Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Aquatic "wolf" that lives on from the Ice Age

Back in 2009, I was priveledged to be asked by Bruce Sandison if he could use a photograph of mine in his recently re-released and fully updated book Rivers and Lochs of Scotland.

I was delighted that Bruce asked this of me and gladly gave him proofs of the pictures of the trout we caught on a highland loch in August last year.

The book was subsequently sent to the publishers including a picture of our trout and further to this Bruce also asked that he could use the photograph in an article for the Inverness Courier on Friday 30th october 2009. Again I was delighted for the picture to be published and have finally got around to posting the article here with the kind permission of Bruce.

Unfortunately the article is in two sections at the moment but I hope to resolve this shortly. Due to the small text as a result of the article being scanned, I've done a transcript below.

I hope you enjoy Bruce's insight into fishing for ferox trout in the highlands of Scotland.

ferox,fishinscotland,fishing,scotland,Aquatic Wolf

Fishing,Scotland,Ferox,Bruce Sandison


TRANSCRIPT


Ferox - The Aquatic Wolf From The Ice Age

One fine summer day a few years ago my wife Ann and I were fishing Loch Laidon for brown trout. This dramatic loch lies at the heart of Scotland where it silver-ribbons Rannoch Moor for five-and-half narrow miles. Off Eilean Iubhair, 'the island of the yew tree', the boat bobbed gently over the waves in an accommodating breeze. Small trout rose to my flies, Black Pennell, March Brown and Silver Butcher. My fishing partner and I were well content, at peace with the world and all that it contained.

A moment later we were becalmed. The wind fell and fish stopped rising. Not a dimple stippled the mirror-like surface. Resigned, but content just to be there, we reeled in and opened a flask of coffee. A suicidal bluebottle buzzed impotently on the water a few yards from the boat. As I watched it struggle for flight, from out of the depths, in slow motion, a huge trout appeared and leisurely head-and-tailed over the doomed insect.

I turned to my companion, pointing, lost for words. Ann had seen the fish. We gaped in synchronised amazement. The rise seemed to go on forever, first the great head, then a vast, broad dark back, dorsal fin and adipose fin and finally the upper section of a sail sized tail. The trout was in no hurry and gave us plenty of time to exmine it in intimate detail. When speech returned, we said, simultaneously, " did you see that " and estimeted the weight of the fish to have been in excess of 10lb.

Ferox trout have survived in Scottish lochs for more than 10,000 years. They are special because they have retained their genetic integrity. Until recently, little was known about their lifestyle and habits other than the fact that they appear to subsist virtually entirely upon Arctic charr; although, as voracious hunters, ferox seem quite happy to snap up other morsels that come their way, including the odd unfortunate bluebottle.

however, artic charr are the preferred diet and the number of ferox in any given loch depends upon the health of the locla charr population. The size of ferox is also governed by the size of the prey species. Ferox eat fish which are generally one third of their own length. Therefore, if the charr population consists of small fish, this will restrict the ultimate size of the ferox which feed upon them. The ideal scenario for ferox is to live in a loch with a large population of modest-sized fish, like Loch Laidon. In such circumstance, ferox grow rapidly and can attain weights of up to and over 20lb in the space of six years.

The reason more is known about ferox today is largely due the activities of the ferox '85 Group, formed by fishery scientists such as Andy Walker, Alistair Thorne, Ron Greer and others.

They have devoted much of their energy and time to the study of these great fish and over the years built up an invaluable data bank of information on Scottish ferox.

And they are following in illustrious footsteps. Charles St. John (1809-56) recalls. " I was crossing Loch Ness alone one evening with my rod at the stern of the boat, with my trolling tackle trailing behind. Suddenly a large trout sized it and before I could do anything but take hold of my rod he had run out eighty yards of line and bent my stiff trolling rod like a willow. "

In 1880, Sir John Colquhoun of Luss noted: "The largest feroxes taken in Scotland, not even excepting Loch Awe, have been taken out of Loch Rannoch.... At Loch Rannoch, in twenty-eight years, three of twenty-three, twenty-two and twenty pounds' weight have been taken."

Catching ferox is a lot harder than writing about catching them. Ron Greer describes the experience thus " No matter how good you become, or how often you try, you are never going to catch massive numbers of fish. In the process you will alternatively approach hypothermia, heat stroke exhaustion, desiccationand drowning. So if your pleasure comes from catvhing hoards of tame rrainbows ...my advice to you regarding ferox angling is - don't even start. My favourite summary is that it will feel like a brain numbing, bum-numbing fishless eternity. Those who will survive will be relatively few and will thoroughly deserve their fish. "

The best places to break both your heart and your tackle in pursuit of ferox are the same today as they were in the days of Osgood MacKenzie, Charles St John and Sir John Colquhoun. Happily, they are readily accessible and, mostly, boats are available for hire. In the Southern Highlands, consider a visit to lochs Lomond, Awe, Tay, Rannoch, Laidon, Garry and Laggan. Further north, try your luck on lochs Ness, Lochy, Arkaig, Garry, Quoich, Morar, Sionascaig, Loyal and Calder. Crossing the fingers will also help mightily.

All that now remains to be done is to construct that glass case for above the mantelpiece. When you do so, think big. Given dedication to duty, perseverance, sheer cussedness, determination and grit, you could, one day, fill it with the fish of your angling dreams, the Aquatic 'Wolf' from the Ice Age, Scotland's most noble freshwater fish. In pursuit of it you will be linked to the birth of all life forms in the land I love, fish, fowl and flora, animal and human.

Ferox Trout, by Ron Greer, published by Swan Hill Press, 1995 (ISBN: 1 85310 486 8)




About the Author: Bruce Sandison is a highly respected writer, journalist and author of various books, including the definitive anglers' guide, The Rivers and Lochs of Scotland. He has contributed to most angling magazines over the years and his work has also appeared in a wide range of UK newspapers and journals, and on BBC radio and television.


Tight lines to all for the new season.

Fishinscotland.

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