Lee Swords Fishing

Just another WordPress site


Dam Flask…Lies, damned lies and that old rainbow trout

It was usual during the summer holidays for my brother Jamie and me to fish the Dam Flask three, four or even five days a week


The fishing at Dam Flask when I was a young lad was always what I would call “challenging”, never has there been a day fished by anyone on the “Flask” that was as totally free of worry or incident as on the manicured, well facilitated and easy to use day ticket commercial waters we have now.

Dam Flask is far removed from today’s commercial fisheries where you can pull up in the car and basically fish from your boot and be guaranteed of getting a bend in your rod regardless of skill level. Anyway less of the rose-tinted reminiscing from me, I shall crack on with my story! My favourite swim on the Flask and still is to this day the “Ughill Basin” in high summer when the levels have dropped and Ughill brook is just that, a brook. The roach and perch shoal up and it’s a fish a put, but in the days of my youth, the flask was stocked with several thousand rainbow and brown trout every season, averaging a pound to a pound and a half and these marauding shoals of what Chris Yates would call “silver pirates” loved the extra movement in that part of the dam where the stream came tumbling in, laden with tasty morsels and extra oxygen. It was usual during the summer holidays to fish the flask three, four or even five days a week, the day ticket was covered with our water board permit and so the only expenses were maggots and bus fare, happy days.

We always caught well during the summer months but whatever method  we tried the best trout we ever managed to tempt was a shade less than three pounds, not that this was something that bothered us in any way at all, for the most part we were as happy bagging up on small  perch or roach as we were the marauding silver pirates but come the end of the day, we were always happiest with a couple of trout to take home for tea.

Well,  this one day in the summer holidays somewhere in the middle of the “eighties” my brother Jamie, myself and a couple of school mates made the trip to Bradfield and we quickly decided that we would fish the stream entering the basin two on one side two on the other. The fishing was hectic with perch after perch falling for my mixed maggots presented under a bob float with the super small size 14 and the gossamer thin 5lb maxima. Jamie looked at this type of set up with contempt as he ran a small crystal waggler down the track and hit a good run of quality roach. He has always been the better fisherman of the two of us.

The fishing started to get a little competitive as Craig Beck or Becky as we knew him bagged two rainbows from right under his feet the best going to almost 2lb, Andrew Bird or Birdy as we knew him ( God we were adventurous with nick-names!) also slipped one in the net so that just left the two “Swordsy’s” to catch. Jamie, was happy catching good quality roach and if truth be told he never really like to kill or eat trout that much anyway  so it was down to me whether or not we would be dining on trout that night or eating one of my dads famous Saturday curries.

I pressed hard for a trout.

Even at that age I knew instinctively he had a habit of over doing the “Garam Masala”  especially if he was making the thing post Saturday afternoon drinking session with uncles Pete and Charlie, who would argue the finer points of curry making to the extreme detail, the best spicing balance the best suppliers and so on,  their competitive curry making reached the point where one kidnapped the others recipe and refused to return it claiming it as his own but that is a different story and one which has two sides and several endings dependent on which uncle you ask.

Back at the flask and thinking about the awaiting curry dinner, I pressed hard to tempt a trout yet nothing I did could get me through the long line of eager striped sergeants and into the spotted silver pirates. As the last of my faith was failing and I began to accept the inevitable ordeal of the over spiced curry a long dark shape cruised slowly past the orange tip of my float, a trout! And a big one at that! All I had to do was tempt it to take my bait the line was lifted and the bunch of three maggots fluttered up in the water and hit the trout right on the end of the nose, nothing, no response at all, not even fear! The fish simply stood stationary six inches below the surface oblivious to everything. Something wasn’t right here, not right at all!

Wanting to be sporting, I offered the maggots again and again there was no reply, the lights were on but nobody was at home. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth an idea suddenly sprang forth out of the darkness “Jamie, bring me the landing net will you?” I whispered not wanting to spook my prize.

“Get it yourself what do I look like a bloody slave, I’m  busy” was the “censored” reply I got.

“No really, come and look at this, bring the net with you” my best smile offered “Please”

“If this is wasting my time I won’t be happ……. Fucking hell!” he said as he gazed down at the waters edge, seeing the leviathan for the first time.

The net was gently dipped into the water and slowly brought up behind the fish and with a single scoop the prize was ours, it was huge! Flapping around in the net, the fish looked gigantic, far and away bigger than anything we had ever caught before, the priest was called and the last rights were administered, twice! The first reading just annoyed the thing no end!

The second reading was delivered swiftly with a brutal visitation from a heavy moss covered boulder. Dispatched to fishy heaven its still twitching remains were held up for all to admire it soon became quite obvious this fish had made several friends amongst the Flasks famous population of very large pike and they had left three large scars from earlier attempted dinner dates across the flanks of the fish.

Now dam flask had and still has  a deserved reputation for big fish, it is the place where the most impressive fish I have ever seen was caught, The fish which was a naturally grown on Ferrox Trout stunned me when I first saw it and gave truth to all the stories told of large trout attacking the schools of perch early in the mornings.

My fish although not as impressive as the beast above was still a fair old size and even the large crescent shaped scars that were wider than the span of my hand did not remove all the intrinsic beauty of the fish, they simply marked this fish as a very old and tired warrior. Its eyes were both damaged and the colour of the flanks instead of being a range of vibrant colours were washed out and yellowing, this fishes days were up but it was going to be me and not old essox that would dine on trout today. The length of the fish was amazing and had it been in top condition it would have easily gone to over 8lb, but this fish was far from top condition and just made 4 ¾ lb, I had seen thicker eels.

This is the point of the story where it all gets silly, not wanting to own up that I had netted the fish it was decided as schoolboys sometimes do in their not so sparkling moments of wisdom, that we would concoct a story of its capture so that we would be the conquering heroes, it was decided that the fish had fallen for long-range feeder tactics and had put up an epic battle, watched by an admiring crowd. I had fought, landed and dispatched my trophy to return home with a great prize for the table. On arriving home a photo shoot was called on the back garden and several pictures were taken before the fish was prepared for the table, first up was “Birdy” to have his photo taken then Jamie and finally myself, the captor, the conquering hero.

Everything else went smoothly excepting a minor altercation over portion control, being the captor and also being in possession of a greedy streak three foot wide, I wished to gain control over the serving up of the fish but after a quick but hefty clout from my dad to settle the matter on who was Alpha Dog in the Swords pack, I decided not to pursue the issue any further before I got “another one!”.


 Years passed and the trout slipped into legend, every time a conversation about the flask arose the tale of the trout would dominate and everyone was enthralled by the ever evolving tale of its capture,( much to the amusement of Jamie and myself) by the time I was 30 the fish had grown several inches, had taken 60 yards on its first run and jumped two feet in the air during the twenty minute battle, the fish had the famous ending its size deserved, instead of simply dying in the edge of a large lake and falling into the silt, Jamie and me plus my dad (unknown to him) had a great (but tall) story to tell, everyone was happy until one Sunday afternoon when after a long and lubricated dinner with the family Jamie pointed up at the picture of the fish which I have on the dining room wall and we both started laughing recounting the true story to ourselves and saying how we couldn’t  believe we ate the dammed fish seeing as it was blind and more than half dead when we found it wallowing in the margins. Unknown to Jamie and myself the entire conversation was overheard by our father,who was far from pleased and gave us both a swift clip for being “Lying little bleeders” or something very similar and feeding him on “Rotten chuffing fish” Never again was the tale of the giant Dam Flask  trout told without mention of my dads little tantrum and the resulting clips a pair of thirty something’s received for feeding him on “rotten chuffing fish”.

The moral of this little story being that exaggerations about captures and weights will always out in the end and could end up with far more embarrassing conclusions than a pair of thirty something’s getting a clip round the ear from their dad. So take it from me, don’t bother it isn’t worth the trouble even if you create an urban legend (that is now famous the trout story is within my family) not so much for the fish any more but for the look on my face when I got a “slap” at thirty.

2 Responses to “Dam Flask…Lies, damned lies and that old rainbow trout”

  1. Great read, but the story that goes with the brownie of 17lb 7oz (first image) is true. my dad was the captor of this magnificent fish and a day i’ll always remember.

  2. That fish is the most impressive fish I have ever seen, can you fill the details in on the capture?

Leave a Reply