Saturday, October 24, 2009
The search for Yorkshire grayling - wind, rain and trout - Paul finds the ladies - the wading of nightmares - leaves and terrestrials.
We were going to fish the Eden today, but were deterred by a bloody awful weather forecast - heavy rain and a strong southerly wind. That means blowing downstream on the northward-flowing Eden; a re-think was required.
In the end, we agreed that a trip over to Wensleydale to fish the Ure would be a better bet. So with the gear packed, we headed off on the long trip down the A59 across the Pennines, to fish what many consider to be Yorkshire's finest grayling stream.
I was accompanied by Paul - a man who only took up fly fishing earlier in the year and yet through a combination of enviable natural aptitude and an intelligent, analytical approach to his angling, is already a very competent river fisher. I was hopeful that between us we would be able to locate a few 'silver ladies' and in the process, learn a bit more about a stretch of water that I have fished only once before.
The Ure is a lovely river and the middle reaches look like they were designed by the God of fly fishing: gravelly runs, bouldery pocket water and foam-flecked glides sit side-by-side to create a diverse habitat which just screams fish, and allows a full range of different techniques to be employed. Today though, with a persistant drizzle and gusty breeze, our efforts looked likely to be restricted to nymphing in one form or another. The river itself certainly looked in decent nick - a little above summer level and carrying a dark ruby tinge reminiscent of the famous strong ale brewed just a couple of miles down the road at Masham.
We both walked down to the lower limit, set up a pair of nymphs and set about prospecting the likely looking spots. I was first into a fish: not the hoped-for grayling, but a brownie of around 1.5lb which was quickly returned. Paul then dropped a grayling before we moved upstream and each returned another couple of dark looking trout - a bit embarrassing considering we were fishing a river renowned for its grayling stocks. I needn't have worried though; Paul eventually did the business and latched onto a couple of grayling from a popply run which I had just fished through (and hooked a trout!) Like I said, the guy has The Touch!
Shortly after, we entered wading hell. A very tasty looking bouldery stretch of about 100yds long just begged to be searched with bugs. We went in with high expectations....and half an hour later, we both emerged beaten, bruised and absolutely knackered. It was quite simply the worst water I have ever waded - a jumble of large, tightly packed boulders and moss-covered such that in the darkly stained water they were as good as invisible save for the myriad boils and surface patterns which betrayed their presence. Moving upstream therefore became an exercise in shuffling and edging very slowly along, over and around the rocks, with changes in water depth from thigh to chest-deep possible at every step. At one point I became isolated on one-such boulder and blindly reaching around its perimeter with my outstretched boot suggested that a step off in every direction but the one I came, would result in a chilly swim. I took a punt and hopped forward only spend the next few seconds bobbing along on my tippy-toes until I regained tenuous hold on the river bed!
The tremendous effort involved in fishing this section was hardly rewarded, although Paul did connect with another out of season trout. I have posted a photo of it below, only to illustrate the strangely dark nature of all the brownies we hooked. The fish was unhooked, photographed, and returned unharmed within a matter of seconds.
After a much needed break for a bite, we resumed operations in improving weather conditions. Grayling were proving hard to come by, but as a long, tree-sheltered flat was reached, we at last spotted the tell-tale dimple of a surface-feeding thymallus. Paul very kindly offered me in and I positioned myself downstream of the pod (there were by now at least half a dozen fish on the feed). A quick look at the water revealed that the yellow beech eaves being blown onto the water were bringing down with them all manner of terrestrial insects - aphids, spiders and so on - and the fish were gorging themselves on this autumn harvest, and on the few large dark olive duns which had begun to emerge. With such a varied menu to choose from, I didn't think the grayling would be too fussy over fly choice, and a small black paradun and olive emerger both worked just fine with four perfect 10" shoalies coming in quick succession.
That was pretty much it as the light was beginning to fade. I did however put up a team of spiders and spent half an hour in tribute to the late Francis Walbran - one of the forefathers of north country fly fishing who fished not too far from here at West Tanfield and died in 1909, drowning in the very river he loved. These magical little flies were conceived on the waters of the Yorkshire spate streams and I rather fancied that a play about with them as the light faded might produce a grayling or two. Half a dozen casts in and the tip of my fly line nipped forward and I lifted into the resistance of .......you guessed it - another trout!
Paul about to enter Wading Hell!