. Catering for both boat and bank angler, the water is one of the first in the country to open after the winter shut-down, having a prestigious official opening day each February. This is always quite a ceremony, with pipers piping and whisky flowing and famous faces popping up all over. But this particular February opening – February 19 – will certainly be rather different from all its predecessors. There are major changes in the air at the Fife fishery, which will open its doors in 2000 to a much wider section of the angling public.

During the short closed season, 20,000 tons of stone arrived to provide the construction of three causeways, two across Teal Bay and the other across Academy Bay. This will in effect provide three new angling facilities at the loch – a bank bait angling area with room for around 40 rods ; a specimen pool, where around 15 bank anglers can attempt to come to grips with some very large rainbows ; and a coarse fishing pond with perch, pike, roach, tench and carp, where a dozen or so enthusiasts can enjoy this rapidly expanding branch of the sport in Scotland. This is yet another step in the progressive thinking of the Fitty management, and the Mackenzie family, with son Gerald following in the footsteps of dad Iain, recognises that no fishery, no matter how popular, can afford to remain static but must move with the times. The loch was originally Iain’s brainchild, though he tends now to leave the running of the venue to fishery manager Gerald.

Loch Fitty is 170 acres in size, and is pretty shallow over much of its acreage. This means that trout can be located more or less anywhere over the loch, and with the wind in the right direction, a long drift right down the middle will certainly put fish in the boat. But of course, there are certainly favoured areas, and the far shore is probably the most popular with those afloat – from Cushat Wood at the west end all the way down past Hawthorn Bank. Most boat anglers tend to anchor here and fish off the weed beds. This holds good in the early months of the season, when sinking lines and lures tend to dominate ; and also as the year progresses through the summer, when floating line and dry fly will be the best bet. Another top early season mark is just off the cages, where some of the larger rainbows often hang out. Drifting along the north east shore by the red buoy can also be very worthwhile.

Fitty is surrounded by prime agricultural land, and later in the season, this is synonymous with Daddy Long Legs. Then, large numbers of the spindly insects are blown into the loch, and the north shore is the place to be. From day one, the bank anglers tend to stick to the car park shore, and this mark almost inevitably takes the award for the first shore caught fish of Opening Day. Here, the deeper water off the Lodge shelves down to a mere 2 or 3 feet towards the eastern extremity, and this whole area is full of rich feeding – damsel nymph, sedge pupae, bloodworm, daphnia, caddis, corixa and freshwater shrimp. As the water warms up, another popular bank mark , the Breakwater, comes into its own, and the angler can cast into almost 20 feet of water here and is always in with a chance of picking up one of the larger fish.

Successful fly patterns are legion, and can depend very much on conditions. However, here’s how the angling reports from February to September for 1999 broke down, with the top patterns matched with the most successful lines and the top monthly areas.

February/March saw Ace of Spades, Cat’s Whisker, Orange IPN and Fitty Black top the lures ; Black Pennell, Kate McLaren and Silver Butcher in standard wets. Medium to fast sink lines scored, and Swan Mussel Bay, Howe of Fife and Mackenzie Bay were favoured.

In April, top catches came off the cages and along Stony Bank. A medium sinking line was top line, with premier lures being Black IPN and Whisky Fly ; killing traditionals including Black Pennell, Alexandra, Kate McLaren and Kingfisher Butcher.

The intermediate line dominated May, and though Ace of Spades and Montana were quoted in the lure department, Bibio, Connemara Black and Hardy’s Gold Butcher took fish along the north shore and off the Bank o’ Reeds.

June saw the East Deeps producing decent baskets, with Mackenzie Bay and the Bank o’ Reeds also doing well. Floaters at night and intermediates during the day were the norm, and doing well were Black Shipman’s Buzzer, Soldier Palmer, Invicta and Connemara Black.

July lines were similar to those of June, though the West Deeps and Cushat Wood were highlighted. The Invicta, Wickham’s, Grenadier and Morning Glory were mentioned in dispatches.

Some bright days in August required fast sink lines, though the intermediate and floater were fine in more ideal conditions. The Macdonald Shore was best, and top patterns included Cinnamon/Gold, Oakham Orange and Wickham’s.

In September, the cooling temperatures brought lures back into fashion, with Ace of Spades, Viva and Orange Muddler taking fish ; Grouse/Claret, Silver Butcher, Peter Ross and Hardy’s Gold Butcher being successful traditionals. Intermediate lines were still in vogue, though some of the regulars preferred sink tips.

Although Fitty has established its reputation with rainbows, other species are stocked, and the brown trout are making quite a name for themselves now. Although natural browns are resident, a head of the native trout is introduced from time to time to augment the species. Steelheads and grilse are also put into the clear waters of the Fife fishery ; a clarity partly achieved by the introduction of straw bales, which do much to remove the algae prominent at so many fisheries nowadays. The stocking policy for the year 2000 is for 40,000 trout to go in over the season ; the initial introduction being 7000, with approximately 1000 a week going in after that. Fish tend to average between 1lb 2oz and 1lb12oz, though there is a wide range of sizes. The rainbow trout record stands at 14lb 2oz, taken in 1997 by Mr Dredge of Linlithgow. Andy Robinson of Burntisland holds the brownie record at 9lb, landed in 1995. Top steelhead is a 6lb1oz fish, taken by Mr McEwan in 1999. Edinburgh man Peter Bone holds the salmon record – 13lb 2oz in 1996.

The facilities at Loch Fitty are excellent, with a very comfortable lodge which includes a very popular coffee shop and cafeteria. Here, anglers can take full advantage of a Scottish breakfast, lunches and all day hot snacks. The well stocked tackle shop would put many angling premises to shame, and apart from the sale of rods, reels, clothing and other smaller items, there is the opportunity to try out rods - not often possible at major tackle stores. Full toilet facilities are in operation ,and there is a large car park, angers’ caravan siting area and woodland sections which have been turned into countryside walks.

30 boats are for hire, and these can accommodate 3 anglers. They are all equipped with outboard motors. Some changes have been introduced for the Millennium. The new fish limit for a day session will be 8 fish per rod for a full price ticket, boat or bank. The cost of a day’s angling at all times will be £15.00 per rod with an extra £2.00 per head charged to go out in a boat. The cost of evening fishing will vary according to the hours of daylight. Handsome discounts for retired and out of work anglers still apply on certain days, and the Fitty policy of catering for juniors and OAP’s will also be to the fore. Flexibility is definitely the name of the game as far as working out fishing time is concerned. Catch and release will be allowed this season, but only under certain conditions. Once the rod limit is reached, the angler must weigh his catch at the lodge. Thereafter, catch and release will be permitted, but only with barbless hooks.

There are several ways to reach the loch, but the easiest from the Edinburgh direction is to cross the Forth Bridge, then proceed up the M90 to the turn-off for Kelty at Junction 4, and take this route. In the centre of Kelty, take the B912 on the right, heading for Kingseat. Before you come to Kingseat, you’ll see the loch and the track leading down to the water on your right.

For those looking for refreshment, and apart from the cafeteria at the loch itself, there’s a public house called the Halfway House in the village of Kingseat, and the town of Dunfermline has many eating/drinking places, including the popular Garvock House Hotel.

Contact address for bookings : Loch Fitty Trout Fishery, Kingseat, Dunfermline, Fife KY12 0SP. Telephone/fax : 01383 620666. E-mail : lochfitty@hotmail.com