Now then, my name is George Lamb and I run Bong’s fishing – an Instagram community/youtube channel. When it comes to fishing everyone has their preferences regarding species and methods, and unlike most when I fish it’s not size I’m after. In my opinion the epitome of fishing, and what it means to me, is fishing the high mountain tarns of the Lake district. Living on the outskirts of England’s largest national park, I’m very fortunate to be a short drive away from some of the most stunning scenery in the world and some of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful places to catch fish our country has to offer.
A “Tarn” is a mountain lake formed by glacial erosion tens of thousands of years ago, and they’re often surrounded by the dramatic cliffs that shape the well known landscape of the English Lake District. Situated at up to 2400 feet above sea level, the ecosystems in places like these are massively variable with many being completely void of any fish life whatsoever.
However, many of them hold a good population of trout. There are various schools of thought regarding how these resident fish got up to these places in the first place. In some, the possibility of simply swimming up streams is the likely candidate. However, one such tarn where this cannot be that case is Blind tarn, a pocket sized mountain Tarn with no obvious in or outflow of water. Some say that descendants of the fish today were trapped 10,000 years ago when the glaciers melted after the last ice age.
Another theory is that between 1123 and 1537, monks from Furness Abbey populated many tarns with fish as an additional source of readily accessible food. In addition to these it’s also a possibility that eggs were transported up on birds feet, or simply fish may have been introduced for sport before official records of such procedures began.
These mountain tarns are literally carved out of the mountainside, and as a result often there isn’t much vegetation. Therefore, a common theme is that the trout don’t grow particularly large. This does have exceptions, for example the trout in the attached picture was caught at a place called ‘Small Water’ as occasionally conditions allow for fish to grow larger. For the most part, the trout remain small due to the biological scarcity and lack of available food. For this very reason, the fish are extremely eager to bite anything put in-front of them. There’s a lot of competition for food between these wild fish, and they find even the simplest of spinners irresistible. As for fly fishing, they can prove to be more illusive. According to “Fish and Fishers of the Lake district” by Keith Harwood, the Bracken clock is an ancient fly pattern known to be deadly on these high mountain locations.
As I’m still a beginner fly fishing, lures are still my preference. Maggot feeders are also known to be highly productive, but deep hooking is a risk that I don’t like to take too often but will definitely experiment with more in the future. While fishing maggots there is also a risk of hooking into the endangered Schelley, the second rarest freshwater fish in the country following the Vendance. In addition to these rarer species, its not uncommon to find the occasional perch and pike in the lower altitude bodies of water.
Many of these venues require a hike to get to. Some as little as 15 minutes but some as many as 2 hours, and it’s safe to say fishing these places is not for the faint hearted. However, the Angler who dares to carry their gear and equipment up a mountain to catch small trout will be richly rewarded with a days fishing venues never to be forgotten. What the fish lack in size, they more than make up for in spectacular colourations and hard fighting ability. In addition to this, the spectacular surroundings create a sort of connection to nature I’ve found unattainable through any other means. In some ways it’s as much of a spiritual experience as it is a fishing trip, even when the fish aren’t biting.
As these populations of Brown trout have been isolated for thousands of years it’s not surprising to see the huge diversity in body markings. In small water I found all the trout to have a unique lilac tinge, whereas in Blind tarn they mostly had vivid white lines on their fins accompanied by a buttery belly and bright red spots. Other places I have fished include Angle tarn, and the trout here are more olive coloured than anywhere else I’ve seen. The markings of these mountain trout often take me by surprise, and I’ve even caught examples that could be mistaken for sea trout if they were to be found in rivers.
If you intend on fishing one or more of the many mountain tarns there are to explore, please do so responsibly. Try to minimise the time you keep the fish out of the water for and catch and release is absolutely necessary in the majority of situations (with some possible exceptions of the very large tarns that have even been used as fisheries in the past). The populations of fish are ancient and possibly very delicate and sustainability is of the upmost importance. Also, unless you want a very sore back and legs, pack light. I used to use telescopic rods until I got in contact with a Lake district travel rod company called Rigged and Ready. I’d highly recommend their multi-piece rods for any angler looking to hike up to these destinations.
I’ve recently began documenting my experiences fishing these trips on youtube, and full videos can be found of both my trips to Blind Tarn and Small water (and both include some incredible underwater footage in the crystal clear mountain water). If you want to stay up to date with how I’m getting on exploring these hardly ever fished scenic locations please consider subscribing to my channel on youtube, it would really help me out and support me going forwards! Maybe also drop a comment or like on some of the videos if you enjoy them, I’ll leave a link below!
Feel free to get in touch with me via instagram @bongsfishing if you ever happen to be up in the cumbria area and you want some advice on where to fish I’m your man! Thanks Bailey for giving me the opportunity for this guest blog post, catch you down the road.
Written by George Lamb