I was finding it hard to build any sort of enthusiasm for our outing to Linthgow Loch last weekend. High summer was still in full swing and having failed miserably to find a successful method to catch fish (other than Powan) at Carron Valley earlier in the week, the prospect of another day afloat in soaring temperatures held little appeal. However, my mood improved on the promise of some spectacular jousting (titter ye not!!) in the shadow of Linlithgow Palace and an opportunity to experience medieval life for a day. This was my Plan B, if things got tough.
The loch was actually in reasonable condition, in spite of the prolonged period of hot weather and water clarity was surprisingly good, with a slight green tinge. There were more weeds than normal in evidence, spreading out from the pier area but this cleared, going into the deeper water. We had 4 boats for the day, Stewart Barnes/John Miller, Trevor Gibson/Gary Heseltine, Bob Whyte (single angler), and I was fishing with Fraser Gault.
Trevor and Gary are frequent visitors to Linlithgow and they reported that the fish were holding in the deeper water, sitting at around 20ft. Linlithgow has an excellent stocking policy, with regular weekly top-ups, so there is never any shortage of fish. It was interesting to see the range of different lines and tactics being employed to try and get down to the fish: floaters to Di-7. Buzzers and Diawl Bachs had been working well the previous day. One of the features of Linlithgow is that you can be bold with the size of buzzers: size 10 and even size 8 being mentioned in catch returns, with little appetite (apparently) for the smaller sizes. There was evidence of some pin fry being targeted by the resident trout.
Fraser set up with a camo intermediate and a team of nymphs, including a nice-looking little root beer cruncher and a Nemesis on the point. I opted for a 6ft ghost tip and washing line (again!!), Diawl Bach and little black cruncher. I recalled on the same outing last season, Bob Whyte had a good bit of success fishing small black spiders.
It was a relief to get out on the water, where there was a refreshing breeze. It was clear that everybody was aiming to set anchor around the main basin: a good refuge for trout in hot conditions. I have often found that fish in the loch can be amazingly localised so positioning the boat is a bit of a lottery with no obvious features to target. Fraser and I played our hand and set anchor on what we hoped would be close to the edge of the deep hole. The good thing was that we could remain social, with plenty of other boats close by.
Bob was in front to our left, Gary and Trevor were just behind, Stewart and John were further from the madding crowd, in the shallower water. Rods around us were already bending, the boat to our right seemed constantly active. Bob hooked and lost a fish after his dropper caught in the net. Every time I turned around, Gary or Trevor was playing a fish. My mind was already drifting to the jousting.
I was counting down, mixing up the retrieve, until eventually the rod was nearly pulled from my hand. I had forgotten the splendid quality of Linlithgow trout – fully finned and robust beasts – a testament to the ample larder in the loch. A black cruncher was a stand-out in the morning for me. Fraser soon got into action with McBride’s Nemesis. Jimmy swears by the Nemesis as a good dropper option and Fraser proved over the course of the day it was also highly effective on the point. Fraser chopped and changed flies over the day, but kept the Nemesis on the point and it accounted for all his 6 fish. Most were in the 3 to 4lb range: not a bad return at all.
Perhaps the best moment of the day was recorded by Stewart Barnes. He and John had manoeuvred through the armada closer to the deeper water close-by. John had a couple of fish by this stage, while Stewart was still clean, despite having tried quite a few different approaches. In mid-conversation with Fraser, Stewart was rudely interrupted, when his flies (on the hang by the side of the boat) were grabbed by an angry resident trout! Ah, so static works then!! Landing one Linlithgow trout is tough but Trevor managed a double on his last cast of the day. Gary was delighted for him. (Honest, he was…)
A much better day than feared, and the club ended with 38 fish across our 7 rods. Best tactics were buzzer line or intermediate, counting it down and then giving a very slow retrieve. Buzzers – brown with sunburst cheeks in size 10 – and Jimmy’s nymph were the best flies. Fishing in the blazing sun may after all still be favourable to riding into medieval battle on horseback. The jury is out though!