Angling culture in the UK

Caecilius

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Hello all, (and apologies in advance for the very long post!l

I'm based in Australia and have just joined this forum after browsing many threads over the years. I hope you're all faring well abroad, and hope that the situation will improve soon.

I first became interested in fly fishing a few years ago, mainly fishing small streams and some of the lakes in the west of our state. I live in the southern part of the country, where the climate is cool enough for trout to inhabit many waters. Having mainly been self taught, and sadly, often too busy to fish as often as I'd like, I spend more time reading, talking, and watching YouTube videos about fly fishing.

Many of the fly fishing and general angling videos I watch are produced by fishermen from the UK, where I have become well acquainted with the most common styles of fishing (namely coarse, sea and fly/game) and have learnt quite a lot from these videos. Watching all of this content has made me very interested in the attitudes and culture surrounding angling in the UK, as I think there is a marked difference between your attitudes and those of American and Australian anglers. My impressions are that, generally speaking, anglers in the UK take their fishing more seriously, and for lack of a better term, seem more 'appreciative' of their quarry. Of course, this could all be chalked up to selection bias, given that I'm watching and reading content produced by people passionate enough to create it.

One major difference between freshwater fishing in the UK/England and Australia is that while all waters here are totally open to the public, most of the fishing in England takes place on private day-ticket/club venues. While those used to fishing in public waters usually baulk at the British system, I can see the benefits of private ownership system. To me, having lakes where access and fish stocks are carefully managed results in a better angling experience for everyone, even it the net costs are higher than in other countries. I believe the 'user-pays' system is also a contributor to the attitudes/appreciation I see in British/UK anglers.

This leads me to some questions:

1) Are my assessments of UK fishing culture correct?
2) What are your thoughts on local attitudes to angling as compared to other countries, and
3) Do you view the private/user-pays system of freshwater fishing a good thing? Why or why not?

Many thanks, look forward to hearing local perspectives on this.
 
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Caecilius

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Thought I'd bump this thread as it had travelled down the post list by the time the original post was approved.
 

Jamie Dundee

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My impressions are that, generally speaking, anglers in the UK take their fishing more seriously
I think Brits take everything more seriously than Aussies and Yanks, generally to our detriment :( Do you live in Tasmania?
 

Caecilius

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I think Brits take everything more seriously than Aussies and Yanks, generally to our detriment :( Do you live in Tasmania?
No, I live on the mainland, but Tasmania undoubtedly has the best trout fishing in the country. We certainly are more laid back here than in other countries (perhaps not as much in my city as in other parts!).

Here, as long as you pay your $35 annual fishing licence, you can fish just about anywhere you want, and at any time. But being a dry continent, I'd say that our saltwater fishing has more to offer tan freshwater.

I've long been curious to hear locals' opinions on the private/paid access system that seems to dominate freshwater fishing in England. Are the trout lakes well managed? On average, do they tend to be quite easy to fish, or can they be challenging? I'm aware that the lakes are constantly stocked with fish on a put and take basis.
 

tierradelfuego

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Hi Caecilius, and welcome to the forum.

My personal take on this is that probably the fact that we pay either for an annual membership or day ticket, especially in the South of the UK where fishing prices can be exorbitant, makes us more serious to some extent, but honestly not massively. Don't get me wrong, I know there are many people who are happy and easily able to pay their £400 a day on the Test but I'm sure even if money was no object you'd want to get something in return for that, and that makes you serious by default.

I'm lucky in that my clubs down here in Berkshire/Hampshire are very reasonably priced, compared to many, but compared to Oz paying "only" your annual license, it's very different.

My wife is from Melbourne so when we're back there, I always visit the Flyfisher shop in the CBD, and you couldn't say Russ and other guys are not serious about their fishing, that's for sure. I tend to visit Bright for a week each year (obviously not this year) and fish the Ovens and Morses Creek, and have a ball in the beautiful surroundings and plentiful fish for a mere $20 or so for the week. Of course I'm bloody happy doing it, I don't take it seriously and just enjoy but then who wouldn't when it's 25c in Spring, mostly sunny with cool snow-melt water giving you fighting fit fish that are quite particular to a well-presented (or reasonably at least) nymph or dry.

Although Tas is seen as the best freshwater fishery in Oz, I think most of us from the UK who have fished Victoria are seriously jealous of the fishing there, be that stream, reservoir or the abundance of saltwater bream and all the other species in the estuaries etc. I know I am...
 

sean freeman

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Hi Caecilius, and welcome to the forum.

My personal take on this is that probably the fact that we pay either for an annual membership or day ticket, especially in the South of the UK where fishing prices can be exorbitant, makes us more serious to some extent, but honestly not massively. Don't get me wrong, I know there are many people who are happy and easily able to pay their £400 a day on the Test but I'm sure even if money was no object you'd want to get something in return for that, and that makes you serious by default.

I'm lucky in that my clubs down here in Berkshire/Hampshire are very reasonably priced, compared to many, but compared to Oz paying "only" your annual license, it's very different.

My wife is from Melbourne so when we're back there, I always visit the Flyfisher shop in the CBD, and you couldn't say Russ and other guys are not serious about their fishing, that's for sure. I tend to visit Bright for a week each year (obviously not this year) and fish the Ovens and Morses Creek, and have a ball in the beautiful surroundings and plentiful fish for a mere $20 or so for the week. Of course I'm bloody happy doing it, I don't take it seriously and just enjoy but then who wouldn't when it's 25c in Spring, mostly sunny with cool snow-melt water giving you fighting fit fish that are quite particular to a well-presented (or reasonably at least) nymph or dry.

Although Tas is seen as the best freshwater fishery in Oz, I think most of us from the UK who have fished Victoria are seriously jealous of the fishing there, be that stream, reservoir or the abundance of saltwater bream and all the other species in the estuaries etc. I know I am...
I’ve always wanted to fish the streams of Victoria and the Snowy Mountains. I follow a lot of Australian lads on Instagram and the fishing looks incredible. Life always seems to get in the way when I plan a trip.
 

vital

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Closer to you than the UK, there's a guy in NZ who posts some wonderful vids, well worth watching: try Kevin O'Hanlon on YouTube.
As to 'culture' there are huge differences nation by nation. The USA has more availability i.e. public water, thanks to the constitution, so over there their approach is quite different to the UK and Europe. The interesting thing is that within any one country there will be several different 'attitudes' to whatever fishing is available, but its all part of the very rich pageant that is fishing, sea, salt or the sub-divisions, which make it all so interesting.
They used to say "If you can't go fishing, the next best thing is reading about it", but now we have the internet as well! Tight lines!
 

Caecilius

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Some very wise and interesting responses - thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts.

I consider myself fortunate to have such a breadth of species to target down here, and I dare say that I'd be even more grateful if I had regular access to the tropical species in the northern states!

One thing that makes me laugh and that would probably be the biggest gap in our fishing culture, is the difference in attitudes to carp. Absolutely loved in the UK, reviled in Australia. I think they can offer decent sport but many just dismiss them as a 'trash fish'.

At the risk of sounding repetitive, what are your thoughts on fishing on stocked, private reservoirs/lakes? It seems that they serve an important role, as river fishing seems less accessible.
 

taffy1

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Varied types of angling in the UK. Night time after sea run browns, wild browns in various lochs/loughs/lakes & reservoirs, streams,rivers. Then there's salmon in rivers, mullet in both rivers & salt among other salt water species, then on top of that we have an option to fish for the coarse variety of rudd, roach, perch, pike, carp, bream, barbel & so on
 

Paul_B

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We have to buy a rod licence from the EA, they in return keep the rivers, canals and streams clean and with fish, the rod licence enables you to fish most places without further charges (no licence required for sea fishing).

If you go to a private fishery you still need the rod licence but the fishery (river, reservoir or pond) will charge you for a permit to fish and have their own rules.
I fish a 40 acre reservoir which is club run on a non profit basis and its stocked regularly with any money it raises from ticket sales, all good quality fish and on they're on the large size because of the cormorant problem.
Scotland has its own rules and no licence is required
 

JohnH

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C, it's important to bear geography and demography in mind. Here in the south of England we live in the most densely populated part of Western Europe outside the Netherlands. Mile after mile of the south east, central south and south midlands are urban, suburban or hard worked farmland. When people mention Hampshire or Kent they may think about idyllic countryside, attractive little villages and in the case of Hampshire the Test and Itchen and their tributaries. What may be overlooked is that those 2 counties along with Essex are the most heavily populated counties in England outside Greater London and the metropolitan counties. All 3 have a population around 1.3 million. In an article I read a while ago about the Lower Itchen Fishery which is near my home, it mentioned that 10 million people live within an hour's drive of the fishery. I know the Itchen fairly well and while it has a well deserved reputation, there's also not a lot of it ! You could drive from the Tichborne Arms pub near the source to the Itchen Bridge where the river enters Southampton Water in about half an hour on a quiet Sunday morning...

By contrast, Scotland has one third of the land area of the island of Great Britain and something around 10% of the population. Further afield the revered Montana in the US is the same area as the old West Germany with a population of about 2 million. In both cases all I can say is "lucky them..."

In these circumstances it's probably inevitable that river fly fishing here is rationed by price, so well run small commercial stillwaters have quite an important role to play in satisfying demand. Taffy1's point immediately above about the variety of fishing available to us is also well made.
 
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Caecilius

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Thanks for your reply JohnH; what you wrote supports my thoughts on some of the benefits of a 'user pays' system, namely managing angling pressure in densely populated areas. I think a lot of people overlook this when they criticise the system.
That being said, there are probably five to six million people within two hours of many popular freshwater fisheries in my neck of the woods. Regular drought, a relatively hot climate and a level of mismanagement do compromise our freshwater fisheries here. In my opinion, that means our streams and lakes especially vulnerable to angling pressure.
I can also say that fly fishing our popular trout lakes is bloody tough. By tough, I mean that a single trout can be considered a good day. I don't care to think the number of times I've driven 90 minutes to one of the lakes only to spend six hours flogging the water in vain. In this regard, I strongly suspect that UK anglers have no reason to envy us - in fact quite the opposite!
 
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Thanks for your reply JohnH; what you wrote supports my thoughts on some of the benefits of a 'user pays' system, namely managing angling pressure in densely populated areas. I think a lot of people overlook this when they criticise the system.
That being said, there are probably five to six million people within two hours of many popular freshwater fisheries in my neck of the woods. Regular drought, a relatively hot climate and a level of mismanagement do compromise our freshwater fisheries here. In my opinion, that means our streams and lakes especially vulnerable to angling pressure.
I can also say that fly fishing our popular trout lakes is bloody tough. By tough, I mean that a single trout can be considered a good day. I don't care to think the number of times I've driven 90 minutes to one of the lakes only to spend six hours flogging the water in vain. In this regard, I strongly suspect that UK anglers have no reason to envy us - in fact quite the opposite!
Catching a fish,a single fish is a good day.Working for your fish and enjoying the outdoors and what it offers is what its about.
 

original cormorant

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Thanks for your reply JohnH; what you wrote supports my thoughts on some of the benefits of a 'user pays' system, namely managing angling pressure in densely populated areas. I think a lot of people overlook this when they criticise the system.
T
This is where UK (or maybe english!) culture differs. Your assumption that people criticise the system is wrong, they don't, they recognise it as inevitable. It may be about managing angling pressure in some select locations but much more widely it's about paying for stocking and maintenance. If no-one paid for it there wouldn't be a fishery.
 

Caecilius

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This is where UK (or maybe english!) culture differs. Your assumption that people criticise the system is wrong, they don't, they recognise it as inevitable. It may be about managing angling pressure in some select locations but much more widely it's about paying for stocking and maintenance. If no-one paid for it there wouldn't be a fishery.
I was referring to detractors outside the UK, as I had no idea what UK anglers thoughts on the issue were.
 

sean freeman

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I’m happy to pay good money for access to wild fishing. All the best lochs I know are free and require no permits though. They’re places that people don’t ever bother fishing and that suits me when they produce fish to NZ proportions.

For my river fishing I fish urban rivers around Manchester for free but I joined a club in the Peak District four years ago that most would regard as very expensive, I go a few times a week though so I justify it that way.
Where I do think there is a divide is the wild vs stocked debate, especially in rivers, there’s a recent thread on here where you can read the opposing views.
 

sewinbasher

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Your interpretation is quite accurate. I'd make a couple of points:

Generally the English Midlands, East and South East (where a big percentage of our 70 million live) are flat and do not have substantial natural trout populations, certainly not enough to attract fly anglers. Before anyone jumps in I am aware of the several minor chalk streams in the East and South East, I used the word "generally" deliberately. As a result most trout fly fishing in these areas of sometimes very dense population is artificial and is for rainbow trout in stillwaters, most not natural lakes, where the trout are not self sustaining and so the need for stocking immediately makes this fishing commercial, the landowner seeking to make a profit from their investment in infrastructure and stock by cashing in on the large population looking for nearby fly fishing.

Secondly, the majority of land in the UK is privately owned, there is some public land, almost all poor quality upland, but an obsession with safety (or not being sued) means that sports like fishing (and shooting) represent a risk that sometimes precludes them. For privately owned water there is the obvious option for them to be a profit generator within the estate managment.

The main advantage of privately owned river fishing is that pressure can be controlled, a lot of water is owned or rented by clubs where pressure can be higher but still limited by the number of members. The relatively small amount of the best quality chalk or limestone river fishing and high demand makes it very expensive and beyond the means of most. Money doesn't just buy quality, it also buys exclusivity where you are likely to have a decent stretch of river to yourself.

The main change in UK fly fishing, certainly for wild trout, is that over the past 30 years we have gone from pretty much knocking everything with spots on the head to probably 90%+ C&R, much helped by the C&R philosophy of American, Australian and NZ anglers like your countryman Rex Hunt who got my then 5 year old son insisting that I kissed my fish and put them back. I would also suspect that the average age of UK fly anglers is significantly higher than in those other countries.
 

thetrouttickler

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Your interpretation is quite accurate. I'd make a couple of points:

Generally the English Midlands, East and South East (where a big percentage of our 70 million live) are flat and do not have substantial natural trout populations, certainly not enough to attract fly anglers. Before anyone jumps in I am aware of the several minor chalk streams in the East and South East, I used the word "generally" deliberately. As a result most trout fly fishing in these areas of sometimes very dense population is artificial and is for rainbow trout in stillwaters, most not natural lakes, where the trout are not self sustaining and so the need for stocking immediately makes this fishing commercial, the landowner seeking to make a profit from their investment in infrastructure and stock by cashing in on the large population looking for nearby fly fishing.

Secondly, the majority of land in the UK is privately owned, there is some public land, almost all poor quality upland, but an obsession with safety (or not being sued) means that sports like fishing (and shooting) represent a risk that sometimes precludes them. For privately owned water there is the obvious option for them to be a profit generator within the estate managment.

The main advantage of privately owned river fishing is that pressure can be controlled, a lot of water is owned or rented by clubs where pressure can be higher but still limited by the number of members. The relatively small amount of the best quality chalk or limestone river fishing and high demand makes it very expensive and beyond the means of most. Money doesn't just buy quality, it also buys exclusivity where you are likely to have a decent stretch of river to yourself.

The main change in UK fly fishing, certainly for wild trout, is that over the past 30 years we have gone from pretty much knocking everything with spots on the head to probably 90%+ C&R, much helped by the C&R philosophy of American, Australian and NZ anglers like your countryman Rex Hunt who got my then 5 year old son insisting that I kissed my fish and put them back. I would also suspect that the average age of UK fly anglers is significantly higher than in those other countries.
Excellent post. I was going to write something similar, but you encapsulated my thoughts perfectly.

I have fished in New Zealand, Australia (NSW and Tasmania), South Africa and Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, etc. The main differences between these places and the UK is that England is very densely populated. It's wonderful to simply walk up rivers and fish to your hearts content, in the wide open expanses of the South Island of New Zealand, or the Snowy Mountains, or the "Big Sky Country" in Montana. This is how it should be, in an egalitarian sense. But it simply isn't viable in the UK. We'd trip over each other. I came close to that in some places in the USA, and it wasn't very nice.

I lived for almost a decade in Birmingham and now live in Sussex. Neither are very habitable places for wild brown trout. I have to travel long distances to find trout in decent running water because I have little interest in fishing for trout in stillwaters. The reservoirs and stocked put and take fisheries take the brunt of the angling pressure in these places. It's not that "pay per fish" is a better philosophy in principle - it isn't - it is instead a necessity here to avoid chaos and plunder and also to fulfil a gap.

I disagree with the OP's view that there is a marked difference in the mentality of anglers between the UK and elsewhere. I found things pretty much the same everywhere I travelled. There is a core who are very serious about fishing, regardless of national boundary, but the majority are "weekend anglers". The former are serious about angling, the latter are not especially serious. Social media has narrowed the field between countries too - look at catch and release.
 

matt808

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For an island so small I'd say there are many different attitudes towards fishing. The variety of different approaches and preferences in coarse fishing must surely be difficult for a 'foreigner' to comprehend.
I'd say fly fishing has proportionately more serious anglers than other kinds of fishing in the uk, by that I mean anglers who fish regularly rather than 3 or 4 times a year.

In my opinion it's sad that there's so little freely accessible fishing, in England especially, excepting sea fishing of course. It'd be great to have more public land (ha ha), but it's a shame that anglers don't have more variety for the amount they are willing to pay, especially in fly fishing.
I pay for three club waters, totalling £400 a year, which is really about the limit of what I can afford, but gives me a lot of river to go at.
I would suggest monthly subscriptions would help greatly for clubs looking to bring in younger would-be fly anglers. Many young people just can't afford annual subscriptions in one payment, that must be a big factor in the high average age of fly anglers in the UK.

What I would like to see happen is passport schemes being more widely available, even if some of the quality of fishing varies, and many of the waters only had smaller fish, or a mix of coarse fish and trout.
It would give much more variety for anglers without breaking the bank, or being limited to just one or two stretches of river to fish.
 

ohanzee

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....some of the benefits of a 'user pays' system, namely managing angling pressure in densely populated areas. I think a lot of people overlook this when they criticise the system.
A different spin on the 'user pays' system - in the UK the places that have a lot of fishable water tend to be least populated, they are largely unmanaged and payment is only to access the land, wild effectively, much of it unfished because there are few people to fish it, and...in densely populated parts in the south there is a shortage of water to fish so need managed.

So basically the 'user pays' system, which is a sliding scale of cost in relation to the degree of management needed is just a reflection of demand, this creates a more complex and rule bound culture, sometimes elitist and exclusive culture compared to the more open policies in the US and Australia.
 

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