Located a mere 20 miles from Glasgow city centre and widely known as the Gateway to the Highlands lies a body of water which could very well be described as an inland sea. At 24 miles long and up to 6 miles wide Loch Lomond is the jewel in the crown of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.
Straddling the Highland Boundary Fault, a line of geological weakness that traverses Scotland from south west to north east, Lomond is a loch of contrasts. To the north of the fault, which can be clearly marked as it crosses the loch by the islands of Inchmurrin, Creinch, Torrinch and Inchcailloch, Lomond is typical of a highland glacial loch with depths plummeting to over 600feet. To the south lies the ‘South Basin,’ which averages a depth of only 30 feet characterising this area as a classic lowland loch.
The topography above the water line is too of stark contrast, with the almost barren Crom Mhin and Endrick flood plains reaching out towards the Campsie Fells in the south east and the Leven Valley guiding the lochs outflow, the River Leven, south towards the Clyde Estuary. Whilst to the north, the view is dominated by the 3000ft. peaks of the South West Highlands casting a watchful eye over the loch below.
So besides a stunningly beautiful and dramatic arena, what opportunities can Loch Lomond provide the visiting angler? Historically, the loch has been predominantly renowned for it’s Salmon and Sea Trout and in more recent times it’s outstanding Pike fishing, with several fish of over 40lbs coming to the net in recent years. However, this ‘Angler’s Paradise’ has far more to offer and as I have recently discovered, can produce some excellent sport for the Coarse angler.
Loch Lomond, in particular the south basin, has a claim to hold more species of fresh water fish than any other body of water in the UK. Game species such as Salmon, Sea Trout, Brown Trout and Arctic Char share the depths with the likes of Roach, Dace, Rudd, Perch, Pike, Carp, Tench, Bream, Chub and Powan (a native fish found in only 3 lochs in Scotland) with several of these species growing to specimen size.
It is worth noting that that several of these species are not indigenous to the loch and have found their way here over the years by un-intentional stocking, most probably by Pike anglers releasing their live baits at the end of their session. One of the most famous of these invasive species is the Ruffe, which has fairly or otherwise, received a bad reputation for eating the eggs of other species, in particular those of the endangered and now protected Powan. Nevertheless, Loch Lomond now harbors one of the most diverse subaqueous ecosystems in the country, which in turn provides the angler with a plethora of possible species to pit their wits against.
On such a vast expanse of water it can sometimes be difficult to establish the best areas in which to fish. It can often feel rather daunting as you approach the loch and are greeted by miles of shoreline giving way to thousands of acres of open water. However, as with any potential venue there are some guidelines to follow. On any water, small, large or massive it is imperative to fish to features. I still use a nice analogy quoted by a well-known angler when explaining the importance of features to friends, the basis of which asks the question, “If you were in a large open field and in this field stood one old Oak Tree, where would you choose to have a picnic?” The following look of sudden enlightenment still makes me smile.
On Loch Lomond such features could be shallow bays, rocky outcrops, points, drop offs, channels between islands and the shore, river mouths, even man made features like jetties, marinas and moorings. All of these give an angler an area on which to focus their attention. This division of the loch into smaller, more manageable sections can ease the intimidation factor of a big loch, giving a huge confidence boost, and as we all know in fishing, confidence is key.
So once a suitable, hopefully perfect, area has been chosen, how do you maximise your chances of catching fish? Well as always this depends on your chosen target species. From my experience over the last few years, the huge shoals of silver fish and Hybrids (predominantly Roach x Bream hybrids) provide the most consistent and often hectic sport. For these fish and for the reasons that follow, I have found feeder tactics to be best.
For the majority of areas I fish on the loch, a fairly substantial cast of 50 to 80 yards is needed, often into a depth of water of up to 30 feet, especially in the winter when the best fishing is to be found in deeper water. There is also the added challenge of the loch’s notorious blustery weather conditions. Therefore a medium sized 25 – 35 grams open ended cadge feeder and low diameter main line is essential.
The depth of water will also determine the consistency of my ground bait, which is normally a base of brown crumb combined with a hemp based mix, a red coloured ‘silver fish’ mix and a generous helping of maggots. The deeper the water the wetter I make the mix to help it stay in the feeder all the way to the bottom. It is worth noting that I have also found a simple maggot feeder to produce results, however a good ground bait mix and plenty of it tends to pull fish into the swim quicker and hold them there for longer. I would tend to use around 4kgs of mix and up to 2 pints of maggots in an 8 hour session. As for a favorite hook bait, nothing more complicated than a single or double maggot although corn seems to work also.
The end set up is normally fairly simple, consisting of the feeder, with a small bead either side, running on a 6 – 8” loop tied directly to the main line with a hook length of 8 -12” and a size 18 – 16 Kamasan B980 hook.
Once the set up is complete, the bank sticks are in place and you’ve established a feature on the horizon to cast to, it’s time for the hard work to truly begin. This style of fishing is not for those seeking a relaxing day on the bank. However the harder you are prepared to work, more often than not, the more you will reap the rewards. Initially, casts every 3-4 minutes delivering a fresh feeder full of ground bait to the same area will give you the best chance of pulling fish into your swim quickly. On occasions I have had fish show interest almost instantly, although generally it takes a little bit of time to draw them in. The key is to continue adding bait to the swim and eventually the fish will show. I have found on most occasions that the first enquiries can be very delicate as the fish will at first be cautious, therefore be prepared to miss a lot of bites. Keep casting and keep hitting any movement on the rod tip. This constant addition of bait will continue to draw in more fish and increase competitiveness within the shoal. As this competitiveness increases the bites will become more aggressive therefore a lot easier to make contact with although you still need to be as quick as a wild west gun fighter.
In essence, you have facilitated a feeding frenzy and at this stage it is probable that the second your bait and feeder hit the bottom you will see twitches on the rod tip. The challenge here is determining when a fish has taken the hook bait rather than fish simply attacking the contents of the feeder. This is an aspect of this style of fishing that I still find excitingly frustrating.
Now that you have freely feeding fish in front of you it is all too easy to relax and perhaps take your foot of the gas a little, but be warned, the shear size of some of the shoals of fish on Loch Lomond can sometimes make it difficult to keep them in the swim for any length of time. As soon as the food supply runs out these fish will not hang around so keep working and keep re-casting.
Don’t be surprised if the first couple of hours only seem to be producing small fish. More often than not, continuing to fish hard and maintaining a rhythm will soon see some larger fish move in, pushing the smaller Roach and Dace off the feed. This is generally when Lomond’s infamous Hybrids make an appearance often accompanied by some better Roach and the occasional ‘Slab’. These Hybrids are hard fighting fish that regularly go to over 4lbs and are an absolute joy to catch.
Other species most likely to make an appearance are Perch, Ruffe and, during the winter, possibly a Powan. If you are lucky enough to catch one of these beautiful fish, please, bear in mind that it is of high priority, that this rare and endangered species are returned directly to the water as quickly as possible and not placed in a keep net at any point.
Loch Lomond is big. It’s wild. And it’s a million miles from any commercial Coarse fishery. It can be daunting and prone to throwing up a challenge or two. Although if you are willing to work hard, persevere and explore in some of the most breath taking scenery in the country, fishing for truly wild fish then I can not recommend Loch Lomond enough.