Sunday, 10 July 2011

Return To Yorkshire Part 1

Sometimes Life Gets in the Way

Well I guess it is true for all fishermen. Work has to come first sometimes and 2011 seems to be the year of little free time.

I have been lucky enough to get a couple of breaks allowing me to wet a line or two.

April was back to my home, Yorkshire with its lovely rivers and some of the best fly-fishing in the country. My wife and I were staying in Hawswick about 20 miles north of Skipton and very close to my favourite trout fishery, Kilnsey Park.

But Kilnsey would have to wait as first on my list had to be Raygill at Lothersdale run by Bernard Clements this is a fishery carved out of limestone holding some unbelievable rainbow trout with a much higher than average size.

Turning up at 08:00 I was surprised how much the waters had changed over the last 12 years but even more surprised that after all these years Bernard remembered me and spoke to me as if it had just been 12 days since my last visit. How time passes…..

Opting to fish the quarry lake I walked over the ridge to be met with a sight that made my heart jump. The steep walls 50ft tall on the west and the little spit of land snaking around the eastern side allowing anglers to cover the water that is 40ft deep in places. I wandered down the track looking into the deep clear water and could see the shapes of huge trout in the depths. A large rainbow leaping near the northern end of the lake broke my trance. “That’s the place for me to start,” I told myself.

Tying on a Dawson’s Olive I made a couple of false casts to get back into the swing of my fly rod. Then casting as far as I could (after an 18 month fly break) I managed to get in the general direction of a group of fish I had seen on the way down. First cast and a tug on the fly. That alone would have made my day. Second cast and my timing was a lot better allowing me to cover twice the distance from the first. The wind was picking up to my back and I felt a little more confident I would soon have my cast back. 
A smash of a take sent the reel spinning and my first big trout in 12 years was on. Trying to enjoy the fight I remembered the fly line was many years old but it seemed as slick and supple as the day it came out of the box.

A second huge lunge saw the bright orange of the backing start running out over the lake. You cannot hurry a Raygill trout and I had to play this one by the book, off the reel and let the rod and drag do the work. 10min later and I was able to slip a fin perfect 24in rainbow over the net. 
When possible I prefer to unhook trout in the water and let them recover a little dipping the net allowing the fish to swim away when it is ready. So barbless hooks and forceps are always used.

A cup of coffee and a change of fly, The Dawson’s Olive may have caught all day, but I had a deep wish to use a dry fly and had tied a lot of hoppers and gnats to throw at the fish.

With the wind getting up, I tried to place a black midge in the water close to a bush. After I retrieved the fly from the bush I made a second and third attempt. Getting a little frustrate with my rusty casting cursed my luck and tried again. It is amazing how all the temper slips from your mind when you see a trout sip your fly from the surface of the water. Waiting one, two, three seconds then strike! The rod bent over and I could feel the fish shaking its head as it ran towards the deepest part of the lake. For the second time I saw the backing flying off the spool as I set in for the long dogged fight that is normal for these fighting fit fish.
This one was about the same length but twice the girth across the back. If I had to pin a weight on it I would say 11lbs is fair, but to be honest, much bigger fish come out to the more experienced locals each week. 
I have never been sure if Bernard deliberately set about building a “big fish” water but he definitely has some fine specimens in his lakes. Long, fully finned hard fighting fish, not the pudding bowls we pull out of some of the southern “monster waters”

By 3pm the wind was near gale force and the rain was stinging my face and ears but as today was more about getting my cast back and giving the lines a much needed stretch after 6 fish to the net and a few that slipped the hook I decided to take my tired arms home so I could rest and dream about the fish waiting for me at Kilnsey.

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