The easiest way to do this is to get a map and look for all the bits of blue on it. An Ordnance Survey map will be the best bet for this. The Landranger series is the most common and this is at 1:50,000 scale, which means that every 50,000 metres on the ground will be represented by a metre on the map. It is easier in fact to just accept that approximately one mile on the ground is about an inch on the map. Larger scale maps are available as well that show more detail and these may be useful once you have homed in on an interesting water or area.

First of all we need to get straight in our mind how much fishing we plan to do and how often. We all want superb fishing on our doorstep but in reality this is often not the case. Often we will have to travel to get the fish and fishing we want. If it is impossible to travel far, whether through lack of transport or time, then we may have to accept the fish and fishing available in our very local waters.

90% of us will want waters within 15 miles of our home or work so we can visit them regularly and get to and from them in reasonable time. Personally all my fishing is done by travelling to and from work so I need waters that I can get to within 30 minutes, or around 10 miles. I am fortunate in that a ten mile radius of my work brings in some excellent waters but if I did the same from home that would only bring in perhaps one or two.

It is all down to individual decision and how much effort we want to put in for our fishing. Another thing that I am doing this year is joining a water very close to work, so that I can nip down to fish at lunchtime or for very short sessions. The fishing is easy but the fish are not huge, this is my fun fishery. I have also joined harder waters where the fish are more to my target size. These are further away but I will be putting more effort in to fish them and they will be for longer overnight sessions. As I say, it is all down to what we as individuals want from our fishing.

So, given that we want fishing within the 15 mile radius of home or work, draw a circle on the map with the centre on home or work and draw it so it has a 15 mile radius taking the measurement off the scale at the bottom of the map. Now we can see how many bits of blue we have within the circle. Ignore that wide straight blue river though, that will be a motorway!

Most of us will have about a dozen waters within our circle, some less and some many more. Now it is a case of looking at each one in turn and seeing what we already know about it. If we have lived or worked in the area for several years then we probably know most of the waters but it is surprising how many lakes are shown on the map that we knew nothing about. Obviously if we are new to the area then all lakes and rivers will be unknown.

The first way to find out about the waters is to look in the various ‘where to fish’ books that are available, or now we have Fishooked, on the Internet. These will give us a lot of information about the waters and we can cross-match their location from the book to the map. Most waters in the books will be day ticket and these can be crossed off if we are not interested in such waters. Fishooked and some books also have a lot of club waters and names and phone numbers are supplied.

The other way to find out about waters is to visit local tackle shops and ask about local waters. Day ticket waters will probably be advertised on their walls but a knowledge of local club waters from tackle shops sometimes reveals a gem or two, as has happened to me in the past. In more rural areas there may be only one or two local clubs that control all the local waters and information on these can be gathered from local papers. The local fishing club is often an integral part of the local community.

So we have our circle on the map, we have cross-referenced the bits of blue against information gathered and we should therefore have ruled out some waters and identified some others of interest. Now it is time to get off the armchair and start going out to look at the waters we are interested in. The club waters we have identified should be easily found; often a board in the car park or around the water will confirm we have the right place. If possible have a stroll round and get a feeling for the water and if possible choose a nice sunny day so we could maybe even see some fish.

Waters that we have found little or nothing about should also be visited but bear in mind they may be completely private and impossible to physically get to. Respect all boundary fences and walls and 'keep out' signs. If you can see the water and it obviously belongs to a house or farm then be bold and knock on the door and ask the owner about it. You will be surprised how this approach can open up doors. On more than one occasion I have gained access to exclusive waters that no one else fishes by asking the owner if I and perhaps a friend or two may be allowed access to the water every now and again for a small fee. The owner, especially farmers, will often agree to the right approach. Fishing for un-caught un-pressured fish is the ultimate prize for a courteous polite approach.

Now we have found the waters we want to fish it is a matter of finding out everything we need to know and confirm our ideas about them, before parting with our hard earned cash if possible.

Next week I will explore how we can do this.

Have fun!