Generally speaking the larger of the fly rod sizes mentioned will come into their own when fishing from the junction of river Liddle and the main Esk (at Willow Pool) and downstream to the tide.
River Liddle may be fly fished with a single handed rod throughout its length, or in heavy autumn waters a double handed rod which in any event would not need to be longer than 12ft or so.
The Esk above the junction at Willow pool is a little wider than Liddle and a salmon rod between 12 and 14ft will fit the bill for fishing as far upstream as Bentpath 5 miles or so above the town of Langholm. The Canonbie area has some wider pools and the longer 14ft option may be a benefit.
Down stream of the Liddle junction some fishers, particularly through Willow, Cauldron, Netherby, Westolls, Longtown, Fauld & Burnfoot and Metal Bridge may prefer a fifteen footer for autumn salmon, especially those who continue to fish a fly in heavier waters when many would turn to the spinning rod.
For sea trout
9ft to 11ft single handed (or butt extension) rod capable of throwing a No 6 or No 7 line is the most popular choice. Most would use a floating line perhaps with some quickly detatchable 3 to 6ft sink tips. Occasionally in some of the really deep pools some night time fishers will use a sunk line, but the vast majority of sea trout will whether caught by day or night will fall to a floater or sink tip. Leader strengths are on average 6lb some may use 8lb breaking strain at night. Occasionally anglers will try fishing rough streams in low water with 4lb line, but this is tempting fate.
Sea trout flies fall broadly into two types, slinky long ones for the true nightime fishing in the dark and wee ones size 10 to 14 (14 doubles for hook hold) for fishing the day time in a dropping spate or the rough streams just before dusk.
The night fly could be as long as a traditional No 4 low water salmon single or a 1 to 1 1/4" tube. whichever you use, a slim body is the preferred dressing and if in doubt, silver with a bit of black will be as good as any eg. Silver stoat or variant. Some people have enjoyed considerable success with 'needle flies' made from a slim hackled nickel plated sewing needles, joined to a small treble. they don't come much slimmer than that!
The day/dusk fly - smaller flies for the daylight are the norm. 'Wee doubles' are popular tied as Invicta, Silver stoat, Teal, Blue and Silver, Black Pennel types (eg.Border Belle), Esk Greenwells (egThompsons Terror) Peter Ross. Black can work well in a peaty spate or at dusk.
9 to 15ft dependant on location and time of year. Most fish are caught on sink tip lines, with some being taken on neutral density or slow sink in the deep pools. If you encounter really low water then a floating line may suffice.
Leader material is on average 12lb breaking strain, with down to 8lb for summer grilse if low water persists and 15lb in autumn spates.
Many of the sea trout patterns will tempt a summer grilse (better if on double hooks) but as September approaches, red Ally's shrimp patterns work well, with purple , cascade, or in coloured water orange/yellow an option according to light and conditions. these would normally be fished in sizes 12 to 8 on doubles or trebles. In heavy waters heavier tubes will come into favour if you dont wish to spin.
When and where permitted, spinning finds a lot of favour in high water conditions. for salmon a 15 gram flying 'C' is most popular. The first time visitor will not go far wrong with black and silver for clearer waters and an odd red/orange or yellow for heavy colour. Toby type spoons also account for salmon. 12lb line or up to 16lb in autumn would suffice, as would a 8 1/2 to 10ft rod capable of handling up to 20-25 gram baits.
For sea trout, it often works to use a slightly smaller flying 'C' or mepp type spinner which if flicked accross the tail of a glide can account for many a fish. I wouldn't spin with much less than 10lb line on, assuming that the water is up a bit at a traditional spinning height and this will also give you a chance should you contact a summer grilse. Where spinning as allowed in low water a tiny 00 or No 1 mepp on 6lb line flicked into rapids and streamy runs with stealth can sometimes outwit a sea trout which you might have scared with the fly rod.
Much the same tackle as for spinning, it is mainly done with a drilled bullet above a swivel with 2 to 2 1/2ft of leader trace to a single hook, the same principles on breaking strains apply. I would recommend short shank, wide gape carp type hooks (eg. Kamasan B980), size 8 or 10 for sea trout and size 8 or 6 or 4 for salmon dependant on time of year.
Other equipment & advice
LANDING NETS must be of a knotless mesh variety.
WADERS with studded soles are the most popular and a wading stick makes good sense. However beats and safety conditions vary and you are advised to check before wading. A life jacket is advisable.
Some of the Esk system has rocky terrain with gullets and fast flowing waterfalls, some flows through pasture and has gravel bottom. Toward the tidal reaches, sandy mud flats will be found, some of which are quick sinking. You should also be aware of occasional over head power lines, farm animals and electric stock fences. Take care, tell someone where you are going and when you should be back!
MIDGES may be troublesome during summer, particularly on warm damp evenings and some net protection or suitable repellant may make life more comfortable.
NOTE: Many beats restrict permitted methods to certain water heights and some do not allow certain methods eg shrimps or upstream fly fishing. Please check the terms of your permit and local bylaws before fishing.
This general advice was supplied by Iain Bell of the Buccleuch Esk and Liddle fishery Office, Ewesbank, LANGHOLM DG13 0ND. If you require more detailed information on tackle, tactics or even where to stay, you are most welcome to telephone his office at Langholm 013873 81951. A recorded message of River conditions is also usually available as an option from this line.