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Blissful Brompton and Barbel

Written By: Andy Nicholson
On Date: 17/12/2009

The year was 1963, at the tender young age of 11, I was already a well seasoned passionate angler, fishing since I could barely take my first steps, not only following in my Fathers footsteps, but those of my many forefathers.

Home was Leeds in Yorkshire and my angling playground, the Yorkshire Dales, especially Wharefdale, Roundhay Park and the many pits, streams and ponds in and around my home, along with several fishing adventures to Cumberland, for Salmon and Sea Trout.

I had and still have an un-quenchable thirst for new places and species to fish for, my enthusiasm, knew no bounds, continually reading and researching, often badgering my beleaguered Father into venturing off to some hidden secret lake or little know stretch of river.

My imagination was stirred, after reading an account in the local paper, of two young mischievous lads, who had been caught fishing a lake on Ministry of Defence land, near to Catterick, along with the tale of a monster Pike they had somehow captured, that they were intending to take home to their un-witting parents.

Where was this lake? How big where the Pike in there? Could we get permission to fish this? What other species in the Lake? The questions came thick and fast, my nagging to Dad was incessant. I knew my Father, for a while had been stationed during the war years at Caterick and surely he could gain permission to fish on this secret mysterious lake, home to Monster Pike.

On top of this the nearby river was the Swale, legendary for its mighty Barbel, huge Chub and many other species, and a river I was yet to conquer. After reading so much about the Swale, I had been desperate to fish this one too and what could be more of an ideal situation than to fish both on the same trip.

Dad, had to be said was un-characteristic; less enthusiastic to organise this adventure, I was later to find out why? However the persuasion of an 11-year-old fanatically mad angling boy is a powerful force to be reckoned with and Father managed, somehow to gain permission and set the date for our trip to Caterick.

Excited would be a gross under-statement as we set forth, crack of sparrows, up the A1 in my Dad’s ageing Hillman Husky estate car, full of tackle and a picnic for our days fishing. On arrival after the barriers lifted, greetings exchanged with some of Dad’s old comrades, we were guided to the Lake, very overgrown and obviously never fished.

The days fishing was amazing, many large Pike came to our rods, along with magnificent perch and Roach. Over lunch I explored a little and found, what was an army tipping area, full of gas mask cases, trench coats, steel helmets and the like. What a find! I would be the envy of my school pals coming home with such treasures, sadly Dad, put his foot down and they were left behind, why?? And why? was Dad so muted during our days fishing and denied permission to bring home the army artefacts?

Somehow the day slipped by and no time left to fish the Swale, mixed emotions for me that day, thrilled to have fished this secret lake, and catch so many fish, disappointed in not being allowed to take home my prizes and of course not to fish the Swale.

It was weeks later that my Granddad took me on one side and explained that Dad had experienced the most dreadful war, poisoned in the trenches lifted of the beaches at Dunkirk, only to be sunk at sea and just managed to get back to dear Ole Blighty, as one of the walking wounded. Those terrible memories for Dad, still fresh and painfully acute, hence his reluctance to Fish at Caterick and for me to bring home these dreadful reminders, of when the world was in turmoil and at war. Even at that tender age, I then understood.

The years rolled by, I had long since moved to Shropshire and after running a successful fishing tackle wholesale business, then went on to produce and present many angling TV shows and films, along with becoming an angling correspondent and travel writer, on all aspects piscatorial. Travelled the globe to far-flung angling locations, catching exotic and huge monster fish, but never got to fish the Swale.

46 years later after that poignant angling trip to Caterick, I received an e-mail via my Angling News web site, inviting me to stay and fish at the Brompton Lakes eco lodge complex, with its two lakes, positively brimming with fish and the river Swale bordering this peaceful angling oasis. How on earth could I resist this kind invite?, to fulfil a boy hood dream, for the first time fishing on the Swale. I simply could not.!

Again with the car packed to the gunnels with fishing tackle and food, along with the same boyish enthusiasm, I set forth, this time from Shropshire and a longer journey to Brompton lakes and Swaledale, near to the historic town of Richmond. As we by- passed Caterick, those boyhood memories flooded back, along with a tinge of sadness, my Father had tragically passed away in 1974, a sad result and casualty of that poisoning in the trenches. How I would have loved for my late Dad to have joined me on this adventure, back to our native Yorkshire.

The eagerly awaited Coarse angling season, had just began, the month glorious June, the weather a positive heat wave, sweltering in fact! Our welcome on arriving at Brompton Lakes made us feel like Royalty. Even though as a well-seasoned traveller, I had enjoyed the hospitality of many a five star location and angling venue. It took, sadly nowadays a great deal to really impress me; maybe I had become somewhat cynical in my advancing years!? But impressed I was!

I had visited Brompton Lakes web site, along with reading their fine brochure and comprehensive literature, but nothing could have prepared me for that first amazing sight of this visionary complex. It quite simply is an incredible unique oasis in the midst of the soft rolling countryside of North Yorkshire. Beautifully crafted Eco wood lodges, with Sedum grass roofs that blended and became part of this cleverly landscaped area and bordered two natural lakes. With of course the River Swale, gently meandering, on site, creating a natural private boundary. Exquisite, peaceful, stunning and awe-inspiring, were words that immediately came to mind.
The Lodges built to the highest eco standard, no expense spared, no luxury neglected, well equipped and appointed, with rotating log stoves and logs provided, even revolutionary under lake heating systems, for each abode. Nestling lakeside, each with its own private decked veranda and your very own fishing stage. Situated in a way that neighbouring lodges were un-intrusive, with views of the serene lake and river, quite simply to die for. Even to the non-fisherman, a paradise, oh and a tennis court! But for the discerning angler, this place heaven on Earth.

For the management and staff, nothing was too much trouble, a complimentary food hamper brimming with local goodies, was graciously given. Parasols erected to protect us from the searing sun and local angling experts shipped in to give me invaluable in-sight and knowledge on all fishing matters in the area. Even a guided tour of the hotspots and advice on tactics, bait and tackle, where the nearby tackle emporium was, and where all the visitor attractions and shops are. What more could I ask for?

The only problem I had! Was where to start, literally spoilt for choice and could I get away with immediately disappearing down the river, with rod in hand, leaving the ladies to unpack clothes and load the fridge with fine wines and food for our duration of stay!? As per normal a compromise was reached, I hurriedly up-packed the rods and cast what ever bait first came to hand. From the veranda I rested the rod against the balustrade, huge lumps of carp were cruising everywhere and enjoying basking in the mid-day sun.

No sooner had I turned round to do my bit of unpacking, the reel and line was screaming of into the distance, a few minutes later, rather than helping the ladies to unpack, they were netting a fine 15lb Mirror carp on my behalf. As you can imagine not amused, no more fishing till all my duties completed, but what a start.

With the un-packing done, fridge and food cabinets filled, time for some serious fishing, the river? Or Lake? My long term sparring angling pal Roy and his wife Ursula, had joined Karen and myself on this trip and with so many huge Carp cruising up and down the lake, we opted to fish from the veranda, possibly with the odd glass of wine to hand. Extremely civilised, then after dinner we would explore the bordering river.

It seems that any transgression you make, always catches up with you, my reluctance to un-pack and fragmented by landing a fish, caught up with me and the lady’s announced an impromptu shopping expedition. As they disappeared towards Richmond, “Oh Andy, be good if dinner will be ready by 6.30pm”? Sort of more than a hint, however as much as I like cooking, fishing always takes precedence.

Again compromise was the order of the day, all the ingredients for our suppers feast, I brought to the table on the veranda to prepare. While my rods rested along the balustrade. Roy settled below on the fishing stage and the fish came thick and fast for both of us, great teamwork. Roy netted my fish and I passed him down the cold beers and somehow managed to get the dinner in the oven, ready for the lady’s return. In the end, not so much of a compromise, more of an idyllic relaxing afternoon at Brompton, the weather sweltering and the setting glorious.

The variety and quality of the fish in the Lakes, would be difficult to surpass, the Carp grow big and readily take floating baits along with the traditional, modern boilies and new fangled concoctions. The Bream, Roach, Rudd, Tench and Perch are there in abundance too and can be taken on all the recognised methods.

With a scrumptious dinner consumed, Roy and I headed of across the ornate footbridges on to the river. Such a bonus to be able to walk and leave the car behind, our first sight of the upper Swale and such a pretty private beat, that Brompton control and exclusive to their guests. What a delight to fish, a combination of pools, glides, riffles and rapid water. Utterly enchanting, exploring and fishing this delightful stretch an immense joy.

That evening we fished till dark, deploying various angling tactics, such as the traditional fly, maggots and worm, we tempted many fish. Small barbel the first to fall to our bait, some fine Grayling and buttery brown trout, to our flies. As the light faded we caught some beautifully bronzed Chub to free lined worm, up to 4lb,s in weight. What great sport we had, a terrific introduction to fishing the Swale.

Prior to my visit and on the advise of Brompton Lakes, I contacted the Richmond and District Angling Society as they control many miles of fishing, North and South of Brompton Lakes and very kindly gave Roy and I permission to fish their wonderfully preserved and well kept fishery. Even if I would have had to pay for either a day or week ticket, it really is a nominal fee.

On my arrival at Brompton, one of the active Society committee members, a smashing enthusiastic chap Stephen Fisher “somewhat of an appropriate name” took me on a tour of all the available beats, parking and entry points and hot spots. Along with giving me invaluable angling advice on methods, baits and tactics.

Local advice is vital when fishing un-know territory, a trip to the local tackle shops for further hints and tips, always pays off. Just like the stretch on Brompton Lakes, Richmond and District Angling Society’s water is an anglers dream, be it for the coarse or game angler, with a specially preserved beat above Richmond for Trout fishing only. I am eternally grateful to Stephen and the society for all their help, advice and assistance, another like-minded angling pal made.

Somehow this blissful week just flew by, helped very much by the Mediterranean weather we enjoyed. A routine emerged during our stay, of Roy and I rising first light, fishing by the lodge, drinking copious cups of tea, then a leisurely breakfast on the balcony. The lady’s then disappeared of, on either a shopping or sight seeing trip, while Roy and I amused ourselves exploring one of the many stunning beats. Then meeting up for an evening meal on the veranda, somehow Roy and I, avoiding the washing up and slipping of till dark down to the river. Incredibly addictive, the beat by the lodges, so hard to stay away.

The last morning came to pass and breaking with our daily routine, with flasks and sandwiches made, on the advice of Stephen Fisher, we ventured forth to the most southerly beat of Richmond and District Angling Society’s water. Some 40 minutes drive, arriving riverside as the first rays of sun, filtered through the willow and alder strewn river. Our last chance to bag one of those legendary hard fighting big Swale barbel and the huge chub that lurked beneath the over hanging trees.

There are certain momentous occasions that you will always remember where you were and what you were doing. A bit like when Kennedy was shot, Elvis dying and when man landed on the moon. En-route the shock news came through the car radio, that Michael Jackson had tragically died. So lodged in my memory banks will be that last morning of chub and barbel fishing on the Swale, memorable not only hearing the sad news, but the fishing that was to follow.

Unlike the Swale around Brompton, this stretch was deeper and slower, more meandering and as the river was extremely low, making the bigger fish very shy when the sun shone upon the water. This a better option, combined with the early start.
Armed with meatballs, cheese, luncheon meat and smelly halibut pellets, we cautiously fished the beat. Our early mourning sortie paid off, resulting in a magnificent catch of classic Swale chub, not one under 5lb with some topping the scales at 6lb plus, these truly were specimens. We even caught them on traditional floating crust, such good sport.

The Barbel however harder to tempt, with our appetising selection of baits. An adventurous cast under a tangle of driftwood bore fruit. My rod bent double and a mighty Barbel well into the teens of pounds broke cover, thrashed in front of me, enough to get Roy scurrying up the bank with net in hand. Then headed up-stream with the power of a steam train, despite using a strong 10lb line and all my deft efforts, this massive fish, outwitted me and slipped the hook. The one that got away.!! But what a last mornings fishing.

Reflecting back on these wonderful few days at Brompton, my remit and feelings are always to be as objective and brutally honest on such a mission. To give a truthful overview on the accommodation, services, location and of course the fishing, as I possibly can and make recommendations where ever I feel appropriate and necessary.
Always I ask myself one question, “If I had to pay for such a holiday as this? Would I return” The answer is empathically “YES” For me it admirably met every criteria.

As an avid angler, this was Utopia an idyllic lakeside lodge, fishing from the balcony, on two lakes that are beautifully maintained and well stocked with wild fish and is specifically reserved for residents only. Meaning that it is not over fished or too many anglers, along with the added bonuses of a private stretch of the Swale on the doorstep. Plus many moor miles of prime game and coarse fishing within easy reach, at affordable prices, with very little angling pressure, a rarity nowadays.

If I was a none angler, wanting either quality time, on my own, with a partner, or with my family. Could I truthfully put my hand on heart and recommend these eco lodges as a holiday destination, that represented value for money, especially in this harsh economic climate, “YES”, Why you ask? For a young family with kids, this is a safe secure environment, with an important green message, but practical and user friendly.

The surrounding area has so much to offer, so many places to visit, North Yorkshire is absolutely stunning and, “Yes being a Yorkshire man I am biased” but don’t take my word for it!?. The coast is but a short drive away, so there is no shortage of activity’s to be immersed in. However would have been blissfully happy to have spent my time in and around the complex, but duty bound on your behalf to explore!,” my excuse anyway” I simply adored Brompton Lakes and all it stood for and offered you.

The mark of a great holiday is that you just don’t want to leave and as I wended my way home to Shropshire, this was my over ridding feeling. Already an ache to one-day return. Hopefully to meet up again with the monster Barbel, sit on the balcony, fishing and watching the swallows dip and dive and the bats play at dusk. To enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the upper Swale, and the privilege of fishing this fine spate river and Brompton Lakes, along with meeting up again with new found friends.

For me a personal and poignant return to Yorkshire, a lifetime dream fulfilled. Did I re-visit that secret Lake near Catterick?, “No” some things are best left to the past and “Yes” maybe a ghost or two laid to rest, any regrets?, “Yes” I would have loved to have been joined by my late Dad, he like me would have been in his element. For me Blissful sums up this incredible experience so well. You can take the Yorkshire man out of Yorkshire, but you can’t take the Yorkshire out of the man, especially an angling one. For you I hope an adventure in the waiting.

Fact File

(Brompton Lakes, Richmond, North Yorkshire)
Brompton Lakes is a development of luxury self-catering holiday lodges built on the shores of two former fishing lakes in the Yorkshire Dales. With exclusive lake and river fishing opportunities, the lodges offer angling enthusiasts a high standard of stylish yet comfortable accommodation.
What is Brompton Lakes?
Situated just two miles from the historic market town of Richmond on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Brompton Lakes consists of ten self-catering holiday lodges set in 26 acres of privately owned land.

Surrounded by woodland and open countryside, the lodges occupy a quiet location on the banks of the River Swale. While the site itself offers a high degree of peace and tranquility with private lake and river fishing, it also has easy access to many popular fishing venues.

In fact, it provides an ideal location for everyone; and for those wanting to combine angling with other activities (or are holidaying with family members with alternative interests!) there is plenty to do – from walking, cycling and horse riding to visiting castles, historic houses, gardens and other places of interest.

The fishing
The lodges are set on the shores of two former private fishing lakes (3 acres and 1.8 acres), which are well stocked with freshwater fish such as carp, bream, roach and tench. Some of the carp weigh up to 20lbs and there is a plentiful supply of small and medium sized fish. Specially constructed fishing platforms provide anglers with a unique coarse fishing experience from the front of their lodges, but these are sufficiently far apart to allow individual space and privacy.

The fast-flowing River Swale flanks the edge of the site, providing excellent opportunities for fly and game fishing – with good numbers of brown trout and grayling.
Nearby fishing sites
Should guests wish to vary their angling experiences while on holiday then Brompton Lakes is close to a number of popular fishing sites – most only a few miles drive away.

Jubilee Lakes Fly Fishery – Darlington

This was voted no. 6 in the ‘Top 50 fisheries in the country’ (Trout Fisherman magazine) It has two lakes (2.5 acres and 1.5 acres) which regularly yield trout over 20lb.

Ellerton Park – nr Bolton on Swale

This is a freshwater, spring fed, 60-acre lake, close to the Brompton Lakes site. The lake is well stocked with carp, bream, roach, perch and pike, and the park provides a range of water sports, including sailing, windsurfing, canoeing and diving.

Kiplin Hall – nr Bolton on Swale

Set in the grounds of a Jacobean Hall (dating back to the 1620s), Kiplin has a 30-acre lake, well stocked with rainbows, blues, golden and browns.

Tanfield Lodge – nr Ripon

An 11-acre lake – previously a gravel pit – well populated with rainbows and browns.

Crabtree Lake – Gilling West, nr Richmond

A 3-acre, purpose-dug trout lake in a quiet valley.

Stonebridge Trout Lakes – Little Fencote

Two purpose-built lakes with separate trout master status specimen lake stream and spring-fed, 7-acre specimen coarse lake.

Leighton Reservoir – Swinton Estate, nr Masham

110-acre reservoir in scenic surroundings

Bellflask – nr Ripon

10-acre gravel pit.

The Lodges at Brompton Lakes

Most lodge-style developments in the UK are little more than static caravans with various degrees of cladding. The lodges at Brompton Lakes couldn’t be further away from this concept.

Blending with the natural features of the site, the lodges are both distinctive and contemporary to look at – with their unique convex roof design – yet are as environmentally friendly as possible in their construction and functionality.

As well as having their own name, each lodge has its own look. This was achieved by acclaimed interior designer, Rosie Mennan, who has brought together a variety of colours, textures and patterns inspired by the natural world. The result is luxurious space that is also relaxed and comfortable.

The area outside the lodges is just as important as the lodges themselves and landscape designer Louise Bainbridge has been responsible for planting a large number of indigenous species of trees, shrubs and wild flowers. This has all been done with the natural environment in mind and creates year-round interest for visitors.

Environmentally friendly construction

Materials – the timber-framed lodges are constructed from European soft wood sourced from sustainable plantations.

Energy efficiency – the lodges have double-insulated walls and sedum green roofs. This not only helps them blend into their natural environment but also acts as a second insulate to retain heat in the winter while keeping the lodges pleasantly cool in the warmer months. Large glass windows and sliding doors also increase passive solar gain.

Natural springs – the site sits over a large natural aquifer, which provides spring water through a borehole under its own natural pressure.

Geo-thermal heating – the lakes themselves provide the main source for the site’s heating as part of an innovative geo-thermal heating system. This is one of the first systems to use geo-thermal heat pumps to provide both hot water and under floor heating on any UK holiday development. A nominal amount of electricity is required to operate the pump and this is sourced from a green supplier.

Living accommodation

There are two lodge styles available at Brompton Lakes.

Type A – this is the smaller of the two designs at 114m² but has a good sized kitchen with a generous open plan dining and living area. It also benefits from a utility room and three double bedrooms. The master bedroom has an en-suite shower room, with the other two rooms utilising the family bathroom which also has a shower.

Type B – this is slightly bigger at 125m² with an equally pleasant open plan living and dining area with three bedrooms. The master bedroom has an en-suite bath and separate shower whilst the family bathroom has a bath with shower above.

All lodges benefit from:

· Wooden floors
· Good-sized kitchen areas with bespoke units and composite stone work surfaces
· Flat-screen TV and audio systems
· State-of-the-art swivel log burning stoves

Richmond and the surrounding area

Brompton Lakes sits on the edge of Swaledale in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, close to the tiny, picturesque village of Easby with its 12th century abbey. Just a couple of miles further down the river, is Richmond, a bustling market town best known for its impressive Norman castle, cobbled streets and stunning Georgian architecture. It is also home to Britain’s most complete Georgian playhouse and has a thriving arts centre with cinema, together with an array of individual shops and a good choice of eating places.

The town is also the gateway to some of Britain’s most beautiful countryside, making Brompton Lakes an ideal base for walking, cycling and other outdoor pursuits. Within easy travelling distance are an abundance of ancient castles, stately homes, picturesque gardens, and numerous other venues for interesting days out. The historic towns of York and Harrogate are also within easy reach.
Further Information:
Jackie Mackenzie & Associates, Tel: 01748 826091
Brompton Lakes website:

Tackle Shop & Ticket Distributor of the Richmond and District Angling Society
Gilsan Sports.
5 Market Place
North Yorkshire
DL10 4HU
tel. 01748 822108
fax. 01748 822105

Or From the sectary of Richmond and District Angling Society
Mr P. Bennett, 1 Theakston Lane, St Martins, Richmond, DL10 4LL.
Tel 01748 824894

Ticket prices are £6 per day, £15 per week 0r £35 (£30 +£5 joining fee) per year.
This gives you 5 miles upstream and 5 miles downstream of Richmond town; this should cover all the fishing you would need to on the Swale in both directions.
Angling Fact File.
Brompton Lakes
Species: Crucian, Common, Leather and Mirror Carp, Perch, Roach Rudd, Bream and Tench.
Tackle suggestions:
12ft float rod, medium feeder and quiver rod, both 9ft; 12ft 2.5lb Carp rod and 10mt take apart Pole. Reels Bait runner fixed spool 3000 type, lines 4lb, 8lb and 10lb.
Accessories; A range of wagglers and stick floats, lake pole floats and self-cocking floats, med open-ended swim feeders, hooks to nylon barbless hooks, sizes 16s, 14s and 12s, Carp hooks broad bend, 8s, and 6s. Mixed Shot and bombs to 3/4oz. Size 8 swivels, beads and size 8 hair rigs, and P.V.A Bait Bags, 10ft micro knotless keep net, along with 32inch extendable handled landing net. Plus rod rests and bank sticks.

Bait Suggestions:
Crusty Bread, Dog biscuits floaters, Cheese, Luncheon Meat, corn, Tutty fruity Boilies, 8mm and 14mm halibut pellets, soft, mixed coloured maggots, small red worms, jokers, bread paste, white and brown fine crumb ground bait, plus Sennsas flavoured tench mix, vanilla essence flavouring.
Traditional float fishing with waggler and stick floats, feeder fishing, quiver tip with 3/4oz bomb, Pole fishing on the drop, Stalking with crust and floaters, Hair rigged Boilies, along with cheese and luncheon meat, ground baiting little and often.
Top Tip for all species, use a mixture of cheese and bread paste, and float fished.
Upper River Swale:
Barbel, Chub, Dace, Rainbow Trout, Grayling.
Tackle Suggestions:
11ft 1&1/4lb test curve specimen rod, 12ft float or trotting rod, 9ft 5/6 A.F.T.M Fly rod, Trout Fly reel, Centre pin trotting reel, bait runner 3000 type fixed spool reel, Fly line sink tip 5/6 A.F.T.M, floating 5/6 A.F.T.M, monofilament, 4lb 8lb, 10lb and 12lb.
Accessories: A range of stick and chubing floats, large single open-ended swim feeders, Loose barbless hooks size 10s, 12s, 14s, Barbel, Chub broad bend hooks, 8s, 6s, 4s, Mixed Shot and bombs to 1.5oz. Size 8 swivels, beads and size 8 hair rigs, 10ft micro knotless keep net, along with 32inch extendable handled landing net. Plus rod rests and bank sticks.
Bait Suggestions:
Crusty Bread, Dog biscuits floaters, Cheese, Luncheon Meat, corn, 8mm and 14mm halibut pellets, soft, mixed coloured maggots, small red worms, jokers, bread paste, white and brown fine crumb ground bait, plus Sennsas flavoured barbel mix, vanilla essence flavouring.
Flies Suggestion.
Weighted nymphs, caddis emergers, black knats, snipe and purple, grey dusters and green olives.
Traditional stick float fishing, trotting style, feeder fishing, quiver tip with 1& a 1/4oz bomb, Stalking with crust and floaters, ledgering along with cheese and luncheon meat, ground baiting little and often. Traditional dry fly and wet fly with sink tip, Top fly tip, caddis grub emergers, on rolled nymph technique.
Top coarse fishing tip, swim feeder fishing with barble ground bait mix, hook bait 14 mm halibut pellet tipped with corn.

A cautionary Note: The Swale is the quickest rising spate river in Uk and to be very careful when rain predicted, watch the weather forecast.

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