Del Spry and I have been friends for many years and I first met him when he turned up for one of the Army Spring matches. I was fortunate enough to spend the day in a boat with him, there have been many days since but we have never spent any time on a river until now. Del left the service last year and currently works at John Norris in Penrith, an accomplished fisherman both boat and bank Del has an unassuming manner that makes him an instantly likable guy. He had not only kindly arranged the fishing but had brought along a Loop Cross S1 9’ for a #4 for me to use for the day, but more on that later.
We had arranged to meet Jim Curry at the estate office and as neither of us had fished the river we looked to Jim to point us in the right direction. Having fished with Stuart Wardle the previous day I again expected the fishing to be tough. Several days of bright sunshine had put the fish on def con 5 and the lack of hatching insects did not bode well. We had come down to the Devonshire Arms Hotel (looked very nice) and parked up. Jim walked us down the beat to Kex Beck the lower limit of the beat pointing out areas that would be worth a go. On the way down the fish were not giving much away and I did not see one fish rise. The water was very clear not the same clarity as the river Swale the previous day but just a little hint of a peaty tinge in the water. I started at the Beck and Del the run above me. I had set up a longish duo rig with a small nymph, I fished all the areas methodically enjoying the crisp action of the loop rod. Thirty minutes and I had reached the head of the pool not even a glimmer of a fish. I got out the water and worked my way up to Del, and gave him a go of the loop rod. He found it rather stiff but agreed that it was lovely to cast. He had not reached the head of his pool but reported no joy. I moved up the beat a little and sat watching the river for a bit, from the corner of my eye I noticed a fish rise. Unfortunately, it was probably the only place I could not get a fly to, I did try and failed miserably.
I had moved up a little and was in the tail of a very slow pool and standing on what seemed like sheet ice. Del had moved up and was telling me that he had tried some of that free swimming lark, as well as this he had lost a big Grayling in the head of the last pool. While I was turned chatting to Del my line tightened up and an energetic fish took to the air with my hook attached. I played the fish for ten seconds before its efforts at freedom were rewarded. Still encouraged and my concentration now peaked I redoubled my efforts. Del dropped in thirty yards below me and as he was getting into position I hooked another good fish. It was on for a bit before that line went slack. A couple of steps up and another fish fell to the Duo rig and soon enough it fell off too. Del thought it might have been the stiffness of the rod I thought it was more likely my incompetence! Another few steps up and at last my first Wharfe fish safely in the net, not what you would call a specimen but very welcome. There were still lots of water left in the run and I was keen to let Del have a go at them so I beckoned him over. I left Del to the rest of the run and worked up towards the two bridges, I worked the sweet water hard as time was an issue and managed another two for my troubles. Del had come up to join me and we took a side of the river each. I tried my hand at the JT shuffle which very nearly turned into the doggy paddle! For those that don’t know the JT shuffle is when you are in as deep as you can and you shuffle along on your tip toes until you reach firm ground. On this occasion, there was no firm ground to reach and I beat a hasty retreat. That was the morning and we returned to the car for a butty and a chat about the afternoon session.
We drove up to Strid car park and went down to the river it was ideal pocket water but we found another three anglers along the way. We decided to walk up stream and try and find some fresh water. We found some nice looking runs and I managed another to the net, it came right in the tail of the pool. Del had fished up for very little interest, and we moved up to just above the first bridge. If you know the water you will know that there are a couple of outstanding runs here which you would bet your house on getting something. Del and I had nothing, not even a sniff, I suspected that the other anglers we saw may have fished this stretch. As a last ditch and more for a look see we went up the top of the beat, we spotted two likely runs and took one each. I was in the head of the run and having had no interest all day in the faster water the take I got took me by surprise. I managed to lift and felt the bump bump of a fish and then it was gone. That was the fishing done for me but Del was going to stay on for a bit a try his hand for a couple more fish.
I would like to thank Del for his company on the day, and I look forward to our next day on the bank together.