Hanging Rock, County Fermanagh
Making your first fishing trip to Northern Ireland will not just be about fishing.
It’s about a bagful of opportunities to lap up the great outdoors, the beauty of the stunning countryside and the craic of the locals.
Here is a quick and easy guide for newcomers to the scene.
Hooked on diversity
First up, you need to know Northern Ireland’s waters are some of the most lightly fished in Europe. That means less people, more fish and wide open spaces.
The landscape is blessed with a plethora of diverse and easy to get to fishing waters. There is a profusion of recreational fishing destinations and challenging sporting opportunities to suit all budgets and levels of expertise.
As a newcomer you can have as much or as little back up as you wish because the region is also rich in professional casting instructors and guides, boatmen, fly fishing schools, angling clubs and tackle and bait shops. All of them are more than willing to offer local knowledge, tips and tricks.
The lure of great angling
The three genres of angling are all remarkably good in Northern Ireland. Choose your beat or your mark and soon you’ll be watching that line get tight.
Northern Ireland’s game fishing scene is distinctly world-class. From March to October pit your wits against salmon, grilse, sea trout, brown trout and the highly prized hard-fighting local species like dollaghan and gillaroo. They give truly outstanding sport. It all runs on hundreds of miles of pristine river, lake, stream and lough, offering massive choice on where to wet your line.
Tip: Think about hiring a local guide or ghillie, who’ll steer you to the best flies, tackle, fishing stories – and pubs.
All-round course action
Aided by the fact that there is no closed season, Northern Ireland is an incredible coarse fishing destination synonymous with record hauls. Modern pegs and fishing stands are widely available on many of the most frequented coarse fishing swims, and an array of quiet spots can be easily found. The top species include roach, bream, hybrids and tench, complemented by rudd, carp, dace and gudgeon. Specimen pike are plentiful.
Tip: Spring and winter are the best times for mega bagging sessions.
Sea angling on marks along an unspoilt coastline that features breath-taking sights such as the world-famous Giant’s Causeway is a thrill comparable to salmon fishing. From the rocks it’s easy to land pollock, mullet, mackerel and more; from the shore, cod, flounder, turbot and more; and you name it from a boat.
Tip: For deep sea adventure hook up with a local boat charter.
The legendary Northern Irish welcome awaits fishing first-timers, as well as whatever number timers.
Fishing lodges, B&Bs, guest houses and a range of top hotels dot the waterways, so there are plenty of bases for your expedition. Many are specifically ‘anglers welcome’ properties with dedicated facilities for storing tackle, washing and drying clothes and freezing bait – and the catch.
First time fun
In the evening, when you return from a tranquil day taking in the wildlife and reeling in the fish, be prepared for some great craic.
Experiencing the local hospitality will involve some delicious and authentic Northern Ireland food and drink and the swapping of a story or three. Most newcomers reckon this is as good as the fishing.
Tip: Don’t let Northern Ireland be the one that got away.
Licenses and permits
If you are sea angling, you don’t need a licence or permit… unless you’re after salmon or sea trout, when you will need a game licence.
Fishing Northern Ireland’s public freshwaters for game or coarse fish means by law you will always need a rod licence issued in Northern Ireland. It’s straightforward to get one online and at local tackle shops and various distributors.
For waters outside public control you will also need a permit from the owner, most often an angling club or private individual. A separate license and permit is needed for each additional rod.
For game fish you will also need to observe the bag limits and tagging practices of the fishery you are on.
For more information on licences and permits visit NI Direct.