|Wild Rye brown trout 6lbs 8 oz - 26 May 2014|
|Bolton Hall in good Yorkshire May weather|
8.5C drizzle and mist
+16" and rising, water 11.5C
With enthusiasm duly suppressed I took the arty photo of the eccentric Lord's Bridge and set off upstream. As I did so the reason for the bridge's slope became apparent. Throughout this section the right bank is formed by a post-glacial moraine, whereas the left bank is artificially created and reinforced along much of its length by embedded limestone walling. The bridge was built in 1733, but at some point in the 20th Century someone had got loose with a drag bucket digger (a smaller version of those crane-like machines used to mine open-cast coal) and re-shaped the river, taking out the untidy bends and building up the left bank to protect the Park pastures from flooding. This sort of thing was all the rage after the Great War when maximizing agricultural production was a national mission. Of course it's in the nature of agricultural policies that they go through a cycle of implementation followed by reversal. In the 1960s the Ministry of Agriculture paid farmers to rip out hedges: now they're paying them to replant. Perhaps they could now be persuaded to give Lord Bolton a subsidy for making the river untidy again, ideally by dropping some large rocks into the flow to create some more salmon lies. Here's hoping.
|Top of the Park section looking upstream to|
|And round the corner|
The corner pool was an obvious fish holder of semi-magnetic attraction, which reaches fever pitch by the large rock set in the bank below the biggest tree. Unfortunately the combined effects of my photography and the gloomy day prevent these pictures doing justice to the sublime prettiness of the surroundings. This really is a wonderful place to fish, even if you aren't catching.
You enter the water about half way down to fish out the stretch to the tail.
|Down to the tail|
Note the beck on the right
The last 150-200 metres is nice easy wading and fishing until the flow runs out of steam and depth. The running line and lies are towards the far bank. In addition, any fish running up this stretch will rapidly detect the smell of the beck tumbling in from the right and pause to resolve the information. A salmon can detect smells in water at parts per billion or more - that equates to one pub measure of whisky in 25 tons of water - and a large part of its brain is devoted to processing smell data. It survives by being cautious, so even small changes in the smell environment will create a brief halt and a potentially catchable fish.
By now I had been fishing this stretch for almost 2 hours and was in serious need of a break. Furthermore the water was starting to clear, so a change of fly was in order. Even after 3 days on the Dee before Easter I am still a long way from 'casting fit' at this early stage of the season, and at my age there are distinct limits to what I can demand of a very battered and unreliable back. Nevertheless the Crunchie bar offered the fastest sugar hit outside Jamaica and had me up on my feet again inside 10 minutes to repeat the fishing of this stretch.
By now the clock was running down towards 4pm when I needed to be on the road North to Kelso and the Tweed to fish the beautiful Rutherford beat in the morning (which will be the subject of the next post). This gave me just enough time to fish part of the Lower Park pool before going into the Houdini routine of removing my waders. The sun was trying to come out; the water was clearing; and hope sprang as eternal as ever (it always does with me!), but on this occasion without fulfillment. Nonetheless it had been a marvelous day spent exploring a new and exciting bit of water, which I eagerly anticipate fishing later in the season.
So, apart from the beauty of the surroundings, what did I take from the day?
- When trying for sparse spring fish you have to be realistic about your prospects. On the Ure, at best the odds are about 10% of those prevailing in September and October, and probably lower still when the water allows them to run as freely as it did on this day.
- When you're casting off the bank don't be too ambitious. If you go too square, you'll catch the grass. If you try too hard for oblique distance the over-rotation of your body will cause your D-loop to catch the cow parsley. Take it easy and concentrate on fishing most of the water really well, which is far more productive than covering all of it badly.
- A fast action tip-biased rod isn't a good choice for this sort of fishing because you just can't load it properly in a partial roll cast. I was trying out a 13' 8" Vision Cult, which most unusually is described as "slow, through action". While such terms might be a turn-off for more macho anglers, I found the Cult ideal for this sort of work, albeit it's a mite longer than this water really demands. It's a nice rod - very confidence building and suitable for a beginner because you can feel everything happening - but it has the most ridiculous and bizarre reel seat I've ever encountered, and what's worse, it's up-locking and has no secondary lock nut! Forget the natty wood and give me a plain, simple down-locking Alps with a Teflon thread and a locking washer.
- A smaller river like this limits your casting room and style because there's no point wading nearly half way across to make room for the D-loop. After all, it's the forward cast that catches the fish, not the backward. To overcome the effects of a constrained D-loop use a short headed line (mine was a Rio Scandi) and go up one line weight (or even two) in order to get a fuller and more efficient loading of the rod.