Experience top class fishing in fantastic surroundings without the need for long-haul flight. Dom Garnett singles out five great angling destinations that are closer to home, and that have better fishing than you might think.
There is a nation with stunning waters and some of the most varied fishing anywhere in the world. We’re not talking about somewhere thousands of miles away; it’s right here at home! With top class fly, coarse and sea fishing all within less than a day’s drive, there are some amazing fishing holidays right on our doorstep.
Naturally, there are other benefits to a shorter haul fishing trip too. You won’t need to dig out the phrasebook, or risk dodgy post-Brexit currency exchange rates. Nor will you spend a fortune on flights or travel.
With the money you’ll save on plane tickets, travel insurance and the rest, there’s no need to rough it. In many cases you can stay right by the water, with plenty to keep a non-fishing family happy too. Here are five top destination tips, complete with suggestions on what to catch, where to stay and what to bring:
1 – The land of a thousand Lochs
For anyone who enjoys lofty scenery and wild fishing, the Highlands of Scotland is an epic destination. There are countless lochs to explore of all sizes – many of them offering excellent free fishing for wild trout.
The larger water bodies can be challenging, so it’s always worth tracking down a local guide. Smaller hill lochs are plentiful too though, and offer trigger-happy fishing for wild trout. Sport can be fantastic on bushy, loch-style flies, although lure fishing is also a fun way to fish.
Target species: Brown trout, sea trout, salmon
What to bring: 6 or 7 weight fly rod, plenty of loch style flies (Zulu, Kate McLaren, Black Pennell, Sedgehog). Waders can also be useful. Remember to also pack midge repellent, sensible outdoor wear, and walking boots.
Where to stay: You’re spoilt for choice, but the Ardnamurchan area of West Scotland is especially beautiful in summer, with angling for brown trout in both large and small lochs, several rivers and saltwater marks to go at (check out ardnamurchan.com for further fishing information). Kilamb Lodge is right on the banks of Loch Sunart, with spectacular views and a fantastic restaurant for lovers of seafood and single malt whiskies.
Other activities & attractions: Wildlife cruises, whisky tours, Highland walks.
2 – Coasting it in Devon
Explore beyond the bucket and spade crowds, and there are some beautifully wild coves and rocky beaches to explore in Devon. It almost seems a waste that so many holidaymakers are content with lobbing feathers out for mackerel, because there is brilliant fishing for wrasse, pollack, bass and other species.
Single out the smaller beaches, and try rocky areas and manmade structures. Light lure fishing is increasingly popular and probably the most exciting method of all, although you could also bring some bait fishing gear. Last but not least, kayak fishing in Devon is excellent, whether you bring your own kayak or simply hire from a local provider.
Target species: Wrasse, mackerel, pollack, bass
What to bring: A lure fishing outfit with a good selection of artificial baits. Plugs and small spoons for bass and mackerel. Weedless lure for wrasse and pollack. LRF tackle is also great fun for the species hunter. A kayak is optional! Bring some decent, profiled boots for rock fishing.
Where to stay: You’re spoilt for choice with campsites and accommodation, but for the ultimate beach retreat, The Cary Arms near Babbacombe offers cool, quirky sea-view lets with your own fishing spot just footsteps away, not to mention excellent local food and drink.
Other activities & attractions: Coastal walks, sea kayaking, National Marine Aquarium (Plymouth).
3 – Wild Welsh rivers
Some of the prettiest stretches of water in Britain can be found in rural Wales. Clean water and limited fishing pressure equal great sport with pristine fish, whether your idea of happiness is a feeder rod or fly tackle.
For some of the best barbel and chub fishing in the land, the River Wye is capital, with plenty of accessible day ticket water on The Wye & Usk Foundation. But perhaps the most unsung treasure of all is the grayling fishing on the River Irfon. Some huge grayling are caught every season – and summer is just the time to get a big one by fishing the dry fly. Thrilling stuff in clear water.
Target species: Grayling, barbel, chub.
What to bring: A four weight fly rod for grayling (reliable flies include the Kilnkhamer, F-Fly and Griffiths Gnat). Robust feeder tackle for the barbel. Waders are essential for fly fishing or trotting.
Where to stay: Lake Country House Hotel is perfect for the fly angler, with seven miles of pristine, lightly fished specimen grayling water on the River Irfon, as well as its own pretty trout lake for those unlucky days when the river is high.
Other activities & attractions: Country walks, riding, cycling.
4 – A cast in the Lake District
For big scenery and classic waters, it really doesn’t get much more classic than The Lake District. As for waters, you can take your pick! Grasmere is a pretty coarse fishery with some exceptional roach and perch.
The larger waters such as Windermere have some huge pike, and Esthwaite water is excellent for brown and rainbow trout. Last but by no means least, there are stacks of tarns containing wild trout and coarse fish, with some lovely free wilderness fishing for those not afraid of a walk!
Target species: Trout, roach, perch, pike.
What to bring: Bring pole, waggler or feeder tackle for some brilliant mixed fishing, or a 6/7 weight for the trout. You could also try a lure rod for the pike – but do tackle up tough, and return your catch quickly if it’s warm.
Where to stay: Sitting right by the river, Rothay Garden Hotel is within walking distance of several pretty tarns, as well as Grasmere lake, with Windermere and Esthwaite both just to the south. An excellent spa and restaurant should keep the other half happy, while you plot some fishing!
Other activities & attractions: Arts, crafts and a huge range of adventure pursuits and watersports, not to mention some fantastic English heritage sites such as the William Wordsworth’s former home, Dove Cottage.
5. Broadside fishing breaks in Norfolk
Norfolk’s wetlands are ideal for life in the slow lane. There’s some of the best coarse fishing in England for all kinds of species, and more waterways than you could explore in a whole summer (norfolkbroads.com has a good overview of fish and venues).
For the adventurous, bringing your own boat or hiring a vessel is a great way to stay mobile. For a supremely laid back holiday or family trip though, little beats a cottage or campsite right by the water, with excellent pleasure fishing for species such as roach, bream and tench.
Target species: Roach, perch, bream, tench pike.
What to bring: Bring pole, waggler or feeder tackle and plenty of bait for some brilliant mixed fishing. You could also try a lure rod for the pike- but do tackle up tough and return your catch quickly in the summer months.
Where to stay: For a self-catering accommodation right by the waterside, try Riverside Rentals. Or for the ultimate week on the water, you could even live and fish from your own hired boat. Hoseasons is a good place to start looking for various lets.
Other activities & attractions: Kayaking, sailing, bird watching.
Keep an eye on the Fishtec Blog for news, tips and more on all manner of fishing topics, whether it’s picking the right rod or targeting a new species. Meanwhile you’ll also find a huge range of fishing equipment, including handy travel rods, in our main store.
All images ©Dominic Garnett unless otherwise stated.
For more of Dom Garnett’s blogs, books and photography, see www.dgfishing.co.uk