Orphir Primary School release their peedie troot!

Yesterday, Friday, 18th March, Orphir Primary released their fry into the burn which runs through the school ground.

A big thank you to Mr Erskine for sending me the following report so promptly and well done to the children and their teachers!

The Swanbister burn was at quite a low level this morning; just right for the Orphir Primary School troot release The children were surprised how many alevins were in their tank, well hidden amongst the gravel. The sharp corners and curved sides of the tank made capture of the very frisky alevins difficult, but the pupils persevered and eventually 65+ peedie troot were transferred to the basin and carried up to the burn. All 24 pupils got the chance to move a few alevins into a polythene bag and release them into the burn.

The fish tank was very small and no outside shed was available, so the Orphir P4 – 7 pupils did well to keep the water temperature low and do frequent water changes to achieve a very high survival rate. Only about 80 ova were delivered to the school and most of the mortalities occurred while the ova were being transported or the following day. The temperature only reached 10 C on 1 day  and the tank water pH stayed quite close to a neutral 7.

As well as learning about the brown trout life cycle, the Orphir pupils  also :

  • Used a digital microscope linked to a computer to see the embryo development inside an ovum.
  • Observed some of the small invertebrates preyed on by Orkney troot  including gammarus shrimp, corixa and pebble cased caddis.
  • Learned about the migration of sea trout from Scapa Flow through Stenness  into the Harray burns and the predators  they have to try to avoid.
  • Learned how to recognise brown trout, sea trout and salmon.
  • Examined fly tying materials and a range of  angling equipment used by the Orkney troots’ most formidable predators…
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“Troot in the Shed” at Stromness Primary

Last week, Mr Cowan emailed me some photos of his pupils at Stromness Primary, setting-up the tank with the ova and making sure the water was kept cool. Cool, oxygenated water is the key to success to hatch the eggs and keep the fry alive. After all, the aim is get as close as possible to  natural conditions found in the upper reaches of a small burn in Orkney in winter: fast flowing crystal clear water running over a bed of clean gravel at a temperature between 3 and 7 degrees… It sounds very simple but you will soon be faced with many challenges when trying to set up your tank in a school building… It was interesting to see that Mr Cowan’s pupils made the most of the little snow fall we had back in mid-February to lower the temperature! Good thinking!

Mr P.

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First alevins hatched at Stromness Primary and Stronsay Junior High

hatching trout

When I heard from Mr Cowan in Stromness Primary, that the first brown trout alevins had hatched over the week-end, I was worried that the building must have been too warm as the ova shouldn’t really hatch before a good week… However, this morning, as I was about to teach my S1/2 class who are in charge of the trout ova on Stronsay, they too, reported that hatching had started! The temperature of that tank kept in a shed on top of a windswept hill never rises above 7 degrees at this time of year and today, the thermometer indicated a chilly 6C.

It is sometimes difficult to notice but the temperatures for last November, December and January must have been warmer, prompting the ova to hatch more than two weeks earlier than last year (February 27th). However in 2014, our alevins did start hatching on February 10th… So, I would expect to hear from Hoy, Sanday and Orphir very shortly!

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Ova deliveries completed to five Orkney schools

Five Orkney schools are taking part in the “Troot in the Shed” programme this year:

  • Stromness Primary
  • Orphir Primary (involved this year for the first time)
  • North Walls Primary on Hoy
  • Sanday Junior High
  • Stronsay Junior High

Malcolm Thomson delivered the ova to Stromness Primary on February 1st. The mini-hatchery location is warmer than in some other schools and the tank temperature is closely monitored to prevent it from rising over 10°C. Kenny keeps a watchful eye, ready to intervene with ice packs!

Jim Erskine visited the North Walls school (3/02) and Orphir Primary (4/02) and delivered the eyed eggs. The mini-hatchery on Hoy runs like a well-oiled machine in an ideal location: a dark cold detached shed with power! This means the ova can develop in conditions which are very close to their natural environment.

If the Hoy pupils have been running the project for the last six years, it’s different story in Orphir where the children are taking part in Troot in the Shed for the first time. With an idyllic little burn running through the school ground, we can’t wait to release the alevins! Let’s hope that we can obtain the stocking permit from Marine Scotland.

Out on the North Isles, Antoine Pietri delivered the ova to Stronsay Junior High (28/01) and to Sanday Junior High (2/02). Both schools have also been involved in the project since 2011 and it has become a bit of a pilgrimage to release the alevins into the Meikle Water and the Bea Loch… However, hatching trout eggs isn’t always straightforward and we need to keep a close eye on water temperature, on the Ph, the water pump, make sure every dead egg is removed quickly, etc…

More updates to come shortly as we hear from the schools.


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OTFA / AFYD Junior Angling Competition – Round 2 (4th June 2015)


The 2nd round of the AFYD/OTFA Junior competition , involving 15 KGS 2nd year pupils, was held on Thursday 4th June at Kirbister loch. The wind was forecast to be Westerly, but then to become South East, making it difficult to choose the starting location. Depute head Neil Ewing decided that the pupils should start on the South shore and walk round to the Hatchery shore after the wind changed. It proved to be the correct choice.

The weather was very pleasant, with a light wind and sunshine. Quite a lot of trout were showing reasonably close to the shore. However, the smaller fish close to the shore proved very adept at nibbling worms off hooks, without being caught. Even when they were hooked, many of the trout escaped just before their excited captors managed to beach them. There were larger fish further out, but the competitors, who were only allowed to wear wellies, couldn’t cast far enough to reach many of them. The one pupil fishing fly found it particularly difficult.

IMG_7384Joe Drever caught a 14.25oz trout in the last hour to win the Junior Bait section and the new Bobby Windwick cup. His fish also proved to be the biggest one caught. Travis Low, who switched to ‘fly and bubble’( allowed in the bait section) after he found that Kirbister trout didn’t fancy sweetcorn, was 2nd with 3 trout totalling 12.75oz. Merrick Welbon came 3rd with 2 fish weighing 12oz.

This year there were 4 girls competing and they achieved 2 of the top 6 positions, each catching 2 trout. Caitlin Walls was 4th and Amy Wells 6th.   5th place went to Glen Foubister, also with 2 trout.fishing%20009

The competitors learned a lot about how to operate a fixed spool reel correctly and the importance of using swivels to prevent line twist and reduce the risk of fankles. With that knowledge and their improved casting skills, they should have more success if they return when the loch is fishing well.

Perhaps their parents will take them during the school holiday.

All the competitors received prizes financed by W S Sinclair, Stockans and a particularly generous donation from the family of Bobby Windwick. Bobby was OTFA secretary for 26 years and made a huge contribution to the development and organisation of junior angling for school pupils.

IMG_7387There was also a non-competitive angling trip to Kirbister on the previous day, involving a different group of 17 young KGS anglers. Despite a very strong West wind, heavy showers and rather uncooperative trout, the youngsters all worked hard and had greatly improved their casting skills by the end of the trip. They will catch a lot more trout if they return to Kirbister when the water level is a lot lower and the weather is less severe.



KGS staff Neil Ewing and Skip Summerville supervised on both days, with Kerry Warman and Mark Coulston helping on Wednesday; Judith Scott, Andy Torbet and Rick Thomson on Thursday.

(Jim Erskine – Photos: Skip Sommerville)

Junior Comp results 2015

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OTFA / AFYD Junior Competition – Round 1 ( 29th May2015)


With a strong wind from the west, the young anglers spread along the Westquoy shore, James on the fly and Jack, Ieuan and Thomas on torpedo floats and flies or bubble and bait. The unusually high water level of the loch made it quite difficult to reach the fish holding areas but quite early Thomas had the first Kirbister DSCF4135trout in the bag, followed shortly by Ieuan and for a while, it looked as if last year’s battle between the two was going to repeat itself…
Further into the competition, Thomas managed to hook another fish and the prospects looked promising… Could this little brown trout seal his DSCF4136victory?

That was without counting on James’ tenacity and perseverance, and of course, technique with the fly-rod; in the second half, two trout fell for James’ Penells and came back level with Thomas.
Jim Erskine blew the final whistle and by just looking at the two potential winners’ baskets of two fish, there wasn’t much in it and accurate scales would definitely be required…
And it was James who was crowned Stronsay overall winner with the heaviest basket (1lb 3 1/4oz). DSCF4143
By that time, the second round involving the Kirkwall Grammar School pupils, had not taken place and the names of the overall section winners (Junior Bait / Junior Fly / Senior Bait / Senior Fly) couldn’t be announced yet.

The Stronsay youngsters and organisers are very grateful to the OTFA for their support in helping finance the trip and would like to thank WS Sinclair, Stockans and especially the Windwick family for their very generous donation towards the prizes.

Stronsay results 2015

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Stronsay School angling trip to Harray and Kirbister (24th & 25th May 2015)


As you may have noticed, we’ve had a pretty poor spring… Actually, a couple of days ago, I read that the month of May had been as wet as the month of November, which is usually the wettest of the year… Seemingly the spring of 2015 has aCAMERAlso been the wettest for at least 40 years! Needless to say that I was a bit anxious as the date of our annual angling trip was getting closer!
When the Stronsay ferry berthed at the Kirkwall pier, the weather was almost promising and the spirits were high on the minibus, heading for the Harray Loch!

The plan was to only spend the afternoon fishing Harray, which is usually a bit more challenging than the Kirbister Loch, where we would spend the following two days.
The four Stronsay pupils, accompanied by Andy Rose, Jim Erskine, who kindly helped the youngsters for two days, and myself started along the Bochan shore and worked their way north toward the Broch.
James was on the fly while Jack, Ieuan and Thomas used either torpedo floats and flies or bubble-floats and worms. In spite of the bright and windy conditions, a dozen beautiful Harray trout were caught by the youngsters. There was a display of impressive skills with the fly rod and those on fixed-spool reels proficiently cast and retrieved, without tangles or hook-ups. The Stronsay boys were working like a well-oiled machine!
By 4:30, it was time to leave Harray and head north for the Birsay Hostel for something to eat and a good sleep… Before we reached the hostel, it had been briefly mentioned that the freshly caught Harray trout could make a nice starter but by the time we had CAMERAunloaded fishing rods, night bags and food box in the pouring rain, the thought had pretty much escaped me. Someone remembered though, and as I walked into the kitchen, James was already in the process of gutting the fish over the sink! To keep him company, I grabbed the sharpest knife I could find in the drawer and started on the filleting! In no time, Andy was supervising the frying operation and the CAMERAgolden fillets were piling up nicely!

Once on the table, our fish fiend Ieuan made short work of his share and dived for more… And let me tell you: the fish starter was a big hit!


Jack playing a Kirbister trout

The following morning, the sun was shining over the West Mainland and with the prospects of shoals of hungry trout waiting for our baits, the young anglers decided it would be wiser to make a little detour through Stromness and get some extra worms, just in case…
Unfortunately, Kirbister proved just as dour as it’s been over the last couple of years and only Jack managed to grass two trout.

Friday, was the first round of the OTFA/AFYD Junior Competition (see separate post).

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