Up to the Duchy section of the Pickering Beck. When I first started fishing this beat around 17 years ago it was challenging jungle – good fun but tricky with masses of bankside vegetation rendering large portions of the beck unfishable. In recent years a lot of work has been done by stalwarts of the Pickering Fishery Association to open the water up, shore up the banks and improve flows. It remains quite a tight water, but is eminently more fishable. The trout – all wild browns – are historically small here, so no landing net needed.
The weather conditions were interesting: 18 degrees on the car thermometer, barely a breath of breeze, overcast and muggy. It felt good. I tackled up with the Chas Burns six footer with a 3 wt floating line and opted in the first instance for a small goldhead hare’s ear.
I dropped in at the first hunting bridge to some good-looking water:
No fish rising, so my choice of sub-surface nymph looked justified. Despite the promising conditions I touched nothing for the first half hour, before hooking a typical feisty little Duchy brown:
Blank avoided. Fifteen minutes later I had another of similar size. I’d seen a couple of small rises but persisted with the goldhead to no avail. After an hour I decided to turn to the emerger. I’d tied a handful of skinny ones a few days earlier. Body of orange or purple thread ribbed with flashabou. I opted for the orange for no reason in particular:
The switch in tactic was validated four or five casts later with a nice little fish:
By now something of a light mist had descended and the stillness of the atmosphere lent an eerieness to things:
I half expected Vincent Price in a cape to burst from the trees and demand to see my permit. Anyhow, fish were rising not with great frequency but it was possible to tempt them upwards even if they hadn’t shown themselves. I was picking up every so often and had four or five in the bag when something rather astonishing happened. As I say, I’ve been fishing this water for many years, and a brown trout of seven or eight inches is about the maximum of what you’ll catch here. But in a stretch of slow water I cast to a rise, the fly produced a splash and suddenly my rod bent alarmingly. As I played the fish I could see that it was a cracker. I began to rue the decision to leave the net. Fortunately I got it to hand after a decent struggle. Believe me, this is a monster for this water, a good 12″:
It looks as though by opening up the canopy and allowing more light onto the water the plant life has thrived with a knock-on effect up the food chain. The fish are expanding.
Buoyed by that success I worked my way up through water like this:
Picking up fish like this:
By the end of a three-hour session I’d had 17 to the hand and can confirm that certainly to my eye the average size was significantly bigger than would have been the case a few years ago.