The Washburn Valley Reservoirs


**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**

Those of us who are lucky enough to live in England’s largest county are spoilt for choice in terms of venues for a day’s fly-fishing.  There are numerous small ‘put and take’ fisheries where one can turn up, get a fly in the water and know that there is a very good chance a trout will be within a few feet of it. If these are the only types of fishery you have visited then you may feel a little daunted upon arrival at one of Yorkshire Water’s sizeable and often windswept reservoirs. Worry not! Despite their size, each reservoir has its own ‘hotspots’ where fish are often located and a quick telephone call to the warden before your visit should leave you with some idea where to try first. Of course, you may also like to read on and perhaps glean some information from our review!

Washburn Valley fisheries are situated in the Yorkshire Dales, surrounded by the picturesque countryside that typifies the area and this alone makes them well worth a visit. Indeed, the reservoirs are popular not just with anglers but also
with birdwatchers, ramblers and picnickers. A day ticket allows you to fish Swinsty, Fewston and Thruscross reservoirs and their close proximity to each other means it’s viable to do all three in one day. Swinsty and Fewston are just over
150 acres each, Thruscross being a little smaller at 140, with no boats allowed on any , so try and keep tackle and
luggage down to a minimum if you plan on moving around.


Swinsty is the furthest down the valley of the three reservoirs and can sometimes be the best option on a gusty day, depending on wind direction. Early season the water levels are usually very high and finding bank-space can be difficult but you will always find somewhere to squeeze on – it shouldn’t take you too long to walk all the way round if needs be.

Recent bank clearance work has also improved access. Now, it’s all well and good recommending anglers to persevere
in the grim days of early spring with fine leaders and tiny dry flies on floating lines, and very clever you’ll feel if you manage to succeed with this method but if you want my advice I’d say use your intermediate or slow sink and something like a viva or a tadpole. There are some big rocks out there though so expect to leave with a few bent and blunted hooks!

Try the corners at each side of the dam and further along each bank, these are good hotspots as is Stack point, just down from the car park/picnic area. As the season progresses into early spring it can be worth trying some form of beetle pattern on a floating line, such as a black ethafoam beetle fished dry, or black and peacock fished wet, both on hooks
from around size 16 up to 12.

Buzzers can also come into their own through spring, primarily black or green and late may/early June sees occasional hatches of Mayfly (of the Dark Mackerel, Ephemera vulgate variety) which as the name suggests tend to be quite dark in colour. The latter never seem to hatch off in enough numbers to stimulate the trout into switching on to them but if they’re around, and the odd fish are moving, there’s no harm in trying a Mayfly pattern, wet or dry.

Heading into summer, lures and sinking lines will probably make a re-appearance on days dominated by blue sky and blazing sunshine, but excellent sport can also be had in the evening fishing on the top with dries or in the surface film with emergers. If the trout are feeding on sedges then you could do a lot worse than casting out a Ginked up Klinkhammer on a longish leader and giving it a the occasional twitch.

Hoppers can also do very well on here, often bringing up fish when nothing appears to be moving. Late summer/early autumn brings additional use for the Hopper or more specific patterns as daddy-long-legs find themselves stranded on the water, sitting ducks for the cruising rainbows. Around this time the trout are also beginning to switch onto fry feeding although I haven’t had much success targeting these fry-feeders the past few seasons compared to a few years ago when an Appetizer would practically guarantee a fish or two!

Basically, much of what is written above for Swinsty applies to Fewston as well – bank space can be limited early season and the level can be affected when water is let through the overflow into Swinsty for canoeists. Fewston has quite a good head of wild brown trout, especially at the top end where the river flows in. Although similar in size to Swinsty in terms of acres, Fewston will take you a lot longer to walk round so it may be better to try find parking near to the location you want to fish.

The rainbows in both Swinsty and Fewston average around 1lb _ although there are bigger fish present and a number of blues are also stocked. The latter certainly live up to their reputation as hard fighting fish and I would recommend you have a tippet of at least 5lb breaking strain. I have to say that over the years the quality of the rainbows has varied and sometimes they have been rather dark with stunted, ragged fins but generally they are in good condition.



Thruscross is the highest of the three reservoirs and has only recently been opened up to anglers. The reservoir contains only wild browns, and fish up to nearly 8lb have been caught, although you would be more likely to catch fish in the 1lb range or smaller. As mentioned earlier you can move between all 3 reservoirs on the one ticket but to fish Thruscross you will need to obtain a key for the car park.

These can be purchased from the warden at the Swinsty Moor ticket office for a few pounds. Currently only one relatively
short stretch of its bank is opened up to anglers but I guess we should be grateful it was opened up to us in the first place.

Like all wild brown trout fisheries Thruscross can be frustrating. I must confess to have only fished it a few times and on most occasions the fish have either remained hidden from view during my visit, or the water has come alive with feeding fish which refused point blank anything I’ve dropped in front of them. This may well be indicative of my lack of skill more
than anything else! I did have one good session up there though, and caught several nice little browns.


Useful Information

The information below is believed to be up to date but it is recommended you contact the fishery before planning your visit.

Tickets are available, by either cash or card payment, from the fishing office located at Swinsty Moor car park.

Discounts are available for children under the age of 16, pensioners and the disabled. Specialist disabled facilities
are available.

All hooks must be barbless/de-barbed.

Opening Times

Summer Season
25th March until the last Sunday in November Evening Fishing from 4.00pm, 1st May to 31st August inclusive

Reservoirs are open from 7.30 and close at the time displayed in the fishing office – usually dusk.

From the end of November until the end of March Fewston and Swinsty reservoirs are open weekends.

The venues are regularly used for competitions and are available for hire.

Near to A59, west of Harrogate.

Colin Winterburn
01943 880658

Three reservoirs, ranging from 142 to 156 acres.

Rainbows between 1.5lb and 8lb, stocked every couple of weeks


1 December to 25 March
Weekend opening 8.00am to 4.00pm

  • Summer season day ticket   £20.00
  • Concessionary summer season day ticket £17.00
  • Evening Ticket    £15.00
  • Winter Day Ticket    £17.00
  • Season Ticket     £380.00
  • Concessionary Season Ticket  £310.00

For more information on the fishery, details of on-site tuition, equipment sales and hire and competitions, please call the Swinsty Fishing Office on 01943 880658. The office is located at Swinsty Moor car park situated near the western end of Fewston reservoir dam.

Stone lodge, toilet, disabled access

39 thoughts on “The Washburn Valley Reservoirs

  1. Pingback: North Yorkshire - Fly Fishing Forums

  2. John Passelow

    Troutmasters fish off fished last sunday Winner John Passelow with four fish 9lb 120z total
    Biggest fish 3lb 10 oz
    Difficult conditions very windy, water rising quickly

      1. John Passelow

        Hey up Glen You porky sausage finger, you still giving em stick with the old (Monty) Montana
        I live in Otley these days, I thought married life had taken its toll on you and youd hung up your waders for good, If your still fishing drop me a line and well arrange a day with Little scots Brian
        Hope to hear from you soon

        1. glen

          hey up jon, i’ not as fit as i was i was in hospital for 9 months. was in wheelchair all time but can get round house now. i have a mobility scooter and a quadbike.they wont get me down. gonna try fishing this year for sure. my number is07724911321

  3. Paul

    Are these waters fly fishing? What’s the bag limit ? Where are these waters. I live in Wrenthorpe and can’t afford the Washburn Valley anymore


    1. Bob

      The Washburn Valley reservoirs are Flyfishing only, apart from spinning being allowed on Swinsty over winter.

      From recollection, Swinsty and Fewston bag limits are 4 fish for full day ticket or 2 for evening ticket. Thruscross is catch & release only.

  4. nigel

    these reservoirs are shite the condition and size of the trout is pathetic they call a 3 pounder there a monster lol try leighton reservoir near masham quality hard fighting trout into double figures for £25 you wont be disappointed

  5. John

    It would be usefull to have upto date catch reports and price lists with in the site on these venues.

    1. Bob

      Indeed it would! Sadly, although I take the time and effort to create the dozens and dozens of pages / articles on this site which is free for all to access, I don’t have the time to ring round fisheries gathering up-to-date information and catch reports. Do feel free to post some of your own recent catch reports on the relevant venue page!

  6. John Passelow

    I have noticed a lot of negative comments recently from visiting anglers, and regulars, regarding conditions, fish stocks, etc I have fished Swinsty and Fewston for over thirty years, and I would like to add my two penny worth I notice Nigels comment back in February Comparing us to Leighton, another place I regularly fish, and I agree that they do stock a lot more very large fish. The stocking policy this year appears to have been to put in the same poundage of fish as ever, but with fewer giants and more fish in the two to three pound mark
    Some people like this some dont. Two seasons ago I had 17 fish over the 5lb mark in the season, Last year I had five, this year none, However I have averaged over 15 fish per session. Last weekend on a difficult day I caught 12 including a 4lb 2oz Brown, an authentic wild fish in fantastic condition. I also lost one much larger. Do I miss the big fish, Cant lie yes I do, but for those who know the water It fishes very well indeed and at £20 per day for 4 fish it represents good value. And bye the way Unlike Leighton you dont have to battle a gale every time you fish.

  7. steven fleet


    I want to revisit fly fishing after 14 years. The early season sport at Fewston was great.

    Is there still a good stock of fish for the start of the main season in March?!



    1. Bob

      Hi Steve. As far as I know they always bang a load in at the start of the season but I haven’t fished it early season for a while. Hopefully someone with more recent experience of Fewston can give you more up to date info. I hear consistent reports that Stocks reservoir fishes really well early season so that might be worth a visit as well.

    1. Bob

      To be honest, it’s not ideal for first few trips out flyfishing. Fewston is a big piece of water and can a bit daunting, especially when windy. It can also sometimes feel like there isn’t a single fish in there even though that is clearly not the case. I’d be tempted to go to a smaller Stillwater first, like Kilnsey, Tanfield or Maran Lakes where you can see fish, get out of the wind and target them without needing to cast miles out. Once you’ve got the hang of the basics then you should hit Fewston and other big reservoirs. Hope this helps.

  8. John Passelow

    Sarah Bobs comments are spot on Its much easier to learn the basics on smaller waters I took my seven year old to Maran lakes he caught his first fish on his very first cast and it was a huge 8lb 8oz Rainbow trout which engulfed his dry fly and pretty much hooked itself. once he got over the shock of nearly getting pulled in by this monster, he landed it with a bit of help from me and now he is more hooked than the fish. He took the fish home to his mum who cooked it for a family meal. Never seen a kid so proud of himself.
    Having said that Fewston is also a great place to learn. Best thing to do is to speak to Andy in the fishing office, and he will put you in touch with me or one of the other regulars who would be happy to teach.

  9. John

    Hi all,

    I’ve tried to ring the provided number a few times over the past week but no one has answered (to which I presume they’re simply busy) but with it being a fair trek from where I am could anyone provide details on when the shop is staffed and of current pricing?


  10. john. passelow

    Chris Turn uo at the ticket office 07,30 to 09.00 and speak to Andy who runs the fishery he will sort your season ticket out

  11. Keith Appleby

    Fewston reservoir what can I say, Saturday 21St may 16 booked in at the Hopper Inn, started fishing 8.30 am stop fishing 5.00 pm, what a day 13 fish caught numerous line snaps lost fish to many to mention what a great day had reservoir nearly to ourselves as weather was supposed to be rain,rain and more rain how wrong the weather forecast was dull sky’s half an hour of rain, brilliant day will be back.

      1. Bob


        These are latest prices I can find
        Fly Fishing Prices
        Ticket Type Amount (£)
        Day Ticket £20.00
        Concessionary Day Ticket £17.00
        Evening Ticket £15.00
        Winter Day Ticket £17.00
        Season Ticket £380.00
        Concessionary Season Ticket £310.00
        Coarse Fishing Prices
        Ticket Type Amount (£)
        Day Ticket £7.50
        Concessionary Day Ticket £6.00

  12. john

    Hi there, I’m a avid fly fisherman but more for the pike these days. Could anyone tell me which of the previously mentioned waters hold pike? I do still target trout now and then. Many thanks.

  13. Keith Appleby

    Well 29th October, yet another great days fishing on Fewston reservoir. A total of twelve fish caught, mostly on a black and green fritz with the odd one on a cone head.
    The weather quite warm for October, overcast, very little wind with the odd time the sun popped out.
    A handful of angler who seemed to be catching and bagged up, if not more as the two of us did eight for me and four for my mate Tez.
    Stayed at the Hopper inn again as you get a great breakfast that puts you on till lunch( tuna and sweetcorn sarnies ) yummy, thanks to the bailiff who was on that day for giving us a few pointers.

    1. Bob

      Hi Keith

      Thanks for the report! Black and green Fritz lures always do well on those reservoirs, I always stick 4 or five turns of lead wire on mine as an underbody for a good sink and draw action. Not heard of the Hopper Inn, sounds good.



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