The Ness system’s catchment area covers some 2000 square kilometres of land and drains East & North through the Great Glen into the sea at Inverness.
Land use within the catchment is dominated by sporting estates, rough grazing and both native and commercial forestry. The key urban areas, including the City of Inverness, are mainly distributed in coastal areas. Other smaller settlements of note include Fort Augustus, Invergarry and Drumnadrochit.
The ness system has been the subject of extensive hydroelectric schemes since the late 1800’s. Of particular importance in terms of their impacts on salmon and sea trout populations are the Glen Garry and Glen Moriston schemes. However, hydro-electric development either directly or indirectly affects a considerable proportion of the ness system.
Rainfall from the mountainous terrain runs into the many burns, lochs & rivers. Heavy rain can peat stain the tributaries but generally the lochs on the system filter out all the sediment allowing salmon fishing to be enjoyed in all but flood conditions.
The famous Loch Ness is by far the largest loch in the system. At its top end it is fed by the Tarff, Garry/Oich and Moriston systems. The Moriston is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) due to its importance for Atlantic salmon and Freshwater pearl mussels (Margaritifera margaritifera). All are significant spring/early summer salmon fisheries with water levels controlled for electricity generation.
The Rivers Coiltie and Enrick flow into Loch Ness at Urquhart Bay, Drumnadrochit. The floodplain between these two rivers supports one of only a few alluvial woodlands remaining in the UK; a habitat which is considered to be rare throughout Europe. It has been designated as a site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and an SAC. These tributaries are known to be important spawning and nursery areas for summer/autumn salmon and grilse.
The six mile long River Ness flows north from Loch Ness and Loch Dochfour into the Moray Firth. Its tree lined reaches flow through rolling Inverness-shire countryside before passing through the heart of the City of Inverness. Unlike other Scottish rivers there are no temperature barriers to slow the fish down as the water temperature in the short River Ness is kept artificially high due to the size of Loch Ness above it.