Fishing with Style



Yorkshire Post - Country Week

2017 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

Go back to 2009 articles  Go back to 2010 articles   Go back to 2011 articles  Go back to 2012 articles  

Go Back to 2013 Articles     Go Back to 2014 Articles  Go Back to 2015 Articles  Go back to 2016 articles   Go to 2018 Articles

Here are the monthly articles, published in 2017, which we trust you will enjoy reading:

Ilkley Angling Club    Black and Peacock Spider    Pink Dink    White Tuft F Fly

The Becky on Cod Beck    The Black Bunny Leech    The Shopping Bag Special   Shaved Shipmans Buzzer

The Balloon Caddis   French Nymphing   The Dumpy Humpy   Santa's Shuttlecock


January 2017

Ilkley Angling Club

As Roger has been smitten down by a virus that has laid him so low he cannot put pen to paper, so to speak, you will have to make do with me this month.  I am sure that we all wish him a speedy recovery and trust he will soon be back to his normal self.

Stepping into the breech so quickly I thought I would share a little story from my family history which I trust you will find of interest.

My grandfather John Goodall (1876 - 1964) was an avid coarse fisherman and ran Goodalls Saddlers and Fishing Tackle shop in Shipley. When I say coarse I really mean he fished for trout and grayling with maggot rather than with the fly.

John suffered badly from asthma so he could not enlist in the Bradford Pals in the First World War but instead supplied the horse harnesses to the cavalry which became a special and exempt service.

He was a member at Ilkley Angling Club before the war and during the war he noticed the terrible loss which the club was suffering. Members were away, some killed, some missing and some badly injured - subsequently this affected the club's finances.

My grandfather initially financed the club's rents until he managed to get his friends, including a good friend of his, Harry Ramsden, and some of the tackle shops in the area to help support the club and keep it running. I think Mr Ramsden had ideas of battering fish rather than chasing them himself, however he did support local angling clubs.

After the war the surviving members returned and instead of thanking my grandfather for the work he had done the committee decided to make the club membership open to Ilkley residents only.  As my grandfather lived in Baildon this excluded him and he was 'black balled', but he never held a resentment and spoke little of it.

We are unsure of what happened after this decision but I do know that he fished the Ilkley stretch on a regular basis, in fact every Wednesday afternoon, which was half day closing in Shipley. I assume he fished the water on day ticket, as you can now, until the committee came to their senses and eventually allowed him to join.

Back in the 1950's I remember his last few fishing trips when my mother and I would drop him off by the footbridge and he would wander downstream to his favourite spot just above  the sewerage outflow. On his return home he would put his catch in the kitchen sink so I could prod, poke and admire them. I think this is when I must have made the decision to follow in his footsteps.

He did stipulate in his will that his ashes should be scattered at his favourite spot above the sewerage works outflow with which we firmly complied. I still visit that spot and quite often have a word with him with a plea to increase my catch.

During the later part of John's life my mother and father took over the running of the shop and I remember spending many happy hours with my hands in tins of maggots, feeling them squirm between my fingers, rummaging through all sorts of fishing tackle and sorting out the flies that had been tied and delivered by Hardy Bros. They sold no fly tying materials at all but the vast stock of hooks for coarse and game fishing always came from Partridge when they were in Redditch.

My mother, bless her, would always recount that my favourite fly was the Greenwells Glory which always held me in fascination.

Happy Days! And days I shall always treasure.

Greenwells Glory    Ilkley Angling Club


Narrative by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

 Back to top

February 2017

Black and Peacock Spider

First, please accept my apologies for absence last month. I was stricken by a particularly virulent virus that has rampaged its way through Ryedale afflicting young and old alike. For several weeks, I lacked the energy to do very much at all. I did consider writing down a couple of New Year resolutions but rapidly changed my mind.  The very word “resolution” is rather binding, it implies commitment and is generally very hard to wriggle out of should the pragmatist need to do so. A better plan, I thought, might be to have a few New Year “intentions”; much more flexible and far easier to modify.

The first intention is to sort out my fly boxes; currently there is no sign of organisation therein and that really does need to be addressed. I carry two, one contains flies that are designed to float, dry flies, and the other houses sinking flies, mainly spiders and nymphs. At the beginning of the season, all are lined up in serried ranks sorted by pattern and size. This usually lasts a good fortnight, by which time I have lost the patience and the inclination to spend time re-sorting the resultant muddle that is the inevitable consequence at the end of each fishing day. Oh, I know that there are meticulous, superior beings out there who actually enjoy nothing better than to re-align the contents of their fly boxes with the aid of tweezers and a magnifying glass. I’m not wired like that.

Whilst I’m organising, I’m also going to do some culling. There are flies in my box that have never seen the light of day since the day of their inception in the tying vice; they will have to go. The fact is that the vast majority of my trout and grayling are caught on about six fly patterns, anything else really is superfluous. In fact, in the dry fly department; if I was really brave, I would store only the F fly (see October 2007) in sizes 14 to 22 coloured black and olive.

In the sinking fly box I would have to carry the black and peacock spider. That’s partly sentimental because it is the first fly that I learned to tie, and I suspect that is the same for most fly tiers. Apart from that, the fly is small and predominantly black with a bit of beetle and blue bottle about it. There is not a fish that swims which does not eat little black things. Add to that my favourite spider pattern, hare’s lug and golden plover, and a selection of slim nymph patterns, some with metal beads and I’ll be as happy as Larry, the rest can go.

Now, this might not go down too well, but I’m past caring. I fully intend to stop taking any notice of fanciful “new” fishing techniques. I am not going to mess about with twenty foot monofilament leaders with a row of plastic buttons as an indicator. I’ m going to stick to my Rio nymph line that has a bright orange tip. Unlike a row of plastic beads, it doesn’t tangle when the breeze is in my face and gives perfect bite indication.

Out of respect for Steve, I will give Tenkara fishing one more go. That’s the method that uses no reel. I may be highlighting my own shortcomings, but a flimsy bit of monofilament that will not straighten with the wind in my face is no substitute for a conventional fly line and steeply tapered leader. I have already lost one superb grayling to this method because I could not reach it with the net and there was no means of taking in line. I’ve seen and discounted all the fanciful suggestions to overcome the problem. Just get a reel.

If this sounds like the resolutions of a grumpy dinosaur, I don’t care!

Black and Peacock Spider

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483


Back to top

 March 2017

Pink Dink

Have you ever pondered upon what constitutes a good neighbour? I hadn’t until very recently but I now have the irrefutable definition. The perfect neighbour is one who is willing to share his worms with you in the middle of January.

You’ve probably guessed that I love my fly fishing, however I’d be the first to admit that, in winter, the grayling are far more likely to be tempted by a lowly worm than by any concoction of fur and feather that we might throw at them.

When our wives are out of earshot, Simon and I occasionally talk fishing through the hole in the hedge. We agree wholeheartedly that Eisenia fetida is the epitome of temptation for a hungry grayling; that’s a brandling worm, by the way. Their near relative, Eisenia veneta, the compost worm, is an excellent alternative

During a recent inter shrubbery conversation with Simon, I was bemoaning the fact that Eisenia had deserted me, I think that it’s something to do with putting rhubarb in the compost heap. Like the fine citizen that he is, Simon immediately offered me access to his pristine compost heap; I consider that to be an extremely generous gesture.

Next time that you are ratching about in your compost heap, may I suggest that you tenderly extract a few of whichever of the Eisenia species graces your garden? I’ll not bore you with the identifying features. Whichever worm you unearth, you will note that it has a certain translucency about it and that the predominant body colour is kind of pink. Now, because I don’t get out very much, I began thinking long and hard about how I might best imitate one of these worms with an artificial fly. The sensible thing to do would have been to help myself to a hand full of Simon’s pets and make my way to the river armed with a float rod. It’s the   stubborn streak in me, I was determined to do it the hard way.

It’s not easy to smuggle worms into the house and it’s best done under the cover of darkness. It’s worth the risk though; it is important to have a model if you wish to capture the subtleties of light and reflection, of form and movement from a worm and transpose that into an inanimate replica. After all, that’s what Rembrandt, Leonardo and their pals used to do.

So, as my chosen Eisenia veneta lay alluringly on my fly tying table atop a thin layer of leaf mould, I began to fiddle about with different bits of stuff, attaching them to a hook clamped in my vice. Now, when constructing flies, I’m more of a Monet or Renoir; an impressionist through and through. I abandoned some of my early sketches, and finally came up with the fly that Steve has tied properly for you. Lie it side by side, in the palm of your hand, with either fetida or veneta and you will immediately be struck by a kind of ethereal similarity. I was convinced that I had created a masterpiece.

I decided to hang my masterpiece beneath a pink klink that we described to you last December. The anglers, and other sad people, will now understand why I have named this fly the “pink dink”.

So, on a less than clement day last week, the pink klink and the pink dink accompanied me to the river. I am delighted to report that the grayling seemed to meet my fly with critical acclaim; during a rather windy couple of hours several grayling ate the pink dink with sufficient gusto to cause the pink klink to submerge.

Come the spring, I need to get out a bit more.

Pink Dink

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483

 Back to top

April 2017

White Tuft F Fly

Is it just me, or is the rest of the world growing younger? I cannot believe that young people in their early teens can have achieved a professional qualification. I suppose that one day soon I need to accept that I am growing older and that my perception of age is becoming distorted. Nevertheless, I do think that the new breed of professionals needs to refine their diplomatic skills.

“Now, Mr. Beck, what demands do you place upon your eye sight?” asked the youthful optometrist. “I need to be able to see something half the size of a match head on rippled water at twenty five yards” I replied without hesitation. The fourteen year old looked me squarely in the myopic eyes and with a pleasant smile helpfully informed me that “it’s a big ask from someone of your age”. I admit that I may have bristled a bit behind the plethora of optical paraphernalia that rested precariously on my face, but I was slightly mollified when she raised a well-groomed eyebrow, fiddled with a new lens and continued, with a modicum of sincerity, “but we will certainly try”.

To the fly fisher, sharp vision is essential to success. The ubiquitous F fly (see October, 2007) is incredibly effective. Unfortunately, its natural, subtle colouring makes it extremely difficult to see on shady water. May I be allowed a word of advice? Work hard at achieving very accurate casting skills, watch your fly alight on the water and then, under no circumstances, take your eye off it.

There are, of course, ways in which the visually challenged can gain the upper hand. Currently, it is a closely guarded secret but Steve and I are due in the Dragon’s den with an invention that we think will revolutionise the fly fisher’s world for ever. We are working in close collaboration with a famous fly line manufacturer and their distributer. Please, let this go no further, but we have already found a way of incorporating a microscopically thin flexible, electricity conducting carbon filament into the core of the line. This has no effect upon its performance, though we did tweak the density of the plastic coating in order to maintain floatability. The greatest challenge was to continue the electrical conductivity along the length of the leader. This was finally achieved by incorporating a lattice of graphene into the hydrogen bonds of the leader’s long chain polymer. To accomplish the same outcome for fluorocarbon leaders will be a challenge. Whilst the strength of the carbon-fluorine bond contributes linear stability, the carbon has a higher partial positive charge which impedes the flow of electrons. We shall continue to persevere.

Having achieved a means of conducting a low voltage electrical current along the line and leader, the metallic nature of the fly hook ensures continuity of electrical impulse to the body of the fly. A minute flashing LED can be incorporated into the abdomen of the F fly; the colour of the emission can be varied according to changing light conditions, so the whereabouts of the fly is always obvious. The final design amalgamates a tiny hearing aid battery into the frame of the reel, which powers the whole system. Eventually we hope to introduce a modification that uses blue tooth technology and can be controlled by an app. This may take us another couple of years, but, hopefully, the new fly line will be with your retailer by the end of this month.  So for the first couple of weeks of the season tie a bit of snow shoe hare fur above the wing of your F fly; it increases the visibility no end.

White Tuft F Fly


Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483


Back to top

May 2017

The Becky on Cod Beck

First things first; Cod Beck does not have any cod swimming about in it. It’s original name was probably Cold Beck and if you are familiar with North Yorkshire dialect and pronunciation, you can easily understand how Cold Beck became Cod Beck. Mind you, on the day that we visited, I think that it may have reverted back to the old name!

 Olly Shepherd tends, nurtures, protects and syndicates two miles of this lovely little river not far from Thirsk.  He very kindly invited Steve and I along for a dabble. Right until the moment that we had our first sight of the water, I thought that Little Gem was a kind of lettuce; not necessarily so. As we crested the bank, it was clear that this accolade could rightfully be applied to this splendid little lowland river. As Olly, Steve and I walked downstream, the charms and character of the Beck began to unfold. It is the very epitome of everything that I love about small intimate streams. Riffles, glides, pocket water and deep holes wherein leviathans lurk all began to cause my rod hand to twitch.

 Despite it being late April and late morning, a lazy north-west breeze, straight from the Baltic, went through us and not round us. The occasional gust ruffled the surface, persuading the invertebrate life to remain well and truly sub-surface. Steve and I both decided that we would start our fishing plan by trundling weighted nymph flies along the bed of the river; bottom scratching as my friend Richard calls it. We thought it appropriate to use a fly specially created for this water. The Becky was devised by Derek Stratton, who, on Cod Beck, first taught me to cast a fly properly when Adam was still in nappies. 

I had it all planned out, I would write you a story about how a bloke called Beck caught the first  fish of the day on Cod Beck with a fly called The Becky. However, the best laid plans…. Within minutes, of his first cast, Steve’s rod began to bend as he landed a lovely wild trout. You’ve guessed it, on The Becky! Foiled again. 

I slowly fished my way upstream, catching the occasional fish on the “klink and dink” method. Shortly, I reached a minor bend in the river, significant enough to offer welcome shelter from the breeze. I celebrated by sitting in the lee of the bank and just watching. There, in the sheltered corner, a handful of grannom flies braved the air; they skittered over the water as their new, soft wings experimented with the notion of flight. One of them, caught by the gentle current, drifted within inches of the opposite bank. There was a very slight disturbance below the surface and the little sedge disappeared. Off came the bottom scratching kit to be replaced by floating sedge imitation. I cast it gently a yard upstream of the ambush point; another swirl, another sip and a very chunky grayling briefly graced my net.

In the shelter of the trees, there were half a dozen fish determinedly surface feeding. We managed to briefly extract a few of them. This spoke volumes about the potential of Cod Beck; on a warmer day, I have no doubt that the hatch of fly will be notable. This includes a significant showing of mayfly, I’m assured.

Cod Beck really is one of the most promising small rivers that I’ve encountered; it is an unsung hero (heroine?) of the Vale of Mowbray. Sample a flavour of it at Olly’s website,

Take a guided day with him; you could not enjoy better company and enthusiasm or encounter a better Beck.

 The Becky on Cod Beck       Cod Beck in North Yorkshire

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 


Back to top

June 2017

Black Bunny Leech

As I sit on the bank of the river Wharfe writing this article I am reminded how lucky we are to live in Yorkshire. As an angler I have to remind myself of the beautiful rivers we have in Yorkshire. Many are the rivers that rise in the Pennines and the North Yorkshire Moors to flow east to the sea, but in my opinion (and it is the opinion of many) is that one of the finest fishing rivers is the Wharfe.

For some 12 years I had the pleasure of teaching fly fishing at Malham Tarn and there I met and made good friends with so many lovely people. Some wanted to return to Malham year after year for the experience but nine of them, who I class as the old students, asked me to organise holidays so they could take advantage of the stunning rivers in the North. For some years we have fished the Wharfe and Ure, in other years we have gone over the border into Durham and fished the Tees. Last year we went up to the Eden in Cumbria, but this year they wanted to return to the Wharfe.

We met up at a lovely hotel just outside Threshfield on the Saturday and were briefed as to where they would be going to fish. Sunday we would be fishing the handsome waters of the upper Wharfe at Kilnsey, Monday we would be visiting an old favourite spot at Bolton Abbey but Tuesday would be different. We would stray over the border into Lancashire and fish at Stocks reservoir, an internationally known still-water fishery.

On arrival at Stocks we were booked in. I made sure my friends were all safely in their boats and were happy to trundle off fishing for half a day whilst I fished from the bank, hopefully being able to keep an eye on them.

After about 2 hours one boat returned, Lesley and Alan, a couple from Glasgow. They had found it hard work and Lesley wanted a few hours on dry land so I immediately offered to go back out with Alan.  Now Alan is a big burly Glaswegian with an accent to suit, not the easiest of folk to understand particularly after a few beers in the bar! He is a great guy, a good angler and is most willing to share his secrets and his flies with those who ask. In the bar the night before he had reeled off a few names of flies that he was going to try.  I think I understood him as I smiled and nodded and hoped that it was the correct response. It was very much easier when he produced a fly from his fly box which was an "absolutely deadly fly" that both he and Lesley had used with great results - the Black Bunny Leech!

Back out in the boat, after hauling a whacking great anchor over the side which only Alan would be able to bring back in, we settled down to some serious non productive fishing. The wind was quite strong and was playing havoc with my hearing aids so there was no way I was going to hear Alan never mind understand him but he delved into his fly box and out came the Black Bunny Leech.

He nodded and I gave the thumbs up and off the fly sailed across the water. A few pulls back the line went straight and tight and eventually a good 2lb rainbow trout was safely returned. Result!

Now there are areas of the Wharfe where the water is deep and slow and should hide some big trout. I wondered if the fish would like the Black Bunny Leech on Wednesday and Thursday, in Yorkshire...!

Black Bunny Leech

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.


Back to top

July 2017

The Shopping Bag Special

 The sun blazed down relentlessly from the summer blue sky, patched with white candy floss clouds. The temperature hovered around thirty degrees; I know that this scenario was commonplace across Yorkshire during June afternoons, but this was 06.30 (yes, the morning half past six) and I was in a state of deep shock having crawled from my bed over an hour ago. Now, as I have remarked before and as Steve will testify, I don’t do early mornings; they are not natural and not necessary.  Nevertheless, there I was, rod in hand, barely conscious, gingerly lowering myself into the boat, urged on by Mario’s firm hand shake and infectious grin.

There was no Yorkshire landscape visible over the prow of the boat; a sapphire, panorama interrupted only by crashing waves on the reef  confirmed to my  addled brain that I was back in Belize, Western Caribbean hunting  salt water fish with a fly rod. My fishing companion for the day was Mark thus fulfilling a promise that we had both made four years ago. On that occasion, Mark was too ill to join our Central America expedition so it was not only realizing an ambition but also confirming that he is mercifully returned to good health.

Our target species for the day was the bone fish that inhabit shallow tropical waters and are the piscatorial equivalent of Usain Bolt.

We left the dock and motored, at some speed, parallel to the coast of San Pedro Island. Conditions would have been perfect had it not been for the wind which blew at a steady twenty five miles an hour. Accurate fly casting in those conditions can be, shall we say “challenging”? and accurate casting is an essential ingredient of successful bone fish interception. The plan is that Mario, our highly experienced guide, spots the fish and the angler must drop the fly gently about five feet in front of the shoal, usually at a range of about twenty yards. If the fly drops behind them, they don’t see it, if it drops more than five feet in front of them, they don’t see it, if it drops short of them, they don’t see it, if it drops amongst them, they spook and scarper like Usain out of his starting blocks. Never actually seeing the fish oneself adds to the fun. Get the picture?

Mario navigated his way to a lagoon, sheltered from the wind by clumps of mangroves. Now, that’s all very well, the haven of calmer conditions did make casting the flies much easier; the down side is that the mangroves provide sanctuary for a malevolent misanthropic marauders by the name of Diachlorus ferrugatus , or Doctor fly as it’s known in Belize. It is completely undeterred by any form of repellant and, if bitten, you are on your way to its namesake. So, bearing in mind the aforementioned need for casting accuracy, this combination of “challenges” provide fine spectator sport. One hand is required to hold the rod, one hand is essential to control the spare line; this leaves no additional hand for wafting at incoming insects. The only solution is to keep up rapid body movements, bobbing and weaving, which is not easy on the small rolling deck of a fishing skiff.

Despite all these trials and tribulations, Mark and I avoided meting the Doctor and landed about a dozen bone fish between us. The successful fly, of my own design, was christened “shopping bag special” because the flashy bits under its chin reminded us both of the handles of old-fashioned shopping bags. I only tied one of this particular pattern and here it is somewhat battered by bone fish.

The Shopping Bag Special


Fly and Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

Back to top

August 2017

Shaved Shipman's Buzzer

An ancient proverb tells us that:

When the wind is in the south, it blows the bait into the fish’s mouth.

When the wind is in the west, that’s when the fishes bite the best.

When the wind is in the east, that’s when the fishes bite the least.

When the wind is in the north, the wise angler goes not forth.

 So, one can reasonably assume that a north easter, is the kiss of death.

 Loch Eaval, on the Isle of North Uist, is orientated in a north-west to south – east direction; the northern shore of the Loch is stunningly picturesque and more easily accessible to the angler with an arthritic knee. On a Tuesday evening, in late June, staying just a stone’s throw from Loch Eaval, I found myself in a dilemma. I wanted to fish the Loch and the wind blew persistently from the north – east; time to test the maxim.

I made my way slowly along the sunlit north shore. Eaval lies in the band of unique landscape called machair, consequently, I occasionally stooped to marvel at yet another species of orchid that bedecks the fringes of this exquisite water.

There was a ten foot wide corridor of mirror-calm water along the up-wind shore wherein I noticed actively feeding trout eagerly splashing at insects. A perfectly sized, lichen encrusted boulder provided me with a temporary seat whilst I identified the food items that were attracting the trout. It was immediately clear that small, pale caddis flies were trapped in the junction ‘twixt calm and riffled water. The trout purposefully patrolled this invisible boundary, slurping down the sedges with enthusiasm. I smiled inwardly, perhaps I even smirked; this was just too easy. As I’ve said here many times, the elk hair caddis fly always works for me in these situations. Slowly, lazily I tied one onto my leader, all the while absorbing the glory of my surroundings. Without moving from my granite throne, I began casting the sedge, dropping it delicately into the dining room. I have no idea how many trout were fooled by this fake food but each one was a beautiful butter-bellied example of a wild Hebridean brown trout that was briefly admired and then returned to the loch.

As evening approached, so the menu changed. I became aware of increasing numbers of tiny white flies alighting on my sleeve; Caenis fly had started to hatch. These are predominantly white, members of the mayfly family with three tails and a body length of no more than one eighth of an inch, often known as “the angler’s curse” , they are too small to easily imitate. The calm water in front of me gradually became covered with millions of these tiny morsels, perishing in the act of egg laying upon the water. The trout now changed their feeding behaviour, swimming along open mouthed simply engulfing the buffet before them.

A change of tactics was called for. I knew that there was nothing in the fly box that would represent caenis, but an old friend came to my rescue. A single Shipman’s buzzer reclined in a dusty corner. This fly has a white tuft front and rear; I reckoned that with a little trimming each tuft might represent an anglers’ curse. I tied it onto my leader, gave it a haircut and cast it six inches in front of a cruising fish. It worked a treat, if I could place the fly right in the path of a trout, it was fooled every time, the slightest inaccuracy drew no interest.

As I left the water in the gathering dusk, I realised that I had upheld one of my long-held theories; fish can’t read.

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 


Back to top

September 2017

Balloon Caddis

You will recall that, last month, I alluded to an arthritic knee that was preventing me from taking full advantage of the fishing opportunities on North Uist. That situation is in the process of being resolved.

Soon after we returned home, I accepted an invitation from Clifton Hospital in York, to have a new knee fitted. Mr. Gibbon, my surgeon, described it as creating a matching pair with the one that he installed three years ago.

 It’s a funny old business; out of theatre at around half past four on Monday afternoon and by eight o’clock my nurse is “suggesting” that I should try standing up, albeit with the aid of a walking frame. As expected, that was “a little uncomfortable” but only a complete fool would argue with Nurse T. Tuesday morning the physiotherapist turns up, all smiles and bonhomie, but I’m not fooled. Have you noticed that all physios have a pleasant and cheerful demeanour that belies the fact that their purpose in life is to inflict pain and suffering? So, after being “encouraged” to bend my new knee to ninety degrees, I was “invited” for a walk along the corridor. There followed a couple more walks on Tuesday, walking frame replaced by sticks and on Wednesday morning I was “offered the opportunity” to walk up and down stairs. On Wednesday afternoon, they sent me home.

 Now there began a combination of character building exercises and rest, interspersed with walks of gradually increasing distance. I was jubilant when I first managed the five minute totter to the White Horse. T

 The discharge information made it clear that for three months I should not participate in line dancing or golf; in that I would rather pull out all my own teeth than do either, this did not concern me. Nowhere on the document did it say that I could not go fishing! After a full and frank discussion with she who must be obeyed and having signed a certificate promising utmost care and application of good sense, three weeks after the re-furb. I was sitting by the river on a lovely warm August evening.

 I had carefully chosen a section where the firm bank gently slopes into the river bed of fine gravel with no big stones to trip over. I know this part of the river well, opposite me, against the far bank, there is a channel of around two feet deep carved by the current. To my left, the flow hugs the near bank where it has created a deep groove in the river bed. I was confident that both these features would yield a fish; all I needed was just one fish to make my day and mark the beginning of real recuperation. Low over the water, flitted small pale caddis flies, the occasional one touching down briefly to be greeted with a swirl followed by a disappearing act. There was, however, a problem; the varying flow of water between myself and the fish prevented me from presenting the balloon caddis naturally. Despite all sorts of fancy casting tricks, the fly dragged over the head of my quarry. Wild fish are simply not fooled by this unnatural behaviour.

 So, I tied a little nymph to the bend of the balloon caddis, and floated the duo over the fish. Regular submergences of the caddis, indicated that the fish were intercepting my nymph.  Three trout and two grayling were a wonderful beginning to my convalescence.

 Seriously, I am well aware that my rapid return to the river is a tribute to the expertise and dedication of the physiotherapists. You are all lovely people, really.


Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

Back to top

October 2017

French Nymphing

A couple of weeks ago I was introduced to a French Leader and a French Nymph. You will not be surprised to know that it wasn't Emmanuel Macron but a method of fishing rivers  with very fine lines and heavy flies originating in France.

On the day of my induction into this method I was invited to fish with a couple of good friends, Stephen and Peter, who are members of Appletreewick, Burnsall and Barden Angling Club (ABBAC), a very prestigious club with some wonderful water on the River Wharfe. Arriving at the beat just below Grassington I noticed that the river looked extremely "fishy" and I set to with my usual method for such beautiful water.  However, the fish were not responding to my normal tactics and I don't think the other two were having much luck.

Eventually I sat down on the bank with Stephen to discuss other ways of enticing the fish and he mentioned the French Leader method.

Obviously being worldly wise in fly fishing (cough), I had heard of this method but never tried it, so when Stephen, a recent convert,  offered to show me and to let me have a go I jumped at the chance.

Without going into technicalities, for short distance fishing a very long rod and a short line of  about the same length of the rod is used. On the line are two flies, and an indicator  which gives notice of any bites to the fly. One fly is very heavy, it has a big tungsten bead head and slim body and sinks to the bottom quickly. The other fly is lighter and fishes higher up in the water so the fish can take either. Casting is more of a lobbing action upstream rather the usual graceful overhead cast. The whole idea is to get the flies into the water close by and let the current sweep the flies downstream.

Suffice to say, second cast Stephen was into a rather nice brown trout. My go!

On my third cast in the same spot I was into a lovely grayling, a big and beautiful fellow. I was hooked too!

At home I knew, somewhere, I had a French leader that had been given to me so I set this up ready for my next outing together with my pink headed French nymph.

Last week I was guiding a gentleman at Bolton Abbey into the ways of fishing our Northern spate rivers. Finding a likely spot I mentioned the French leader method to my client and was surprised that he was eager to have a go. Would you believe it? Fourth cast a big brown trout followed by quite a few grayling! Now he was hooked too!

The last day of September sees the end of the trout season in Yorkshire, so to celebrate I was invited to join another friend Steve who fishes at Kilnsey Angling Club. Steve is a fellow Riverfly sampler who was having problems getting a good count of invertabrates from the River Skirfare. The morning was spent fishing and after lunch we looked at the fly life in the river. Having solved one or two fly life issues we decided to look at French nymphing at a favoured pool of Steve's.

Third cast, the line stopped moving, I lifted the rod but I was firmly stuck on the bottom. The only way to release the flies from what they were caught on was to give the line a wee bit more pressure. The flies came out, springing over my head into a tree above and behind me.

The rest is history, suffice to say there is one fly firmly stuck in an unreachable branch at Hawkswick.


Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.

Narrative by Stephen Cheetham

Back to top

 November 2017

The Dumpy Humpy

I almost love autumn. The bright, brash colours of summer leaves morph into the subtler shades of yellows, browns and reds that are the signature of the season. As the weather cools, the inhabitants of the river begin to perk up as oxygen levels rise aided by the welcome rain. The rain also swells the river and adds sufficient colour to soften the outline of the prowling angler.

Why the “almost”? Well, those exquisitely coloured leaves eventually drop from the trees and fall into the river. They float for a while and constantly ensnare my fly as it alights on the water, then they sink to the river bed and envelop my deeply fished nymph as it trundles through the debris in the depths.

One lazy shirt sleeves afternoon in mid-October, sitting on a grassy tussock by a ford, I studied an unruffled section of the river. Surprisingly, there was no sign of insects on the wing yet, as I scrutinised the mirror like surface, I began to notice grayling creating their tell-tale tiny dimples on the otherwise undisturbed surface. This was not a random occurrence though; a fallen tree concentrates the gentle current along a corridor in the centre of the stream. The fallen leaves create a moving, two yard wide mosaic carpet and it was within the carpet of leaves in the middle of the river that the grayling were feeding.

This is not an unusual scenario during early autumn; as the leaves fall they carry with them the tiny midges and aphids that feed thereon. It is a conveyor belt of convenience food for the Lady of The Stream.

In my experience, the fly for this situation is the IOTBO Humpy that I used on the Wharfe last September, it is tied in tiny sizes to represent something the size of the greenfly on your roses.  The original is dressed from one single feather plucked from a duck’s bum, known in the trade as CDC. When fish are feeding on tiny morsels, it is devastatingly effective; IOTBO being the abbreviation for “it ought to be outlawed”.

My only problem with it is that being pale grey and tiny, I cannot see it at greater distances than two foot six which is a bit of a problem when the fish are about ten yards away. There is a theory that you can chuck it in the river, watch where it lands and then assume that disturbance in that area means that a fish has eaten your fly. Not good enough, I need to know if my fly is floating ineffectually atop a leaf. So, whilst waiting for my recently replaced knee to mend, I spent some time faffing about with my flies, trying to make improvements. The IOTBO humpy was top of my list for tarting up. I made the body a bit fatter and included a few fibres of white polypropylene into the back and head tuft of this fly. It is amazing how that improved the visibility. The plumper profile encouraged me to call it the Dumpy Humpy.

In my fly box, I found one of these bespoke beauties at size 22 (think half match head). It fooled a couple of grayling and then my other autumn jinx struck. There was an alder tree just behind me which was festooned with tiny cones about the size of a twenty pence piece. Once the fly is caught on an alder cone, it is seldom recoverable. Next cast, the inevitable happened and I gazed wistfully at my only Dumpy Humpy dangling out of reach, above my head.

“Well, well, well” I muttered and wandered off upstream.

Narrative by Roger Beck 

Fly by Stephen Cheetham

Fly Photo by Steve Haithwaite


Back to top

December 2017

Santa’s shuttlecock

In my humble opinion, December is the best month of the year for bum fluff; it has lost the scantiness commonly found embellishing precocious adolescents during milder months; it has proliferated and become well distributed around the nether regions.

Before your mind embarks upon some flight of fancy and our dear readers desert us in droves, I refer to the down dispersed over the distal district of a duck.

Referred to by fly tiers as “cul de canard” (commonly known as CDC), I have mentioned it on several occasions. Sprouting in a cluster around the preen gland, CDC consists of very fine, grey feathers that are impregnated with a natural oil that ducks wipe on their feathers as a rain coat. Incorporated into an artificial, it furnishes said fly with unparalleled floatation.

A fat, winter stubble fed mallard provides a meal that would grace any Christmas table; a far cry from a flabby farm yard imposter. I harvest them whenever the opportunity arises, usually carrying a couple of 35mm. film cases in my pocket for storage, though these are  becoming much sought after in these times of digital photography.

Now, without wishing to be indelicate, the nether regions of a duck are susceptible to, shall we say, “contamination”? So, upon returning to headquarters, I tip the CDC in the sink, add a little cool water and gently agitate the mixture with a wooden spoon. Management has decreed that I have my own special spoon, clearly marked with DP on the handle, (answers on a postcard) which is stored separately from the ones used to stir the Christmas pudding. The result is a kind of robust broth, CDC floating like croutons on the surface, whilst the “contamination” lurks at the bottom of the sink. The CDC can now be carefully scooped out with a sieve, the one used for sifting flour is perfect. Then comes the job of “decontaminating” the sink, under close scrutiny of management; the stuff that “kills all known germs” is just the job. Tip the soggy feathers onto a sheet of newspaper, pop it in the airing cupboard to dry for a couple of days and Bob’s your uncle.  I did briefly experiment with using a hair dryer to speed up the drying process. Did I mention that this precious plumage is as light as a feather?  There was a management convened disciplinary hearing when a few grey snowflakes were discovered decorating the butter dish.

I store my prepared CDC in one of those plastic tubs with a snap on lid, transfer from newspaper to pot is tricky; make sure that your draught proofing is sound and avoid heavy breathing. Even the slightest waft of breeze will distribute the bum fluff throughout the available space. The operation is best undertaken well away from any culinary creativity.

When incorporating CDC into the dressing of a fly I have my tub on my desk before me. It is advisable to wear a surgical mask. Yes, I know that may seem a bit extreme, but be warned; one vigorous sneeze will redistribute the famous feathers in a most spectacular way.

If you have a good look at the fly that Steve has tied, you will easily understand why we have named it “Santa’s Shuttlecock”, the fluffy bit sticking out of the end of the fly is the CDC. The white tails at the rear end are fashioned from a couple of curls from Santa’s beard. I could write a whole column on the perils of collecting the latter material, sufficient to say that I have been ejected from a couple of well-known department stores!

Narrative by Roger Beck 

Fly by Stephen Cheetham

Fly Photo by Steve Haithwaite

Back to top

Go to 2018 Articles

Go back to 2016

Go back to 2015

Go Back to 2014

Go Back to 2013

Go Back to 2012

Go Back to 2011

Go Back to 2010

Go Back to 2009

Go Back to 2008

Go Back to 2007

 Go Back to 2006

Go Back to 2005

Back to top

Go to North Country Spiders

Back to Home Page

© Copyright 2015 Stephen Cheetham, Roger Beck, Yorkshire Post Newspapers.