With the days becoming longer and lighter, it’s hard to ignore the excitement of a new trout fishing season just around the corner.
To help you get your plans for 2018 off to a flying start, here’s the Fishtec pick of our top 10 UK reservoir fisheries as the new season begins, including those all-important opening dates for your diary.
So, whether you’re an expert stillwater trout hunter, or completely new to this aspect of the sport, why not try exploring somewhere different this year?
• Stocks Reservoir (Forest of Bowland, Lancashire)
Stocks sits 600 feet above sea level in the hills at the top of the Hodder Valley, so you’ll need to wrap up warm to begin your season here. But all those extra layers will be worth it – Stocks is widely regarded as ‘the best reservoir fishery in the north’. To start your season at Stocks, try imitative buzzers, or black and white, green or orange lures, fished from the bank on a slow-sinking line in the clear, slightly peaty water.
Season opens: 24 February 2018
More information: www.stocksreservoir.com/
• Rutland Water (near Oakham, Rutland)
Seeming to float above the surface of Rutland Water when levels are high in early season, Normanton Church makes one of the greatest backdrops of British stillwater fly-fishing. A session close to this iconic building should be on every angler’s early-season bucket list. Trout grow to 15lbs in Rutland’s rich waters, and the U-shaped reservoir’s sinuous points and bays will provide you with miles and miles of bank to explore. If you’re looking for a midge hatch, the shallow South Arm is reputed to be one of the best and biggest buzzer fishing spots in the country.
Season opens: 9 March 2018
More information: http://www.anglianwater.co.uk/leisure/water-parks/rutland/fishing/
• Draycote (near Rugby, Warwickshire)
Surrounded by rolling countryside, yet within easy distance of several motorways, Draycote boasts the finest buzzer fishing in the Midlands – a very good reason to mark your diary for early season. You’ll need to hire a boat to drift the hotspots over Draycote’s famous shallow island ‘shoals’, but all the natural banks offer superb fishing too, and browns and rainbows grow on to sizes of 10lbs or more.
Season opens: 2 March 2018
More information: www.flyfishdraycote.co.uk/
• Grafham Water (near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire)
With its internationally-famous stocks of overwintered brown and rainbow trout, Grafham Water is one of Britain’s premier early-season fisheries. Loch-style fishing from boats for these turbo-charged fish is always popular, but taking a roving approach on foot can also be very productive, and even better access to the banks is planned in 2018. (Don’t forget, Grafham has become a stronghold for invasive ‘killer shrimp’ in recent years, so it’s vital to take careful biosecurity precautions when you’re fishing here).
Season opens: 2 March 2018
More information: http://www.anglianwater.co.uk/leisure/water-parks/grafham/fishing/
• Llyn Brenig (Denbigh Moors, north Wales)
If you’re craving top-of-the-water sport at the end of a long winter, the fourth largest lake in Wales may be your chance to catch a buzzer hatch. At a height of 1,200 feet in the Welsh mountains, booking a boat is often the best option to help you cover the water and take advantage of the prevailing wind. Llyn Brenig rainbows are famous for their fierce fighting qualities, and good early season flies include buzzers, cats’ whiskers, cormorants, blobs and boobies.
Season opens: 10 March 2018
More information: www.llyn-brenig.co.uk/fishing
• Llyn Clywedog (near Llanidloes, mid Wales)
Many reservoir fisheries are operated by water companies, so it’s refreshing to find one that’s run by a local fishing club for members and visitors. Llanidloes and District AA puts all its proceeds straight back into the fishery: the club stocks around 35,000 rainbow trout each season, and provides 29 boats including a wheelie boat. For 2018, they’ve also added 4hp petrol motors to all the boats. Local anglers put most of their faith in black buzzers, up to a size 12, for the months of March to May.
Season opens: 8 March 2018
More information: www.clywedogtroutfishing.co.uk
• Llandegfedd (near Pontypool, south Wales)
Easily accessible from Newport, Cwmbran and Pontypool, this is a Welsh fishery that’s run by Welsh Water. Llandegfedd is generously stocked with rainbow trout, but it also holds browns, as well as perch, roach-bream hybrids and big pike. Early season tactics are split between traditional floating lines and weighted nymphs, or fast sinkers with short lures or boobies. On their day, both can catch just as many fish! Llandegfedd has recently been threatened with closure, so please show your support for the fishery in 2018.
Season opens: 1 March (rainbow trout), 20 March (brown trout)
More information: www.llandegfedd.co.uk/fishing-llandegfedd
• Chew Valley Lake (Mendip Hills, near Bristol)
After hitting the headlines last year (when Bristol Water threatened to wind it down as a fishery) it’s testament to Chew Valley’s popularity that anglers’ protests persuaded them to rethink. The fishery has now won a reprieve, but it’s in all our interests to continue fishing it enthusiastically for grown-on browns up to 22lbs and rainbows up to 14lbs. Early season can produce epic midge hatches from the lake’s shallow waters, and a stealthy approach with imitative nymphs, emergers and dry flies on floating lines comes recommended by regular bank and boat fishermen alike.
Season opens: 6 March (season tickets), 8 March (non-season tickets)
More information: www.bristolwaterfisheries.co.uk/lakes/chew-valley-lake/
• Blagdon Lake (Mendip Hills, near Bristol)
Nestling at the foot of the scenic Mendip Hills, Blagdon has a legendary reputation for the varied sport it provides with its deep basins, shallow bays, and long narrow shape that makes it ideal for both bank and boat fishing. Five rowing boats and 15 petrol-driven boats (with low power output to reduce disturbance and wash) are available to book. Very much like nearby Chew, imitative tactics with small flies, especially black buzzers, are popular from the start of the season.
Season opens: 13 March (season tickets), 15 March (non-season tickets)
More information: www.bristolwaterfisheries.co.uk/lakes/blagdon-lake/
• Hawkridge (near Bridgewater, Somerset)
Wessex Water also runs other fly fisheries at Clatworthy and Sutton Bingham, but sharp-eyed social media buffs may already have noticed something new at Hawkridge in addition to the usual rainbows, browns, char, tiger, golden and blue trout this season: ‘sparctic’ trout, a cross between brook trout and Arctic char. Stocked at up to about 5lbs, with full fins and large pale spots on silver-grey sides, they’re stunningly beautiful fish. We can’t think of a better way to spice up your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed this spring!
Season opens: 28 February 2018
More information: www.wessexwater.co.uk/fishing/
Countdown to open season: at a glance
(Forest of Bowland, Lancs)
|24 February 2018||www.stocksreservoir.com/|
|9 March 2018||http://www.anglianwater.co.uk/leisure/water-parks/rutland/fishing/|
|2 March 2018||www.flyfishdraycote.co.uk/|
|2 March 2018||http://www.anglianwater.co.uk/leisure/water-parks/grafham/fishing/|
(Denbigh Moors, north Wales)
|10 March 2018||www.llyn-brenig.co.uk/fishing|
(Llanidloes, mid Wales)
|8 March 2018||www.clywedogtroutfishing.co.uk|
(Pontypool, south Wales)
|1 March (rainbow trout),
20 March (brown trout)
|Chew Valley Lake
(Mendip Hills, near Bristol)
|6 March (season tickets),
8 March (non-season tickets)
(Mendip Hills, near Bristol)
|13 March (season tickets),
15 March (non-season tickets)
|28 February 2018||www.wessexwater.co.uk/fishing/|
More about the author…
Theo Pike is a freelance environmental, fishing and marketing writer. He’s also Chair of Trustees of the South East Rivers Trust, and founding editor of urbantrout.net, a website and eco-brand dedicated to the urban fly fishing and river restoration movements. His first book, Trout in Dirty Places, was published by Merlin Unwin Books in 2012, and his manual on controlling invasive non-native species, The Pocket Guide to Balsam Bashing appeared in 2014.