The Water of Fleet is one of the smaller Solway rivers, which runs through the town of Gatehouse of Fleet nestling between the Galloway Hills. The river quietly flows through a charming pastoral landscape and is lined with oakwoods, which cast a dappled light on the water on sunlit days. The Water of Fleet has two tributaries - the Big Water of Fleet and the Little (or Wee) Water of Fleet. The Big Water drains the eastern slope of Cairnsmore of Fleet whilst the Little Water is fed by Loch Fleet. The Big and Little Water join at Aikyhill meandering through the countryside to become simply the Water of Fleet.
The Fleet Valley has National Scenic Area status in recognition of its natural beauty and it is surely one of the most pleasant systems in which to fish in Dumfries and Galloway. During the springtime, the woods are filled with bluebells and in the summer it is not uncommon to see red squirrels scampering through the ancient woodlands next to the river. The autumn is packed with colour as the leaves turn on the trees, painting a fitting backdrop to the picture made by the river's silvery path.
Stake nets have always been present in the bay and are currently fished by Cardoness Estate on a recreational basis rather than as a commercial interest. Further out in the bay you will see the uninhabited islands known as Murray's Isles, named after the entrepreneur James Murray who founded Gatehouse of Fleet.
The Water of Fleet below Rusko in the lower river
Fishing on the Water of Fleet
The river is well known for its sea trout although salmon can also be caught when water conditions are right. The sea trout can be large in size, with fish over 10lb in weight having been caught in September. As the river is a spate river, it fishes best for salmon after a good fall of rain although sea trout fishing can be productive even on a smallish rise.
Salmon tend to enter the river quite late in comparison to the other Galloway rivers and may be large in size, with individuals of 18lb having been taken. It is not unusual for anglers fishing during the back end to catch several salmon in one day. Brown trout are present in many of the spawning burns, with larger trout available on the main stem of the river. Access is generally easy, with well maintained styles and obvious car parking facilities.
The river is managed by the River Fleet District Salmon Fishery Board (FDSFB) with scientific advice provided by the Galloway Fisheries Trust (GFT). The GFT works on the Solway rivers situated on the Scottish side of the Firth - the Border Esk, Annan, Urr, Kirkcudbrightshire Dee, Fleet, Cree, Bladnoch and Luce. The Fleet was one of the four founding rivers of the GFT and has been a member since 1989. Annually the GFT completes a hatchery (for salmon and sea trout) and habitat enhancement programme. The GFT's aim is to restore and maintain aquatic biodiversity in Galloway by means of practical, responsible and sustainable approaches to land, water and fishery management, based on sound science, for the benefit of the community as a whole. For further information on the Galloway Fisheries Trust, please click here.