Fishing Loch Leven

Loch Leven, looking towards Ballachulish

An excellent mark for rays, from both shore and dinghies, Leven is a small, sheltered sea loch that can produce some quality fish. It’s one of a few areas where I’d say that fishing has actually improved in recent times. The video below gives a flavour of what’s available.

Winter thornback from Loch Leven
Winter thornback

I first fished Loch Leven a few times around the year 2000, but moved on after experiencing very poor fishing – supposedly the loch was commercially fished for a while, which decimated the ray population. Whether this was true or not I don’t know, but I left it alone for many years and only decided to try it again after a run of poor fishing on Etive. This resulted in an excellent day’s ray fishing, with over 30 caught on my rod, and put Leven firmly back my personal angling map.

Leven thornback ray
Leven thornback ray
Moonrise, looking towards Kinlochleven
Moonrise, looking towards Kinlochleven

Leven is smaller and shallower than either Sunart or Etive, and is mainly a thornback ray venue. That’s a bit of a grand generalisation as plenty of other fish get caught there too, but it’s been my main experience of the loch. Some of the rays are of a good size, into low double figures, and some very good conger have also been taken. It can also (fairly) reliably produce small numbers of mackerel during the winter months.

Popping ashore for a bag of mussels
Popping ashore for a bag of mussels

The main launch site for boats is down near the Isles of Glencoe hotel, where there is a rough grass access track to a steep slate beach at the far end of the car park. There is a car park barrier in place, but you can get the key from the watersports centre or from the hotel reception (pretty much 24 hours a day I think). The access track is fairly steep and can be muddy, so a 4WD is probably essential. I’ve had most success fishing across the loch near the large fish farm (watch the anchor chains though), but there are several spots up the loch which have done well for me too. Tide is rarely a problem except down nearer the mouth where it can run very quickly in places.

Launching at the slate slip, Ballachulish
Launching at the slate slip, Ballachulish

I’ve frequently fished Leven from an inflatable and it’s a pretty good venue for this style of fishing (or for kayaking), being small, sheltered and not too deep when it comes to hauling up an anchor.

Thornies two at a time
Thornies two at a time
Thornback sitting on a SIB tube
Thornback sitting on a SIB tube

Shore access is generally good – plenty of anglers fish from the steep slate banks east and west of the hotel, into around 80-90 feet of water, but I prefer some of the less popular marks well up the loch. The north bank is easily accessible for most of its length and several spots will provide good shorefishing for rays and dogfish. It can be difficult to scramble down the steep slopes of the south bank between Ballachulish and Kinlochleven (and dangerous in places), but there is access to deepish water and some decent ray fishing. Close in can produce codling, smallish Pollack, etc.

Fish on! A thornback near Callert, Loch Leven
Fish on!
Leven attracts good numbers of shore fishermen
Leven attracts good numbers of shore fishermen
Fishing the south shore of Loch Leven
Fishing the south shore of Loch Leven

Personally I fish Leven mainly during the winter months, but that’s mainly because there is better fishing to be had elsewhere during the summer, and because I get driven beyond distraction by midges in the warmer months.

Winter shore fishing on Loch Leven
Winter shore fishing on Loch Leven
Taking a break from February fishing in a SIB
Taking a break from February fishing in a SIB

Being sheltered and 2.5 hours or so from Edinburgh it does make a fairly easy venue to visit in quieter spells of winter weather, and the scenery can be hard to beat.

Winter on Loch Leven, near the Caolasnacon Narrows
Winter on Loch Leven, near the Caolasnacon Narrows
Sunsets - another reason to fish Leven
Sunsets – another reason to fish Leven

For shore fishing I usually use a pulley rig with a 3/0 or 4/0 baited with mackerel and attached to a 6oz grip. Most of the loch is fairly snag free, although you regularly get snarled up in the thick seaweed around the margins. Boat fishing is usually a running ledger with a 6 or 8oz lead, although you can easily use a spinning rod in many places.

For the most part Leven is shallower than Etive, and you usually end up in 70-100 feet, although there are some deeper parts.

You can see my posts relating to Loch Leven here

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3 thoughts on “Fishing Loch Leven”

  1. hi im staying in Ballaculish new years week and will have sea tackle with me , any tips what to do and where would be great
    thanks colin

  2. Hi Colin,
    Leven can fish pretty well for thornbacks and doggies at that time of year, plus whiting, codling, etc. I even had a mackerel last year from the shore near the fish farm opposite Ballachulish. Three areas to think about would be the slate heaps around the Isles of Glencoe Hotel, casting towards the islands just offshore; the area just to the west of the fishfarm opposite Ballachulish; or several spots well up the loch on the north side between the small cemetery near the holiday chalets at Callert and the Narrows near Kinlochleven. All get you into 80-100 feet of water with a modest cast, and I normally just use a mackerel strip with a 6oz grip. Be very careful on the rocks in the last two areas – they are extremely slippery when wet.

  3. i started fishing loch leven waaay back in 1970 with a bit of stick , 12′ long ,a 12 ‘ length of line , two “penny” hooks from Barr Stores , now the Quarriers Kitchen , and some sheep’s wool taken from the fence in the Crochan . the idea was you whipped the wool onto the hook rather like mackerel feathers , attached the line to the pole ,then just like a fly cast you tied your hooks ,the set up was called a darrow . various colours could be made by dyeing the wool , onion skins gave you an orangy/yellow , blaeberries gave you purple . the idea was that you and another person would row over the reefs and the pole was put vertically down in the water so the line would drag 12′ behind the boat and about 10’ down . when you got hits you reversed the hands ,up came the fish, hit off your chest ,and landed in the boat , a quick hand reversal and you were fishing again . on a decent evening you and your mate would catch six/seven dozen fish ,a mixture of “cuddys” and “lythe” and if you were lucky a couple of drams in the Ferry . it sounds a lot but by the time the catch was divided up to the family, nothing was wasted , incidently a typical mid day meal when the quarry was going was a plate of porridge and a cuddy .

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