Leighton Reservoir

**Please note this ‘review’ is rather old, prices and allsorts of other stuff may have changed since this visit. Make sure you scroll to the bottom of the article to see user comments which are usually much more up to date**

When several fellow members of the elite Roundhay Fly Fishers club set about planning a visit to Leighton, myself and Stu immediately added our names to the list. Here was motivation to get out to another new venue and judging by what we’d read it was also a damn good place to fish. We could also be confident that although only a handful of guys from the club would be going, their cumulative total of hours angling experience ran into the 10s of millions and could be relied upon for ideas to draw upon in times of need. It is not my place to comment on the rumours that these hard, pipe-hittin’ anglers have their wader sizes tattooed under their arms, or that they can sometimes catch and return a fish so fast that no-one else even sees it. Ever.

Leighton reservoir is near Masham in Wensleydale. It’s a big old water -we’re talking about over 100 acres and up to 100ft deep in places. During our visit we only covered one long bank and part of the dam so there’s plenty to go at although the wind will often dictate where you can and can’t comfortably fish without getting a face full of dog-nobbler. Before you start fishing you buy your ticket from the fishing hut. If you were coming from Masham direction, after you come through Healey hang a left and stay on this road, it crosses a river and eventually runs along the Northern shore of Leighton Reservoir. You’ll see the car park with the fishing ‘office’ and facilities on your right. Make sure you have the correct change as you have to insert your money into an envelope and post it into a deposit box.

After posting our money we walked down to the reservoir and followed the path along the North shore towards the dam in order to join the rest of our club that had arrived considerably earlier in the day. Bearing in mind it was the first week in October the weather was glorious and looking around Leighton I felt a seriously good ‘vibe’ about this place. Hills clad with a mixture of coniferous and deciduous woodland, fields and moorland surround the reservoir and on our visit the water shone a vivid, deep blue in the autumn sunshine. We cantered along the path, excitedly recounting information we’d both gleaned from the web about Leighton’s big fish reputation and mulling over whether to take one fish or two…maybe more! Up at the dam, we chatted to our early rising colleagues who had been fishing for a couple of hours already and discovered some had landed four or five fish, fish up to 5lb. They had caught most of these off the Northern shore but when the wind changed direction the takes stopped and they’d moved round onto the dam where action had continued but in a more sporadic fashion.

Although the wind was coming from behind casting was tricky due to the high dam wall behind. Or should that be damn high wall? Anyway, I found myself tackling up in super-fast time so I could start fishing, and hopefully catch the tail end of the action that was still taking place around me. I could see one of our rods bent into a fish further along the dam and a couple of fish rose out in front of me, albeit just outside of my casting ability. I put up two rods, one with a medium sinker and a lure, and the other with a floating line and a nymph/buzzer team and began fishing in earnest with the latter. It soon became clear that casting any sort of distance straight out in front whilst on the dam is very difficult due to the proximity of that infernal wall, despite trying a form of ‘steeple’ cast so I resorted to casting at a slight diagonal. Not that it bloody mattered, I may as well have turned round and fished my flies on the damn wall seeing as I didn’t manage to get a single offer even though couple of the guys around me were still getting fish. I abandoned fishing for a while and wandered off to take some pictures, including a few of the old City of Leeds crest on the stonework! Presumably Leighton used to provide drinking water for Leeds?!

Leighton Reservoir

Having a break from fishing, and eating a sizeable chunk of my packed lunch left me with renewed confidence. My theory is that this can really make a difference when you’re not catching. You’re getting no action but you keep fishing hard, your retrieves become uniform and repetitive, your casting gets worse as you tire and presentation suffers thereby lessening your chances of catching anything, and the circle continues ad infinitum! Having a break and replenishing your energy is the way forward!

By now the wind had changed direction again so we began to filter off the dam and take up stations along the North shore, spread out in pockets of two or three. I was only a couple of hundred yards down from the damn and had waded out quite a long way before the water started to shelve off. My weapon of choice was a weighted longshank fritz creation (on a floating line) because, on the whole, this place has a reputation for fishing best to lures. After what seemed like an eternity I was startled out of my inevitable fishless torpor by a shap tug on the other end of my line, followed by a short but promising run. The fish shook his head, took off, came back, swirled at the surface but I knew he wasn’t coming off. Unsurprisingly, he then proceeded to ping off. In retrospect, what I said about his parents was harsh but I was angry.

Leighton Reservoir

No more action was had in this area so myself and Stu trudged back along the North shore and fished what could variously be described as an arm or a long bay, where several other anglers were lined up. Gotta be a hotspot! Once again I was struck by how attractive Leighton is, the scenery is most impressive and it was a crying shame that I kept getting distracted by motorbikes scrambling up hill/down dale within earshot of the reservoir. I saw a couple of fish caught further down the shore from me but myself and Stu caught nothing during the good hour we spent in this area. Even when two fish began actively feeding just on the inside edge of our casting limit, we couldn’t interest them with dries, wets or lures.

I was just about to add that it felt like I was chasing rainbows when I realised it was a horrendous pun of enormous magnitude! Finally, a passing angler who was packing up saw our miserable little faces and gave us the inside knowledge. The road that runs alongside the reservoir crosses the ‘arm’ we were fishing – the bay on the other side of this bridge was, he assured, the place to be. He’d been having a whale of a time down there! We followed his advice and spent our last 40 minutes thoroughly blanking in this decidedly odd part of the reservoir which had a slightly creepy atmosphere to it. At the end of this session we decided enough was enough and began packing up. A father and son duo turned up and chatted briefly with us before moving on to fish the same water we’d been on, and within a couple of minutes the younger of the two was landing a fish. Oh well.

Leighton is a big, wind swept place. The scenery will not disappoint, but you need to deal with and adapt to the wind, as you would on any exposed water of this size and location (800ft above sea level). It really felt as if we’d turned up a few hours too late and spent the remainder of the day two steps behind the fish. I’m guessing changes in wind direction and shoal location account for that. We only fished part of the available bank, there’s so much more to go at that a return visit is needed. The fish I did see caught by others were good solid slabs of rainbow, I felt jealous, and the one I played certainly felt substantial. ‘Naturals’ don’t seem to be the order of the day here so make sure you have your lures with you.

Leighton Reservoir
North Yorkshire
Tel: 01765689024 or 01765689224
Postcode HG4 4JH

Bank fishing only
Barbless or de-barbed hooks must be used

58 thoughts on “Leighton Reservoir

  1. chris

    had some good days last season with a 10lber 8lber and numerous 5s. was TERRIBLE opening day this year,wont be back till next opening day

  2. stacey

    haha come on chris dont b like that . i dun ok u will no that coz a went wit u .i got a 8lb 6lb and a 3lb and a 2lb lost 2 as well !!! happy day

  3. chris

    stacey- lap it up eh. your first and only victory lol. how many blanked that day? tell every1 your secret????? the CHEESEY SHIT FLY:-). rubbed from his helmet to his arse! you know your a sicko. wot about at tanny the other evenin? my19 to your 2????????? even happier days

  4. sam

    i suffered a hate crime carried out by the baliffs and some of the anglers at leighton leading to me being wrongly accused of taking 1 more fish than my ticket allowed and i was banned for life i suffer from severe depression which makes it hard for me to communicate on bad days and have mobility problems too,i served 26 years in the army serving in numerous armed conflicts including northern ireland ,the falkl;ands and the gulf. I have never broken the law in my life the week before i was banned a farmer who regularly fisheds there “Walter” said to me ” you are fishing the opposite end of the resovoir to me and stealing all the fish before they can get to where i fish” how ridiculous i honestly thought he was joking he was the only other angler there the day i was banned and he persueded the baliff to ban me. i dont know this Walter character ive never met him but i can desribe him .I was given the option of taking swinton estate to court but knew even when i won case i still would be unable to fish there again so a mans whole life has been changed because of hate crime at leighton so i just wanted you all to know who you are dealing with.

    1. Darren

      Hi Sam, I’m ex-forces myself and looking for someone to fish with if your up for a days fishing. I have only been fishing for few weeks after being invited on a course run by Fishing for Heroes. Have fished Tanfield Lodge twice now and have done ok. Email us at darren@burr754.orangehome.co.uk

  5. chris

    sorry to hear it sam, thats out of order. i would suggest fishing tanfield, its the same area, half the price nearly and if your struggling with mobility it has a platform which would be ideal. have you ever fished there?

  6. paul allan

    fished leighton on 11th may for 1st time the weather was awfull dawsons seemed the lure 2 use couple of nice rainbows 3lb and a nice blue 2lb changed lure 2 a silver humongus 2 more of 3 lb and then hooked a brown must have been over 12 pound after a short scrap twang line snapped ! I hate leaving a hook in a fish ……i have been useing soft plus tippet material 6 lb copoly but will revert back 2 fulling mill 6lb flourocarbon but all in all not a bad days fishing

    1. Bob

      Thanks for the report Paul. I’ve fished Leighton twice and yeah, both times the fish were a good size, around the 3lb mark and in excellent condition. Shame you didn’t land the brown but it’ll just become your favourite ‘one that got away’ story!

  7. Daphne Porter

    it was interesting to read your report as I was one of the bailiffs there in the nineties. You should give Thornton Steward a go, I was there with S.&T.Ass. a few weeks ago teaching 17 boys and girls how to flyfish, despite horrible weather they caught very well. Incidentally I am going to West Tanfield on the 9th June, I don’t tie my own flies any more, but it would be much appreciated if you could tie me half a dozen of those Tanfield Twats, I will send a cheque in advance. Hoping to hear from you. Regards Daff.

  8. Daphne Porter

    Reading Sams comments I really think we should have both sides of the story as it is not sounding like the place I worked at, we were all very nice, mind you we wouldn’t stand for taking over the limit even then. Regards, Daff

    1. sam

      Hi Daphne,
      thanks for your interest daphne its a kinda long story im afraid i will try to give you shorterned but accurate version here,
      I had been fishing leighton for a few years maybe four and had a season ticket ,then they stopped season tickets and started day tickets and block booking say a week or ten trips at a time. Anyway not many people took up block booking it became a day ticket only water.
      I was fishing one day early in season and i was only one there apart from another angler who i later found out was called Walter . He complained to me that aparantly i was spoiling his fishing by catching all the fish in the reservoir (how strange).anyway i fished there again a week later i got my first fish right away on a cats wisker and put it in my bag to give to a freind who had asked me to bring him one home. i then fished on and got 4 more releasing them all from the net . as i was catching them i could hear mumbles and groans across from the point near the gate opposite the fishing hut,i could see someone fishing there he didnt look happy atall. Then later in the day i saw Dan one of the baliffs talking to this person they were clearly discussing me and didnt apear too freindly. i shouted across to ask if there was some problem but they choose not to answer,i recognised the angler to be the chap that had aproached me the week before.
      Anyway i carried on fishing feeling very unwelcome and contemplating leaving . i then hoked into a nice fish a double ,i was feeling tired and knew because of mobility problems id have trouble landing it safely.
      I shouted to Dan that i had a big fish and would he come help. his response was “Oh have you now ” and he shot off to his truck with the watertank on back and spun his wheels to come over to where i was fishing.
      I thought thats good of him to promptly come to my aid. But when he arrived all hot and bothered and looking very angry. He said in a very unleasant manner .”How many F….fish do you have?” i said one in my bag and this one im about to land. he said “What ticket do you have?” i said i have an evening ticket so im allowed only two fish. He then grabbed my bag and emptied it on the ground spilling my sandwiches fly boxes line etc and one tesco bag with one fish in it. I said i hope that you are going to apologise for treating me in such a way and he said something i wont repeat but it was very rude and threatening. Just then this other Angler “Walter im led to believe” shouted over “what about the two fish he has on the bank?”
      then dan shot off and came back with two fresh fish he then said “i believe these are yours so im banning you.I can assure everyone i knew nothing about any fish left on the bank they had nothing to do with me.i hadnt moved all day from the point where i was.
      thats bascically what happened that day but dan is saying otherwise he says he saw me take the extra fish and there was no Walter or anyone else there that day. Im sure they keep records of who fishes there and i bet somewhere there is a record of this Walter who i believe was the only person to take up the block booking oppertunity that year. Im terribly upset i cant fish there i loved that place it is local for me and it was easy for me to get to .i do have terrible communication and social problems associated with my depression and am sometimes missunderstood.So maybe dan and some others have taken it upon themselves to get rid of me well i just hope “Walter” whoever you are ? i hope that your fishing has imroved or if not i hope you are not blaming some other poor sod.
      my email is samtheham98@aol.com be happy to hear from anyone who may be able to offer ny guidance or help.

  9. chris

    well bob, was back today with a score to settle! got there at 6.30am, in baking sun to be eaten alive by mozzys for the first hour.not a good start! started at the water inlet and after a fruitless hour or so moved further up towards carpark and got 1 on dawsons olive. by now wind was getin up so went down the valley as only been fly fishin for 2 years, and bad wind PISSES ME OFF! 2 more from there. next was the point, where i hooked a fish in the adipose fin that ran me line and double that in backing. me mates were sayin big fish but i knew it didnt feel it,8lber on buzzer faught better than 10lber .missed a few more then back to carpark area where i finished with 1 more. speakin to bailiff he said water from inlet was puttin fish off so that explains why they wern,t in the inlet and dam area which is normaly the best. must of lost at least 6 as mostly use barbless.{always for c and r. all were decent and 3lb ish.

  10. chris

    back yesterday afternoon, 4 of us went for 2.30, quite bright with little wind, the fish are well off the lures now. i took 4 fish on a size 16 bibio, neil had 7 or 8 to a cormorant and got snapped and lost it, sickerner! phili had 3 and stacey aka cheesy shit fly had 3. had to leave 9ish coz midge are like piranhas when no wind! fish were movin but no interest to numerous drys, tried hawthorn, daddys heather fly etc with no interest.

  11. chris

    Beat my pb last night:-D. 12lb 4. White zonker. Had a blue 2lb and a r,bow 3 and half. Only there from 1.30 til 8. Lost loads, water level is brimming.

  12. chris

    me and a mate have a day off, so leighton it is.be just fishing the evening ticket. i,l let u know how i get on.

  13. chris

    well got there at 3.50 to be greeted by 4 anglers leaving,3 said it,d be cheaper to go to the pub! they,d been there since 6am and not had a pull between them(in the water) 😀
    the other guy we had a bit of crack with while setting up and he,d had 1 in the same time. anyway got down to the water 2nd cast landed a fish(people growling at me haha) moved along then another about ten mins later. went quiet so moved round to the bridge parapet and took another from there. finished the night fishing dries and got another 3 on daddys and hoppers. first 3 were to cormorants. neil had 5 on hothead diawl bach and sedge. enjoyable fishing and had a mozzy net HAHAFUCKINGHA mozzys

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  15. chris

    opening day friday 8th march. top rod stacey with 14.neil 13.scott 11 then i had 10 biggest being 9.8lb and lost one 12lb-14 near the net. never touched a fish til 11o clock me and left at 3ish. good day i enjoyed.it. better than last year haha

    who goes on fff????

    1. Bob

      Sounds like a good start to the season at Leighton, I’d defo go back there, he always puts good fish in.

      What do you mean by FFF….the fish and fly forum?

  16. Daphne Porter

    In Friday’s Darlingto & Stockton Times it was reported that Leighton and the fish farm have been taken over by the owners of Bessy Beck……

  17. cbris

    Hi all I haven’t been fishing at leighton reservoir for a couple of years I was very sad to here about sam
    I hope with new owners you can come back to leaghton it’s a special place I’d like to see you back you seem to have a lot of knowledge it would be great to swap flys

  18. Chris

    Hi all
    I haven’t fished leaghton resivour for a couple of years and im looking forward coming back
    I was sad to read about sam
    I really hope with new owner sam can come back I think jealously was the rule of the day so please im ex army let sam fly fish we all could learn a lot from sam

  19. Sam

    Chris can you get in touch please i havnt managed to get out fly fishing since ban it destroyed the little confidence i had due to my depression. I cannot go by myself in fact i hardly ever go anywhere alone.
    I still tie my own flys although havnt been in the mood to of late. I thought about getti g a carer to come fish with me but they would have to buy a ticket just to accompany me . Email me please chris maybe we could arrange a day at leighton see what new leaseholders say. Yes i agree was some strange stuff going on when i was banned i did prove that fish farm was not stocking when dan was doing stocking so maybe i made a rod for myself int hindsight a wonderfull thing.

  20. Chris

    Well me and my mate paul was fishing leaghton today it was fipping hard and we
    counted 16 peoples fishing we spoke to most people only a couple court fish
    ld like to belive the resivour gets stock every month a couple of peolle said it doesn’t £25 and not a touch that’s bad

  21. rob

    Hi everyone just a quick comment about Leighton.been fishing there for about three years now was brilliant.went this weekend with a couple of mates.water very low.and two out of three blanked.normally you would see a good few fish rising all over the reservoir.
    Not many to see now sinse taken over by Bessie beck.personel opinion I don’t think it has been stocked for awihile have never seen it so dead

  22. chris

    Hi all
    well I don’t now what happend yesterday
    it was crazy
    I had the most amazing day fishing
    I court 9 and lost one
    kept 3
    Put 6 back
    my biggest was 1x 10lb 2oz
    1x 8lb
    1x 7lb 4oz
    owe a 7lb brownie which went back
    What a day
    Dawsons olive/white or red cat whisker

  23. Sam

    Well done chris i spoke with the new leaseholders and they said its ok for me to fish there so went last week didnt manage to get any out i went with a freind . He had a fish on second cast off dam wall on a black fritz off the surface but it jumped off the hook. The water is very dark from peat coming into reservoir from inlet.i put on an orange fritz and had two takes but both jumped ship .i then tryed a washing line with a bite indicator on point and a couple of yellow buzzers .got quite a few nibbles but no takers .i was so glad to get back there i spoke with one chap who was adament there was no fish in the place .id say the stocks are probably low but im sure the main reason was the lack of visability and lack of airborn flys that were keeping fish from being active

  24. Chris

    Hi all
    fished leighton on Sunday it was a challenge
    very windy with snow showers plus it was flipping cold
    got a pb of 15lb.2oz rainbow
    9lb 6oz
    lost 3 fish
    it was hard I loved every minute of it


    Fished leighton on sataday it was opening day and what a day i had bagged up straight away with my best fish being a 9lb 11oz rainbow all caught on a pink bloodworm

  26. Waine Ferguson

    I am happy to say that I will go down in Leightons flyfishing history,and a record that will never be broken EVER,considering on the morning of the Theakstons Trophy day,when the draw was presented,I was drawn on the point,I had a white Mylar zonker on,and confidence was high as I had 32 fish the week before on the same pattern,its a 5minute walk from the lodge to the point,as the horn blew to start,I cast the first cast,a 3lb brown,which is not allowed,second cast,rrainbow,after that I was like a man possessed(as our Connor said)catching the remaining 5,one every cast,taking me 5 minutes to walk back to lodge,that was 6 fish in 37 minutes total,the fastest in competition flyfishing history,I’m really proud of that!!

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  29. james peel

    hi myself dad and a friend are looking to come fishing at the reservoir I believe we need to buy tickets online but is there a refund policy incase of a reason we can’t attend

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