How to fish Raygill Lakes, North Yorkshire

Raygill Lakes in Lothersdale, North Yorkshire, is set in an old quarry and holds some truly enormous trout of spectacular quality.

How to fish Raygill Lakes, North Yorkshire
© Fly and Lure
How to fish Raygill Lakes, North Yorkshire
Picture copyright © Fly and Lure
How to fish Raygill Lakes, North Yorkshire
Estimated reading time 8 - 14 minutes

Where is Raygill Lakes?

Raygill Lakes is located in the village of Lothersdale in North Yorkshire, and is within easy reach of the towns of Skipton, Colne and Keighley.

It's in a fairly rural spot and most of the roads leading to it are single track lanes and passing places are limited, so you'll need to cross your fingers that you don't meet something coming the other way.

Raygill has four lakes - two coarse and two fly - but you're allowed to fly fish for coarse species if you want to, so it's one of the only places in the area where you can try fly fishing for carp.

It's a slightly odd feeling place - the landscape is more moody and rugged than pretty. It's not a manicured trout fishery - it's an old quarry that's slowly being taken over by nature - but fish and wildlife thrive here. The bird life in particular is quite incredible.

A massive mid-twenty pound rainbow from Raygill. Picture copyright © Raygill Lakes.

What's the quality of fish like here?

If you like good looking trout, Raygill's worth a try. A lot of the fish in here have grown-on in the lake from fingerling size so they're typically fin perfect with excellent finnage and colouration, and they fight ruddy hard for their size. 

Most fisheries stock sterile triploid trout, which are all female, but Raygill is the only place I've come across which stocks fertile fish. This means you've got a good chance of catching a cock fish, complete with kype and colourful breeding dress, as well as the usual hens.

Some of the large cock rainbows in here look prehistoric and the browns look like ferox trout! They really are quite spectacular looking fish - not that I've managed to catch a kyped specimen as of yet. 

This is just a little brownie, but there are some absolute monsters in here, complete with kypes.

While there are some fish resembling your average stockie, you've got a good chance of catching something really unusual. There are also lots of parr in here, which again isn't something you see every day, and they're often quite obliging, as are the perch. 

Recently, an angler caught a landlocked salmon from Raygill!

How much room is there for anglers?

Space can be a bit limited, but it's rarely that busy for it to be an issue. You can only fish down one side of Quarry Lake, so bank access is somewhat limited, and there's also a bit of a shortage of backcasting space, due to both the quarry walls and the trees and bushes which now grow upon them.

However, there's also a small spot for two anglers on the far end of Quarry Lake which can put you right over very deep water, as well as a boat you can hire. We've even seen the odd float tuber here, too.

During periods of prolonged heavy rain the water level in Quarry Lake can rise quite a lot, and there have been a few times recently when pretty much all bank fishing positions have been submerged. If in doubt, or if travelling a long way, I'd recommend giving them a call.

George tries for some of the rainbows and browns taking lake olives and buzzers off the top.

How deep is the water?

There's deep water straight off the bank in several places and it goes very deep indeed. If you want to get near the bottom you'll need a long countdown, a sinking line or a heavily weighted fly.

The deep water in Raygill and the plentiful supply of small fish means the fish in here grow big.

Towards the far end there is a shallower area but there are deep drop offs all around this, so don't be tempted to wade.

Where do the big fish hang out?

If there are few anglers around, I'd recommend that you try creeping quietly along the bank to see what's lurking in the margins.

There are often some huge browns, rainbows and pike cruising the water that's within a foot or two of the bank.

However, they're easily spooked and although they might not swim off if they spot you, they'll be less likely to take your fly, so keep well back and stay low.

Overall, it seems that the majority of the very big double figure brown and rainbows are caught in the deeper water at the far end of the lake, often from the boat. 

This monster brown was caught in the deeper water using Raygill's boat. Picture copyright © Raygill Lakes.

How big do the pike get at Raygill?

We've seen fish in high double figures on pretty much every trip. There are twenties and thirties in there - maybe even a forty, as a fish of 37lb was returned by an angler last year.

I've never seen anyone targeting them intentionally but have seen a few pictures of fly anglers who've had them snaffle their fly.

George hooked into a double figure pike - on a buzzer of all things - during a recent trip but it broke the line. The biggest I've managed is about eight pounds, but that was taken unintentionally on a white leech on a four weight rod!

One day I'll go back here with my pike fly rod and have a proper go at trying to get a few.

How easy is the fishing?

It won't be a fish a chuck. It's well stocked with fish, but it doesn't have a reputation for being especially easy (try the nearby Kilnsey Park Fly Fishery if that's what you're after).

There are some truly massive trout in Raygill, well up in the high double figures.

The fish however are well within casting range, even for beginners. The only thing that makes it challenging, apart from the sometimes uncooperative trout, is the limited room for backcasting.

What gear will I need?

Most of the time a five or six weight rod and a floating line will suffice. Dry fly action can be good in spring and summer. However, at times you'll really benefit from an intermediate or sinking line and a more powerful rod, especially if you want to try and get one of the bigger specimens.

What flies work well at Raygill?

Fly choice here is little different to any other stillwater trout fishery, however, there are stacks of small fish in here as the owner stocks with thousands of baby trout to act as food for the larger fish. There's also a very good head of coarse fish.

There are lots of small trout in Raygill which serve as food for the bigger ones.

During the summer months dries and buzzers can work very well. Nymphs, damsels and leeches are also effective at other times, and lures will work pretty much all year round. George also caught lots of coarse fish on egg flies. 

All those small fish mean that there's a plentiful food supply for predators so big flies like zonkers and minkies can work very well, especially weighted ones.

There are often very big splashes from large fish jumping out, which suggests they're often feeding near the surface, but you do also see some very big browns and rainbows cruising the margins a few feet down. 

I've always had a few fish and plenty of pulls by fishing big weighted flies, like zonkers, along the deep water at the side of the banks and beneath the trees. 

What facilities are there?

There's plenty of parking, a small shop with a little selection of fly fishing essentials and flies (plus lots of friendly advice and chat) as well as toilets and a cafe with cooked breakfasts, tea and coffee all on offer.

There are tons of perch in here to keep youngsters happy if they can't hook up to the trout.

How much does it cost to fish?

Prices at Raygill are very competitive for the area. They also have a charge by the hour system, so if the weather or fishing aren't going to plan you can shorten your trip and pay a lower fee.

A full day ticket for catch and release trout fishing is just £15 for more than six hours, which I think is very inexpensive based on the prices paid elsewhere. For less than six hours you pay just £2.50 per hour, or £1.50 per hour for juniors. You can take rainbow trout for £1.75 per pound.

Where do I get tickets?

There's no need to book - you can just turn up and fish. If the shop isn't  open there is no need to wait around until the owner comes back. Instead, you can just write your name on the board outside along with your start time and head off up to the lakes.

You pay at the end based on the number of hours you've fished, and whether you wish to take away any fish. As a result, it's quite handy if you want to pop over for a quick session or if you want to fish the evening rise during the summer.

Raygill Fisheries

North Yorkshire, England

Raygill Fisheries
Picture of Raygill Fisheries, North Yorkshire, England.

Set in an old quarry, Raygill Fisheries offers something different to the regular hole-in-the-ground stillwater trout fisheries. It's a somewhat gloomy, windswept place but there are some monster fish here and they're well within casting range for most people, novices and children included.

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