Stillwater Trout Fishing is probably the most popular form of angling in the North East today, and the number of venues in the region readily accessible for this form of the sport is unsurpassed anywhere else in the UK. Our fisheries can be grouped into two distinct sets – Reservoirs (whose primary function is that of water storage for mains water supply) and ‘Independent Fisheries’, and there are numerous examples of both types.
The former category can vary enormously in size, from the vast ‘thousand-plus’ acreages of giants such as Kielder and Derwent to the numerous ‘smaller’ reservoir fisheries, but they almost all have one thing in common – to collect groundwater to maximum efficiency, they need to be situated up on the moors near to the headwaters of the rivers that were dammed-off to form them. These should all, therefore, be considered to be vast areas of water that will more often than not be windswept – conditions that, with regard to fly fishing, won’t always suit a beginner!
In the case of the ‘independents’, these are generally much smaller in size, although there are exceptions, like the Great Lough of Sweethope Trout Fishery, which at over 120 acres has a surface area almost double that of its near neighbour, Fontburn Reservoir. These ‘wilder’ fisheries, which also includes Langley Dam and Westwater Angling Club’s Hallington Reservoir in Northumberland, and the Lockwood Beck Trout Fishery near Teesside, exist high up on the moors and being generally much larger lakes they tend to fish similarly to their upland reservoir counterparts. The smaller venues are usually situated in places close to the towns and cities from which they derive most of their custom and in these instances they are almost always either deliberate excavations filled up with water or flooded pits. Their lowland locations and smaller size can make them less tricky venues for beginners.
The main quarry for the stillwater game angler is the rainbow trout, a species which, while not native to the UK, has been stocked successfully into such fisheries for over a hundred years. These are now regularly caught by ordinary anglers at weights which, as little as thirty years ago, would have been considered national record standard (20lb plus) and the quarry only really of experts like Richard Walker or Bob Church. Most of the fish, however, are much smaller, and are stocked at between 1½ and 8lb, with many fisheries also stocking brown and blue trout (some even stock North American Brook Trout), while on some reservoirs there are also wild brown trout that are the progeny of those that inhabited the parent river before it was dammed. These are usually much smaller than their stocked cousins but often far harder to catch!
Traditionally, like on rivers, stillwater trout fishing is done with the fly – a subtle variation on the river fly fishing described in Spring Fishing (Part Two), only using rods designed for casting heavier lines over greater distances and with a stronger tippet tied to the leader to cope with the probable greater weight of the fish. The fly fishing techniques employed on stillwater fisheries are more numerous, with by far the most popular two being lure fishing (in which a fly often designed to imitate a small prey fish is stripped through the water, often at speed, like a spinner) and buzzer fishing in which flies intended to resemble chironimid larvae are fished subsurface, normally on a dead drift in the prevailing wind driver current. Traditional wet and dry fly methods do have their applications, however, with each equally as effective on their given day as the more popular techniques – especially on those reservoirs such as Cow Green in Teesdale which contain natural stocks of wild brown trout only. Like on rivers, ‘matching the hatch’ is vital in these instances.
Most independent fisheries stipulate that anglers can only use fly fishing techniques, but a number of Northumbrian Water’s reservoirs also permit multi-bait fishing (allowing baits such as worm, maggot, sweetcorn and the highly popular attractant ‘powerbait’ to be used, either float fished or legered), as well as spinning. These venues include the south west shore (only) of the highly popular Derwent Reservoir (see Map 1), and the whole of the reservoirs at Fontburn, Kielder, Grassholme and Scaling Dam. Maps 2 & 3 have directions for how to get to the larger fisheries in Northumberland and the reservoirs of Teesdale.
Full details of all the stillwater game (trout) fisheries – including directions, contact numbers and links to websites where applicable – can also be found on this site. The direct links are below:
© The Fishing Archives 2012
◙For a far more comprehensive guide to (and a history of) Stillwater Trout Fishing in the North East, as well for all the other angling disciplines found in the region, the recently published book The Lambton Worm – The Definitive Guide to Angling in North East England is also well worth the cover price.
Published by Amberley and in stock at branches of WH Smiths and Waterstones throughout the North East & North Yorkshire – look in the Angling and Local Interest Sections! Also available from Amazon.co.uk