Salmon & Sea Trout – Loch Stack
During the 60’s and 70’s, Loch Stack enjoyed an enviable reputation as one of the foremost Sea Trout fisheries in Scotland. At that time, fish over 10 lbs were not uncommon and numbers caught ran into many hundreds per season.
Unfortunately, as with most Scottish west coast Sea Trout fisheries, catches fell to an all time low in the early 90’s. However, recent seasons suggest a marked increase in both the number and quality of fish caught. In addition, anglers have begun to fish more for Salmon which had previously been a largely untapped resource.
Improvements in the Sea Trout population may well represent the results of the enlightened catch and release policy now employed as well as the considerable efforts of the West Highland Sea Trout Fisheries Trust regarding the fishes’ spawning areas.
Fishing on Loch Stack is from a drifting boat only, with a ghillie being a mandatory requirement. The loch enjoys large areas of submerged rocks and skerries which all harbour the Salmon and Trout as do burn mouths. These submerged areas extend around the edge of the loch as well as some unexpected shoals of productive shallow water in the middle. The ghillie is thus employed to guide the boat over these known lies safely and consistently no matter what the wind direction. Sea Trout tend to be more mobile but will still tend to congregate in certain areas which the ghillies know.
Traditional over-the-front fishing is the norm with wet flies, although dapping can also be productive given a good wind. A favourite length of rod is between 9 ½ and 12 feet with the longer rod enabling the fly to be “dibbled” effectively. Floating lines are generally employed although an Intermediate can be useful in calm or very sunny conditions.
Most traditional Scottish and Irish wet flies will work in sizes between 8 and 12. However, in recent years the Muddler Minnow has gained in popularity, particularly for Salmon which often appear behind the fly as retrieved. It is then down to the angler’s nerve to keep on stripping the fly back in order to keep the fishes interest !
Teams of 3 flies are most common with the muddler fished as the point fly and a bushy bob fly employed on the top dropper to create a wake. It can be very exciting when a large Salmon lunges at it just before the angler is to recast.
Salmon can arrive in the loch up the River Laxford from as early as May with some of the larger fish being in this run. However, most fish arrive from the end of June onwards until the end of the season in October. Given water the supply of fresh fish can be topped up throughout this period.
The bulk of Salmon taken are in the 5 to 12 pound range. While these may not be as large as some fish found on the east coast rivers, a fish of 23 lbs was taken in 1997 so be prepared for a surprise ! Grisle also make up for their weight in terms of athlectic ability and the thrill of catching them on a light rod, fishing traditionally in these magnificent surroundings is second to none.
Sea Trout enter the loch during spates from mid-June, again with some of the larger fish being in the earlier runs. Fresh fish continue to arrive throughout the system until October.
Some anglers value Sea Trout more highly than Sea Trout for their undoubted fighting ability. A 3 pound fish can easily strip the angler to his backing following a savage take and they do not give up easily thereafter. As mentioned, all Sea Trout are released and there is a prize of a bottle of whiskey for anyone who can catch a fish tagged by the Fisheries Trust.
In addition to the Salmon and Sea Trout, Brown Trout and Char may also be caught. While angling for migratory fish is the main aim on Stack, the ability to catch resident fish as well means that the angler never knows what the next take may bring.
Indeed Brown Trout over the pound are reasonably common and a beautiful fish over nine pounds has been taken in recent times. Ferox are also known to be present in the loch and do appear in rougher weather. However, they are not often caught as they are not fished for specifically as trolling is not allowed.
Char, whilst small in size, more than make up for this in terms of flavour and are often requested for breakfast the day following their capture. However, the phrase “Char up – Salmon down” is used by many ghillies on the loch and, as a result, they may not always be welcomed aboard a Loch Stack boat !