Reflecting on the end of the trout season.

Peter Ramsden, our bailiff on the Wharfe at Buckden and on the Ure, reflecting on the end of the trout season and getting a little bit nostalgic……………

“Far from the Madding Crowd(s)”, the summer bank holidays and half term breaks are over and all is
pretty quiet during the week in the Dales. The river Wharfe is exceptionally quiet with no anglers
due to the trout close season. Friday, 4th November was a beautiful day up here. There had been
the first real frost of autumn the night before and the air felt crisp and clean. I made up a small flask
and some sandwiches, grabbed my camera and went for walk down the river Wharfe at Buckden.
The river was a nice height at 0.47m and looked very enticing; extremely frustrating as I could
imagine casting a line to all the likely looking spots.


River Wharfe below Buckden bridge.
The Wharfe below Buckden bridge.

I hesitated at number of likely looking places to watch the river for rising fish and eventually sat
down to have a coffee. It just happened that the place I had chosen was the place I caught may first
Buckden trout, nearly forty years ago. I can remember the moment as though it were yesterday.
The forget-me-nots still appear at this location every year. That 9” brown trout was my only fish of
the day and was caught on a wet winged Greenwell. Although, in those days river level information
was not readily available, from the description in my fishing diary the river must have been a little
lower but probably of similar colour as today. I think this particular spot has improved over the
years and it took another 37 years for me to catch another fish there and now I do so quite regularly.

River Wharfe at Buckden
Where I caught my first Buckden fish (7th May 1983).

I got to thinking back. That first day’s fishing was on a day ticket bought from the Buck Inn for
around £3. My in-laws had just moved to Buckden so I expected to be fishing there quite often,
nearly every weekend as it turned out, so I became a member. Over the years I have seen the tree
wrap itself around our BCAA signs.

Old sycamore with embedded signs
BCAA signs below Buckden bridge.

Back then the river was very lightly fished, much less than today. I would spend weekend after
weekend fishing without seeing another angler. It is much easier today for anglers to choose their
day’s fishing when conditions are at the optimum: we have instant river level information with
graphs showing whether it is falling or rising and localised, hourly weather forecast information.
When conditions are predicted to be good there are anglers about and very few when conditions are
less favourable. As I drank my last mouthful of coffee I recalled that on 15th May 1985 I had the last
of 3 Grayling I have caught at Buckden. It was a nice fish, 15” long. I do remember seeing Grayling in
the river probably up to until 1987, but none after that.
This year saw unprecedented high temperatures coupled with extended periods of very low water.
After reading the published information on the effect of such conditions on fish welfare I began
monitoring air and water temperatures throughout the season. The air temperature peaked at 35°C
on Tuesday 19th July at Buckden, with the river level at 0.13m. Unfortunately, I wasn’t around to
record the river temperature on the days of that first heatwave. The second heatwave occurred
around Saturday 13th August with the air temperature peaking at 30°C. That day the river
temperature was 21°C. However, during the summer the average river temperature from my
measurements was 17°C.
The river level gauge at Kettlewell appears to be reading 0.13m as its lowest measurement. Up to
few years ago the lowest it was recording was 0.16m. Local anglers believe that the river bed may
have changed near the gauge rather than the actually river level being lower.
After the heatwaves I presume most anglers, like me, were waiting for some appreciable rain to lift
the river levels. The forecast for Saturday 20th August showed heavy rain in the Dales and rods
began to twitch. The river Ure rose to 1.8m during Saturday and then began to fall rapidly. The river
Wharfe was hardly touched and only rose a couple of cm. I went to the river Ure at Worton on the
Monday to be met with near perfect water at 0.21m on the gauge and with a hint of colour. At this
level all eddies, runs and pools are well defined with reasonable flows to work the fly. I was
expecting a few anglers to be out on the Ure but I only saw one, fishing the Aysgarth bottom section.
Unfortunately, only a few fish rose during the day so I resorted to wet fly.

 River Ure at Worton
The River Ure at Worton (0.21m).

September proved a tricky month for fishing. Fly hatches were not as good as previous years, with
very few olives about and the needle and willow fly did not put in a major appearance until the very
end and into October. So, we were basically left with the small black fly which also wasn’t that
abundant. Tiny gnat and small sedge dry fly patterns proved reliable. With the river continually
rising and falling it was hard to hit the rivers at their optimum but, I think, most anglers faired pretty

Wading boot
Bonding with hydrogen and oxygen.

I had a day out in early October for some autumn Grayling fishing and managed to catch a few at
Worton on the dry fly, but the rest of the month was spoiled by continuous rain and high river levels.
As I write this, 8th November, looking at the current water levels and the forecast I am hoping that
we may have some good water and weather towards the end of the week and weekend.

Peter Ramsden – Buckden