Finally the day we’d both been waiting for dawned. The Driffield Beck day! Saddleworth lies on the furthest western boundary of Yorkshire, and Driffield pretty much on the eastern boundary (or near enough). A trip down the M62 led us to the market town of Driffield to fish the day ticket waters of Mulberry Whin. This fishery offers over a mile of double bank fishing on one of the few chalkstreams in Yorkshire. However, before visiting the fishery we decided to head into the town itself to locate any ‘free water’.
I’ve long known that the Yorkshire record grayling comes not from the Driffield Beck, but from the Driffield Canal. The canal is fed by the Beck as it flows in and out of it at various locations along its 11 mile length. The Canal has no boat traffic and as a result is gin clear, weed choked and home to many large wild brown and rainbow trout. Best of all the fishing appears to be free!
Hurriedly assembling the rods we dashed to the canal and starting casting nymphs to the visible fish. Adrian struck first with a brown from the feeder stream entrance tunnel. This was to be something of a ‘false start’ though. As we moved down the canal the fish got larger and spookier. We cast to a number of fish and all actively swam away from any nymphs.
Moving out of town and along the canal, we came to an area with trees on both sides and a high bank. Ideal ‘spotting water’. It was then that we spotted a huge trout moving along the far bank. The fish was clearly feeding as it dropped to the bottom, head up and inhaled something buggy. Casting was challenging but from 15 feet up above a near vertical bank of nettles and brambles I couldn’t resist! The fish moved towards our bank and I dropped a size 14 Pink Panther 3 feet in front of it. The fish surged forward and with a flash of white from its lower jaw devoured the nymph.
Striking (massively late) then revealed the problem… how the hell are we going to get this thing in! The fish surged into the weeds on our bank snagging the line, then raced off downstream taking 35 yards of fly line and 10 yards of backing. Expecting a break any second (leader was only 4lbs) I then realised that the line passing through the weed at our feet then under water for 40+ yards to the fish was an advantage. It allowed for massive side strain. Every time I put pressure on the fish it came from the side, rather than above. The fish began to yield and after 5 minutes or so we finally had the fly line back on the reel and the fish wallowing in the weed. With his eyes now covered with weed he lay pretty still.
Adrian, like the proverbial mountain goat tried to get through the brambles down the bank with net in hand but it was tough going. Eventually we swapped positions as I was wearing swimming shorts and it was clear that someone was
going to have to jump in. Finally I got waist deep in the canal and heaved out the fish: 22 inches of wild rainbow, estimated at 4lb 6oz or so on the length ratio. The fish returned we headed off to try the fishing proper. The Beck itself!
Mulberry Whin is as a chalkstream should be. Thick vegetation up to waist height and above on both banks provides great cover for stalking. There are fasts, slows, deeps and shallows. Gravel beds, silt beds, deep corner pools etc. In short, it’s paradise. We started at the mid-point of the fishery and Adrian immediately started targeting a rising fish with a dry. Seconds later we looked through the water, rather than at the rise forms on the surface and saw two things. 1) the small trout that was rising just sub surface and 2) the three grayling sat on the bottom below it, all of which looked comfortably over 2.5lbs!
We quickly learnt that the Driffield Beck is absolutely chock full of 2lb Grayling. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say there was one every 20-30 yards. Some were huge, clearly over 3lbs and none of them would touch a thing! We caught trout, we caught small grayling, on dries and nymphs, but the big boys simply wouldn’t take.
They’d move to a nymph, they’d look at it but wouldn’t take. We must have made hundreds of presentations to these fish before realising the task was almost impossible. The trick, we eventually found was to find fish close under your own bank. Casting far upstream with long leaders, the technique that worked seemed to be get the nymph down well ahead of the fish, then trip it along the bottom, before inducing a take by lifting the nymph in a sweeping notion as it approached. This still wasn’t massively successful but got me about four takes. Two I missed, one I lost as it thrashed on the surface and the last one stuck! It weighed 2lb 6 oz (weighed and measured). My biggest grayling to date. Here are some shots of the fish (pictured in net and underwater release).
Adrian fishing downstream had also found success in a similar manner. Locating grayling close in under his own bank enabled him to present the nymph to the biggest grayling of the trip. His fish weighed 2lb 8oz! Our pursuit for a 3lb grayling this season is off to a great start, and Adrian’s fish represents the closest we’ve got to it between us yet!
As the sun set we managed to catch a couple of smaller trout on dries before making our way back across the Pennies. Day 4 was to see us venture into Lancashire, to fish for the monster brown trout of the River Irwell.