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Fly Fishing on Northumbrian Rivers, Part Two (The River Derwent)

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The River Derwent at Winlaton Mill The River Derwent at Winlaton Mill

With the trout fishing season on rivers in the North East having recommenced on March 22nd, this article is part two of a guide to a couple of quintessential Northumbrian trout streams, detailing the fly fishing available on each.

This description comprises a linear walk beginning at the upstream end of the waters of the Axwell Park & Derwent Valley Angling Association and includes, where appropriate, some idea of the techniques most appropriate to each section of the eight miles of the River Derwent the club controls. There is advice on how to get to and how to get through the fishery on foot, with places to park your car or, alternatively, an explanation of how to get there by public transport.

With the trout fishing season in North East England now underway, there’s no time like the present for Part Two of our Spring Fly Fishing feature on Northumbrian Rivers. This time, we’re visiting the River Derwent, a tributary of the Tyne that flows for thirty miles along the County Durham/Northumberland border from former lead-mining country in the foothills of North West Durham to the confluence with its larger neighbour close to the Metro Centre in Gateshead. Once again, we’ll take a walk, from the upstream end down, along the banks of one of the main angling clubs, The Axwell Park & Derwent Valley Angling Association, whose waters stretch some eight miles from pastoral Lintzford all the way to the industrial fringes of Tyneside. Indeed the Derwent is a ‘good’ example of a river that’s suffered greatly from industrial pollution in the past, yet has made a remarkable recovery to rank among the finest trout streams in the whole North East. A full account of this river’s fascinating history since 1865, from an angling perspective, can be found at The Fishing Archives website (http://www.fishingarchives.com/) in “River of Eternal Youth” (Parts One to Three), a series of articles featured in the ‘Angling Culture’ section.

The river rises above the Northumberland village of Blanchland, flowing due east before discharging into the popular day ticket trout fishing mecca, Derwent Reservoir, near Ruffside Hall. Below the dam, some four miles downstream of Ruffside, the river swings south east towards Eddy’s Bridge where it accepts releases from two other much smaller reservoirs, Hisehope and Smiddy Shaw, via the Hisehope Burn. From here, the Derwent settles into a more or less continuous north easterly direction, passing the villages of Allensford, Shotley Bridge, Ebchester, Blackhall Mill and Lintzford. By this point, it has acquired the runoff from four significant tributary streams and is of a width similar to the Wansbeck at Morpeth, a size it retains for the next ten or so miles to its confluence with the tidal river Tyne. For angling purposes, the lower river, from Lintzford down to its tidal reaches, is preserved more or less continuously by the Axwell Park & Derwent Valley Angling Association, an angling club that takes its name from an old colliery of the same name situated at the bottom end of the valley. APDVAA was founded in 1928 by miners that worked at the Axwell Park Pit, leasing bankspace on the river around the nearby villages of Winlaton Mill, Lockhaugh and Rowlands Gill.

The Derwent is, by nature, a trout stream. Except for its short tidal stretch, it lacks any of the coarse species found in the River Tyne and even its thriving grayling stocks are the result of introductions just before the turn of the twentieth century (see River of Eternal Youth, Part One). Indeed there isn’t much on the Derwent that might appeal to any angler without a fairly traditional approach to the fundamentals of game fishing. APDVAA’s upstream neighbour, the Derwent Angling Association, totally prohibits the use of any kind of non-fly fishing equipment (although the upstream worm is permitted after July 1st), and while Axwell Park allow more all-encompassing methods for worm fishing after June 1st, this is only on those short sections of the river adjoining the parks at Rowlands Gill and Derwenthaugh. The rest of the river remains fly-only all season-long and few members are ever seen carrying bait rods.

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D, Low, spring, sea angling

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