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How To Find Free Trout Fishing

Published: 14th July 2020 | Author: Tim James

Searching for free river fishing

Whilst the price of some day-tickets for southern chalkstreams can bring a tear to the eye, accessing good water needn’t always dent the wallet. Unlike in other parts of the world where a single licence grants you access to miles of public access fishing, here in the UK private ownership of fishing rights is not only the norm but here to stay. Figures of £200 upwards are common place for a single day’s fishing on revered rivers such as the Itchen and Test, with prices increasing further during the eventful mayfly of ‘duffers’ season. Factoring in that many of these stretches of rivers are not within walking distance of public transport you either need to drive or pay for a taxi to get to the ‘beat’….. further adding to costs.

However, in the South East of England, possibly the most expensive region to fish for wild trout in the UK, there are a number of lifelines available to those on low income, with no car or those unwilling to pay the kind of money sought. These are the small number of areas where the fishing free.

Tools for targeting chalk stream trout.

Where are these locations?

Several of the major chalkstreams have free fishing available, generally where they run through town centres and are therefore owned by the local authority. Fishing will either be permitted, prohibited or lie within a grey area where there’s nothing to say that you can fish, but nothing to say that you can’t!

Finding these locations for someone starting out is best achieved through networking with anglers, internet searches,  joining and participating in internet fly fishing forums ( and in the odd case books (Theo Pike’s ‘Trout In Dirty Places’).


Sometimes there’s a reason why things are free! Gone are the river keepers, ensuring the river bank is manicured and the weed cut, absent are the ‘private fishing’ signs and gates ensuring that trespassers are kept at bay and often missing is the beautiful sight of the countryside.

You’ll often be fishing in or near to a town centre which can mean dog walkers, commuters and in some cases competition from non fly anglers.

To tell or not to tell

The biggest concern about telling other anglers about these locations is the fear that they will become overrun with other anglers. Yet the flip side is that sharing information could hugely benefit another angler who may not have had the opportunity to fish for wild river trout otherwise. In my experience, one kind deed often is returned in some way or another!

A brown trout caught on a free chalk stream.

In summary

If you’re on a lower income and times are tough, then these free stretches might just provide salvation for those who want to get into fishing. The venues often are challenging to fish, and while not possessing prolific fishing they do have some of the most beautiful wild trout and grayling you’ll encounter.

N.B. To add one final but very important point is that efforts by conservation groups and charities such as the South East Rivers Trust, the London Wildlife Trust and Thames21 (to name but a few) are instrumental in keeping these rivers clean and healthy. These organisations rely on volunteers and donations to be able to undertake restoration and maintenance works. They’re also a great outlet for the angler to give something back to our waterways and secure their futures for generations to come

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