Happy New Year and best wishes from us all at Loch Leven– hopefully 2012 will turn out to be a cracking year, at least from a fishing point of view.
As we enter the start of a new year, it is perhaps worthwhile giving everyone a quick update on what has been going on since the end of the 2011 season in early October.
From the point of view of the brownies, the breeding season in the streams would appear to have been successful. We are blessed with a whole network of fine streams in theLoch Leven catchment area and both water quality and quantity in these streams during this crucial period appears to have been close to ideal. Certainly, adult brood fish were seen right up to the higher reaches of the main burns, but also encouragingly in some of the more minor burns where they have not been seen for many years.
We carried out a ‘mini survey’ in late October on one of the burns perceived as being one of the less important ones and were greatly surprised (and encouraged) by what we found. In the stretch of a few hundred metres that we were recording, we found considerably more adult brood fish than we had expected and a number of hens that had already shed their eggs. However, what astonished us were the hundreds of 1-2 year old fry that we also found in this stretch of burn. Whilst the recent wet summers have been hard to bear, the silver lining has been that higher than normal water levels in the burns during the summer has definitely been beneficial for the rearing of young trout. The productivity of these burns would appear to have increased significantly, partly also as a result of more favourable land husbandry methods being adopted by farmers. Although ‘there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip’, the far greater numbers of fry in the burns augurs well for recruitment of fry into the loch in due course and the bolstering of the trout population there.
From a personnel point of view, Willie has now handed over the reins to his son Michael who has officially taken over as Fishery Manager at Loch Leven. Willie will continue to be very much in evidence next season as he has only ‘semi-retired’.
The boats are all out of the water and have been steam cleaned. Stripping, repairing and repainting of the wonderful old clinker boats is underway.
The main news for next season is that we have ordered a further 2 new Coulam boats, similar to those we bought last year, which are scheduled to arrive in April. The effect of this will be to increase the fleet of boats at Loch Leven from 17 last season to 19 in 2012. Whilst each of these new boats represents quite a chunky capital investment, the decision to continue what has been a gradual increase in the fleet over the last couple of years reflects our cautious optimism that the upward trend in the fishing on the loch, as evidenced over the last two seasons, is going to be sustained. Theories as to why the fishing on Loch Leven has started to improve again are many and varied – and everyone will have their own. Our suspicion is that a whole series of related or seemingly unrelated factors have contributed to the upturn in the fishing but that the key one has been the continued improvement in water quality which is benefitting the entire ecology of the loch. Long may it continue!
One thing we would like to hold up our hands and apologise for were a small number of regrettable administrative blunders last year on our part which resulted in the odd case of double-booking of boats. The increased demand for boats put the spotlight on both our booking procedures and IT system, both of which I regret to say proved fallible on occasions. These fault lines had not been so apparent when demand for boats was less as in previous seasons because we always had sufficient free when anglers turned up for boats when their bookings were not in our system for whatever reason. With bookings sharply up, however, the shortcomings in our bookings procedures and systems were occasionally exposed.. Once again, we would just like to apologise to those who found themselves involved in the handful of double-booking incidents that did occur and to assure everyone that we are taking positive action to rectify our booking systems to try to ensure such instances no longer happen.
Interestingly, Loch Leven Fishery appears to be one of the only fisheries in the UK that uses a computerised booking sheet – everyone else that we contacted to ask about suitable IT systems still uses a paper diary. I suppose that we could have gone back to that system but it would have been a retrograde step and one that would have caused us problems bearing in mind that boats are booked here in more than one location. Our existing IT booking system however was quite evidently not up to the job and so we took the decision towards the end of last season to replace it. With no other fishery seemingly able to provide a lead, we carried out an extensive search of the marketplace last autumn for a facility booking system that met our requirements and thankfully we eventually found what we were looking for. It is far easier to use than the previous system and should rectify most, if not all of the shortcomings that we had experienced previously. At the same time, we have been putting in place improved booking procedures for staff during the close season. Hopefully, despite what looks like to be a further sizable increase in demand for boats next season, incidents of double-booking will prove to be a thing of the past.
However, the increase in demand for boats means also that we would like to put out a plea to Club Secretaries in particular, but also to individual anglers, to keep us as fully informed as possible about any changes to their boat requirements. On many occasions last season, Clubs would turn up on the day and promptly drop 1 or more boats that had been booked because numbers had been less than expected. If we had only known a day or more in advance, we could often have re-let those boats no longer required to anglers that we had turned away because all boats were seemingly booked. If Clubs or individuals could please let us know as soon as possible once it is clear that a boat or boats booked previously by them is no longer required, it would be hugely appreciated – a no-show potentially deprives someone else of a chance to fish that session. Because we fully appreciate how difficult it can be for Club Secretaries to organise club outings on the loch because getting responses from club members can be akin to trying ‘to herd cats’ (!), we do not ask for deposits when boats are booked, nor do we generally enforce full payment in the case of late cancellations / no shows. We do not want to go down the route of deposits and cancellation charges if we can possibly help it. But to enable it all to work as well as possible for as many anglers as possible, could we just ask that anyone who has booked one or more boats next season keeps us updated as soon as they become aware of any likely changes to their requirements.
Roll on April 🙂