The ‘dust has well and truly settled’ on another season at Loch Leven (not sure that is an entirely appropriate idiom – Ed) and, like all seasons here, there were high spots as well as low ones when fishing was pretty hard work. However, such is the way with wild brown trout fishing – it doesn’t always go as planned but the rewards when they do come are well worth waiting for.
As usual, the start of the season was pretty slow with April producing few fish numbers-wise but some very good fish were recorded and without exception all were in cracking condition. Even the season’s brood stock appeared to have recovered their condition very quickly.
May & June both saw some good ‘buzzer action’, especially just off the Reed Bower east towards St Serfs on the huge 14 foot plateau. Some very good baskets of fish were also using pulling methods mainly on high density lines and usually very close to the drop offs nearer the marker buoys (ie East Buoy to North Buoy).
July saw large numbers of mainly small trout at or near to the surface. On some days these young fish were to be found on the surface over large areas of the loch which, from a fishery point of view, is a joy to see!
Evening fishing though was a little disappointing over the summer months due we think to the inconsistent and sporadic hatches of the large chironomid (Yellow Owl). On those occasions when we did get a good fly hatch, the trout did certainly respond with some very nice baskets of fish taken during these ‘events’. Unfortunately, they were not as regular as we would have liked for some reason.
August & September proved to be a rather mixed bag. At times, the fish could be found close to the surface chasing the huge amount of fry but usually they proved pretty single-minded about their ‘fry bashing’ and were difficult to tempt with anglers’ offerings. Interestingly, anglers were most successful catching these fish when there was a good breeze and a nice big wave, fishing just below the surface, and it was great to be amongst these fish when they performed.
To summarise, I think that the 2014 season on Loch Leven has again showed us that we are still in recovery mode. The season once again showed that there were very good numbers of fish were in evidence pretty much all over the loch. All the age groups of trout have been represented. Importantly, the numbers of small trout (up to 10 inches in length appear to be continuing to increase year on year which, whilst sometimes frustrating for anglers being pestered by them, is nonetheless very encouraging for future prospects for brown trout fishing on Loch Leven.
The current condition factor and innate fighting quality of the Loch Leven brownie is also a joy to behold and this is surely a reflection of the improving water quality in the loch. This continuing improvement in water quality is providing a wonderful environment for our wild brown trout with abundant sources of food. The water column this past season showed lower average counts of algae , even at peak temperatures when the algae tends to flourish, as well as increased weed growth. Loch Leven is nowadays dominated more by weed than algae during the summer months of May, June and into July when water clarity remained as high as 4 metres as measured by the Secchi Disc. It is the improved water clarity that has led to increased weed production as light has penetrated deeper into the water column.
The change in the weed environment within the loch has also increased the diversity of life within the water column, with greater abundance of invertebrates, zooplankton (Cyclops & Daphnia) and small fish species such as Stickleback and Perch fry, all of which are very important food items for brown trout.
As mentioned earlier, fly hatches on the loch were rather more sparse than in previous years, especially the midseason evening hatches of Yellow Owl. I am not too concerned as these chironomids are prone to cyclical peaks & troughs and that chances are that we are currently at or near the low point in the cycle rather than experiencing a longer term structural change. But we will keep an eye out for possible clues as to what is actually happening.
With this article being written in early December, the trout have just completed their spawning activities. Brood stock were seen in encouraging numbers in all of the main burns and their tributaries. Fortunately this autumn we have had very good water conditions to allow fish access to these burns & tributaries throughout the spawning season, from early October through to the end of November. We are very fortunate at Loch Leven to have this huge spawning facility within the catchment area. The streams all enjoy good water quality which encourages the production of good numbers of healthy juvenile trout which are then ‘recruited’ into the loch to grow on. We do keep a close eye on these important feeder streams throughout the year just to make certain that everything gets a fair chance and that occasional pollution incidents are dealt with swiftly.
Finally may I take this opportunity to thank all anglers for their support of Loch Leven, to wish you all the very best over the festive season and to say that we are all at the Fishery very much looking forward to seeing you all back here next season when that big fish will definitely not get away! Tight lines.
Willie Wilson 5th December 2015