Freshwater Fishing In England: The Ultimate Guide

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Freshwater fishing is one of the most popular sports in England and no matter where you are in England, you’re never far from a lake or a river and have a chance of catching some great fish. 

The freshwater fishing in England isn’t quite as exciting as being on the flats of Seychelles or in the mountains of Patagonia but it has a quaint charm to it that is incredibly relaxing. 

The amazing countryside and easy access to fish make it a fantastic experience. Whether you are strolling along the banks of a chalk stream or getting lost in your mind by casting into a beautiful lake makes the stress of everyday life just disappear!  

That being said, fishing in England does offer a diverse range of fish species and you can do it in some spectacular landscapes too. 

Having grown up fishing in England and with around 30 years of it under my belt, I’m going to showcase the best freshwater fishing England has to offer. 

In this article I will introduce you to the following:

  • What are the best freshwater fish to catch in England? 
  • Where to catch them and how to catch them.
  • Who are the best companies to book your fishing trip with. 

Top Freshwater Fish To Catch In England 

Grayling – What a fantastic looking fish

Between the freshwater lakes and rivers of England, you have quite a diverse list of fish species that you can target depending on your mood and what you like to fish for.  

The lakes and rivers of England have several prized freshwater fish in them that you can target. Whether you’re a general coarse angler, a spin fisherman or a fly fisherman, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to which fish to target on any given day. 

  • Salmon
  • Sea Trout 
  • Brown Trout 
  • Rainbow Trout 
  • Grayling 
  • Pike 
  • Carp – Common, Mirror, Grass, Leather 
  • Barbel 
  • Zander 
  • Tench

I have left off quite a few course species from the list such as chub and roach but they don’t really make the cut when it comes to the top fish to catch in England. 

Where To Go Fishing In England

Knowing where to go fishing in England is 90% of the battle when trying to find good fishing in this country. If you do a quick online search you’ll find yourself swimming in a ton of different options and it’s extremely hard to know if the fishery is any good. 

That’s where I come in.

All the places listed below are places I have fished and they are excellent for the particular species they hold. 

River Test, Hampshire 

If you’re a fly fisherman then chances are you would have heard of the River Test in Hampshire as it’s probably the most famous river in England and one of the most famous in the fly fishing world. 

The River Test is a chalk stream river meaning it has a limestone bottom and is spring-fed creating crystal clear waters. When you walk along the banks of the test you can see every single trout and grayling in the river sitting on the bottom picking off food as it flows past. 

The crystal clear waters allow you to sight fish for grayling and brown trout, meaning you don’t cast until you see a fish. This level of intensity makes the fishing extremely exciting, especially when you see a fish inhale your fly.  

The River Test is a fly fishing only river and it’s pretty expensive but it’s such an iconic river that everyone should fish it once in their lives. 

River Itchen, Hampshire 

The River Itchen- a chalk stream

The River Itchen is another chalk stream in Hampshire and is probably the second most famous river in England. Like the Test, the River Itchen also has crystal clear waters and is home to grayling and trout that you can sight fish for. 

You can only fish on the River Itchen with a fly rod and the fishing is just as good as on the River Test, but it is a little more affordable. 

River Wye, Herefordshire 

The River Wye flows along the border between England and Wales in the county of Herefordfordshire and through the Wye Valley, an area of outstanding natural beauty. 

The River Wye is quite a special place to go fishing in England as it is home to a lot of the top freshwater fish to catch that I mentioned in the list above. You can target salmon, sea trout, brown trout, barbel, and pike all in the same river, which can lead to quite an amazing day of fishing!. 

Another awesome thing about the River Wye is that the fishing isn’t limited to fly rods only meaning you can use spinning rods to cast lures and fish with natural baits too. 

River Ure, Yorkshire 

The River Ure sits in Yorkshire in northern England and is a stunning river with waterfalls that runs through a beautiful forest. The River Ure is probably one of the prettiest rivers in England and you can find some big brown trout, salmon, and grayling swimming inside it. 

Most of the fishing along the River Ure can only be done with a fly rod in hand and it has some excellent dry fly hatches during the season which shouldn’t be missed. 

Rutland Water, Leicestershire 

Rutland Water is a huge reservoir in the East Midlands of central England. It is one of the best fishing lakes in England and is home to huge trout up to 15lbs, pike up 40 lbs, and big zander too.

You can easily book guides for the day too which is highly recommended as finding a good fishing spot on such a huge lake with limited knowledge of fishing there before is a huge challenge. 

Lake Windermere, Cumbria

Lake Windermere is a huge body of water, at 14.8 sq km, 11 miles (18 km) long and 1 mile (1.5km) at its widest point. This is Englands largest lake and the most visited for all types of sport. 

Not only is it the largest natural lake in England, but it is also an extremely beautiful part of the country.

The main species are large pike, perch, eels and trout. The rare Arctic charr is also found in Windermere. Salmon and sea trout also migrate through the lake.

The North basin is more popular than the South basin and as a result, is generally more productive. Most of the bankside is private land and therefore boats tend to get used primarily for fishing. However, there is plenty of trees and features under the water to which fish are drawn to find food and cover.

Tip: Lake Windemere is 250ft deep (67 metres) and holds 300 billion liters of water!

River Dove, Derbyshire

The beautiful River Dove, in the Peak District

The Dove is a limestone river, which rises at Buxton and flows through the beautiful Peak District. The water cutting through the limestone has formed a fantastic meandering stream through the hills.

The River Dove is a famous fishing area due to the references in the 350-year-old book “Izaak Walton’s Compleat Angler”. It is renowned for its general coarse fishing as well as grayling and trout. 

Dry fly fishing is the best method to use in these gorgeous fast sections, long glides, tumbling weirs and deep pools.

Sywell Reservoir, Northamptonshire

Sywell has been known as one of the best Tench fishing locations in England for many years. It is located within the 67 acres of Sywell Country Park.

Double figure tench are the target fish at Sywell Reservoir, the famed TV angler John Wilson filmed many Go Fishing TV shows at this venue many years ago.

Other than tench, the pike are known to grow to a large size in this lake. The most popular area to fish is the dam wall.

When To Go Fishing In England 

A lot of the freshwater fishing in England is closed between the months of October and March as this is when species like trout tend to spawn and are therefore left along to reproduce. 

Luckily this also coincides with winter which isn’t particularly pleasant in England and although you can still fish in the sea and in some reservoirs, it’s best avoided. 

The best time to go fishing in England is between the months of April and October. You’ll find the rivers and lakes are teeming with hungry trout, grayling, barbel, and pike trying to get fat after winter.

If you’re a fly fisherman, it pays to time your fishing in England with the mayfly hatch in May when trout and grayling go wild sipping them off the surface. 

It’s also between April and October when salmon and sea trout run into England’s rivers, and the seas are a lot calmer to fish on too. 

Best Ways Of Catching Fish In England 

If you’re fishing in the rivers and lakes of England you have the choice of going fly fishing for the trout, grayling and salmon. 

If you plan to fish for the other coarse fish then using spinning gear for pike and perch with lures is the best method. 

If you are more of a general angler then either ledgering on the bottom or float fishing will always produce fish in the lakes and reservoirs. 

As I mentioned above, some of the waters are strictly fly fishing only, and this is usually the case when going after sea trout, salmon, trout, and grayling. 

How To Book Your Fishing Trip To England 

Rutland Water fishing from a boat

To book some fly fishing on any of the rivers I mentioned above your best bet is to contact Aardvark McLeod. They specialize in providing guided fly fishing in England and the rest of the world and will organize everything for you. 

If you want to go and fish on Rutland Water, you should contact Discover Rutland who will organize a boat, guide, and accommodation for you.  

If you are interested to fly fish the English chalk stream rivers I strongly suggest contacting fishing breaks. Not only do they organize great trips to many top streams in the country they also can organize tuition, family fishing, and fishing cottage vacations.

England’s Fishing Regulations 

If you’re planning on going freshwater fishing in England you must have a fishing license

You can buy a day, week, or year-long license for either trout and course species, or trout, course, salmon, and sea trout.

You can find out more details on licenses in my article, How and where to get your fishing licence in the UK.

You don’t need a license to fish in the sea in England. 

Do I Need A Permit To Freshwater Fish?

In England, membership permits are required to fish in many spots, especially lakes and rivers. You should always check before you go what are the rules and regulations of the specific water you would like to fish.

Many private lakes require a small payment for a day ticket which can be purchased at the venue prior to fishing.

You can find out more on syndicate lakes and Angling clubs in my other articles.

Some public free to fish areas do exist in most areas, but these are generally not the areas where large fish are found and also not prolific. 

Casting Out 

Thanks very much for reading my article, I hope you found it useful and are already planning your fishing trip to England. 

England really does have a lot of fishing to offer and there is nothing better than having a great pint of English Ale in a pub after a long day on the water. 

You can read more on my other articles on fishing around the world here! 

Jamie Melvin