Fishing on the Solway Firth

A dozen salmon and sea-trout rivers empty themselves into that scenic gulf dividing the best of Scottish from the best of English touring country abounding in freshwater lakes and lochs.

Over 2,000ft high up on the broad shoulders of Mallerstang Common, two rivers rise and flow east-wards—the beginning of the famous Yorkshire Swale, and the River Ure. A third river, rising nearby, might well have become a Yorkshire river but instead runs south-west before traversing Cumbria to empty into the Solway Firth. This is the aptly named River Eden. ‘

River Eden

The Eden is a famous trout water, but has an excellent run of sea trout. Smaller herling and salmon run the river up as far as Kirkby Stephen, below Ask Fell, and later in the season sometimes run a little farther. It is also a noted river for grayling, and in its lower reaches has a vast coarse fish population with quality chub and roach, and dace to a pound in weight.

Running out of the soaring Fell country of Cumbria the Eden cuts through high buffs, with clear water breaking over a shingly bed. It is little more than a beck in its early journey, but is continually charged by lesser streams splashing in from the Pennine wilderness on the oneside and high lake country on the other. Beyond Kirkby Stephen it changes to an easy, wide river which is fishable throughout its length.

Traditionally, Eden sea trout anglers use fairly large pattern flies based on the big moths that flutter down from the banks at twilight. They are heavy flies with fat bodies often of chenille with a white tag added. In July and August they are deadly when used on a long line, often in tandem, across the tails of pools frequented by the fish.

Early in the season it is stonefly time. These emerge in the shallows from the larval stage and are found in three forms; the great stonefly, yellow sally, and later a more restricted crop of the willow fly.

Wet fly is used more than dry, often upstream on a short line, but usually across and down on a long line. Eden trout are not big by Test standards—on average three to the pound—but the river can yield larger ones. The delicate and difficult art of upstream worming is also worth employing.

For salmon, the best time is probably from January until March, as the lighter spring run continues Fishers Club control water at Wetheral together with Great Corby, and some permits and further information are available from P Garnett, 2 Hallcroft Drive, Addingham, Ilkley, West Yorkshire.

At Armathwaite, the Dukes Head and Edendale Hotels have waters available for residents, and also issue a few day tickets to visitors. Tickets can also be obtained from E Eckroyd, Low House, Armathwaite, or from the Red Lion Hotel, Tel 92204.

The Bracken Bank Hotel at Lazonby controls about 3Vfc miles of the Eden which regularly yield good sea trout and salmon. At Kirkos-wald the Featherstone Arms Hotel has about two miles of bank and issues some day tickets. Downstream at Great Salkeld there is a fair amount of permit fishing available with Great Salkeld Parish Council issuing a number for a short stretch in the village, and day tickets are also available from the Highland Drove Hotel or from Major W Gubbins, Eden Lacy, Great Salkeld.

From then until May. Very few private owners issue permits for salmon or sea trout, but coarse and brown trout fishing is available along much of the bank for three months from mid-October.

Carlisle Angling Association controls about seven miles of the Eden, and a considerable length of the nearby River Caldew. Permits are available from E Cave, 9 Brunton Crescent, Carlisle, or from Holme-gate Farm, Holmegate, Carlisle. Groundbaiting is not allowed during the salmon season.

Penrith waters

Penrith Angling Association has water at Penrith with day tickets obtainable from the secretary. They also have day-ticket waters at Culgaith, Temple Sowerby, and along a number of major Eden tributaries like the Eamont, Lowther and Petterill. On the River Petterill the Crown and Mitre Inn has about three miles of fishing available for its guests.

The Yorkshire Federation of Fishing Clubs controls waters at Langwathby, Culgaith and Temple Sowerby where the Kings Arms Hotel has a l’a-mile stretch for residents. In Appleby, Appleby Angling Association controls excellent water—about seven miles upstream and roughly the same downstream. Permits are obtained from E Thomas, Manchester House, Warcop, Appleby. There is some free fishing in Appleby for overnight visitors and the Tufton Arms Hotel issues some day tickets for guests for about 10 miles of bank. It is all very good wet fly water.

A mile or so from the mouth of the Eden, the border Esk flows into the Solway Firth, and a few miles along the north coast the Annan enters. The Water of Fleet enters along Wigtown Bay, the Cree enters at Newton Stewart, and the Water of Luce lends its name to a famous bay which has fabulous shore fishing.

Many stretches of the lower Esk yield very good dace, chub and grayling, but its fame rests primarily on a large annual run of sea trout. For water at Langholm, Canonbie and Longtown, permits are issued by the Esk and Liddle Fishing Association. For the Longtown area, permits and information can be obtained from the Netherby Estate office in Longtown, or from Major T Westoll, Ginger Bank, Longtown and from A Tuddenham, 21 Netherby St, Longtown.

The Annan chub

The River Annan is well known for the former British record chub of 10lb-plus taken some years ago, and holds hosts of quality chub. Available coarse fishing is limited, however. The Red House Hotel in Wamphray issues permits, and in the Lockerbie area local tackle dealers will supply information. Per mit waters are at Copewood Farm; at Hallheaths Estate where tickets are available from the lodge, and at Shillahill Bridge where the water is controlled by the local Royal Four Towns Commission.

Nearby, there is excellent bream fishing on Castle Loch and Lochmaben, with catches to 80lb not infrequent. Worm is a favourite bait.

For sea trout, trout and salmon fishing, there are many first-rate permit waters along the Annan with Sunday fishing allowed. Fishing styles are similar to those on the Eden and Esk.

Noted waters near Annan are along the Newbie Estate and at Newbie Mill, while at Ecclefechan the Applegirth Water and the Kin-nell Water near Lockerbie are also good. Day tickets are obtained at Clockhouse Cottage, Mill House Bridge, Lockerbie, or from the Castle Milk Estate Office, Lockerbie, which also issues tickets for the Royal Four Towns water at Shillahill. For a four-mile stretch at Beattock, contact the Upper Annan-dale Angling Association.

The River Fleet trout fishing permits are obtainable from the Murray Arms Hotel, Gatehouse of Fleet, while permit fishing is also possible along the River Luce and on many locks and reservoirs in the Galloway | and Dumfries area. Sunday fishing 1 is allowed on Dalbeatty Reservoir I and more good Stillwater trout fishing is offered at Loch Dee, Auchen Loch near Beattock, for which permits are issued at Auchen Castle Hotel, and on Black Loch near Newton Stewart. The New Galloway Angling Association issues permits for Clatteringshaws Reservoir and Stroan Loch, and the whole area is dotted with lakes with fishing available on most.

Firth Firsts

The Solway Firth has a vast seafishing potential only now beginning to be realized. The Mull of Galloway has produced two shore-caught record fish—a 19lb thorn-back ray and a 15’2lb bull huss, while just across the Mull in Loch Ryan a superb shore-caught tope of 54Vfelb was beached. The area is ripe for development, and increasingly charter boats are becoming available at places like Port William.

A hotspot for tope with fish near the 50lb mark, the Solway Firth has potential for lunker halibut and skate. Lure and pirk fishing have also tempted many big cod. The south coast off the Isle of Man, and the coast slightly north of the Mull are the most productive areas.

The Firth’s boat marks Good boat marks along the north Solway Firth are the Mull of Galloway coast, a stretch along the 10 fathom line off Port William to Drummore, Wigtown Bay, Little Ross and Abbey head.

Along the south shore, Silloth is a good starting point for Catherinehole Scar, the Middle Bank and the Blackshaw Bank. Cod are usually thought of as a winter species but in these little-fished waters they can be caught through most of the year by shore anglers. Conger are also worth fishing for and during October there is a good inshore migration of pollack.

Anglers are only just realizing that the Mull and the Cumberland coast are particularly good for bass. Whitehaven is good for shoal fish, and larger specimens are taken from shore marks in Luce Bay—renowned for its miles of sandy beaches and white breaker lines.

If you are interested in plaice, try spinning in the quieter ‘up-Firth’ estuaries. For haddock, a single-hook flowing trace has proved successful with many anglers.

The area described remains mainly unfished although most species can be found. Coalfish and pollack are plentiful and the porbeagle shark is a possible target. Record proportion ballan wrasse are taken off the many rocky outcrops of the Mull of Galloway from Laggantalluch Head to Terallt, and off Whitehorn from the Point of Lag to Palmallet Point.