Game fishing world divided over English stillwater salmon fishery

You don’t need to travel to prestigious Scottish rivers to catch huge salmon, as two friends proved this week when they ‘fulfilled lifelong ambitions’ by banking fish to over 30lb from a small purpose-built salmon stillwater.

Disabled angler William Knapper and his friend John Heley took a trio of huge salmon weighing 24lb, 29lb 4oz and 34lb from Palm Springs Fishery in Rutland, a man-made one-acre lake where the stocks have been reared from eggs by the venue owner.

While the two fishing companions were overjoyed with their catches from the country’s only stillwater salmon fishery, the news has divided the gamefishing fraternity, with some claiming it isn’t ethical to stock a fish that naturally wants to run rivers into such venues.

William said: “Each of the big ones we caught put up an almighty battle for half-an-hour - they’re hard-fighting, silver salmon in superb condition.

It’s a lovely pool, and catching such magnificent creatures has been a lifelong ambition for us.”

The 58-year-old, from Luton, believes those who knock the set-up at Palm Springs need to look at the bigger picture.

“I’d always wanted to go to Ireland or Scotland to catch salmon, but since I became disabled this hasn’t been possible. Not everybody can afford thousands of pounds to go to the historic salmon rivers. Palm Springs is worth every penny of the day-ticket price,” added William who, like John, used a Cat’s Whisker fly to catch his fish.

William’s sentiments are shared by Robbie Winram, from Oakham, who has also visited the Rutland-based fishery and believes it fills an important niche in game angling.

“The salmon I caught were some of the very best stock fish - salmon or trout - I have ever seen, and I’ve been in the fishing business a long time. The salmon were full-finned muscular bars of silver that fought like demons in the cold water.

“I’d go so far as to say that they fought just as hard as a fresh-run fish,” said Robbie.

However, Andrew Flitcroft, editor of Trout and Salmon magazine, believes it all boils down to ethics.

“The owner at Palm Springs has definitely caught the imagination of anglers who have dreams of catching a salmon, but I’m not comfortable with fish being manufactured in this way. I also struggle to see the achievement and satisfaction gained from catching fat, engineered fish in an environment that is unnatural for them.“

Palm Springs owner Ben Green said: “It all boils down to good fishery management. It’s no different from trout in stillwaters, or even barbel and chub for that matter.

“As long as you have high water quality, with good oxygen levels and sensible stocking levels, then the fish thrive, as mine do.”