Opening line for cast of character

This month’s fly-fishing column from Stephen Cheetham looks ahead to the brown trout season.

Fishing on the Wharfe
Fishing on the Wharfe

It is now March, the month that heralds the start of the brown trout season. Over the winter period rods, reels and lines will have been checked, cleaned and replaced where necessary.

Fly boxes will be full to bursting with the new season’s “killer” flies.

Club memberships will have been completed and plans will have been made for where to cast the first fly.

Those fanatical stalwart fly fishers will be giddy with excitement like schoolboys waiting for their first school football match and getting on everyone’s nerves.

Such is the attraction of this historic pastime.

The only problem now is which fly to use first.

When I first started fly fishing I asked Roger Beck for advice, the response being “anything small and black”.

Later in the same year I asked the same question, the response being “anything small and black”.

It worked a treat, but one does like to have something else in the arsenal.

Over the years I have developed a great passion for the historic North Country Wet flies, or spiders as we call them, and having read numerous “spider” books I have developed a list of patterns that suit me throughout the season.

All you have to do is trace the hatching periods of the individual types of fly and cross reference with the flies that are tied to imitate them.

Matching the hatch!

I have read the books by Pritt, Edmunds & Lee and a few others but one book caught my attention a year or so ago.

This is not a big book, in fact not much bigger than a credit card. Written in what one might call “olde English” it is packed with information and best of all pictures of the flies being described.

John Swarbrick was born in Austby near Ilkley in 1771.

Obviously he loved the River Wharfe, particularly the Middleton stretch which has changed little since he produced his List of Wharfedale Flies in 1807.

The book is not just a 
list of fly dressings but it 
also a diary of natural events in and around the Upper Wharfe with precise dates given for the emergence or appearance of the insects which will be food for the trout.

Back in John’s day the season seemed to start in February with the Winter Brown as his first fly, but wait a minute! His second fly is the Little Black!

I knew Roger was knocking on a bit but...

Reading on, the March Brown starts to come into 
its own.

I know the March Brown hatch is a rare occurrence these days on the Wharfe but there are reports of the fly making spasmodic appearances which is encouraging.

The next major hatch 
will be the Large Dark Olives which fortunately seem 
to be thriving and this 
fly will be the one to follow well into April and May.

Where would we have 
been without anglers like John?

It is said he was illiterate and his list was written down under his guidance by another member of the family, but he took the time and trouble to let us know, 200 years later, what we could or should be using.

Open day for angling novices

2013 will see a major push to attract more people to take to the waterside and have a go at angling. With this in mind the Salmon and Trout Association in conjunction with the Appletreewick, Barden and Burnsall Angling Club, are holding a fly fishing Open Day at Burnsall on Sunday May 12 offering casting instruction, bug hunting, and a chance to see the environmental work of organisations such as The Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust. Also fly tying demonstrations by the local branches of 
the Fly Dresser’s Guild. Entry is free.