Fly fishing on the River Wharfe

A Day on the Wharfe by Tim Walton

I was delighted to be fortunate enough to win the Fish and Fly competition, the prize was a guided day on the River Wharfe with Steve Rhodes from with accommodation at the Red Lion Inn at Burnsall I got in touch with both and we agreed dates. As someone fairly new to fly fishing I was looking forward to getting some coaching on methods and also fishing a North Country river, most of my fishing is on small limestone streams in Derbyshire.

As I drove north successive heavy showers swept across the MI and M62 I was nervous that river levels would be very high and that it would be a windy cold wet day, this year has not been great for weather. It was already dark when I arrived in Burnsall but the Red Lion looked great and the pint of Theakstons was even better. The hotel is a fine stone building immediately next to the river.

I usually wake up early so in the morning so I had a walk before breakfast. I was pleased to find that the morning was bright, all the rain had gone and the Wharfe, although levels were up a bit, only had a little colour tinged with peat but very fishable. I had a huge cooked breakfast, well you need it before a day in the river, and Steve arrived bang on 9.30 as arranged.

We had a quick five minute chat and then had a look at my gear. Steve correctly suggested that my light gear would not cope with the wind and he was spot on. He offered me an Orvis 9ft 5# which proved to be fine. Also he didn't like my telescopic wading staff "it'll let you down Tim" he said, after a few minutes wading I knew exactly what he meant. Also as I have yet to learn fly tying, I had some spiders that I had bought sometime, in comparison to Steve's own flies mine were vastly overdressed, "let's use mine" said Steve.

First off we went downstream from Burnsall to a long pool, it was early and rises were few and far between so we started with NZ style with a gold head fished under a Klink.

Steve also rigged a team of spiders on a second rod. I soon got some good tips here are some of the suggestions from Steve:

I was getting great value from this, just what I needed, a crash course in nymph and wet fly. I reckon following Steve's advice probably doubled the actual time that my fly was properly presented in the river. I learnt that once the fly is in/on the water fishing is about line control. Also we had a laugh about me remembering all this but Steve's quietly effective style of coaching made things stick. I will be staying lift and lead to myself for the remainder of my fly fishing career. In fact I was replaying moments on the train to London a few days afterwards. I could never have got this advice from a book. We changed technique to a team of spiders fished across and down, this is a new technique for me and a subtle way of fishing. Although we had a cold NW wind by lunch time we had caught three trout all good sized and perfectly wild. Steve was especially pleased that two of these were taken on the spider.

After lunch we moved upstream from Burnsall. For the first hour we fished a team of spiders down and across with no return. A cold wind was blowing from the north west which must have changed things. Then at about three o'clock flies started to hatch, these were fairly small. We switched to dry fly and over the next hour or so caught one trout and brought two more fish to the fly. However despite the heavy hatch the rises were few and far between. We fished the rises but it was tough fishing with no way of telling why some many newly hatched flies escaped. Despite a couple of changes we managed no more fish. Then in the later afternoon some very sharp and cold showers came over, the sun disappeared and that was the end of the day.

So it was back to the Red Lion Steve and I had a beer together and I found out that Steve is Chairman of the Grayling Society so we had a good talk about the good work that they do. My club in Derbyshire is hosting a Society event later in the month if I can I will go and have a look.

So despite the tough conditions I had a great day, four fish, lots of learning, a beautiful river and good company, what more could you want? I had eliminated a couple of bad habits "you don't need and indicator, Tim", "always secure your line and flies when walking between pools" and "keep that elbow in". I had never had a guided day before, I was a bit nervous but Steve's patient approach soon put me at ease, he didn't even curse me when I managed to break the tippet by snagging a barbed wire fence. I was cursing myself. I am considering a 'refresher' day in the future. I am very grateful to Fish and Fly, the Red Lion and especially Steve for a great day on the Wharfe.

PS Since fishing with Steve I have had a good afternoon's grayling fishing on the Churnet (with no indicator Steve!) using a spider on dropper and a bead head on point. Five fish the largest about a pound.

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