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Head North by Roger Beck

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Head North by Roger Beck

Another classic feature from the Fish&Fly archives. This time well-known Yorkshire based guide Roger Beck tells us why as fly fishers we should all "head north".

by Roger Beck

First published by Fish&Fly on 22nd October 2002

One day, perhaps I shall have the opportunity to cast a fly upon the hallowed waters of a southern chalk stream. I am sure that the experience would delight me. If it never happens though, I shall not be devastated. I am, you see, surrounded by some of the finest fishing to be enjoyed anywhere. Even better, many of the waters I am privileged to visit are set amidst truly beautiful surroundings. As a fly-fishing instructor and guide, I spend my working days divided between two National Parks, The Yorkshire Dales and The North Yorkshire Moors. I live on the edge of the latter park. One client put it into perspective for me. " … You live where others choose to come on holiday."

Oxfolds Beck

The rivers of the Dales are well known, the Ure and the Wharfe are regularly mentioned in the angling press. I shall deal with them in due course. Flowing around the edges of the North Yorkshire Moors there are a series of rivers and streams such as the river Rye and Derwent that are very seldom mentioned in dispatches. Many will be aware of that classic northern chalk stream, Driffield Beck. Very few people will know of the existence of a perfect miniature replica in the Vale of Pickering, Oxfolds Beck. The middle sections of Dales rivers are generally wide and accessible. At first it appears to be daunting task when faced with the opportunity to cast a fly upon, say, the Rye. The river is only 8 metres wide, less in places, and shaded by trees. Its banks have certainly never seen a lawn mower. Don't be deterred, an American visitor assured me that he enjoyed his two days in Yorkshire more than his three days on the Test! Come and enjoy some excellent fishing and develop your casting skills. Don't be misled either, there are trout and grayling in abundance. These small rivers just need a slightly different approach and a bit of know-how.

Evening on the Rye

The most important pieces of know-how are alternatives to the overhead cast. I am amazed at the number of anglers who simply cannot roll cast. Many are unaware of its existence and applications. Even fishers with experience frequently proffer blank expressions when I ask them to show me theirs. So, learn how to roll cast, then you will be able to pop your fly under those trees without becoming hung up behind you. By the way, a double taper line will perform a more satisfactory roll cast than a weight forward. You will find that the latter will not turn over if you have running line out beyond the top rod ring.

If you have roll casting sorted, why not go a stage further. It has limitations; it is not a distance cast and sometimes, we can't wade close to our fish. Work on adding a haul to the delivery of the cast, at exactly the same time as you apply the wrist power. That will give you a few extra feet. Talking of wrist power, if you want to slide your fly under those overhanging branches (and that's where the big boys are) here's how. As you deliver that wrist flick, rotate it at the same time, that will turn the forward loop over from vertical to horizontal and it will fly under the obstacle. Honest! Actually, I'd rather show you that one, but try it anyway. The single-handed Spey cast is one of the most useful accomplishments in a tight corner. It tends to keep the casting loop lower than a conventional roll cast, useful when there are alders hungry for your fly. The other advantage is the fact that the fly "gets more air". With repeated roll casting, a dry fly soon becomes waterlogged; the Spey cast will help to dry it out.

Before I forget, all this is best executed with a rod of around seven feet. Go to seven and a half feet, by all means but not much longer. These short little rods are a delight to use and really come into their own under a canopy of trees. The one I lend out is a superb little wand, a Lureflash Viper. Even if you buy one, it won't break the bank, and it's as good as things for three times the price! I have a modern seven and a half foot cane rod which I use all the time on the Rye. Don't laugh until you've seen it in operation!

Come and give these rivers a try. You will not fail to be delighted by them. If you are a relative newcomer to fly-fishing, be prepared to learn a few new skills along the way. If you are a seasoned campaigner, just scale down and enjoy a real treat.

One last thing, I'll just quote from an entry in the logbook in the fishing hut. "… and the day was made even more special when I noticed an otter eyeing me from the top of the weir as I returned through the gloaming".

We'll discuss other waters and some tactics next time.

Roger Beck - a nationally qualified fly-fishing instructor, holding the Salmon & Trout Association National Instructor's Certificate (STANIC) - runs the Beckfisher fly-fishing school from his base in Yorkshire. www.beckfisher.co.uk

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