I recently urged people to look at their waters to see how many trout are rising. We keep hearing calls that trout are in short supply on the Ayr and Lugar  and that stocking is necessary yet wherever we take time to look, there is no shortage of fish rising. One old school trout angler on the river is constantly reporting to me of the huge numbers of trout that  he and his fellow anglers are seeing. I’ve no doubt he is correct as we have been saying the same thing for several years. There is no shortage of trout.

This morning we stopped in Cumnock at the Dub pool on the way to a fish rescue (a blog on this to follow). The Glaisnock Water enters the Dub and with low flows at present, there are several large trout and lots of average fish waiting to go up this burn for spawning. Trout of up to a pound (or about 12 – 13″) are numerous and rising across the pool. If you look carefully, with polaroids if possible, you will see plenty of bigger fish cruising around and feeding. Just upstream in the shallow glides between the Dub and the Lugar Street road bridge, several very large trout are lying and numerous smaller fish too.

A nice Lugar trout of around 21/2 - 3 lbs

A nice Lugar trout of around 21/2 – 3 lbs

Perhaps the largest Lugar tout we saw this morning at around 4 lbs

Perhaps the largest Lugar tout we saw this morning at around 4 lbs

It was a very dull overcast morning when we were there so the photographs below aren’t the best but they do show just a few of the trout we saw. We are aware Cumnock Club has stocked trout for years, but these fish can’t be attributed solely to the relatively insignificant numbers that the hatchery deals with in relation to the massive natural spawning that takes place. They may contribute to the stocks in this area but relatively small numbers in real terms. In any case, we are seeing huge numbers of trout of all sizes along the length of the catchment.

In our short time in Cumnock, we spoke t0 two very different anglers who were also watching the trout. One was a relative youth, probably in his late 20’s or early 30’s, and the other was an seasoned angler in his 70’s. Both were eager to share their opinions with us. The younger man was just delighted to see such good numbers of quality trout in the river.  The older angler immediately after pointing out a couple of the bigger trout to us started complaining that the Lugar is the best trout water in Ayrshire but it needed more hatcheries. He criticised the small size of the fish (despite pointing out some very large trout to about 4 lbs), the poor condition of the substrates (I agreed with him), he criticised agricultural inputs and the discharges from Powharnol Surface mine (again I agreed). He complained that no one was doing anything to sort the problems. He didn’t want to hear anything we could say on the matter and then immediately criticised us for being University trained youngsters that knew nothing of the river. He had spent his whole life walking the river and above Sorn, there were no trout these days. The solution in his opinion was to stock. I told him of a burn I knew of near Muirkirk where I had seen lots of trout of all sizes earlier this year to which he responded “it must be the only one!” Despite pointing out that I was hardly an inexperienced whipper snapper at 50 years old, he wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say so I immediately excused myself and walked away. Although this attitude isn’t uncommon amongst some anglers, I was encouraged by the younger man’s enthusiasm and positive outlook. Gordon and I mulled over the conversations on our way to the fish rescue and we agreed that we should look to the future and hopefully the younger man’s attitudes were an indication of what may become the norm. It’s the practices of the past and to a lesser extent of the present  that have landed us with the problems we now face. Lets hope that through education and experience, we can progress to a more enlightened future.

We looked at Catrine and found no shortage of trout. Ochltree was the same with several really nice 3lb+ fish cruising the margins and Howford Bridge at the end of the day was also full of trout moving and feeding in small shoals. Wherever I look at the river I see healthy trout numbers. Big ones, little ones and all sizes in between, that’s a healthy population.

Just typical of what we are seeing on the river at the moment ... dozens and dozens of rising trout in every pool.

Just typical of what we are seeing on the river at the moment … dozens and dozens of rising trout in every pool. I could have watched this all day!

These fish don’t just appear as spawning time approaches but they are there year round in different lies just waiting to be caught. I remember someone at Catrine Dam saying to me last year that he couldn’t understand where the good trout seen jumping at Anderson’s had come from as they weren’t in the club stretch during the season. I suggest most are. They certainly don’t appear from thin air. With so many trout to be seen at the moment, I’d encourage anyone in any doubt to look for themselves. Of course they won’t all be big but without juveniles, there is no future. Trout around 3/4 lb to 1 lb are there and there in large numbers. Trout over 3lbs are there to be seen if you are patient and can spot them.

These were just two trout in a shoal below old Howford Brig. We spotted a grayling rising there too and defending it's territory from the trout as they moved too close. Grayling aren't there in the numbers that they were just a few years ago

These were just three trout in a shoal below old Howford Brig. We spotted a grayling rising there too and defending it’s territory from the trout as they moved too close. Grayling aren’t there in the numbers that they were just a few years ago

The rises aren't splash at the moment, often just a dimple in the surface as they suck midges from the surface.

The rises aren’t splashy at the moment, often just a dimple in the surface as they suck midges from the surface.

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7 Responses to Ayr and Lugar trout

  1. ian radburn says:

    very interesting stuart and it was nice to hear you spoke to 2 different age groups the older chap said he had been walking/fishing the river for many years and commented there is a need to stock more trout. In a way i agree with him as i have said before stocking in my opinion helps the native trout. The reason is stockies will take anything where the wild trout are a bit more wiser. Really
    what i am saying is if trout are going to be killed i would rather it was a stocked fish and leave the wild stock alone. Then we have catch/release, the older anglers would release a wild trout, younger generation not so much as they tend to kill and eat, not thinking about the future. This in only my opinion and i could be wrong.

    • Stuart Brabbs says:

      Ian, good to have your comments although we won’t agree on everything. I do agree that I’d rather see a stocky killed than a wild fish. The problem I see is that with so many wild fish in the river, introducing takeable sized stockies will only lead to increased competition between wild and stocked fish. Also the risk of cross breeding between stockies and wild fish would only reduce the quality of juveniles produced. That’s why I’d favour stocking with Triploids only, as has become law in England and Wales.
      I have to say the older angler we talked to this morning was so set in his ways that he was unable to even discuss things rationally hence my quick departure. If the old ways are the best ways, then why do the rivers have all the problems we see? There’s no denying it, things need to change to ensure that we preserve something for future generations to enjoy. The Trust network is a young movement that really has only developed in the last 10 – 15 years. We seem to receive blame for trying to fix what man has managed to ruin over the last 150+ years. There are no quick fixes here. What we need is to change what we know to be damaging, fix what we can and allow nature to do the rest. Man’s expectations can’t always be met so perhaps the expectations need to change. Still waters are great for stockies and food. Rivers are a source of pleasure but not currently able to support massive exploitation. Finding the balance is essential.

      • sam says:

        I dont,t know who this old man is but he is talking through a hole in his backside stuart, I fish that stretch of the lugar every year for trout and this year was no different to any other with the trout i caught and returned unharmed, They were all wild trout ranging from 1/2lb – 2lb with the odd bigger trout hooked and lost, I was surprised to see someone fishing the dub yesterday for trout when the season ended the day before!!

  2. bob brown says:

    ian i dissagree with what you say id bet the old guy has never fished much for trout for a start.
    those big trout have grown to that size because most anglers have never tried to catch them that is the thing these days most anglers dont want to put much effort into trying to catch trout. if they cannot stockie bash they are just not happy. i bet i would have agreat time trying to catch some of those beauties and i would not chap them when they had reached such a size.
    just my thoughts cheers

  3. sam says:

    I don,t know who this old man is but he is talking through a hole in his backside stuart, I fish that stretch of the lugar every year for trout and this year was no different to any other with the trout i caught and returned unharmed, They were all wild trout ranging from 1/2lb – 2lb with the odd bigger trout hooked and lost, I was surprised to see someone fishing the Dub yesterday when the season finished the day before!!

  4. George says:

    Hi Stuart old guys and new guys have the same concerns about our rivers it is wrong for old guys to dismiss any new or innovated measures but it’s also wrong to dismiss tried and trusted things
    I am pleased there are some fabulous trout in the dub and hope they soon manage to spawn naturally and give us more wild brownies but lets not get carried away I fish and walk local rivers and do not think numbers trout or salmon are healthy and are a shadow of former years .The causes of this are no doubt many ,most of which as you say we can all agree .The solutions should be a mix of old and new habitat enhancement ,gravel irrigation ,could be great, but let’s not rule out the hatchery a controlled environment not subject to weather ,flood ,drought ,pollution,,predation,must produce more fry and parr I understand the importance of genetic stock purity but surely we can organise returning fish to the stream they were stripped and remember nature introduces fresh blood from time to time
    Old guys and new guys have much to offer but need to work together

    • Stuart Brabbs says:

      George, I completely agree that we have to work together with all ages to find solutions but when someone is completely dismissive of those who work hard to improve things, I can’t help but feel we are up against it. The Ayr catchment is full of trout. There is no shortage and wherever I’ve been in the last week, most pools are bubbling with them. I hope this means that in a few years we may see more sea trout returning. The salmon are in short supply and we’ve been reporting poor juvenile numbers for years and many have been dismissive of our findings and our urge to conserve stocks. One Club official even stating at the Ayr Board AGM that he won’t be returning fish as he has a big family to feed! The same man refused to look at new data I presented at a Board meeting stating he wasn’t interested in what we have to say! Burying his head in the sand and ignoring the warnings won’t help. These attitudes have to change and I see younger anglers, who on the whole are more willing to accept practical advice as being the future custodians of the river so I’m encouraged by their frequently more positive attitude.
      With so little effort channeled at improvements at the moment, I’d like to see this change rather than resorting immediately to the call for expensive hatchery operations that are unsustainable and potentially damaging if poorly run. I’m not completely against hatcheries if justifiable and I recently advocated the rekindling of a small hatchery at Glenbuck area to a member of Muirkirk Club’s committee and he seemed supportive of this but as yet I haven’t heard anything back from him. This could be highly beneficial for the Loch and upper reaches of the Ayr where mine inputs are limiting production. Cumnock Club already operate a hatchery on a small scale and I’ve no doubt will continue to do so. Catrine have a hatchery that for one reason or another has hardly produced a fish despite it being custom built and costing in excess of £200,000 (funded from the public Purse). Hatcheries cost money to operate and stocking needs to be carefully managed in areas where benefit can be achieved. It’s pointless Clubs stocking their own beats heavily if there’s a good trout population already. I’d suggest that if these 3 operations were active and willing to target stocking to areas in need, then every other effort should be focussed on habitat improvement. Of course the greatest improvement could be the restoration of abandoned surface mines and the reduction of nutrient inputs in the river that lead to spawning gravels being coated in algae and sediment and consequently are low in productivity. To mitigate this until some form of restoration is agreed and takes place, ART convinced the board to channel effort into gravel cleaning in advance of spawning and we hope to convince SEPA to support this in the month ahead. Other beneficial measures would be to increase trees and fencing in areas of the upper catchment where banks are eroding and there’s virtually no marginal cover for fish. Trees also add leaf litter and woody debris, increasing invertebrates that fish feed on. None of this is rocket science but tried and tested measures that benefit fish, some of which cost very little, but there are no quick fixes. This takes time.
      We have also attempted (unsuccessfully so far) to get funding to improve the Greenock Culvert to increase salmon numbers spawning in good gravel areas. The Board are to submit their own application for this shortly. Unless funding is secured, then the Board and ART can’t achieve these goals. Anglers aren’t willing (for many reasons) to pay increased levies for their fishing so unless they are willing to do the work themselves, little will change. There’s no benefit achieved by criticising those that are willing to do the work if no one is willing to help or pay for it. I believe things can be improved or else I wouldn’t be doing this job but it needs adequate funding, and a willingness to try new things rather than continuing with strategies that run out of money quickly or have failed in the past.