Fishing with Style



Yorkshire Post - Country Week

2011 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.

Go to the 2005 articles      Go to the 2006 articles    Go to the 2007 articles  Go to 2008 articles

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Here are the monthly articles, published in 2011, which we trust you will enjoy reading:

Snipe and Purple    Okey Dokey   Grannom  J T Olive 

Shark Fishing in New Zealand  More New Zealand Adventures

Baigent's Brown    Light Pensioner    Peter Ross 

Soldier Palmer Muddler   Warburton's Wonder   Drowning Daddy

January 2011

Snipe and purple 

It’s still snowing and it’s still perishing cold; the trusty log-burner is doing its thing and I’m still reflecting back on last year.

The days that keep creeping back into my consciousness, are those spent with friends. Sometimes the recollections bring a smile to my lips; occasionally it’s a definite grin. Once in a while, the glee extends to a chuckle. I’ve just had one now; a chuckle that is. Actually, it was somewhere between a chuckle and a full –on laugh. You see I’ve only this minute recalled the day when Rob wet himself.

We go back an awful long way; the occasional days that I manage to spend on the water with him are filled with nostalgia and mirth. My pleasure is frequently enhanced through Rob’s tremendous enthusiasm for his fishing. I hesitate to call him dedicated because I’m afraid that accolade is tainted by his insistence on wasting some perfect fishing days on the golf course. In all other aspects of his being, Rob displays an entirely sensible approach to life. Sadly, he has caught this wretchedly debilitating affliction called golf. However, one day in early summer good sense prevailed and we arranged to meet in Starbotton. We parted company at the bridge; Rob would walk a little way upstream before starting to fish, I would cast a line upon the bit that he passed by; we would meet up again in the meadow where the springs enter the river.

I’m afraid that I do not always stick to plans. I have been known to sit quietly by the river and just watch and listen. I’ve learned all sorts of stuff by doing that, and noticed fish that I would never have otherwise seen. As I leaned my back against a grassy tussock, I heard the gentle buzz of a fly reel, a sign that my friend was preparing to make his first cast. I know that it’s a sad habit, but I usually try to guess which fly my companions will try first. I imagined Rob diligently searching through his fly box, giving due consideration to each and every creation within it. In my mind’s eye, saw, with absolute certainty his fingers delve amongst his collection of snipe and purples, selecting a size sixteen. I waited a moment before visualising him holding said fly against the light from the sky, the better to thread the line through the eye. I pictured the rhythmical movements of the fly rod, the well-formed loops of line carrying the fly accurately to the nooks and crannies of the river. As I rested on my laurels, the look of concentration on Rob’s face gently settled into my brain. I could hear nothing of his progress up the river; my old friend casts far too efficiently to make any sound. Eventually almost reluctantly I scrambled to my feet and ambled slowly along the river bank.

 As I passed through the gate into the meadow, a familiar hat made slow horizontal progress about two feet above ground level. Rob, on hands and knees, was clearly stalking his prey. Progress continued, very slowly, until suddenly, the hat and its contents did a vertical take-off before disappearing from sight. A heart-felt expletive broke the silence of the meadow as I hurried to the scene of the vanishing act. As I peered over the bank, my comrade emerged from the river. Only his hat remained dry. Our hero cursed again and explained the bizarre behaviour. ”That was a near miss” he exclaimed. “The top of the bank gave way and I was sliding towards a strand of barbed wire”. His face turned rather pale now. “I had a split second to decide whether to finish astride it or to jump in the river.”  

Good decision Rob.

Snipe and Purple

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                   01439 788483. 

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February 2011

Okey Dokey 

This wintry weather is starting to bore into my bones. My family put it down to age, but that can’t be right, can it? Anyway, whatever the reason, I’m swapping hemispheres for a few weeks, so I shall be leaving you in Steve’s capable hands for the next couple of columns. By the time I return, I am confident that it will be warming up nicely in Yorkshire and that spring will be in the air. I am certain that the first fly hatches of the year will be well under way; I shall be popping down to the river for a few shirt-sleeve hours of early season fishing. In my mind’s eye I can see the bank side trees lightly washed with that brightest of shimmering, freshly painted green that only newly burst buds can boast. I can almost hear the chatter of the birds as they go about their business, flitting into the hedge rows, weaving the magic of their latest nests.  Hmm! On the other hand, we might be up to the oxters in snow again and lashed by north easterlies that continue to permeate my person. Time will tell; I shall live in hope.

If the weather is the slightest bit clement, I shall make my way over to Lockwood Beck fishery. Our first fly fishing course of the year is in mid April; I shall certainly test the waters myself before then. Without a doubt, the Okey Dokey buzzer will be one of the flies that adorns my leader in the early part of the season. The strictly traditionalists out there might like to grasp something firm now to prevent them from quivering. I shall also attach a bit of brightly painted polystyrene to my line. It will bob about, like a beacon on the surface of the lake and will inform me when a fish has made off with my fly. Generally speaking this contraption is known as a strike indicator. Another description might simply be to call it a float. Now, I don’t have a problem with that, but some anglers assure me that it’s more like bait fishing than fly fishing; that it undermines skills and so it should be banned. Each to his own, but just try casting said bit of plastic against the gentlest of breezes, then we’ll see where the skill comes in. The other thing is that without this visual assistance, the fish can bite on your buzzer without you even knowing about it. Of course, some would say that’s cheating too. In that case, resign from your angling club and join a fish preservation society.

The other thing that upsets some folk is that the Okey Dokey  bears a very striking resemblance to a maggot and, by that very fact, has no place in a fly box.

Oh, talking of maggots, that reminds me. I have a confession to make before I take my leave. Last season, I had a few days fishing with my old mate Robbie. Now, Robbie specialises in maggots and would not dream of going fishing without them; he even has as special ‘fridge in his garage to keep them in. Now, both my wife and Robbie’s wife seem to think that there is some kind of problem associated with handling maggots and then eating pork pies. So, each of us was furnished with a little pack of those sterile wipes. We were more or less ordered to wipe away the maggot debris before lunching on the obligatory pork pie. I’ll cut to the chase. I’m afraid that we both chucked one, unused, little cloth away every time we went fishing. Pork pie jelly makes maggots even more attractive to fish. Sorry. 

 Okey Dokey

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483


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 March 2011


Mother Nature sows a thousand seeds so one can survive. What a profound but wonderful statement and one that should make us stop and think. What would happen to our flora and fauna if all the acorns from our oaks seeded and produced an oak tree or all the thistledown blowing in the wind landed and produced a thistle? What if all the rabbits survived without being eaten?  The countryside would be a completely different place.

In the angler's watery world thousands of water born creatures live and die daily, it’s mayhem, murder, carnage. The mayfly, the sedge, the midge or the stonefly for instance all produce hundreds of thousands of eggs.  The poor female of the species, having mated, has to carry her clutch of eggs and somehow deposit them in the water, possibly thousands of eggs from one female. Once in the water, the eggs are so tiny they are of no real consequence to the angler or the fish for that matter. It’s when the eggs hatch out into nymphs or larva that the problems arise, this is when they become food! The river bed is alive and a feeding ground.

Once they have hatched out there are the fish to contend with and hide from, and then along come the crayfish, and the birds. Dippers, herons, waders and divers are all partial to a tasty morsel. Thousands of nymphs are eaten alive.

Having survived the first battle in the war to stay alive, the time comes for the surviving nymphs to hatch out into adults. Like soldiers on a battle front, the adults emerge from the water and once again are picked off the surface by the fish and once airborne are picked off by the birds. Swallows, swifts, gulls in fact all birds will enjoy a hearty meal during a hatch.  Many is the time I have sat resting on a river bank and watched in wonder as an adult mayfly emerges, struggles on the surface to dry her wings and then, with effort, takes off toward the bank only to be swooped upon by a swallow. Unfortunately some emerging adults do not even make it into the air and are caught in fast moving riffles and are sucked back into the water to drown.

This is where Mother Nature has done her bit; of all the thousands and thousands of eggs laid a few will have hatched out and survived the onslaught to populate the river again for next year.

This coming April will see the first big hatch of the season, the Grannom. On the Wharfe hatches of this little brown caddis fly can be so dense that they cloud the air. For hours there will scarcely be a square inch of water that does not have an adult grannom or an empty grannom shuck (nymph case), on it.

Chub seem to love grannom. As soon as the flies start to emerge every chub in the river begins to sip them down. The grannom provides the year’s first chance of food in abundance and chub take full advantage of it. But the trout? Even though they have, like the chub, lived through a long, bleak winter and, unlike the chub, are lank from recent spawning, trout seem to ignore the grannom hatch until it is almost over. It will only be very late in the flies’ emergence that the fish start to eat them.

To see the clouds of grannom working their way up river to mate and lay their eggs one has to wonder at how many did not survive and at the vast numbers that were laid in the first place. Mother Nature – what wonders she gives us.


Fly and narrative by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

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April 2011

JT Olive 

Toward the end of last year I had a phone call from a gentleman who lives in Hampshire and is an avid fisherman on the river Test. He explained to me that some years previously he was travelling up to Scotland and had passed through Thirsk and had just happened to call at a tackle shop, like all good anglers would do, where he had purchased some flies. One fly that he had bought had proved so successful he had used the pattern on the Test for many years thereafter. This fly had been invented and tied by Derek Stratton and was called Rosemary’s Delight. My southern caller had lost contact with Derek and wondered if I could replicate the fly. To cut a long story very short, I did better than to tie it for him -  after some researching and phone calls I put him in direct contact with Derek and so was able to keep the friendship alive.

This encounter got the old grey cells working and thinking of how lucky we are, here in Yorkshire, to have a history of fly tyers who have produced great flies, some flies still named after the tyer, which are just as popular now long after the inventor has passed away.

In Yorkshire we have a long history of fly tying and fortunately most of this history has been put down in manuscript or book form. Pritt, Edmunds, Lee and Theakstonn to name but a few,  have all been recorded as tyers from the past but what about some others?

John Storey was a river keeper for Ryedale Anglers' Club in North Yorkshire in the mid 1800's. He produced the famous “John Storey”. Tom Sturdy a river keeper on the Ure at West Tanfield invented the Sturdy’s Fancy. Norman Greenwood an avid fisherman on the Nidd tied the Sweet William named after his father. Come to think about it! Who first tied the great spider pattern the Williams Favourite? And who was it named after?

Then there is Broughton’s Point.  OK I will put my hands up, this is not a Yorkshire fly. It was first tied by a cobbler in Penrith but it has become a very popular North Country spider pattern.

More recently Dr Martin Cross of Otley published a book about the flies tied by Jim Winn who was an angler of some note on the Wharfe at Addingham. Jim’s pamphlet/book about his patterns is well worth a read if you can obtain a copy, but I look forward to getting my hands on a copy of Martin’s book.

If we look at the more modern tyers who are still alive, we have Mike Harding, Oliver Edwards and Jerry Lee - maybe none has a pattern named after them yet but all exemplify the art of tying great patterns.

Now we come to the April fly of the month. John Tyzak comes from Lancashire . OK, John is an 'off cumden' and lives west of the Peninnes but we'll let him off for that. Now John and Dean Andrews, who is a well known TV actor,  have produced a DVD on early spring fishing and I was intrigued with the feature on the JT Olive. Not one to mess about I tied up a few and off I went to the Wharfe. Having waited until around midday when the main hatch of large dark olives came off the water on went the JT Olive dry fly. What a super session, the hatch did not last long but long enough to prove to myself that the pattern works. The simplicity of the pattern is the main feature, long tail fibres with a mole fur body and the wing made from CDC (ducks bottom feathers) should make this fly one that will be remembered.

JT Olive

Narrative and fly by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

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May 2011

Shark Fishing in New Zealand

“The second most likely thing that you will catch is a shark” Tim offered as an afterthought as he strode up the beach. “If you do, just grab its tail” Now, this took a bit of sinking in; we don’t encounter many sharks in the Nidd or the Wharfe. However, I was quite a few miles away from my usual stomping ground; on Great Barrier Island, twenty minutes flight from Auckland.

We had landed on the island the day before. There are few shops and very little space in the nine-seater aircraft. If you need food on Great Barrrier, then you must catch it yourself. We were here for four days, so we needed to start filling the larder. David, Tim’s dad and my fellow hunter gatherer seemed quite comfortable with his son’s advice. After all he has lived in New Zealand for forty two years, an expatriate Yorkshireman. I was just a bit apprehensive. My wife simply settled herself in the sand dunes. David and I were at the end of a bay of golden sand, on a spit of rock that reached out into the South Pacific. The rising tide gently lapped at our feet, feeling for all the world like a warm slipper bath. Just a bit different from a paddling at Filey in February.

We cast our baits into current created by the flow of the tide along our rocky sanctuary, propped our rods in a crevice and waited. The waiting allowed me to take in the majestic splendour of my surroundings. Lush native bush extended to the edge of the undulating dunes, from whence erupted the almost deafening chirp of a thousand cicadas. A small stream meandered across the beach, leaving behind delicate ripple marks at its flanks. A rocky island stood off shore in the centre of the bay, its domed top adorned with spiky trees resembling an unruly hair do. Three sets of foot prints defiled the otherwise unsullied, tide washed sand, the gently breaking waves gradually obliterating this intrusion into Paradise. My eyes struggled to distinguish sea from sky at the elliptical horizon, aided only by a wisp of cotton wool cloud that offered a welcome clue. The warmth of the sun upon my back had a soporific effect upon senses already dulled by twenty four hours of flying. Just as my eye lashes were about to lock, there came an exclamation from my right. I quickly exited from my reverie in time to see David grappling with a fishing rod that was determined to disappear into the briny ocean. In the nick of time, he grabbed the handle. His intervention was rewarded by severe bruising as the rapidly revolving reel handles rapped him across the knuckles. This elicited an expletive that has its roots in a Yorkshire mining community. Something had obviously grabbed the bait and was determined to make off across the Hauraki Gulf, heading for the mainland. We both tottered off our rocky platform, David making his way onto the beach whilst I hovered in the edge of the surf, Tim’s advice about sharks resounding in my brain. Gradually, the angler began to gain the upper hand and I could see a rather angry blue grey shape thrashing the water to foam. I carefully advanced through the waves; I had no intention of grabbing a shark by the snout. I hesitated, and then extended my hand to reach for the blunt bit that most closely resembled a tail. As I did so, to my horror, a long strap like appendage suddenly reared up through the water. This was not the lemon shark that I had expected, it was a stingray. As I recoiled and sat down in the water, the line thankfully broke. Grabbing that tail would have hospitalised me for the rest of my stay. 

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483

No fly picture this month


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June 2011

More New Zealand Adventures from Roger Beck

“So, you travel twelve thousand miles to New Zealand and find yourself in a small boat in a rough sea with a mad Italian”. Joe grinned at me from under the wide brim of his hat as his little alloy boat bumped and rolled across the Bay of Plenty.

Only part of that is true; Joe is most definitely Italian, but he’s not mad. He is a delightful, affable and generous man. He’s also a friend of Russell, who shares all Joe’s attributes apart from the Italian bit. Both had conspired to arrange a fishing expedition for me on Joe’s boat.

Early morning found us gently drifting along, catching snapper. Grilled fresh snapper is a fine gastronomic experience. Joe and I were completely distracted, putting the world to rights, adding the occasional fish to the on-board cool box. My new friend suddenly glanced over my left shoulder. “I think we go”, he announced, “nasty squall on its way”. Indeed it was, hence our hasty retreat across the bay, as the rain and wind caught up with us. I was never in any doubt about our safety; Joe is a fine and experienced boatman.

 My wife was watching from the window of our apartment at Waikawa Bed and Breakfast, operated by Russell and Shirley. Apparently, the sight of a small boat bobbing around in a choppy sea is rather alarming. When we disappeared from view around a headland and failed to appear at the boat mooring, she obviously decided that we had both perished in the briny ocean!

Meanwhile, back at sea, the squall had passed, the sea had calmed and the mariners had resumed their wide – ranging conversation, fishing rods in hand. We had added another couple of snapper to the box. We were very relaxed, content with our morning’s endeavours. Suddenly, line screamed off my reel and the rod bucked in my hands. There was a bit of conjecture about what I may have contacted. That’s when the shark suddenly thrashed on the surface about twenty metres away from the boat, my hook clearly visible in its rather toothy jaw. I reckoned that the beast was about two metres long and seemed rather angry. “We not want him in the boat” insisted Joe. Bears and woods sprang to my mind but I remained silent and concentrated on not being pulled overboard. Inevitably, the line eventually grazed one of my adversary’s gnashers and it was gone. “Perhaps we go home now” Joe suggested “enough excitement for one day”.

I shook Joe’s hand and bid him goodbye at the end of the lane. “Not goodbye” he insisted. “You come back sometime and we go fishing again” I wish. I walked towards the apartment, our evening meal of snapper in my hand. My wife greeted me, amazed to see me returned from my watery grave. Russell materialised from his office and disappeared with our supper, returning minutes later with beautiful white fillets. “I’ll heat the barbecue whilst you change” he declared. Shirley arrived, insisting that she would find new potatoes and fresh herbs from her garden to grace our platter of fresh fish.

It did take a little time to convince my wife that I really had never been in mortal danger and that the whole small boat in big sea scenario looked far worse than it really was. When we ventured outside, the barbecue was hot and a beautiful dish of salad, potatoes and fresh herbs had appeared. I produced a bottle of cold Sauvignon Blanc and we enjoyed a superb feast courtesy of three wonderful, generous, delightful people who live twelve thousand miles away and who I had met less than twenty four hours earlier. Thank you to Joe, Russell and Shirley.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483

No fly picture this month


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July 2011

Baigent's Brown

When I was a little lad, we often went into Sheffield on Saturdays. We would walk through the Wicker and cross the river Don over Lady’s Bridge. I can still remember holding my nose because the smell was so bad. I recall the rusty colour of the water and the froth as it accumulated at the bottom of the weir. The heavy industry of the city had left an appalling legacy of both air and water pollution.

Fifty years later, Mark and I stood on one of the newer bridges over the Don and watched as trout and grayling dimpled the surface of this once dead river. It was with feelings of great nostalgia that I pulled on my waders. Usually when I perform this ritual, I am in secluded valleys or woods. Today, I took the opportunity to exchange greetings with shoppers and other passersby. I suspect that some of them thought that the two blokes sitting on the city centre bridge faffing about with strange overalls were quite mad. Especially since Mark had no trousers on. “The water will be warm” he assured me.

We scrambled down the bank, skirting the old crumbling concrete foundations and sat quietly amongst the waterside willows and just watched for a while. Large dark olives and olive uprights were in evidence, blown downstream on the breeze. On the occasions that one of these hapless creatures touched down briefly on the surface, it immediately disappeared, accompanied by the splash of a feeding fish. With wobbly fingers, I finally tied a parachute Adams to the leader, stood up and cautiously stepped into the river. I navigated around a few ancient bricks, carefully making for a gap in the vegetation into which I could flick my back cast. I pointed the rod tip a yard upstream of the most recent splash, tapped it forwards and watched my olive imitation alight softly on the water, align with the current and float towards the target. Bingo! A few moments later I was admiring the gleaming brassy flanks of a beautiful wild brown trout. Of all the trout that I have caught, this one was amongst the most important. I had returned to my boyhood haunts and seen them transformed. We waded our way slowly upriver, taking it in turns to cast at rising fish. Whilst Mark fished, I took the opportunity to fossick around in the stream bed, turning over stones and lumps of iron slag. The bottom of that little river is like a piscatorial pantry; there were nymphs and larvae of all manner of creatures and even a few fresh water shrimps. The latter were a particularly welcome sight as indicators of pollution free habitat. How things change.

As we approached the sweetie factory, the air bore a delicious scent of a mixture of liquorice and jelly tots. There was a ritual to complete. I tied a Baigent’s Brown to my leader and cast it into the pool. Why this fly? Simply because it was invented in Yorkshire (Northallerton to be precise)   and the colour of the hackle is described as “Furnace”. I just felt that it was right. The fly accounted for a trout and all was well with the world.

We caught our last fish right underneath the A61 road bridge as Mark announced that his legs were cold. As we made our way back along the bank I casually enquired if the cold legs were connected to the fact that he had no trousers under his waders. “Not at all” replied my young friend “it’s because the waders are leaking”.

Baigent's Brown

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 


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August 2011

Light Pensioner

Steve has re-created another fly that was born in Yorkshire. Peter MacKenzie-Philps first devised it as an aid to the elderly angler with failing eyesight.

Most of the people that we see on our courses are forty plus. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that but there will come a time when the sport will be inhabited by a lot of old fuddy-duddies and that would be a great shame. The other issue that strikes me is that Yorkshire folk are missing out on the opportunity to share beautiful locations and splendid fishing opportunities. I have argued in this column before that going fishing is about much more than catching fish; it is also about being in tranquil, peaceful places which contribute to relaxing the mind and lifting the spirit. We all need some of that, especially in these parlous times.

One of the problems of attracting young people into angling is that of travel and transport. I am well aware of the fact that some of the youngsters that I meet have no way of reaching pond, lake or river by public transport; they have to rely on an adult. Added to that, the current cost of fuel makes even that prospect questionable. I can feel a rant developing, so we will move swiftly on!

Six months ago, I attended the AGM of a little fishing club in North Yorkshire. When we arrived at “any other business”, the chairman and secretary started shuffling on their chairs and exchanging glances. Eventually, they spoke with one voice. “What can a small club like ours do to introduce more people to fly fishing”? There was great despondency expressed over the implications of health and safety and child protection that, sadly, nearly scuppered the whole idea. Then, good Yorkshire common sense prevailed and the next half-hour saw the birth of an idea to allow a group of down to earth, dedicated anglers, from two small angling associations, to pass on their passion and enthusiasm to others.

On Saturday, August 20, YOU are invited to an event on the banks of the river Dove in Ryedale, North Yorkshire.

We would like to offer you the opportunity to share our interest, our river and our company for the day.

Of course we will include the skills of fly fishing, but a visit to the river is about much more than that; we will attempt to capture for you the essence of a day by the river. For successful anglers, catching fish is not guesswork or luck; ninety percent of the fish are caught by ten percent of the anglers. These are the ones who understand the environment in which they operate. So, we will encourage you to look upon the river as a source of food for its inhabitants. We will have a close look at the creatures that live in it and consider how they interact with each other. You will be amazed at the form and abundance of river invertebrates.

We will show you how to craft an artificial fly that will fool a wily trout into thinking that it is breakfast.

I will be on hand to introduce you to fly casting or even brush up some of those little problems. Our members will be delighted to take you onto the river and try your hand at fly-fishing.

The day is open to everyone over the age of ten. Under sixteens must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. It will start at 10.00 am and end at 4.00 pm and will take place at Sparrow Hall bridge, one mile west of the village of Salton, not far from Helmsley. It would help us if you would register your interest in attending with Cliff Foxton on 01439 748226.

Oh, and by the way, just to prove our generosity, all this is for nowt.

We look forward to meeting you.

Light Pensioner 

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 



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September 2011

Peter Ross

“When the wind is in the north, the wise angler goes not forth” predicts the old saying, but I did.

The wind howled as I walked out of the door of the house we were renting on North Uist. “You are completely mad” diagnosed my wife.

As I walked down the lane, fishing rod over my shoulder, I began to suspect that she was correct. I could see the loch amidst the green of the machair in which it lies. The wind was, as I feared, directly from the north; local advice informed me that the big fish inhabited the southern end of the loch. Waves erupted onto the shore transforming the crystal clear water into yellow soup. I slowed my pace; there was still time to beat an honourable retreat back to the sturdy stone house on the ridge behind me. I slowed to a snail’s pace, on the brink of defeat. “No” I told myself, lengthened my stride and soon perched, back to the wind, on a large boulder a few yards from the water’s edge.

I reached in my pocket for the fly box, knowing exactly what I needed; a Peter Ross quickly adorned the end of my leader. A dropper, eight feet away would carry the Clan Chief, a bold bright fly that would attract attention.

Turning to face the relentless wind and ran neck buried deeply within my collar; I waded slowly into the shallow water. Ten yards from the shore, I left the mucky water of the margins behind me. Another ten and, despite the disturbance, I could discern every grain of sand at the bottom of the knee-deep loch. I turned to face west, my right ear now taking the brunt of the battering. I began make casts parallel to the shore, and as I retrieved the flies, I scrutinised the surface in an attempt to identify any interest from below. Moving with short slow steps, heading ever westwards, the intrusion of wind and rain upon my senses began to recede as concentration on the job in hand took over.

As I skirted a small bay, near the middle of the southern shore, I thought that I saw the suggestion of a swirl near the Clan Chief. The water was so choppy that I could not be sure. I slowed my retrieve in the hope that if there was a fish nearby, it would see the Peter Ross and snap it up for supper. Moments later, I felt a very slight tug between my fingers. I lifted the rod, expecting to feel the vibration of a modest fish. Disappointment descended as I felt the dead weight of a weed bed. Then the weed bed moved off determinedly in a north westerly direction. The rod arched and line disappeared from my reel at an alarming rate. With relentless pressure, I eventually turned the fish and began the tortuous process of landing it. After several lunges and lightening runs, I started to gain the upper hand and eventually saw my adversary swirl at the surface in front of me. In that moment I knew that I was attached to a very large wild brown trout. With a struggle, I managed to envelop him in the net and made my way to the shore with my prize. I laid him gently on the wet grass, quickly measured and photographed him before watching in awe as he swam back home. Four pounds two ounces in old money. The best wild brown trout I have ever caught.

As I headed home with a spring in my step, the rain stopped, the sky in the west lightened very slightly and I reflected upon the concept of wisdom.

Peter Ross

 Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                        01439 788483. 

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October 2011

Soldier Palmer Muddler

Last month, I recounted the tale of how I managed to thwart the jinx of the north wind by landing a huge trout from a Hebridean machair loch. Over the next ten days I visited the loch again on a number of occasions; I saw not a single swirl or splash that betrayed the presence of trout. After ten years of research and a good deal of local “inside information” I know where the big trout lurk. My map is covered with pencilled rings around patches of bright blue that have unpronounceable names in Gaelic. Knowing where these superb fish live is one thing, catching them is another.

 The trout of the moorland lochs do not enjoy such rich feeding in the acidic water; they are smaller but more numerous. My fishing time was divided between the moor and the machair and provided success and failure in that order.

I am happy catching modest fish; size does not matter. The surroundings, the peace, the tranquillity and the company of good friends are more than adequate compensation. The truly enigmatic draw of the special lochs still tugs gently at my casting arm though. One in particular is relatively small, full of weed and looks impossible to fish but is known to hold some very significant brown trout. Philip and I had visited said loch several times during our stay and on each occasion that we launched the boat congratulated ourselves on choosing textbook fishing conditions of an overcast sky and a gentle breeze; on each occasion we caught nothing, we saw nothing. It would be very easy to persuade a stranger that there is not a single scale or fin for miles.

On the last Thursday afternoon of our stay, at the agreed hour of four o’clock Philip arrived at the door; we had planned one last fishing expedition before I returned home. For fishing, the weather was as bad as it gets. A bright sun burned in a cloudless brassy sky and there was very little breeze. Nevertheless, we decided to spend our time on what had become known as “Heartbreak Loch”. I had every expectation of an afternoon enhanced by good company but no fish.

 I chose to tie Soldier Palmer with a deer hair head to my leader; its buoyancy allowed me to cast into the gaps in the weed beds. Having unsuccessfully searched there, we turned our attention to the submerged stones and boulders along the shoreline. As Philip expertly manoeuvred the boat, a small trout splashed at my fly, the first sign of life in a fortnight. Moments later I cast the fly about six inches from the bank over the stones. Just as I was about to draw it towards me, a huge shape materialised and began a close scrutiny of my Soldier Palmer. Breathing was out of the question so it was with huge relief that, seconds later, a pair of jaws engulfed my offering. As I lifted the rod, the angry brownie did two circuits of the boat. As it circumnavigated the stern on the second lap, the fish found its bearings and headed for a dense flotilla of weed. My rod bent to an alarming curve as I tried to prevent the inevitable whilst the golden torpedo responded with a spectacular display of aerobatics. For the next eternity this amazing creature spent more time in the air than in the water, violently shaking its head; respiration on hold again. I was able to inhale a few minutes later as I finally drew the trout over Philip’s waiting net. Three pounds and twelve ounces of pure Hebridean gold glistened in the bottom of the boat; Philip beamed and patted me on the back. A modest amount of amber fluid was consumed that evening.

I shall return next year.

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

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 November 2011

Warburton's Wonder!!

You may recall that back in July, I told you about a day fishing the river Don with Mark. The next time that we fished together was in a completely different location. This time we were to spend the day casting our flies over the hallowed waters of the Derbyshire Wye on the Haddon Estate. This stretch of river is rather special in a number of ways.

It may well be one of the best cared for waters that I have visited; in 2006 the estate were joint winners of the prestigious Wild Trout Trust award for conservation. The river has not been artificially stocked since 2003 and yet it abounds with truly wild grayling, brown trout and breeding rainbow trout. In respect of the latter, this is probably unique in this country. The waters of the Wye are absolutely gin clear and abound with aquatic plants and invertebrates, so there is ample natural food for the inhabitants of the river. This is not an accident; the health of the river is due to determined habitat improvement, led by Warren the indomitable river keeper.

 The rule for fishing the Haddon waters of the Wye is that only dry flies may be used, dressed on barbless hooks. For the non anglers that means flies that float, for the anglers it means a challenge and the need for stealth and skill. Also, all fish must be returned to the water.

Mark and I met at the Peacock Hotel in Rowsley on one of those unseasonal warm days at the end of September.  On this occasion I was pleased to note that my companion was fully trousered since waders are not allowed here, not even the dreaded thigh variety! It was truly a rolled up shirt sleeve day and so thus attired, we crossed the stile and set off down river, staying far enough away from the water’s edge to avoid spooking the fish. We parted company and I walked further downstream as Mark made his first cast to a fish seen rising by the far bank. After a few hundred yards I began to look for a fish to address myself, such was my concentration that I failed to notice the bramble that snagged my foot and rolled me into a bed of nettles. “Oh dear me, what a shame” I exclaimed to no-one, realising the drawbacks of shirt sleeve weather.

We had a wonderful day, catching some beautiful fish and marvelling at the health and vitality of the river. The fishing was not easy; the bright warm weather would be my excuse! I missed a few takes to my fly and lost a few hooked fish too.

Very late in the day, my hands and arms still tingling from nettle stings, we could see the bridges in Bakewell, next to the car park where our chauffer (wife) was due to meet us nearly an hour ago. Despite the late hour, there were still people on bridges dropping bread into the water for the ducks. But they were sharing their feast. By every bridge, we could see enormous fish intercepting the bread that the ducks missed, especially the crusty bits that floated. Now, smart anglers will spend a lot of time sitting quietly by the river, watching the feeding habits of the fish and choosing a fly accordingly. It’s commonly known as “matching the hatch”.  It did not take much study to work out the feeding pattern of these scaly scavengers. We were both transfixed by the sight of specimen trout and grayling throwing caution to the wind and scoffing bits of bakery.

Mark and I are due to return to the river next spring, so I have already contacted Steve and ordered a couple of dozen Warburton’s Wonders, the first is pictured here.

Just kidding Warren, honest.

Warburton's Wonder


Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

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December 2011

Drowning Daddy

Falling in the river is never a good idea. Thankfully, I’d not taken the plunge since I had a bit of an incident in the Border Esk. I don’t really count that, I was only messing about scaring salmon; not proper fishing. My dry season came to an end in September; twice.

One warm afternoon, I was stealthily making my way upstream in a very low, clear river Wharfe, one eye on a big old brownie and the other on the inch of my thigh waders that remained above water. Eventually I was wading on tip –toes (think ballet dancer on points) as the rim of rubber grew ever thinner. With no spare eye available for watching the river bed, I failed to see the slight depression. As I stepped into it, two things happened; I had a nasty ingress into the left wader and I lost my balance. Following a brief arm flailing windmill imitation, I experienced a sub aqua episode. The weather was clement so it was nearly two hours later that a decent imitation of a drowned rat returned to Rob’s house extolling the virtues of wearing thigh waders.

A couple of weeks later, having dried out, I cautiously made my way along the rock strewn upper Rye. I was on the lookout for one of the big fat grayling that one occasionally encounters on this lovely little river. For this expedition I protected myself with sensible waders that reach well above the nethers, nearly to the neck.  Both eyes were gainfully employed in observing my fly; no need for the boss eyed look that arises from wader watching.  My trusty wading staff prodded away just in front of me, seeking out hazards. Now, the next sequence of events is a bit of a blur but I think that I tripped over my own wading staff. The outcome was that I suddenly found myself floundering forwards whence I fell over a big stone which kind of lurched me to the left, ricocheting me off a bank side beech tree. As I pirouetted across the river (those early ballet lessons were a God send) I managed to chuck my rod up the bank as I executed a half twist in the pike position, clouted my knee on the rock before entering the water with a spectacular belly flop.   

Like a bedraggled beaver, I sploshed my way along the half mile of meadowland, back to the car, which was parked by the road. As I trudged along, I consoled myself with the knowledge that I had a dry jumper and a pair of waterproof trousers in the boot. Up went the rear door, off came the waders and an impressive stream poured out of the top of them and headed for Hawnby. I stuffed a soaking wet shirt and sodden trousers into a bin liner and began scrabbling about in the back of the vehicle as I felt the chill of an autumn breeze through soggy Y fronts. I gratefully pulled on the dry jumper and then resumed the rummaging around for the waterproof pants that would cover my modesty for the journey home via the village shop. The tiresome garment was nowhere to be seen and my nethers were beginning to turn numb. There was nothing for it but to kneel in the back of the X trail whilst I searched the farthest recesses of the boot. Those of a nervous disposition may not wish to dwell for too long on the ghastly image that was now presented to this leafy country lane. You may, however, wish to spare a thought for the passengers of the school bus as it approached from behind.

Drowning Daddy

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 


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