LOCH LEVEN – END OF SEASON REPORT 2015

Another fishing season over at Loch Leven and, looking back, at times it performed really well and at other times it was pretty difficult for anglers – that pretty much sums up Loch Leven and wild brown trout for you. However, even on those days when catching them was proving challenging, anglers were usually aware that they were in amongst a good head of fish.

April saw some nice baskets of fish reported and, from the very start of the season, the fish were in beautiful condition and fought just as hard as you would expect from a wild brownie in good condition. Fry feeding was a feature in the early season and small lures fished at varying depths accounted for some good fish.

Pike fishing also enjoyed a very good spell from the third week in April through to the end of May when the weed growth in the ‘pike areas’ really got going and when we think the pike start to confine their feeding activities to the very lush weed beds.

Buzzer fishing enjoyed a lot of success as we moved into June but it has to be said that sport during this period was slightly patchy rather than consistent. Both June & July worked away quietly rather than being really busy with day sessions generally performing better than the evenings.

August saw the return of some serious fry feeding along the huge weed beds in various areas of the loch but the fish were difficult to engage when engaged in fry bashing but some very big fish were caught, some were lost and the rest just teased the best efforts of anglers.

September proved to be probably the most challenging month with lots of fish in evidence but often seeming indifferent to the anglers’ offerings although some very nice fish were caught right up to the end of the season.

Looking back over the 2015 season as a whole, the two big positives were the number of fish in the loch and the quality and size of some of the fish caught. Although nobody landed a real monster this season, we had regular reports, often supported by photos, of cracking fish being caught in the 5lbs, 6 lbs and 7lbs size bracket – more so perhaps than in any previous year that we can remember. Many an angler recorded their Loch Leven PB.

Below is a photo compilation of some of the top fish caught on Loch Leven last season – apologies to those whose photos did not quite make the cut!

L-R from top left: John Reid, Darren Scott, Eck Bolton, Scott Reith, Brendan McWilliam & Donald McGregor

L-R from top left: John Reid, Darren Scott, Eck Bolton, Scott Reith, Brendan McWilliam & Donald McGregor

On the downside, the brownies often proved challenging to hook but I dare say that is just Loch Leven for you – the better you know the loch, the greater seems to be the chance of catching them but quite often one also needs a bit of luck. It would have been nice if the fishing had been a bit more consistent throughout the season but that is perhaps just wishful thinking for a wild brown trout fishery.

As for the evening sessions during the summer, they could also have done with bigger and more frequent fly hatches. This has actually been a disappointing feature of the last 2 or 3 seasons where we have had a distinct lack of hatching chironomids such as the Yellow Owl (Curly Bum). There were a few hatches of these big juicy flies but nothing like what we had a few years ago. Mention of this has been made to scientists who visit the loch about the recent lack of fly life and they are monitoring this now but as yet there is no indication from them as to whether they think this is just a short term cyclical downturn or whether it may be a longer term structural change resulting perhaps say from the improvement in water quality in the loch.

One of the better fly hatches (photo by Corin Smith)

One of the better fly hatches (photo by Corin Smith)

Water quality throughout the season was generally pretty acceptable. Blue / green algae did make an appearance in June & July as usual but never came close to reaching the high biomass status recorded in previous seasons – indeed cyanobacteria (blue / green algae) counts are done fortnightly throughout the season on Loch Leven by CEH and there was only one at the very beginning of August where it moved out of low and into moderate on the internationally recognised World Health Organisation (WHO) scale.

Zooplankton was prolific throughout pretty much the entire season and this provides a plentiful supply of high protein food to all year groups of trout (and of course other fish species in the loch) but particularly for juveniles newly recruited from the streams in the catchment area. Areas of weed growth in the loch have shown a dramatic increase in recent years, confirming the inproving trend in water quality. These weed beds are very important to fish populations generally, providing an environment for many life forms on which the trout feed but it also allows them to engage their predatory instincts and therefore improve their feeding habits generally.

As mentioned earlier, all the different year groups of brown trout have not only been seen in excellent condition but, just as importantly, all year groups are well represented in the loch. The streams throughout the catchment area system are holding good numbers of 0+ and 1+ year old juveniles. Brood stock are now well through their spawning activities and good numbers of these adult fish have been observed in the feeder streams over the last couple of months. Water levels in the streams were a bit low in October but the trout showed considerable determination to get upstream and it was lovely to see the trout on the redds because this augurs well for the future.

Finally, we would like to thank all of the anglers who visited the loch throughout the past season and in particular for their responsible behaviour – by this of course I mean the practice of careful catch & release which anglers have adopted. As you know, we have no bag limits here on Loch Leven because we have found that we don’t need to be Nanny and tell anglers how to behave. Return cards filled out by anglers suggest that more than 6 out of every 7 trout caught are carefully released back into the loch which must surely be helping the fish population. That said, the Loch Leven brownie is delicious to eat and we fully encourage anglers to ‘chap the odd one on the heid’ and take it back for the pot because after all, a key reason behind fishing is to satisfy our ‘hunter gatherer instinct’!

Tam Easton sent in this photo just illustrating the gorgeous pink flesh for which Locj Leven brownies are renowned

Tam Easton sent in this photo just illustrating the gorgeous pink flesh for which Loch Leven brownies are renowned

Looking forward to next season, you will be pleased to hear that:

  1. We have decided that there will be no price increases for boats next season,
  2. Indeed, we are reducing the price of peak season evening boats and early morning boats from £44 to £40.
  3. We are going to continue with the Monday Special discounted boat prices that proved pretty popular last season ( the number of Monday boat turns in 2015 was almost 3 times what they were in 2014)

You can see the full Loch Leven 2016 Boat Charges here

Anyone looking to book a boat or boats for next season should either:

Finally, some other photographic memories of last season here on Loch Leven

An osprey in action on Loch Leven

An osprey in action on Loch Leven

John Reid & Donald McGregor's surprise fishing companion!

John Reid & Donald McGregor’s surprise fishing companion!

Dawn over the Harbour (photo by Tom Drysdale / Sunrise Scotland)

Dawn over the Harbour (photo by Tom Drysdale / Sunrise Scotland)

Alan Campbell reunited with record Loch Leven brown trout

Alan Campbell reunited with record Loch Leven brown trout

 

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