Kirkby Stephen and District Angling Association

My Annual Pilgimage

Contributed by Bill Rushton (22.03.2003)

My annual pilgrimage from Chorley to the Association's AGM was rather later than usual, which meant that for the first time in years, I was not able to fish on the opening day of the season. Nevertheless, after an enjoyable evening at the Black Bull and a whisky-fuelled couple of hours back in the caravan at Sandford, it was with some considerable optimism that myself and colleague Dave Rickerby set forth on the 22nd March for our opening session.

Now I make no pretence of the fact that neither of us are fly fishermen. Upstream worming is ingrained in our souls and has been for the past 45 years. Light tackle (I use a 9 foot 6/7 Hardy fly rod) with single AAA shot and size 10 hook baited with a single small brandling are the tools of our trade and no stretch of water, deep or shallow is left untouched.

I set off from Musgrave Bridge and fished steadily upstream. Dave drove on up to Blandswath with the intention of starting at the Belah confluence and working his way up to the bend above Blandswath Bridge.

Try as I might, and I fished with absolute concentration for the next three hours, I failed to attract even a single twitch on the line. By the time I reached Blandswath, Dave was equally downbeat having neither seen nor felt a fish during the whole of three hours.

To be fair I did spot some fish on my way up. Nothing at all for long stretches, but then as if by magic, I would suddenly come across glides with upwards of twenty fish, all in the 1-2lb bracket. Clearly, I needed to polish up my act.

We rested at Blandswath for a while speculating on where we had gone wrong and then spent the best part of half an hour chatting to one of the local farmers, always an interesting and often rewarding experience. Eventually however we moved on with Dave driving up to Soulby for an hour on Scandal Beck after dropping me off at Trainriggs Bridge.

The intention was for me to fish down to Beckfoot and then to move on up Scandal Beck to Soulby. At the first cast behind Trainriggs Farm I hooked into a fish. The fight was spirited to say the least and after one or two hairy moments, during which I became entangled in bushes, the fish was eventually brought to the net. It weighed just a shade over two and a half pounds and was in the pink of condition.

I fished on downstream without encountering so much as a single tug and after bypassing the junction pool at Beckfoot (fly only) I moved on up the Scandal searching out every conceivable lie I came across. I took just one more fish of around 10 oz and missed just one more bite on my way to meet Dave who was still fishless and clearly rather agitated that for the first time in his life, he had failed to open his account on his first visit of the season.

The time had by now moved on to 4 o'clock and we decided to call it a day. Not by any means the best opener we had ever had, but who cares anyway when the scenery is so pleasing to the eye and the sights and sounds of nature positively greet you around every bend.

P.S. Not really wishing to dwell on the past, but rather preferring to look towards a healthy future for our sport, I nevertheless thought that some of my old diary records might be of interest.
An extract from the 1980 season reads as follows:

24 March. River high and coloured, weather cold with blustery showers. 10 fish all on worm. Largest fish 1lb 4oz.

8 April. Weather cold with snow showers. 21 fish on worm, largest 1lb 11oz.

19 May. Weather dry and hot. River clear and low. Fished on River Belah. 13 fish on worm. Largest fish 1lb 12 oz.

23 May. Weather dry but cloudy. Fished around Blandswath and later at Warcop. 21 fish on worm. Largest fish 1lb 8oz.

1 June. Weather cloudy with drizzle. Ploughlands. 9 fish on worm and live minnow. Largest fish 14 oz.

11 July.Weather fine and dry. Ploughlands and Gt Musgrave. 13 fish on worm. Largest 1lb 6oz.

25 August. Gt Musgrave. 4 fish on worm. Largest 14 oz.

September. 6 visits. 37 fish in total. Largest 1lb 8oz.

This would have been a typical season for me in the seventies and eighties but things were markedly different then. The river positively oozed fish of all sizes. Grayling were abundant and chub were often caught as far upstream as Trainriggs. I recall catching six in one session together with a two and a half pound grayling.

Things are a wee bit quieter these days although it has to be said that there appear to be larger fish around with my best ever topping the scales at 3lb 14oz.

Good luck to everyone for the coming season and please get in touch if you think I can be of any help.

Bill Rushton