Update: we have a new web page for Catch and Release with lots more detail. You can see the page here.
The Wild Trout Trust is not a fishing organisation but a charity that is concerned with conservation of wild trout and their habitat. Many of our supporters are trout anglers, and many of the people we advise and give practical help are involved with fishing. Our experience is that enlightened fishermen are amongst the very best conservationists.
They love the whole experience of being out in a river or on a lake and appreciate all wildlife and it’s place in a balanced ecosystem. They are very often the first people to spot a problem, whether that is a pollution incident or invasive species, and care enough to get involved and get the problem fixed.
Wild trout fishing is an aspiration for many fishermen. It is sometimes perceived as being exclusive, expensive, hard to access and difficult. It can be all of these things, but very often is not.
What follows is intended to point you in the right direction based on our experience.
Where to fish
Most wild trout fishing which is affordable and easily available by day ticket is in the north and west of the UK. There is wild trout fishing in the south east, although some of the rivers that have habitat suitable for trout are stocked with farmed fish to cope with angling pressure and are controlled by clubs and syndicates. It takes a little determination, research and asking around to find affordable, accessible wild trout fishing in the south east, but it does exist!
A good place to start is our Spring Auction held in March each year on eBay and by post, which features 300 or so lots, many of which are affordable days of wild trout fishing across the UK and Ireland. Buying a lot in the auction will not only get you a day of fishing, but you will often be accompanied by someone who will guide you, or share his knowledge of the river with you. Looking through the catalogue will also give you an idea of where to fish.
The ‘passport’ schemes, run by many of the River Trusts, are very affordable and give access to a huge amount of wild trout fishing. These schemes started with voucher based payment — you simply buy a book of vouchers, look up the details of the beats on the website or handbook, and take yourself off to the river, posting the required number of vouchers in the box with your catch return. Some schemes now have web based booking and payment systems — for example, the Fishing Passport run by the Wye and Usk foundation which covers fishing across Wales and the Welsh borders, and the Westcountry Angling Passport run by the Westcountry Rivers Trust. Other schemes include:
The FishPal website includes fishing for trout and sea trout as well as salmon.
There are a number of fishing hotels and pubs who specialise in catering for wild trout fishermen and have their own water, for example the Arundell Arms in Devon regularly runs courses on wild trout fishing and the Peacock at Rowsley in the Peak District and Gliffaes Hotel near Crickhowell in Wales and the Scourie Hotel in Scotland have their own private wild trout fishing.
The Association of Salmon Fisheries Boards has created a website highlighting accessible and affordable fisheries for both salmon & sea trout around Scotland. Click here to be redirected to the ASFB fishery map.
In Trout and Salmon magazine, read Jon Beer’s articles — they generally describe his trips to cheap or free wild trout fishing. He has published a book of his articles called ‘Not All Beer and Bezencenet’ price £20 available from Riverside Stuff.
Rules and regulations
In England and Wales, you need a licence from the Environment Agency to fish for trout, and a full migratory licence if you are fishing for sea trout. Details on how to obtain a licence for England and Wales are here.
For Northern Ireland you also need a licence, details are here
There are closed (or ‘close’ ) seasons that vary by region For full details, click on the relevant country:
Almost all wild trout fishing in rivers involves wading, so thigh or chest waders are essential.
If you are fishing in more than one catchment, be aware that felt soled wading boots can transfer disease and invasive species. The best solution is to use the new generation of wading boots that are designed to grip on wet rock but can be easily cleaned. Click here for details on how to check, clean and dry your tackle.
What rod and line you need will depend on the size of the river you are fishing.
Anything from 6ft 2 or 3 weight for a tree lined stream like the River Meon in Hampshire (left) to 10ft 4 to 5 weight for a large main river like the River Eden in Cumbria (right).
Catch and Release
Wild trout are a precious resource and filling the freezer with them is not sustainable! Wild trout that are caught and released carefully will live to breed and be caught again. Catch-and-release can make a huge difference to the quality of fishing on a wild fishery.
A good game fish is too valuable to be caught only once.
How to release trout
- Use tackle that is an appropriate strength for the size of fish you expect to catch, as this avoids you having to play fish for a long time before landing. Long fights in warm weather are especially damaging.
- Use barbless hooks and have pliers to hand in case of difficulty. If the fish is deeply hooked, cut the line as the hook will work its way out and this is less damaging than a prolonged wrestling match.
- Always use wet hands to handle fish and handle as little as possible. Avoid squeezing it as this damages internal organs.
- Keep the fish in the water and avoid landing it on the bank or on gravel as this removes the surface slime and leaves the trout vulnerable to fungal infections.
- Photograph your fish close to the water, holding it out of the water as briefly as possible
- Measure it rather than weigh it using the WTT rod measure and length / weight card, available for £3.50 from the shop.
- Release the fish by pointing its nose into the current so that water is flowing over its gills.
This video clip from New Zealand shows ‘best practice’ for catch and release and taking photographs.
How to fish for wild trout
These are some of the skills that you need for wild trout that you may not need for stocked lake trout:
- Know how to ‘read the water’ – i.e. work out where the trout are likely to be. Although acquiring this skill is a lifelong occupation, you can get a huge leg up in recognising habitat features that are magnets for adult trout by reading our habitat manuals or participating in an Advisory Visit or Practical Visit with your fishing club. A day out with a professional guide on a river will be a good investment.
- Move quietly and carefully into position so that you don’t spook the fish.
- Recognise what trout are (or might be) feeding on and select a fly that resembles their food.
- Cast the fly accurately over a short distance, often surrounded by bushes and trees that do their best to catch your fly. No double hauling, but roll casts, side casts or bow and arrow casts.
- Patience to retrieve your fly from wherever it has become tangled.
- A large supply of flies and leader material for when your patience runs out.
- Pliers and wet hands to ensure you can release the trout quickly and without damage.
And join the Wild Trout Trust!