The Isle of Man’s strange lack of coarse fish is quickly forgiven by the visitor who discovers its wealth of unexploited trout waters and the ease of access to all manner of sea fishing One hundred miles of coastline binds round the temperate and mountainous Isle of Man. Along these 100 miles anglers find beach, rock and harbour fishing to equal any on mainland England: the islanders’ dependence on boats means that the offshore angler is probably better served on Man. The Gulf Stream brings shoals of every popular sea species within easy reach.
Inland, the fishing is from a dozen picturesque, clear-water trout streams which flow down from the mountains of the interior to enter the sea at easily accessible beaches. The Island is devoid of coarse fish, but one of the few all-year fishing centres in the British Isles is here.
Although you need a licence, costing £2.40 for 14 days and £6 for a season, it does entitle you to fish for salmon. A freshwater only licence costs £2 for two weeks and £5 for a season. Almost all the island’s rivers are available for fishing if you ask the landowner or farmer first.
The largest river, the Sulby, rises on Snaefell Mountain and flows east to Ramsey. Midway, in Sulby Glen, it passes through Sulby Bridge, and roving anglers who base themselves here can spend several fruitful days moving upriver or down. West of Ramsey the Sulby is joined below Glen Auldyn by a stream which takes the name of the glen, just as the River Colby takes its name from Glen Colby.
Near Quarterbridge, the rivers Dhoo and Glass join to form the Douglas. But upstream of the town, the Glass is preserved as far as the East Baldwin river junction. The Dhoo River, which passes Crosby and the Union Mills, is private for two half-mile stretches by Kirby Park and upwards from Braddan Bridge. Fishing on the Douglas is private where it runs through the Nunnery Estate.
As well as these, there are private sections on the Glass and Dhoo controlled by the Douglas and District Angling Club. Visitors to the Island are recommended to approach George Hull at the Club (1 Hillcrest Grove, Birch Hill Park, Onchan) for details of visitor’s membership available and for tips on the locality. Much of the tourist accommodation is in Douglas, however, and it stands to reason that the farther afield you can venture, the more chance there is of finding a stretch to yourself.
If you’re based in Castletown, you will find the Silverburn near to hand and can fish it up or down. Other stretches can be reached by taking a bus to Malew or Ballasalla.
The train service to Groudle Glen will place you near the outlet of the River Groudle into the sea. You can fish from below the Glen right the way up to Whitebridge and beyond. To fish these upper stretches, a start at Whitebridge Hill.
About two miles of the River San-ton is accessible upstream of River Ballaglonney—or you can begin at Cass-ny-Hawin beach and work in-land. The Cornaa is a small river flowing through Ballaglass at Maughold and Glen Mona. It reaches the sea at Port Cornaa. A salmon and trout hatchery run by the Island’s Board of Agriculture draws its water from the Cornaa at Lhag Vollagh.
The beautiful Glen Maye stream on the Glen Rushen is handy for both Peel and Dalby. You can expect company on the prime stretch from the Waterfall Hotel down to the beach—but then you can expect plenty of fish too. At Peel, the River Neb reaches the sea after running through Little London, and it is fishable downwards from St John’s or upwards to Glen Helen. Its seamost stretches are famous for salmon and sea trout and most of the rivers have reliable runs of salmon and sea trout in September, October and November, an average fish weighing around 6lb.
All at sea
All year, Manx sea anglers take cod from boats on locally dug lugworm, herring bait or feathered lures, and coalfish, too, on lugworm, fish or spinners. The biggest prize is pro-bably a skate from these waters renowned for monster specimens. Plaice are caught all year round as well—especially from the north-westerly beaches.
From March onwards there is a good chance of gurnard. Then, as spring takes hold, mackerel shoals sweep inshore and remain until September. Their arrival is shortly followed by the tope which prey on the shoals and are taken consequently on lasks or whole mackerel. Again the north-west inshore waters and beaches show the best results until September when the tope move out to deep water.
Herring, mackerel and sandeel shoals bring pollack packs in at the south of the Island, off Douglas Head, and rock fishing off the boulderstrewn coastline nearby brings results on a variety of baits.
For the rock and pier fisherman alike there’s the prospect of big conger from summer to mid-winter, particularly if rods are pitched at night. There are piers at Port Erin, Ramsey and Douglas.
The high summer glut of wrasse (the species is present all year, in fact) coincides with the start of the mullet runs in Peel Harbour and a profusion of bass at Laxey and the more remote beaches around Point of Ayre. Peel breakwater is always crowded with every kind of tackle, for it has a reputation for catches of mackerel, skate, dogfish, pollack, flatfish, coalfish and conger.
A late summer visitor is the whiting (August to late autumn). Plentiful dogfish, monkfish and flounder completes the list, not forgetting one species for which the Island is particularly noted: the brill. This is a left-handed flatfish (the dab and flounder are right-handed) which likes sandy bottoms and which can be caught in as little as 12 or 15ft of water. Although they don’t taste quite as good as tur- bot (which they most closely resem-ble), a 10lb specimen will provide a tidy parcel of fillets for the freezer.
Sea angling festivals are held every summer at Peel, Port St Mary (boat and beach), Ramsey and the Point of Ayre. As for bait-gathering, lugworm is plentiful on the flat beaches, ragworm in the muddy ones, and sandeels can be rounded up at low tide on Laxey beach. Shore crabs breed evenly along the whole coastline. Rock fishermen should be able to find worms, crabs or limpets wherever they station their fishing.
There is one bait peculiar to the Island and well worth a try—processing waste, from the commercial handlers of escallops. Their trimmed fringes are given away free of charge at certain times of year.
If you want a trip to sea, hire boats run out of Douglas, Port Erin, Port St Mary—crossing to the Car-rick Rocks and Langress Point—Castletown and Laxey.
‘The Lakes’ and reservoirs
Ten minutes’ walk on the Patrick Road out of St John’s lie the Lake Fisheries—a scenic, three-acre, stocked lake open throughout the year. The lake is stocked regularly with trout averaging 1lb but reaching 6lb, satisfying the casual tourist with a mind to hire a rod (25p for the day) while his family picnics, or the matchman set on winning one of the weekly competitions. The fee for the day is £4 (juniors £3). For that you can catch as many trout as | you like, keep two of them, and if “jj you catch nothing they will give you s one anyway to console you. Primari-I ly a farm specializing in the sale of fish eggs, the ‘Lakes’ have the best UK record for producing disease-free eggs which they export as far afield as Russia and South America.
The Isle of Man’s reservoirs are all managed by the Isle of Man Water and Gas Authority. An adult season ticket (in addition to the rod licence of course) costs £11.75, but 45p gives access to them for the day. The West Baldwin is centrally placed and a car is useful if you’re going there. The Clypse and Kerrowdhoo Reservoirs (fly only), which lie & vm r m ti&t tff ;LE R I (T h alongside one another, are within walking distance of Onchan village. Ballure Reservoir is south of Ramsey; and Cringle Reservoir is on the southern slopes of South Bar-rule—but tickets for it have to be bought at the Ballagawne Filter Plant 2Vi miles from the water. Block Eary Reservoir is on the north slopes of Snaefell on a tributary of the River Sulby near Tholt-y-Will. It is inaccessible to cars, and tickets must be bought at the Sulby Glen Filter station beforehand.
A six-fish limit is in force on all these reservoirs, and there is an air of surgical cleanliness to their regulations which ban wading, livebaiting, worms and anything but artificial flies. No gaffs, no trailers, no hooks larger than size 6 and from January 1 1982 it is illegal to use any method of fishing on the island calculated to foul-hook fish. The Island’s rather unusual regulations do however specifically allow the use of cheese and bread.
The Board claims that the Island’s fishing is comparable to that of Ireland 30 years ago. But with more anglers visiting the Island every year its vast potential is now being developed and exploited.