Updated: Jun 2, 2020
Marina Gibson describes a year fishing in Yorkshire. The local reservoir has opened and the river’s in rude health.
AFTER STORMS DENNIS AND Ciara wreaked havoc across the UK, with their widespread flooding having dramatic affects on the lives of so many people, the weather Gods finally abated, and things began to settle down in Yorkshire. In late February I met Rob Mitchell, head of forestry and grounds at the Swinton Estate, to see what storm damage had occurred during the chaos. We wandered down to the Nutwith Beat on the River Ure and were delighted that so few problematic branches and debris needed tending to. There was a fallen tree at the bottom of Roman Ford that had been niggling me for a while, even though it wasn’t a byproduct of this year’s storms. Thanks to Rob and his team it has been removed and we will now be able to sh the tail of the pool and then carry on into Dovecote pool.
Last season we installed a very simple yet charming fishing hut by the Top Pool, above the flood line, so it wasn’t affected by the high waters this winter. It’s only 12ft by 8ft with a green felt roof, and a door that opens outwards, looking downstream. Inside I put an old wooden table with a sh-inspired tablecloth and six chairs for fishermen. I peeked my head through the door the other day and noticed that some walkers must have taken refuge there recently. I love that they can do this, and that there’s a pinboard with photographs and memories from last season.
A few miles west of Swinton, Leighton Reservoir opened its season on February 28. It was a great place to make a first cast after what for many had been a long winter’s break. With the moor on one bank, it’s a wonderful setting, and once you get to grips with the seasonal flies, you’ll catch plenty of rainbow trout. There’s great dry-fly action and emerging midge, so a team of buzzers can be effective. On opening day, fishermen battled the wind and snow. My favourite comment was made by Olly Shepherd, who simply wrote, “Snows n Bows”. Despite the conditions, rod catches were high, and a number of anglers returned more than 20 fish. The big doubles put on a show, the largest 15lb. Leighton drains into the river that is my haven. The Burn is a tributary of the River Ure. It starts just outside the small market town of Masham and meanders its way under a canopy of trees to the reservoir and then up to Colsterdale past Gollinglith Foot. If the trout are rising, it’s an idyllic place to spend time with a fly-rod in hand.
Last season, we were blessed with incredible dry-fly fishing. On warm summer days, the hatches were prolific. Sometimes the trout rose steadily from 11am until dark. Swinton guide Beni has become especially fond of the dry-fly fishing, so much so that he bought a zero-weight rod, which gave him terri c sport as the season drew to a close. Having only set up the Fishing School at the Swinton Estate last year, Beni, Brian and I are getting to grips with all the fishing on offer and are enjoying every second. We are looking forward to taking more people on the Burn this season and we’ve realised that it can be a great place for beginners because of the easy wading and narrow and consistent pools with few trees and other foliage to snag your fly. However, if you walk all six miles, it’s a desirable trout fishery for an accomplished angler. Some of the best lies are, as ever, in the trickiest spots and it will certainly test your casting ability... A HEALTHY FUTURE
In July, Beni and I met Dr Jonathan Grey from the Wild Trout Trust (WTT), who conducted an advisory visit. The rationale was to assess in-river and riparian habitat quality, and identify any remedial actions to be implemented. Overall, Jonathan was delighted to see such a beautiful river and relished the untouched and overgrown environment. We have a good quantity of trailing vegetation on the water surface, providing low cover and refuge for fish and invertebrates from predators and spate flow. It also creates shade as well as egg-laying substrate for river-fly species (and coarse fish) as well as structure to help insects emerge from and return to the water. The riverbanks were remarkably free of invasive species, aside from Japanese knotweed. But the most effective means of restoring the native vegetation along the banks is to exclude livestock, which will — for the most part — also improve the health and welfare of the fish stocks. The native seedbank will quickly restore degraded sections given half a chance. Jonathan’s feedback was fascinating. He gave us great advice on how to improve the environment and habitat. I highly recommend the WTT. Many fisheries could make slight alterations that could have a huge impact on the health of their rivers.