A sentimental fool, a book, and a trout stream

I am deeply fortunate to be able to able to identify the symphony and serendipity in ordinary things, or  perhaps I am fortunate in that overtly serendipitous things do in fact befall me more than others.  Either way, these things are not lost on me.  Far from it…I savour them.

So here’s one.  You tell me if this is a delightful chance, or if its just me being a sentimental fool:

So…I found myself in Stockbridge, in a fly shop, being served by a fellow South African. And the shop had a better collection of books than the one over the street. In fact I found myself with a pile of “must haves”  that would simply not fit in my luggage on the return trip, and I had the agonising choice of which ones to put back. One of those was a book called “The Healing Stream” by Laurence Catlow. It is a book I had not heard of before. 

The Healing Stream-1

I read a few pages, and decided it was on the “keeper” list, and by that night I was reading it. My decision was an unequivocally good one. The book is a delight and a treasure, with words that flow like pure prose.

A short way into the book, the writer starts to suck the reader into his love affair with one particular river. He rights lyrically.  I quote:

“….drive up  Garsdale to Hawes, where you turn left and head up through Gayle and over Cam Houses; then it is down to Oughtershaw and Beckermonds before following the beginnings of the river through Yockenthwaite, Hubberholme and Buckden, through Starbotton and Kettlewell and so, after the rough poetry of these northern names, down to the main beats of the Kilnsey Club.”

Those names washed over me as I put the book on the nightstand and fell asleep.

The next day, I found myself on a bus, travelling up a river valley in the Yorkshire Dales.  The purpose of that bus ride is the topic of another discussion, but suffice it to say that it was not directly fly fishing related.  The bus wound its way up a river valley in ever tightening bends, and over bridges that hardly seemed wide enough for a bus. As we progressed the valley became more and more lovely, until it started to literally take my breath away.  The rain spattered on the windows of the bus. That was an excuse not to take photos, but at some stage I took a decision not to attempt a photo, because the beauty was so stunning that I knew that a weak attempt to capture it all, would in this case, serve only to tarnish the memory of such a heavenly place.

As we made our way, I started to take note of names.  The village of Kilnsey.  Kettlewell. Starbotton. Buckden. Hubberholme. 

I am a bit slow, and putting something in reverse is sometimes quite adequate a move to fox me, but at this point I did awaken to the fact  that I was travelling the valley I had read about the night before.

Of all the valleys in that fair land, I was in the one I had read about the night before.  This freak event deepened my sense of appreciation for where I was. It awakened in me an awareness of how special this beautiful trout stream is to at very least ONE angler. An angler and writer, who I might add is brave enough to admit that his own sense of nostalgia and appreciation on the banks of this river regularly drive him to tears. He even comes a little unhinged.

Having seen his valley, I completely understand those tears.  The beauty of the Wharfe River valley in the Yorkshire Dales defies description and capture on celluloid.

It is other-worldly , and to visit it is an experience bordering on the religious, especially when you have by sheer chance read the paragraph describing it the night before.

Perhaps its just me?  My mates say I am a little unhinged myself.


To receive an e-mail each time a new story is posted

I don’t spam. I typically post a few times each month

8 Responses

  1. Hi Andrew
    I am so pleased that you discovered the upper Wharfe valley.
    I have fished that area annually for the last five years as well as the the Skirfare and Cowside Beck in the next valley, Littondale, perhaps the most beautiful of the Dales?
    The Ure, Swale, Cover, Aire, Nidd, Wenning, Doe, Twiss and Bain (England’s shortest River) are all within 40 minutes drive of Buckden. All lovely little streams.
    If one goes a little further north into Cumbria and County Durham the choice goes on and on. The Tees just below Cowgreen reservoir and Cauldron Snout being one of my favorites.
    I fish these rivers in about late May and again in September. Then back to SA for our season. Oh! Woe is me.
    Lawrence Catlow is a regular contributor to Trout and Salmon magazine and as you know one of his favorite streams is the Wharfe as well as the Eden in Cumbria. I too enjoyed his book. A very touching and personal account.
    Buy the way, how is Andrew Mayo there in Stockbridge. Did you get to fish the Test? I must say I much prefer the more rugged environment up north in Yorkshire.
    I don’t know how well you know the Dales but if you would like to talk about the area, not just the fishing, I know it quite well.
    Kind Regards
    Hugh Paterson

    1. Thank you so much for touching base Hugh. I did indeed buy the book from Andrew Mayo in Stockbridge, and I visited some beats of the test and fished the upper Test too. The Test is arguably a bit of a theme park, and an expensive one at that, but I was honoured to have the opportunity. The fishing was very tough indeed, perhaps part;u because of the river’s fame, and the concomitant rod pressure. The more wild Yorkshire Dales do indeed hold a lot of appeal, and I am mindful that the Kilnsey club is the second oldest in the UK, so it hardly lacks in lore and history.
      Sounds like I still have a lot of rivers to explore !
      Great to hear from you.

  2. Hello Andrew,
    Hugh Paterson has beaten me to it but I’m so pleased that you have made acquaintance with the lovely Yorkshire Dales, particularly Burnsall and Bolton Abbey in Wharfedale. You might remember the piece that I wrote for Tom Sutcliffe’s newsletter a few years ago when I managed to get back to England again for a family (and fishing) trip.
    I was expertly introduced to the Dales and grayling fishing by Stuart Minnikin, who runs the Yorkshire Dales Flyfishing website, when we lived and worked in London. As a troutie, I had my eyes opened to a completely new experience, which has subsequently captivated me.
    Like Hugh, I have become very familiar with the Dales – and fished the Wharfe, Nidd, Ribble, Ure and many others – also wandering across into the Lake District to the Eden and the Emont. I caught my PB grayling with Stuart on the Ribble.
    Sadly, grayling in the Dales are inexplicably in decline and Stuart has retired from guiding (but not fishing!). Some point to climate change, others to bird predation and over-stocking with trout which upsets the delicate natural balance. Hopefully there’ll be some return to form in the future. The Grayling Society works very hard to promote the species, which was once ruthlessly destroyed by riverkeepers as a pest.
    Your blog has brought back many happy memories. As you know, these days I content myself with fly fishing the salt in Queensland, and trout in Tasmania and New Zealand. However, the Dales is a very special, unique place and I will go back sometime to fish there, in the next year or so – that’s a given.
    Sorry that we’ll miss the NFFC Riparian Owner’s Lunch this year – hopefully we’ll make it in the near future. And good luck with the ongoing Blue Ribbon Umgeni and Bushman’s River initiatives!

    1. Hi Alex,
      Thank you so much for your note. Let’s hope that the considerable and integrated conservation efforts….the very thing that caused me to be in that neck of the woods, in some way serve to make life easier for the Grayling!
      Do let me know how you go on your next visit there.
      If you have fished the Ribble, you will surely enjoy the writing of James (AKA Boo) Gilbraith. He has written a delightful book titled “Terminal Chancer” which is a true gem, and he also writes for Fly Culture magazine….a high quality, quarterly flyfishing publication out of Devon that I can strongly recommend to you.
      I will pass on your good wishes to all at the upcoming NFFC lunch.
      Very best wishes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *