It's strange how things work out sometimes. Dave and I had been trying to arrange a fishing day together for much of 2013, but as they so often do, other things conspired to deny us the opportunity; and so the year passed without us crossing paths, which was a shame.
So when Dave mentioned he and friend Morgan would be heading north this April, for a three day northern spate river tour, I was delighted to be able to tag along on day two of the jaunt, which would be spent on the Upper Ure at Bainbridge. That's how we found ourselves fishing the same bit of water together that we had when we last met up, almost exactly two years to the day previously.
Wensleydale is a strange one for me. Geographically, this most aesthetic of Dales lies within a fifty mile radius of home and as such should feature on my list of regular haunts, especially considering how good the fishing on the Ure can be. Unfortunately the reality is a complete pain in the arse. Attempts to strike something resembling a direct route into the valley prove impossible and a long winded drive-in results whether approaching from the top of the dale, or the bottom. That fifty mile 'as the crow flies' distance becomes more like eighty and the best part of a four hour round trip. As a result - and despite the fact that I have access to a decent private beat on the middle river - I don't make the drive nearly as often as I should.
That truism weighed heavy on me all day, for Wensleydale is a magical place; and the river which drains its moors, a very fine trout stream. As the day brightened, the stonewalled pastures and new willow and beech foliage shone in a green so fresh that the break for food and beer later in the afternoon, provided a welcome opportunity to recline and take stock of our surroundings, where previously the serious business of catching brown trout had been our primary focus. Sitting there in the warm sun with fishing friends, a bottle of pale ale in hand, and chewing on a perfectly barbecued steak sandwich......well I don't think it gets much better than that.
Of course, it's easy to appreciate the pastoral splendour of our surroundings when the fishing has been good. I remember something Laurence Catlow once wrote: words to the effect of "the world is a beautiful place with a brace of fine trout in the creel, but after a poor day's fishing it is hardly noticed". I know what he means. Our day's fishing, whilst not hitting red letter day heights, had been amply rewarding, and I held that thought as I relaxed later on, faced turned up into the warm spring sunshine.
Dave and Morgan would probably tell you that they planned their tour perfectly. A 'numbers' day on West Yorkshire's little River Ryburn was followed up two days later by a few hours spent stalking elusive large fish on the upper Eden. In between, we had the pleasure of the Ure and the splendid but challenging fishing it offers for wild brown trout ranging in size from 'skezwee' up to respectable near two-pounders. I'm always impressed by the quality of these wild Dales fish and as on out last visit, pleasing numbers of them obliged - not a cricket score by any means, but enough to keep three fishers occupied for a few hours.
Long term followers of this humble blog might remember our last visit, bang on two years previous. I had a bit of a nightmare that day, although my lasting memory of the session was to be rendered positive by the fact that Dave kept up his side of the bargain and brought a number of good fish to hand where I was unable to make the buggers stick. It had been a good day, but I hoped that this time I would at least fish a little better.....
As it happened, I got off to a decent start. A brace of nymphs offered on a French leader set up brought a couple of dropped fish (not again thinks I!), thankfully followed by three landed, the best of which was a bonny looking trout of maybe pound and a half. The session continued pretty much in that vein with occasional enough interest from fish around the 12 inch mark falling to mainly the 'white head melanist', fast becoming a favourite nymph of mine.
Meanwhile Dave, fishing his favoured 'duo', and Morgan persevering with the dry fly, both found sport. Dave - like me - found fish willing to intercept the nymph in particularly thin water in pockets and pool heads (perhaps a touch unusual so early in the season?), including a couple of particularly nice specimens approaching the 2lb mark. Morgan staked out a likely pool and capitalised on a trickle hatch by unfurling long casts across a tricky current to tempt some nice fish on a cdc emerger.
Sport inevitably slowed as the sun burned through mid afternoon, but by that point the steak had been scoffed and the beer quaffed......... and frankly, we couldn't care less.
It's a sad fact that spring fishing days pass all too quickly. In fact, most of my fishing days seem to pass too quickly these days. The effect is even more noticeable when fishing with friends; so much catching up to do, so many conversations to be had. Sometimes it's possible to spend the time hardly doing any serious fishing at all, yet still it ends up lodged in the memory as a day to treasure. I've been lucky to have a few of those lately, but Saturday on the Ure is right up there with the best of them. It had something of the feel of a reunion, yet also that of a ritual in the making. I get the impression that will not be the last time the three of us convene at the Rose and Crown in late April.