Fresh or Salt? A question I am often asked, it takes no time to consider the answer, freshwater fly fishing for me. Don’t get me wrong, the idea of wading warm salt flats and sight casting to bonefish, permit, GTs etc. certainly appeals, but freshwater holds even more intrigue and fascination.

Trout Fishing, Aardvark McLeod

It was freshwater fishing, both lakes and rivers, where I developed a love for fly fishing. Predominantly stocked trout on lakes at first, then progressing to reservoirs and then onto rivers across the UK. Once I began to understand river trout and grayling fly fishing I felt I had found my perfect type of fishing. It was not until sometime later that I then added sea run species too, sea trout in Wales first and then on to Scottish salmon.

Salmon fishing, Laxa I Asum, Iceland

It did not take long before I wanted… no, needed to further my freshwater fly fishing experiences by venturing to new waters further afield. The trout fishing elite were first, the American West, New Zealand, Iceland etc. Then came salmon in Iceland and Norway, but still looking for more, I then discovered new freshwater species; taimen in Mongolia, yellowfish in South Africa.

Onon River Mongolia, Fly Fishing Mongolia, taimen fishing Mongolia, Aardvark McLeod Mongolia, Mongolia River Outfitters, Fish Mongolia

With an ever growing list for exploration, I began to understand that my freshwater fly fishing love was not only down to the species targeted but the environment too. Here are the two key reasons why I love freshwater fly fishing.

The Species:

The most obvious reason is of course the species that you can target in freshwater. For non-anadromous fish, the thrill comes in the stalk and the deception, for these fish are often wary of their surrounds and will scrutinise every possible meal passing by. For some unknown reason, I take great enjoyment from finding that fish that keeps refusing my offerings, only to eventually find the right drift and fly to fool it. Although that does not always happen!

Iceland Trout Fly Fishing, Dry Fly Fishing Iceland

Bigger trout and other aggressive species offer a different appeal, their lust to attack big prey. Throwing big flies and watching a fish light up and send water spraying may not have the delicacy of small dry flies but it certainly gets the heart pumping.

Anadromous fish on the other hand have their own intrigue, they are not in the river to feed. This throws up a different challenge, trying to get a fish to eat that doesn’t want to. It took me a long time to get my head around that as a bona fide skill, but the more I explore the more theories I put in place. I like to think that with more theories my success is also improving…

Alex Jardine, Gaula River Norway, Norwegian Fly Fishers Club Norway, NFC Norway, Atlantic salmon Norway, Salmon Fly Fishing Norway

The Places:

As I ventured to new destinations, I soon realised that it was not just the species that appealed but the places they inhabited. The saltwater environment can be stunning but it is often very flat, whereas freshwater fly fishing would take me to awesome imposing landscapes. The Julian Alps of Slovenia, the black lava fields of Iceland, the rolling Mongolian Steppe and not to forget the old English woodlands of the chalkstreams. The type of places where you almost forget to cast because you are just staring at your surrounds.

River Lambourn Chalkstream fly fishing, Dry Fly Fishing, Alex Jardine, Aardvark McLeod Dry Fly Fishing

These places do not just offer incredible scenery but unforgettable wildlife viewing, and hearing. One of the joys about the way that you approach a river is it is about stealth and quietness, this helps mask you from fish but also all other animals. From water voles, to wildebeest, monkeys, birds and all sorts. Do not forget to take a moment to stop, look and listen, you won’t regret it no matter where you are.

I am writing this during the lockdown, and it would be easy to be saddened by this. The great spring fishing is passing us by without a cast being made. Rather than be down, I find it inspiring, it will be the drive that makes me one of the first to get back out on the local chalkstreams and sign up for that next trip away. Time on the water is time well spent, I cannot wait to make that next cast and once again appreciate the stunning landscape of freshwater fly fishing.

River Itchen Chalkstream fly fishing, Dry Fly Fishing, Alex Jardine, Aardvark McLeod Dry Fly Fishing

If you, like us, are missing your fishing drop us a line for we are happy to talk as much fishing as possible, email us or call our office on +44(0)1980 847389.