It also marked the end of over 50 years' formal work, so I am currently going through some unfamiliar feelings as I start to adjust to the next chapter of my life and start developing its structure and rhythm. I'm not stopping work altogether, and have set up my own business, primarily as a means of keeping my brain active. Nevertheless it's inevitable that I shall be doing more fishing and writing.
So on my first retired day I headed off to Sleningford Mill on the Ure above Ripon to carry out a reconnaissance of its salmon fishing. There was too little water to offer a realistic chance of catching a fish, but a took a couple of rods anyway as I needed to blow out the casting cobwebs before going up to Rutherford on the Tweed for two days at the end of next week. In any event looking at a beat in low water can be much more informative than when it's in good fishing order.
The significance of Sleningford is that it is located squarely astride the upper limit of the Ure's spring run. The weir at West Tanfield poses a temperature barrier early in the season, so the spring runners - up until May depending on water levels - tend to accumulate in the stretch from there down to Newby Hall just below Ripon. Moreover, Slengingford has a number of good, deep and well-oxygenated pools that are capable of holding decent numbers of fish. For that reason it will also come back into play in September and October for the autumn run.
Sleningford Mill is a popular caravan park on the banks of the Ure, clearly signposted off the main road between Ripon and Masham at North Stainley (HG4 3HQ). The fishing comprises just over 1/2 mile of single (right) bank within the boundaries of the park.
I telephoned the day before to book a £20 salmon day ticket (01765 635201). When I turned up the site operators could not have been more cheerful, charming and helpful, providing a printed map and all manner of useful advice. They have a small shop that sells drinks and snacks, but not 'angler's lunch' food. I was able to park my car right by the water's edge in the middle of the beat, from where I could walk easily on maintained paths. On a Monday in mid-May I had the place to myself, apart from two people in deck chairs enjoying the sunshine.
|1:50,000 OS map extract
showing the main pools (numbered)
1 - Top Pool
|View upstream towards the top boundary
|Pool 1 - view downstream
Even in low water conditions Pool 1 had good flow and a great deal of depth. In the lower photo there is over 6' of water directly in front of my feet. There are also plenty of holding lies throughout its length. The challenge is casting and covering the pool as wading is infeasible over much of its length. I cast from the grass visible in the first photo, working down to the willow in the second shot, from where I could cover the centre line adequately with a 13 footer. At a good water level there is about 200 metres of fishable pool here, before the start of a broad shallow run leading down to the falls at the head of Pool 2.
2 - Below the Falls
|Pool 2 - looking downstream from the falls
The falls, formed by a fault in the limestone, are shown in the photo at the head of the page. There is a good depth of water at their foot, which then leads into a long straight run. With the water at a good fishing height - about 12-18" higher than seen here - this pool could hold fish throughout its 150 metre length and across much of its width. The deepest part of the flow is on the near side, with the current split by a shallow ridge in the middle. There are abundant lies throughout its length.
3 - Round the Bend
|Pool 3 looking downstream
At low water levels there is very little movement in Pool 3 after the first 20-30 metres from the head. However, given a good height of water its fishable length would expand considerably, and the tail would then also come into play. The middle section is broad, slow and quite deep.
4 - Final Run
Pool 4 is a brisk run about 75 metres long created by a sharp narrowing of the flow under the far bank. if the water level was more than a foot higher most of the rocky bank on the right of the photo would be submerged but readily wadeable.
It is an extremely attractive piece of water that would hold running fish at the short halt before tackling the shallow entry into Pool 3. With low water it was difficult to present the fly well into such a narrow run - especially to cover the area under the far bank.
The bottom boundary of the beat is below the tail of Pool 4.
In contrast to the slower-flowing sections around Ripon, Sleningford is much more classic salmon water. It would be great fun to fish when there's around 80cm on the gauge at Kilgram, which would extend the good fishable length to over 500 metres and require a 13 footer to cover the water. At £20 for a day ticket it's a little gem, which offers an excellent chance of a silver Yorkshire springer. For that reason I'll be back next April.
And here's proof that it holds salmon.
|The remains of a 32-33" salmon
Consumed by otters and other scavengers, left by the tail of Pool 1
Timing Your Visit
Sleningford is a substantial and popular caravan park and campsite. To get the best of the salmon fishing you need to exercise a bit of thought as to which days to avoid in order to protect yourself from disappointment. You don't have primacy on the water.
- Avoid the school holidays and half terms, especially around Easter, Whitsun and in the summer months.
- If the weather's good the site will get busy at the weekends.
- The stretch is popular with canoeists owing to the presence of falls and rapids. However, their access is limited by local regulations and bylaws to protect trout fishing:
- Within the current Yorkshire salmon season (6 April - 31 October), the only month with unconstrained canoe rights is October.
- During the trout season (1 April - 30 September) canoeing is permitted on Thursdays, and on the 2nd Sunday and 4th Saturday of each month.
- When the river is in high spate, +1.8 metres on the Masham gauge, canoeists have unrestricted usage rights.
It's well worth a try.