Pandemic piscatus – or first day fishing during lockdown

This last Wednesday, the UK government gave us a little ray of sunshine by decreeing fishing is an acceptable form of lockdown exercise. An extremely welcome piece of news, in an otherwise pretty grim 2 months.

Fly Fishing on the Derwent
There’s no finer place to be – fishing on the Derwent

Whilst work stopped me from getting out on Wednesday and Thursday, Friday was a different matter, by late afternoon the car was packed and I was on my way. This was effectively my season opening trip. So with that, and getting out the house for the first time in weeks, my excitement was barely containable.

Someone on the Facebook group for my local river made the sensible suggestion for those who have a bit of mobility left in us, to aim for the slightly less accessible stretches of the river. This would allow those less mobile to have more chance of clear water in the easier to get to parts. We are still in lockdown after all, and the government have stipulated we need to fish no closer than 15m from the next angler. Having said all of this, with 15 miles of river to fish, in all the years I’ve been a member I’ve only seen a handful of other anglers when I’m out. So it might be being overcautious, but it did give me an excuse to start my season in a different location!

Derwent Gorge & Muggleswick Woods

Apart from sounding like it should be in Harry Potter, Muggleswick Woods and the Derwent Gorge is the ideal place to take yourself for some self isolation fishing. I’d go as far as to say, it’s perfect. It’s also the largest native broadleaf woodland in England, apparently.

How to get to Muggleswick Woods to fish
Getting to Muggleswick Woods from Castleside

To get there, head along the A692 into Castleside. At the cross roads, go straight over onto Healeyfield Lane. Carry on through Castleside, where the road bares right keep going. You’ll shortly come to a right turn. It’s a bit tight and not that easy to spot as the road your turning into goes downhill so you don’t see too much of it. Keep following this road. You’ll see a sign warning cyclists about how steep it is, don’t think that doesn’t include you in the car – it does! The road is very steep with a few sharp turns in there too. Follow the road to the bottom of the hill, then head up the other side. Eventually you’ll come to a parking area on the right (room for 2 cars) and a large metal farm gate and wooden pedestrian gate tied together with blue twine. Park here.

It’s all down hill from here

Once you’ve got yourself sorted, head through the gates (remembering to put the twine back across them both) and follow the path down, and down, and down! All the time thinking how much harder it’s going to be heading home when you’re going treck back uphill to the car! You’ll eventually come to the bottom where there’s a narrow concrete bridge with metal rails. Head over this, but not before stopping in middle to be amazed at the beautiful river and countryside you’re about to enjoy.

Concrete footbridge
The concrete footbridge

This looks nice, but how do I get to the river?

So you’ve made it this far and you’re all set to get fishing. But you’ve probably noticed the post and wire fence, topped off with barbed wire all along the edge of the river? When I first started coming to this stretch of the river that wasn’t there – it was a lot easier then. But, it’s not impossible – you just need to play the long game.

The long game first involves climbing over the fence. At the bottom of the bridge there is a section of fence made only of wood, so easy to climb over. Then walking along side the river but on the other side of the barbed wire, in the meadow. I don’t believe we’re braking any access laws doing this, but if anyone knows different, feel free to leave a comment. Keep going until you see a post and rail fenced off part for livestock to access the river. This is the first section where you’ll easily be able to get to the river.

It is possible from here to stay on the river side of the barbed wire fence and make your way down stream. However, I prefer to work upstream than down, so my preference is to continue through the meadow to the bottom left corner and climb over where the fence is all wood. From here you can either work back up towards the concrete bridge, or head off into the delights of the Derwent Gorge!

Once you’ve climbed over the wooden fence head clockwise around the trees and bushes in front of you. You’ll quickly find the river, and along with it a fantastic pool where the fast flowing section cuts into a much stiller (is that a word?) large pool. It’s shaped a bit like a dog leg. I had 6 decent wild brownies from the faster section here – it’s a joy to fish.

Fly fishing as an extreme sport?

As you head farther down stream, you’ll notice you soon run out of river bank on your side. At this point, if you want to carry on you’re going to have to cross over. My balance isn’t great, so I have a Simms retractable wading staff for times like these and I’m glad I have it. The river is not too deep, but the water moves pretty quickly and there’s a good mix of small and large boulders to navigate over/around, so please be careful. If you do choose to cross over, you’re rewarded a little downstream by a fantastic run with a huge natural stone wall along the opposite bank.

Once you’ve got to the end of this run you’ll notice you’re out of bank again, and crossing over is in order. This time it’s no where near as deep or fast flowing, but it is wider and still quite treacherous under foot with the slimy rocks and boulders.

From here on there’s even more fabulous water to fish. From slow deep pools to narrow and fast pocket water. You’ll be crossing the river again a few more times, but each time rewarded by amazing scenery, fantastic fishing and first class brownies!

As mentioned at the very start of this post, the going is a little tricky. You’re always looking to see what’s the best route through the trees and undergrowth. It’s not impossible, not even close, but you’re also not waking along manicured banks either.

So how did I do on my first (delayed) day of the fishing season?

If I’d caught nothing, it’d still have been a series of resounding successes. Just getting out the house being one, going for a drive being another, walking through wonderful scenery, wetting a line, and yes – catching some trout. I ended up catching 12 wild brownies, ranging from 5” to around 8”. I might have had more if I’d been interested in really going for it – but I wanted nothing more than to fish a dry fly and enjoy the scenery and peace and quiet. I’m sure fishing a nymph, duo or even Euro nymphing would have been more productive, but that’s for another day.

Wild Brown Trout
A pristine wild brownie heading back to the depths

Flies I used

If you’re curious, here’s what I used. These are all tied by me, as is evident by my less than ideal tying skills!

CDC Sedge

CDC Sedge
CDC Sedge


This is the actual one I used yesterday, hence it’s looking a bit beat up!

Jungler Fly

Stimulator type fly

Not too sure of the proper name for this one, or even where I got the tying recipe from.

Stimulator fly
Stimulator fly (maybe?)


Good old faithful!

Klinkhammer fly

First day back learnings

Finally, here’s a few things I learnt yesterday too, in no particular order they are:

  • My reading glasses seem to have gotten weaker during the closed season??
  • After not fishing for quite some time, I need some casting practice!
  • In the same vain, I missed more fish than I caught, my reactions are a bit off too – more practice needed
  • Walk with your rod facing backwards – several times I nearly ran it straight into a tree whilst not looking where I was going (as I was too busy looking at what my feet were doing!)
  • Fishing (or rather wading) was so much easier and safer with a wading staff
  • Getting out on the river, irrespective of actually fishing, was exactly the tonic I needed and am very much looking forward to my next trip!

2 Responses to “Pandemic piscatus – or first day fishing during lockdown”

  1. David Lomas

    I enjoyed reading that and the info on flies. My Grandson is coming up next week (if I can smuggle him into the territory) for a day booked at Dilston for Salmon. Whilst here he wants to go back to trying his hand at browns on a ‘proper’ river,so will get a couple day tickets for the river then try for New Mills/Langley dam. So is this stretch OK for a 24yr old Very fit & a 74yr old reasonably fit. Or is the top limit by Derwent Resv. a better beat in your opinion. My first full year so looking for any advice. Thank You.

    • North East Fly Fisherman

      Sorry David, I missed your comment until now, hope this isn’t too late…

      I’d say the stretch I visited isn’t entirely out of the question for a reasonably fit 74 year old, but it might be hard going and the potential for an accident is there. And with that in mind, the phone signal is patchy at best – so if either of you did get in a spot of bother it’s not too easy to get help. I enjoy the top part of the river, but haven’t been this year so can’t say if it’s better or not – it is pretty wild up there too though so I’d guess the same applies.

      Hope you have/had a great time!


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