Salmon stocking comes to fruition – after 60-year wait

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IT must be almost 60 years ago when a party of anglers from Leeds and Bradford used to travel to the upper reaches of the River Ure around Middleham with the object being to remove any coarse fish from the river.

Lord Bolton controlled all of the fishing rights at the time and it was at his request that the exercise was carried out as he wanted he and his friends only to fish for trout and any other species were deemed to be a nuisance.

A bus-load of us used to travel up there accompanied by a couple of fish tanks, which were provided by the Yorkshire Water Authority, and we got some huge catches of mainly roach and chub and any trout that were caught were then immediately returned to the water.

Individual catches of 20-30lbs were quite common and we regularly brought back catches of over 600lbs of fish.

And these were shared equally between the two clubs.

One week Leeds placed their share in either the Nidd or the Wharfe, the following week’s consignment went into the Bradford stretch of the River Aire.

No health and safety checks in those days!

Over a couple of years we made several of these trips and we never failed to catch.

It was only a couple of years later that the owner of that stretch of water, Lord Bolton, who also at the time happened to be the chairman of the water authority, presented a plan to introduce salmon into the River Ure.

This was passed and so several thousand infant fish (salmon parr) were introduced, coincidentally into the stretch of the Ure that was under his control.

Well, that plan seems to have born fruit as in recent years it has been a well-kept secret that many adult salmon have been sighted – and quite a few caught. It is a well-known fact that adult salmon always return to the place where they themselves were spawned in order to reproduce themselves so, in order to return to the Middleham area from the North Sea, where they have spent a greater part of their lives, they have a rather long and hazardous journey.

First they have to negotiate the Humber estuary and then up the River Ouse to reach their final destination.

On the way there are many distractions. Other rivers, such as the Aire, Derwent, Wharfe, Nidd and Swale, all eventually run into the Ouse, and some of the salmon simply take a wrong turn and finish up in one of these rivers. In fact, my one and only salmon in this country was taken while fishing on a contest at Helperby on the Swale some years ago.

The majority of the fish just carry on up the Ouse and past the Ure at Boroughbridge and Ripon until they finally reach their destination.

It is only a couple of months ago – in October – that a friend of mine saw literally hundreds of salmon jumping out of the water in attempting to negotiate the weir at Topcliffe to reach their spawning grounds.

And another pal, who regularly fishes Middleham for barbel, decided to have a go for the salmon and, after purchasing the special licence at a cost of £48, he landed two fish of 10 and 12 pounds.

Some 30 years ago, the forward-thinking trustees at Leeds snapped up a double band three-quarter-mile length of the Ure at Wensley, just upstream of Middleham.

And, to me, the Leeds club is now sitting on a potential goldmine as rents and prices in this area are sure to go through the roof.

That’s it for this year, back in 2015!