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I have fished, successfully, the Wharfe and the Laver, and sometime before 2008, and unsuccessfully, the Lidd and the Swale, but I had written nothing about these visits, so felt I had to take on the challenge of North Yorkshire again. And in communicating and launching my blog on FlyForums  to fellow anglers, I was delighted to receive a response from the ‘nom de plume’ Grayson, who wrote – “What a lovely prospect- if you need any Yorkshire venues do email me- would be happy to offer you a day or two on some very good and very private river”. There followed an exchange, off Blog, and Grayson turned out to be, one John Aston,

and his notes promised – “I can offer you a day on the Rye.End of May is good – will need to be mid week as in mayfly time weekends are guest free. Very pretty- upper river throungh wooded valleys . lower is gentler but with ranunculus and very big wild fish. Upper river fish are smaller but more numerous and run to 1-8 +; lower river  browns are often 3+”

On the appointed day I left my hotel near Northallerton and drove to Helmsley via the lovely market town of Thirsk. [Note – does any other County have as many race courses as Yorkshire – Redcar, Ripon, York, Beverly, Wetherby, Thirsk, plus, plus…?], and then onto the North Yorkshire Moors National Park via Sutton Bank up a 25% incline, the A170, where advisories told all motorists and all drivers, not once, but many times via ugly illuminated digital signs which would not be out of place in Las Vegas, that 132 blockages have occurred in the past year, involving HGVs unable to cope with the steep slope, even presumably in lowest gear, in which state it was recommended that all vehicles were driven…all of which seems to me, to beg a rather obvious question of the Yorkshire Constabulary, n’est-ce pas, Mon Brave?  Notwithstanding all this, the views from near the top were truly splendid, and once prompted Wordsworth to proclaim them, “the best in England”

On driving into Helmsley, I was concerned to note the low level of the water in the river below the town bridge, easily viewed from my elevated seat in Tonka Too. And I met up with John who explained that flowing over limestone, his river disappeared into the windy pits (pot holes, to you and me!) in this location so much of it flows underground at this point.

May 2011 – the Rye

A super injunction has been taken out, and this prevents me from revealing where we fished. Neither does the description accorded to Lot 150 in this year’s WTT Auction, generously donated by John (as was Lot 213), reveal the ‘where’, and whilst it may be the same water, only the angler making the winning bid, and my goodself know where, but you, Dear Reader, will never know!

Let me describe the Rye.

Firstly, I had never heard or read about it.

In parts it has special protected status – SPA, SAC, SSSI, as it flows through the most glorious and varied countryside.

The River Rye rises just south of the Cleveland Hills, east of Osmotherley, and flows through Hawnby, Rievaulx, Helmsley, Nunnington, West and East Ness, Butterwick, Brawby, and Ryton, before joining the River Derwent near Malton.”(Wikipedia)

And also – “At source the River Rye and its tributaries run over Corallian limestone which outcrops on the hills surrounding the Vale of Pickering. In places this major aquifer is exposed in the river bed and water from the river is lost through swallow hole” as explained by John.

Arriving at our first venue in the heart of the Dale, I was struck by the calm and only the sound of birds broke the silence. We stood by an ancient stone bridge and discussed tactics.

Recent days had been punctuated by strong westerly winds and in the absence of fly life and with no fish rising, yet, John’s preferred nymphing set up at the start of the morning is New Zealand style, or as he describes it, “klink and dink”, with a weighted nymph trailing a bushy klinkhammer. As he admitted, in the wind in which we were fishing, the tangles were likely to be horrendous, and there were one or two, but, Boy did this rig work! John encouraged me to cast across current and upstream between overhanging branches of an alder, into a fast-ish run. He estimated the water was no more than eighteen inches deep there, and the first fish to come out was a grayling of 12”, the second a small brown trout,







and the third, a grayling of 1 lb. plus –








…and whilst a couple more trout came to net that morning, it was the grayling which surprised. Ten or so came to net, and at least four of them were well over the 1 lb mark, the largest nearer 2lb. Staggering for a small stream, and averaging much larger than in the Avon. And all on his rig!

In the afternoon, we moved downstream some five miles. I always aim to buy my host lunch on days like this, but it was impossible this day because John had brought a picnic of Yorkshire Pasty and Ampleforth Abbey Cider which were graciously consumed, before viewing this lower beat. We could have been in another county…..on another river. For here the river meanders through arable flat land with grassy banks,

over gravelly bottom with curious grey slates in parts, with long flowing weed. The bends in the river have created deep pools but the glides are more Hampshire in character and I am sure there were more fish under the weed than were visible. The wind was gusting but the temperature rose in increasing sunshine and the odd May, along with some olives produced spasmodic rises, and eagerly I switched to a dry fly. Jim, the Keeper, confirmed that just the week before, anglers were catching fish with imitations as May duns went floating by…funny how it’s always ’last week’!

I caught up with John and Jim who were chatting upstream, and learned that John had netted a couple of good fish on mayfly imitation from below the far bank where they were standing. John had to leave at five, so I wandered back downstream to see whether the fish that were rising on my way up were still doing so, but no. And on arriving where John caught I noted a sipping rise across the stream so tied on a spent May, and hooked him with my second cast. He was a doughty fighter and headed into the weed and just as I thought he was lost, he slid through and into my net…about 1 ½ lbs.

Post script –


My  thanks for a super day. You were most generous with your time, your knowledge, lunch, and your passion for angling, and the Yorkshire countryside is obvious. I have bought your book (‘A Dream of Jewelled Fishes’ published by Aurum), and I now understand your ‘Nom de Plume’!

ps 2…I have had many invitations to be LinkedIn, but have declined all of them. I do not ‘tweet’ and am not a ‘twit(terer)’, nor am I on Facebook. But….I connected with John on a Forum, so in one sense, I am a Social Networker, as must you be for reading me, I presume. Good for us…and for me at 63, there is hope….I think!