Those of us who are lucky enough to live in England’s largest county are spoilt for choice in terms of venues for a day’s fly-fishing. There are numerous small ‘put and take’ fisheries where one can turn up, get a fly in the water and know that there is a very good chance a trout will be within a few feet of it. If these are the only types of fishery you have visited then you may feel a little daunted upon arrival at one of Yorkshire Water’s sizeable and often windswept reservoirs. Worry not! Despite their size, each reservoir has its own ‘hotspots’ where fish are often located and a quick telephone call to the warden before your visit should leave you with some idea where to try first. Of course, you may also like to read on and perhaps glean some information from our review!
Washburn Valley fisheries are situated in the Yorkshire Dales, surrounded by the picturesque countryside that typifies the area and this alone makes them well worth a visit. Indeed, the reservoirs are popular not just with anglers but also
with birdwatchers, ramblers and picnickers. A day ticket allows you to fish Swinsty, Fewston and Thruscross reservoirs and their close proximity to each other means it’s viable to do all three in one day. Swinsty and Fewston are just over
150 acres each, Thruscross being a little smaller at 140, with no boats allowed on any , so try and keep tackle and
luggage down to a minimum if you plan on moving around.
Swinsty is the furthest down the valley of the three reservoirs and can sometimes be the best option on a gusty day, depending on wind direction. Early season the water levels are usually very high and finding bank-space can be difficult but you will always find somewhere to squeeze on – it shouldn’t take you too long to walk all the way round if needs be.
Recent bank clearance work has also improved access. Now, it’s all well and good recommending anglers to persevere
in the grim days of early spring with fine leaders and tiny dry flies on floating lines, and very clever you’ll feel if you manage to succeed with this method but if you want my advice I’d say use your intermediate or slow sink and something like a viva or a tadpole. There are some big rocks out there though so expect to leave with a few bent and blunted hooks!
Try the corners at each side of the dam and further along each bank, these are good hotspots as is Stack point, just down from the car park/picnic area. As the season progresses into early spring it can be worth trying some form of beetle pattern on a floating line, such as a black ethafoam beetle fished dry, or black and peacock fished wet, both on hooks
from around size 16 up to 12.
Buzzers can also come into their own through spring, primarily black or green and late may/early June sees occasional hatches of Mayfly (of the Dark Mackerel, Ephemera vulgate variety) which as the name suggests tend to be quite dark in colour. The latter never seem to hatch off in enough numbers to stimulate the trout into switching on to them but if they’re around, and the odd fish are moving, there’s no harm in trying a Mayfly pattern, wet or dry.
Heading into summer, lures and sinking lines will probably make a re-appearance on days dominated by blue sky and blazing sunshine, but excellent sport can also be had in the evening fishing on the top with dries or in the surface film with emergers. If the trout are feeding on sedges then you could do a lot worse than casting out a Ginked up Klinkhammer on a longish leader and giving it a the occasional twitch.
Hoppers can also do very well on here, often bringing up fish when nothing appears to be moving. Late summer/early autumn brings additional use for the Hopper or more specific patterns as daddy-long-legs find themselves stranded on the water, sitting ducks for the cruising rainbows. Around this time the trout are also beginning to switch onto fry feeding although I haven’t had much success targeting these fry-feeders the past few seasons compared to a few years ago when an Appetizer would practically guarantee a fish or two!
Basically, much of what is written above for Swinsty applies to Fewston as well – bank space can be limited early season and the level can be affected when water is let through the overflow into Swinsty for canoeists. Fewston has quite a good head of wild brown trout, especially at the top end where the river flows in. Although similar in size to Swinsty in terms of acres, Fewston will take you a lot longer to walk round so it may be better to try find parking near to the location you want to fish.
The rainbows in both Swinsty and Fewston average around 1lb _ although there are bigger fish present and a number of blues are also stocked. The latter certainly live up to their reputation as hard fighting fish and I would recommend you have a tippet of at least 5lb breaking strain. I have to say that over the years the quality of the rainbows has varied and sometimes they have been rather dark with stunted, ragged fins but generally they are in good condition.
Thruscross is the highest of the three reservoirs and has only recently been opened up to anglers. The reservoir contains only wild browns, and fish up to nearly 8lb have been caught, although you would be more likely to catch fish in the 1lb range or smaller. As mentioned earlier you can move between all 3 reservoirs on the one ticket but to fish Thruscross you will need to obtain a key for the car park.
These can be purchased from the warden at the Swinsty Moor ticket office for a few pounds. Currently only one relatively
short stretch of its bank is opened up to anglers but I guess we should be grateful it was opened up to us in the first place.
Like all wild brown trout fisheries Thruscross can be frustrating. I must confess to have only fished it a few times and on most occasions the fish have either remained hidden from view during my visit, or the water has come alive with feeding fish which refused point blank anything I’ve dropped in front of them. This may well be indicative of my lack of skill more
than anything else! I did have one good session up there though, and caught several nice little browns.
The information below is believed to be up to date but it is recommended you contact the fishery before planning your visit.
Tickets are available, by either cash or card payment, from the fishing office located at Swinsty Moor car park.
Discounts are available for children under the age of 16, pensioners and the disabled. Specialist disabled facilities
All hooks must be barbless/de-barbed.
25th March until the last Sunday in November Evening Fishing from 4.00pm, 1st May to 31st August inclusive
Reservoirs are open from 7.30 and close at the time displayed in the fishing office – usually dusk.
From the end of November until the end of March Fewston and Swinsty reservoirs are open weekends.
The venues are regularly used for competitions and are available for hire.
Near to A59, west of Harrogate.
Three reservoirs, ranging from 142 to 156 acres.
Rainbows between 1.5lb and 8lb, stocked every couple of weeks
1 December to 25 March
Weekend opening 8.00am to 4.00pm
- Summer season day ticket £20.00
- Concessionary summer season day ticket £17.00
- Evening Ticket £15.00
- Winter Day Ticket £17.00
- Season Ticket £380.00
- Concessionary Season Ticket £310.00
For more information on the fishery, details of on-site tuition, equipment sales and hire and competitions, please call the Swinsty Fishing Office on 01943 880658. The office is located at Swinsty Moor car park situated near the western end of Fewston reservoir dam.
Stone lodge, toilet, disabled access