Oxfolds Beck, North Yorkshire

Boots and browns


Two ambitions today: to try out my new wading boots and to catch a big brown. Wading boots are overpriced in my view, so last time I wanted some I made my own, following instructions I found on Henry Gilbey’s blog. I bought a pair of cheap Dunlop workboots and fitted them with tungsten carbide studs. This is what they look like:

They’ve not been too bad, but I found I wasn’t getting enough grip, they’re pretty heavy (with a steel toecap – not really necessary) and they are a tad small. I take a 9, these are 11s. So I decided to get a cheap pair of hiking boots a size bigger and fit them with longer studs. I found these on Mountain Warehouse for £27.49 including postage:

I wasn’t expecting any sort of quality for that price but thought they’d suffice. I bought some longer studs for about 11 quid. So far so good. But. But. The soles of these things are CRAP. They’re like marshmallow. Anyhow, I put the studs in and hoped for the best:

I’ll let you know how I got on later. Onto the fishing. I wanted to catch a big trout and in Oxfolds Beck there are some stonkers. Not many, since the beck has been badly polluted and stocks are still woeful with nil recruitment. But somehow a handful of big fish have survived – I reckon there are a couple of four pounders in there. I know one pool where some of these brutes hang out and today I was going to pull one out.

Things didn’t get off to a great start. As I togged up the zip on my waders got stuck three-quarters of the way up. It would budge and I ended up having to take the waders off, attach a cord to the zip and wrestle with it like a maniac for 20 minutes. Eventually I got it free. Then when I went round the corner to the field that gives access to the beck it was full of cattle, millions of them, many milling around the gate that I wanted to use. I cursed and clambered back into the car to set off for the other entrance – the one I’d avoided in the first place because there’s usually a bull in that field. There was a bull but he was far enough away not to be a problem.

I got to the pool, which is just through the tunnel in these trees:

And looks like this:

It’s about 4-5ft deep and sure enough there was one huge shadow lurking in there. I didn’t exactly spook it through any clumsiness, rather the fish – probably 3lb – was milling around the pool in ever-increasing circles, and it eventually clocked me and cleared off. But I could make out other fish in there, albeit not so large. I put on a heavy nymph with a tungsten bonce, attached to a 5ft tippet on a furled leader on the 6ft, 3wt Chas Burns rod.

Space was tight and getting the nymph in necessitated pinging it bow-and-arrow style. But I managed it well enough and after the third or fourth attempt connected with a decent enough brown of maybe a bit over the pound:

Moving upstream, the water is really pretty:

I’ve not used a sinking fly on this water before because it has so much weed in it I assumed I’d just keep getting snagged. But today I persevered with the beaded nymph, putting into the islands of clear water between the weed rafts. Lo and behold it worked. I got this one just downstream of the bridge:

Followed some time later by another of similar size but not as handsome:

I did spend about 20 minutes trying to snag one very nice fish that was sipping olives from the top. I pricked it almost immediately with the nymph, which didn’t seem to put it off. Thereafter I went through the fly box, and while it did take a good look at one or two of my offerings was not being fooled. Eventually it did have a go at a size 18 F-fly, but it didn’t stick and the fish didn’t stick around.

Finally, right at the end of the beat I spotted a fish just between the weed patch and log here:

I got the nymph on its nose and it took. It was a rather weather-beaten escapee rainbow of probably not too far off 2lb:

And that was it for the day. I didn’t get the stonker I was hoping for, but I did discover that I could happily fish heavy flies here with success.

As for the boots. They were useless. Even though allegedly a size bigger than my old ones they were tight in the toe. And through the flimsy sole I could feel every pebble I stepped on, and it didn’t come as any surprise to me that the feeble sole couldn’t anchor the studs:

For the time being the bigger studs are going in the old boots and these new boots are going in the bin. Back to the drawing board!

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  1. I’m using the Taimen wading boots Simon, don’t know the name as I bought them off a lad on the forum three years ago for £17 posted.
    He’d been using them for three years prior to me, I’m very impressed with them, light, strong and comfortable and no sign of the rubber sole coming off.
    Glad to see your still using the furlies, pity you didn’t make contact with the old lunkers today, I’m having a similar problem on a 4lber in my local stream, up to now he sees me as I see him, but one day I’ll have the bugger.

  2. thanks for that Steven – I’ll look into those boots. Yeah, those big fish aren’t big for nothing I suppose!

  3. Hi, I used to fish there in the 80’s so enjoyed reading your post. The beck was stuffed with fish then but a lot were escapees from the farm. I had heard it had been polluted. Do you know what caused it? You say there is no recruitment. Why do you think that is as there is or was plenty of nice gravel. Does Pickering club still have the rights? I’m sure the Wild Trout Trust would be happy to give advice on improving the spawning. It’s such a fantastic system that it needs looking after.
    Keep up the excellent blogging


    1. Thanks for the comments Pete, appreciated. The saga of Oxfolds/Costa has been going on for years now. I’m not privy to all the details, but suffice it to say that the club (yes, still Pickering Fishery Association) has been in protracted discussions with Fish Legal and the Environment Agency for yonks. I’m not fully certain about the source of the pollution, but think it involves things like insecticide, industrial run-off, overspill of sewage etc. There are glimmers of hope – invertebrate counts appear to be going in the right direction. But I fear it will be many years before the beck is a hospitable environment once again for breeding fish. We live in hope!

  4. Fingers crossed they sort it out. I heard a number of years ago that some numpty emptied the swimming pool in the middle of a drought and sent thousands of gallons of chlorinated water down the beck but maybe that was just rumour.

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