Where is Kilnsey Park Fly Fishery?
Kilnsey Park Fly Fishery is in the picturesque Wharfedale village of Kilnsey in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It's just a 20 minute drive from Skipton and is within easy reach of places like Bradford, Leeds and Harrogate.
You'd struggle to find a small trout fishery set in a more beautiful location than this, which probably explains why this fishery is so popular, drawing mainly novice and intermediate fly fishers from across the Dales and beyond.
How many lakes are there at Kilnsey?
Kilnsey has two small lakes. They're not very big at just one acre a piece, but they're very clean and well kept and contain crystal clear flowing water from a spring that flows down the hills from Kilnsey Crag. This stunning natural feature was painted by the artist Turner and sits just above the fishery.
The clear water and abundant insect life makes Kilnsey a brilliant place for stalking trout, especially during the spring, summer and autumn when the plentiful and high quality trout rise freely for flies.
What facilities are there?
There's a thriving cafe, farm shop, a nature trail and a small fish farm where you can see Kilnsey's brown, rainbow and blue trout being grown on. There's also a "fun fishing" pool for younger anglers to catch their first fish, and there's a fish cleaning unit to prepare your catch for the table. It's worth using this as they do a great job of filleting trout.
How difficult is the fishing at Kilnsey?
If conditions are tough on other waters due to the weather conditions, or time of the year, I tend to go to Kilnsey with George as the odds of catching there are much higher. It's well stocked and the fish are often fairly obliging, so it's a good place to come to get a bend in your rod.
It's easy enough for novices and juniors to fish, but provides just enough challenge to make it fun for intermediates and more experienced anglers too. It's a popular venue for local fly fishing instructors to bring their clients to, especially as it means they can stop for a nice cup of tea and something to eat mid-session.
What fish are stocked at Kilnsey?
The lakes at Kilnsey only contain trout, which are all grown-on on the site. There are very good quality rainbow, blue and brown trout present which are invariably in impeccable condition and often reach very large sizes.
The average trout here is about two pounds, but we generally catch one over five pounds on a typical trip and we've had fish out to low double figures before. They all look stunning and the rainbow trout strain stocked is especially spotty and colourful in the clear insect-rich waters.
What gear should I take to Kilnsey?
A standard five or six weight fly rod is ideal for Kilnsey, though a four weight rod can be great fun when the trout are rising to dries during the summer months.
As there are larger, stronger fish in here, don't be tempted to scale your leader down too much, otherwise you'll get snapped off. I'd recommend a minimum of six pound breaking strain fluorocarbon leader here, as the water is generally crystal clear and the fish large.
Go for at least a 10-12 foot leader (a little longer if you can cope with it) as the water is deep in places and very clear. Don't fish with too short a leader here and try to get the best presentation possible to avoid spooking fish.
What flies should I try?
Your best bet is to check in the shop. There's a chalkboard in there with details of the week's most productive flies which will hopefully give you some pointers on selecting the right ones.
The locals are also very friendly so will probably be happy to give you their advice too. Kilnsey Park Fly Fishery's website also gives details on recently productive fly patterns.
Buzzers work all year round at Kilnsey and dries can be excellent when the fish are rising freely, especially small patterns like Shipman's Buzzers, CDC F Flies and Griffith's Gnats.
However, Kilnsey tends to be fished mainly with lures as the trout often want to chase something. We've had good days here on everything from dancers, zonkers and leeches to cat's whiskers and Apps bloodworms.
To be honest, the trout here aren't especially fussy, so I'd advise working through the colours in your fly box and varying the depth and retrieve speed until you find what works on the day.
Is Kilnsey open all year round?
Yes. It's spring-fed so the water is always running through the lakes which keeps them at a very cold temperature, just the way trout like it. The trout still feed readily when the weather is very hot, and the lakes never freeze during the winter. So, providing you can get through the frozen Dales, you should be able to fish the lakes even when it's sub-zero.
Is it safe for children?
Yes, Kilnsey Park is one of the safest places for junior fly fishers to get into the sport. The margins are shallow and there are lots of platforms to fish from. The fish come in fairly close, so providing little ones are quiet and keep splashy casts to a minimum, they stand a decent chance of hooking up.
If you're fishing from the jetty with children (or on your own) do take extreme care. It's a good spot to fish from and can put you over big fish without the need to cast far, but there's up to six feet of water right off the edge and it can get slippery so be really careful, especially if you've got a child with you.
Does it get busy?
Yes, unfortunately for anglers Kilnsey can sometimes get a bit busy. It's lovely and quiet mid-week when you may have the place almost to yourself, but at weekends and during the school holidays expect to be sharing the lake with 10-15 other anglers.
Is there plenty of backcasting room?
Backcasting space is pretty good in most places. There are a few spots where the trees get in the way a bit, and you need to be extra careful when casting near the road as I've heard of people hooking passing cyclists before, but in general it's not too bad.
How do the two lakes differ?
The top lake is the one that gets the most fishing pressure. It has a cage in the middle with a small jetty attached and this sits over six feet of crystal clear water. There's relatively minimal weed growth in this lake, though algae can sometimes bloom and rise during the summer months.
The lower lake tends to be fished slightly less, partly because bank access is a bit more limited in places. However, it's just as good and it's a great spot for stalking trout and fishing dries, especially on summer afternoons.
Are there any hotspots?
It's very small and you can catch fish anywhere. However, the jetty seems to be a popular spot with the locals as it puts you over deep water. With a good set of polarising glasses you can even watch the fish take your fly six feet down - it's that clear.
On the upper lake, I tend to like fishing in the area between the car park and the fish cages. There are often many fish here feeding on the invertebrate life that gets washed in from the streams that flow into the lake. If buzzers are hatching, fishing a Shipman's Buzzer here can be great fun!
On the lower lake, I rather like the back side nearest the road. As fewer anglers go here due to restricted casting space, the fish often remain very close to the bank if you stay quiet and it's a great spot to fish natural patterns like nymphs and Corixa along the margins.
George has targeted some lovely browns here by picking out individual fish and crawling along the floor so he remains out of view.
Can the staff provide help for novices?
Not as far as I'm aware. However, there are a number of beginners' and improvers' courses held at Kilnsey throughout the year by local fly fishing instructors. That said, if you have a basic idea of what to do, Kilnsey is a very good place to go and improve your skills - and you should catch a fish too.
How much is fishing and where do I get tickets?
Fishing at Kilnsey Park Fly Fishery costs a little more than at some other trout fisheries in the Dales region, but it's a nice place to come and your chances of catching good quality fish will be high, so it's still good value.
An eight hour catch and release ticket is best at £19.50, while a three fish ticket costs £32.50. Junior fishing here costs £19.00 and covers children under 14, which can make it a pricey day out if you're fishing with a little one.
Opening times vary according to sunrise and sunset times, so check their website for further details. Tickets can be purchased from the shop upon arrival. If the shop isn't open, you're allowed to start fishing and they'll come and collect ticket money from you on the bank.
If you fancy putting your skills to the test against some lovely quality trout in stunning surroundings Kilnsey Park Fly Fishery is well worth a visit.