Fishing with Style



Yorkshire Post - Country Week

2010 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 2010, which we trust you will enjoy reading:

Minkie     WinterBrown   March Brown    Muddler Minnow

Last Hope     March Brown Nymph    Yellow May    CDC Bubble Emerger

Williams Favourite    Klinkhamer New Zealand Style   Eric's Beetle

December - fishing priorities


January 2010


Right, no messing about, how much weight did you put on over Christmas?

Naturally, your columnist retained his usual lithesome profile of a racing snake but I suspect that there is a lot of strained elastic across Yorkshire. What did the most damage?  Was it the Christmas pud, the fruit cake or the chocolates? I cannot imagine for one moment that any reader touched a glass of anything stronger than dandelion and burdock, so that cannot be blamed. Mind you, there are more calories in a pint of lemonade than in a pint of bitter, so if you are weight watching, choose your beverages carefully.

How many resolutions are there, dear readers, concerning the loss of this extra weight? I've often wondered if we could collect all the calories that are to be discarded in Yorkshire. If we could, I calculate that we could generate enough electricity to cook a Sunday dinner for every person in Pontefract.

The reason why I raise all these issues is because, come winter, fish behave in much the same way as we do at Christmas. I'm not trying to tell you that trout eat a lot of mince pies, but they do work hard to pack on weight.

Every autumn, the big rainbow trout at Lockwood fishery know that winter is approaching and that they need to fatten up before life becomes difficult. Clever people would say that fish are poikilothermic, I'll stick to cold-blooded. The bottom line is that they need energy to maintain their metabolism throughout the colder months, which they cannot waste by chasing food. So, they need to build themselves up before the water temperature plummets.

Luckily, just as the need for a high energy diet becomes important, Mother Nature waves her magic wand; the coarse fish fry in the reservoir are precisely the right size for trout food at exactly the right time. On some autumn days, small groups of huge trout were seen herding small fry into the bays before launching a co-ordinated attack. At other times, shoals of small roach would erupt from the water as an unseen marauder lunged at them from below. For the angler, these big fish are real prize. For the fly fisher, one of the finest imitations of a small fish is the Minkie. Look at Steve's version; that long wing extending beyond the hook bend is made from a strip of mink fur. If Aunt Gladys has a fur coat, lovingly protected by a multitude of mothballs, she will never notice a few bits sliced off the bottom – honest!

John is one of the finest anglers that I have ever met; he is one of Lockwood's regulars. The only cautious criticism that I would ever whisper is his tendency to attach too little backing on his reel.  One October afternoon, John, casting a Minkie from the dam wall suddenly found himself attached to a very large angry trout that was intent on reaching the far end of the reservoir as fast as possible. Fly line and backing were disappearing rapidly in the wake of an impressive bow-wave. As the last few feet of backing line hissed through the rod rings, John set off at a run along the bank, trying to gain some ground. At this point, the fish decided to make a slight detour and headed for the boat jetty. Under one side it went, and out the other. Our hero, showing a nifty pace, was soon sprinting onto the jetty, hanging onto his rod for dear life. Flat on his face, he shoved the rod under the water at the north side of the jetty, did a kind of roll and collected it from the south side. A valiant effort, but with no more backing on the reel, and the fish gathering speed, the inevitable happened. The hook straightened under the strain and the monster continued on its mission. John was distraught, but as a consolation, we have entered him for the 2012 Olympics. Whether it is for the 100 meters sprint or mince pie eating, the jury is still out.


Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                   01439 788483.

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February 2010

Winter Brown

Back in 2005 when Roger and I first started our column our first article was about North Country Spiders, flies which are very close to our hearts and a firm favourite of many fly fishers all over the world. I have noticed that since then (and we take no credit for it) there has been an upsurge in interest of these finely tied flies.

Books dating back to the mid eighteen hundreds have been reprinted, and there are more experts on the subject than ever before? A favourite adopted, and I stress adopted, Yorkshireman, Mike Harding, has published a new book dedicated to spiders and at first I thought “Oh no not another book”.  But having now read the book, Mike as an author, broadcaster and comedian comes across in an amusing and yet informative way.

This last Christmas instead of my stocking I put my waders out but Santa chose to ignore those and I found that he had left a little (and I mean little) new publication of a book giving descriptions and details of the flies used around 1807 by John Swarbrick. John was a farmer who lived in Austby, near Ilkley, just a few hundred yards from the river Wharfe and his manuscript is believed to be one of the earliest known lists of artificial flies for the Wharfe. The book takes some reading because of its size which is about two inches by two inches but it is a brilliant window into the past.

Such is the rekindled interest in these flies that I think it is about time our readers should be updated. As Roger said back in 2005 many of the spider-type flies were devised in the Yorkshire Dales by Yorkshire Dales folk. They used feathers from birds that were abundant at that time and were often used for food, hence the feathers were a by-product and the threads that were used probably came from their wives’ sewing boxes. Typical Yorkshire folk eh! Waste not - want not.

Our streams and rivers in Yorkshire have stony bottoms and are fast flowing, falling comparatively steeply out of the hills and into lowland areas. The high moorland in which they originate is, or was, generally sheep country, with few inhabitants apart from the odd small village or hamlet and scattered farms.  Fishing fast water like this requires special attention. The traditional outfit is a long rod - nine foot six or more, throwing a short length of line. The angler casts the fly or flies upstream, or up and across, and watches them, staying in touch by raising the rod tip and sometimes by retrieving line with the other hand. When a fish takes, there is often no more sign than a slight straightening of the line, but now and then there is a heart-stopping splash as a big trout moves in for the kill.

Most of the fly fishing and tying instructors who are born and bred in Yorkshire give lessons in tying and fishing the spiders in the traditional way and to cap it all we now even have an Aussie instructor who I am sure thinks he invented them, sorry for that Phil. The enthusiasm is there for all to enjoy. For February John Swarbrick wrote “Abought  The 26 of Feby  you May Begin Flie Fishing. Make the Winter Brown it is Made From underneath The Wood Cock wing one of the Large Feathers  wich Covers the quill Feathers you Must Make This a Hackle Flie you must Make the Bodey with Red silk and a little peacock Harl in the Head.”.

So with all this in mind, taking into consideration the long history of the North Country Wet Fly and bearing in mind that the spiders were developed and tied in the Dales I think it about time that we pooled all we have and set up some form of centre piece in a local museum to save all the valuable old flies, fly wallets, manuscripts and books from disappearing into green bins, discarded by unknowing relatives after we have gone.

Winter Brown

Narrative and Fly by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.


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 March 2010

March Brown Spider 

Mad as a March hare, or so they say. Mad as a March brown, I say because this fly frequently hatches in awful weather conditions.

To fly fishers, the March brown can be a cure for the cabin fever that afflicts us as a new fishing season approaches.  On stony rivers, especially in the north, this big, brown fly, fluttering down the breeze is often the first sign that the aquatic world is breaking its winter dormancy. As I told you last June, this can be spectacularly so on some of our famous Scottish salmon rivers.

 The first real highlight of my season is a mid April return to the river Spey in April. The March browns should be hatching in force, and I now know that there are some mighty wild brown trout that are awaiting the arrival of this spring-time treat as eagerly as I am. I have seen them hurling themselves at the newly hatched flies as they float along in the current.  I will have to a bit careful not to become too excited, because I am promised access to private part of the river, allegedly full of trout, which has not seen a proper angler for years. A few salmon fishers, perhaps, but not a proper angler.  Most salmon anglers, you see, appear to regard the brown trout as unworthy of their attention. I am hoping that I can change that perspective for a small handful of them. My task, for one week, is to kindle a regard for the brown trout amongst a group of friendly salmon fishing addicts.  

So, I’m in planning and anticipating mode. I learned from my visit last year; the hatch of fly is often short lived, starting around noon and finishing in less than a couple of hours. As soon as the hatching flies disappear, so do the trout. However, they don’t go far. For every fly that hatches successfully, there are dozens of others that don’t make it. Some drown before they have the opportunity to draw breath, others are washed back into the tumbling water before they perform lift-off from the surface. Having accounted for the floating flies, the trout turn their attention to casualties below the surface. Not daft, these wild, wily trout. They know that if they must grab the emerged insects before they fly away; those overcome by the fast flowing water can be eaten at their leisure. So, my band of intrepid anglers must learn, first to deal with the fish that rise to the surface. When that action ceases, they face the more difficult task of engaging them when they feed sub-surface. This is where the March brown spider will make a triumphant entry. This is the fly to imitate those half drowned tangles of wings and legs; the body made from the fur of a fox, caught in the act of chasing a mad march hare.  My team of tyros will have to learn how to present this clever concoction of fur and feather in such a way that it fools their quarry. Trout do not grow big by being stupid. You might want to look away for a moment because I’m going to have a quick rant. Some boring old buffers try to persuade me that the most demanding, and therefore correct, way to fish a fly is to use a fly that floats; a dry fly.  Expletives, say I! The natural presentation of a sunken fly is extremely difficult; you can’t see when it’s acting abnormally, like you can with a dry fly. Grant us the right to use our experience and skill in order to get on with fishing in the most appropriate manner. Encourage us to adapt to conditions. For pity’s sake do not hinder us with ridiculous, outdated rules that originated in the south of England anyway. Right, you can look back now.

I hope that all these theories work; I’ll let you know later in the year. Oh, and what of those dedicated salmon anglers who fail to appreciate the challenge of brown trout fishing?  Mad as a hatter if you ask me.

March Brown Spider

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483.


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April 2010

Muddler Minnow

One of the greatest pleasures in my life is teaching people how to enjoy themselves. As a fly fishing and fly tying instructor I take folks out of their comfort zone to experience not only the great outdoors, but something that will exhilarate, absorb, and ultimately bring satisfaction and a sense of calm in this sometimes fraught and troubling world.

Over the last 5 years I have had the pleasure of running the residential fly fishing course at the Malham Tarn Field Studies Centre. The plan is that I take eight students and in the course of seven days I turn them, hopefully, into proficient anglers. On the Friday before the course starts I do my preparation, getting the lectures ready and doing a final check on the equipment I have brought. Last year on the Friday afternoon I was approached by two extremely well dressed ladies, each dressed as if they were about to take afternoon tea at Betty’s. Introducing myself to them I learned that both ladies were on my course. One, called June, was in her middle seventies and the other, Carol, was nearing seventy. Here I have to be perfectly frank and admit that my heart sank a little as I had not anticipated two ladies of that age wanting to take up fishing but they quickly informed me that they had been fishing for a few years, having both been widowed and they were on the course to improve.

During the course I take my students to various waters to fish. On one particular day we were at Bolton Abbey on the Wharfe learning river techniques. Eight students spread over a couple of miles of water take some watching, but having got them nicely spread out I could concentrate on individuals. June was nicely positioned by a large pool casting a gold head nymph and was perfectly happy in her Nora Batty waders just enjoying the day. She already had a lovely brown trout out and requested that I leave her to get on with it. Next was Carol who was in the middle of the river, up to her thighs in water, expertly casting a team of  North Country Spiders downstream and sporting a big grin.

Below Carol was Pat. She had also been widowed a couple of years before and was a complete novice. She too had a team of spiders on and had a couple of pulls on her line. As I approached Pat turned to me, her eyes were red and tears glistened in the sun. I asked her what was wrong, thinking that perhaps she had missed so many fish it had upset her but she replied that she was overcome by the sense of peace she had found in this beautiful place and had finally found something that could help to heal the grief following the death of her husband. I turned away, the sun on the water making my eyes water too.

Boat fishing at any venue is a gamble as to which fly to use. One day my boat partner Harvey asked me if he should use a Muddler Minnow. I screwed up my face and said “not  today, the waves are too high”. “OK” was the reply,” you are the expert.”  Some time later, without any fish I might add, we came within hailing distance of one of the other boats and noticed that a fight with a fish was in progress. Finally a five pound brownie was landed. “What did you catch it on?” I shouted. “Muddler Minnow!” was the reply.  I felt my face going red – that bloomin’ sun!

Muddler Minnow

Narrative and fly by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

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May 2010

Last Hope

I’ve learned an awful lot of stuff this last week whilst visiting Speyside.  First, I’ve fathomed out what salmon fishers mean by “Spring fishing” It means standing up to your nethers in ice melt, peering through the snow storm whilst thrashing the water to a foam with a thing called a Skagit line.  This is a very thick fly line, originally designed to tow oil tankers into Aberdeen harbour. Salmon anglers have adapted it to enable them to cast flies, tied around bits of old copper piping, at sufficient speed to punch a hole in one of the afore-mentioned tankers. All this undertaken with fishing rods that are unnaturally long and operated with two hands instead of one. The object of the exercise formerly eluded me because it all seemed to no avail; no-one ever caught a salmon. Now, after a week in the company of salmon fishing fanatics, all is clear. Spring fishing has nothing to do with catching salmon. It is simply about a group of friends meeting together in stunning surroundings, hurling Skagit lines to the horizon whilst risking hypothermia. They then meet together in the fishing hut and ponder upon the reasons why they have not caught any fish.  Once I understood, I could accept that spring salmon fishing is, indeed, an honourable pass-time. The group of fellow anglers with whom I spent my week were wonderful company.

Next on the “learned list”; not all Scottish ghillies are miserable old codgers. Some of them are very young. Simon, the ghillie on our beat, is so young that he still has hair, lots of it. To be fair, he’s not miserable either; generous to a fault, I’d say.  He even lent his pastel blue long johns to Mark, whose extremities were traumatised through immersion in ice melt. In fact, Simon’s enthusiasm and encouragement is an important element that enhances the whole angling ritual. “Ye’ll catch na fesh sitting aroond in the hut” being a typical early morning motivational address. “Yon Skagit things are fe them that cannae cast” also seemed to be interpreted as helpful. In fact, young Simon proved his latter observation by consistently Spey casting across the river with a conventional line into the teeth of a nasty northerly. As part of my learning curve, I discovered that good ghillies are worth their weight in Spring salmon.

The next revelation was unexpected; salmon fishers are human. I had assumed that immersion in icy water had no effect upon proper spring salmon seekers. On the contrary, when Jamie’s neoprene waders sprung a leak, blood seemed to drain from his face, and goodness knows where else. The bits of him that was still visible outside the chest high waders, the layers of fleece and a waterproof outer cocoon, were shuddering erratically.  Judging by the way he walked, some of the unseen bits were undergoing some kind of cathartic, or is that Arctic, experience.

I was there to encourage this group of friends to capitalise upon what the mighty river Spey has to offer in April. I had expected to meet resistance to my suggestion that these dedicated salmon fishers should turn their attention to the brown trout in the river. In fact,they were not difficult to persuade. The brown trout revealed themselves even on the coldest of days, when the snow fell for hours on end. Some huge fish were seen lunging at the March brown flies that were blown along the river by the biting Baltic blast. No true angler could resist the opportunity to tempt one of these superb fish into the net. I think it was Willie who declared that he would “have a crack” at the trout. “After all” he remarked, it’s probably our last hope of a catch this week.

The outcome of our assault on the Spey trout will be revealed next month.   

 Last Hope

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                        01439 788483.

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June 2010

March Brown Nymph 

Thigh-deep in snow melt, I prodded around with my sampling net amongst the stones on the bed of the mighty river Spey; I doubted my own sanity.  Charlie had measured the temperature of the water at forty two degrees Fahrenheit, five and a half degrees in new money.  Sleet rattled on my jacket, speeded on its way by a cruel north wind. For the third time, I emptied the contents of the net. Circulation had long since abandoned my hands as I swirled the water in the dish, better to see the creatures that I had captured. My spirits rose; the river was a veritable trout’s pantry. There were caddis larvae, Baetid nymphs, stone fly nymphs the size of Labrador puppies and more March brown nymphs than you could shake a sick at.

My companions were all out, inexplicably, fishing for salmon.  When they returned to the hut for lunch, empty handed, naturally, my tray of invertebrates lay on the table by the door. They were enthralled by what they saw; staggered at the size of the stone fly nymphs and blown away by the sheer number of caddis and March brown nymphs. As they huddled round the gas fire, urging blood to return to exsanguinated extremities, I collected my trout rod and strode purposefully down the river, head bowed against a flurry of snow. On the edge of the river, fly box in hand, my eyes searched the scurrying currents for clues as to what concoction of fur and feather might first grace my leader. Simon our ghillie silently appeared beside me. Hunkered into his Harris Tweed, he said nothing, but simply pointed at the spectacle before us. Suddenly, the air was full of adult March brown flies. Every square foot of water bore four or five tawny mini sail boats for as far as we could see in all directions. Furthermore, we were not alone. Swirls and slashes just below the surface were enough to tell me that the resident brown trout were intercepting the nymphs as they hatched into adults. It was all over within five minutes, not a fly remained to be seen but the fish were busily mopping up the still-born and drowned adults, just as I had hoped and expected. Abandoning all thoughts of fishing I legged it back to the hut and harried five newly thawed salmon specialists outside. They agreed that the sight of the feeding trout warmed the blood of any angler.

The following morning we huddled around my fly box examining representations of March brown nymphs and spider patterns that would serve as imitations of the drowned adults. Salmon rods abandoned in favour of real ones, I delivered a brief tutorial on how to work two sinking flies across fast-flowing water. With obvious excitement, my converts scuttled off to try their hand at proper fishing. Each was equipped with the nymphs and spiders. Douglas was the first to return, wearing an ear-connecting grin and carrying a magnificent brown trout which he had already christened “supper”.

One by one my friends returned, all having accounted for decent trout, and were proud of their achievements. Everyone was gathered except Willie, last seen heading to the top of the beat. I found him there, fishless but undaunted. “Just show me one more time how to cast these flies” he said. So, I did. A little later, in the gathering Scottish gloom, I left a still determined, but fishless Willie and returned to the cottage. I was just contemplating the glass of restorative amber fluid when my ‘phone shrilled. “It’s Willie” exclaimed an excited voice. “I got two, just below the island, one at two pounds and another one a lot bigger. Fantastic!” I agreed and returned to my contemplations.

 March Brown Nymph

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483.


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July 2010

Yellow May

Ee by gum it’s been cold down here. I have been down at the bottom of the Wharfe since last year, crawling over stones, eating bits here and bits there, and now it’s time to go to a party of all things.

Oh! first of all let me introduce myself, I am Heptagenia Sulpherea, very posh eh? Well you can call me Yellow May. Seemingly I am part of a very large family which are called Mayflies, so called because we “hatch out”, that is we get changed out of our working clothes, put on our party dresses and go to a big gathering in May. The trouble is a human being called King George II altered the number of days in what they call a year and didn’t tell us Mayflies. Subsequently we are always a bit late, our party doesn’t start till June, can you believe that?

Ever since I got out of the egg last year I have been down in the river amongst the stones This last winter was a wee bit horrendous and I was knocked about when the river was in full flood. My branch of this Mayfly family is what you humans call The Stone Clingers and I am what is specified as a nymph; short, flat and broad in the beam, if you know what I mean. My job is to cling as tight and flat as I can against the rocks and stones so I don’t get washed off and then clean the muck off the rocks, or so I was told. All winter I have been grovelling about, once or twice I have grown out of these overalls and shed them and had spanking brand new gear to wear.

Anyway, like I said it’s party time soon, I have an ache across my shoulders and a lump has appeared. The guy on the other side of the stone has one too and it turns out to be a wing case forming. Wings eh? Soon I shall be able to fly. So my mission now is to get up to where I can see the sunshine without some stupid fish making a meal of me.

Eh up!!! I have an urge, the sun is shining for a change, OK lets go for it, swim May swim.

I am up on the surface now, time is important, I have to get out of my overalls and into my flying gear. Now to get these overalls off. Gosh! my back has just cracked open and there is something coming out. Looks like two large blankets, perhaps if I try and pump them up they will spread out. Right done it, now if I flap them about and get the water off maybe, just maybe, I can make those trees across there on the bank without a fish seeing me.

Wow this is brilliant, the faster I flap the faster I go. Oh heck those trees are coming closer very fast, humph, that was a bad landing but never mind I am safe for the moment. Now to get my party outfit on. All I have to do is pull this dull gear off and underneath there should be the best suit of clothes you have ever seen.

“Ee lad you look grand” my mum would have said. All yellow and shiny. Now for the fun bit, I only have 24 hours to find a girlfriend and start a family. Looking out there are lots of other Mayflies but I cannot see one of my kind, perhaps if I fly around for a while. Wait a minute over there, one very attractive female just giving me the eye, looks promising, here we go boys. OK readers job done -  all I ask you to do now is to watch out for my kids when you are wading eh!

Yellow May

Narrative and fly by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.


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August 2010

CDC Bubble Emerger

I began my fishing career as a ten year old, armed with net and jam jar. I am hoping that I can continue to go fishing until I become a grumpy old man and a thorough nuisance to my children.

If I am to achieve my aspiration, I shall need the help and support of Yorkshire fishing clubs. Throughout this County, these institutions dedicate themselves to ensuring that the likes of you and me have the opportunity to wet a line with the anticipation of success. They are the guardians of our waterways, protecting them from the polluters and the abstractors. If rivers, streams ponds and lakes are pleasant places to stroll by; appear cared for, clean and tidy, you can be assured that a group of anglers will be playing their part in preserving these aquatic environs. Water plays an important role in enhancing the visual amenities of Yorkshire. We all need angling clubs if we want to preserve these lovely places. Without them, the exploiters, the misguided and the ignorant would take over.

All these associations and clubs need someone to direct them; this stalwart, this brave and selfless person is usually, euphemistically, called “The Secretary”. Fisher-folk are not the easiest people to organise; they have grumpy old men, and worse, within the clan. They can be cussed and cantankerous, overbearing and argumentative; yet every single one is worth their weight in Yorkshire coal. The secretary has to represent the interests of them all, often locally, sometimes nationally. Representations may need to be accomplished in writing or in person. The secretary of an angling association will not be a shrinking violet.

 It is my privilege to count as friends, the secretaries of angling clubs from Wensleydale to Wadsley Bridge, from North Uist to Nidderdale. Every single one of them can be summed up by that oft misused attribute – dedicated.  The best of these secretaries are also proactive. They understand the need for active recruitment of new members; they are not content to “leave things as they have always been” They understand that the world is changing and that even an activity as ancient as the art of angling must change with it. Sadly, even angling is becoming politicised, so the secretary must have something of the politician about their person. Not too much though. Eventually, these secretaries deserve the opportunity to return to their first love, which is usually their wives or fishing, which brings us neatly back to Nidderdale. Nidderdale Angling Club needs a new secretary. The current incumbent, Michael Pattinson, who embodies the very definition of dedicated, is stepping down after guiding this large organisation for three years. NAC, as it is known, now boasts over four hundred members and was formed in 1857 by a group of anglers over a pint in the Old Oak Inn, in the village of Low Laithe; Michael assures me that he was not present. It needs continuing care that will build on the existing strong foundation.

Much information about the club can be found on its website at Here, you will find a flavour of what the club has and what it does. From here, Steve chose one of Michael’s favourite flies to dress this month - a CDC Bubble Emerger.

From February 2011 NAC needs a loyal and supportive new official to take the club forward. It needs someone willing to attend and guide monthly committee meetings and to represent the club at all levels. The new secretary will certainly be angling aware, better still, will be a practitioner, and will certainly be computer literate. If you would like to make a contribution to the fine tradition of Yorkshire angling, contact Michael for more details and to express an interest. You can find him at PO box 7, Pateley Bridge, Harrogate, HG3 5XB .Or you can email him from the club website.

Your County needs you.

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 



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September 2010

William's Favourite

The dramatic scenery which enfolds the upper reaches of our Yorkshire attracts visitors from all over the globe. Nestling within these valleys are secret, almost magical places where a mystical tranquillity seems to emanate from within the ancient limestone. This spirituality is often enhanced by crystal clear streams that dance and tumble over the rock, scouring it to polished white. Occasionally, the water transforms itself into mini waterfalls, creating shimmering pools of startling clarity. Here dwell the truly wild brown trout whose shadowy presence adds a further dimension to the mysterious atmosphere. The breathtaking beauty of Sheepfold Ghyll epitomises such places. Its very location is known only to a few local people; human visitors are a rarity.

In the sultry days of summer, Gemma would walk up to Sheepfold, heading for a favourite cascade of cooling water and the natural slipper bath below it. At first content to immerse just her feet, temptation would eventually prevail; the thin cotton dress would be folded neatly on the polished rock and Gemma would languish briefly in the natural mineral shower. The stresses and strains of running a busy restaurant would dissolve away. The only intrusion into her idyll was the huge trout that would materialise from the depths like a ghost. Incredibly, showing no fear, it seemed to approve of its human visitor before slipping silently back into the shadowy waters. She was so amazed at the behaviour of the fish, that she never mentioned it to a living soul. Every time that Gemma visited, the trout would appear.

On one occasion, as she made her way home, she met William sitting quietly upon a rock, admiring the glory of his surroundings. The two were no strangers; they had grown up in the same village, William, eventually lured away by the call of the City, returned frequently to visit his parents. There had always been a frisson between them and they enjoyed a few moments of relaxed banter.  William surreptitiously admired Gemma’s retreating form, confessing to himself that it enhanced that lovely day. He missed the smile that played across her face as she considered the consequences of their meeting a little earlier in the day. William eventually stirred and by the time he had wandered back to the village, Gemma was already welcoming the evening’s diners.

The long bright days of summer gradually gave way to the mellowing colours of September. One lazy Saturday afternoon, Gemma made her way slowly along the valley, content to just dabble her toes in the now chilly water of Sheepfold Ghyll whilst appreciating the valley’s seasonal change of mood.  As she returned, she admired William’s relaxed gait as he made his way towards her. Today, they sat for a few minutes to catch up on news. When they parted, there may just have been a little extra colour in Gemma’s cheeks that reflected in the twinkle of William’s eyes.

As she entered her dining room that evening and spotted William, alone at a corner table, Gemma felt a momentary quickening of the pulse. To give herself a little time to compose herself, Gemma slipped into the kitchen. James, the chef, looked up from his pans. “William’s dinner is ready” he said. “He particularly asked that you should take it out.” The warmth of the kitchen did not fully account for the flush of her face as Gemma collected the covered dish from the warming cabinet, swallowed hard and headed back to the dining room. William’s smiling eyes drew her to his table. “James is doing me a favour” he announced. “He has cooked that especially for me; I caught him this afternoon in your bathing pool.” The sound of the porcelain impacting with the parquet resounded across the room as Gemma stared horrified at the now faded colours of the beautiful brown tout that had so beguiled her through that summer. 


 Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                        01439 788483.

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October 2010

Klinkhamer - New Zealand Style

It’s October now, the brown trout season on our Yorkshire rivers is over for another year and we are now looking forward to the grayling season.

Many is the time I am asked to name my favourite fly but to be perfectly honest I prefer to name my most successful fly.  Looking back over the season I think this was the Klinkhamer. Back in September 2005 Roger and I introduced you to the Klinkhamer, one of the most versatile flies that has been devised in recent years.

In July of this year I had the privilege of being asked to be a guest of Steve Garner the Secretary of Myddleton Angling Club in Ilkley.  This club controls the fishing which runs through the grounds of Ilkley Golf Club and what a fine stretch of water it is.

I met Steve early one evening and after tackling up Steve advised me that it would be best to start on one of the lower stretches. Whilst wading across the river I noticed a gleaming white golf ball in the water below my feet and as my sister Janet is a keen golfer into my hand it went. On reaching the other side we met with a very amiable gentleman who informed us that “we would catch nowt tonight” and having seen the golf ball in my hand proceeded to extol the virtues of his golf ball charity. Sorry Janet, I am the second person to lose that ball.

Apart from fishing North Country Spiders I am also a very keen user of the New Zealand style of fly fishing, which some people call the "Klink and dink" or the duo method. This style uses a Klinkhamer as the dry fly but on the bend of the hook you tie a two foot section of line and onto that you tie a weighted nymph, so in actual fact you are casting two flies, one wet and one dry. Best of both worlds!

Steve was keen to try this method so I helped him set up the flies and then off we went - Steve one way, me the other. Now all avid fly fishermen know that dry fly fishing is best done casting up stream which I duly complied with and after about four fish I was getting tired and my back was aching so a short break was called for.  Hearing a splash behind me, I turned and saw the rings of a rising fish so I knew where the fish was. Turning myself around I did a no no and cast downstream and with a slack line let the fly drift over where I saw the rings. Up came the fish and took the Klink. Job done! All five fish from this session were taking the Klinkhamer so off came the nymph and I was dry fly only from then on.

Soon it was time to try another stretch of water so wading back across the river we went upstream up a lovely prepared fairway - not many anglers can say that, sounds odd doesn’t it. After about five minutes’ walk I noticed a stretch of water that screamed fish so leaving Steve again I worked my way to the water and had a wonderful time catching trout and grayling with my beloved fly.

Steve had worked his way past me and back downstream to his favourite beat and as time was getting on I thought I would wander down to meet him. The light was fading but the water was still fishable so well above where my companion was fishing I waded in too and started casting upstream. Sometimes, in a fading light, to get the best view of a fly it is better to crouch down and having done so I spotted another golf ball and just as I grasped hold of it a fish took my fly. Don’t panic I told myself. Into my mouth between my teeth went the golf ball so I could use two hands to land a very cross grayling. I was still trying to land the fish when Steve enquired in very loud voice as to what fly I had caught it on. In the gathering gloom I turned to answer him, the pristine white ball still in my mouth -  the look on his face still makes me smile.  One ball for Janet anyway.   

Narrative and Fly by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.


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 November 2010

Eric's Beetle 

Now, I don’t want any cheeky comments from anyone, but I just want to point out that It’s not very often that one encounters a genuine angling relic. 

As I write, I have before me a sample of flies tied by one famous angler as gift for another well known angling personality.  Eric Horsfall Turner first dressed this fly in June 1940 and finally shared his secret with his great friend Jack Martin thirty six years later. Eric created five examples of his Eric’s beetle on the evening of January 18, 1976 and posted them to Jack along with a letter that describes how the fly came to be. Three of those very flies are on my desk. I’d love to know what happened to the other two; I can only imagine that Jack tried them out on the wily trout of the Yorkshire Derwent, whence they were born. It’s amazing that the fly ever saw the light of day. Its inventor confesses that the idea came to him on a bright sunny summer afternoon after he and a doctor friend “... had a massive meel [sic] and boozed like hell.” Despite the possible after effects, our hero made his way to the banks of the Derwent. The trout had all retreated to the shade provided by overhanging trees. There, the fish were preoccupied by some small beetles that provided a late lunch as they dropped into the water from the canopy above.  Eric searched through his fly box, only to realise that he had nothing that even resembled a beetle. In his letter to Jack, however, he remarks thtat “... I had a big and useless fly given to me by the Town Clerk of Rotherham...”  He goes on to observe that “... its only advantage was the body, which was peacock and similar to beetle. I cut off all the massive hairs and tied on the body to be dropped like the natural beetle.”  The good doctor had retired back to the Everley Hotel, which had served the infamous lunch, perhaps to rest awhile! Meantime, Eric discovered that his improvised offering was taken enthusiastically by the trout. 

Some time later, it seems, Mr Horsfall Turner scrutinised his adaptation, undertook a bit of research and came to the conclusion “... that the yellow tail got more takes than the red tail.” So with that decision, the final form of Eric’s beetle was established. It is still listed in all decent books on river flies to this day. Unfortunately, some modern writers have taken liberties with the original concept. Steve’s copy is true to the original of January 18, 1976.

This wonderful piece of angling history came about as Mr Brian Hill researched the history of the Derwent Anglers’ Club, which was established in 1839. It is probably the second oldest angling club in Yorkshire, though there are others that dare to make this claim. Brian has taken the time to write and publish the history of the fishing and fishers on this lovely little river. Reading Brian’s book makes me realise that there is a great deal of fascinating and intriguing information and stories hidden away within the records of long-standing fishing fraternities. There is also a wealth of great characters whose memories are tucked away in dog-eared tomes and dusty memory cells. Brian Hill reminds us of one of the river’s famous keepers in the form of one “Spike” Longhorn. “He had an almost pathological dislike of poachers; his favourite deterrent was to “accidentally” fall and break their rods when confronting them.”

It seems to me that the history of some of our other great clubs should be chronicled before it’s too late. Perhaps I should do it myself.

In the meantime, Brian’s book “The Derwent Anglers Club” is available from the Club Secretary, for the princely sum of £8.50. I will gladly pass on requests for copies.

Eric's Beetle

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

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December 2010

Fishing priorities

Here we are again; Christmas is just around the corner. I trust that everyone is decking their halls around with holly and preparing for the festive season in their own way. For me, December is a time to take stock of the waning year, to relive bits of it, to file some memories away and to discard others.

2010 was a strange year for me, shorter than all the rest but my young friends tell me it is the way that perceptions of time change with age. I learned some interesting things in this last twelve months; some of them as a result of experiments that I conducted.

I needed to find out what would happen if I changed around a few priorities; instead of concentrating on other people’s fishing enjoyment, what would transpire if I focussed on my own?  The past decade was spent in teaching fly fishing and guiding anglers on Yorkshire waters. Now, don’t misunderstand me, I thoroughly enjoy those days, but I began to feel that I was missing out on something.  First and foremost, I am a fisherman; I just love going fishing. It really does not matter how or where I fish, I relish every moment of it. That is one of the things that I was missing. Another issue that bothered me was the very few occasions upon which I went fishing with friends. I fished with lots of strangers, but not with friends. Luckily, some of the strangers became friends, but I digress. So, as an experiment, when I compiled my diary for 2010, I left plenty of days free for me to choose how to spend them. On some of those days, I fished alone; on others I fished with friends. On just a couple of days, I didn’t fish at all.  The result of my experiment was that I realised how much more I enjoy a day by the water when I am free to do as I please. I also rediscovered the pleasure of spending time with friends who share my enthusiasm for fishing. Then, there were the days when I sniffed the morning air and decided, on a whim, to go fishing. After all this time, I just know when the fish will feed. Consequently, I have enjoyed some memorable days. I shall not go into detail; all fishermen tell lies anyway. 

I discovered that by taking some time away from teaching and guiding, I returned to it refreshed and perhaps a little more patient. You are not going to believe this, but even fly fishing instructors sometimes become frustrated in their work!

I found the time to introduce Mark to fishing too. He risked making the same mistake as me; he was far too busy running the family farm to cast a fly over the river Rye that runs through his own land. Ludicrous? I thought so. In the end, I insisted that I accompany him to the bank side whilst he learned the gentle art. It did my heart good to see my friend rapidly absorbed into the ways of an angler. The only loser is his dad, Andrew; his fly box is constantly raided because Mark assures me that he has not the time to go and buy them for himself. Yorkshiremen!

All this has led me to formulate a plan for next year. I shall do even less teaching and guiding and more fishing, alone and with friends. I shall not give up completely, but I shall do the things that I most enjoy. I’m afraid that I don’t believe the old adage about every day spent fishing not being counted against one’s allocation. On that basis, I’m putting the fish of Yorkshire on a warning. I’ll be back.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our readers 

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483.


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