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Carpe diem! The guide to fishing

January 31, 2014
by Laura Canning | fishing | guides

Sea fishing for seagulls Carpe diem – the Scottish salmon fishing season is upon us! Even though it’s still a bit nippy outside, the months of January and February are the main hook for anglers with good taste to get started for the year.

The Scottish season began on the Tay on 15 January; the Tweed opens on Saturday (1 February) and the Spey, Dee and most other areas will be open by mid-February. Roe better time, we think, to dive into a guide to fishing in the UK and Ireland:

Fishy facts

The three main types of fishing available in the UK/Ireland are game fishing, for species including salmon and trout which can often be kept for eating; coarse fishing, for freshwater fish other than salmon and trout which must be returned after a catch (eg roach, perch, pike and chub); and sea fishing from boat and off shore for types such as mackerel, cod and bass.

If you’ve yet to be hooked, the Environment Agency has a Getting Started guide including info on rod licences, where to go fishing and a downloadable booklet Get into Fishing.

Game fishing – salmon

When we were younger we might have answered ‘In Tesco in a tin’ to the query ‘Where does one find salmon in these lands?’ but of course now we know that Scotland is the place to leap to (as it is for other fish: the Scottish fishing industry lands over 60% of the total catch in the UK). As well as the Rivers Tay, Tweed, Spey and Dee, take the rod to the River and Loch Ness, North and South Esk and the River Beauly to try and beat this chap’s record from 2013 .

Elsewhere, salmon hunters are also fond of Ireland , particularly the River Moy between Sligo and Mayo, the River Blackwater through Kerry, Cork and Waterford, and the River Erriff in Co Galway (in Northern Ireland, it's the River Mourne in Co Tyrone). Although the salmon population is lower in England and Wales , the Tyne has had the most English catches from 2000 – 2011 , followed by the River Eden in Cumbria . The Usk had the most salmon catches in Wales in 2012 and there are signs that salmon on a monster scale are returning to the Wye . Wye? Because of work carried out to improve the water.

Game fishing – trout

Game fishing across the pond Sea, brown and stocked varieties of trout such as (tasty tasty) rainbow are landable around the land at most times, with byelaws in different areas on whether species must be caught and released at certain times of the year. We’re herring that Scotland is again the place to go, especially for brown trout: the Tweed, the Tay, the Don and the Clyde are where experienced anglers can find ' “educated” and demanding ' fish luring them in.

Some tried-out trout fishing areas:

Ireland : Ireland’s thousands of miles of loughs, rivers and tributaries have several varieties of native trout, some reaching up to 20lb (the record for loch trout is 26 lbs 2oz from Lough Ennell). Get with the flow at the Rivers Shannon, Cong, Bann and Boyle, or go for the red-fleshed Corrib trout at Lough Corrib in Connemara.

England : The Tyne’s neighbour the Wear is one of the best sea trout rivers in England (and second best salmon river after the Tyne, according to the Environment Agency). Also try the Tamar on the Devon / Cornwall border for more sea trout and the River Eamont in the Lake District for brown trout.

Wales : Head for the River Towy for some of the best sea trout fishing in the country, to the Usk for brown trout and to Snowdonia’s Llyn Trawsfyndd for rainbow trout, brown trout and international fishing competitions.

Salmon, sea trout and brown trout fishing season dates for Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales

Coarse and sea fishing

Giant pike caught by angler. Pic by Aszazin. Pike and carp are what our competitive little hearts lust after, of coarse: we’re confident that we too could land a 46lb pike or 61lb carp . But perhaps we could build ourselves up with a practice run at barbel, bream, chub, dace, gudgeon, ide, orfe, perch, rudd or tench, all of which are enthusiastically pursued by coarse anglers, or push off in a boat from the coast to find some mackerel or pollock for tea. A few smooth spots:

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

Lake fishing in the Capability Brown grounds of the Marlborough pad, with pike of up to 25lb in summer and perch, tench and roach all year round.

Redmire Pool, Herefordshire

Fished by many famous names in the carp fishing world and considered the home of carp angling, with carp caught here of up to 51.5lb.

St Ives , Cornwall

Sea fishing for mackerel, cod, pollock and haddock peaking in the summer and deep-sea/wreck fishing all year round.

Rhins of Galloway, Dumfries and Galloway

West Scotland fish species are big in number as well as size: bass, flounder and other flatfish, pollock, wrasse, coalfish and sand eel are all here, as well as conger which can reach up to 20lbs.

Fishing competitions, festivals and events

Camping pod at Teglan Fisheries Whether you want to show off your fishy prowess or lurk jealously around water and claim you could do it better, the choice of fishing events around the isles will leave you breaming from ear to ear:

British Fly Fair International Bring and Buy , Staffordshire County Showground, 8 – 9 February

The Big One , Hampshire, 22 – 23 February

Welsh Fly Fair , Swansea, 2 March

Whitby Angling Festival – spring , 5 – 20 April; summer , 21 June – 13 July and autumn , 13 – 28 September, North Yorkshire

Commonwealth Fly Fishing Championships England , Devon and Somerset

CLA Gamefair , with salmon and trout open competitions , Blenheim Palace, 18 – 20 July

British Carp Angling Championships , various venues, March – September

The Carp Cup , various venues , April – October

Burton Fly Fair & Fly Fishing Festival, Staffordshire, 6 October

National Fishing Month , various venues, 18 July – 31 August

The legalities

Evening fishing at Yet-y-Gors Fisheries, Pembrokeshire Don’t skate over the legal issues; here’s what you need to know:

  • Anglers over 12 fishing for salmon, trout, freshwater fish or eels in England (except the River Tweed), Wales or the Border Esk and its tributaries in Scotland) must have an Environment Agency rod fishing licence .
  • Anglers must then seek permission from whoever owns or rents the fishing rights for the water they want to fish on. Permits are usually available for day, week or season tickets.
  • You don’t need a rod licence to fish in Scotland, but you’ll need a permit from the authority in charge of each individual water you plan to fish at. Check each permit for restrictions on bait and methods.
  • Salmon and sea trout fishing are strictly prohibited in Scotland on Sundays.
  • It’s a criminal offence to sell a rod-caught salmon or sea trout in Scotland, or to sell, barter or exchange rod-caught salmon or sea trout in England or Wales.
  • Always check byelaws in the area you're planning to fish in. For example, salmon fishing in the Wye is on a catch and release basis only.

More practical info on fishing in Scotland

Rod fishing byelaws for England and Wales

Fishing and camping

Fishing on Loch Tay from Loch Tay Highland Lodges As with many other splendoured things, you can search on for campsites with fishing on site and with fishing nearby ; tips for fishing and camping and some of our top fishing campsites are on our fishing and camping page. See also:

Clashwhannon Caravan Park , Dumfries and Galloway: Stranraer park near famed Loch Ryan, where a 54lb tope was caught, and near Luce Bay for thornback rays.

Loch Tay Highland Lodges , Perthshire : pods and woodland cabins overlooking the salmon and trout fishing of Loch Tay.

Springwood Fisheries , Derbyshire : coarse fishing on the edge of the National Forest, with pet-friendly camping pods.

Teglan Fisheries , Ceredigion : coarse fishing up to 35lb; lakeside camping pods sleeping up to four.

Tamar Lakes Campsite , Cornwall: bream, roach, rudd and huge carp to be landed at this watersports site with camping pods sleeping up to four.

Clifden Eco Beach Camping and Caravanning Park , Co Galway : ‘nearly wild’ camping with private fishing points and sea fishing from a private beach.

Fishing campsites with caravans for hire

Fishing campsites with lodges, pods, cabins or huts

Campsites in the Republic of Ireland

Campsites in the Hebrides

Campsites in the Scottish Highlands

Fishing campsites in France

Sites with campfires allowed

Campsites with fishing nearby and campfires allowed


Fishpal : extensive info on fishing in Scotland , Ireland , England and Wales

Salmon fishing in Ireland

Salmon and Trout Association

Fishing clubs and angling societies in the UK

The Angling Trust

British Disabled Angling Association