Epic Kielder? Lets see shall we…

As I mentioned the other week, I was offered a fantastic opportunity to experience the fishing on offer at Kielder Reservoir recently, in return for my day out all I had to do was tell you lot about my experiences. I’m a little late in getting this post out due to a week away with the family (I managed a couple of evenings on the River Cover – more to follow later) but I’m back home now, so without further ado…


Kielder Triangle

The day started with an 2 hour 25 minute drive from my house on the edge of Gateshead, north to Kielder – or so my usually reliable sat nav told me. Considering I had to meet my fishing buddy Phil at 9:30 in the Kielder car park, and it was just before 8am when I set off, not a good start.

I didn’t really need the Sat Nav as I knew more or less where I was going, but the thought of being more than an hour late wasn’t a nice feeling. As I drove northward the arrival time changed for the good, but apparently I was still going to be late.

Around 20 or so miles out, it showed I had over an hours travelling to go. I was starting to think I’d entered the Kielder Triangle – perhaps there were the lost souls of fishermen still drifting around the countryside, never having made it to the reservoir due to malfunctioning Sat Navs?

Arriving at Leaplish

30 minutes later and the panic was over, I crested the hill near Elf Kirk View Point and saw the Reservoir stretching out before me – the water was glass calm and looked idyllic. I headed clockwise round the lake to arrive at Leaplish Waterside Park – the starting point for our epic Kielder adventure, 9 o’clock on the button.

Back to school

Phil arrived a few moments after me, we parked up and headed off to the admin office block to meet Peter Pattinson – the operations manager at Kielder.

Peter did a great job of talking us through the work that goes into keeping a 200,000 million litre reservoir going. As well as the expected Rainbow Trout stocked into Kielder, there is also a head of native Brown Trout, and a small number of Salmon parr (from the Kielder Salmon Centre) also some recently stocked Arctic Char. 10,000 juvenile Arctic Char were added to Kielder at the start of August, the hope is these fish will become ‘native’ and start breeding in the streams running into Kielder.

Peter and Phil discussing tactics

After the general overview Peter went on to tell us about his passion for fly fishing, and his keen and successful interest in competition fly fishing. Though we both fly fish – the world that Peter inhabits of competition fishing is a whole different one to our river fly fishing existence. Whilst talking we moved from the office out to our cars to tackle up. Peter brought along his box of tricks – a match anglers seat box full of different fly lines and fly boxes.

I use one line on the river, come rain, shine, snow, high water, low water, no water – it’s a floating WF 3#, that’s it. Peter had dozens, literally, from lead core depth charging type to floating and everything in between. We went on to talk about the sorts of flies that would work for us at Kielder. Again the gulf between River and Reservoir is huge – each use what they need to to be successful, but what a difference! I could feel my retinas burn as he opened the first fly box. If you’ve ever seen Pulp Fiction and the scene where Vincent opens the briefcase and is bathed in the glow of it’s contents – that’s what happened when Peter opened the box of his killer fly patterns! My one fly line and two Richard Wheatley Ripple Foam fly Boxes all of a sudden felt a very inadequate!

Quick, pass me my sun glasses!

I was a little surprised at the number of duplicate flies Peter had, one thing I was looking forward to was not having to worry about loosing umpteen flies in one outing. Sitting in a boat with all that water around you and no trees to catch would be a luxury!

Size isn’t important

17 foot Orkney Longliner fishing boats

After tackling up, talking tactics and getting our food, flasks, coats and other paraphernalia together, we headed off to meet the vessel we would be using for the day. There are 15 boats (17 foot Orkney Longliners) on Kielder, all well maintained and in very good order. They have 4 stroke Mercury engines strapped to the back of them, just like the Bass fishing boat I used when in Minneapolis the other week. However being the US and with their love for big things, especially big petrol powered things, the Bass boats Mercury engine was a huge 135 horse power. Kielders are a little more modest 5 horse power. That being said, it got us to where we needed to go as quickly as we needed to get there – and used a whole lot less fuel than the US equivalent!

Heading off for our adventure

Life jackets on and with instructions to try Whickhope first, we set off. Phil being a qualified sailing instructor, had spent quite a bit of time teaching sailing at Kielder in the past. His knowledge of the water, ability to pilot a boat and fact that I was sat at the pointy end furthest from the engine made him the obvious choice as driver.

Whickhope Pirates

Whickhope is the home of the Kielder sailing club, it’s around 30 minutes from Leaplish in the Orkney Longliner. The weather was glorious and the water quite calm, so the journey went very quickly. The only down side was the noise. When that 5HP bad boy was up to full revs and the Longliner was on plane(!) there was quite a din – talking was not an option.

As we cruised up to the end of the bay, we noticed off to the left a group of people in open canoes. They looked to be on an outward bounds activity or perhaps a team building day. They were quite a way off where we decided to start fishing.

Phil had brought a drogue with him – something I didn’t possess so was glad he had one we could use. Having said that, the wind was quite calm in this corner of Kielder – I think we could probably have gotten away without one if we had to. Just to be sure we chucked it over the side only to watch it sit their floating on the surface and doing no good whatsoever. After a few minutes of prodding with an oar we got it submerged and doing it’s thing.

My rod for the day, a Hardy Demon 9’6″ #6 hadn’t seen the outside of its rod tube for a good 12 months. It was great to give it a try again. I’d rigged it up with a tungsten headed neon green lure on the point, and a Bibio muddler on the top dropper. I had thought about adding a second dropper, but as I rarely fish with more than one fly I wanted to keep it relatively simple.

My very first cast resulted in a hook up! And my god, after catching 6″ (if I’m lucky) brownies from the River Derwent for a season, lifting into a 2lb Rainbow feels like you’ve caught a monster! Unfortunately after only a few moments of playing the fish it decided it’d had enough, shed the hook and did one. I’d tied the green lure thingy a few nights prior with the only stuff I’d got to make lures with – which included a bunch of size 10 barbless nymph hooks. I bet that Rainbow thought it was it’s lucky day when it found there was no barb on the hook!

During the fishing the Kayaking posse had gradually made their way round to where we were and slowly moved around the back of us into the far corner of the bay.

There were a number of fishing jumping around us, and after another drift I managed to hook another of the hard fighting stockies. This one wasn’t as lucky as the last, and after a brief but admirable fight he was in the boat and dispatched.

Tonights tea, still in the wrapper

We both carried on fishing for a good while longer. The weather had remained perfect, there were fish moving and we’d had a few more pulls. There really wasn’t any reason to move. The kayaking crew were making a fair bit of noise over our left shoulders, but it was all good natured – they sounded like they were having a great time.

Shortly after I caught and landed another Rainbow, slightly bigger than the last. This one we decided to return to Kielder, to live another day.

Kielder Pirates

It was getting on for midday and time for something to eat, we lashed the boat to a marker boy and got the sarnies out. It was just as we were getting ready to set our drift that we noticed the Canoeing posse were no longer in the corner, they were on the move and heading towards us. Not only were they on the move, they’d tied all the canoes together and were powering themselves using a big red sheet and green umbrella as sails. It looked like the Black Pearl (only red) was heading towards us, desperate to take our bounty of one Kielder stockie. Their progress was hampered by very little wind, and judging by the giggles and squeals coming from the people in the canoes, very little skill! We gave them a wave, which they graciously returned, and  headed off to explore other parts of the Reservoir.

We motored from Whickhope back past Leaplish and across to the bay to Plashetts Bay. It wasn’t a sheltered here – the drogue was certainly going to be needed now.

Old Skool rules!

Setting the drift up along the left bank we started to fish. As we did so it was clear our drogue usage was in need of a little fine tuning. The heavily tree lined coast was coming at us faster and closer than was comfortable. After my dreams of a full day fishing without loosing a fly were perilously close to disappearing around the branch of a reservoir side deciduous tree.

We managed to pry ourselves off the bank and set the drift up again. We spent the next 30 minutes or so honing our drift setting skills. We did so well that Phil had us threaded between marker buoys like a seasoned pro an hour later. It was at the end of one of these drifts that my attempt at old school resy fishing paid off.

I’d Swapped my top dropper for a Butcher about 15 minutes earlier. This vintage fly was tied by me about 18 years ago and had never been used. Rather than the very traditional silver, black and pink fly when I made this fella I’d used orange instead of pink, Peacock Swords for the wing, and some weird mylar type silver body thing. I had a heavily weighted black lure on the end and the ‘Butcher’ on the top dropper – 18 years after tying (remarkably well tied too, I might add) it did the business! Trout number 2 was hooked, landed and dispatched.

Shortly after this we started to head back – it was getting on for 5pm and we had to be back at half past as our catch was being cooked and served up for us in the restaurant.

Coming in hot!

We got back to the pontoons 20 minutes later, tied up and started to unload all our stuff. The stuff that started out all tidy and packed in bags and boxes, now strewn across the boat, about as tidy as my 13 year olds bedroom floor. We scooped it all together and dumped it onto the dockside. It was at this point we noticed another fishing boat coming in. It was coming in at full speed, but was a good way out. We finished gathering our gear and started heading towards the car park. Looking round the boat was nearly at the pontoon, but still coming in fast. He drew level with the end, still going fast. He went past the end, heading for the spaces half way down, still going fast. He hit the pontoon, hit a tied up boat and veered back out into clear water, still going very fast. The three other people on the boat looked a little wide eyed and panicked. To avoid any further issues, we suggested he slow right down and throw a line to us and we’d drag him in, thankfully that worked and no deep sea salvage was required.

Putting the boats to bed for the night

An excellent end to a truly Epic Kielder day

After getting the fishing gear safely stowed away in the car, wellies off and hat hair somewhat sorted out, we filled in the catch return and headed off to the Boat Inn. We were met by Margaret and Donna from the restaurant – they welcomed us in and took the days catch off into the kitchen. Shortly afterwards Kevin Mulraney the head Chef, came out and asked how we’d like the trout cooked. He suggested pan seared fillets, with pine nuts and a summer salad – put like that, how could we refuse!

Head chef Kevin preparing the trout

As we sat waiting for our dinner to arrive, we drank a very welcome and tasty pint of local ale – Wylam Puffing Billy and enjoyed the view out over the water across to Pithouse Crags, it really is a superbly situated restaurant. Shortly after Margaret arrived with our dinner. As you can see from the picture it looked amazing. And as amazing as it looked it tasted 10 times better – easily the best trout I’ve eaten.

It tasted as good as it looked, and it looked damn good

We drank, ate and discussed the events of the day, before slowly making our way back to the cars and heading off to our respective homes.

Table with a view

A truly memorable day indeed.

I’d like to say a big thanks from Phil and myself to all the people we met, especially Peter, Kevin, Margaret and Donna who made our day an epic Kielder adventure, and one I hope to be repeating as soon as possible.


If you’d like to see all the photo’s from our trip, take a look at the North East Fly Fisherman Tumblr page – they’re all up there for your viewing pleasure!


One Response to “Epic Kielder? Lets see shall we…”

  1. Matt Eastham

    Enjoyable account that. Nice to see the traditional flies worked for you. I find they can be very effective on the big north country ressies!



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