Saturday, 7 July 2012

Invite Accepted

One of the (few) perks of working as a fishing guide is getting the occasional invite to fish as a guest. Last year I was invited to fish Cod Beck, a tributary of the River Swale, by a client from a few years previous. Cod Beck might be a tributary of the River Swale, but its character is completely different, more of a lowland, fertile stream. A good day was had and I was indebted to be given the opportunity to fish a river that I've long wanted to add to my growing list of grayling rivers. Earlier this season I was invited by another client to fish a near neighbour of Cod Beck - the River Rye, in the North York Moors National Park, and I was happy to accept.


Now the River Rye as been at the top of my must do list ever since my very first flyfishing days. Back in the early nineties, as a raw but eager and excited novice, I watched a flyfishing video by Nicholas Fitton called 'In Pursuit of Wild Brown Trout'. He fished in various places in the video, but the streams running off the North York Moors* featured mostly and the River Rye was one of them. Years back I visited the very same spot on a family day out, at Nunnington Hall. Looking over the stone bridge into the crystal clear waters of the Rye, trout and grayling could be seen in good numbers. The Rye is a gem of a river and ever since these early encounters it has been a river I've longed to fish, but doubted I'd ever get the chance.

I couldn't believe my luck when the guest day was proposed. A date was quickly arranged and I grew ever more excited as it got closer. But it could only happen to me... I wait 20 years to fish the River Rye and we get the wettest May, June and July on record! I was fully expecting the day to be called-off when my client (let's call him Mr C) sent me an e-mail saying it would still fish. He explained that "it would be running a bit high, and slightly coloured, but it wasn't as 'spatey' as the Dales rivers". This was a complete turnaround, because back in the dry spring the EA had to remove fish from some of the downstream beats because the river had completely dried up!

The club run a beat booking system and so I was booked onto the upper beat, Mr C describing it thus "I've booked you on our upper water, which is the prettiest, and full of wild browns with some good grayling". Looking over the bridge, at the mid point of the beat, the water was indeed running coloured, but nothing too bad. In fact many of the Dales rivers routinely have more colour than this due to them running off peat moorland.

A pool on the River Rye too good to walk past!
A pool on the River Rye too good to walk past!
Unfortunately Mr C had injured his back and wouldn't be able to fish with me. He escorted me to the beat, gave me directions and advice, and left. He suggested that I head to the bottom and fish back up, so off I went, armed with my Streamflex 8' #4. Only half way there I saw a pool that looked so good I just couldn't wait until I'd progressed upstream to fish it. I tackled up and got in the river quite excited. Mr C had advised that I use 'Klink & Dink' (duo), but I'm no fan of this method unless the water dictates that it's the best method to use. To me it's a compromise between fishing a nymph and fishing a dry. It also takes the skill out of nymph fishing. In my competition days I saw many anglers catch lots of fish that they otherwise wouldn't have caught, just by covering every inch of water (rather than reading the water). These same anglers rely on the dry as an indicator instead of watching the leader or line for signs of a take. Equally I've seen anglers come unstuck when the duo doesn't work, by being over-reliant on it, or lacking the skill to fish anything else. This isn't a gripe. If 'Klink & Dink' is for you then so be it - it is without doubt very effective at times. I will use the technique, but only when I think it is the best method to use.

River Rye wild brown trout
River Rye wild brown trout
So I needed a leader on this small river that would cover all techniques. Something that I could change quickly from one method to another as situations dictated. I used a 7½' tapered leader cut back to 6'. To this I added about 2' of 3lb Fluorocarbon, then another 3' of the same, forming a dropper at the join. I could fish single dry fly on the point, duo, a couple of bugs Czech style if necessary, and the method I was favouring: upstream nymph with 2 nymphs. So that's how I started, with a Mary Copperhead (2mm tungsten) on the point and a lighter (brass) Gold Head Pheasant Tail on the dropper.

My first cast on the River Rye and I'm immediately into a small trout on the GHPTN on the dropper. Second cast and another small trout, on the same fly. Good start, how long could I keep this up? I couldn't. I went a few casts then before I hit something that felt much bigger - a grayling. It wasn't that much bigger, it just felt bigger on the strike. This happened all day; every grayling was more solid on the strike, irrespective of size, than the trout I hooked, and this is something I haven't noticed before? I left the pool to head to the bottom of the beat having caught 4 trout and 2 grayling, all on upstream nymph without indicator, my favourite method.

Mist rises on a long glide, River Rye
Mist rises on a long glide, River Rye
The bottom pool was a long slow glide and there were a few fish rising, probably to Yellow May Duns which were trickle hatching as they do. Even so I used my CDC Sedge and caught a few trout before the water got too deep to wade. I progressed upstream alternating between all the methods mentioned above, having to resort to Czech style in the deeper pools. Upstream nymph won the day though. I'm sure duo or dry would have been similarly effective, but I'm an upstream nymph addict when the water suits and the Rye suited it perfectly.

A River Rye grayling
A River Rye grayling
The fishing, despite the river being coloured, was great. The River Rye is an insect factory, particularly BWO's, and consequently it has an excellent population of trout and grayling. I caught 28 of them (19 trout & 9 grayling), nothing very big, but I was told there are fish of a lifetime swimming in the Rye! One of the highlights of my day was when a young dipper flew downstream towards me and landed on a branch right at the side of my leg. I literally could have touched it just by moving my arm slightly, it was so close. I froze to the spot in amazement for a good 20 seconds before carefully trying to reach for my camera. Unfortunately it flew off at this point, but it was a brilliant encounter nonetheless.

So thank you Mr C for allowing me the pleasure of one of your guest tickets. A long-term dream realised at last.

*Many people from outside the area assume that the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors are the same. They aren't. They are roughly separated north/south by the A1. The Yorkshire Dales are situated to the west and cover a much larger area than the North York Moors to the east. Both are outstandingly beautiful areas, but they are completely different in character.