably the best hatches of these lovely chironomid that we have seen for several seasons. With the warmer evenings, trout did respond by coming up to the surface to feed on these big flies and, for the first time during the season, we saw good numbers of small fish joining in the fun.  These small fish constituted a new year group that we had not come in contact with during the earlier months.

Some good evening fishing was enjoyed during August with a lot of these smaller brownies at or near the surface.  Sometimes they performed well during the day sessions as well. As we have started to see in recent years, water clarity dipped during these two months down to 1.5 – 2 meters.   In August, some fish did start to feed voraciously on fry both close to, and sometimes in amongst, the extensive weed beds which have now become such a welcome feature at Loch Leven.  It is fantastic to watch these often big trout fry-bashing but at the same time it is so frustrating because the only thing on the trout’s mind at the time seems to be fry and they show little or no inclination to be tempted by the angler’s flies!

Sadly, September proved to be a disappointment.  The loch was hit with a pretty big diatom (brown algae) bloom which undoubtedly caused the fishing to slow up significantly. Nevertheless fish were still active along the edge of the weed beds and, on some days, out in the open water.  When caught, they still gave a very good account of themselves but the season did peter out with a bit of a whimper.

To summarise, there was a lot going on at Loch Leven last season.  Zooplankton were present in the water column in prolific numbers and did not appear to suffer the die off that usually occurs.  We check the Zooplankton on a weekly basis because it represents such an important food stuff for all age groups of trout but especially for newly recruited juveniles.

As mentioned earlier in the report, although nothing like what we used to experience here in the old days, the size and frequency of the fly hatches was encouraging as they were definitely better on both counts than in recent years.

Algae was still present in the water column on and off throughout the season but that is only to be expected at a relatively shallow, eutrophic loch like Loch Leven.  However it is also fair to say that the total biomass of algae over the last decade is far reduced from what we were experiencing prior to that.  Weed growth is now established pretty much all over the loch which is a very encouraging feature as it provides a very much more balanced environment for the fish.

The brownies have now just finished their breeding activities in the many feeder streams which we are fortunate to have as part of our system in the Loch Leven catchment area. Spawning appeared to be a rather more protracted affair this autumn with fish being observed in some of the feeder streams as early as the second week of September and yet we were still recording pairs of fish on redds in the third week of November!  This protracted spawning season is probably down to flow rates in burns being lower than in previous seasons although they have still been perfectly adequate to allow the trout access to all their normal spawning areas.

We would like to thank all the anglers who visited us here at Loch Leven last season and especially for their huge respect for our trout around 70% of which are typically returned after being caught and measured / weighed “to fight another day!”

And indeed we would also like to express our gratitude to the many anglers who took time to take photos of them and their catches and send them in to us.  We try where possible to include any photos submitted in our weekly reports and I hope you agree with us when we say that they really help bring those reports to life.  Without them, a somple written report can be fairly turgid reading.  Please, please continue to send us in your photos!!

Finally, to end off on a photographic note, here are 2 of our favorites from last season

Wonderfully evocative photo of returning to harbour during the storm (thanks Jon Crowther)

Wonderfully evocative photo of returning to harbour during the storm (thanks Jon Crowther)

Great photo of the boats in the harbour in the moonlight (thanks Bryan Spears)

Great photo of the boats in the harbour in the moonlight (thanks Bryan Spears)

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Loch Leven Fishing Report – week ending 19th September

Things have remained largely fairly quiet at Loch Leven from a fishing point of view as the season draws to an end although they have livened up somewhat over the last couple of days – however more about that in the next weekly report!

Fish are still chasing fry round the weed beds and some very big trout have been seen herding fry into small balls of fish and then crashing through the mass of fry willing their stomachs in seconds!  One angler reported seeing a huge brownie probably close to 10 lbs off the Horn Bank north of St Serfs and there were reports of other similar sightings elsewhere.  Even the small fish seem to be having a go at the fry and a small brownie caught last week measuring only 12 inches was coughing up numerous sticklebacks before being returned.

The biggest fish of the week to our knowledge was caught on Sunday by Sylvia Todd who was out fishing with her husband Eddie and Janis Hall.  The fish was a 3 lbs 7 ozs maiden trout with a very silvery look and therefore not looking as though it was going to travel the burns this season.

The open water is still holding good numbers of fish.  The North & South Deeps are well worth a drift as is working your way along the weed beds.  As mentioned previously, these fry feeders are fairly blinkered in what quarry they are after and are usually hard to attract to a fly but it is exciting to see them nonetheless.

Traditional flies are probably the best bet.  One angler, out fishing on Sunday, had 3 fish; one caught on a Doobry, one on a Kate McLaren and the final one on a green butted Claret Snatcher.

Water clarity remains at about 1.2 meters thanks to a continuing bloom of Diatom (brown algae) and water temperature remains impressively warm for the time of year at 15.50C.  As well as the huge numbers of fry, there are still good amounts of Zooplankton all over the loch.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Loch Leven Fishing Report – week ending 12th September

There is not a huge amount to report on the last week, in part because not that many boats were out.  Apart from a few very big fish seen chasing fry on the margins of the weed beds, the fish in general have been hard to locate and get in amongst.  The estuarial areas out from the North & South Queichs as well as the Gairney are now holding good numbers of fish but their priority now has switched from feeding to breeding!

One angler out last week did locate some feeding fish at the east end of Carden Bay  and he did manage to land two very nice fish, both of which were returned.  He described both fish as ‘wearing their best bib and tucker in anticipation of a forthcoming wedding!’  Both fish were cock fish and were probably more aggressive than hungry.

Water clarity has dipped slightly to 1.3 meters due mainly to a seasonal bloom of diatom (brown algae). Water temperature is steady at 160C and , for the first time for quite a while, Zooplankton are a little harder to find in the samples we take but are still present in good numbers nonetheless.

As mentioned in previous reports, fry are prolific mainly along the edge of the weed beds and are being hounded by those trout still interested in feeding.  However, although usually difficult to tempt, we quite often find that in September in the last few weeks of the season, they can suddenly switch back on again.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Loch Leven Fishing Report week ending 5th September

The past week for anglers on Loch Leven has been pretty much identical to the previous one.  Some areas of the loch have seen quite a bit of activity.  For example, on Sunday, fish were to be found along the South Shore from Paddy’s Point right along to the weed beds at the Sluices.  Indeed there were some big fish seen feeding on fry along the edge of said weed beds but as usual they proved difficult to tempt away.

The open water areas are still holding a lot of fish, particularly small ones as well as some very fat trout!

Ray Wilson recorded the biggest trout of the week that we are aware of which he caught just east of the Reed Bower and weighed 4 lbs 14 ozs.  Big baskets of fish proved difficult to compile but a couple of anglers out on Sunday reported 2 fish caught, 2 big fish ‘lost’ and numerous undersized fish, all of which were returned.  Both anglers reported being both happy & frustrated at the same time!

As mentioned earlier, fish have been located all along the South Shore but especially in Carden Bay – which is about half way along the shore.  Fish are also now congregating in numbers at all the burn mouths and are now resplendent in their ‘breeding colours’ which, as with the big fish patrolling the weed beds, this colouring makes them pretty tricky to spot.

The same old flies seem to still be performing.  We did however hear of one angler fishing over 2 days who succeeded in raising a number of fish to the old fashioned Soldier Palmer (size 12) and indeed caught a couple on that particular fly.  Otherwise, flies tied with Paerly bodies are still working, as are Hoppers and Dabblers.  It is also sometimes worth trying a small dry fly when the fish are up – one angler reported having a bit of interest in a small black dry fly , imitating a reasonable hatch of very small black flies.

Water clarity has dropped a little since last week and currently stands at just over 1.3 meters on the Secchi Disc with the drop in visibility probably due to an increase in small background algaes. Water temperature is pretty steady at 160C.

Fry have been spotted in huge numbers in the open water but, as mentioned previously, they tend to be quite fixated on the fry and difficult to tempt with other offerings which can make it a tad frustrating particularly when you can see them there and they are just ignoring you.  I suppose that is wild brown trout fishing for you!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Loch Leven Fishing report – week ending 29th August

It has all been pretty quiet here at Loch Leven with only a few boats going out, presumably with many anglers still sunning themselves on holiday!  The one exception was yesterday when a fair number turned up to fish and most boats were out, only for the conditions to be very bright, sunny and at times quite windy.  Despite the conditions, anglers reported fish moving although, when the conditions did appear to improve mid to late afternoon, the fish appeared to go deep for some reason – exactly the opposite behaviour to what we would have normally expected.

Last week, fish of all sizes were reported being contacted just under the surface, mainly out on the open water drifts.  Some of these open water drifts are very long, such as in a good south west wind from Gairney Mouth all the way over the South Deeps to the Mid or East Buoys.  The North Deeps too are holding a lot of fish when drifting from Scart Island all the way over to the North or Elbow Buoys.  The weed beds are still holding fry-feeding trout but by all accounts they are proving hard to tempt, so much so that we have unusually had no big trout at all in returns this week with the heaviest that we know of coming in at 3 lbs.

Black and Claret Hoppers are still working,  as are the Pearly Kate McLaren, Doobry, Wingless Wickham and some of the popular fry imitations.  Line choice remains important and it is better to leave the decision to the day rather than making your mind up in advance as weather conditions will likely dictate where your flies might be most effective.

Not much change in water conditions since the last report, in that clarity remains at 1.6 meters with Zooplankton still prolific in the water column and the temperature is steady at 160C.

Fry are now to be seen virtually everywhere in the loch but especially in the usual areas and hopefully the trout will switch their attention to them again properly soon.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Loch Leven Fishing Report – week ending 22nd August

Loch Leven Fishing Report – week ending 22nd August

Anglers have experienced mixed fortunes fishing on Loch Leven over the last week.  Fish were proving difficult to hook although anglers were moving a number of fish who were reported as seemingly ‘window-shopping’.  It can be somewhat frustrating watching fish up to 3 or 4 pounds cruising in to inspect one of your flies only to turn away untempted!

Fish were however caught and mostly returned and some very nice ones were appearing in catch returns.  Rab Wilson from Dunfermline had what we believe was the week’s biggest fish at 4 lbs 4 ozs on a Silver Invicta  near the Reed Bower last Wednesday.

Open water drifts are still working even in the recent fresh winds that we have been experiencing.  Fish are also holding along most of the weed beds but, as mentioned last week, these are often proving the most difficult to tempt.  Fish are also now showing in the estuarial areas of the 3 burn mouths, particularly at the North Queich where some very big trout have been spotted.

The brown trout are now ‘colouring up’ in preparation for their spawning activities later in the year.  This is obviously encouraging for the long term and fingers crossed for some good spawning conditions in the burns this autumn.  However not all trout will show their breeding colours as there are many juvenile trout yet to become sexually mature.  Also, some of the older trout – mainly females – will for some reason miss out on a year’s spawning activities.

Pearly bodied flies are doing well but interestingly so are Black or Claret Hoppers at the moment.  As usual, much depends on wind strength.  Line density is also important but of late the fish have tended to be mostly in the top 2-3 feet of the water column.  Water clarity remains at about 1.7 meters, water temperature is 160C and Zooplankton are still plentiful at our various test sites.

Talking of testing, we yesterday had Ian Winfield & Bryan Spears of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology here at Loch Leven to do their annual hydroacoustic survey of the fish population of the loch using their extremely expensive kit.  They started this in 2007 and so this is their 10th survey.  Loch Leven is not ideal for this equipment as much of it is fairly shallow which is why they have their regular monitor sites mostly in the deeper areas of the loch where they can get clearer results.  The equipment cannot differentiate between fish species (trout, perch or pike) but it does record size as well as numbers and size can give a general steer (ie perch will tend to be in the smaller size categories). We won’t know the results for a few months yet.

Many thanks to Bryan Spears for sending these photos in.

Ian Winfield getting all the equipment ready

Ian Winfield getting all the equipment ready

Ready to start gathering the readings

Ready to start gathering the readings

Hopefully all those bright coloured lines on screen indicate loads of fish!!

Hopefully all those bright coloured lines and black dots on screen indicate loads of fish!!

Great photo of the boats in the harbour in the moonlight at the end of the trip

Great photo of the boats in the harbour in the moonlight at the end of the trip

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Loch Leven Catch Survey Update (to end July)

You may recall that, just over a month ago, we produced our first attempt at analysing data from the Angler Catch Return cards that many anglers had been good enough to complete when they go out and fish on the loch in April & May. This was published on the blog on 9th July and you can refresh your memories regarding the background if you wish by clicking HERE.

APRIL MAY JUNE JULY YTD
Total Boat Turns 88 313 304 248 953
Anglers Cards Completed 20 74 92 104 290
23% 24% 30% 42% 30%

As you can see, we had a total of 196 completed Catch Survey cards handed in for June & July which brings the total for the season to date to 290. representing just under 1 in 3 of the total boat turns (boats x sessions fished).

However cards are only currently completed by trout anglers whereas quite a number of boat turns were by pike anglers particularly during April & May – we will probably look to introduce pike return cards next season because we estimate that over 1000 pike have been caught this year. In reality, cards were probably completed by about 40% of boats fishing for trout – whilst that is a guesstimate, it is still a very impressive percentage and illustrates tremendous cooperation from anglers!

APRIL MAY JUNE JULY YTD
Total No of Rods / Anglers 39 147 144 218 548
Total Hours Angling Effort 304 1127 1056 1437 3924
Total Boat Hours 156 584 558 724 2022

The Catch Survey cards record the number of anglers per boat (rods) as well as the number of hours fished. From the completed cards, we can see that boat hours  total 2,022 hours in total for the season so far and that the total hours of angling effort represented by the cards  (a boat with 2 anglers fishing 8 hours each = 16 hours angling effort) comes to 3,924 hours!

APRIL MAY JUNE JULY YTD
Total Fish Caught 28 197 164 178 567
Released 18 144 110 115 387
% 64% 73% 67% 65% 68%

From the 290 completed cards, we were able to see that 567 brown trout had been recorded as caught during the first 4 months of the season, out of which 387 (68%) were released and 180 (32%) kept.

APRIL MAY JUNE JULY YTD
Average catch per boat per session 1.4 2.7 2.0 1.6 2.0
Average catch per boat hour 0.18 0.34 0.29 0.25 0.28
Average catch per angler per session 0.72 1.34 1.14 0.82 1.03
Average catch per angler per hour 0.09 0.17 0.16 0.12 0.14

This is where it starts to get a bit more interesting.  The data suggests that the average catch per boat per session up until the end of July was 2.0 trout and the average angler caught a fraction over 1 fish per session (1.03 to be exact) on average.

Bearing in mind that we are looking at a wild brown trout fishery, the fishing results for May and to a slightly lesser extent June look pretty good. July’s figures though confirm what we have been reporting in the blog that fishing on the loch was pretty difficult in terms of the number of fish being caught with the usual culprits such as conditions being too bright or windy, lack of fly hatches etc being cited at different times.  It reminds me sometimes of race horse trainers who always have a list of excuses as to why their horse has come in 6th!

Although we have not yet started analysing the cards for August, it is clear already that far more fish are currently being caught and could even be on course to improve on even May’s figures – famous last words! Perhaps that is not so surprising because at this stage of the season, the small trout tend to emerge from the weed beds and this starts to stir everything up.

We are now sure how meaningful the catch per hour figures are but it would suggest that an angler should catch a brownie on average once every 7 hours 8 minutes  (0.14 fish per hour) which is an hour longer than the figures suggested in May.  Again, it looks as though August will lead to a sharp improvement and hopefully that will continue through to the end of the season.

APRIL MAY JUNE JULY YTD
No of boats catching 0 trout 9 23 34 35 101
No of boats catching 1-2 trout 7 28 39 44 118
No of boats catching 3-5 trout 3 10 13 19 45
No of boats catching over 5 trout 1 13 6 6 26
Anglers Cards Completed 20 74 92 104 290

The first thing that jumps out at you is that 101 of the 290 total cards submitted up to the end of July have recorded no fish being caught which is equivalent to 35%.  Gut feel suggests that is probably pretty representative of the actual position and nobody who knows Loch Leven will be too surprised.  The loch has always been one of the more demanding waters to fish and makes you fight for each one.  Getting the tactics right for the conditions (where to fish, what depth in the water column, fly patterns etc) is of paramount importance which is why Loch Leven regulars have a huge advantage over those who fish here relatively infrequently – fishery staff are only too willing to pass on advice to anyone who wishes it!

APRIL MAY JUNE JULY YTD
No of Trout measured for length 27 124 133 134 418
Average Length (millemetres) 415 407 389 378 393
No of Trout weighed 11 89 53 75 228
Average weight (lbs) 2.08 2.42 2.39 2.48 2.42

Although we are obviously interested in the numbers of fish being caught, we are also gathering information on the sizes and therefore age groups of the trout.  The above table shows that a total of 418 trout were measured for length and 228 in total were weighed.  Before anyone queries why 418 + 228 = 646 which is more than the 567 total recorded fish caught, 79 fish were both measured & weighed!

The average length of fish measured had been 409 mm at the end of May but that has now dropped to 393 mm at the end of July and will probably drop a bit further in August now that young fish are more in evidence. Data taken to date suggests that a fish measuring 390 mm in length would weigh about 1 lb 5 ozs, give or take a couple of ounces either way.  And yet the average weight of those fish weighed appears to come in much higher at 2.42 lbs (2 lbs 7 ozs) – why the big differential?  We can only surmise that it tends to be the larger fish that are weighed whereas the smaller ones are more likely to be measured. The true average therefore is somewhere between the 2 figures with a definite bias towards the bottom end of the range. So let’s perhaps say for sake of argument that the average size of fish caught so far this season has been about 1 lb 10 ozs or thereabouts.  We have said it before and will say it again that the average size of the million+ trout caught on Loch Leven in more than a century up to the 1990s was 15 ounces whereas nowadays the average is approaching double that.

What is interesting too is the number of big fish being caught.  Although there are no real whoppers as yet that have been caught (although there have been various anecdotal reports of them being seen), barely a week has gone by without someone recording one of 6 lbs or more and the various photos that have been sent to us show them to be fabulous specimens.

APRIL MAY JUNE JULY YTD
Total Trout measured / weighed 28 197 164 178 567
Trout measuring > 480mm / 3 lbs 9 46 25 23 103
Trout measuring > 590mm / 5 lbs 0 10 10 11 31

As  you can see from the table above, so far this season, 31 trout have been recorded as having weighed more than 5 lbs or measured more than 590 mm (which we estimate from data collected represents a fish of about 5 lbs) which represents 5.5% (or 1 in 18 or so) of the total fish recorded to date this season.  I doubt Loch Leven has ever had a higher frequency (actual or relative) of fish of this size being caught.

If we broaden the scope to include all those fish weighing over 3 lbs, (and / or measured 480 mm), then the ratio falls to under 1 fish in 6 (103 out of 567).  I suppose you could say that Loch Leven emphasises quality more than quantity most of the time.  It is always lovely to hear anglers coming back to the pier saying that they have caught a ‘fish of a lifetime’ – which hopefully makes up for those times that you come back empty-handed!

Finally, once again, our sincerest thanks go out to all anglers who make the effort to fill in the Catch Survey cards and return them to us and we hope that giving this feedback on the results makes it feel worthwhile.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment