Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Fly fishing for trout in the UK and the USA, a comparison (Part 2)

Access to the waters

Finding this secret spot on the North Fork of the Snoqualmie was a challenge.
There are big differences to the way fly fishers can get access to fish in these different locations.  Understanding the basics differences can make a big impact on whether a fly fishing sortie abroad is a success.  Many years ago I still remember setting out from Salt Lake City to fish a lake in Utah, in April.  It was a bit off the beaten track and I found a “Road Closed” sign blocking the trail!  So I drove back a few miles to a bar and went in and asked why the road was closed.  Everyone looked at me as though I was from Mars and not just England and said “snow and ice”.  I crept out of there a bit sheepishly!
Now my experience covers most of the UK (UK or United Kingdom means, England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland).  In the USA I have only fished in Utah, Idaho and Washington States. To keep the post short I am only going to cover trout fishing.
Probably the best way to ensure a successful trip is to “hook up” with someone who has the local knowledge (which is how I found the location on the North Fork of the Sno.)  One of my posts in early Feb suggests formal and informal ways of doing that.

In the UK, the river fly fishing for trout season normally starts on the 1st April and runs through to mid-October.  Fly fishing on lakes that are only stocked with triploid rainbows is available all year (but it gets a bit tricky when the lakes are frozen as we don’t do ice fishing). 
A teaching session for youngsters on an English lake, note the ease of access.
Most of the UK's large reservoirs stocked with trout usually have a closed period from say end of November till the following March, this gives fish and staff a breather.
In the USA, let’s take Washington State as an example, my experience is that the fishing seasons are shorter and regarding rivers, they can be changed by the Dept of Fish and Wildlife at quite short notice.  To keep abreast of what is actually happening in the States you not only need a copy of the State Sportfishing Rules Pamphlet. 
As the one above is 148 pages long it gives a new meaning to the word pamphlet!  If you are interested in saving trees and have infinite spare memory on your computer you could download them for each State!  It is packed with lots of useful information, but the main reason it is so long is that each stretch of river and each lake can have its own season! 
Physical Access (to wet a line)
Most of the river fishing in the UK is either privately owned, or club owned.  A lot of towns with rivers running through them have a stretch of water available for free public fishing.  See my blog entitled “Trout in Dirty Places” dated 1st Feb 2013.  Lakes and reservoirs near towns that stock trout are usually run as commercial fisheries or they are run by clubs sometimes offering “day tickets”.
There are helpful websites that list available trout fishing with maps and the fishery managers contact details.  It is always worth a call before just “turning up”.  Apart from the big reservoirs with boats to hire, most trout fishing is done from the bank.
In Washington State I found it totally different.  Firstly most lakes, anywhere near civilisation, are surrounded by desirable residences with frontage right on the water.  Not only frontage but jetties, boat houses and on the larger lakes moored seaplanes! 
4th July at a friends house, viewed from the boat shelter at the end of the jetty, grandchildren in the water!
So when, rod in hand, you go along for a little fishing you may find that the only access to the water is the boat ramp squeezed between desirable residences.  Casting a fly from the boat ramp is not a way to make friends!  So basically when lake fishing near populated areas you need a boat to get access to the fish.  My solution was to use a Fishcat float tube as it fits in the boot (trunk) of my hire car. 
Larger lakes have parks with access to the water but the access can be busy.   Out away from civilisation access to lakes and rivers is much easier if you can find it.  Trees or shall I say forests are the other obstacle as they frequently grow right along the water’s edge.  When you get your fishing licence it comes with a vehicle use permit which you are asked to hang from your rear view mirror.  I don’t think I have ever seen a local hang one, could it be that they don’t want to advertise that they may be absent for a few hours?  In the “Recreational Fishing” car parks there are helpful signs warning about bears and reminding you that fishing after dusk is not allowed. 
Overcoming all the obstacles can be worth the effort as the scenery and locations can be spectacular.  Sadly I have not the space or the knowledge to give you the whole picture but I hope the topic is helpful irrespective of which way you are flying the Atlantic.  Please put me straight if I have got anything wrong!
 But you do have to be careful who you hang out with!!!


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