Thornton Beck

Thornton Beck – top-notch small-stream fly fishing


Off to Thornton Beck, a superb little stream running close to the Dalby Forest in North Yorkshire. It’s a Pickering Fishery Association water, and for many years was largely neglected. But a team of members of the club has recently rejuvenated the water fantastically, opening it up and installing features to improve the flow patterns. It is now a really first class venue.

It remains however a challenging beat, and this morning a light but irksome easterly was bringing something of a chill to the air and would make casting a bit tricky. But against that the sun was shining and out of the wind it was warming up nicely.

It’s quite a tough nut to crack. Many trees and bankside greenery dictates a lot of short rollcasting, and today in the sun the fish were especially spooky.

I lowered myself into the water at the start of the beat and soon spotted a rise in the pool to the left of the pic below:


Closer inspection revealed that it was packed with small trout – probably a dozen or 15. I was tackled up with a 6 ft Chas Burns, 10 ft leader and a size 14 emerger, foam-headed and dressed skinny. I’d tied the fly a couple of nights previously and was keen to see how it performed. Well, the little blighters just weren’t interested. They’d spot it, come up and take a look, then turn their noses up.

After half a dozen casts I sighed and changed down to a size 18 black emerger, again with a small foam ball wing. Second cast I had a splashy take and pulled in a real cracker:


Beautifully coloured with luminescent scarlet spots. It turned out to be the best fish of the day by some distance.

Anyhow, that was it from that pool so picked my way upstream:


The rises were few and far between, so it was a case of trying to get the fly into likely looking lies. I was also spooking loads of fish – seeing them shoot down past me was frustrating. But I managed to get the fly over the darkish pool alongside the tree stump and landed this little fellow:


Carried on upstream, spooking yet more fish in water like this:


and this:


Picked off a couple more:




So I was happy enough with that. Lost three or four on the way, then decided to risk the larger fly again as the small fly was losing buoyancy. It’s still effective when it hangs a centimetre or two below the surface – the foam stops it from sinking rapidly – but is tricky to see. So I reverted to the skinny bigger fly and made my way up towards the weir at the top end of this part of the beat:


To the left of the island is a nice looking pool:


I put the fly in a few times, lost a couple and pulled out a couple, including this one:


So, just over two hours fishing produced ten fish in reasonably testing conditions. I’m happy with that.

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