Spinning rods

The range of rods which fall within the one category begins with the small, handy wand used by a roving fisherman on tiny streams to weapons capable of landing a salmon.

Spinning rods may usually be classified by the weights they can cast and the line strengths the rod can handle, their basic function being to cast a lure and to control a hooked fish.

As a general rule, the lighter the lure or spinner to be cast, the lighter and shorter the rod. In general also, the lighter the lure, the finer will be the line used with it. This is because the heavier and thicker the line the more weight is required in the lure to overcome the drag of the line, which is to be avoided especially when long casts are needed.

Most rods designed for use with the lighter spinning lure (up to Vfeoz) are 6-8ft long and are teamed with fixed-spool reels and relatively light lines of 4-8lb b.s. Rods for the heavier lures are more often 8-10 1/2 it long and may be used with fixed-spool or multiplier reels loaded with lines up to 20lb b.s. These heavier spinning rods are very often used with two hands when casting and so have naturally been referred to as double-handed.

In addition to the standard patterns of spinning rods, there is a special type which originated in the US and is known as a ‘baitcasting’ rod. This rod, designed to be used in conjunction with a multiplier, features a pistol-grip, cranked han- dle to allow the fisherman to cast and control the reel using one hand. It is made with a one-piece top 5-6ft long, and the reel is mounted on top of the rod. This arrangement enables accurate casting but has the disadvantage that long-distance casts are not possible.

Baitcasting rods

These outfits are used extensively in America for freshwater black bass fishing, but are not popular in Britain as they are best used with plug baits which, by contrast with spinners, spoons, Devon minnows and similar lures, have not yet gained wide acceptance here. Baitcasting rods also require a fairly heavy plug or lure to cast well and it is still more usual in Britain to use longer rods in this situation.

For light spinning for trout, sea trout, perch and pike, a rod of 7-8ft long, capable of casting up to ½ oz, makes a good all-round tool when coupled with a small-to-medium fixed-spool reel carrying line of 4-8lb b.s. Depending on the type of fishing. This pattern of rod is usually made of hollow glassfibre, with cheaper rods in solid glass.

A cork handle about 18in long, fitted with a screw winch-fitting to hold the reel securely is the basis of all spinning rods. The size of rod rings should be graduated to aid casting by ensuring smooth line flow from the spool.

A rod suitable for heavier types of lures in the 1/2 -Ioz range should be 8 1/2 -9ft long. The handle should be about 24in long, with a screw winch-fitting about 14in from the bottom of the handle when used with a fixed-spool reel, and 2-3in higher with a multiplier. This substitution of lines of 9-15lb b.s. Makes the outfit suitable for the heavier types of freshwater spinning—salmon and pike—and for lighter saltwater spin-ning for bass, pollack, mackerel and other species.

Heavy-duty spinning rods

The heaviest patterns of rod are re-quired for spinning with deadbaits for salmon and large pike in very un- favourable water conditions. The deadbaits can weigh up to 4oz, and lines up to 20lb b.s. Are needed.

A rod capable of handling heavy lures and leads should be 912-10ft long and fairly strong, with a test curve of 112-214lb. This type of rod is very often used with a multiplier, for heavy spinning. The handles are usually 24-28in long.

Greenheart rods

The design of spinning rods has altered considerably over the past 50 years. The original rods were heavy and long, and made for salmon spinning. They were usually of greenheart (a special type of hardwood), or built cane. The centrepin reel used with these rods required them to be slow in action to assist the revolving drum to accelerate evenly and allow line to flow off without j amming.

With the introduction of the fixed-spool reel, rod action could be improved. They could be faster in action, as well as lighter. The fixed-spool reel could casts lighter baits and, because the spool of the reel did not revolve, the line did not jam or-overrun, making casting easier.

The multiplier became popular at about the same time, and was an improvement over the centrepin so far as casting was concerned. However, it is only in the last 10 years or so that the multiplier’s braking systems for casting have been developed enough to allow rod-makers to match them with the lighter, fasteractioned rods now favoured. The latest material to be used in spinning rods is carbonfibre. These rods are expensive, but perform well.

Prices for the various types of spinning rod vary considerably, depending on the quality of the materials and workmanship. A good tubular glass rod by a reputable maker costs from £l5-£40 while imported rods may be bought for as little as £8.

For anglers who only use a spinning rod on the odd occasion each k» year, an ideal substitute is the ledger rod.

An average light ledger rod of around 8ft, coupled with a lightweight spinning reel, will prove the perfect tackle for either brook trout or perch. Bearing in mind that a light ledger rod is designed to cast weights of no more than Hoz, a line of 3-4lb should be sufficient to han-dle the majority of fish.

As for lures, old favourites like a small Devon minnow, a fly spoon or a Mepps take some beating. The recent breed of heavy ledger and swimfeeder rods can also substitute for a custom-built spinning rod.

Spinners weighing from Vfeoz right w up to 2-3oz can be cast enormous distances in lakes or reservoirs in pursuit of pike. Heavy spinning reels or even multipliers have to be loaded with line of at least 8lb in order to take the initial casting shock. Besides, a modern swimfeeder rod can be a beefy tool and strong line is required to avoid ‘crack off on the strike.

Spinning with a correctly balanced outfit is a marvelous way of combining fishing and rambling. Great distances can be covered during the course of a day. This need for mobili-ty gave rise to the light, balanced, wand-like spinning rod of today. From greenheart to carbonfibre: you won’t catch any more fish because of such developments, but catching them will be even more enjoyable.

Skates and rays

Skate and ray fishermen are the weightlifters of angling—no agile gymnastics for them, but a match of brute strength against dead weight. Nevertheless, it’s no less of an art for that.

Specimen sizes

A common skate of over half the current British record of 226lb 8oz should be regarded as a specimen. Specimen size for the thornback, the most important British ray, is over half the boat record of 38lb.


6 1/2 -7ft 50 lb-class (skate) 6-7ft 20 lb-class (rays)


Multiplier or centrepin


b.s. 55lb nylon plus 100lb wire (skate); 26lb nylon plus 31lb nylon trace (rays) Hooks 60-80, brazed eye (skate); 40 stainless or plated beak, or 20 reversed (rays)


Mackerel, other fish, cuttlefish strip (skate); fish strip, peeler crab, ragworm (rays)


Clement’s boom with 1 hook (skate), 1-2 hooks (rays) The life’s ambition of most anglers is to hook into an enormous fish. A skate is a fish that could fulfil that desire. It is not a fighter, but its shape and sheer weight tax even the strongest muscles. The rod-caught boat record for common skate stands at 226lb 8oz and specimens of nearly double that weight have been taken commercially.

There are three species of skate to be found around the British Isles. The commonest is, of course, the common skate (Raja bads). The white skate (Raja alba) and the longnose skate (Raja oxyrinchus) are usually caught by accident while fishing for the common. Their distribution is much more localized than the common skate’s.

The most likely areas for the rod and line angler to contact is on the Atlantic seaboard—the South and West Coast of Ireland, the Outer Hebrides, the Orkneys and the Shetlands. Every year, one or two smaller specimens are caught in the Channel, usually from the Isle of Wight westwards.


The skates are being fished into extinction because of a slow growth rate, and the Irish Federation of Sea Anglers has removed them from its specimen list to encourage anglers to put their fish back alive. For years, most of the skate caught around the Shetlands have been tagged and returned. Irish hotspots such as Ballycotton, Kinsale and Clew Bay, where, at one time, catches were almost guaranteed, | have yielded very few fish over the | last few years. However, with the 1 new, strict conservation measures recently introduced, the fish should soon become prolific again in these Irish waters.

The favourite habitat of big skate is broken ground interspersed with sandy patches and deep-water channels, particularly those with a sandy, muddy bottom. If there is a good population of lesser spotted dogfish, the chance of specimens is better.

Fishing for specimen skate—fish in excess of 100 lb—requires good tackle from reel to hook. The rod should be of the IGFA 50lb class, preferably of the type where the top joint locks into a solid screw-winch fitting on the butt section. When completely assembled, the rod should be some 6J2-7ft long.

The reel must be of top quality to withstand the lengthy playing of huge fish, for fights have been known to last an hour. The Tatler Mk IV and V, the Penn International and the Penn Senator 60 multiplier reels are reliable, but I prefer the Alvey 725 052 centrepin. This has a good clutch mechanism, is simple to use, and has a good rate of retrieve. As it is a straight drum-type reel there are no gears to let you down under pressure. I have seen the gears stripped in cheap multipliers, when the angler has tackled a big fish in deep water.

Anglers are recommended to wear full harness when using heavy multipliers for this saves bracing the back plate of the reel against the left forearm to prevent the rod twisting. When using a centrepin reel (which should be positioned under the rod) I use only a butt socket as this cuts out any possibility of twisting. The butt pad is essential, to stop the rod-butt digging into the stomach or groin. Greater leverage can then be applied to the rod.

Stretch and strength

Most skate fishing is done in water of over 15 fathoms, although in one or two exceptional places big fish have been encountered in less than five fathoms. Dacron line gives greater sensitivity when fishing deep water, but nylon monofilament line of 55lb b.s. Has an elasticity which tolerates the sudden plunges of a hooked skate. (Wire line, though sometimes used, needs only one small kink to develop an immediate weak spot.) The 6ft trace should also be of 55lb nylon, terminating in a 60-80 hook on 12in of stainless steel, nylon-covered wire of 100lb b.s. Skates’ jaws are so powerful that they will grind their way through anything other than wire.

The Mustad Seamaster range of hooks have brazed eyes which do not open up even if the pull comes on the side of the eye instead of the top. These hooks may not be needle-sharp when purchased, and so must be sharpened with a small carborundum stone, for parts of the skate’s mouth are very hard. The hook is secured to the wire with brass crimps, then to the nylon trace with a stainless steel locking attachment rather than a swivel, since a swivel can fail you.

The lead should be on a Clement’s boom, which allows the fish to move off without feeling resistance from the weight. Which size of lead to use depends on the speed of the local tide and the size of your bait. The larger the bait, the larger the lead needed to keep it on the bottom-where skate expect to find food.

Skate bait

The majority of skate are caught on fresh mackerel but small pollack, coalfish or almost any fish will do. Skate from Clew Bay have been caught on whole, small dogfish; others have been taken on large strips of cuttlefish. If using dogfish, split the gut open with a knife to give scent to the bait. Cut mackerel longways, from head to tail, and bait a full half, hooking the tail end. Skate have got such big mouths that they will not bite short but will consume the lot in one go. Unfortunately, if there are many dogfish in the area, the bait is often mutilated by these scavengers before the skates find it.

Although skate run big, do not ex-pect a big bite. Very often the first indication that a skate has taken the bait comes when you lift the rod and think you have fouled the bottom. If, with heavy pressure on the rod, the ‘bottom’ starts to move, then a skate has taken the bite. Small skate—of 70-80 lb—often run quite fast for as much as 40 yards, while the big fellows are more sluggish and run only 10 or 20 yards. An extraordinary 168lb fish, hooked in Clew Bay in 5 fathoms of water, took off for more than 100 yards, but this was because of the unusually shallow water. It just could not dive deep enough.

Trial of strength

Some fish give a bouncy bite, but quick striking is not advisable and is the frequent cause of lost fish. Delay the strike until at least the second or third bite! But if the first indication of a fish is a distinct run, strike firm after the fish has gone 10-15 yards. Once the skate is hooked, steady pressure should be applied at all times. The clutch setting on the reel must be adjusted so that line will be given when the fish periodically flaps its wings. The tussel between man and fish cannot be described as a fight but more of a tug-of-war, and by applying steady pressure the fish can be slowly inched up. When the rod reaches the perpendicular, recover line until the rod is horizon-tal, when the process is repeated. This is ‘pumping’. Often, at the beginning of the tussle, 6ft of line may be recovered after three or four minutes only to be lost in the next two seconds, but as the fight goes on, the skate’s sudden bursts of energy become less frequent, and weaker. When the fish is on the sur-face, two gaffs should be used, preferably in the forward corner of each wing. This will inflict the least damage to the fish.

Don’t put your foot in it

Once aboard, the skate may appear lifeless, but do not become complacent. Keep away from its mouth at all times. If your foot were to get caught in those powerful jaws they could cripple you for life. Never try to extract the hook from a live skate—they can purse their lips and throw their jaws round fingers that seemed safe several inches away from the head.

The hook is easily uncoupled from the trace by undoing the locking attachment. Do not worry about retur-ning a fish to the sea with a hook still embedded in the mouth or throat as it does not hamper the fish in any way, and soon rots away. If a big skate is hooked, there is a strong probability of a second fish in the £tm area, for it is usual for skate to move around in pairs.

Ideal habitat

Large skate may be caught all around the Irish coastline, the West and North Coasts of Scotland, the Orkneys and the Shetlands. But Clew Bay in Co Mayo on the West Coast of Ireland may still be the best spot of all. Twelve miles long and eight miles wide, it is very sheltered whatever the wind direction, and it is possible to boat fish in all but the severest weather. The local boat skippers have plenty of experience in catching and landing giant skate. In one day alone I witnessed 19 fish of over 100lb brought to the scales during a com petition, though as mentioned above stocks have declined recently.

The bottom varies from clean, golden sands to small reefs and rocky ground, but for the most part the seabed is composed of small stones and gravel, interspersed with deep-water channels, particularly near the islands. The whole Clew Bay area abounds with small lesser spotted dogfish which provide rich feeding for the skate.

Water depth varies from 2 fathoms over the sandbanks to 20 fathoms in the deep-water channels. Tides, because of the small rise and fall, are weak, except where the water is funnelled between two islands, but even here it is possible to hold bottom with 9oz of lead. …- . . . _

Under such ideal conditions big skate are relatively easy to boat as there is virtually no tide to assist their fight.

There is no real hotspot in the bay; the skate are likely to be contacted anywhere, except over the reefs and very rocky areas. But some of the best marks are Old Head, the channel at Inish Gort, the area outside the McCormick Buoy and the deep channels by Inish Gowler and Inish Cannon. None of these marks is much more than one hour’s steaming time from Westport Quay. I would ask all anglers catching big skate to return their fish alive so that our grandchildren and their grandchildren will have a chance of enjoying this type of fishing.

Bottom, and the trace is fished as a running ledger. The lead, which is determined by the depth of water and strength of tide, is used in con-junction with a Clement’s boom. Herring and mackerel catch the ma-jority of rays, but other successful baits are squid, peeler crab, hermit crab, ragworm and lugworm.

As usual, large baits take larger fish. It is not uncommon for a thorn-back to swallow a whole mackerel, but the ideal bait is a fillet from the side of a herring or a head-to-tail diagonal fillet from a mackerel.

Very closely related to skate are the rays. Although they do not reach such a size, they are very similar in appearance. The most common ray is the thornback, which can weigh over 30 lb, although rarely exceeds 20lb. Fish of over 40lb are regarded as specimens (females are always longer than the males). Other rays encountered by the sea angler are the stingray, the blonde, the small-eyed or painted, the spotted or homelyn, the undulate and the cuckoo. Fish such as the eagle and electric ray are caught very rarely by the rod and line angler. Apart from the stringray and the thorn-back, rays have a localized distribution. The method is the same for catching all the species.

Much lighter tackle can be employed to gain the maximum sport. A lively, hollow-glass IGFA 20lb rod is quite adequate, except in deep water or in fast tides, where very heavy leads are necessary. If more than 1lb of lead is to be used, select a 30lb rod. For fishing from a dinghy, the rod should be 6-6V&ft, but a 6 1/2 -7ft rod is generally better for charter boat use.

Joining the ray trace

Because relatively light rods are employed, it is pointless to add massive, weighty reels. If you like multipliers, choose the Mitchell 624 or the Penn Long Beach 60 or 65, with a metal spool. (Plastic spools are lighter, but often burst.) If you favour centrepin reels, the Grice and Young Seajecta III De-luxe is good in water shallower than 8 fathoms. This has an anodized alloy drum with a carbonfibre back. For deeper water the range of Alveys fits the bill. There is the Alvey 520 A 12, the Alvey 455 C 12, 515 C 12 and the 525 C 12, the last three incorporating a smooth slipping-clutch mechanism, while the 525 C 12 has a particularly robust handle with a good grip.

Although Dacron line is popular with some anglers I again prefer nylon monofilament, of 26lb b.s. Ray traces should also be of nylon monofilament—of 31lb b.s. Thicker £ than the reel line, they lie straighter. | Also, if the trace is of too light a material, it soon crinkles and when!

This happens it does not present the bait properly. The hooks should also be tied to 31lb nylon. Hooks-to-wire are completely unnecessary, for although the rays have powerful jaws they cannot sever nylon. I have landed several hundred rays and never yet had my trace bitten through so wire is unnecessary.

The size and type of hook again depends on the bait. For herring or mackerel strip fish baits, a size 40 Mustad stainless steel or plated beak hook is suggested, but for peeler crab or ragworm, use a size 20, forged, reversed, bronzed hook.

Rays are normally caught on the baits can be made from each fillet of the fish in this way.) Some anglers prefer to leave the bone in, to hold the bait together, but, with a boned bait, the action of the tide breaks off small particles, which are carried downstream, creating a small rubby dubby trail to the baited hook.

Weave the hook in and out of the fillet, allowing four-fifths of the bait to hang below the hook. The idea of fishing a long bait is that it flutters tantalizingly in the tide, like a small injured fish. When the ray feeds it will consume the whole bait and the hook in one. As fish bait is comparatively inexpensive it pays to renew the bait whenever necessary.

Bouncing the lead

If there is a weak or slack tide running, fish can sometimes be encouraged to feed by bouncing the lead. This gives artificial movement to the bait and is best done by resting the rod on the gunwhale and tightening the line so that the weight just touches bottom when the boat is in a trough. As the boat rises on the next wave, so the lead is lifted. This rise and fall gives a more natural movement to the bait than any other method is able to do.

When fishing for rays it is often best to use two hooks on the trace, the first about 1ft from the Cle-ment’s boom, with the farthest hook 7ft from the boom. If the tide is strong, the trace can be lengthened by pulling the reel line through the eyes of the boom and securing a matchstick stop with a double clove-hitch. In this way, traces of 15-20ft can be used efficiently. When a fish is hooked, the boat skipper can easily break the matchstick as the Clement’s boom comes up to the rod tip, allowing the lead carrier to slip back down the line to its original position. The angler is then able to bring the ray close to the gaff.

Most rays, when they first attack the bait, give the angler little indication. If you are holding the rod, a slight movement is all you feel, and this should be ignored completely. Prop the rod against the gunwhale, making sure that line can be strip-ped from the reel despite the resistance of a check or ratchet.

The ray moves off after swallowing the bait, showing either a slow pull against the ratchet or a fast, short run. This is the time to set the hook. Make a long strike, not a sharp, hard one. Be prepared for a sudden surge of power. Some lively fish take 10-20 yards of line on their initial run, but once having stopped require only a steady pumping to ease them off the bottom.

Surfboarding ray

As the fish approaches the surface, it ‘kites’ in the water, particularly if there is a strong run of tide. In this way, it may surface several yards behind the boat. By keeping your rod as high as possible, you can skid the fish across the surface on its back—rather like a surfboard—but always be prepared for it to right itself at the last moment, get its nose down into the tide and make a last bid for freedom. Many fish are lost at this stage, almost within reach of the gaff, so be prepared to give line.

As the fish is boated, a blow bet-ween the eyes will kill it instantly. You can then recover the hook. Never attempt extraction while the fish is alive. Although rays do not have such powerful jaws as skate, they can inflict great pain.

Thames Estuary banks

Around the British Isles there are several recognized ray fishing grounds. But the banks in the Thames Estuary, where rays run large, provide some of the finest fishing. Charter boats can be hired from the Essex and north Kent coasts. Fish usually arrive in the early spring and remain throughout the summer, though the most produc-tive month is May. The stock keeps rigorously to the one locality and tagged fish have been recaptured after nine years within half a mile of where they were originally released. All the ray family like to feed over sand and gravel on the side of sand-banks, so that the Estuary is an ideal habitat. My favourite boat mark is 2!2 miles offshore, about a mile north-west of the East Last Buoy off Reculver, on the north Kent coast. It is possible to see ripple over the bank when there is a strong tide and a calm sea. Every year several thornbacks of over 16lb are taken there. On the seabed there is an abundance of hermit crabs, whelks and scavenger crabs, the latter eaten by rays both at the peeler and the hard-back stage. Prawn and pink shrimps are other ray delicacies available here. The fish-life comprises sandeel, whitebait, pin whiting and small pouting—ample food for the local ray population.

Marked decline

Catches are generally better when the water is heavily coloured. Fish then find it more difficult to hunt their natural prey and so have sharper appetites. In clear water and settled weather, most of their feeding is done after dark, so night fishing pays off. The water is no more than five fathoms deep at high tide, so 6oz of lead is all you ever need. Often, fish are taken within a few minutes of anchoring. The rays in this area move around in small groups, and it is not unusual to catch three or four in a. quarter of an hour, only to wait two hours before another feeding group passes. Sometimes it pays, having caught two or three fish in quick succession, to move the boat to new ground.

Unfortunately, rays (the thorn-back in particular) command a high price in the markets, so that profes-sional fishing boats dog the species, and stocks over the last years have shown a marked decline. They are a very slow-growing species and at the moment are being caught faster than they can reproduce. For this reason, do not broadcast your cat-ches—commercial netsmen also read the angling press.

Lake District Fishing Guide

Apart from being one of Britain’s most popular tourist areas, the Lake District provides excellent game and coarse angling on its many rivers, lakes and ponds.

Comprising roughly 16 well-known lakes, many tarns and a wealth of small becks and larger rivers, the Lake District offers a variety of fishing controlled by the North West Water Authority.

Now served by the much-improved A66, the link between West Cumberland and the M6 Motorway, Keswick stands on Derwentwater near the heart of the Lake District. The lake is a link in the River Derwent chain, connected by the middle Derwent to Bassen-thwaite, the district’s most improved trout fishery.

The upper reaches of the River Derwent contain brown trout, while the lakes hold trout, perch and pike. The game fisherman may also ex-pect a late run of sea trout and salmon, usually after July.


Permits to fish Bassenthwaite may be obtained at Temple Sports, 9 Station Street, Keswick or from Ian Nicholson, The Gun Shop, Jubilee Bridge, Lorton Street, Cockermouth. For Derwentwater, permits may be obtained from the Keswick Anglers Association. Below Bassenthwaite, the river Derwent is mainly privately owned, but permits for salmon and sea trout fishing may occasionally be obtained by applying to the Estate Office, Cockermouth Castle, Cockermouth.

The main tributary of the Derwent, the River Cocker, drains the neighbouring valley containing the lakes Buttermere, Crummock and Loweswater. These are reached by taking the Whinlatter Pass, the B5292 spur off the A66 at Braithwaite village. An alternative route is the B5289 from Keswick, via Honister Pass.

Buttermere and Crummock con-tain brown trout, perch, pike and char, while Loweswater, a smaller shallow lake, has no char. Permits for these three lakes are obtainable from the National Trust at the North Western Regional Office. Similar bank fishing permits are issued by Ian Nicholson, as above, while boat permits are issued more locally, as follows. Buttermere: Mrs T Richardson, Gatesgarth Farm (Tel Buttermere 256). Crummock: Mrs R Beard, Rannerdale Farm, Buttermere. Loweswater: M Thompson, Scale Hill Hotel, Loweswater (Tel Lorton 232).

Adjacent to the A5086, Cockermouth-Egremont Road, Mockerkin tarn holds pike, perch and common carp. Ian Nicholson of Cockermouth issues permits for this fishery, which should also include tench in its stock in 1983.

The North West Water Authority controls several waters and limited numbers of permits to fish Thirlmere and Haweswater, both of which contain brown trout, perch and pike, may be obtained on application to the Eastern Division, North West Water Authority, Oaklands House, Talbot Road, Old Trafford, Manchester. Thirlmere lies south-east of Keswick on the A591 Keswick-Ambleside-Windermere Road, which continues to Kendal on the A6 and M6. Haweswater, a remote reservoir, is best reached by a minor road from Penrith or Shap village on the A6.


Lying some five miles distant from Penrith, and easily reached via the A592 or B5320 roads to Pooley Bridge, Ullswater attracts thousands of anglers every year, as it is a free fishery. Ullswater itself, and Brotherswater, a neighbouring, much smaller lake, both contain brown trout, perch and pike (a recent introduction). However, the fish of Ullswater are much bigger on average. The rare skelly, a deep-water salmonid, is also found in Ullswater, but few are taken on rod and line. Both lakes may be fished without permits, but parts of their shores are privately owned and en-quiries should be made locally.

The River Eamont, which connects Ullswater to the River Eden, a Solway river, is mainly controlled by the Penrith Angling Association which issues brown trout permits for the upper reaches. Below Eamont Bridge the water is mostly privately owned, but some fishing on the left bank is controlled by the Yorkshire Fly Fishers’ Club, whose game water also holds good chub.

Permits for the Penrith Angling Association water are available at tackle dealers in Penrith.


Windermere is a good centre for the angler wishing to fish Grasmere, Rydal Water, Coniston, Esthwaite Water and Windermere itself. Grasmere, Rydal Water and Windermere all he on the A591 Keswick-Windermere-Kendal route and are easily reached from the A6 and M6 to the south. There is no problem of access.

Grasmere provides free fishing for brown trout, perch and pike, whereas Rydal Water is controlled by the Windermere, Ambleside and District Angling Association. Permits to fish these waters are issued locally from several addresses in Grasmere, Ambleside, Hawkshead, Windermere and Bowness.

River Leven

Lake Windermere, more famous for good pike, trout and perch fishing, contains a great table fish, the char, which is fished for semi-commercially by deep trolling with lures. Several areas may be fished without permits, for most of the north-western shore north of Ferry House is National Trust property, but the rest is mainly privately owned and enquiries should be made locally in Windermere or Bowness. For the River Leven which contains good salmon, sea trout and coarse fishing, permits may be obtained from the Swan Hotel, Newby Bridge, near Ulverston.

Esthwaite Water is best approached from Ambleside, via the A593 then the B5286 road to Hawkshead village. The lake holds brown trout, perch and pike, and is owned by the Esthwaite Estates Company. Permits are available at Hawkshead from the Post Office.

Good free fishing

Coniston, famous for its water speed trials, is best reached via the A593, and offers good free fishing for brown trout, perch and pike. Char are also taken here on baits fished from the shore into the deeper water, which is mainly in the middle reaches. Most of the shore is National Trust property, but some parts are private and permission to fish should be obtained through local tackle dealers.

Ennerdale and Wastwater, though less accessible, are also worth fishing for their brown trout, char and late season migratory fish. Permits for Wastwater are issued by The Warden, National Trust Camp Site, Wasdale Head, Seascale, Cumbria, and for Ennerdale from Mr Bell, Magnus Maximus Designs, Rowrah, Frizington, Cumbria.

Coarse angling

For coarse angling for perch, pike and eels, the larger lakes are recommended, particularly Windermere, Coniston, Derwentwater, Bassen-thwaite and Crummock. These lakes also tend to produce the bigger trout. Fortunately, the boats which are essential for this kind of fishing are available at these waters.

Although not described here, the west coast late salmon and sea trout rivers, Calder, Ehen, Ellen, Esk and Irt offer fine sport, and may be fished, in part, on visitors’ permits. The angler may also be given permission to fish in the many small unmentioned becks and tarns which abound in the Lake District, by applying to local riparian owners.