10 great spots for fishing in Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 16:08 22 September 2020 | UPDATED: 16:08 22 September 2020
Inspired by the BBC’s feel-good show Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing, editor Dominic Castle has been out on the banks angling for a catch
Who would have thought that a fishing TV programme featuring two old guys chewing the fat and not catching much could capture the nation’s attention in the way that the BBC’s Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing has?
Whoever dreamt up the idea deserves some sort of TV award; it is a nugget of TV gold that brightens what are pretty dark times. And, like all the best ideas, it is a simple one.
Take two old friends, with serious health issues, one a skilled angler and the other a novice, put them together in some of Britain’s most gorgeously scenic waterside spots, film it with cinematic grandeur and care and let the alchemy begin. Feel-good TV barely covers it.
Of course, the actual angling plays second – or third – fiddle to the bonhomie of our heroes and the beauty of the countryside, but it is the glue that binds the show.
Regular watchers will know that Norfolk has featured in several episodes across the three series, underlining the county’s credentials as a fine sport for all sorts of fishing.
This show has had a personal effect on me. Many years ago (40+, if we’re counting) me and two friends, Carl and Paul, would cycle around the heart of Norfolk with our rods and a pint of maggots in search of the elusive big ‘un.
In those days venues were rather fewer than today; we’d visit the old gravel pits at Lyng, Swanton Morley, Taverham and the River Wensum at North Elmham. And not catch much; we were a bit short of skill, if we’re honest.
But it was fun and even as a kid I appreciated being out in the countryside in all seasons. But when adolescence arrived the gear went into the garage and that was that.
Fast forward to today and, inspired by Bob and Paul, an old friend and I are doing our own version of this TV gem. Lindsay & Castle: Gone Fishing may be a bit derivative but so what?
Picking up a fishing rod again has been a joy, a counter to curious times. I’ve only managed a few outings in the weeks since I decided to have another go, but they’ve been great days. Under Milton’s patient tutelage I have even caught some fish – including a 6lb tench, far and away the biggest catch ever to have taken my bait.
Just as importantly, these days have allowed me to decompress, to enjoy the spectacle of the dragonflies dancing around the rod-tip, the flash of a kingfisher, the busy dabbling of the waterbirds.
I’m looking forward to an autumn and winter of angling antics; thanks to YouTube and Milton my skills and knowledge of different techniques are on the up and the quality of the kit today is amazing. The fibreglass pipes which made up yesteryear’s rods have been replaced by whip-thin carbon fibre, the rattly old reels by precision instruments with the smooth action of a Swiss watch.
I’ve made a little list of the venues I’m planning to try out in the coming weeks and months, plus a couple I’ve been to already, all of which offer day tickets (some other venues are members-only). If there’s one near you why not have a look for yourself? There are dozens of spots to choose from and you never know, you might get hooked.
This is a lovely spot, especially for a novice. The pegs are well-spaced with wooden platforms and the relatively shallow water contains a good mix of roach and bream, plus some bigger carp and pike. The bailiff is friendly and knows the water inside and out. £7 for a day ticket from the car park machine (plus £5 for parking if you’re not a National Trust member).
A seriously impressive venue, with no less than nine lakes to choose from. This is the spot that I bagged my 6lb tench and where Milton landed a lovely chub from the river which meanders through the complex. You can drive up to most of the pegs. Popular with the serious carp-fishing folk and their batteries of rods and gear. £10 for a day ticket, pay on site.
There are five lakes in the venue, two of which are for trout (and so for the fly fishers). For the more experienced or ambitious there is a specimen carp lake, plus a general mixed coarse lake and a general match and coarse lake which apparently has over 9,000 fish! Day tickets from £9, pay on site.
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Popular with the specimen carp hunters, there are also four coarse lakes with tench, roach, chub, barbel, Crucian carp and bream. It also has a tackle shop and general store on site and says that it also has bailiffs on site who are ‘only too happy to help if you are new to fishing or just need a pointer in the right direction to get as many fish as possible on the bank.’ Day tickets are £8 per day, booking essential.
On the Norfolk/Suffolk border in the Waveney Valley is the Weybread Pits complex, run by the Harleston, Wortwell and District Angling Club. This is perhaps one to visit when you’ve a little experience under the belt; the pits have some whopping carp and pike, though there are waters with more manageable quarry for the newbie. When you’re really ready you might fancy a crack at the 100-acre lake! Day tickets are from just £4 and need to be bought in advance.
A five-lake venue which mixes it up to allow anglers of all abilities to have a go; it even has a properly designated beginner’s lake, which is a nice touch. The other lakes offer a variety of fish, including ide (or orfe) which don’t appear everywhere. There is a specimen lake too if you are looking for a real challenge. Day tickets from £8 and you need to book in advance.
Towards the north of the county is the Willow Lakes venue at Bodham, near Holt. There are two pretty-looking waters here, the does-what-it-says-on-the-tin Large and Small Lakes, stocked with a nice mix of coarse fish including tench, bream and perch. Day tickets, available on site, are £7.
Cross Drove Fishery
A single large lake at this venue at Hockwold is divided by over 20 islands, bridges, mini waterways and reeds, trees and bushes to create a varied terrain stocked with the usual suspects but also with eels and the relatively uncommon zander. The owners are particulrly proud of the accompanying wiflife. Day tickets from £7, pay the bailiff on site.
South Creake Fishing Lakes
This spot, just outside Fakenham, has a real advantage over many other venues as it has its own hatchery which produces fish for sale and also stocks its own lakes. The three-acre lake offers the chance to catch mirror and common carp, tench, roach, rudd and bream. A day ticket costs £7 and can be bought on site from the bailiff.
While no list of Norfolk fishing destinations would be complete without including the Broads, this would be a whole article by itself. There are miles of rivers offering the chance to catch a huge variety of fish. However, there are restrictions on where and when you can fish and of course the waters are often very busy with river traffic. Of course, if you are on a boat already, you’re probably in the best spot!
Please check with all venues before travelling for up-to-date prices, opening hours and Covid-19 restrictions.