Fishing with Style



Yorkshire Post - Country Week

2014 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 back to the 2005 articles      Go Back to the 2006 articles    Go back to the 2007 articles  Go back to 2008 articles

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Go to on 2015 articles    Go to on 2016 articles  Go to 2017 articles   Go to 2018 Articles   

Here are the monthly articles, published in 2014, which we trust you will enjoy reading:

The Proverbial   Copperhead Partridge and Orange  Cow Dung Fly

Medicine Fly     Hares Lug & Plover   Snow Shoe Emerger

Blue Winged Olive (Sherry Spinner)  Hare's Ear Emerger     Dunkeld Dabbler    The Black Bug (with Henry Winkler) 

Three Dollar Serendipity    The Red Ant  


January 2014

Tobias is an angler of some forty years standing. He has fished most of the southern chalk streams and has acquired membership of a few fly fishing associations further north. Our man’s favourite clubs are those that regularly stock into their waters large numbers of big fish. Tobias is a committee member of one of his chosen associations. He prefers to fish club waters; that way he can avoid contact with people of whom he disapproves. He entirely disapproves of me because I wear a baseball cap when I am fishing. I strongly suspect that he has black balled my membership of at least one prestigious angling club. Most of our friend’s chosen angling clubs are struggling for new members.

He owns a carbon fibre rod that he bought in the late 1970’s; fishes exclusively with a dry fly and considers any other form of fly fishing to be somewhat vulgar. In fact, one of Tobias’s favourite organizations allows members to fish only with a dry fly. His annual catch rate is about average for the individual clubs; Tobias’s fly casting ability has not changed since he bought his carbon rod. He is suspicious of the half dozen club anglers who regularly account for twice the number of fish that he catches. He strongly suspects that they do not obey club rules or are liars.

The flies inside Tobias’s fly box are all ranked in absolutely straight lines, perhaps hinting at his former occupation; they are all size 14 or 16. There’s Kite’s imperial, Greenwell’s glory, grey duster, some partridge winged mayflies, black gnats and tup's indispensible.

John has fished since he was ten. His first fish was a little perch and was caught in the Chesterfield canal. John loves all forms of fishing but his favourite style is fly fishing for trout and grayling in rivers. In summer, John and his mate Robbie regularly fish various ponds for roach and carp; in fact he just loves going fishing. John is a Yorkshireman and begrudges paying over the odds for fishing rods. His river fly fishing rod is a modestly priced carbon rod with a smooth middle to tip action. He recently sold his 1970’s rod to a collector via Ebay. John practises his fly casting for the first five minutes of each fishing day  

John is a successful river angler; he really enjoys adapting his approach and flies to the prevailing conditions. He tends to use sinking flies most of the time. He prefers to fish for wild fish because they present him with a challenge, make him think and stretch his skill level. Some people believe that John wildly exaggerates his catches or is, perhaps, economical with the truth. The inside of John’s fly box does not bear scrutiny; to be honest, it’s a mess. In one corner, there are some tiny black things about half the size of a match head, size 22 to the technically minded. 

Unbeknown to either of them, Tobias and John are both members of one particular angling club. 

One day in late July, Tobias came upon John skulking behind a clump of reeds on the river bank, fiddling with his flies. “Any luck” enquired Tobias. “Five” replied John “and you?” “Not a sniff” replied Tobias as he shuffled down the bank to join John. In front of both men, fish were rising steadily. “Look at them” said Tobias, “obviously feeding but they won’t look at anything that I show them.” “Yes, they’re just taking the proverbial” replied John. As Tobias stalked off downstream, he noticed John’s rod bend into another fish. 

Tobias spent the whole of that evening trawling his extensive angling library searching for a fly called The Proverbial.

A Happy New Year to all our readers.

The Proverbial

 Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483


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February 2014

Copperhead Partridge & Orange

The valley is full of water. At the moment, everywhere I go across the length and breadth of Yorkshire there’s water everywhere. The fields are flooded and the fords bear witness to the fact that even the little dikes are full to busting and are pouring their loam laden load across our country by-ways. Our major rivers are all within their banks, but are straining at the seams. Mercifully, we have not had the devastating floods that have blighted the south and west of the country, neither would I wish that upon anyone. However, this rain is all good in my book. There is one meteorological manifestation that would lift my spirits even more; several feet of snow followed by a month of sub-zero temperatures would perk me up a treat.

I mentioned this in the White Horse earlier this week and my climatic aspirations were met with some consternation. One or two folk in the snug even began muttering about grumpy old men. I poked my head round the corner to find out who they were talking about. All of them were clad in Lycra, so their opinion was of no consequence. Even Nikki, the land lady, placed fists on hips and threw in my direction one of those glances that originates over imaginary half-moon specs. The problem is that no one understands.

During that wretched summer of 2013, all our rivers and streams were denied life-giving rain for weeks on end. Flows tailed off to a trickle of gin clear current and dissolved oxygen fell to around 0.045 grams per litre. That’s not good because it makes fish go all lazy. So, whilst most of the population was lounging about, slapping on the factor fifty, we poor anglers were having a pretty hard time of it. By the end of September, river temperatures were still far too high; well into October, one could wade to the waist without concerning one’s self about nithering the nethers. The recent winter rains have successfully restored the water table so, hopefully, water levels will be sustained until spring. To ensure that happens, we need a layer of snow and then a freeze to lock the water into the ground; that should ensure a steady release as the air warms up again and thaws the snow around March. If I have my way, by April, we should have a strong flow of water with some colour in it.

By the way, whilst suffering unnecessary abuse in the White Horse, I was not wasting time. I decided to research the colour of beer from the fantastic Wold Top brewery. It is useful to have a description of the perfect water colour for fishing. After some deliberation, I firmly believe that if the river colour is somewhere between their Dawn O’ Time and the marvellous Anglers’ Reward, then you should be in for a good day. If any of you small brewers out there feel that you also have a beer that might be worth scrutiny as a colour match contender, please, do let me know.

I’m full of hope for a decent end to the winter and have just the fly for the start of the season. That master Angler Mr. Mike Smith showed me this recently. The copper head orange partridge is his secret weapon so for goodness’ sake don’t tell anyone else about it.

Oh, one last thing. In the hope that my climate predictions are correct, I’m off somewhere nice and warm, but I will keep a weather eye on the UK!

Copperhead Partridge and Orange


Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483


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 March 2014

Cow Dung Fly

I’m really sorry about the weather whilst I was away on holiday; honest.

The problem with relaxation is that it allows me time to think and I’m afraid that thinking often makes me fume. So, be warned, gentle reader what follows might just be approaching the realms of ranting.

For some time, it has been increasingly clear to me that the future of our young people is in serious jeopardy. Decisions regarding their education are derived from politicians with no knowledge of the process. Their own educational encounters are a world apart from reality and they belittle the views of those whose experience and training gives them the right to a view. Luckily, help is at hand.

My old pal Charles Jardine has taken the fish by the fin and introduced a programme called “Fishing for Schools”; finally we have a programme of education that really works. What’s more young people, and their teachers, have taken to it rather better than they did to the King James Bible.

I can hear the hiss of steam from some ears, but stay a while. Fishing underlines the whole raison d’être of a sensible curriculum.

The science delivered in school is only justified in enabling pupils to appreciate that kinetic energy is stored in a correctly loaded fly rod. Once pupils embark upon the road to enlightenment, the rest comes so easily.

We are in Yorkshire. To know where in the county it is best to go fishing, a thorough knowledge of geography and a smattering of geology are vital. In such a massive county, everyone needs to know how to differentiate between rivers born on boulder clay or limestone. This dictates decisions about the contents of the fly box.  This understanding, in turn justifies the inclusion of biology in the curriculum. How else could the angler know upon which waters to cast a mayfly imitation, let alone which species is on the wing?

Then, of course, digital dexterity brought about through art and playing the violin facilitates the tying of the artificial mayfly.

History informs us of the environmental ravages of the Industrial Revolution. Therefore, any fish caught from the Don around Sheffield becomes a blessing.

Even the most obscure aspect of schools’ activities is finally justified; that entire obsession with running about on rugby pitches is to ensure the physical fitness to walk the river bank all day without flagging. Also, I suspect, it is preparation for carrying back the catch without suffering fatigue. Talking of the catch, surely it now becomes important, to attend closely to cookery lessons. It would be a disaster to miss out on oak smoked trout or baked grayling with dill sauce.

 A visit to Bolton Abbey in Wharfedale provides the opportunity to cast a line in the shadow of that adjacent hauntingly beautiful Priory.  We need to recall our history to make the best of the experience, geography to find the way and rudimentary mathematics to calculate the time for the journey.

This is what “fishing for Schools” is all about. May I also mention the fact that it supports social interaction, cooperation, language development and self esteem?

More importantly than all, of this, the programme negates the complete nonsense of league tables and target – driven drivel. Homework actually becomes relevant.

Our young people can, once more, enjoy their education and avoid the collection of clap – trap that is currently stuffed down their throats.

This month’s fly sums up the situation succinctly. Cow dung.

I did warn you.

Cow Dung Fly


Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483



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April 2014

Medicine Fly

It’s going to be different this year; I’ve made my mind up and I’m absolutely determined. I know that I’ve been full of good intentions for the last twenty years and never once succeeded. This time it really will happen.

In fact, I’ve already made a good start. Every line has been stripped from my reels and some have been consigned to the bin. That bit offends the Yorkshire in me but a few were just not fit to use. Any line that had a stay of execution has been cleaned before re-winding onto the reel. All old leaders have been removed and replaced with new ones; more expense! Each and every reel was stripped down to its innards, cleaned to remove any grit or dirt, lubricated carefully and rebuilt.

One by one, I laid my rods out on the work bench. Every section has been cleaned and checked for fit; a couple bearing long - service medals have been treated to a fine smear of candle wax to prevent the joints from slipping. The rod rings are all scrutinised, some with a magnifying glass, just in case they were grooved by constant line friction. Thankfully, there was nothing to report.

All the pockets of my fishing jacket have been emptied; I admit that half- eaten sandwich from early September was looking a bit worse for wear. I dangled a magnet from a piece of string into each recess of the material and rediscovered a number of lost flies together with two pairs of scissors, one of which was not mine. The finger tip search then brought to light, three biscuit wrappers, two empty nylon spools, a gadget for painless removal of hooks from fingers, about a mile and a half of short bits of line and a significant quantity of amorphous fluff. I cannot for the life of me explain where the lump of pork pie crust came from.  The last find was an old 35 mm film case containing the mummified remains of a number of flies that I’d taken home to identify later.

There was a suggestion from the management that my jacket would benefit from a wash; that’s just a step too far.

The bottom line is that, for the first time in years, I shall be entirely ready and fully prepared for the start of the new fishing season. Ok, I haven’t tied all the flies that I shall need but that will happen, eventually. Now, before you start bestowing new-found virtuous behaviour upon me, I’ll come clean. Having struggled with considerable discomfort for a couple of years, at the end of February I had my right knee replaced with a shiny new artificial joint. Just as an aside, may I indulge myself in offering my heartfelt thanks to the wonderful NHS; politicians will you please stop meddling with it. My sincere thanks go especially to the wonderful staff at Clifton Hospital in York.  

As a consequence of this cunning carpentry, realistically my season will not start until mid May or even June. A few of my friends have offered to convey me to the waterside from whence I can sit and watch them fish; they really are all heart. There has been a suggestion that I could be carted along the bank on a sack barrow and tipped out onto a flat bit of shore where I could sit and dibble a fly in the water. Solid steel wheels with no suspension, I think not!

I might just polish off my roach pole and accompany Robbie to the lakeside where I can sit and fish and fish and think. By the way, I promise the physios that I’ll have a stroll every half hour.

For the next couple of months, it’s medicine and light duties.


Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483


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May 2014

Hares Lug & Plover

I’m amazed; this time last month I thought that I was preparing for another eight weeks of cabin fever, the onset of withdrawal symptoms and the real probability of driving my dear wife bonkers. I really thought that my right knee replacement would take that long before it would carry me to the river. Not to be; less than four weeks down the line it has mended so well that I have the go ahead to haunt the waterside again.

This stroke of good fortune is due to a number of factors. My surgeon has clearly done an amazing job, I have exercised diligently and the care and support that I’ve received has been second to none.  Above all though, my lifelong attention to athleticism has served me well.

I’ve been down to the lake and established that I can still remember one end of a fly rod from the other. I’ve practiced for an hour or two and am satisfied that I can still put a fly where I want it to go. In fact, I’m all ready for the off. Then it rained and all the rivers in Ryedale went all mucky overnight. I took it all in my stride though, didn’t stomp and swear or spit the dummy out; I remained absolutely calm and phlegmatic. Alright, I’ll come clean; I did take a sandwich and a flask down the dale and I did sit on a rock for an hour simply watching the swirling cocoa cascade through the riffles, rocks and runs. I hoped that I might catch a glimpse of a passing insect that would give me clue about fly choice once the river returned to the colour of fine Yorkshire bitter, a sure sign that fish will be on the fin. For an awful long time, I saw nothing; the air temperature was a mere nine degrees and the water felt cold to my exploratory fingers. I fondly wished that I had brought a pork pie along, just to aid the concentration obviously. Sandwich box and flask were empty and still not a sign of movement in or around the water. The wild primroses were apparently convinced that spring has arrived; their beautiful butter yellow heads, determinedly brightening the otherwise sombre day, seemed to be trying to lift my spirits. Even the bluebells appeared to believe that spring was threatening to stir the countryside; a pale blue wash was just visible in a few of the sunny glades.

For a brief moment, the clouds parted and allowed a fleeting glimpse of the sun. In appreciation, the daffodils seemed to smile reassuringly.

A large dark olive dun skittered over a small riffle and took to the air unmolested. Moments later one of the smallest sedge flies, a grannom, performed a hop skip and a jump across the dead slow water just downstream of a small cluster of stones. I probably inclined my head slightly in the direction of the nearest clump of primroses; they were right as usual. I had all the clues that I needed. If I bring nothing else to the water when conditions improve, I shall certainly bring the hare’s ear and golden plover fly. It is a perfect imitation of an emerging large dark olive and also simulates the hatching pupa of the grannom.

So, there’s the plan in place, all I need is for the river to clear a bit and for the water temperature to rise. Please keep your fingers crossed and I will, of course, keep you posted.



Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 


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June 2014

Snow Shoe Emerger

I love it when a plan comes together.

I’d spent a good deal of time planning my first visit to the river. I had a pretty clear idea as to how the first day might unfold. I knew that things were rather early this year. Did you notice how early and prolifically the blossom arrived? Well, the same seems to be the case with aquatic invertebrates (that’s a posh name for flies). I knew that the large dark olives were early and that the blue winged olives and the upright olives had appeared roughly ten days previous to last year. However, what caught me completely by surprise was the emergence of the occasional mayfly in May; we normally expect them in early June.

The plan involved my arriving by the river a little after noon, which would maximise my chances of witnessing a diversity of fishy food floating down the stream. I chose the upper reaches of the river Rye for my first sojourn of the season, for no other reason than that this part of the valley is just beautiful.

I was actually ready to leave when the ‘phone rang; a call from the Western Isles reporting sightings of monster brown trout in some of the lochs that I will visit later in the year. These conversations are not to be rushed, so I was a little delayed.

I had one foot in the car when my wife appeared. Are you familiar with that female frown which speaks volumes? That one eyebrow raised, pursed lips look that spells consequences? “There are maggots crawling from under the door of the ‘fridge” I was coolly informed. “You need to do something.” At this juncture, I should explain two things; I need maggots when I go coarse fishing and I have my own little ‘fridge in the shed, specifically for bait storage.

Actually, it wasn’t me who unplugged the fridge by mistake but I decided not to argue the case; it just didn’t strike me as the best thing to do given the hands-on-hips, head slightly on one side posture that I noted as I scuttled up the garden path.

It was well into the afternoon by the time I had repatriated all the little rascals, including the ones heading for the onion store.

Eventually, I was leaning over the bridge, perusing the river; I knew that the plan had come unstuck. Most of the flies had finished their hatching for the day. There were a few mayflies meandering over the river but it takes time for the fish to cotton on to the fact that they are edible.

Not a fish to be seen; it really did not matter though, I was here, sitting on the river bank and the late spring evening light just lifted my spirits.  As I sauntered upstream, I saw a few trout deep in the shade of the bushes, gently sipping on tiny black midges. I indulged myself in a little smug smile, sat down below the skyline and opened the fly box. I needed a tiny black fly for the fish to see with something pale for me to see. The white wing of this fly is made from the foot of the snow shoe rabbit and I knew that it would shine like a beacon, even in the deepest shade. Plan B was in place. I popped the fly into the space between branches and water. Within moments a little trout had attacked it, graced my landing net for a moment and then swam away confused.

Time to return home to face the music and the maggots.

Picture to follow 

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 



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July 2014

Blue Winged Olive (Sherry Spinner)

One of the things that I love about this part of North Yorkshire is that I have opportunities to fish for truly wild brown trout. They inhabit the rivers that alternately tumble and glide through fabulous countryside, very close to some of the places that you visit. Some of you will have seen a wader-clad character strolling along a country lane, rod over his shoulder and not even a puddle in sight. How would you know that a ten minute walk will enable me to hunker down by the side of an idyllic stream pondering my next move? Perhaps I should apologise for listening in to your conversations as you pass within a few feet of me. You never notice me because I am usually wading slowly and silently along the stream hidden from your view by trees and thick summer undergrowth. Very occasionally, we have exchanged a smile and a nod. This happens when you hear a vexed voice amidst the vegetation.  Curiously, you have parted the foliage and found me removing a wayward fly from an unforgiving alder. I’d like to ask for forgiveness from those of you with children. Oh, whilst I’m in apologising mode, I perhaps went a bit too far when I claimed to be a Crime Scene Investigator whilst poking about in the water with my net. I was just looking at bugs and not searching for clues regarding a missing person from an equestrian event. To the two ladies on horseback; I’m sorry.

 Over the last couple of weeks, I have enjoyed some wonderful evenings on the rivers. The flows are excellent and the water colour resembles that of the wonderful Anglers Reward beer from the Wold Top, brewery; in short, perfect. On one such occasion, I arrived at the waterside at around 4.30 pm. I was in relaxed mood having spent ten minutes with James the game keeper, sorting out a couple of world problems, namely caravans and the Tour de France.

The air was warm and fragrant, the scent of meadowsweet and elder flowers both wafted on the light breeze. I idly began to consider where else I would rather be and gave up almost immediately.

No sign of trout, but I was not surprised. I suspected that they would be in the riffles (angler speak for fast water) scoffing any small creatures that foolishly ventured out from under a stone on the river’s bed. The hare’s ear nymph serves as a perfect imitation of all manner of such creatures, especially if there is a brass bead at its head. I ambled along, casting my nymph into every pocket of water where the flow increased. Trout and grayling regularly popped up to say a brief “hello” before I returned them gently to their watery warren. I was as happy as a pig in you-know-what.

I had seen a few juvenile blue winged olives as I made my way upstream. I was surprised; they don’t usually show up until July. As I came back downstream, the last shaft of sunlight turned the Abbey walls to gold, I could do nothing but sit on the bank for a few minutes and soak up that glorious sight. As I turned back to the river, I saw the swarm of mature blue winged olives preparing to lay their eggs over the riffle at my feet. The trout were gently sipping down the ones that reached the calm water below me. In the shadow beneath the trees, I knew that there was not a chance of tying an imitation to my leader. The fly is only about 5 mm. long and the eye in the size 18 hook is miniscule.

The light was fading fast; I smiled and made my way home via the White Horse and a pint of Anglers Reward.


Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

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August 2014

Hare's Ear Emerger

Three or four weeks ago I travelled north of the Yorkshire border into Durham to fish the upper river Tees. I went with a friend of mine Phil, who like me is a Tenkara enthusiast. We went on the recommendation of another fellow instructor Olly Shepherd who informed us that there was a trout behind every boulder. Now who could ignore a tip off like that?

As the upper Tees is quite shallow, with boulders, and not too wide, it is ripe for Tenkara. Having obtained our tickets from the estate office we travelled off road for a while straight into the valley below Cow Green Reservoir. I must say that area is almost as beautiful as Yorkshire, wild but stunning.

Having set up the Tenkara rods quickly, as you do, we did a quick survey of the river and chose our starting spots. Olly had recommended the good old snipe and purple which I duly cast out and after a couple of minutes picked up my first Tees brownie, small but perfectly marked. I will not bore you with the next couple of hours but I did wonder if Olly had been pulling my leg. Nothing, no fish at all, a complete blank. Was it me, my fly, or just one of those days?

I decided to do a “Mr Crabtree” and sit on the bank and smoke my pipe, if I had one, and take in my surroundings and perhaps watch Phil for a while. Now Phil has been harping on about this dry fly called a Hares Ear Emerger which he swears catches more fish than any fly he has and watching the fish rise to the fly, I can see why he swears by it.

To cut a long story short, on my return home I did a search on the internet to see if anyone else uses this fly and sure enough there were quite a few anglers who rated this fly highly, so off to the tying bench.  The instructions for tying this fly stipulate that the body should be scruffy and spikey. I have had my hands slapped a few times for being too neat when tying so I did my best to make a mess and produce a few of these “wonder” flies.

Last week I was invited to fish the Wharfe around Burnsall, a lovely stretch of river and one I know reasonably well. Having fished my North Country spider patterns for the first couple of hours I decided to change rods and fish a dry fly and out came Phil’s fly. I had spotted a rising fish not far from the bank but the river bank at that point was rather steep making casting tricky. To make things worse, on top of the bank were two rather large thistles. Making a note of the position of the thistles  I cast out. Now I don’t know if you knew but thistles can walk or rather shuffle up and down the riverbank to try and annoy you, trees and bushes can do the same, so before I grew wise to their movements my fly had caught them a couple of times.

Having now got wise to the irritants behind me I concentrated on the target in front of me. Still rising, my first cast went a foot or so wide of its mark but the second cast floated the fly straight over the fish and up it popped. Bingo! A rather nice one pound brown trout.  Was it luck or was it the fly? I can assure you that it was the flies as it went on to perform as well as any other fly I have used.

 Hare's Ear Emerger

Fly and Narrative by Stephen Cheetham.


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September 2014

The Dunkeld Dabbler

It was, as I recall, September 27 1999 when I was first introduced to the Dunkeld Dabbler. After a trying day afloat my old pal Charles scrutinised the contents of his fly box before solemnly announcing that it was time to try the Dunkeld Dabbler. About fifteen minutes later, he landed an immaculate brown trout of four and a quarter pounds.

It was, as I recall, July 17 2014 when the Dunkeld Dabbler last caused a stir.

We had arrived on the Island of North Uist three days earlier; I thought that the ferry had taken a wrong turning and that we were in Greece. During the day the thermometer showed a steady twenty five degrees, there was not a breath of wind and the white sand beaches shimmered as they were lapped by clear blue water. During the afternoon, I’d had to switch on the air conditioning in the car, in my experience, unprecedented in the Outer Hebrides.

Hot, bright windless days are notoriously bad for fishing so I waited until after nine thirty in the evening before venturing to the loch. As I made my way along the shore, the undulating machair looked fresh-painted; the low light from the west highlighted every nuance of the landscape. The ragged robin, undisturbed by any vestige of a breeze stood tall and proud apparently revelling in the splendour of the evening light. They glowed like a myriad of deep pink jewels adorning the lush cushion of the meadow. Please, never tell me that grass is simply green.

I quietly waded into the water, aware that my movements were the only thing that marred the mirror surface before me. I headed north-west, parallel to the shore, half-heartedly casting my fly here and there. The setting sun turning the reed stalks to upright shards of pure gold. To my right, a pair of short eared owls sought their supper, gliding silently, low over the ground like mini ghosts.

To be honest, I cared not whether I caught a fish, I was transfixed and mesmerised by my surroundings and I will now confess to being a little distracted, the daughter was expecting her second any day now and I had even stowed my phone in my top pocket, inside my waders. Normally, I would not dream of taking the infernal contraption to the waterside, but there are times...   

I paused by the end of a fence, scrutinised the contents of my fly box before solemnly announcing to myself that it was time to try the Dunkeld Dabbler.

I cast the fly well off shore and waited for it to sink. That was when my pocket erupted as a text message landed. You will be aware of what I call the phone-fumble; that series of contortions that people perform when retrieving a device from an out-of-the-way pocket. The whole performance is enhanced when the person concerned is encased in chest waders and has a fly rod tucked under one arm. Convinced that this was the announcement of the arrival of another grandchild, the fumbling became feverish.  As I finally extracted the phone from my waders, I glanced to where my fly had alighted; a huge bow wave was rapidly zeroing in on the area. Rod under right arm, phone now clutched in right hand, what does a man do? As my line momentarily tightened, I lowered my head resignedly and read the text; the line had slackened as something huge swirled at the surface.

I’d like to offer heart-felt thanks to the idiot who chose to inform me that I was paying too much for my car insurance.

Young Jacob showed up just after we returned home.   

Dunkeld Dabbler


Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 


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October 2014

The Black Bug (with Henry Winkler)

Right! We are now into October which heralds the end of the brown trout season on our rivers. OK we will still pick up the occasional brownie whilst fishing for grayling but by law it has to be returned to spawn and hopefully produce young to replenish our beautiful Dales rivers.

Each and every angling friend of mine will or should be looking back over the year and selecting their most successful fly of the season. We all have our favourites which we use time and time again but once in a while a friend on Twitter or Facebook comes up with another “killer fly”. We then rush to the tying bench and tie up a dozen and put them in a fly box where they disappear into the mists of time.

A few months ago I wrote about fishing the river Tees on the upper beats around High Force waterfall. Just after that trip I was intrigued to happen upon a little book called Fishing Flies for Upper Teesdale which was written by a local Tees fisherman called Harry Vallack. As expected the flies Harry writes about are our standard North Country Spiders but one fly was of Harry’s own design and a “killer pattern”

The Black Bug is based upon a well loved fly called the Black and Peacock Spider but Harry had incorporated a covering or shellback over the body using magpie tail. In his description Harry states it can be used all year round on rivers or lakes and represents aquatic and terrestrial beetles that fall into the water. So without further ado a dozen went into my fly box.

In the early part of July up in the dales above Kettlewell, Great Whernside was hit by a cloud burst which moved a huge amount of hillside into Kettlewell Beck and the river Cover subsequently affecting the Wharfe and Ure with liquid mud which took weeks to clear. Just as it was clearing at the end of July I had the great pleasure of guiding Henry Winkler once again at Bolton Abbey but the river level was low and still had cloudiness about it so the fishing was not easy. We tried the old favourite flies and a few new patterns until that “light bulb moment” struck and out came the Black Bug. No doubt you can guess what happened next, suffice to say if Harry Vallack had been there I might have kissed him. Henry went away a happy man.

So was that a one off? Would the Black Bug do the trick elsewhere? I had promised myself that I would fish the river Aire at Myrtle Park in Bingley after having heard reports of some good fishing. The fishing rights down there are controlled by Bingley Angling Club so having purchased a day ticket for £1.50, which for a Yorkshireman is very good value, I set off with various flies. I will not bore you with the details but once again Harry might have had another smacker on the cheek had he been there.

Every year in August I have the pleasure of teaching fishing at the Field Studies entre at Malham Tarn. This year I was able to dedicate some evenings to fly tying. Yes you’ve guessed it! The black bug is so easy to tie it is ideal for beginners to fly tying. So with black bugs tied up the students were able to fish their own flies on both still waters and rivers with surprisingly good results.

Time and time again I have fished the fly with encouraging results. I have also taught others to tie the fly with one student swearing he hooked a huge, nay massive fish recently only to lose it due to a poor knot. A fisherman’s tale? Maybe so but the Black Bug is heading to the top of my favourites list for next year.

Black Bug            Henry Winkler Bolton Abbey

Text and fly by Stephen Cheetham 0113 2507244


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 November 2014

Three Dollar Serendipity

“Good mornin’ y’all, what’s happenin’?” a Louisiana drawl drifted on the crisp (too) early sun-up air. I squinted, Clint Eastwood – like, against the low sun. I could see nothing and no-one. “Gimee a coupla minutes and we’re all ready to rock n’ roll.” In front of me stood a sleek float boat hooked up to a bright red truck. A figure  wearing a huge grin and one of the most eccentric hats that I’ve ever seen slowly unfolded from within the boat, vaulted over the gunwale and made its way towards us. If you imagine the headgear version of Joseph’s coat, you will be getting close. An outstretched hand materialised as the hat made its way towards us. “Hi guys, I’m Mickey, we’re goin’ fishin’ and we’re gonna’ have fun.”

My wife and I were standing outside Madison River Outfitters in West Yellowstone, Montana USA. This fishing trip was planned several months ago and I had eagerly anticipated it right from the start. The plan was to climb into Mickey’s boat and float about thirteen miles down the Madison River from Lyons Bridge. I would fish, Mickey was to be my guide and my wife would be a sightseer.

As Mickey launched the boat, I stared, disbelievingly at the river; a good eighty yards wide. Anglers might imagine the most perfect riffle that you have ever seen. Non anglers should visualise three feet of crystal clear water creating a corduroy surface as it flows quickly over a stony river bed. In either case, you are looking at a veritable fish food factory. An impressive riffle on a Yorkshire Dales river might be fifty yards long; the one that starts life at Lyons Bridge extends for sixty miles!

I took my place at the front of the boat, Lesley sat at the back and Mickey manned the oars amidships. He handed me a fly rod rigged with a strike indicator, three pieces of split shot and two nymphs, size 18, the size of two match heads to the layman. To ordinary people, a strike indicator is a float and when a fish eats the nymphs it bobs or stops. As we edged into the flow, the Deep South burr emerged from under that hat. “I’m gonna give you lots of advice in case y’all don’t know what you’re doin’. When I shout ‘hit it’ you’re gonna lift the rod ‘cos you got a bite, clear?” Just a bit miffed I pitched the bag of mashing into the water; I’ve been doing this fly fishing lark for over forty years and normally do quite well. The strike indicator had travelled all of three feet downstream when Mickey yelled “hit it” in my right ear. At the time, I was busy untangling the line from round my feet and failed completely to do anything. “You gonna start listenin’ to me?” enquired Mickey, “Cos if not, it’s goin’ to be a long day” I swear that I heard a chuckle from the blunt end of the boat.

I may have mumbled under my breath as I repositioned the nymphs just upstream of the boat. After another five feet of progress, just as Mickey opened his mouth, I lifted the rod which immediately started to buck like a bronco in my hands. “Awesome”, the hat master proclaimed. “Now we’re cookin’.”

After that little episode, everything went well and even Mickey was impressed. By lunch time, my right arm ached through landing fish. As we lunched on the bank I asked Mickey the name of the tiny nymphs that had served me so well.  “That’s the three dollar serendipity” I was informed.

Three Dollar Serendipity


Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 


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December 2014


So, we are still floating down the Madison River in Montana USA. My guide, Mickey the hat, pulls the boat gently to the shore having pronounced it lunch time.  

Under my guide’s direction, I had spent the morning fishing nymphs under a strike indicator, an effective but undemanding style of fishing. As Mickey took up the oars again after lunch he looked me squarely in the eye and, with some doubt in his voice asked “can you cast?” “Yes”, I replied, “I sure can”. After two weeks in the States I was beginning to speak the lingo. The now familiar Louisiana drawl was accompanied by a broad grin. “OK, let’s see whatche got.” A few pulls on the oars brought us to within about ten yards of the opposite bank. “Have a good look at the edge of the river” Mickey requested, pointing with an outstretched finger “whad’ye see?” I followed the direction of the digit; after a moment of perplexity it gradually dawned on me. “There’s a thin strip of calm water right up against the bank” I declared. “There sure is” came the reply “can you hit it with the fly?”

The calmer water, tight to the edge was caused by friction of the bank slowing down the water just enough to be obvious. It varied between about six inches and a foot wide and I knew exactly what was coming next. “I can manoeuvre the boat within about ten to fifteen yards of the bank, can you hit the calm seam from there?” I deliberated for a moment. The current was quite complex between the boat and the bank, subsurface rocks and shingle strips caused the flow to vary considerably. The result is that the current pushes on the fly line and causes the fly to skate and drag over the slower moving water that was my target.  “All without drag?” I enquired. “You got it in one” came the confirmation. “Yup, I assured him, I can do that.”

As Mickey cut the nymphs from my leader, he began to explain the plan. “At this time of year, grasshoppers and red ants live along the water’s edge. Quite a few of ‘em fall in the river. The fish lie in the slack water and gobble ‘em up. If you can git the fly in there, drag free, within two inches of the grass, you’ll have a ball.”  It was a big ask and we both knew it.

The American imitation of a grasshopper is simply called a hopper and is fashioned mainly from close cell foam. It resembles a modest sized bath sponge with legs and has the aerodynamics of a bucket. Having tied one of these contraptions to the end of my leader, my man attached about two feet of mono to the bend of the hook and added a red ant imitation.

The rod materialised in my right hand. I dropped a few coils of line into the bottom of the boat, flipped enough line into the air to load the rod and, with some trepidation, launched the cast. Right on target, the flies landed no more than three inches from the grass. I allowed them to drift about a yard and then, before they had time to drag, lifted off and repeated the process. At the third touchdown, something swirled at the ant, I lifted the rod and about fifteen inches of gleaming rainbow trout leaped clear of the water. “Awesome, buddy, you can do this” erupted in my ear. I repeated the performance throughout the afternoon.

I never worked out if Mickey was amazed or impressed but he did buy me a beer on the way home.



Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 


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