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Scratching the itch by getting back in the water

Picture by James Hardisty.
Picture by James Hardisty.
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Do you experience those days when the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak? Oh good, then I’m not alone.

For the last couple of weeks, here in Ryedale, there has been a bit of a nip in the air. One morning, as I set off on a feather harvesting foray, the thermometer in the back yard registered minus seven degrees. This was a double disappointment because it was barely light; regular readers will know that I am (allegedly) not at my best before noon.

The Shrimp fly, dressed by Stephen Cheetham.

The Shrimp fly, dressed by Stephen Cheetham.

There was a sprinkling of snow on the ground and a slick of ice on the road, which reflected the half-moon that was slowly expiring below the south western sky line. I suppose that some would say that this was a wonderful and seasonal landscape; had it materialised a little closer to noon, I might have agreed but at silly AM it barely impinged upon my somnolent senses.

My journey took me over the Rye Bridge in Helmsley. The river snaked silently across the meadows, carrying a very “fishable” volume of water but looking surprisingly clear. I slowed as I drew level with the parapet and momentarily scrutinised the slick, meandering flow as it headed on its journey to meet up with the Yorkshire Derwent further to the east.

All day, the image of the clear cold water preyed upon my mind. I had not ventured out with rod and line for too long and the old familiar yearning started an itch at corners of my consciousness. Two days later, the itch was unbearable and just had to be scratched. At the sight of rods and nets being assembled, ‘Management’ was scathing and sentences alluding to age and foolishness resounded through the house.

During the shortest days of the year, fishing is best confined to the couple of hours around noon, however, as I left the house at around 11.30am, the thermometer registered only two degrees. Under these climatic conditions, thermals are essential apparel. I commend to you overlapping wicking underwear such that the John Longs can be pulled over the long vest creating a double layer of wadding around the anatomical equator. Two more fleece layers follow, enveloping both hemispheres, then the waders with a wind proof shell to complete the sartorial set up.

Now, this creates something akin to the Michelin Man which makes driving a bit of a challenge so it’s best to travel to the waterside in just the thermals before donning outer layers.

In cold weather, grayling are suckers for a heavy shrimp pattern trundled along the gravel and eventually a nice plump fish made a timely appearance. Emerging from the water, I made my contented way home to a warm fireside and a soporific sampling of sloe gin.

Our best wishes to you all for 2018.