Best River Fishing in the UK

Small as it might look on a globe, the UK offers a wealth of opportunity for fly anglers, says Jeffrey Prest.
See article

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.

Back to basics

If it’s the ‘spiritual home’ experience you’re after, then Hampshire’s Rivers Test and Itchen are to fly-fishing 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. Both rivers can be easily accessed from the Best Western Chilworth Manor Hotel based just four miles from Southampton but a world away from the busy, noisy world of ports. You go 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.

Pure tradition

If you want to cover all the historical bases, historically then try Derbyshire’s River Wye. Local anglers will insist that the region of Walton’s birth should be considered the cradle of fly-fishing 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. Your best base for exploring this stretch of fishing heaven is the Best Western Plus Buxton Lee Wood Hotel. Nestled in the heart of Peak District National Park, you start and end the day at one with nature and are only a short walk away from the delights of Buxton Spa itself including the famous opera house and idyllic Pavilion gardens.

Bonnie banks and brooks

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.

If you’re looking for somewhere ideal to rest your head and store your gear then the Best Western Queens Hotel in Perth  comes highly recommended. Smack bang in the middle Perth, you’re only a short journey away from both rivers and the bustling city centre if you want a break from the waders.

Welsh waters

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.

Best Western Pontypool Metro Hotel is great place to stay and handily placed for lugging your gear along to the banks of the Usk. Just on the outskirts of Pontypool, all the countryside and heritage you love about Wales is on your doorstep and, for those who enjoy eating fish as much as catching them, there are brilliant restaurants all down the coast.

Fly on the Tyne

You could 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.

Anglers should head to Hartlepool to set up base at the Best Western Grand Hotel where you can step back in time and enjoy the feel of a traditional French Chateaux building with a modern interior. It feels like a true getaway for your next weekend by the river where you can concentrate on your choice of lure without the distractions of urban living.

Jeffrey Prest is Features Editor at Trout Fisherman, and blogs at Taunted by Waters.

Share this article

Explore articles in other categories