It’s grey, drizzly and miserable. Just how I like it. I’m stood in the river Swale in the tiny village of Grinton in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. The peat stained water is powerful as the rain has been falling for some time. I’m mindful that I’m stood knee deep in one of the fastest rising rivers in the country. I’ve picked a marker on the bank and at the first sign of a rise of water, I will exit hastily.
Facing upstream towards the old stone bridge ahead of me I can just see the slate grey rocks of Fremington Edge poking through the murk. The tree lined banks on either side look sodden and branches heave under the weight of heavy droplets clinging to the leaves.
The river bed is a mix of gravel, stones and boulders, all rounded and smooth from years of pounding from the current. Everything looks perfect for fly fishing. I’ve observed the river for a few minutes and not seen a rise but I know they will be there, energized from the injection of fresh water off the moors.
I’ve chosen one of my favourite areas of the river to fish, the riffle as it runs into the pool. These areas always hold fish, and I have two of my favourite flies ready to cast, a universal olive on the point and a skinny pheasant tail on the dropper.
A quick prod with my wading stick and I shuffle my feet into the gravel.
Casting upstream I start to cover the turbulent water with my nymphs. I love this kind of fishing, prospecting the likely lies, reading the complex current streams as the water tumbles through the rocks. As I am casting I am thinking like the fish, imagining where I would be stationed in the river If I were sub-surface. All the while I am watching the greased leader loop on the end of my line as it travels back down the stream towards me. Any stop or slowing of the line and I will strike, after all these years it’s an automatic response that requires no thought.
Stoneflies are hatching and one temporarily lands on the lens of my glasses as I negotiate a move across the river wading stick in one hand and rod in the other. The artificial nymph lands right at the head of the riffle and the line stops and the first fish is hooked. It feels a good fish on light tackle, with nowhere to run ahead it turns and shoots off below me in to the fast water, this is a clever move by Samo Trutta as I can’t play both the fish and the torrent beneath, I am forced to show my hand and force him to the net before he gets too far downstream and sure enough he wins this battle, throwing the hook just off the net. Fair play to the fish.
After a brief check of the flies, my nymphs are out again, probing down the winding riffle. The intensity of the rain has increased but my trusty tweed cap can deal with even the heaviest of showers., the water wicks down the fabric and drips of the end of the peak to clear my face. The high moorland edges above the village have all but disappeared into the gloom now as I edge further up river towards the Bridge Inn where a pint of Cumberland awaits.
Pint’s, however, must be earned and I am casting quickly in the fast water, the racing current testing the limits of my retrieve of the slack line.
The line jabs under again and another connection with the sub aqua world is made. This one doesn’t feel as big but puts up a fine account of himself.
I took five brownies out of this rifle alone and a further two fish further upstream before the rain got too much and I rewarded my efforts with that pint of Cumberland.
Just occasionally the weather, fish, and tactics all come together!