A New Loch
I say new but the loch at the top of our hill has been there for the 23 years that we have lived in Gravir, South Lochs, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides. When we moved here I was very hopeful that it would be my home water, less than a ten minute walk and big enough to provide hours, nay days of sport and interest.
I had an opening fish on it (March 15th 94') and saw nothing move and failed to tempt even a half hearted take. At that time the fish farm had smolt cages on it, the small salmon are fed up in freshwater lochs before being moved to saltwater cages and fattened for the supermarkets.
Subsequent sessions produced no fish. As the summer arrived big hatches on midge and Caddis prove that the food supply was not an issue. Then the cages broke and several hundred S1 (salmon around 12oz) escaped into the loch. For a few weeks sport was brisk with 'stocked' small salmon. The general feeling was that it was better to get them out rather than let them loose to mix with their wild cousins. Over night the all went down the small stream that drained the loch and away to the open sea to be never seen again.
The loch returned to its normal fishless state, more than dour, dead. Locals felt that the salmon farm fish had introduced a killer bug that had seen off the wild fish. Another said that the loch had never had many fish in it but they grew to a good size. A picture of a nine pound trout backed this claim and on a few occasions when walking home late you spotted what looked like some large fish cruising down the loch suggested there was some truth in this claim.
So over the past 20 years I have lived with the fact that my local loch was a dud. Last year this changed. Our aging Lab, Indie lost his hill legs so we spent many hours walking roud the 'dud' loch, the road skirks all of one side.
The sight of rising trout was at first a bit of a shock, but on any warm evening they were there, not large numbers of fish but what looked like small shoals of decent (12oz to 2lb) fish were definately there. The start of this trout season in March was a little earler for this large loch. Most of the early season sport is to be had in small, shallow water lochs or in the side arms of larger lochs. the water heats up quickly in the March sun and insects (usually midges) hatch with the least excuse. But come April a short session got two fish to take a dry Caddis, I failed to connect but at least they were there to be caught!
My last session (may) coincided with bright sunlight and no wind. The heather and rocks that surround the loch were littered with Midges, Caddis and the ever present Daddies. Trout rose in small groups along the roadside bank.
It is easy to end up chasing rising trout. What usually happens is by the time you get to were they are rising the fish have moved to the spot you left. I remember the advice from a older a fisherman from my Yorkshire days (Mr Stanyer, definately old school). I did not have the sense to take his advice then but the years have taught me that it always pays to listen. It was osund advice then and it is now and no doubt will be sound in years to come. He had neither the energy or inclination to chase the fish, instead he found a decent sized rock and waited for the fish to come to him. By not casting and splashing about (we have a flat calm loch here and wild fish can be very upset by to much casting and splashing) the fish would eventually swim by, sipping the bugs in as they go. One cast at the right time is worth far more than dozens of chuck and chance it efforts.
I sat on my rock. Sure enough a single fish started to move down towards me, 10 yards out and taking sub surface food as it hung in the film. Midges are nearly always the insect of first choice for rising trout in the Hebrides. Small black in particular. My first cast towards the fishes patrol route fell short by at least a yard, a slight lift of the rod animated the fly enough and fooled my first trout from my 'dud' loch. At just under 1lb it was a specimen well worth the wait.
Changing rocks I had a second fish on a Deer Hair Caddis after spotting a 2lb plus trout intercept a flying caddis as it hovered inches above the calm loch water.
So what has happened to this loch? From being apparently fishless for at least 20 years (30 sounds likely) it know has fish, good sized wild trout in it.
My theory at the minute is this. There is one inlet to this water that comess from a smaller loch in the hills. The smaller loch is full of fish in the 2 to 6oz size range. I suspect some of these have migrated down the wee burn to the larger water and found healthy water full of insects. I am hopeful that we will see an increase in numbers and size of fish over the next few years. However there is just a chance that at some point they will head to the sea. The outlet stream looks like a one way track. Fish can come back up some amazing waterfalls to reach their spawning grounds but this one might just defeat them.
It's a loch/stream sytem that does not quite work. But trout being trout they find a way of spreading their genes whatever the physical obstructions are.
Oh, just a thought but after 23 years I at last have my local loch with plenty of bays and poiunts to explore and with a ten minute walk home ideal for evening/night fishing.
On the night described the Midges were mainly dark/Black so a Black Suspender Buzzer did the job. However there were some bright green ones about so next time I will have some of those in the box.
The Deer Hair CDC Caddis is my all round Caddis/Stonefly imitation, tied in light, olive and dark brown/black #12/14/16.
More details: www.islandflies09.co.uk
Having just discussed how effective small flies can be for salmon during low water in the daytime I will now confuse matters by suggesting the use of outsize flies!
This is a method to try on the same river, on the same day but not at the same time. As the light fades in the evening try a #4/6 single or double, such as 'The New Elver Fly', the 'Big Blue' or a Zero Muddler. Use a 11ft wetfly rod AFTM #6/7 and a DT5 floating line. Work the fly across the current rather than downstream and across. Short casts are often more productive than long, you can use the rod to bring the fly across most currents as well as a figure of eight retrieve. The trick is to keep the fly constantly moving rather than the stop/start action stripping produces. Use the doubles in fast water, on slower pools a single is better. The Zero Muddler fishes very near the surface, these are not overdressed so they skate cleanly, creating the 'V' in the water that many fish respond to (not just Salmon). Use heavier than usual nylon as smash takes are common especially when the fly is moving quickly. Keeping the rod tip up is often enough to hook the fish, a gentle tighten is better than any sort of a strike.
This method is also worth a try at dawn.