Fishing is a prehistoric practice dating back at least 40,000 years and humans have been using fish as a source of food since our cave-dwelling days. Where once is was a skill necessary for hunter-gatherers to survive, nowadays it is more likely that we undertake a day with a fishing rod for more recreational purposes. Especially when all we have to do is pop to the shop for some fresh fish these days!
Recreational fishing typically involves using a rod with a reel, line, hook and bait. Bait – usually some sort of dried insect or worm – is attached to the hook, which is connected to the reel on the rod via the fishing line. Fish are drawn to the bait and when they attempt to eat it they become caught on the hook. You’ve caught one!
Whether you’re an experienced angler or have never tried it before, fishing is excellent for your health and wellbeing especially as you are based next to the water which is proven to reduce anxiety and stress. Carrying and setting up kit as well as reeling in your catches can turn into quite the workout, but then there are many hours where you can be sat quietly waiting. Many love to try their hand at fishing; especially when holidaying in remote and wild places, the thrill of catching a fish can be like no other.
So, with that in mind, we’re bringing you our top picks for fishing across the Lake District and Cumbria, which has more fishing waters than any other county in England.
Please note: An EA rod license is required in all instances and don’t forget to check what permits are required as well as relevant bylaws before heading out. It is always important to respect a new area and do things by the book.
👉 Large Lake District fishing lakes
👉 Small Lake District fishing lakes
👉 Lake District rivers
Large Lake District lakes open to the public for fishing
Windermere is the longest (and busiest) lake in England and, when it comes to fishing, it is open to the public to come and enjoy if and when they please. Species living in the waters include arctic char, brown trout, pike, perch, roach and eels. Salmon and sea trout are known to pass through in the autumn to spawn.
Because the lake gets so many visitors annually, the towns and villages surrounding the lake are well set up to provide you with everything you need. If you are more of a picnic person, you will come prepared with all your food, however if not, there are plenty of pubs and cafes to keep the hunger away.
Parking: Ambleside, Bowness-on-Windermere and Lakeside Pier
Cottage close by: Thirlmere 16 (sleeps 4): A fabulous lodge situated near the shores of Lake Windermere. 2 dogs welcome and comes with a hot tub.
Coniston Water runs from the village of Ambleside to Coniston and is overlooked by the iconic fell, The Old Man of Coniston. With plenty of woodland and shoreline to explore, there will be lots of quiet places to make great fishing spots.
This was the lake where the author Arthur Ransome was inspired to write his Swallows and Amazons stories. The village itself has a selection of shops, cafes and pubs for mealtimes and boat hire is available for those who want to get out to the depths in the middle.
Parking: Coniston, along the eastern edge and western edge of the lake.
Cottage close by: Scafell Lodge (sleeps 2): A detached lodge perfect for a romantic retreat next to Coniston Water.
This is the second largest lake in the Lake District and is overlooked by the spectacular Helvellyn range of fells. Ullswater holds perch, pike, char and schelly – an endangered and protected whitefish relic from the last ice age – but is best known for its stock of wild brown trout.
Seasoned anglers report that the most prolific time for catching perch and pike is between 1pm and 3pm as well as evening time – often coinciding with stunning Ullswater sunsets! There are plenty of facilities at both Glenridding and Pooley Bridge, including shops, cafés, and public toilets.
Parking: Pooley Bridge and Glenridding. Single track with parking spots along the A592.
Cottage close by: Grammar School House (sleeps 8) a spacious family-friendly detached property with lovely big garden close to Ullswater.
Read more on the largest lakes in the Lake District:
When is the fishing season?
The brown trout fishing season runs from 15 March – 30 September. The highlight of the season is in late June when the mayfly hatch.
Smaller lakes to fish on in the Lake District
Buttermere: Buttermere is just over a mile long and the most southerly of a trio of lakes that form the catchment of the River Cocker. It offers mainly bank fishing for wild brown trout and pike with fly, spinning and worm being the permitted methods. Char can be found here and during the very late season small amounts of sea trout and salmon enter the lake too.
Grasmere: This small lake on the eastern side of the A591 is one of the region’s best natural coarse fisheries. It holds good shoals of roach, quality perch and big pike. There is good fishing here throughout the year, with summer lure fishing from a boat being especially productive.
Derwentwater, Keswick: Derwentwater is relatively shallow in comparison to most of the larger lakes, but there are still good opportunities to catch a lot of fish. Here you can find trout (some large ones at that), pike, perch and roach. Boat fishing is a preferred option for regular visitors and launching and hire facilities can be found at the Keswick end of the lake.
Rivers in the Lake District for fishing
The River Eden: The River Eden is made up of the lower, middle and upper reaches. Some notable spots are Eden Lacy, including a fishing hut amongst woodland and a wild-flower area opposite Lacy's Caves; Hornby Hall, well-known for its quality brown trout; and Whins Pond Coarse Fishery, a large, scenic lake with tench, carp, bream and roach. Different stretches of the river are controlled by different angling associations so choose where you want to cast off and then find out who you need to contact for licenses.
River Derwent: As one of the best fishing spots in the Lake District, the River Derwent flows beside the Trout Hotel and leads to Derwentwater – offering superb, affordable fly fishing for brown trout, wild salmon and sea trout. There are ten beats in total, both upstream and downstream of Cockermouth – each with different characteristics and features. The summer and autumn are very good for sea trout fishing.
River Esk: The River Esk in Eskdale is said to get its name from a Brythonic word meaning ‘abounding in fish’ - which gives positive connotations for any angler! Flowing from Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in the Lake District, to Ravenglass, the only coastal town in the national park, it is surrounded by beautifully tranquil scenery to make a really relaxing day of fishing. Salmon and sea trout can be caught here during the season.
Lake District fishing permits
Much of the fishing within the national park is controlled by local fishing clubs that have daily or weekly permits available. When you have decided where you want to fish, look up the area agent and purchase a ticket either online, over the phone or when you get there. It is important to obtain a permit as rangers do check on guests and you may be asked to show your ticket. It is also nice to know you are doing it right!
Keep the environment and the fish in mind
Like anything that involves us being able to use the world's natural habitat for our enjoyment, always remember to pick up after yourself and treat the wildlife and nature with care and consideration. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Take note of any local and/or seasonal restrictions to allow a disturbance-free period to vegetation, fish, birds and other wildlife.
- Don’t use live bait – this is banned by the Environment Agency as it increases the risk of introduction of disease and pest species.
- Follow Environmental Agency Bylaws including those about the use of keepnets, lead weights and barbless hooks for pike fishing.
- Follow good angling practice so that the next generation can continue to enjoy fishing.
But most importantly….happy fishing!
If this has caught your interest, keep our holiday cottages in mind for adventurous fishing breaks in the Lake District. A day out fishing in the fresh air can really take it out of you so you will want to be able to relax somewhere at the end of the day and enjoy your holiday to the full. Self-catering couldn’t suit fishing more; you have the luxury of no time restrictions, space and privacy!
We appreciate that not everyone is into fishing, and your party might be split so check out our guide to other Lake District activities.