I see from the archives that fish in Wastwater was once a topic of some interest. I have been fascinated by this apparently dead body of water having visited Wasdale to climb Great Gable and to visit Pilar via Scoat tarn. I had an interesting e-mail conversation with Dr Ian Winfield formerly of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. He put gill nets out every ten years for English Nature. His results were very consistent. Small brown trout and small artic char, eels and minnows the only coarse fish that ever turned up other than the eels. He never encountered any pike or perch. I also have in the fairly recent past had an e-mail about ten years ago with Andy Nicholson the angling writer of yesteryear. He said much the same as Ian Winfield. Andy had permission to fish Wastwater from a boat from National Trust as an experiment. Andy said he had caught a salmon fishing off the screes and he said sea trout migrate through the lake near the screes. He said that ferox are also present. Large cannibal brown trout but he never encountered any pike or perch. He said the Environment Agency's researches a number of years ago showed the small trout in the feeder streams were the progeny of sea trout. Both Andy and Ian Winfield reckoned that as the feeding in this dark deep lake wasn't overly abundant most of the juvenile trout migrated to the sea and came back as sea trout. The Lake was made an SSSI in the 1960's after the apparent disappearance of all the pike and perch. I had a conversation with a local angler a few years ago who maintained that there never were any of these fish in the lake. Anybody else know anything? I have never seen any fish in Scoat Tarn and a diver friend said his mates have dived it and it appears to be empty but the support team that took the gear up ahead of the divers reported a terrific rise of trout or possibly char one evening. I have visited Low tarn below Scoat tarn and witnessed an angler come mountaineer catch a small brown trout. I have also seen trout rising in Styhead tarn at the the head of Borrowdale interestingly their were rumours that the Bassenthwaite Vendace had been stocked into Sprinkling tarn above in an attempt to save the species. This rare small silver fish is a distant relative of the salmon and trout.
I've bivvied out and fished a few mountain tarns in the Eastern Lakes. Plenty of brown trout to dry and wet flies in most and schelly were found in smallwater one evening.
On a summers day walk I always find a route with some water and pack a 4wt fly rod for a cast late in the day.
There's some goog info on fly fishing forums website.
I've never been an angler but I did once buy a book about fish in Lakeland. Just out of curiosity about what was actually swimming around in the tarns and lakes. It's always interested me as to how these fish actually got there, particularly the remote upper tarns. As a caver I'd occasionally encounter white trout swimming around in the upper reaches of deep vertical potholes - Penyghent Pot was one. There is absolutely no way those fishes' ancestors could have migrated there from downstream since this would have involved big free hanging pitches.
What’s the state of play regarding permissions? Appreciate you require a rod licence but do you require permits to fish the smaller Lake District mountain tarns?
I have just phoned my Father who fished in the Lakes, predominantly Bassenthwaite in the mid 1950s.
I asked him if he ever fished Wast Water and what did he catch and what was he fishing for, but did not prompt him with any info of this thread.
He was quite a good fisherman.
He said he fished Wast water once using a big heavy spoon to go deep, for Pike, but commented that Wast is one of the few place Char can be caught, but said they could be caught elsewhere. They caught nothing on that trip, and I think he said there were three of them. He commented on the depth of the lake.
I then mentioned your comment that Pike/Perch may never have been in Wast Water.
He was sceptical of this, and went on to say that at some point, maybe late 50s a disease killed off the minnows which he said "decimated the perch" but he seemed to think that the Pike did better.
These are the recollections of an 84 year old man, but he is still pretty sharp. If you have any other specific questions, I will happily ask him.
> What’s the state of play regarding permissions? Appreciate you require a rod licence but do you require permits to fish the smaller Lake District mountain tarns?
Just a rod license for the mountain tarns. Some of them contain a surprising amount of fish which often fight much harder than an equivalent weight fish from one of the bigger lakes such as ullswater or windermere.
Fish eggs are sticky and cling to the legs of birds, hence why fish end up in landlocked lakes etc.
If you're interested in this sort of stuff in Scotland too have a Google and read/listen to Ron Greer. He's the Ferox trout and Charr expert in Scotland at least. Loch Awe seems to be of particular interest.
Often wondered what are the highest bodies of water to hold fish in England, Wales and Scotland...
Guessing Red Tarn in England, something in the Cairngorms for Scotland? No idea for Wales...
My grandfather was an expert on Lake District fishing ( he was a founder member of Windermere and Dostrict Angling Association). He was a keen char angler and was even on TV (BBC) once in the late 70’s. I picked up a tonne of info off him. I also know some lakes up there very well and go piking from my boat whenever I can. Some random thoughts.
Wastewater has game fish but not pike and perch. Oddly, Ullswater has very few pike (possibly none). Locals are spoilt for choice but you would expect the odd pike to be picked up by people after other species. I once spoke with the bailiff for WADAA about piling in Thirlwmere after I caught a few. Basically, some lakes don’t have a high enough biomass of other species to keep a population of predatory species. The low fish density can be down to a few things. Once you get much deeper then 20 feet then low light levels mean not much weed, few aquatic insects etc. Some lakes are so steep sided that they have a low percentage of ‘feeding zones’. Char are an exception.
Also, acidity levels are no good for some fish and I think pike don’t like it too acidic.
Thwre was a perch disease, think it was in the lates 60s or early 70s that whiped them out. What made it worse was the interconnected was of some lakes meant I’d say Grasmere recovered then it got easily reinfected. However, I have a theory that this led to the growth of the roach population and this is when the pike fishing became mega. (The perch would have eaten the roach fry and hence kept numbers down). Roach shoals in some lakes are massive. You can make them out on your fish finder.
Some locals used to blame pike anglers for the roach - releasing their live bait. But I once read that roach have been found in Windermere ages back. Lower water temps and perch probably pegging their numbers back. Oh, sewage may have helped the Roach numbers (the water may have been too clean if you get my drift).
My grandfather had access to a boat on Crummock. He knew the woman owner of the massive house at the top end. She was a great character. The char were very plentiful but slightly smaller than Windermere char. They are utterly delicious. After he died I got his char tackle and hired a boat on Crummock with my wife and got about 20 char. He told me he once fished for char in a lake when, as far as he knew, no one else had ever fished it. Can’t remember whether it was buttermere or loweswater (think the later). They caught 130 - I’ve seen the photo.
Char numbers have dwindled but possibly making a recovery? People still fish on Coniston and catch fewer but bigger. One reason is Ruffe eating their eggs, possibly global warming playing a part.
I’ve fished coledale tarn (above easedale) and lost count of how many perch we caught.
Interestingly, now the perch have recovered they have done very well. Some mega fish caught every year, bassenthwaite and derwent water do well, but big fish in Grasmere and Rydal. Reckon the record will be broke from one of those lakes.
Edit: Codale Tarn.
Aye, I think Awe keeps breaking the ferrox record and huge escaped rainbows. I fished for pike a fair bit opposite the castle. One Friday, a group of anglers arrived and there was no room for the youngest member so I let him fish right next to me. He cast out where I should have been fishing and caught a 25 pounder then a 22 pounder straight away ! I got a 17. He’s mates laughed their heads off at my generosity !!
It's naturally oligotrophic, this means that it's very low in nutrients and as such is not capable of supporting much plant life (including algae). This means that there's very little for invertebrates, and ultimately fish, to feed on, hence the low fish numbers. Upland waters are much more susceptible as they have low nutrient inputs, however, some rock types contain minerals which are more soluble so it's not a given that all upland waters are this way. Even though they don't contain much life, the communities and species that oligotrophic waters do support are often unique and/or rare.
Thanks for that info. I may take advantage when released from Covid custody.
I've a couple of books with info on fishing Lakeland tarns, both recommended:
'Exploring Lake District Tarns' Don Blair (1993)
'The Tarns of Lakeland' W. Heaton Cooper (1960)
From my e-mails with Andy Nicholson who fished for ten years at Wastwater with official permission from National Trust as an experiment to sees what the fishing was like. He mainly fished from a boat but he did say he never caught anything fly fishing unless there was a good wave on the lake. In calmer periods he fished with a bubble float and worm and ledgering, catching small browns and eels. He caught a salmon and a ferox off the screes fishing with a small copper toby well dulled down. He said it was hard work as this water isn't the most prolific though it does contain some fish. I have seen an HD video made by some divers showing the gnomes home with deck chairs and washing machine over a hundred feet down just before the drop off. There it was a trout or maybe a char which swam past so there is something in there.
I didn't see anything breaking the surface back in September vaguely remember one little tug on a wet fly but apart from that nothing.
Had a good season last year catching over 300 wild brown trout on the fly, mainly fishing little streams on Anglesey and the high mountain lakes of Snowdonia. The start of the next season seems a long way away.....
Interesting point. My late dads old AA gazetteer from the 1970's mentions Wastwater. You can get permission to fish Wastwater for pike, trout and occasional salmon and sea trout from the National Trust campsite which is just above Wastwater. Unfortunately, things have moved on a bit since those days. I visited the N/T campsite above Wastwater lake about twelve years ago and I enquired about fishing the lake. The guy that ran the site in those days said there was no fishing allowed as the lake and surrounding area is an SSSI and apparently the banks were too delicate to allow large numbers anglers to trample about on them. They are however not too delicate for picnickers, dog walkers and divers from what I could see. He did say why don't you fish in Styhead and Sprinkling tarns they are free though I should take your Environment Agency licence with you. Buttermere, Crummock water and Lowes water are available on a ticket from a machine at the car park at Buttermere. Bring lots of £1 coins. Most of the high tarns are free unless somebody turfs you off, which is unlikely with the exception of Blea Tarn. The one between little Langdale and Langdale. according to N/T this one is not available to anglers despite those that post U Tube videos showing the excellent free fishing. I was told by a freshwater biologist that the policy at N/T regarding angling seems to depend on the attitude of the manger for the area in question. Overall policy doesn't seem to be very joined up. That's as much as I know. Andy Nicholson said just go ahead and fish like the locals do at Wastwater and let me know how you get on. I didn't enquire if that was after I got out of jail.
As far as I am aware Red Tarn below Helvellyn is the highest in England. I don't now about the others.
I once fished loch Arkaig and hooked into something really large but it managed to throw the hook before I got a chance to have a look at it. I've seen a DVD of Stan Headly catching a ten pound ferox in Arkaig on a fly. Apparently they can be caught on the fly in this loch. most other bodies of water in Scotland and in the Lake district they are caught trolling and occasionally spinning.
This is really interesting as I remember back in the 1960 or it might been the early seventies I saw an article in an angling magazine which mentioned Wastwater having been made into a SSSI due to the dramatic decline in fish stocks particularly Pike and Perch. Acid rain was mentioned. I contacted Dr Ian Winfield at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology about fifteen years ago and also more recently and he checked his records and he said that Wastwater hadn't suffered any dramatic acidification and he couldn't find any record of there having been any Pike or Perch in the lake in recent years as they hadn't shown up in his gill net surveys certainly in the last twenty or thirty years or so. The only fish that regularly showed up were trout, char and minnows the only coarse fish except eels. I had the same conversation with him recently just before he retired. My late fathers AA gazetteer from the early 1970's mentioned that you could get permission to fish from the National Trust camp site just above Wastwater. The species mentioned were pike, trout, char and occasional salmon and sea trout. Tickets are not now available for the lake these days from the campsite. I had an e-mail chat with a former president of Millom Angling Associational a few years ago and he reckoned there hadn't been any pike in the lake certainly in recent years. I'm pretty sure they were in there at one time though they seem to have died out in recent years along with the perch though if you ask National Trust they will tell you that pike and perch are the only fish still in there. A diver friend tells me they do see fish in the lake but the numbers are low and its usually trout or char, though apparently there are some large scary eels if you are technical diver and go to the bottom. A bit like Loch Ness apparently.
Loch Enoch in the Galloway hills is the highest loch in Scotland of any real size and it has brown trout.
The water in all the lochs under the Merrick are very acidic. I remember being told this when acid rain was causing a lot of environmental damage and the guy who was telling me suggested that those trout could be used to restock other bodies of water that had been poisoned. IIRC he had recorded the ph of the water in one little loch under the Merrick at 3.
You get Char in Loch Kendoon at its deepest parts. Given that Kendoon is a reservoir built in the 30s I suspect the char came from Loch Doon which has an outflow into the Water of Deuch which runs into Kendoon.
> Often wondered what are the highest bodies of water to hold fish in England, Wales and Scotland...
> Loch Enoch in the Galloway hills is the highest loch in Scotland of any real size and it has brown trout.
Not sure about that. Loch A'an is both higher and bigger and there might be others. Loch Etchachan?
Edit: Loch A'an is a little smaller.
And Wikipedia offers this 'The surface of Loch Skeen is 510 metres above sea level and as such is probably the highest loch of any great size in the South of Scotland'
Loch A'an has plenty of trout too.
I remember seeing two or three anglers ledgering for fish in Red Tarn below Helvellyen. They showed me a pile of small char they'd caught for the freezer. Red tarn also holds Schelley but I believe they are next to impossible to catch on rod/line.
There are many high tarns with fish in them. I've caught perch in Stickle Tarn. I've caught a few small trout on other high tarns, many years ago, which include Trout and I think Char from Seathwaite tarn, but I'd have to dig out my diaries to find out where else.
Tarn Howes certainly has roach, perch and smallish pike. After a day out on the fells I used to enjoy a quiet evening fishing there.
Collins New Naturalist Series on The lake District has a section on fish. I remember being encouraged to go fishing on some of the higher tarns by one or two of A. Harry Griffin's books, in which he described seeing fish rise in some of the very high tarns.
> Not sure about that. Loch A'an is both higher and bigger and there might be others. Loch Etchachan?
> Edit: Loch A'an is a little smaller.
Yes, its what I was told years ago and was always a bit sceptical but people were always careful to add "of its size". Checking now I see that Loch Etchachan (927m) has an area of 0.23 km^2 and Loch Enoch (493m) 0.50 m^2 so that's why the qualification is important.
The Wickipedia entry on Loch Enoch is interesting: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loch_Enoch
Apparently the trout were killed off by acid rain but the loch restocked in the 1950s. Looking at the map I think the guy I spoke to must have been talking about Loch Twachan which certainly wouldn't have been restocked. He did remark on the appearance of the trout he caught, having big heads and little bodies and being very dark. My guess would be some of them must have survived the worst of the acid rain years.
For Wales, Llyn Clyd below Y Garn is about 660m asl and I've seen fish in there. Not sure what the highest significant Welsh body of water is?
> Yes, its what I was told years ago and was always a bit sceptical but people were always careful to add "of its size".
It's a bit of a dodge that, there are plenty of significant bodies of water that are higher and some not much smaller. The other one I've heard referred to in that way is Loch Coire an Lochain on Braeriach. It's at about 1000m though and much smaller.
Llyn Llyffant's the highest lake in Snowdonia, not sure if there's any trout in there though....
Amongst many other hill lochs I’ve biked/hiked/camped/fished - Sandy Loch (north of the Stuic/Lochnagar) at just under 800 metres has brown trout and some decent fish just under a lb - I’m sure some of the lochs higher than this like Loch nan Eun (south of Sandy Loch) also have a natural stock of trout
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