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6-9th Aug 2019 Veterans Beat Up (River Tees)

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Where to start? Scott Nellins put a huge amount of effort into organising a pegged river competition on the River Tees. Many have shouted about it and a lot of three-man teams verbally committed to fish the match. Unfortunately, not enough paid up on time and the event was cancelled. I was already most of the way up the country on another matter when I heard the news. So, I took the opportunity to meet up with my pals for some pleasure fishing.

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Pleasure fishing, when you catch the Tees right that’s exactly what this is an absolute pleasure! By the time I had finished up my business in Leeds though and driven up it was way too late to get a fishing ticket and go fishing. So, I popped into see High Force and get a look at the river. It was fairly pumping through but the river was coming of a 2m spike as it often does but I was fairly confident that it would drop away to a fishable level overnight.

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I met up with my old mucker Graham Lumsdon who had set the meeting point at the Langdon Beck Hotel and with good reason. The hotel has free wi-fi and this is essential if you want any communication as there is zero telephone signal here. That was not the best of it though the beer was good and the food even better. After shooting the breeze in the bar it was back to the Breaking Bad Van (Grahams Camper Van) for a wee night cap and an early night in anticipation of some top sport in the morning!

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We were up bright and early but run into an early snag as we had run out of gas to make a brew or cook breakfast. Not to worry Del Spry was not joining us until 0900 so we had time for a replen run. By the time we returned Del was only five minutes behind us. We decided to fish locally so just headed down to Widdy Farm where you can park your car and head down the Pennine Way that runs alongside the river. We had not got to far before I decided to take a photo of the amazing scenery. That’s when I realised I had not put an SD card in the camera, bugger, bugger, bugger. The guys decided to start fishing while I scooted back to the car to collect the card.

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I had no sooner returned and Graham asked for the keys he had left his polarized glasses, so off he trotted. Meanwhile Del was already showing us how it was done landing three fish in quick succession. I managed to get down with the camera he had caught a really stunning wild Brown Trout. They are beautifully marked fish and not dissimilar to those that the River Dart produce just a little bigger. Graham had returned and asked Del if he needed the car keys? We all had a chuckle before Graham led us on the big hike upstream. The river could not have looked any better we had hit it just right.

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We could wait no longer and soon shook out to start fishing. I had gotten a peachy run not far from the Cauldrons Snout. I had rigged up with nymphs but it became apparent very quickly that the fish were looking up. A quick change to dry fly and I was missing offer after offer the fish were lightning fast and I was having trouble seeing my fly in the light. It was very frustrating. In the end a move across the river saw me right and I was soon netting my first trout of the day. Just stunning creatures that goes to prove size is not everything! Graham joined me and reported good numbers in the pocket water and he had taken nine fish in short order.

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Del caught up with us and had added another few to his tally. We moved downstream a ways stopping to fish when we fancied a stretch. The river was dropping and showing its best side and we were taking full advantage. Before we knew it our bellies were telling us it was time for lunch so we started making our way back towards the car. Del was quick to point out that we were walking past some great water and offered to give us old yins a break and go and collect the lunch. Graham and I did not protest too much and were soon on our backsides enjoying the view. For a while that was as the wind died away the midges were on us like a tramp on chips!

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To save ourselves we ventured into the middle of the river while we waited on Del. The swift footed youngster was not long and we put lunch away in double time all the while being consumed ourselves by the growing population of midge. It was a great relief when the wind kicked up a little and gave us some respite. Time was wearing on and we were well on our way back to the car when we spotted some rising fish. We got on it and what great fun it was the number of fish in this system can’t be over stated and when they are looking up you realise just how many fish there are in the system.

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It was a spectacular end to a great days fishing with great company. It was back to the van for a scrub up and back into the Hotel for another outstanding meal and some much-needed hydration ;-). As ever when we meet up we had all brought a bottle of good malt and as tired as we were it would be rude not to have a we try. I am pleased to say that we were sensible and were bedded down by midnight. The weather forecast was not good for the next day and I was rudely awoken by heavy rain at 0400hrs. Graham told me that it had started around 0300hrs.

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The Langdon Beck which was a mere trickle the day before had turned into a raging torrent. The river had gone from .7 to 2m in just six hours, so what to do? A bit of fly tying for me and Del and what Graham does which is like fly tying but not as you and I would know it. Make no mistake though fishing and fly tying are two different skill sets and Graham is one of the best anglers I know. By 1100hrs we had a walk to the bottom of the beck and it did not look good. With more rain due on the Saturday we decided to can it. The thing is it will probably be outstanding again on Sunday because that is the nature of the river.

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We had already booked accommodation for the competition and it was too short notice to get a refund so l will be looking forward to my next visit in September. Wouldn’t you?