Fishing with Style



Yorkshire Post - Country Week

2009 Fly Fishing Monthly Articles

Since April 2005 Roger Beck and Stephen Cheetham produce a fly fishing column in the Country Week section of the Yorkshire Post once a month.

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Here are the monthly articles, published in 2009, which we trust you will enjoy reading:

Czech Nymph    Bloody Butcher     Jack Frost     Sawyer's Killer Bug

Walkers Mayfly Nymph     March Brown     Soft Winged Wulff    Shipmans Buzzer

Prince Richard Nymph      The Bazza      The Nomad     John Titmouse


January 2009

Czech Nymph

January seemed a good time to look back over the previous twelve months

It's been a strange old year really; the weather has really created problems for us. On many of our Yorkshire rivers, during the cool days of summer, fly hatches were often very brief affairs, resulting in few fish feeding at the surface. There was, however, one notable exception. The third Sunday in April, found us by the Wharfe at Bolton Abbey, demonstrating fly rods for Linsley's of Harrogate. In the interests of safety, only wool was attached to our leaders. A cold, blustery north wind plagued us for most of the day, yet the large dark olives were in evidence from mid morning onwards, the trout busily slurping them before our very eyes. The moment that the last visitor left and we had replaced wool with flies, the olives stopped hatching and the trout disappeared.

Then there was the rain. From the middle of the year onwards, it seems that the rivers spent more time in the fields than in their banks. Fishing days were cancelled, or at best postponed. Yet amidst these dire days were some golden opportunities. Every time a river floods, there will be a couple of days when the water recedes, the silt subsides and, as I mentioned in October, closely resembles Timothy Taylor's best bitter. A few lucky people capitalised upon these opportunities and enjoyed fabulous fishing.

Even the Great Yorkshire Show seemed doomed.  In the week leading up to the event it poured. Miraculously, the rain stopped just long enough for the event to go ahead. It was a bit moist underfoot, but we coped. As ever, eager crowds visited the Country Pursuits arena and supported the demonstration team whilst we introduced them to dogs, ferrets, falcons and fly rods.

One of the highlights of my year is Kilnsey Show. That spectacular backdrop of Kilnsey Crag is inspiring. I look upon it as a privilege to be allowed to entertain and inform visitors about fly-fishing on the river. I am always delighted when members of the audience join me in the river to talk fishing. I'd already spent a busy half-hour in the river with a group of interested bystanders when I saw Tony approaching along the river bank. Tony lurks by the river and makes sure that anyone who wishes have a go with the fly rod is issued with thigh waders before they wade out to meet me in the river. "I have an apprentice for you" he announced. The big grin on his face alerted me to the fact that something was afoot. There was another clue; some of the gentlemen, members of Kilnsey Angling Club, had deserted their beer, remarkable in itself, and were slowly gathering on the riverbank, adjacent to where I stood. I suspect that my brow may have momentarily furrowed whilst my brain processed what my eyes were reporting.  As the reality dawned upon me, I am reliably informed that my countenance altered as the furrows morphed into a wide-eyed grin. By his side, resplendent in cowboy hat and white mini-skirt strode a delightful young lady. Now, I do not want this to degenerate but I do have to tell you that the sartorial combination of mini skirt and thigh waders is eye-catching. I have to report that said young lady proved to be an absolute natural with the fly rod and drew enthusiastic encouragement from the onlookers. At least I think it was her skill that they admired. The assembled company insisted that the young lady persevered until she was casting with both skill and style. Her smile was ample reward for me, as she waded back to the shore amidst spontaneous applause from the assembled crowd. I cannot tell you my pupil's name, all you need to know is that she originates from Eastern Europe and that our fly for this month will serve to remind me of a ray of sunshine that cut through an otherwise chilly Summer.

 Czech Nymph


Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                   01439 788483.

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February 2009

Bloody Butcher 

I've never understood weather, especially the Yorkshire variety.  How can it be brilliant sunshine in Nidderdale yet misty and murky in Wharfedale?  After all, you can just about spit from Pateley Bridge to Grassington. So it was, however, on the early January day that we decided to visit friends in Kettlewell. As my wife and I left Ryedale, the sun was making a valiant effort to overcome the clouds that were scudding in from the north. There was the odd patch of blue sky, just enough to make a pair of sailor's trousers.

The car was thoroughly searched to ensure that it contained no fishing paraphernalia. This was a joint day out, all allusions to angling banned. So, by way of the bottom bit of Wensleydale, we began to descend into Nidderdale. The whole of the Southwest flank of the dale was bathed in that special winter sunlight; every feature of the landscape pinpointed and defined by alternating shadows and golden illumination. In a word, breathtaking. Onward, now heading west, the clouds began to muster again. By the time we reached Hebden they had smothered the ailing sun. The countryside began to retreat back into its winter woollies as the warming light drained from its face.

There is only one place to head for lunch on a cheerless winter day. A refuge, where the welcome is consistent and the fare sustaining. Almost without my bidding, the car turned up Littondale and we came to rest outside the Falcon at Arncliffe. The usual pleasantries and greetings ensued, lunch was ordered at the kitchen door and we seated ourselves close to the blazing fire in the bar. As he balanced another log into the grate, Robin smiled a little smile and enquired if I had a fishing rod in the car. Mischief, pure mischief! My wife did that little move of the head that speaks volumes as I made the speech about this being "a day out" and nowt to do with fishing. "In that case, I don't suppose you'd be interested in the feathers from a mallard drake," said mine host with a twinkle of the eye. Now, let me explain. For the fly dresser, there is some very particular plumage to be found on this delightful duck. Steve would never forgive me if I failed to pluck the bronze feathers from its flanks or harvest iridescent blue feathers from the wings. So, I really had no choice but to accept the kind offer. Robin disappeared briefly, then returned with a superb, freshly shot duck, dangling from his grasp. "I've even brought you something to hold the feathers" he chuckled as he handed an envelope to my wife. So there we sat, side by side upon the bench by the fire, me with a dead duck on my lap and my long-suffering lady wife holding out an envelope, into which I carefully placed selected feathers, each one carefully stroked flat to prevent bending. By now, the bar was beginning to fill with worthy souls, appetites sharpened by a morning on the fells. I suppose that if you are only familiar with clinicised food from the supermarket, the sight of a bloke plucking a duck at dinner time in the dales might seem a bit odd. Furtive glances were interspersed with raised eyebrows. One or two fellow anglers cottoned on quickly and were clearly envious.  The gist of the conversation though, was that I was quite mad. Having completed my collection, I handed the balding duck back to its owner. "I thought you might at least have finished plucking it " he joked. "No thanks" I replied "I don't want to turn the pub into a butcher's shop". At that moment, I just knew what this months fly must be. So, may we present the Bloody Butcher?  Steve has fashioned that beautiful wing from the very feathers that I collected from a mallard in the Falcon.

The sun was still shining in Nidderdale as we headed home. 

Bloody Butcher

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483.


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 March 2009

Jack Frost 

My old friend Robbie was determined that we should do some grayling fishing over the winter. Days spent in Robbie's company are always good days. Added to that, he lives within a stone's throw of his beloved river Nidd, fine grayling water. Robbie studies the moods of the river on a daily basis and can choose and advise upon the perfect conditions. Finally, but importantly, Nidderdale seems to have a cluster of establishments that sell magnificent pork pies. It is a well-documented fact that eating properly is a protection against cold weather. Whilst some advocate hot soup, I disagree. Soup is liquid, not food and, in my book, is barely sustaining. A decent pork pie is another matter altogether. So, there we have it. On cold frosty grayling fishing days, there is no better place than Nidderdale. We had a couple of outings, in early January; both sustained by a plethora of pork pies we enjoyed modest success.  We planned another sortie in February and a date was duly agreed.

Now, you might recall that, at the beginning of February, the weather turned a bit nippy. For over a week, the thermometer in our back yard stayed resolutely below zero. Now, I don't consider myself to be a wimp, but I have to say that my inclination to fish in inclement weather is receding with the passage of the years. The allotted day drew near and the mercury in the thermometer stayed stubbornly in the minus department. I kept wondering if Robbie might call me to discuss the wisdom of fishing in inclement conditions. For several days, I kept the phone under constant surveillance, but Robbie's dulcet tones failed to greet me whenever I lifted the instrument to my ear.  I should have known better, he would go fishing in any conditions from Tropical to Arctic. At zero hour minus twenty-four, I was finally rewarded with the instantly recognisable Barnsley banter that could only be my erstwhile fishing companion. I will confess that I hoped that we would call off the impending freezing foray, the temperature outside, as we spoke, was minus seven! Not a hope! The call was simply to inform me of a change of venue. "I've arranged for you to have a day ticket on the Ure" he announced. "I'll meet you in Ripon in the morning. My brain feverishly tried to plan a route to Ripon that would see me there at the appointed time whilst allowing a diversion via a pork pie shop. The original plan was perfect; I pass at least two such establishments on my way to Summerbridge, but I finally accepted that the following day's fishing fixture would be a pie free zone.

The stretch of river was magnificent. One glance at some of the gravel runs confirmed Robbie's assurances that we were visiting prime grayling habitat. However, the ice that fringed the margins told its own story.

I tried my best, I really did. I fished as carefully as I know how, I sought out the most likely looking places, but by early afternoon, I had seen not a single fish. Lunch was a disappointing affair of sandwiches and coffee, and as I munched in a desultory kind of way, I pondered upon my own failure; I considered all sorts of possibilities that might explain why I had caught nothing. I remained unsure. I redoubled my efforts after lunch, pausing occasionally to persuade some blood back into my hands. By close of play our joint score was zero. Not that it really mattered; we had reminisced and planned the downfall of gigantic summer trout. The company had more than compensated for catch. It was only as I wrestled with the frozen door of my car that I came to understand the truth.  A couple of pork pies would have made all the difference.

Finally, a confession. On that freezing, fateful day I fished with maggots. Perhaps I should have tried a Jack Frost.

 Jack Frost fly

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483.


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April 2009

Sawyer's Killer Bug

Two things have happened since publication of March's column. Most importantly, I now know where I can buy pristine pork pies in Ripon. A very kind man, who is an expert in these things, took the time to email the information to me. I can now travel to the Dales via Ripon, confident of securing sustaining snacks. 

The second thing that I discovered was that some readers were surprised that I was fishing with maggots on the Ure in February. I never understood why there are some fly fishers who believe that their branch of angling is more important than bait fishing. If pressed, the same group of people will try to persuade you that fly-fishing requires more skill than bait fishing. Pay them no heed. It required enormous skill to present and control a bait through fast flowing water. I once watched an angler fishing a small stream in the Jura region of France. His hook was baited with a worm; a tiny piece of red wool adorned his line. The wool served to inform the fisher of the whereabouts and the fate of his worm. By using the tip of his rod, applying pressure this way and that, this French fisher searched out every nook and cranny of the river. He could make the bait linger in likely looking lies behind rocks; he slowed its progress in the shallow water and allowed it to descend into deeper, slower pools. Make no mistake; this was a masterful display of angling skill rewarded with half a dozen trout in the same proportion of an hour.

Last year, I spent a humiliating day whilst a group of young chaps taught me the intriguing art of pole fishing. They had piscatorial wisdom beyond their years. What really impressed me was their ambidextrous catapulting skills; they could unerringly, drop a dozen maggots on an area the size of a saucer. This tightly concentrates the feeding fish and is much more demanding than casting a fly.  With completely straight faces my young coaches assured me that catapulting was something that I needed to practice. If catapult accuracy becomes an Olympic event, and why not, the British team is ready.  

This fusty old fly fisher struggled to master the ability to control what amounts to ten yards of carbon fibre tube and an elastic band, not to mention the catapult.  My first three captures were, in order, a bush, a coot and my left wellie.  In the end, young Sam finally managed to sort me out, but he needed a long sit down in order to recover.  For Goodness sake, let us all appreciate the skills and interests of our fellow anglers. Any branch of angling requires skill. Well, apart, perhaps for salmon fishing which is just a matter of luck. 

Another thing, if fishing with bait is ethically questionable, why did one of the most respected people in the history of fly-fishing actually invent a fly to represent a maggot? From 1925, Frank Sawyer was a river keeper on the Wiltshire Avon. He made a monumental contribution to our knowledge of the feeding habits of fish.  We featured his famous pheasant tail nymph back in February 2006. Frank also invented a thing called the killer bug. Have a good look at the picture of the one that Steve tied. Now, will someone please contact us and persuade us that this is not a maggot? So, if revered and respected fellows like Mr. Sawyer can get away with maggot fishing, why can't I?

By the way, Frank Sawyer was adamant that this fly could only be fashioned from Chadwick's shade 477 darning wool, it's a kind of maggoty colour. This is no longer available, but there will be some lying about in sewing baskets all over Yorkshire. Do me a favour please; have a ratch round in a few sewing baskets and let Steve know if you find some. You might need some maggots to hand for colour comparison. 

 Sawyer's Killer Bug

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483.`



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May 2009

Walkers Mayfly Nymph

Blimey, I don’t know where to start! I could choose South America, Bridlington or Barton Le Willows. Two of our readers have responded to last month’s column, which featured the Killer Bug. This fly, you might recall, first tied by Frank Sawyer, is designed to look like a maggot. Our readers' replies could lead us in any of the directions that I mention.  

We’ll go to Brid first, where I am sure it will be bracing. A big “thank you” to Sue Scutt of Second Hand and Collectables. She found a card of Chadwick’s 477 darning wool and was kind enough to send it to Steve. For the first time in our lives, this season will find us both fishing with Sawyers killer bugs tied with the inventor’s original material. We are now trying to decide whether that makes us second hand or collectable. Answers on a post card please!

Right then, off to South America next and a journey back in time. The ancient Inca civilisation developed llama-like animals called alpacas. They were a source of both fibre and meat. Over several centuries herdsmen selectively bred animals to such a high standard that the finest fleeces were harvested to make the clothing for Incan royalty. Most of that work and breeding was destroyed around 1532 by the invading Spaniards. Luckily, however, some animals survived and are now cherished by many breeders and individuals throughout Britain. I know what you are thinking. “He’s blethering on again, what has this to do with flies and fishing?” Just hang on a moment and I’ll tell you. Alpaca wool can be spun into wonderful yarn, good enough to make caps and keks for Inca kings. So, by heading for Barton Le Willows we can complete my story. There, Jenny MacHarg from Fowberry Alpacas read about the antics of Frank Sawyer and the saga of the Chadwick’s darning wool. Realising our dilemma over the scarcity of the original, she kindly sent us a sample of alpaca wool. I hope that Jenny will forgive me if I admit that although one of the samples did, indeed, have a killer bug colour about it, we decided that it could be put to a loftier use than mimicking maggots. We believe that alpaca wool deserves the opportunity to become a mayfly nymph. So, this month, Steve’s offering is a mayfly nymph dressed entirely with alpaca fleece.

In the south of England, mayfly nymphs will hatch into adults in the next couple of weeks. Up here, we should really rename Ephemera danica and call it the June fly, as we do not expect it before the first week of that month. Some of our northern waters sometimes produce these huge flies in considerable numbers. The mayfly nymph lives in the silty sections of rivers, it is in those areas that the adults hatch. If you would like to see them, and they are quite impressive, those are the places that you should look. The inside of bends is a good place to start and around mid day is a good time to look. The Nidd and the Ure in the Dales usually produce mayfly. I have, on one occasion, seen a sparse hatch of mayfly on the upper reaches of the Wharfe; that was in July. Within the Moors National Park, both the Rye and the Yorkshire Derwent can usually be relied upon to produce mayfly; they are prolific in lots of small streams, tucked away in secluded valleys. The best plan is to find a bridge over your chosen river and while away a little time, just watching. You might take along a decent pork pie to sustain you whilst you wait. You will not mistake the mayfly for any other; they are huge, up to two inches long, including three fine tail filaments. Take a walk by the Washburn Valley reservoirs and you might encounter Ephemera vulgata, the dark mayfly.

Even when the adult flies are on the water, the mayfly nymph will often catch a fish. I’m off to Dorset in a couple of weeks. Make no mistake, when I prepare my fly box alpaca few mayfly nymphs.

Walkers Mayfly Nymph


Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                        01439 788483.

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June 2009

March Brown 

My friend Mark visits the river Spey in April and always returns with tales of huge brown trout. "Why don't you come with us this year and see if you can catch some?" This invitation came in January and it took me less than a second to accept. So mid April found me enjoying glorious weather and wonderful company near Grantown – on – Spey.

What a diverse crew we were, several distinct languages were heard every day in the fishing lodge. Simon, the brilliant Gillie on the beat, speaks the kind of Scottish that takes a bit of keeping up with. Then there was Bryan from New York who thought that Simon was speaking Latvian. Lisa originally hails from Stonehaven and was able to bridge the gap between "Noo" York and Latvia. Luckily there were a few of us who spoke proper Yorkshire and were able to act as universal interpreters. Occasionally, Murat would stop by and offer to translate Latvian into Turkish.

I expected to see hatches of March Browns on the river and was not disappointed. On Monday morning, as I shook his hand, Simon pointed up the river and announced that "the flees are on the weng and the gulls are workin' up to a stooshie" Now, I was quite happy with this. There were March Browns around and the gulls were becoming very agitated at the sight of all this food. Bryan, however, was completely bemused and shot me a glance that portrayed complete bemusement. "Aye, and if the troot join in, I doot there'll be a stromash" added Simon. Bryan nodded, spread his hands in surrender and said "yes".  Simon was already heading for his van. "Pek up yer rod, we'll head up to the sluggan, thaur ur some huir uv a big fesh ower there." I tucked a fly box in my pocket, strapped the rod to Simon's vehicle, pulled on my waders and flung myself in the passenger seat. Bryan thought that we had cancelled fishing and decided to go sailing instead, so he took off his waders and started looking for a life jacket. Where the fast water entered a pool, on the far side of the river the splashes and swirls told me that there were some huge fish feasting on the bonanza of hapless insects as they underwent the metamorphosis from aquatic to air-borne existence. Simon sat quietly on the bank as I tied a March Brown imitation to my leader, tucked the Hardy Marksman under my arm and made my way resolutely across the stream. The water clearly deepened very quickly. "Ye micht git dreich, but ye wilna droon" encouraged my new mentor.

It required a cast of nearly twenty yards to reach the target zone and it took me a dozen attempts before I landed the fly a couple of feet upstream of a feeding fish. It was all over in a second; the fly disappeared with an audible slurp. I lifted the rod smartly; it immediately bucked in my hand as a very angry Spey brownie registered its presence. I'll spare you the details, but eventually nearly three pounds of fighting fit, fat Salmo trutta slid into my waiting net. We were both delighted. "That's a guid fesh, nae bad ava" announced Simon. I think that he was pleased.

Obviously, no one caught a salmon that day. Simon gathered together the rest of the party, informing them that " yer a complete disgrace." This clearly had the desired effect and Mark landed a rather nice eight pounder later in the week, which Charlie may have captured on video. Willie cooked us all a fantastic haunch of venison as a celebration.

On Saturday, as we drove away from the beautiful Spey valley, I had a 'phone call to tell me that Jamie had landed a huge brown trout, well on its way to three and a half pounds in weight.  When we all re-convene in 2010, I might take a phrase book.

March Brown


Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483.


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July 2009

Soft Winged Wulff

Now, I don't want you to think that I'm forsaking Yorkshire, but I've been down south again. Well, it just seemed a bit rude to refuse an invitation to fish the Dorset Frome with an old friend.

I might have to be a bit careful this month So, I'm going to change the name of my friend; no one will know that on a warm May evening, a rather well known angler made a fundamental mistake.

It was a beautiful late spring day; the mayflies hatched throughout the afternoon and were, fortunately, still on the water until late in the day. I say fortunately because our plan to arrive by the water during the early afternoon was doomed from the start. Look, when you haven't seen a friend for several months, there is an awful lot to catch up with. Perhaps we spent longer than necessary, sitting in his back garden, chewing the fat and putting the angling world to rights. OK, so we did also invest a bit of time in trying out a new fly rod. Yes, it is important to find out if it can bend a line around a rose bush and drop the fly in the bird bath.  I might concede that the hour, embroiled in his study was a bit excessive. In our defence though, there were new fly designs to ponder and a revolutionary method of bite indication to contemplate.

Eventually, it became obvious that, if we were to have time to go fishing, we'd have to get a bit of a wiggle on. The promise of a chance to fish the Frome had haunted me during the winter months. The memory of freezing February days, devoid of sustaining pork pies, would fade as I dipped a wader in the gin-clear waters of that famous chalk stream. So it came to pass, that as the light faded, we both feverishly climbed into the breathables, and Giles assembled a fly rod. He chose the one that did so well, earlier, in the garden obstacle casting exercise. We shared a rod, simply because there was not time to make up another before it was too dark to see. My companion constructed a leader, finally tying a soft wing Wulff to the tippet. "One of the finest mayfly dun imitations you will ever use" assured Mr. Sardine as he tightened the knot.

Two heads, simultaneously and cautiously, extended over the parapet of the old pack-horse bridge. In the shadows, inches from the ancient stonework, a trout was surreptitiously slurping the last mayfly duns of the day as they became trapped in a little eddy created by the buttress. Silently we walked down stream, finally slipping into the water fifty yards below the bridge. I lurked in the reeds whilst Giles made the first few casts across the river. With his usual consummate ease, he explored the margins of the river. Nothing. As we approached the bridge, the solitary trout was still enjoying his supper; the rod was placed in my hands. "You take that one" was the magnanimous offer from my companion.

Though I say it myself, it was a superb cast, it really was, the fly landed like thistle down, a couple of feet upstream of my target. As it floated over his head, the trout nonchalantly ate my offering as if grateful for the opportunity. I raised my rod to set the hook, felt a fleeting moment of resistance and then that sinking feeling as the line went slack. Feverish examination revealed that tippet and fly were gone. "Why can't you learn to tie ruddy knots" I enquired. " 'Ang on" came the reply, "you struck that fish far too hard." When we next met up, at Broughton show, the debate continued. Does Mr. Roger Beck strike fish too hard or is there a question about the knot tying skills of one Giles Sardine?

Soft Winged Wulff


Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483.



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August 2009

Shipmans Buzzer

You will remember some months ago, when Roger was sunning himself in the Outer Hebrides, I wrote about the bloodworm. Well the story continues about my frustrations of how my wife catches more fish than me on stillwaters.  I suffer from the old problem of a bad back and chucking lures out all the time does irritate me and my back so I do like to relax into my fishing with a dry fly.

Now if you remember the bit of entomology education I gave you into the life cycle of a midge, when the lava (bloodworm) is ready to hatch it changes into a buzzer and it struggles up through the water to the surface to hatch out. At this point we come to a fly called Shipman’s Buzzer which is designed to imitate a buzzer in the final stages of hatching. The original fly was invented by a gentleman called Dave Shipman and was actually tied with a red body but to perfectly honest I have found that black, olive or orange as just as effective.

When I am instructing my students in our graceful art of fishing the Shipman’s I just tell them to cast the fly to an area of feeding trout.  Now we come to the best bit. Let the fly sit. You sit. Both sit. And wait. You don’t really have to sit, just relax. While you're relaxing, sitting and waiting for something to happen, wisps of wind or current may create slack in your line. This isn't good because when a trout takes your fly you will need to quickly tighten on it. So carefully manage your fly line to keep the slack out.

Early one Saturday morning, not long ago but before the bloodworm episode, my wife announced that she wanted to go fishing. “Reluctantly” I agreed and hiding a smile I dragged myself out of bed, washed, forgot about shaving, checked the fishing tackle and ten minutes later we were on our way to Kilnsey Park. Now I have always found that area around Kilnsey seems to have its own climate, hurricanes can be hitting Leeds but Kilnsey is basking in sunshine and visa versa. That day however it was cloudy but there was no wind, the water was as still as a mill pond, just nice for a relaxing day or so I thought.

Tackling up, Christine decided her preference for the fly she would use first and out came a lure, a concrete bowl I think it was - one of those flies that is good at imitating anything. After an hour, not a titter, nothing, zilch. I was the same, not a nibble. Here we go I thought a blank day at Kilnsey, a thought that sends shudders down my spine as I could imagine my fishing friends rolling their eyes in disbelief.

Looking around there were one or two fish rising and as I say I do like dry fly fishing so I suggested to Christine that we both try a red Shipman’s buzzer. That way we could relax and enjoy the day.  Cast the fly out and just let it bob about. Maybe we could have a cup of coffee. No chance! As soon as the fly hit the water, wallop! a fish took it. Not a gentle sip either; a full blown splashy rise, the kind of rise that makes your heart miss a beat. The fish was landed safely and I returned it whilst she cast again. As soon as the fly hit the water it happened again, and again and again for ages.

My wife is what she calls “vertically challenged”, only about 5 feet in her wellies, so being a gentleman I do like to help with the landing of her fish.

Hang on a minute! I have just realised why she catches more fish than me! 

Shipmans Buzzer

Narrative and fly by Stephen Cheetham    01132 507244 


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September 2009

Prince Richard Nymph 

You might ask why pubs seem to be prominent features in this column. Let me explain. Anglers need somewhere to meet so that they can talk about fishing. Obviously, this can’t be by the waterside, all that gesticulating and chatter would frighten away the fish. Furthermore, the reverberations from wader-clad feet pounding up and down the bank would send every scaly scoundrel scurrying for cover. Most importantly, what would the rest of us do whilst we waited for the others to turn up? Being anglers, most of them would be late because fisherfolk have special watches which go faster or slower depending upon whether the fish are biting. Meeting up at someone’s house would be out of the question. Apart from all those mucky boots, there’s that evocative smell of wet landing nets to contend with. I suppose that we could all get together in the fishing tackle shop, but that would be dangerous, especially for Yorkshire anglers; they’d be like kids in a toy shop on pocket money day. So, please rest assured that the best place for anglers to gather together is the pub. Not any old pub will do though. Those posh, poncy, polished, spick and span city establishments are no good. For a start, they don’t even sell proper food and some have the audacity only to offer straight pint glasses.

So, as is right and proper, Andrew and I were sitting in a real pub, round about lunchtime waiting for the others to turn up. The best thing about proper pubs is that, as long as you know what day it is, you know who will turn up. It was a Thursday, so Ken and Richard would definitely be in attendance. We were beginning to get a bit worried, because we had ordinary watches that day and the dynamic duo were late. They were so late that we were halfway through lunch when they appeared. In the very moment that our two friends entered the bar, I realised that there was a tale to be told. In the short walk to the table, there was that air of studied nonchalance that spoke volumes and was barely concealed under a layer of mock innocence. What really gave the game away was an indisputable whiff of mischief and, dare I say it, just a suggestion of a smug expression on Richard’s face, a slight intimation of self-satisfaction. As with all good things, it is the anticipation that really makes them worthwhile. So, Andrew and I greeted the new arrivals, politely but not effusively and retained our preoccupation with the exquisite pie and peas before us. Between mouthfuls, we discussed the weather, the state of the country and the notion of banning caravans from rural roads. We carefully circumnavigated any mention of fish or fishing. Nonchalance was slowly but surely replaced by agitation and eventually, we could endure the game no longer and my “have you caught anything?” eventually broke the spell. Mischief and smugness instantly evaporated. Richard’s eyes widened very slightly and, like a rabbit from a hat, he produced an enormous brown trout from his bag. Now, you can only lie a fresh trout out on the table of a proper pub. In a poncy place they would quote health and safety rules and clean everything down with disinfectant. Another thing, real pubs have is weighing scales specially kept behind the bar in order to short cut any futile arguments about the size of fish. Said scales materialised and Robin, the landlord, to a now hushed bar declared “Three pounds four ounces.” Someone eventually enquired of the successful fly. Our proud angler’s hands moved with speed of light as he produced a wet and bedraggled object from his pocket. “Tied it myself” he beamed. It looked a bit like A Prince Nymph, only different. Steve has copied it, I hope that Richard approves.

There followed an intense discussion about whether the fish would have attained the magical four pounds in weight had it been caught later in the season. All conjecture became redundant with Robin’s taciturn assurance that “at this rate, it’ll have grown to four pounds by morning”.  

Prince Richard Nymph

 Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                        01439 788483.

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October 2009

The Bazza

Steve and I both agree that Barrie is a member of the angling fraternity who displays fine human qualities in abundance; he is friendly, kind and generous. Both of us, over the years, have done little bits and pieces to help him and to promote his business.

So, earlier this year, Barrie invited us to go sea trout fishing on the river Wear. Steve and Barrie went fishing together in July, my turn came in mid August. Barrie had organised everything. "I'll meet you at Leeming Bar services" said the voice down the 'phone. "You'll recognise my car, it's vomit colour." Did I include honesty in the list of Barrie's virtues? I transferred my fishing gear to his vehicle and off we went.

Now, I have to tell you that sea trout are fickle fellows. They are brown trout that decide to pop out to sea for a while. Then they return to the river in order to spawn. Whilst at sea, they eat lots and can be pretty big by the time they come back home. A bit like us really. Sea trout are best caught after dark. 

We arrived by the river and assembled our kit. Barrie led the way to a long pool. "This is where we will catch a sea trout" he announced. "Just between those two trees or right against the far bank immediately below them, not before night though. You need to wade through the pool in daylight so that you are familiar with it in the dark." So, off I went, slowly and making my way downstream, casting my fly carefully as I went. Barrie's words resounded in my head. "Whilst it's light, you need to know how far to cast so that the fly is a foot from the bank when you can't see it." He even said it with a straight face. The wading was easy, the bed of the river comprising of shingle. By early afternoon I felt that I had the measure of the pool when we returned to the car for lunch.  Ever thoughtful, my host produced a fine pork pie to sustain me through the afternoon, the colour of the mustard complimenting that of the car.  We whiled away the rest of the daylight hours casually casting at the small brown trout upstream of the chosen pool. When dusk fell, we were in position. "You will fish the pool first" announced Barrie. "I want you to catch the trout". I did mention generous, did I not? He then opened his fly box, picked out a couple of flies and handed them to me. "That's a Bazza" he announced, "it's a fly that I invented and it's the one that will catch the fish". In the gathering gloom, I stepped into the river and went about my business, obeying my instructions to the letter, encouraged by my mentor wading silently alongside me, landing net at the ready. We were just past the second tree when there was a huge splash about five yards behind us. "Sea trout" whispered Barrie "exactly where it should be". We continued, uneventfully to the end of the pool, quietly left the river and made our way back to where we started. "Your turn" I insisted and after some protest we exchanged rod for net and I watched a real expert cover that pool with precision. He may have slowed the pace very slightly as we approached the silhouettes of trees against sky. Midway between them, I heard a sharp intake of breath from my right. Barrie's rod bent into an arc against the last vestiges of light in the western sky as some unseen adversary set off back towards the sea. Slowly, the fish tired and I eventually slipped the net under six pounds of bright silver sea trout, noting the Bazza firmly wedged in its jaw. My friend was mortified that he caught it rather than me. It really did not matter; I enjoyed a fine day in good company and had learned from the experience.

You can meet Barrie too, if you visit Linsley's in Harrogate. You'll know if he's in if the colour of the car parked outside offends your sense of good taste. 


Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483.

Fly created and tied by Barrie Davies  01423 505677

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 November 2009


Regular readers will recall that I spent a week in Dorset during the early spring. That part of the country is famous for its orchards and as a consequence, for cider. It was my intention to seek out some of the locally produced speciality, simply out of curiosity you understand. The last time that I sampled rustic cider was many years ago on a farm in Norfolk.  A huge barrel of the stuff was rolled out from under a turkey shed. So, during our stay in Dorset, my wife and I made a habit of visiting a country inn each lunch time, just by way of support for the local economy of course.  Every day I would enquire if the local cider was available. By day four, I was beginning to give up hope; I had only managed to track down the usual commercial stuff that can be found in any part of the country. It really was not what I sought. I had my heart set on good old-fashioned scrumpy, fermented from local apples. Day five dawned and little did I know that my luck was about to change. In fact, at first I completely forgot my quest because my friend Charles announced that we were going to Avington one of the most famous still water trout fisheries in England. He had arranged the visit secretly, and I was very excited. We drove through the lush green countryside, leaving Dorset, and entering Hampshire. Around mid-day, we arrived in the vicinity of our destination and a lunch venue seemed appropriate. "I know just the place" Charles announced as he manoeuvred the car into a gravel-covered parking area. Through the trees I could see the thatched roof of a perfect country pub. It was as I ordered the ham sandwiches at the bar that I saw the sign announcing that local scrumpy was "on tap." Marvellous! It was the real McCoy too, a bit cloudy and without a vestige of froth. I savoured every mouthful; the wait had been worthwhile.

So, ham sandwich and a pint of scrumpy later, I was seated in the office of Avington's manager, Sam Seall. After some good-natured banter concerning the alleged "monetary circumspection" of Yorkshiremen, Sam insisted that I should cast a fly over his fishery. As I put a rod together, Charles produced a Nomad from his fly box. "This will do the trick" he said confidently "but don't lose it, this is the only one that I have left."

The water here is crystal clear and it is possible to target individual fish. There are weed beds, between which can be seen the pale chalk gravel of the bed of the lake. The secret is to focus on one of these pale patches and watch for a trout to be silhouetted against it. Then, the fly is cast quickly into the path of the fish, but it's not that easy. The fly must be presented at exactly the correct depth and right on the trout's nose. My companion demonstrated, with consummate ease, and quickly brought a splendid rainbow to the net. I took the proffered rod and crept slowly along the bank, eyes searching the depths.  I saw lots of fish, but my eyes were focussing rather slowly, and my casts somehow lacked the precision that was needed. My mentor uttered words of harsh criticism in my ear, but my hearing seemed a little dull. I moved on, ever watchful. A huge fish drifted into my line of vision. Confident now, I flicked the fly into the air behind me, allowed it to straighten, then tapped the rod forward to deliver the fly right on target. Well, that was the plan, but unfortunately the barbed wire fence behind me was rather closer and a little lower than I had judged. I removed a bent, mangled, bedraggled now useless Nomad from the fence. As I handed the remnants back to its creator, I sheepishly confided in him. "Strong stuff, that Scrumpy."


Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

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December 2009


One day in early November, observers from Hampsthwaite Bridge may have noticed a lone figure upon the riverbank. There I sat, fly rod across my lap, bathed in beautiful golden late afternoon autumnal light, not fishing, simply thinking. I reflected upon the journey through the years that had brought me to this beautiful place on such an idyllic day. Our destiny is but a series of coincidences, but if there is a common denominator that directs the journey that we all take through life, it is the people that we encounter along the way. I began to deliberate about those who have been instrumental in depositing me amongst the rich gilded yellows and copper browns of the trees and bushes that provided me with this sanctuary for nostalgic contemplation.

My mind re-introduced me to faces from the past, some of them no longer with us; some that endure. I suspect that I might have smiled as I recalled the uncle, another Roger, who first encouraged a ten-year-old boy to go fishing.  The only water available to me was the pond created by the collapse of the brick tunnel that covered the underground section of the nearby canal. Through this tunnel, passed the coal bearing barges that plied between Kiveton colliery and the railway station. I wondered if the pond still exists and if it is still known as "tunnel top" It was here that my mentor sat patiently by my side as I first learned to use rod and line. He taught me about making floats from elderberry pith and about putting maggots in my pocket when the weather was cold. "Keeps 'em warm and makes 'em wriggle" he assured me. It was also he, who, during summer, encouraged me to keep maggots in my mother's fridge. They only ever escaped once; yet she has still not forgiven me.

My first tentative steps as a fly fisher would not have happened if my neighbour had not been so generous. By now, I lived on the banks of the river Eden, which, in those days held a mighty head of trout and grayling. I had no fly rod of my own, but Mike shared his with me until I could afford one. I can still recall the visit to Hardy in Alnwick where I bought the revolutionary glass fibre blanks that gave birth to the rod that still retains a sentimental place in my rod rack.

Then there was Laurie Bates, my wife's Godfather. He persuaded me to tie my own flies. It is entirely his fault that I have drawers filled with fur and feather. I blame him for the time I spend, on bended knee, searching for the hook that I have dropped on the carpet. I hold him solely responsible for the resigned shake of the head and the over-the-glasses, pursed-lips glare that my antics occasion from my dear wife. Even as I contemplate these milestones from my past, my eyes are drawn to the very fly upon my line. There is, I admit, a little moisture in those eyes, perhaps a pensive shake of the head when I acknowledge its significant place within my reverie. Alas, Laurie has passed away, but I have, in a large paper bag, a collection of the materials from which he tied his own flies. Audrey, his widow, gave them to me. From the contents of that bag, Steve had fashioned the Tom Titmouse with which I pursued the grayling upon this gift of a day.

Slowly, I made my way towards the bridge still accompanied by the spirits of those people who impinged upon my memory. Each and every one of them had given to me that most precious gift of their time. To help us on our way, the peal of church bells added sonorous lustre to the rural revelry that had entrapped me that afternoon. 

Christmas is almost upon us. As we wrack our brains for suitable gifts for friends and family, may I make a humble suggestion? A little time spared in encouraging others is always valuable time. It is often the hardest gift to part with, but ultimately is the most satisfying. Perhaps, one day, you will become the ghost of someone's Christmas past.

The complements of the season to all of you from both of us.   


Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                        01439 788483.


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