If one studies an Ordnance Survey map of north-east Norfolk and in particular the area of Broadland, it will become apparent that the major river is the river Bure. With its tributaries the Ant and Thurne, together with the vast complex of broads and dykes that they collectively feed, the River Bure is indeed a mighty waterway. But this river is also two-faced because it’s deep tidal, broad-connecting reaches bear little resemblance whatsoever to the peaceful, clear flowing and comparatively tiny upper reaches which start high up in mid-north Norfolk, near Melton Constable.
The River Bure is predominantly a highly reserved trout fishery in these narrow, streamy upper reaches as it flows through the miniature, most picturesque mills of Corpusty and Itteringham in an easterly direction. Nearly all the fishing is private but the individual can do no harm by asking permission, especially if he possesses a fly rod and shows interest.
The first actual accessible part of the river bure is immediately downstream of Ingworth Bridge which carries the old A140 road from Norwich to Corpusty (see ‘Salmon and Trout Association Waters’). The River Bure here is a most enchanting and challenging venue, being an almost miniature replica of the famous Itchen and holding a few large dace in addition to brown trout.
From Ingworth, the river Bure courses south-easterly towards Aylsham where, just above and below the town, the banks are privately owned. However, there is a stretch worth exploring for big dace in the area of where the Aylsham by-pass crosses the river. Local farmers are usually sympathetic to the serious angler if permission is asked first. The river bed is constantly changing character with a depth variation of between 2 and 6 feet. The deepish runs between weed beds generally hold the better-sized fish but the water is absolutely crystal clear in the summer and fishing is painfully difficult. A stealthy approach is always advisable even when rain colours the stream.
The Upper Bure is probably the most difficult to fish of all Norfolk’s rivers. Per acre of water, this river has very limited fish stocks, although individual fish are often of specimen size. Two miles down from Aylsham the River Bure flows beneath the tiny humpbacked road bridge at Burgh and divides around the old mill.
There is little access above this area but below the mill on the northern bank -stretching all the way down to Oxnead road bridge – the fishing is owned by Oxnead Farm (Tel: 01603 279274) which gives anglers free access providing they telephone beforehand. However, due to cormorant and in recent years, otter predation, it has to be said that in these clear-flowing upper reaches, fish stocks are now at an all-time low. It’s extremely sad, but all too common story nowadays.
From Oxnead Mill to Buxton Mill, Oxnead Fishery syndicate used to have the fishing rights along the right-hand (southern) bank looking downstream (not sure who does now). This extends above Oxnead Mill to the first bend upstream of Brampton Bridge. The River Bure in these winding two miles starts narrow but widens and deepens as it nears Buxton. From Oxnead to Buxton along the northern bank, again fishing is in the hands of a private syndicate. It is very much a specialist’s water holding very small concentrations of bream in the 4-8 lb. range, plus the odd tench to 7 Ib. A 9 lb. 6 oz. bream was caught here in 2018 by a local angler.
There is also pike including occasional specimens over 20 lb. plus odd dace, trout, roach and chub. But due to continual visits from cormorants and otter predation during the past decade, the numbers of quality fish have been greatly reduced, as they have throughout Norfolk and Suffolk’s upper river systems.
Above Buxton mill along the ‘wide water’ the river used to produce numbers of big roach. Now they are like rocking horse droppings. Below the mill at Buxton chub really start to feature with fish over 4 lb. plus the odd specimen to 7 lb. along with a few quality roach, dace and odd big bream. A 15 lb. 3 oz. barbel is the largest taken here. Fishing around the mill itself is private, but for access below Buxton mill downriver along the right hand (southern bank) down as far as the old railway bridge where the mill and back streams converge, contact Bramton and Oxnead Parish Council on 01603 279741. There are some nice dace and chub runs immediately above and below the old railway bridge where a syndicate fishery then starts, extending for some way downstream.
Immediately below Mayton Bridge is an excellent dace run and one or two large brown trout inhabit this stretch. The river now twists and turns between banks lined with beds of tall reeds for a distance of two miles down to Horstead Road Bridge. There is a lovely overgrown wooded part with free access along the southern bank via a footpath behind Horstead church on the B1354 road. Here there are small numbers of specimen-sized chub, some quality roach and odd good bream and pike. Access to the opposite (northern) bank starts at Horstead Road Bridge where fishing is free from the public footpath all the way upriver to the first dyke. The wide double ‘S’ bend 400 yards above the bridge is known as ‘Bream Corner’, where bream to 8 lb. have been caught in past seasons.
The shoals are numerically nowhere near so strong today but the chance of taking just one or two slabs to 7 lb. plus is still there. Fishing into darkness with ledgered bread flake takes some beauties and occasionally produces a big roach. A few specimens to 2 lb. still exist here, along with some nice dace. Locate a double figure pike, of which there are several in this stretch, and its feed will not be far away.
Four hundred yards below the road bridge which carries the B1150 from Norwich lies Horstead Mill, the boundary line between the Bure’s upper and tidal reaches. The pool is deep and much of the bottom is strewn with large boulders and discarded rubbish from when the mill burnt down. This terrain provides shelter to some huge eels but makes any attempt to extract a sizeable specimen almost impossible on standard equipment. Good shoals of quality roach exist here plus a few whoppers at the tail end of the flush, together with odd large perch, chub and brown trout. Dace and gudgeon are numerous in all the fast, shallow water and between the cabbages live some pike well into double figures. There is always a chance of specimens over 20 lb. here.
At certain times throughout the summer shoals of sizeable bream enter the pool from downriver. These bronze beauties run to a good size and, in the mid-1960s, before the old mill building burnt down, a local angler, the late George Woods, amassed an incredible 140 lb. of fish to 4 lb. Such numbers do not exist nowadays, however, but individual fish are much larger. Access to anglers is from the roadside car park adjacent to the pool’s south bank and fishing is free.
The River Bure divides below the pool around a long island for about 400 yards and then meets again to pursue its course towards Coltishall Common, a popular holiday spot and an excellent winter fishery when the summer boats have been put away. However, small ‘bream flats’ and roach are taken here during the summer, even when things are in full swing, but for better sport and quality fish one concentrates on either early morning or evening sessions.
Fishing from the towpath on the Common is free. The fishing in these now tidal reaches is far easier than in the upper reaches, due mainly I think to the permanently coloured water constantly being churned up by pleasure craft. Another plus factor is that the actual shoals of most species, except dace, are so much larger. One may fish the same swim all day and accumulate a bag which many consider an impossible task upriver. Perch to over 3 lb. are sometimes taken from close in beside the piling of the staithe. Local info is available from the pub on Coltishall Common, The Kings Head jas accommodation for visiting anglers plus much local fishing knowledge.
From Coltishall to Belaugh and on to Wroxham there are four miles of fishing, which is largely inaccessible from the banks, due mainly to surrounding marshland and private controls. However, one may navigate upriver from Belaugh or even put a small car top dinghy in from Coltishall Common and Horstead Mill (no slipways) and enjoy the sport with good concentrations of roach, plus a few bream and numerous pike which are to be found in this reach. In the village of Belaugh there are two public staithes. One is adjacent to the house on the left of the boatyard and to the right is the mooring staithe where one can park the car.
The river then meanders slowly down towards Wroxham through beautifully wooded marshes. Belaugh Broad, the small badly silted broad on the northern bank, one and a half miles upstream of Wroxham, is private although it is reputed to contain numbers of tench, bream, big pike and even carp.
One mile upstream from Wroxham there is around 500 yards of free fishing on the south bank along Caens Meadow, adjacent to the school. Access is from the Norwich – Wroxham road via Castle Street. Cars must be left at the top of the lane.
At Wroxham the River Bure is the busiest spot in the whole of Broadland, especially during summer. However, small ‘bream flats’ and young roach are still caught among the hustle and bustle. River craft, large and tiny, plough down the river (sometimes three abreast) with parties of tourists attracted to the local sights. Most cruise boats hibernate from November onwards, however, and until the season ends Wroxham becomes a mecca for anglers. Incidentally, bait and local advice are available from Wroxham Angling direct (Tel:01603 782679).
The Bure here offers easily accessible fishing from comfortable bank side swims where good roach, bream, perch, ruffe and even odd tench are taken most of the winter through. If the mainstream doesn’t pay dividends, then there are usually some concentrations of medium-sized fish to be found in the now deserted boatyards. Favourite tactics are light float fishing with casters or maggots or worms, with light cereal ground bait for added attraction. Norfolk broads Boats hire can be had here.
The pike fishing all around Wroxham is really excellent with hordes of fish in the 4-12 lb. range with fish over 20 lb. taken regularly throughout the winter. The river record was taken in 2007 by Mark Watson, the manager of the old Angling Centre, and weighed 34 lb. 2oz. Bridge Broad (west) also known as Little Bridge Broad is worth a try, particularly during the winter for pike. Its entrance is half a mile upstream of Wroxham via the southern bank. Incidentally, if it’s perch you are after, try anchoring up just up (depending upon tide) or downstream from Wroxham road bridge, and cast a ledgered lobworm close to the dark water beneath the bridge. It’s one of the most prolific perch swims in the whole of Broadland. If this fails to produce, (which would be strange) go half a mile above the road bridge to the railway bridge and try again.
Travelling immediately downriver from Wroxham, one passes numerous dykes and quay headings which offer good roach and bream fishing, especially during winter. Numbers of decent-sized pike lurk around the entrances to these boat dykes. The angler should note that nearly all the banks here are privately owned and boat fishing is the only means of transportation to the most productive swims.
In recent years trotting the stream with casters and maggots has produced some cracking bags of quality roach up to and sometimes over the 1 ½ lb. mark plus the odd nice perch. There is over half a mile of the Bure harbouring these dykes and cuts with interesting swims all the way along, as it channels through picturesque woodlands.
From the southern bank two navigable dykes lead to Wroxham Broad . a mile below Wroxham Bridge, while on the opposite bank lies the first of five dykes which feed Hoveton Great Broad. This is the largest of the Bure-fed broads but, being a nature reserve and private, it is out of bounds to anglers.
The River Bure bends slowly between Wroxham and Hoveton Broads for almost two miles before the first of two entrances to Salhouse Broad is visible. The fishing during winter time is both uninterrupted and rewarding but is best forgotten during the summer daylight hours. The course winds downstream with Hoveton Marshes on the northern bank and Woodbastwick Marshes on the southern. As the Bure skirts Decoy Broad it bends very sharply and continues down towards the village of Horning. On the northern bank lies the entrance to Little Hoveton Broad (private) also known as Black Horse Broad, while on the southern is Woodbastwick Staithe and the second of two entrances to Decoy Broad.
The river is quite wide and often has a strong pull. Summer boat traffic at its peak has to be seen to be believed with very little serious fishing until darkness, when the river craft cease. Then from dusk until dawn, the Bure opens its arms to keen anglers and offers large nets of sizeable bream in the 2-6 lb. range. Bread flake or pastes are the baits to tempt the larger bream with maggots running a close second. Much of the waterside in this area is private marshland with little public access. However, from Woodbastwick on the southern bank, going downstream, Norwich and District A.A. controls about one mile of excellent fishing for members only. Access is the same as for Decoy broad and there are no day tickets.
As the Bure channels down towards Horning it bends acutely by the Yacht Club House, close to the Swan Public House. Here the Bure is quite deep and although the whole scene is chaos in summer, from October onwards fishing is first class with quality roach and the odd big hybrid predominating plus some bream to 6 lb. plus. There are some large shoals of sizeable perch in the 1 ½ – 2 ½ Ib. bracket which occupy the deepest part of the bend immediately up from the Swan Public House.
Naturally, with such a larder of feed in this area many sizeable pike move in for the pickings. Fish of over 20 lb. are taken every season with countless other fish weighing high into double figures. Mostly the better fish succumb to large live baits trotted close to the bottom and to ledgered dead baits.
There is excellent sport to be found in the numerous boat dykes and yards, particularly during severe weather. But permission should always be obtained first. Running parallel with the Horning village reach along the north bank is Horning Lower Street which leaves the B1354 from Wroxham and leads to the Horning Ferry public house.
Here there is limited bank fishing as far as the first boat dyke downstream. Exactly opposite Horning Ferry on the Woodbastwick (southern) bank from the Broads Authority mooring downstream to Cockshoot Broad dyke there is half a mile of excellent fishing also controlled by the NDAA. This extends downstream of the access road which leads direct from Woodbastwick village and contains some disabled anglers swims. Anglers enter via the electric gate, the number of which is on their NDAA cards.
Travelling still further downstream, the Bure bends slowly for two miles through lonely, thickly wooded marshland, until it reaches Ant Mouth. There is little or no access along this stretch because of the soggy nature of the banks. However, one may tie up a boat to a firm piece of bank to fish. Boat fishing is often better during the winter for one is able to float fish and hold out in the fast current. And you need heavy mud weights to anchor out in the flow. The Norfolk Broads match record was smashed with 180 +. of bream (with individual specimens to 8 lb.) to the rod of Richard Cross in 2002, ground bait feeder fishing with red maggot and worm cocktail on the hook at St Benet’s Abbey. Note, all the fishing along the southern bank between Ant Mouth and Thurne mouth is under the NDAA control.
Halfway between Horning and St Benets at Ant Mouth, situated on the southern bank, lies Ranworth Dyke, which leaves the main flow to feed Ranworth Inner Broad where boats may be hired (members only) through the NDAA from June to the end of September only (see ‘The Broads’). The dyke itself can fish quite well at times but is obviously prone to heavy boat traffic in summer except in early morning and late evening. The river junction is a known bream hot spot for those who tie up, pre bait and fish all night. The Environment Agency controls fishing on the entire south bank of the Bure, (all free) starting from and including Fleet Dyke, stretching downriver past Thurne Mouth and beyond Upton Dyke.
This fishery includes both banks of Upton Dyke (upstream of Upton Dyke there are now platforms installed by the environment Agency to make the fishing more accessible) and offers very attractive fishing. Access points are from South Walsham boatyard, Upton, and Acle where the A1064 road spans the Bure. Fishing is of a similar nature along this entire stretch with most anglers content to beat the fast flow by ledgering and using plenty of ground bait. As in the lower Bure bream, roach predominate, and a flounder is not unlikely. Even the odd bass has shown up in recent years.
Below Acle Bridge, where fast tides are common and the water is very deep, there are good shoals of quality roach plus bream to 6 lb. Around three-quarters of a mile downstream, off the northern bank, the Muck Fleet Dyke (which connects eventually to Filby Broad) joins the Bure via a sluice. Below the Muck Fleet Dyke’s junction, the Bure roars on past Stokesby and roach and bream can often be taken but like the other ‘lower tidal rivers’ such as the Yare and Waveney, as they in turn near the sea, salt tides are the over-governing factor to whether sport is worthwhile or not, especially in winter.
The very last point of access as far as viable summer fishing is concerned is the Stracey Arms public house, which can be seen dividing the River Bure from the Yarmouth A47 road in the middle of the Acle Straight, a fast six-mile length of road bordered by shrub willows and marshland leading into Great Yarmouth. This crosses the Bure a little upstream from Breydon Water, before it makes its way to Gorleston Harbour and out into the North Sea.
Like most rivers, the River Bure takes time and persistence to gain knowledge of local areas. I’ve fished many rivers for a very long time and even now still, can make a mess of a new stretch I’ve never fished before. The River Bure takes many years and fishing through all seasons to grasp the beauty of this spectacular water way.
If you’re new to fishing, I recommend making sure you have the correct Rod License at all times. Especially when different types of fishing
This Blog post was constructed with inspiration from the great man John Wilson. I’ll link his book which is a fantastic read.