Saturday 3 September 2016

River Ure - Swinton Beat

After a week away on business in the Middle East I took a day off to fish the Swinton beat of the Ure, which is located directly downstream from Masham.  I'd not fished it before, so a reading of +60cm on the Kilgram gauge - equivalent to +30cm/12" above summer low - and the river falling and clearing from a 1.8 metre spate over the weekend provided ample incentive.  Booking via FishPal took a couple of minutes and the total cost, including a donation to the Atlantic Salmon Trust, was £32.

Swinton Beat River Ure
Scale 1:25,000
Copyright Ordnance Survey 2016

I checked in with the receptionist at the Swinton Park Hotel (off map to the west) who gave me printed directions to the fishery and a simplified sketch map, which was entirely adequate for the purpose.  The pool boundaries shown above are approximations transferred from the sketch and not therefore wholly accurate.  The beat comprises some 1.5 miles/2.2 km of single bank fishing on the west side of the river.

You access the fishing via the track to Nutwith Cote Farm off Thorpe Road, parking on the verge at the right angle bend, and then walking down the hedge line which bisects pools 1 and 2.  As you can see there is a public footpath that runs almost the full length of the beat, but during the day I saw only 6-8 people walking.

The challenge on Pools 1, 2 and 3 is access to the water.  The bank is very steep, heavily treed and vegetated and there are no prepared entries.  The photos below give a flavour of the machete work required, but in simple terms, the further up you go, the worse it gets.

Looking down into Pool 1

At this point I was about 20 feet vertically above the surface of the water.  The mixture of debris and brambles was a significant deterrent to attempting the descent in breathable waders.  Fortunately I had decided to wear my 10 year old Vision Ikon Zips, so damage would not be the end of the world.  I went further up the path to find a way in, but the prospects got progressively worse.

 I duly retraced my steps, gritted my teeth and launched myself down into the jungle.  Having arrived at the bottom unscathed I then gingerly tackled the entry into the pool down a 2' bank into totally opaque water.  Needless to say the bottom was covered in the Ure's traditional egg-shaped boulders standing 10-12" tall, liberally covered with slippery stuff.

Pool 1 looking upstream to the head
Fishing width about 25m
Note the overhanging trees



 Once I'd sorted myself out, the view before me was very attractive from a salmon perspective.  Pool 1 comprises a 200 metre long straight run over a rocky bottom.  In the upper section I estimated the depth to be about 3' - 4' 6"(1-1.5m). When you take into account a further 1' fall to summer low that isn't enough to hold long term residents, but it's ample to give running fish secure halts and resting lies.  There were a few more prominent rocks to create lies near the centre line, but not a profusion.


Duly primed and enthused I set off on the 100 metre wade up to the head of the pool, which was slow hard work.  In the event I gave up the struggle about 20 metres short of my objective and did the MCX Calculation.  I'd normally fish this size of water with my 12 footer, but I'd lent it to Rob for his Deveron week, so I was somewhat over-gunned with the 13' MAG and a Scandi head.  With the water at +50, somewhat below medium height and falling (2), clearer than the photo above suggests but still somewhat opaque (2), medium paced (2) and a temperature of 16C (1), the total score of 6-7 indicated a double fly on the smaller side of medium.  Normally I would add a 5' slow sinking polyleader to get the fly down in the quicker water and to steady its motion.  However, with strong late August sunlight coming straight upstream and consequently a high level of backscatter from particles in the water, it was essential to present the fly above the fish to get the best chance of detection.  On that basis I selected a #8 MCX Dark Shrimp on a plain fluorocarbon leader. 

Pool 1 - downstream to the tail

 Pool 1 was relatively simple to fish, subject to the restrictions created by overhanging trees.  In some cases wading around them posed the risks of either standing on fish or finding yourself in unpleasantly deep water.  In either case, once you'd got downstream, they intruded on your back cast room.  Well, that's life and fishing, and you just have to make the best of it.  However, more seriously, if the Kilgram gauge is reading +70 or more, this pool would be a difficult proposition, despite the attractions of its head and tail.

Pool 2 - middle to tail
Pool 2 is another attractive pool, very similar to 1 in most respects, with perhaps better fish holding capacity, although a big clump of overhanging trees makes fishing the head a mite challenging.  You also need to exercise caution whilst wading, especially if you decide to go round rather than under the trees.  Again, this could be very difficult to fish thoroughly if the gauge is above +70.

Pool 3 - head

When you reach Pool 3 you have passed the tree intrusions and wading challenges.  It's a very good looking pool with the fast water on the far side and some interesting inlets and eddies.  I wouldn't have been surprised to catch a sea trout in here if I'd stayed towards dusk.  It will fish well at all heights and certainly should hold salmon.  At this level there was almost 100m of good fishing length, which I enjoyed so much I did it twice.

Pool 4 - head

Pool 4 is another attractive curved pool with the fast water on the far side.  It's significantly shorter than 3, and there's an array of troublesome rocks in the middle that are infallible fly grabbers.  Again it smells strongly of sea trout.  Pool 4 would be an even better prospect for salmon with an extra 8-12" of water (75-85 on the Kilgram gauge).

Pool 5 - head
The greatest interest in Pool 5 is the head, which is a straight fast run with depth in the middle and a clear capacity to hold running fish at the short halt.  It's the one place where I was tempted to try a larger and heavier fly.  At this level it's quite short, about 60m of good fishing, but even quite a modest rise would increase its length and holding capacity substantially.

Pool 6 - head downstream to 7
8 is around the bend

At Pool 6 the bend turns the other way, bringing the mail flow and depth to your side.  As a result of erosion there is a steep high earth bank all the way down its length. To add to the entertainment there was barbed wire to limit your exit and lots of giant balsam to catch your cast.  At this point elderly discretion trumped enthusiasm: I didn't fancy finding myself wading in water of unknown and increasing depth with an unscalable bank exit.  Moreover, getting enough back cast space would put me right on top of any fish present.


Looking at the map, with the next right hand bend in the river half a mile's tramp in wading boots away and the access to Pool 8 an open question, I decided that I'd come far enough and that my time would be better employed re-fishing 3, 4 and 5.  The exploration of Nutwith Cote Wood could wait for another day dedicated to reconnaissance in walking books with lower and clearer water.  No doubt some pundit will tell me that I missed the best of the fishing.

It was too bright and warm for high expectations.  I had one possible take near the head of Pool 1 - a tap and steady draw that certainly wasn't a trout - but it came to nothing.  If I'd stayed until the sun was off the water I would have been confident of getting at least a sea trout, starting with the one slashing at flies on the surface in the eddy on the far side of Pool 3.  I certainly wouldn't have ruled out the chance of a salmon, despite not seeing any during the day, as I've caught most of my August Ure fish in the evening.  In any event I'd had an interesting and enjoyable day out, and more than my money's worth in pleasure.

So what are my conclusions?
  •  Swinton is an attractive beat that is capable of holding salmon in the right water conditions and offers good value for money.  By any standards £30 is a fair price for a small salmon beat that is less than 25 minutes away from the M1 (Junction 50).
  • Pools 1 and 2 are awkward to access and fish, but presented realistic prospects at water levels in the range +50 - 70.  At +80 and above on the Kilgram gauge they would become seriously difficult.
  • Pools 3, 4 and 5 are attractive and could hold good numbers of moving fish at higher water levels, and sea trout under all conditions.  These pools alone make the Swinton beat a realistic proposition, and at lower water levels (+45-65) a better bet than Bolton Hall.
  • Pools 6-8 are an unknown quantity.
  • At the level I fished a switch rod or a 12 footer is ample.  Higher water and the use of sink tips and tubes would commend a 13 footer.  This is entirely short head line water. 
  •  If you wish to get the best out of your day and you're not an experienced reader of water, then I would recommend hiring Philip or Brian as your ghillie for half a day.  Brian is also a fully qualified Spey casting instructor.
  • With a small amount of low-cost work the Swinton Estate could improve the beat substantially, grow its catches and enhance its value without increasing the ticket price.  The Estate also needs to do something about vehicle access to Pools 7 & 8 as a mile march in waders isn't a sensible proposition for most anglers.
  • Owing to the entry issues on Pools 1 and 2, and the challenges of 7 and 8, this isn't a 4 rod beat for salmon, and FishPal might usefully reduce the figure to 3 on the website.


  1. Though for me almost a month earlier, reading your blog was like deja vu (I fished it the 6th of August)the only diference being I made the walk down to the rest and found the bottom pool to be the nicest of them all, and if there had been 4rods it would have been a little crowded.

    1. Jim, clearly you had more determination than me. I consider that the Estate should think about vehicle access to the bottom of the beat because lots of anglers do not have either your enthusiasm or your fitness.

  2. A great write-up. Many thanks. I have fished the lower parts in Nutwith Wood, but, again, some bankside work is needed IMO. It's basically a jungle down there! A