Cow Green

I had originally scheduled this weekend for a mission to Wester Ross which in retrospect was a ludicrously optimistic notion with a 4 month old baby at home and important deadlines at work to keep on top of. So, I faced that inevitable expectation spiral from Gairloch, down through Glencoe, to Moffat and finally crashing to earth in the environs of the North Pennines. However, although I’d scaled back the scope of my mission I reckon I’d picked the best option available as Cow Green is a lovely place and still allows you get to feel like you are getting out in the wilds a bit.

It’s hardly local either, being over 2 hours from Leeds plus pit-stop to buy my ticket online at FishPal which I’d forgotten to do before setting off. It’s years since my previous visit to Cow Green and I’d forgotten the route takes you past allsorts of interesting places (I sound ancient…can literally see my waistband moving up my torso, driving gloves for Christmas and a National Trust membership) such as the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle and Middleton in Teesdale and as you get nearer the reservoir the countryside gets ever more impressive.


On arrival, I knew I was up against it with spanking hot weather and cloudless blue skies but the stiff breeze could work in my favour. I tackled up and headed over to speak to a couple of anglers, the first guy I spoke to said it had fished okay very early on but then went dead when the wind picked up and nothing had happened for hours. Riight, I think they just sunk the good ship optimism. Not what I was expecting, on a wild Scottish loch a stiff breeze brings results but then this isn’t a wild Scottich loch is it Bob? Already, I was re-calibrating to “Ah it’ll come on late in the evening, it’s just good to be out”. I headed out along the Northern shore in a Westerly direction and plotted up in the first big bay you come to and started working my Peach Muddler (point) and Zulu (dropper).

I saw one rise then nothing else and after about 40 minutes kicked back with my Piri Piri sandwich and a hit of tea. The wind did drop a bit but didn’t seem to bring any rise on so I moved on to the next bay where I finally connected with a trout but just as I was thinking about reaching for the net it pinged off. I had no more offers so carried on exploring, and it really did feel like exploring the further I got away from the little car park (which itself is pretty remote!). I fished another bay and lost another fish. Grrr. My interest in fishing waned somewhat, especially when I started finding lots of fossils on the exposed shoreline. Oooh fossils! Anyone who saw the angler running around hurling rocks at the ground must have thought he was having a complete meltdown.

I was now in full Dora Explorer mode and decided to work my way along to where the River Tees comes in because I had a vague recollection Stu had fished this river and had said it was stuffed with fish. The views now were absolutely bang on and I was keeping a careful eye out for future camping spots for an overnighter although I still don’t know how safe it would be to leave my car up there overnight?

When I got to the bay where the river flowed in I was a bit crestfallen to discover how low it was and realised it was not the panacea I was hoping for! The bay itself didn’t yield any offers either so I just went a bit mad taking photos even though my camera was playing up – it kept acting as if I’d pressed the DoF preview, resulting in a really dark view through the viewfinder and was unable to focus or take a picture. I didn’t really check to see if the aperture blades were closing down, fuck knows anyway, hopefully it won’t happen again.

I also remembered to fish the wind lanes, always worth a try as it’s an obvious place for a feeding fish to work it’s way up hoovering up food.

With an eye on the clock, impending darkness and building guilt about being away from home too long I began working my way back around to the car, still fishing of course. I also had a hunch that the bays I fished earlier might come on now the sun was going down. Well, they sort of did in that a couple of fish rose a couple of times, and I had a few lacklustre swirls and tugs at my flies but that was about it. The Golden Hour kept on painting Cow Green in its best colours though so I wasn’t too down-hearted. Not even when I got back to my car and couldn’t separate 2 sections of my rod!

Last pic in your blog post a sunset yeah? Lazy, just lazy…show some originality man.

So really, the TLDR is I went to Cow Green and didn’t catch any fish but hopefully you’ll see beyond that. You must do, otherwise you wouldn’t read my blog :-D. My photos don’t quite capture the bleak charms of this place, or rather charming bleakness, rugged beauty, whatever. I see scope for a big day out, fishing more or maybe all the way round on a long summer day with a potential wild camp chucked in for good measure.

As a postscript, when I got home I felt pretty clever that I knew how to get my rod sections freed by wrapping some frozen peas (doesn’t have to be peas….) around the joint. This I did, and after a minute I pulled and pulled with all my might, with such force that when they came apart I punched myself in the solar plexus and had to sit down for 5 minutes.

One thought on “Cow Green

  1. Jeremy hedley

    We went to cow green early morning and walked around the whole reservoir catching 2 or three… as we were heading back to our car at about 4 pm a local angler said .. don’t go ! This is the time they come on. We went back down to the waters edge and it was amazing sport… caught about twenty with sparse viva spiders and zulus… amazing! Never going to forget it and aiming to go back someday

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