Fishing Tips

Fishing tips

Fish Welfare

Maximise the chances of a returned fish thriving: there are some simple rules that help increase the survival rates of returned fish:
  • use barbless hooks and hooks with fewer points (doubles are better than trebles, singles better than doubles)
  • when worming be careful not to allow the fish to chew the worm for long (to minimise the danger of deep hooking)
  • play the fish quickly, do not completely tire it out
  • if you can, do not use a net, beach a fish or get hold of it, just reach down and remove the hook while the fish is still in the water, preferably using pliers (particularly if you are using a double or treble hook)
  • wet your hands before touching a fish - and wet your net thoroughly before using it 
  • minimise the time the fish spends out of water
  • do not put the fish down on anything dry/abrasive (gravel, brambles, etc)
  • do not touch the fish's gills or squeeze it too hard, particularly about its guts  (and do not suspend it from its gills or hold it up by its tail - both of these approaches are damaging)
  • put the fish back in the water gently, do not drop it in from the top of a bank (if you cannot reach, put the fish back in your net and return it that way)
  • if a fish turns over on being returned, right it, point its head into the current and keep it upright until is it strong enough to swim off
  • in light of the previous point, return your fish in a place where you can help the fish if it is too tired to swim off immediately
Alternatively, look at this video.

How to take a photo: 
  • first, think whether you really need a photo? Delay in returning fish decreases their chances of survival significantly
  • consider taking the photo with the fish in the shallows, without removing the fish from the water (to minimise handling the fish); avoid keeping it in shallows where it might damage itself
  • if you do remove the fish from water 
    • get everything ready first and remove the fish for the shortest possible time
    • wet your hands before touching the fish
    • do not squeeze the fish, particularly on or behind its gills or over its guts - it is easy to inadvertently squeeze a fish too firmly
    • do not "hang" the fish by its gills or tail
    • do one photo, not multiple poses
Minimise the risk of disease/invasive species infecting our river:

  • check your kit (especially nets, boots and waders) for bugs, seeds, eggs, etc
  • clean your kit 
  • dry your kit thoroughly 
These steps are particularly important if you have been fishing on a different river, especially if you have been abroad.

Water too high/dirty: move upstream - it may be better above the confluence with the Murk Esk, or where Butterbeck runs in. Failing that consider a trip up to Danby. 

Not enough water for decent fishing: move downstream!

Don't forget the fish under your feet: many sea trout follow the lure right to the bank - make sure you concentrate all the way in.

I keep seeing fish bow waving away as I reach a pool: you need to be more stealthy to avoid scaring the fish - approach quietly, keep out of the water, stay back from the water's edge and keep low wherever possible.  

Net always stuck on wire/brambles/trees: try rolling the netting into a "bun" and putting a rubber band around the bun, so there is no loose netting. There is no need to remove the rubber band when you catch a fish, the weight of the fish should do that for you, as long as you land the fish in the opposite side of the net. 

I am struggling: don't worry, contact a member of the committee and we will do our best to arrange for someone to show you the ropes and help you catch.

Recommended spinner: probably the single most effective spinner is a long bladed No.2 Mepps in gold.  In recent times, Black Furies have done well and Rapalas account for a number of larger salmon.  Overall recommendations are:
  • Yellow flying Cs in coloured water
  • Small flying Cs (7g)
  • Silver and red colour combinations
  • Black Fury Mepps (black and gold)
  • Mepps because their blades are active all the time (although some of us do not like the quality of their hooks)

Varying the depth of your spinner: in addition to weight and speed of retrieve, the height you hold your rod tip will also effect the depth your lure works - try raising the rod tip as you get nearer shallow water.  The spinner will rise in the water.  The further across or up you cast your spinner (as opposed to down and across), the deeper your spinner will fish. 

Generally, you want your spinner near the bottom and experienced members prefer to fish straight across the river as it gives the fish time to see the lure with both eyes and puts it across the fish's nose. Bringing a lure upstream presents a lure to one side of a fish and tends to be less successful.

Avoiding tangled spinners: if you remove one point from the treble hook on each spinner (preferably the welded on one), you can stick the resulting double hooks on each spinner into one cork, getting up to a dozen spinners attached to one cork in a tangle free format you can keep in a pocket without too much risk of stabbing yourself.   Alternatively, some members drill a hole through a cork, then cut down the side of the cork into the central hole.  They then cut the cork into slices so they have a disc that can be slid onto the shank of the hook and the points and barbs can be pushed safely into the flat side of the cork.

Best way of using one hook on a Rapala: various alternatives are illustrated, all of which comply with our "only one hook" rule, but the committee cannot agree which is best.  They all feature a small bit of lead wire to replace the weight of the treble that is removed, so that the lure is balanced.  Please let us know what you think is best and provide an example of any alternative rigs.

My spinner is stuck on a rock (again!): Rather than just yanking, put the line under reasonable pressure, so there is a good bend in your rod, and then "twang" the line between the reel and first rod eye quite aggressively - you will be surprised how often the spinner will come flying back to you.
Cork double hook store
Cork to store treble
Rapala hook optoins
Fly Fishing

Making your fly work immediately: much of our water is pocket water with small holding areas. It is important to make sure the fly is working quickly in these areas. Many members use a shorter leader than normal (3 or 4 feet) and a short sinking tip (around 3 feet) on their floating line, so that the fly submerges and works as soon as possible.

Night fishing: although not widely practised on the Esk, some members are experimenting with it. If you are planning to join them, think carefully and select safe places to fish after dark.
Best flies: The Esk Fly is thought good, as is anything small and dark (large flies or flies with a lot of silver in them are not widely used, unlike on many UK rivers where people fish for sea trout at night). 
A small amount of weight in the fly is also helpful to make the fly work quickly after it is cast.
Dr English's favourite fly was the Bulldog although he also liked the Silver Wilkinson. These days, small flies like Cascades, Stoat’s Tail or a Goat’s Foot are all popular, although it is fair to say that small black flies of any type, preferably with a touch of silver, are likely to work.
Bulldog fly photo: copyright Margaret Taylor Photography at

We would like to list the kit members find useful for new joiners - please email your ideas to us. Here are some initial thoughts.

Spinning rod - you could do worse than an 8' Diawa Whisker - you want something that will flick small Mepps accurately but with enough power to play a reasonable fish.

Fly rod - double handed rods are not normally needed, something longer than 9' that will roll cast will be useful.  In low water a 5 or 6 weight line should be sufficient and reduce the risk of scaring fish with a noisy cast.  In high water an 8 or 9 weight line is better.

Net - a number of membres are very impressed with MacLean nets particularly those with built in scales.  We understand that some models may also have measurements on the handle too.
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