Is anywhere in Britain as truly “wild” as we might hope?
As anglers, many of us crave that feeling of solitude and adventure. More often than not, however, you’re only minutes away from a busy road or the next busload of tourists.
Trendy concepts like “rewilding” appeal to our romantic side, but prospects are pretty limited when we live in one of the most heavily populated and developed countries on Earth. Unless someone builds a time machine, we might as well campaign to save Eternia from Skeletor.
Even our most prized “natural” habitats tend to be heavily man-altered. So it’s always a treat to discover some genuine adventure fishing.
Where exactly do you find anything that could be called truly wild fishing these days? Shy of a long jaunt to the Scottish Highlands or the craggier bits of Wales, true wilderness angling is rare, certainly in England. About as close as I’ve come this summer has been North Devon, of all places, and the incredible River Lyn. How on Earth it’s so lightly fished is anyone’s guess, given the staggering beauty and a daily fee of just a fiver.
Imagine a boulder-infested English rainforest. It has a rugged, prehistoric beauty that’s hard to beat. Hopping over giant rocks and plunge pools, scoured over millennia, it’s an intoxicating place to explore.
Never mind the local National Trust guide, you half expect to run into a stegosaurus or a tribe of hunter-gatherers.
The river’s wild trout are spectacular enough, though, for a 21st Century angler. How on earth they’re so endlessly and stunningly varied is one of nature’s great wonders. One fish will be bright gold and scattered with salt-and-pepper freckles, the next almost black, or decked out in the largest, boldest spots.
I shared a fly rod with my mate Alex Sproson on my last visit, but there’s also a degree of freedom from the usual trout stream tyranny here. You can happily use lures, although barbless, single-hooked types are a must for fish as precious as these.
Even with miles to explore, the same rules apply to any wild fishing location – arrive early and put some distance between yourself and the access point!
Indeed, it would be supremely grumpy of me to begrudge anyone for wanting to enjoy such a beautiful, unspoiled location, especially after the times we’ve all endured.
Nevertheless, I don’t want them skylining the next pool or letting their dog jump in and scare every fish in the county.
One can only assume it’s the crap roads, remoteness and tricky access that make the Lyn something of a hidden gem. Perversely, this is why I don’t mind sharing it with you. Because, ultimately, it’s day ticket sales that keep such treasures open to all anglers, as opposed to a private minority.