Edinburgh’s Best Kept Secret

Few British cities offer citizens and visitors alike stream fishing for brown trout, but Edinburgh's Water of Leith passes just half a mile north of the shoppers on Princes Street.


When I was a spotty faced kid; my favorite place to fly fish then was the Water of Leith in Edinburgh. I used to fish it from Balerno down to Gorgie and then from Dean Village down to behind the then Powderhall Dog Stadium.


On my holidays I used to load up my Raleigh bicycle with my fishing rod and gear and cycle to Balerno to start a good days fishing on the water, mind you looking back it was quite a task fishing a stretch of water then getting the bike before moving on to the next stretch; having to climb over various walls and through bushes etc to get a clear area to move on to and fish.


The river rises way out West in the Pentland Hills and rushes and gurgles it's way at first through open moorland, then fields of sheep and cattle, and reaches the outer suburbs of Balerno in it's wooded and secluded valley.


It emerges at Slateford and becomes a city river, darting and twisting round sharp bends, over weirs and under many bridges to slide into the Forth estuary at Leith after a journey of 24 miles (38 km) and a fall of 1000 feet (305 m). It is accompanied from Balerno by the newlycompleted Water of Leith Walkway, which provides better access for much of the fishing along the way.


The river is usually home to thousands of brown trout. As a consequence of CoEC funding pressures and decisions made, the river has not been stocked for around three years. There is no expectation that it will be stocked any time soon. Grayling have appeared in the last 10 years and have spread throughout the lower river.


The best parts to fish were at Balerno where the Water of Leith starts as you used to get the rainbow and wild brownie escapees from Harlaw Reservoir, if you were lucky you could get yourself a nice fat 2-3 pounder for the pot. There is no figures to accurately gauge the current stock of trout in the river, and informative permit returns showing anglers' successes have been in very short supply as no one seems to bother lately to return the forms; so it has been difficult to accurately judge the annual catch numbers and specimen profile.


Fishing on the Water of Leith from Balerno Bridge to Bonnington is free at the moment but you do need a permit. The river is managed now by City of Edinburgh Council (CoEC) with the assistance of Fishing Advisers who deal with the distribution of Permits to the issuing outlets such as Water of Leith Heritage Centre, local fishing tackle shops and local post offices, also a couple of CoEC offices.


The season opens on 1st April and runs until 30th September.


Permits are essential to ensure that you know the regulation and comply with these; they are available from a number of outlets.


New Rules to fish the water


Catch and Release Only; all fish must be returned

Barbless Hooks to be used at all times

Permits are non transferable and must be carried at all times and produced on request of Honorary Bailiffs, Police Officers and Fisheries Officers


Methods of Fishing


Balerno to Bogs Bridge in the Dells - Fly Fishing Only Bogs Bridge to Leith - fly or bait fishing


Spinning is Prohibited Fixed Line is Prohibited Please remove all discarded line and tackle and all rubbish from the river banks.


What type of Fishing can you do?


Fly fishing - for the length of the river we recommend wet flies size 14/18 nymphs with lines of 3lb breaking strain. Dry fly fishing is recommended in summer only as there is a prolific hatch throughout the season.


Bait fishing - from Slateford down to West Bowling Green Street bridge in Bonnington only. Maggots or small worms are best, fishing with a 3lb breaking strain and small hook.


What will you catch? Brown Trout, Grayling, Eels, Stone loach, Minnow, 3 Spined Stickleback and Flounder. Please note Salmon and Sea Trout fishing is Not Allowed and that River Lamprey and Bullheads are rare and protected so it is illegal to disturb them.


Get your free fishing permit from: Post Offices at Juniper Green, Currie and Balerno; Fishing Tackle Shops across the city and the Water of Leith Visitor Centre.


So get a permit, fish safe and enjoy the river

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