The Wee Broonie

by Robert Aitken 14th March 2008

It is good news that attempts are being made to use the Bannock at the falls to provide power for community benefit, for ecological reasons a smolt screen would be built as part of the project to protect the young fish going downstream, better still if a fish pass was to be integrated, the visitors to the burn, that is sea trout and salmon would be able to more easily get to spawning beds higher up the burn, rather than fail to get up the falls and release their eggs in the faster water, losing most of them.


The quality of a water is best judged by the fish stock and in my opinion the finest fish is the wee broonie. Salmo Trutta starts life upstream in November/December when the female trout digs a trench in the gravel bed called a Redd and lays her eggs, the male then fertilises them with his milt, and the eggs sink down and are covered with gravel. A good oxygen supply is needed for the eggs to hatch, this takes about thirty days, when they become Alevins, tiny embryonic fish with a yolk sac attached, when the sac is used up they become fry and move out of the gravel to feed.

They grow quickly and as they do they develop marks on their sides and become Parr. Depending on the available food it can take parr between one and four years to become an adult trout, at this same time sea trout become silver and are called Smolts and head for the sea. The brown trout as an adult heads back to the spawning ground to start the cycle once more.

Despite the Bannock having been an industrial burn, blockages, pollution, forestry operations, agriculture, bank erosion, mills, lades and dams this wee survivor is still fighting, just. Some Scandinavian rivers and streams have no fish due to acidity. When the PH drops to about 4 which is like tomato juice or acid rain it is goodnight wee troot.
Burn trout are said to be the most difficult to catch, having a keen sense of smell, excellent hearing, sensitive to vibration, their sight at close range is also good, but have no eyelids and see through an ever widening cone where long range vision is poor.
To catch a burn trout the first thing to know is that the fish is a wild animal owned by nobody, when the trout is caught you own it, which is the common law. But to catch it you must have the written permission of the landowner or the owner of the fishing rights. The second thing is to know the close season, the 6th of October until the 15th of March, Thirdly the keeping size of the trout, usually ten inches; these rules are in fact common sense in action to protect the fish.

A fishing club who had the permission of the main landowner at one time controlled the Bannock, lets hope another starts up, a club is a good way to conserve a river or burn as it is in the clubs own interest to do so, if the proposed scheme is successful and helps the environment of the burn and promotes fishing it can only be a good thing for the area
Burn fishing with the fly needs very little gear, a short rod, light tackle and the skill to tell a true story like the one below.

One Bannockburn worthy was walking his dog along the lower park one day when his fishing hat blew off with the strong wind and to his consternation landed in the Bannockburn, he sent his dog in to recover it, the dog had a bit of a struggle and on gaining the bank the hat was found to have two trout hooked to the flies displayed on it. Not all fishermen find broonies difficult to catch.

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