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Fishing the Lake District of England

Fly-fishing for trout on the lakes of Cumbria


a picturesque view of the Cumbrian landscape and waterscape

My fly fishing for trout began in earnest in the mid-‘90s in Great Britain, predominately within the Lake District National Park that makes up most of Cumbria, a county in North West England.  My brother-in-law grew up in this region and subsequently purchased a cottage near Kentmere village and within the National Park.  The cottage was an easy drive to numerous lakes stocked with trout, which helped facilitate a great passion for fly fishing during numerous visits over several decades.


I credit the start of my fly fishing journey to local angling instructor, Bob Carlson, who together with his wife, Vera, opened and operated Carlson's Fishing Tackle for 30 years in Kendal until they sold the shop in 2004. Each trip to the Lake District included at least one visit to Carlson's and one or two excursions with Bob to the local trout waters. It was Bob's instruction that provided the foundation for my fly-fishing technique and tactics, especially when targeting trout on still water. The shop still exists under a different name, but from what I understand will revert to the Carlson's name in 2024.

 

be sure to stop at the fly shop in Kendal for guidance, tackle and flies

After an absence of nearly a decade, my wife and I made a return visit to the Lake District during the region’s moodiest period from a weather perspective – the late autumn.  It is also a great time to fish trout waters, especially those stocked and managed by the Windermere, Ambleside and District Angling Association (WADAA).  My visit occurred in mid-October and all three of the waters I fished had recently been stocked with a variety of trout species.

 

the Ghyll Head fishery is very scenic

Over the years, I have fished most of the trout water managed by WADAA and they are all fabulously maintained.  Some are more scenic than others – Bigland (Otter Tarn) and Ghyll Head are large fisheries set in majestic surroundings, whereas Farletonview, a recent addition to the WADAA managed waters, is a more pastoral setting, but a great fishery for beginners.  I fished all three of these waters on my recent visit – two of them with my brother-in-law – and could not have been happier with the fishing.

 

a monster rainbow at Ghyll Head was a personal best for my brother-in-law

The prospective trout species stocked by WADAA are posted at each of the waters they manage, but not all species will be found in every water.  At Farletonview, only rainbow trout are stocked, but at Bigland there were also tiger trout (a cross between brown trout and brook trout), spatic trout (a cross between arctic char and brook trout) and large rainbows.  I can attest to the existence of all five of the trout species that are stocked in WADAA waters, as my brother-in-law and I have netted at least one of each over the years.



As I mentioned, Farletonview is not the most picturesque of the WADAA managed waters, but it is well appointed with numerous wooden platforms, some of which are handicapped accessible.  It comprises two man-made lakes with level banks that afford plenty of space for the backcast.  There is also a café on site that is open for part of the week during the season. The preceding video of a trout release is a product of a morning fishing at Farletonview.

 

Otter Tarn (aka Bigland Hall) is very picturesque, with many peninsulas and islets from which to cast

Bigland, which is also now known as Otter Tarn, and Ghyll Head, are located in much more rural/remote settings, both comprising approximately 11 acres of fishery.  Bigland is fascinating as it comprises many islands, peninsulas, spits and ‘fishy’ corners to explore.  Ghyll Head is a sheltered reservoir in an idyllic setting, also with numerous peninsulas and inlets.  Both Bigland and Ghyll Head can be covered from shore, and it is impossible to expect to cover much of either water in one day.

 

As it was autumn and insect life was minimal (meaning few hatches), fishing streamers (wooly buggers and krystal buggers) were by far the most productive, although in chatting with a few other anglers, a slow retrieve of nymphs or worm patterns also produced strikes.  It was a real charge to watch the wake produced by larger fish following the streamer, literally as if the fish was a torpedo plowing the surface of the water. If the preference is for dry fly fishing, I have had excellent success in the late spring and early summer when the insect life is more robust.


A valid fishing license is required to fish waters in England and Wales. To fish all the waters managed by WADAA, an annual membership permit is required, but a handful of these, including the lakes mentioned in this blog post, can be fished by purchasing a day pass on line in advance.


Tight lines!

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