After initial postponement due to the new year’s extreme weather conditions, five of us finally made it up to Saddleworth in West Yorkshire to brave the slightly-less-inclement weather at the end of January in search of grayling. We’d heard much about the potential of the rivers around here (Tame, Colne, Calder, Holme), mainly from fellow Piscator Richard Baker’s evangelical preachings. So we were keen to see just what the deal was.
The moment we arrived at Rich’s fishing retreat in the gorgeous village of Delph, our alert-level went from ‘excited’ to ‘quite seriously excited’. Any house that has rods hanging from the ceiling, waders on the coat hook, and a trout –themed kitchen clock is instantly going to make a fisherman feel at home. And this place had a dedicated beer fridge too.
After sampling Delph’s finest fish & chips on Friday evening, Saturday morning started – how else? – with a hearty breakfast, fully contained in a bap (the secret is scrambled rather than fried egg).
This was a river we could sympathise with. Once heavily milled and polluted (like our very own Wandle), it’s now in great condition and holds a good number of decent-sized trout and grayling. We spent the morning trying our luck in an urban location, and the afternoon further out in a steep valley. The skies were clear blue, the weather crisp, the sun shone, and we all had a great time exploring a new river and seeking out likely looking lies. But we didn’t catch many fish. In fact, if Adrian hadn’t managed to snare a grayling before he decided to take a swim in an unforeseen pothole, we’d have notched up a team blank.
By the time we finished up, we were pretty seriously cold (not as cold as Adrian, obviously) and looking forward to some sustenance and warmth. Heating cranked up to the max, we drove back to Saddleworth via some stunning views in time to whip John’s melt-in-the-mouth slow-cooked lamb out of the oven, stick the boots in front of the woodburner, explode custard in the microwave, and tie up some flies for the next day. We also found time for a hotly competed pool tournament down the local pub where OB-John Kanobi proved he’s not just a great cook, but a bit of a hustler too.
Sunday morning dawned much the same as Saturday. But today as the fishermen bit into their breakfast baps, there was a certain glint of steely determination to be detected in every eye. Yesterday we’d let the fish of the Calder have an easy time of it. Today was the River Holme, and we had some serious catching to do.
The Holme, a tributary of the Colne, is smaller than the Calder. Adrian and I had recce’d it on Friday evening and managed a quick couple of grayling – so we knew it held fish. But we weren’t quite ready for the 180-degree turnaround on the day before. Within a couple of casts we were catching fish – half-pound or so grayling, almost all going for size 16 pheasant tail patterns. The usually deadly Pink Panther was spurned (these were proper northern fish, and weren’t interested in any of this poncey pink rubbish). They were gorgeous fish – not huge, but feisty in the extreme. There were of a couple of big ones that got away, plus JOB and Rich both had an out-of-season trout. And Theo’s camouflage fleece helped him get on top of a couple of crackers.
The Holme was a lovely river to fish – part fast and sinuous riffles, part sedentary pools, and all held fish. Between the five of us we must have managed around 80.
We called it a day with time in hand to return to Delph for fish & chips (or ‘baby’s head’ in Adrian’s case). It was with great reluctance that we shut the door on ‘Off Lodge’, but we returned to London on Sunday night five very satisfied fishermen, itching to return to see what future adventures could be had in Yorkshire.