The River Swale is reputedly
the fastest flowing river in England, though I have not found it to be
any different to the other Yorkshire Dales rivers when fly fishing. It
is also said that it is one of the fastest rising rivers in England and
this I can believe having seen it rise at a frightening speed. The name
Swale comes from the Anglo-Saxon word Sualuae meaning rapid and liable
The River Swale rises in the far north west of the
Yorkshire Dales National Pak, above the hamlet of Keld. It is the
joining of Birkdale Beck and Great Sleddale Beck that forms the River
Swale on its course to join with the River Ure, and eventually the River
Ouse to the south east.
The Swale appears more rocky than the other rivers in the Yorkshire
Dales, which is usually a characteristic of brown trout habitat, but
there are grayling in the River Swale in substantial numbers. I would
say that it is currently the best grayling river in the Yorkshire Dales.
The better grayling fly fishing is from around the town of Richmond
downstream to the Catterick area. Good trout fly fishing can be had from
Catterick upstream to the headwaters. I prefer the fly fishing in and
around Richmond, where there is good access to the river.
I have fished the River Swale regularly from Richmond to Catterick
and I was once fortunate to catch a 4½lb barbel on a Czech Nymph.
Totally by accident I must admit; I actually thought that my flies were
snagged on the bottom for some time, before it awoke!
The River Swale is similar in size to the River Ure or River Wharfe in
this area and is suitable for most methods of fly fishing. I have had
most success when fishing dry flies and Czech Nymphs, depending on the
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