Westwater Fly Fishing Club came into being on the 27th of July 1958 as Westwater (Northumberland) Lakes Society. In addition to fishing, it also offered sailing, field studies, and shooting.

At the club’s first meeting, Ron Bower was appointed as Chairman and Gordon Corry as a member.

The clubhouse was Bonnyrigg Hall, located just off the Military Road. The fishing was on three local loughs.

  • Greenlee which was used as a sailing club
  • Broomlee
  • Craglough which was added later

Like many older clubs, it started with a handful of members and a ton of enthusiasm.

Fees at the time were:

  • Entrance Fee: £25 (today £732)
  • Annual Subscription: £10 (today £293)
  • Guest Fees: £2 per day (today £58)

The Annual General Meeting in 1963 reported 1661 caught by 100 anglers giving an average per rod of nearly 17 fish.

In September 1967 when Newcastle & Gateshead Water Company opened up the fishing at Hallington, Westwater leased the two lakes. Both lakes had a very large population of perch and dace. Specialist contractors were employed and between 16,000 and 18,000 were removed. This necessitated an increase in the annual subscription to £20. (£435 today)

In 1975 the club decided to rear its own stock and some 1000 6-inch rainbows were put in cages built by the East runner. In the same year, the club experimented with the rearing of American brook trout.

In 1976 John Irving was appointed as full-time fishery manager. A position which he diligently and enthusiastically fulfilled for the next 41 years. Over that time, he patiently coached many with his wisdom on what flies were best at different times of the season. Leading up to John’s departure in 2017 Ian Scott – a local lad who had fished Hallington since he was 7 – assisted John in his Fishery Manager role. When John retired, he took over the position and continues to help and advise members, their guests, and visitors.

In 1977 UK Water Authorities extended the season close to 31st October. The result of this saw a further 500 fish being caught.

In 1978, the waiting list was 40.

In 1978 the Water Authority donated 1000 American 3” brook trout. At 12” 500 were released into the East Lake in July. 300 of which were caught in 1978 with 3 being caught in 1979. There was a mixed reaction to the brook trout. Some members said they were good eating but not very exciting to catch. Others claimed they fought strongly but were not very palatable.

There were severe weather conditions in 1979, yet the returns showed Hallington anglers caught 5313 or approx. 82% of fish stocked.

In 1979, 5 new boats were ordered at a total cost of £4000 (just over £25,000 today).

In 1980 the annual subscription increased to £85 (£457) with an entrance fee of £20 (£107 today)

In October 1980 angler returns showed fish of 3 pounds were being regularly caught.

In 1982 the new clubhouse was completed, decorated, and furnished.

In 1983 the club celebrated its Silver Jubilee.

During the 70s and 80s, Hallington fishing was enriched by an abundant insect population. Prolific hatches of caddis, duns, and hawthorn flies were the norm. Sadly, farmers’ extensive use of nitrates on their land has meant today only the hawthorn fly hatches and sedges occur in great numbers.

Today both lakes contain freshwater mussels, the occasional sea lamprey, bullheads eel, perch, roach, and dace. Some sizeable perch are caught with the 2024 season seeing one of approximately 3 pounds safely returned. Another member boat fishing found himself attached to an eel, which took a silver lure fished deep.

The coarse fish supply a rich fry source, allowing some trout to reach Leviathan size.

As you wander into the clubhouse two such specimens can be seen in glass cases. The 9lb 15oz rainbow caught by E. Linter on a Cochybundu on the 10th September 1988. Alongside this fine specimen is the 5lb 7oz rainbow caught by G.W. Allsop in April 1985.
Both lakes produce fine rainbows and browns of 8, 10, 12+ pound most seasons. Neil Irvin’s 13.5-pounder brown caught on a Kate McLaren stands out.

In addition, both lakes are stocked throughout the season, weekly and fortnightly. 2023 saw 9500 fish added.

For 2024 some 9100 fish will be added. For the opening two months of the 2024 season – April & May) 945 angler visits saw 4267 fish caught giving an average fish per angler of 4.52!

With weights in the region of 2 to 4 pounds, they provide exceptional sport for those who pursue them, be that from the bank or boat.

In 2023 Northumbria Water’s planned maintenance work on the West Lake saw fishing curtained considerably. While a small number of anglers could bank fish, the option of boat fishing was removed for the season.

On the plus side, Northumbria Water widened the entrance from the main road. They further increased the number of passing places on the road to the clubhouse. They also increased and improved the car park.

For the angler who wants to catch hard-fighting fish…enjoy the peace, tranquillity, and variance the two lakes provide…set in beautiful Northumberland countryside, then Hallington cannot be beaten.

“…waiting patiently for that magical moment… when the light begins to fade and the stillness is broken by trout rising for the abundance of sedges falling on the water, you dance your fly into the centre of the boil, and the line tightens.”