Contributed by Ricardo (27.05.2005)
I have just joined Kirkby Stephen AC after being impressed by what my friend told me about the size of the wild fish he had caught and by the number of large fish seen. So it was that I took a day off on the 27th May to sample some of the fishing for myself. The trip from Ilkley is 54 miles from door to door but it is also very scenic, Ilkley-Kettlewell-Buckden-Yockenthwaite-Oughtershaw-Hawes-Kirkby Stephen. This is as good as it gets and certainly beats the A65 to J36, M6 to J38 and then from there to KS.
With such a wealth of fishing to go at I had pored over the maps which John Garner had sent me and decided to go and take a look at the Wharton Hall beat for a number of reasons: firstly to recce it as my partner had not fished this stretch, secondly it is marked fly only and thirdly because it cannot be fished at weekends which is when I do the bulk of my 'all day' fishing.
Last Friday was quite windy and it was a stiff breeze that greeted me as I parked at Nateby and then set off down one of the lanes. I elected to fish part of the downstream section first and guess it was around midday that I started. The river was low but has enough characteristics on this section to still have obvious fish holding sections in these type of conditions. There was a hatch of medium olives and there were black gnats about. The first pool brought 2 fish - my first Eden brownie was a beautiful little fish of 12" - the spots and general colouration were stunning.
Crossing a small tributary I noticed that the river split around a small gravel bar and I flicked my Klinkhamer from an elevated position into where the smallest split rejoined the main river and was at an angle that enabled me to see a fish tilt up and take the fly. I struck and the fish tore off 15 yards of line on its first run. When landed it was measured at 16", was photographed in the net and returned. These fish are very strong fighters and give a really good account of themselves. I then worked my way upstream and picked up another couple of small fish before changing fly to a tube bodiz March Brown (Large Brook Duns were hatching and I noticed a couple taken) which I had tied for two visits to the Aberdeenshire Don this year. I noticed an interesting looking lie on the opposite side of the river and bounced my fly off a rock, momentarily losing site of it but I saw a head stick out of the river and set the hook into a fish which I managed to get on a short line fairly quickly - getting it into the net took a bit longer as it was too a very strong fish. When netted it measured 17.75" and 2lb 4oz (see second photo), not bad for your sixth fish from a new river!! I then worked further upstream picking up 3 more fish so ending the day with a total of 9.
I did not catch anything between 4pm and 6pm which is when I called it a day as I had not seen a rising fish for 2 hours and it was cold and blowing a bit of a gale.
My first impression was that this is a beautiful, unspoilt river holding a good stock of wild fish (I was very pleased to see that none of the fish I caught were stockies - I am now giving up a club in Yorkshire which has too many stockies in it after discovering Kirkby Stephen). I believe that wild trout fisheries such as this should be nurtured and enhanced, this type of fishing is growing more popular. My friends and I find this type of water to our liking and I already know that another of my mates will be joining next year!
I have been surprised to find that Kirkby Stephen AC is strugggling for members and this can only be due to the fact that others like myself have not heard about the quality of fish and fishing that you have. Having fished all over Yorkshire which has very good Trout and Grayling fishing I for one am prepared to regularly make a 108 mile round trip for a days fishing on this water-this says a lot I think!