Fly-fishing in the Dales

The rivers of Yorkshire do the county proud – there’s the Nidd, the Ure, the Swale, the Wharfe, the Ribble, along with a host of smaller ones. Many of these pass through the market towns of Knaresborough, Richmond, Ripon on their journey through the Dales, but upstream, away from the bustle of city life, they are havens for wildlife and a source of pleasure for many, and one of these pleasures is fly-fishing.

There are few pastimes more enjoyable than spending time by the clear, clean rivers of the North Yorkshire Dales, amidst stunning scenery, peace and tranquillity, bird song, the sound of babbling water, and the occasional satisfying plop of a leaping fish landing back in the water. And then there’s the excitement of catching and landing a fish after a game of cat and mouse, or rather fish and fly, and, if it’s worthy, taking home freshly caught supper.

The Dales are just about the perfect place for fly-fishing – its rivers flow through limestone rock which makes the waters slightly alkaline, and which are just right for brown trout and grayling and the creatures on which they feed. And there are also several lakes and reservoirs which provide a habitat for rainbow trout and brown trout.

And the Dales are easily accessible by rail, road (and canal) from Leeds, Harrogate, Manchester, Cumbria, and the North East, and from further afield by air via Leeds/Bradford International Airport or Manchester International Airport.

Fly-fishing is a pastime with a very long history. Other than brief mentions, it first appears in literature in a book from 1496 by one Dame Juliana Berners called The Treatyse on Fysshynge with an Angle. It is also the subject of The Compleat Angler by Izaak Walton, and many of us will remember the ads for Yellow Pages which featured an excited elderly gentleman in search of a book called Fly Fishing by JR Hartley. After doing the rounds of numerous bookshops without success, the man is dejected – and sits at home in his armchair. His daughter then hands him a copy of Yellow Pages and after a few calls he tracks down a copy. He asks to reserve it and gives his name as “Hartley, JR Hartley”. The advert was extremely popular and an astute angler cashed in on this by bringing out several books on angling under the pseudonym of JR Hartley.

Another angler who has a story to tell about fly-fishing is Stuart Minnikin, who runs a company called Yorkshire Dales Fly Fishing. Stuart knows the Dales rivers like the back of his hand and has a vast amount of experience both at home and abroad in angling. His company offers courses, tuition, and guiding, and also obtains fishing permits and provides waders and tackle. Whether it’s for a few hours lesson or a fishing holiday, fly-fishing in the Dales could be one of the most relaxing times you have ever had.

If you’re after accommodation in the Yorkshire Dales, see the Yorkshire Dales holiday cottages and Yorkshire Dales guest houses on Hello Yorkshire.