Fly fishing for trout has mostly been about quantity. In some of the earliest recorded trout fishing competitions, mainly carried out on border streams and rivers, the weight to number of fish ratio captured was astoundingly low, with an average size of a mere few ounces. It is obvious from these reports that anything, and I do mean anything, with spots was fair game. Some of the fish recorded must have been barely parr.
Things have changed a lot since then. The law, of course, has changed and it is now a criminal offence to kill trout of less than 9 inches. But the motivating force still lives on. Last season, on Leven, when things were particularly dour (round about July time) a year class of fish, averaging about 11 inches in length, surfaced in the area between the Reed Bower and St Serfs. I was out on Leven on a regular basis during this phenomenon and quickly became aware of the situation. The first time I spotted the boats gathering over these fish, I didn’t realise what was happening, but when I pulled up over the area I sussed it out in a matter of minutes. Two at time; I was beginning to understand the almost unbelievable numbers some guys were reporting. I dropped down the drift about two hundred yards and snagged a good fish of about 2½- 3 pounds. To each his own, but I would rather have one fish over two than a dozen 11” fish.
Nowadays, with stocking policies being what they are, the bulk of fly fishing has become a numbers game. This, unfortunately, does not transfer happily to wild trout fishing. There are a few waters where reasonable quantities of modest-sized, sporting fish can be expected. The Harray Loch, Boardhouse, Watten and Eye still produce good quality fish in large numbers. These lochs are shallow, fertile, productive waters, and as such are not the norm in Scotland. Many Scottish wild trout waters tend to be on the infertile side, and if its numbers you want from them, then don’t expect quality as well.
I have always said that I’d happily spend a fishless day waiting for that big ‘un, the trophy fish of a lifetime. I understand that I’m in a very small minority, but there are a growing number of like-minded souls out there who believe that big is beautiful, first, last and always. Salmo International will be catering for trophy trout hunters in the forthcoming season and I am pleased yours truly will be hosting the first of these adventures this coming spring.
There are two types of big fish waters – deep, infertile waters where trout grow big on an exclusive diet of charr and small trout; and then there are the shallow, highly productive waters where food is in abundance and big trout thrive on crustacean, molluscs and insect larvae.
The former exist throughout the highlands of Scotland, mainly in the form of hydro-electric dams, although a good number are natural lochs. Big, pisciverous trout from these waters are often referred to as ‘ferox’. Popular belief is that these fish can only be caught by trolling at depth. While this is a popular method of fishing for them, there are lochs in Scotland where trout of this type are regularly, and daily, caught on fly, and not at depth either, but on floating or intermediate lines. I know, I’ve done it.
Lochs Arkaig and Lochy, up in Inverness-shire have been famous for well over a century for providing enormous trout to fly fisherman, and I am hoping to explore some other lochs which may well provide similar sport.
These trout can grow to immense size on a fish diet and fish of up to 20+ lbs have been recorded from Arkaig & Lochy, and the basic technique is traditional drifting in specific areas with traditional trout fly gear and size 10 & 8 flies.
Timing for this style of fish is critical. The best times are from mid-April – June, and then September to the end of the season. During high summer (if we get such a thing in Scotland) these fish are only catchable during the last hours of light.
The other loch type, as mentioned above, is totally different. These lochs are almost always very shallow, fertile and very productive of fish food. The trout they produce are magnificent creatures and can achieve double-figures in weight.
Because they are small, fragile environments, I tend not to give their names away as they are very susceptible to over-fishing and abuse. Their fish populations tend to consist of a small number of very big individuals with a reasonable number of modestly sized fish.
Again, the methodology is traditional gear, tactics and flies, but on many of these small waters boats are not available so a good set of breathable waders is a necessity. Timing is again critical. Almost all of these environments are prone to weeding-up, and once the weed has grown productive fishing is nigh on impossible. Generally speaking, they give of their best from May to the end of June, which is a small window of opportunity.
Of course, there are always big trout in almost every loch trout population, but seeking them out is a hit or miss (with an emphasis on the miss) venture. Loch Leven, for example, throws out some stunning fish, but you’d never know when one was going to come along. Your next cast could catch an 8 ounce fish or an 8 pounder. There is no sure-fire way to improve your chances of catching bigger than average fish. The biggest fish will more than likely take the smallest fly.
So, how do you go about catching trophy fish. Simply by going where they live will vastly improve your chances, and we know where they live.
So, who’s joining us……….???
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