Harrogate FlyFishers' Club

since 1887

since 1887


Newsletter November 2019

Lots of rain, but no frogs or locusts yet!

October has seen the level of water in our river surge far into the ‘Typical’ Range on the graph on our club website. 

The graph since the end of July looks a bit like a cross section of the Alps, with a valley during the first few weeks of September being followed by quite a few occasions when the river level at Birstwith was in excess of a metre! 

This mirrors my informal weather measure for Harrogate –my willingness or ability to walk across my lawn without recourse to the breaststroke! It does seem to have rained a lot locally, as the West Park Stray still attests to.

Club Committee meeting

Your committee held a meeting on October 22nd, and a few of the topics discussed / decisions made then are included here for your information:

  • The club finances remain in a good state and it was agreed that the annual subscription for next year should remain at £240
  • There have been catch returns for the 2019 trout season from 36 members so far. The general picture was of plentiful wild trout, of all sizes, and a higher percentage of stock fish caught. The committee agreed to continue stocking next year at the same level as last season, of 500 fish. P.S. If you haven’t sent your catch return in to Ian Dodd, please do so. All information about our fishery is valuable!
  • The Summer picnic at Low Hall was reviewed very favourably. 24 members and guests enjoyed a lovely afternoon. Mrs Holliday has agreed to continue the ‘new’ tradition next year – date to be agreed.
  • A proposal by Sustrans to extend the existing walk and cycle path from Ripley to Pateley Bridge was discussed. The initial plans will be put forward by the end of this year to Nidderdale Plus, and members will be updated on any progress at the Club’s AGM on January 21st 2020

Working Party

The first Working Party of the season will take place from Station Road, Darley at 10am on Thursday November 14th, as previously notified. Bringing secateurs and other devices for tackling brambles and the like will be of great help. 

Other working parties will be held, weather permitting, every few weeks, and you’ll get emails exhorting you to keep fit during the autumn and winter months, by putting your bodies to work on the bankside!

From The Club’s Archives

Ian Dodd has unearthed a cache of historic documents about our club, and will be putting some of them onto the website over time. They are in paper form (inevitably), so here’s hoping for the quality of the reproduction (not of the original!)

I thought that I’d provide you with a taster. This one is a Yorkshire Post article from 1956 –- by the famed Darby Tredger, about our Club’s Philip Lupton as the flyfisher on the Nidd in the ‘fishing match’. I hope you enjoy it (and you will look for more when they arrive on our website).

The font size is very small, but hopefully you’ll be able to either see it, or expand it on our website.

Winter Grayling Fundamentals

One of our newer members, Clark Colman, has kindly provided us with an article on fishing for grayling. Clark is a highly qualified and experienced fly fishing instructor, and I’m sure that members will appreciate his insights.

Water temperatures and how they change are inextricably linked to invertebrate activity and fish behaviour.  I’ll start out with an extreme – the ‘bleak midwinter’ – when we’re glad of our thermals and are busy applying Mucilin to our rod guides to help prevent water (and the line itself) from freezing in them.  At such times, a grayling’s body temperature and metabolic rate will be at their lowest.  With plenty of dissolved oxygen in all parts of the river, there’s no need for them to be stationed in faster areas, using up unnecessary amounts of energy.  Finding and occupying temperature-stable water is, however, a major priority.  This often (but not always) means that fly fishers have to look further downstairs for grayling in deeper runs and pools where the warmer water can be.  

Water temperatures are normally at their highest towards the surface, where sunlight, warm air and wind impact the most.  Factor in hail, sleet, snow or a knifing northerly/north-easterly/easterly, however, and the upper water column now becomes much chillier than down below.  Just as grayling keep their heads down at such times, so too do the nymphs and pupae that lack the necessary overhead warmth to tempt them towards full ascension and emergence.  This can often entail nymphing with the heaviest of patterns in our boxes – even if they’re intended primarily as ‘transporters’ to cut through faster surface currents, drag smaller offerings down towards the bottom and hold them there throughout the drift at a speed slow enough for lethargic fish to intercept without having to move too far or too fast for their precious energy reserves.  

We all have our favourite ‘house bricks’ and the first one I used extensively, on rivers such as the Eden, Clyde and Teviot, was featured by Howard Croston (one of my modern-day fly fishing heroes) in a memorable winter nymphing article produced with Paul Davison in 2003 (which you can still read via https://www.czechnymphs.com/home/13-uncategorised/37-when-the-tapping-stops).  Many more have since emerged, and which sizes and weights to use varies according to current pace and depth.  With smaller, lighter nymphs accompanying them, there’s the opportunity to attract grayling that aren’t hard on the deck and which are feeding a little higher up on naturals that have become dislodged from their homes, or which are at least having a go at reaching the surface.  

For a three-fly approach, placing the ‘depth charge’ on the middle dropper holds all patterns closer to the bottom; whereas giving it point position with lighter nymphs above aids searching more levels of the water column.  On the very coldest of days the former often comes up trumps; however if things warm up a little the latter may well pay dividends and offers scope for substituting weighted nymphs on droppers for more lightly-weighted or even unweighted patterns (anyone ever tried spiders, here?)  When nymphing, three flies are fine for relatively even, easier-to-wade riverbeds; however they aren’t always ideal in snag-ridden subsurface environments (such as those on sections of the northern spate systems in our neck of the woods).  Here a two-fly setup is often wiser if you’re wanting a bit of heft on the business end.  

There’s also, of course, every chance of hatches and rising grayling if temperatures increase sufficiently for stimulating this.  It’s always worth being aware of such changes, keeping your eyes peeled for surface activity and either carrying another rod or having an adaptable nymphing setup that can be quickly re-rigged for dry fly fishing.  There isn’t the space here to discuss such methods, so this will have to wait for next month.  In the meantime, why not treat yourself to a thermometer and take some temperature readings from different water column levels at various points throughout your next session?  Next time I’ll say a bit more about these readings, their links to changing invertebrate and fish activity, and techniques for keeping in touch with winter grayling. 

 Tight lines! 

Many Thanks, Clark! If you have any experience or comments to add on the subject of catching grayling (or anything!), do send them to me, however short, for inclusion in a future newsletter. Knowledge and opinion shared is helpful to all – apart from the grayling!  Hon. Sec.


You may have noticed that there aren’t any photos of fish, or of our river in this edition.

This is because I haven’t been fishing (and I obviously haven’t caught any fish either!)

I’d be really pleased to receive photos from you that would liven up our newsletter. I’m loath to use Google Images because of concerns about copyright, and I’m sure that members will have much more relevant photos for Club use!

David Clayden HFFC Hon. Sec.

‹ Go Back