Thornton Beck

Tough going on Thornton Beck (but a nice bonus at the end of the day)


So autumn arrives and its off to Thornton Beck near Dalby Forest just this side of Pickering in North Yorkshire. The beck is narrow, sinuous and tricky at the best of times, albeit stuffed with small fish; with the cooler weather I wasn’t expecting an easy ride.

In a pretence at being a traditional north country fisherman I put on a waterhen bloa, a fly I have used probably half a dozen times in many years of fishing. I probably tied this about 15 years ago:


The temperature was about 15C and slowly rising and the water looked pretty good:


I was using a six foot 3wt and risked a leader of about 10ft. Casting was difficult with all the bankside obstacles and I spooked thousands of small fish. I flogged away for about half an hour with the bloa without getting a touch so switched to a slightly less traditional black spider of my own making – it’s got a flashabou rib and has been effective when fish are shy.


Nothing doing though and still scaring loads of fish. The water was exceptionally clear and the big problem was being able to get a cast of decent length to fish that hadn’t yet detected my approach. After a fruitless hour I called it a day with the spiders and whacked on a size 16 goldhead hare’s ear. Bingo! Within a few minutes first little fish was on:


I had feared a dreaded blank – which would have been the first of the season. Continued with the goldhead through water like this:


Picked up another one, small but handsome:


And then another:


I’d been fishing hard for around two hours with only three fish to show for all the effort. I came to the weir, which can be productive but failed to deliver today. I wondered whether to bother fishing above the weir. It’s highly overgrown and in parts exceedingly silted up. I decided to give it a go, persisting with the goldhead.


Getting the fly into any water at all was a real struggle. But my decision to persevere was vindicated with this little corker, a really nice fish for this water:


I was really finding it hard to find any water at all to put a fly into, and after well over three hours’ fishing took this one before deciding to call it a day:


Well, not quite. The main beat is upstream of a trout farm. You tackle up below the trout farm and walk up past it for 10 minutes or so to get in the water. But just below the trout farm is a bridge:


And sometimes when you peer over the edge you can spot one or two large escapees. I’d had a quick peek on my way up to the beck and noticed one big fish lazily swaying in the water. On the way back I had another little look and he was still there. So I snuck into the water well downstream of him and lobbed the goldhead in his general direction. Line tightened and I had one on. Not that big, maybe 10″. But it came off. Ah well. I suspected that the commotion would have spooked anything else in the vicinity, but decided to have another cast or two in any event. Put in what was probably going to be my last cast when the line twitched and I lifted. He was on! A big lump of an escaped brownie. He didn’t give me too much of a runaround, which was as well because I didn’t have a net with me. Got him to hand without too much bother:


Probably not too far off 2lb. After a quick pic I gently lowered him back into the water and he slid out of my hands and was off. Four hours’ really hard fishing, five wild fish (including a really nice one) and a lump of an escapee. That’ll do me.

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  1. Thanks Simon, entertaining as ever and the pictures of the spiders are spot on. Always good to catch a decent sized fish – but I tend to agree that the wildies are the real prize, particularly on such a tight and difficult stream as this.

    1. Cheers Chris. The idea of consistently catching wild trout on north country spiders is attractive and romantic. But I just can’t get that much joy out of them sadly. I’ll persevere (before swapping for a goldhead…)

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