The Great Ouse, its tributaries and the gigantic network of Fenland drains in its lower reaches offer some of the finest and most varied coarse fishing available in England .
The River Great Ouse which discharges into the Wash at King’s Lynn, 160 miles from its source near Brackley in Northamptonshire, is one of England’s major rivers. It has many tributaries and runs through a massive network of Fenland drains in its lower reaches, the catchment area containing over 1,000 miles of superb fishing. It is essentially a coarse fishing river system, although some tributaries rising in the chalk of Cambridgeshire and Norfolk support trout. Two man-made lakes in the area are particularly good for brown and rainbow trout: Rutland Water, and Grafham Water, near Huntingdon. The high quality of the fishing is reflected in the British Record (rod-caught) Fish list, where six of the eligible freshwater species were caught within the Great Ouse area.
The headwaters of the Great Ouse are narrow and fast, but below Buckingham the river widens and takes on more character. It provides good chub, dace, perch, and occasionally barbel as it winds down to Bedford taking in the rivers Tove and Ousel. Below Bedford it becomes navigable, widening and deepening as it is joined by the rivers Ivel and Kym. Bream and roach dominate this stretch which also offers fine chub. Big barbel are sometimes caught from the weir pools, and recently there has been a spate of large carp between Eaton Socon and Of ford as the river curves gently down to St Ives. Here it becomes a fen river and is open to the tide below Brownshill Staunch, most of its flow being diverted down the Hundred Foot Drain, through the fens to the sea. The river proper follows its old pre-drainage course, known as The Old West River, takes in the rivers Cam, Granta, and Rhee, and becomes the Great Ouse again at Stretham. It is not tidal here and runs straight, wide and deep, through Ely until its rejoins its brother The Hundred Foot at Denver, taking in the rivers Lark, Little Ouse, and Wissey. Here it is joined by many famous fen drains: the Relief Channel, Cut-Off-Channel, Middle Level, Sixteen Foot, Forty Foot, Pophams Eau, and many others. In all, over 12,000 match pegs are available.
Fishing the Great Ouse
Anglers fishing the Great Ouse will require either a Great Ouse River Division or an Anglian Water Authority Regional licence, and the appropriate season or day tickets. At Newport Pagnell, the Newport Pagnell Fishing Association has both banks above the town upstream to Kickles top meadow. Access to the right banks is from a car park at Kickles Farm, reached by Lakes Lane off the A422, and to the left bank from a car park at Quarry Hall Farm off the B526. Below the town, the Newport Pagnell FA has the left bank to Gayhurst, and the right bank from Sherington Bridge to Filgrave, and access to both is from a car park at Park Farm reached by taking the 355
Filgrave road off the B526. Day tickets are not issued but season tickets and a detailed map of these waters are available from the secretary. Downstream, the Leighton Buzzard Angling Club has the left bank from Gay hurst Spinney to Stoke Goldington Brook, the -right bank from the Tyringham § Estate boundary board to the j Emberton Park boundary, and a stretch from the downstream park -’j boundary to Olney Bridge. Below 1 Olney they have Faireys Meadow and the adjoining Osier Cobs as far as the fence, and the remaining osier beds then form a bird sanctuary where there is no fishing. They also have three-quarters of a mile of the right bank at Manor Farm, Clifton Reynes, and access is from Midland Road, Olney or from the old railway track from Clifton Reynes. Other stretches are available at Sharn-brook and Renhold, and although no day tickets are issued, season tickets and further details can be obtained from the secretary.
Farther downstream Bedford Angling Club have both banks from Oakley Bridge to Oakley Viaduct, < and the left bank as far upstream as the spinney. In Bedford they have the right bank from the railway bridge near the boating lake to a point opposite Fenlake Anchor, and access is by the railway bridge or from the A603 by Fenlake Anchor. Day tickets are available as are season tickets for other waters at Bromham, Wellington, and Bid-denham. The stretch of river through the town from Queens Park to the railway bridge is free fishing.
The London Anglers’ Association issues day tickets (weekdays only) and season tickets for both banks downstream of Great Barford north of Bedford on the A428, and for the left bank below Roxton to Temps-ford Bridge, except for half a mile owned by the Anchor Hotel. The hotel, situated right next to the Al, has a mile on the right bank, and issues day tickets. Below Little Barford Power Station, St Neots Angling Society has both banks, and above St Neots Paper Mill they have long stretches of both banks as well as substantial lengths below the mill, including the island. The club will issue day tickets on application to their secretary.
Below Offord Cluny, the Of ford and Buckden Angling Society issues day tickets for both banks, for the right bank above and below the lock, 357 | and for a three mile left-bank stretch. Between Brampton and Huntingdon the London AA has Portholme meadow – the largest in England – on the left bank, and the West meadow downstream of the railway bridge on the right bank. Godmanchester Angling Society issues day tickets for the right bank opposite Brampton, the Godman-chester recreation ground, the right bank for one mile below Huntingdon Bridge, and some superb backwaters. At this point the B1043 road skirts the river between St Neots and Godmanchester. Below Huntingdon Bridge, Huntingdon Angling Society has the left bank from the boathouse to Hartford Church, and two miles of the right bank opposite the church.
Farther downstream day tickets are issued by St Ives Angling Society for the right bank above the town, the big meadow below the town on the left bank, and for a stretch below the lock on the right bank. At Holywell, well-known Fen-man Tom Metcalfe-Arnold issues day tickets for stretches on both banks, and hires out angling punts 358 as well. To reach Holywell, turn off the A1123 at Needingworth. At Brownshill Staunch the Over and Swavesy and District Angling Society has water on both banks above and below the Staunch. Over village is just off the B1050, and anglers should call at the Post Office for information and season tickets.
Most popular stretch
Downstream above Ely there is a large meadow on the right bank which is excellent free fishing, and below the town the British Sugar Corporation issues day tickets for a 4 1/2-mile stretch that provides good winter roach fishing. The LAA then has a season ticket length, followed by the King’s Lynn Angling Association which has the last few miles of the non-tidal Great Ouse. This is probably the very best fishing on the whole river and day tickets are available from the secretary, or from bailiffs. Access to all these fisheries is easy; a minor road hugs the right bank between Ely and Littleport and another road follows the left bank to Denver.
Mentioning briefly some of the major clubs which issue day tickets and accept club match bookings for the fenland drain network: the Anglian Water Authority has the Relief and Cut-Off Channels; Shef-field and District Angling Association has the Middle Level, Pophams Eau, Sixteen Foot, and Old Bedford River; The Chatteris Working Men’s Angling Club and the Ramsey Angling Society share the Forty Foot; and the March Working Men’s Angling Club shares the Twenty Foot together with Whittlesey Angling Association.