Did you see the latest official catch report compiled by Colin Liddle encompassing the three months from July to September? What a dismal and uninspiring feeling of absolute dispair that single report engenders in any true Loch Lomond angler.
Discounting the atrocious nine (9) salmon reported of the river Leven in the same time i.e. averaging three a month, and less than one a week, there is reported, including 3 slipped in from late June, a grand total of 15 salmon and grilse over July, August and September, most of them small 5-6lb grilse in July, from all reporting stations from Balloch to Balmaha.
That is a catastrophic salmon total from what, just ten years ago was a thriving and improving system, with a progressive improvement and hatchery stocking program, and crucially, salmon from May until August. In that short time, all spent under various shades of committee guidance by Raeburn, Bourhill and McCormick, the fishing has collapsed until now it’s virtually pointless even taking a boat from its mooring.
Of the few fish caught, no anglers name appears twice, so even those getting a fish should count themselves lucky. Gone are the days of three or four to one angler in a day, double figures per boat for a week and twenty-odd for the season, all commonplace occurrences when I started on Lomond and even into the late 1990s. Now even experienced and committed regulars struggle to avoid a blank season.
And still the reports by the committee are presenting an aura of enthusiastic bombast. The grilse run, for that’s what they think that was, continued through August and into September, supposedly. Utter nonsense and deliberately misleading claptrap. I fished Lomond for forty years and the grilse run stopped like a tap turned off after the first week of August. September produced coloured grilse, once in a while and far from fresh. To the extent that most, if not all anglers stopped trolling and fished fly for sea trout. When, that is, we actually still had sea trout to fish for.
Despite the sea trout caught and triumphantly declared by one committee member as reflecting an increase in these fish, every one of them was caught accidentally, on the troll, while looking for salmon. They don’t count in catches and never did. They never translate into, or compensate for the loss of, fish caught later on the fly, which is when they do count. Keeping up the numbers, and falsely representing the true state of sea trout runs is what’s got us into the situation where regardless of the near extinction rates of migratory fish running the system, and the abysmal catches like those reported, we seem to manage to keep our Cat2 designation eternally.
The LLAIA Committee are out of touch, out of ideas and openly concealing the depth of the hole the Lomond system has been dug into. They’re incapable, unwilling, seemingly, of recognising the mess they’ve presided over, and resort routinely to presenting a rose tinted picture of an unfolding calamity they’ve presided over in silence.
Lomond fishing even as we knew it ten years ago is dead. The real salmon season, when anglers actually have a faint chance of a fish, is condensed now into the six weeks between 15 June and the end of July. Going out in March, April, May and the first half of June is a waste of time. Likewise, August, September and October are pointless, except for the odd manky near spawners.
A whole system has been trashed in a decade of false reporting, constant wide eyed predictions of recovery and improvement and a purging of anyone who refused to keep quiet when the demise of the fishing we once enjoyed became obvious. The committee denied there was anything other than continual improvement, issued, as they have again recently, predictions of improving and continuing runs that never materialise, and leave those who believe the hype to spend thousand of hours a season searching an empty Loch for phantom fish.
Everyone who fishes Lomond knows what’s going on and realises where it’s going to end up. There have been all sorts of committees in my lifetime from the benign incompetents, to the desperate enthusiasts, to the committed, successful and now banned for speaking out. But until now there’s never been a committee of deliberate deceivers who would rather the LLAIA dies than admit they’ve failed.
How anyone can dress these abysmal figures up as deserving of Cat2 is something I’m looking forward to seeing in the next Annual Report.