Small as it might look look on a globe, the UK offers a wealth of opportunity for fly anglers, says Jeffrey Prest
Across the land, you will find rivers famed for their history, scenery or the challenge they pose. All of those mentioned here can give you a day to remember but be warned, some of them must be handled carefully once your waders go on.
If it’s the ‘spiritual home’ experience you’re after, then Hampshire’s Rivers Test and Itchen are to flyfishing what Lord’s is to cricket. Izaak Walton spent his latter years there and dry fly and nymph fishing came to prominence on those chalk streams.
You fish here not for the fish of lifetime but for a quintessentially English experience, amid idyllic rural surroundings and manicured banks.Fishing methods are regulated and day tickets often expensive but not always prohibitively so.
If you want to cover all the bases, historically, then try Derbyshire’s River Wye, too, for local anglers will insist that the region of Walton’s birth should be considered the cradle of flyfishing and it has its own rich angling tradition.
Set at the southern tip of the Pennines, this 15-mile river offers two personalities, in the limestone gorges of its upper stretches and the gentler meadows further downstream. Alkaline and rich in fly life, its brown trout share the water with a rare example of wild UK rainbows.
No bucket list can be complete without a visit to Scotland, of course, where the Rivers Dee and Tay give salmon anglers two hugely different river systems to enjoy at either end of the season; the Dee in spring and the Tay in spring or autumn.
Reckoned by some to be the country’s clearest and most scenic salmon river, the Dee is intimate compared to the more expansive Tay, which is the UK’s most consistent producer of fish in the 30lb class. Take care, however, its speed, depth and wooded banks can make for testing fishing.
In west Wales, another pair of contrasting rivers can be found, this time for the nocturnal angler seeking sea trout.
The Teifi is a classic of what American’ fishers call ‘freestone’ rivers, with a stiff flow and small pools producing a consistent number of fish to between four and six pounds.
Half an hour away, the River Towy chugs more gently to the sea and if not as challenging as the Teifi it is peerless for big fish, throwing up a 22-pounder in 2008.
If you prefer daytime fishing, Wales’ River Usk is regarded as one of Britain’s best rivers for wild brown trout but it calls for careful navigation of deep holes, slippery rocks and tricky currents.
You could, there again, choose to do something unthinkable 30 years ago and fish some of Britain’s former industrial rivers, once choked by pollution.
The rejuvenated Tyne, for example, is now regarded as England’s premier salmon river and the North Tyne offers varied water, from fast rocky pots (wade with extreme caution) to deep, slow sections. The River Tees also boasts grayling and brown trout aplenty, along with the occasional salmon but the wading can be difficult.