The countryside of North West Yorkshire is famous for its beauty, which can be rugged and pastoral in turn; its rivers and waterways offer a similar variety of coarse and game fishing.
The rivers Nidd, Ouse, Swale, Ure and Wharfe form the backbone of Yorkshire’s water structure, and all eventually become the River Humber. Their individual qualities are best seen in the upper reaches and most are associated with the name of a dale—Nidderdale, Swale-dale, and Wharfedale. Uredale is known as Wensleydale, but is no less attractive for that reason.
Possibly the most attractive river, scenically, is the Wharfe. It rises 1,400ft up on Cam Fell and flows 60 miles to join the Ouse at Cawood. In its upper reaches it offers the fly fisherman some very good trout fishing. Much is in the hands of clubs and syndicates but there is some day ticket water. The venues, however, are numerous and the intending visitor is advised to acquire The Northern Angler’s Handbook published by the Dalesman Publishing Company.
One very popular spot is at Grassington, where a limited number of tickets are available from the Grassington Post Office or the Devonshire Hotel. There is no Sunday fishing.
The best fly fishing on the Wharfe is available at Burnsall where the Burnsall Angling Club has a three mile stretch from Burnsall to Barden. Day and weekly tickets are available from June 1 to September 30 and day tickets for grayling from November 1 to January 31.
Day tickets are also available along a 20-mile stretch from Leeds to Gargrave on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, obtainable from tackle dealers in the area.
Bolton Abbey is very picturesque, and there are five miles of Estate ticket water for trout and grayling. Tickets are available from the Estate Office in Bolton Abbey. The trout season is from June 15 to December 31. Both trout and grayling are restricted to fly only. The Bolton Abbey Estate restocks regularly throughout the season with not less than llin-12in brown trout reared in the Estate hatchery.
Although good trout fishing is still available in some downstream sections, by the time it passes Otley the Wharfe slowly becomes a mixed fishery. Much of the water is again open to paying visitors and in its lower reaches it can offer some excellent coarse fishing.
Next on the scenic list comes the river Ure. Some claim it is the top Yorkshire sporting river, for it is not many years since it had a modest run of salmon. Even today the odd fish can occasionally be seen following a good flood. But those anglers who catch salmon in the Ure keep very quiet about it. The upper reaches offer trout fishing at modest cost; but the best trout fishing is in the middle reaches at Masham and Tanfield. Here, however, it is very difficult for the visitor to gain casual access.
There is some good day ticket water at Bainbridge where the Wensleydale Angling Association has six miles of water on each side of the bridge at Bainbridge and up to Carperby. They also control Semer Water and the two-mile-long River Bain. Day tickets for trout are available from April 1 to September 30 while the grayling season is from April 1 to February 28. The Rose and Crown at Bainbridge (Tel 225) issues tickets.
From Ripon and on downstream there is much good mixed fishing. The Ripon Piscatorial Association has five miles of day ticket water containing trout, grayling, dace, chub, perch, roach, barbel and pike. Tickets may be obtained from Mrs R C Hodgson, 7 Queen Street, Ripon, or from A Anderson, Brewers Arms, 2 Bondgate Green, Ripon.
Downstream of Ripon, until it becomes the Ouse, the Ure offers some first class coarse fishing. Pike, chub, dace and roach are plentiful, and some noteworthy barbel are caught every year. Below Aldwark Bridge the Ure becomes the River Ouse.
At this point the river is more sluggish and there is considerable boat traffic at weekends, but it pro-vides good coarse fishing. Even in the centre of York roach and dace are plentiful. Below Naburn, al-though the river is tidal, there is much worthwhile coarse fishing down to Goole.
The Nidd starts its simple life at Nidd Head Spring, 2,000ft up in Great Whernside. At Goydon Pot the river goes underground but on resurfacing offers good beck fishing for trout and grayling down to Ramsgill. Quite suddenly the river becomes Gouthwaite Reservoir which is well stocked with large trout and numerous grayling. Most of the lake is privately owned and fished, but there are tickets occasionally available from the Sportsman’s Arms at Wrath.
Below Gouthwaite the river takes on a more scenic aspect as it tumbles through Pateley Bridge and Sum-merbridge. Much of the fishing here is controlled by the Nidderdale Angling Club and day, weekly and season tickets are available from most public houses and post offices in the area. The water contains a good head of both trout and grayling, but no day tickets are available until June 1.
Rivers Nidd and Swale At Darley and Birstwith, both the Harrogate Fly Fishers’ Club and the Birstwith Private Angling Club have water on the Nidd offering first class trout and grayling fishing. Unfortunately, the water is limited to members and their guests and waiting lists for both clubs are very long.
The river downstream of Birstwith tends to hold more grayling than trout, and by the time Knaresborough is reached, the Nidd has become a good mixed fishery. Continuing downstream the river writhes and loops and provides excellent coarse fishing down to its junction with the Ouse at Nun Monkton. Much of the fishing is in the hands of the Leeds Amalgamation of Anglers, with both day and season tickets.
The River Swale starts its life where the Great Sleddale and the Berkdale Becks meet at Keld. Much of the upper reaches give good rain-fed rivertype trout fishing and there are various centres where day tickets are available. At Reeth, for instance, The Black Bull Hotel offers day and weekly tickets for trout. At Richmond there is good mixed fishing and day and weekly permits may be obtained from W Metcalfe, Market Place, Richmond or The Bungalow, Easby.
Below Richmond there is a mass of good coarse fishing water all the way down to its junction with the Ure at Myton. Noted venues include the well known water at Topcliffe, reputed to hold some of Yorkshire’s biggest barbel and chub. Even to-day, salmon are occasionally seen jumping at Topcliffe Mill, but the barbel in the mill race hold the greatest attraction. Residential angling facilities are available at Topcliffe Mill in conjunction with the Leeds Amalgamation and other owners of the water.
The rivers mentioned provide some of the best all-round fishing in Yorkshire, and within the same watershed there is a vast network of lesser known rivers and abundant Stillwater fisheries.