It's a difficult task to try and pick five top waters in the UK from the
hundreds available, but I will do my best; so here goes:
For me, I feel the best wild brown trout fishing is available in the Durness Lochs of Cape Wrath, which also has an excellent hotel. It's certainly one of my favourite places for wild brown trout, despite the long drive, a journey that takes you through some magnificent countryside. Many times in the past, especially during April, I have fished for the char and trout from breakfast through to tea, with a short break for lunch of home-made soup and bread. When trying for the char early in the season you need to get your nymphs down a few feet, though it's not unheard of to take char off the top at this time of the year, and you will definitely need some warm clothing. In my book, these are the finest still waters I have had the privilege to fish in the British Isles for wild brown trout.
These are not easy waters to fish; in fact, they can often be very difficult, but the rewards can be great. It's possible to take a brace of brown trout weighing four pounds apiece fishing dry flies during the late summer evenings. The Cape Wrath hotel caters for anglers and serves excellent food and drink with good accommodation. Why not give it a try?
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When it comes to seeking the hard-fighting barbel there are many venues countrywide. Though I live very close to the river Ribble, my first choice barbel water has to be the river Teme in Worcestershire. It's a delightful river of otters, water voles, kingfishers and many other bird species. Green woodpeckers are around in profusion. Much of the bank side is overgrown with willows, alders, oaks and hawthorns.
There are many types of wildflowers from bluebells, primroses, marsh marigolds, foxgloves, cow parsley, purple loosestrife, red campion and Himalayan balsam; in fact, the list is endless.
The river twists and turns through delightful countryside, with shallows, gravel runs and deep pools so much beloved of the barbel. I feel the Teme barbel are the toughest fighting fish around.
The river certainly has a big head of medium size fish, 4lbs to 7lbs, with a good chance of a double-figure fish. In fact, it would not surprise me to see the river throw up a big barbel of record proportions. You will certainly need some strong tackle: 12lb line and a rod with a pound and a half test curve. I use a centre pin reel which is perfect for this small river, which is a tributary of the river Severn. Much of the Teme can be fished for the price of a day ticket.
The (Link to:)Barbel Society have a stretch of the river which is controlled by a syndicate at Bransford. If you're interested in catching barbel, I would suggest you join the Barbel Society. Another club with some good water on the Teme is the Prince Albert AS which is an excellent value for money club who have several stretches of water on the Teme.
The Teme is also an excellent chub and pike river. In the upper reaches you can enjoy some excellent grayling and trout fishing. Salmon also run the river. I have seen fish to 10lbs in the lower reaches of the river.
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The beauty of this river is its big brown trout, chub and pike. It does occasionally throw up a 2lb roach, though these days this species is quite rare. Back in the 1950's, 60's and 70's, many good catches of roach were taken with two-pounders being quite common. The late T.K. Wilson of Skipton caught many big roach. He was also a great brown trout angler. having two books his credit. His book 'Trout By All Means', first published in 1966, is an excellent read. In the upper reaches of the river Bowland Game Anglers control some excellent fishing, where you have the chance of a three-pound trout taking your fly, but they don't come easy. Two anglers who have been successful are Alan Roe of Blackpool and Alan Biffel of Oldham.
(Link to:)Bradford City AA control several miles of the river with a delightful two-mile stretch of double-bank fishing upstream of the railway bridge at Skipton through to Gargrave. This association must be applauded on the habitat work undertaken by its fly fishing section under the leadership of fly fishing section secretary Arthur Padgett and his fellow fly fishers. They certainly set an example for others to follow. This stretch of river has brown trout and grayling. You have the chance of catching grayling and brown trout that might weigh 3lbs.
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If you want to catch a big chub the fishing controlled by Bradford City AA, Bradford No 1 AA, and Keightley AC, from Carlton downstream is the stretch of river to fish. There is good fishing on the Bradford City AA downstream of Carlton for chub and pike fishing; in fact, a few years ago a young lady angler caught a 30lb plus pike. Downstream from Kildwick to Keightley we come to some of the best chub fishing in the north of England, with many 5lb plus fish being caught and without doubt the top bait is
bread, crust or flake. A couple of lobworms on a size 4 hook will also be a good choice. All three angling clubs control the fishing. Day tickets for the Keightley AA can be purchased from KL Tackle in Keightley costing just 2 pounds sterling.
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The Dorset Stour is another of my favourite waters. In the 1950's, 60's and early 1970's, the river in the Wimborn area was excellent for its quality dace and roach fishing. Wimborn was the home town of Owen Wentworth, the angling postman. Owen caught a tremendous quantity of big roach from the river. It's many years since I fished the Stour at Wimborn, when I would take a boat out on the river. These could be hired for a day from Newman's boatyard. All my fishing in those days took place from late autumn through winter for the big roach. Bait was always bread, crust or flake. I used an 11-foot Avon style rod matched with a centre pin reel, 6lb line and a size 8 hook tied to a 4lb hook link. As always my first choice float was a big swan quill float taking three or four swan shot. I would have two, sometimes three buckets of mashed bread to keep the fish in the swim during a days fishing. Hook bait was nothing more than two loaves of bread. There were days when we never caught a roach under the pound mark. Wimborn was also a good area for quality pike. I did, over those roach fishing years, take several big pike to 23lbs.
Today the better fishing is upstream of Wimborn at Sturminster Marshal where Southampton Piscatorial Society and the Red Spinners both have some delightful fishing. In fact, the current record roach of 4-3-0 was caught by Mr R Clarke from this area in 1990 and was well-deserved by this great angler. There are also some good pike, chub and barbel to be caught, but they don't get caught often. If you're looking for some good fishing on this river, write to membership secretary Dave Scott, 3 The Chanty, Titchfield Common, Fareham Tel. No: 01489 576453. Throughout the Stour valley there is some excellent fishing, including big barbel, chub, pike and roach. It's a river where anglers can catch the fish of their dreams. Another great fishery is Throop which has given me many pleasant days of angling.
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Another water is the Hampshire Avon. Sadly, like many of today's rivers, not as good as they were in the old days. Probably the most famous stretch of the river is the Royalty Fishery at Christchurch.
Back in the late 1940's I always thought this stretch of river was fished by King George VI. In that delightful book 'Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing' by Bernard Venables published in 1950 Mr Crabtree and Peter would fish the Royalty for big barbel. Throughout the Avon Valley there are some very big fish to be caught from roach to salmon. Whenever I am on the banks of this river I feel I am in with a chance of a good fish. Though it doesn't happen often. Most of the top coarse fisherman over the past 70 odd years have made a pilgrimage to the river. Famous names who have walked the banks of this famous river include Richard Walker, The Warren brothers, Bernard Venables, Peter Stone, Fred J Taylor, Fred Crouch, Ken Clower, Albert Smalley and FK Wallis were all Nottingham anglers who made a pilgrimage to the river each season seeking the rivers chub and barbel.
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