Yorkshire Esk â€“ From Rugged Moorland To Open Sea:
Every angler has a favourite river. One they return to, even when others may offer more chance of a fish or are in a more fishable condition. Mine is The Yorkshire Esk, a beautiful river that while small by comparison to the likes of Tyne, Tees and Wear, offers unique challenges and opportunities that mesmerise salmon, trout and sea trout anglers alike. Rising from the rugged, peaty terrain of Westerdale Moor where it is charmingly named ‘Esklets’, the river joins other streams (nearly always locally known as becks), gathering pace, size and momentum until it reaches Castleton where it becomes of real interest to the angler.
The river here is still small by most anglers standards but with a scaled down approach and plenty of stealth the angler can catch brown trout and grayling throughout the season and salmon and sea trout which given a spate can run this far up in a matter of days. A 6ft spinning rod with an upstream worm can take some good fish from the pools, stickles and runs here and the fly angler should use a 7-8ft rod with a 4-5 weight line. North Country Spider patterns such as Partridge and Orange and Snipe And Purple should tempt the fast taking trout from the lairs.
This stretch is mainly under control of Danby & District Angling Club who offer incredible value season permits at around Â£15, available from Duke Of Wellington in Danby and the Post Office there.
Danby & District Angling Club
Danby Club’s water continues through the fields down to Danby and these slow, deep and snaggy pools are often overlooked by anglers but can contain some fine brown trout which grow fat on the abundant minnows that gather in the margins, terrestrial flies from the tree branches and
worms washed out by the frequent spates. My best Esk brown of 2.5lb came from this stretch on an upstream worm fished in a pool that had very little movement and no signs of fish at all.
From Danby Mill downstream the river gathers pace and widens. The weir itself is a great spot to watch sea trout jumping in October as they make the final push to their spawning grounds. It should be noted though that these fish will mainly be gravid and ready for spawning, making it unsporting to fish for them and they would certainly be poor eating.
The streamier parts of the river between Danby Village and the DDAC Boundary where the railway crosses the river close to Danby Lodge can offer good brown trout fishing and the occasional grayling. Eels also seem keen on this mainly shaded stretch so worming at dusk into night is often frustrating and a fly would be a better option. Spider patterns, traditional wet flies, small dry flies and weighted nymphs such as goldhead Hares Ear have worked well for me on this stretch.
Danby’s stretch resumes at the railway bridge at Ducks Bridge with easy parking and access. Again there are browns and grayling to be had here but stealth is important if you want to catch fish in these often narrow
pools. The track to Crag Farm leads to a popular pool where the bridge crosses the river and it is worth trying a flashier wet fly here such as a Peter Ross or Butcher as we have caught 1lb brown trout from this pool that have been stuffed to the gills with 2-3 inch long fish. The pool below Crag Farm is also a good bet- try casting a worm underneath the branches for decent browns or a fly for the sea trout in the back eddies, though this essentially means fishing the pool backwards due to the difficult currents.
Between here and Fryup Beck which marks the lowest boundary of DDAC’s water there are many tree lined pools that are worth a try and streamier runs where trout will rise freely but shy away from a clumsy cast or shadow on the water.
The water from Fryup Beck to Lealholm is run by a private syndicate who have done some great river improvements in recent years but the next fishing available to the public is at Lealholm. The free fishing here stretches from the Stepping Stones, through the main pool to roughly quarter of a mile downstream of the bridge. The main angling focus is on the large pool in the centre of the village which can hold good amounts of sea trout and salmon. As tempting as they are though, these fish have a reputation amongst Esk anglers for being
difficult and soon become ‘potted’, resting amongst the tree roots until late season, thus becoming coloured and stale. If you are lucky enough to catch them as they enter the pool then you are in with a chance but after that you are better off concentrating elsewhere. Night time fly fishing offers the best chance but the street lights around here hinder your chances and while Summer nights can see fish jumping and splashing you could be fishing over a pool that has had dogs swimming through it and families paddling leaving you tearing your hair out as you try every fly in the box.
Free Fishing On The Esk – Rakes Common Glaisdale
The next available public fishing is Rakes Common at Glaisdale, which in a falling spate can offer good salmon and sea trout fishing with plenty of room to fish. A size 2- 4 Mepps style spinner is the best bet here fished deep and slow. You will lose spinners here as there are many tree roots but if that is the case then your lure is in the right place. There are lots of little runs and pools here for the fly fisherman with doubles of around size 12 such as the ever reliable Silver Stoat and Thunder And Lightning being a good bet. Some nice brown trout can be taken here and a dry fly is ideal for fishing over the top of those snaggy tree roots. A mile or so downstream is the popular free stretch at Limber Hill which can be productive in a late season falling spate. Most of the fish come to spinner with Tobies in 7-15g, Flying C’s, Mepps and Rapala’s all proving popular. Fly fishing can also work here but takes a little more homework. Try fishing a gold and orange fly when there is just a hint of colour in the water at dusk. I would class this as the start of the ‘middle river’ so to speak and from here down to Sleights is mainly under the control of Esk Fisheries
Association and a couple of local angling clubs who only offer membership to those living in the respective villages.
Egton Estates – River Esk Salmon Fishing
Some excellent fishing is available at Egton Bridge from the Egton Estate. This is prolific water with some of the best pools on the river and as such demand is high and early booking is advisable. Contact Simon Foster at Egton Estates on 01947 895466 for more information. The tactics mentioned above work here with plenty of pools lending themselves perfectly to fly fishing.
Low Newbiggin House near Aislaby have some fishing available and while I haven’t fished it, a quick look at the map shows it to include the first main bend on the river above Sleights, making it an attractive proposition. See http://www.lownewbiggin.co.uk for more details.
The next available fishing is the free stretch at Sleights which runs from the footbridge upstream to a wire fence below the fish pass. This stretch offers the chance of a tide fresh fish for most of the season but timing is everything. You can be there all day and see nothing only to leave and a hefty run to pass through. Spinning during a spate is the most popular method here.
The lowest available fishing is at Ruswarp with permits costing an astounding Â£2 available from Ruswarp Pleasure Boats. The river slows here due to the weir that marks the tidal stretch and is often overlooked by many anglers but is worth a go. I have had fresh run salmon to 6lb from here and had some good fun fly-fishing at night for sea trout. Worm fishing produces brown trout, eels and even flounder which manage to get up the weir from the tide, though last time I wormed on there we were plagued by gudgeon which seem to only populate this part of the river Here the freshwater fishing on Esk ends but it truly is a delightful, if somewhat taxing river and once it gets under your skin you find yourself going back time and time again.
Pictures courtesy of Clive From Nicepix.net