This must be the longest case of cabin fever ever. For one reason or another, I haven’t so much as wet a line since last summer. Overdosing on the laptop by day, binge-watching TV by night, the closest I’ve got to the river is via satellite mapping. It’s been a virtual world all round, but at least there’s been plenty of time to plan escapes with rod and line, hoping for the day I might be allowed to take them. This is a year for homegrown fishing if ever there was one, so where to go for that watery wilderness fix?
The Devon moorland offers 15 miles of wind-blown fishing on the East and West Dart, and the beautifully named Blackabrook, Cowsic Brook, Wallabrook, Swincombe Brook and Cherrybrook. It’s worth the journey for the names alone, but the waters – part of the Duchy of Cornwall estate – are also among the first English trout streams to come to life in spring. Pack a copy of Alice Oswald’s narrative poem Dart to enjoy with a freedom pint on 12 April.
Day ticket £12, westcountryangling.com
Malham Tarn is a rare stretch of water. On a limestone plateau more than 370 metres above sea level, it is one of only eight upland alkaline lakes in Europe and one of a kind in England. It is home to white-clawed crayfish, rare alpine plants, 71 species of caddisfly and the fat brown trout, resident here since the last ice age, that hunt them. This is wild and far from easy pickings.
Fishing season is daily from 1 May-end September. Boat hire from £18, fishing £21, nationaltrust.org.uk
In the farthest north-west of Scotland is another natural marvel: the limestone outcrop of Durness, and four lochs – Lanlish, Croispol, Borralaidh and Caladail – where the trout may be even trickier than Malham’s. The lochs are shallow and clear, with a bright marl bed – like lenses of Bahamian salt-flat in a landscape of Nordic noir. The trout are just as mysterious, and capricious in the extreme. They are also enormous: the record catch stands at over 6kg (14lb).
Fishing is controlled by the Keoldale Sheep Stock Club (01971 511255)
Come high summer, you may want to turn your attention seawards, hoping for a run-in with Dicentrarchus labrax, the European sea bass. With a handful of bass junkies among my local fishing buddies, every year from July onwards I am on a drip-feed bass newscast. They’ve been getting bigger lately, with tighter restrictions on the commercial fishery, and my guess is the monsters of folklore could be back soon. The great thing about bass is that there are good spots across Britain: Dorset, Cornwall, Devon, Kent, Isle of Wight, Pembrokeshire. Just find your stretch of coast and start casting.