Walking the Dearne
By Andy Kaczmarczyk
An outlook on the River Dearne. As a local river and Dearne enthusiast I have been asked to write this piece on what is Barnsley and South Yorkshire’s other river, many will be familiar with the River Don and not wishing to dismiss the Rother but the Dearne has always been a special place for me and other local anglers
Late Autumn on the Dearne
The river actually rises in West Yorkshire and becomes the Dearne around Birds edge and Denby Dale. It flows through Bretton Hall Country Park before coming into Barnsley. It is around the northwestern side of Barnsley that it becomes a viable fishery, albeit its shallow runs and pools favour grayling and brown trout.
It is a matter of opinion but the river around Low Barugh and downstream of the Millers Pub at Barugh Green is where it becomes worthwhile to fish for chub, dace and Barbel.
The river flows through Barnsley around the Fleets fishing lake, past the Asda supermarket on through Hoyle mill Country Park and eastwards towards Grange Lane. Here a road bridge crosses the river before it winds on out of the sight of many skirting between Ardsley and Cudworth before arriving at Darfield.
The river here is accessible and frequently fished catches of chub and dace perch with the occasional barbel. From here downstream, the river winds into nice fishy spots and smooth glides, this can be quite productive.
Further downstream is Broomhill and onto a long straight behind the old moor wetlands before skirting Bolton Dearne and Manvers. The river then flows through Adwick and by Harlington before it joins the River Don near to Conisbrough.
Walking the river in summer is highly recommended especially during a period of bright sunshine early in the morning. On every stretch of the river, there are lots to see, the gravelly runs will show the fish, Barbel, chub, dace roach can be seen, a good pair of Polaroid sunglasses is essential.
This is, without doubt, the key to being successful; the Dearne at present is a river has a lot of nothing interspersed with pockets of fish. This will save a lot of time when fishing time is at a premium Some of the fish to be seen are very good indeed, barbel have recently been caught in excess of 14lbs, average chub is between 2 and 3 lbs. These two species are the main quarry for the Dearne angler.
Good areas to fish are around the weirs and where access s easiest, from the high weir at Great Houghton to the riffle lower down can produce. Access at Broomhill upstream of Marles bridge has produced good chub and in the past double figure barbel. Downstream past old moor wetlands reserve anglers can walk at their leisure and this is as secluded as anyone would wish, but in summer be aware of the nettles. There are no armchair swims on the Dearne.!
Bolton on Dearne has its own challenges, the weed can be a problem here is summer but still, there are good fish to be caught. Fishing down on to Adwick will see the biggest variety of fish. I say this because at Adwick is the last of the biggest weirs. These weirs are the biggest problem on the Dearne and one of the reasons why the fish population has suffered. Between Adwick and Great Houghton, there are 5 weirs big enough to prevent fish migrating moving upstream.
The weirs have had a detrimental effect, everyone knows how much rain we have had over the last few years the evidence is plain to see. A culmination of river channel straightening and flood relief multiply that with more than wetter summers and flooding have pushed the fish further and further downstream and the weirs have prevented their return. This is one of the reasons that the Dearne has suffered
However not all is lost for the future, the EA’S compliance with the water framework directive has seen projects to build fish passes enabling fish movement again. As I write this piece, a fish pass is currently being constructed on the Adwick on Dearne gauging weir.
Consultations by the Don Catchment Rivers trust along with stakeholders will hopefully see work down to remove a smaller weir at the back of the old moor reserve. Work to re-meander part of the dyke at the back of the reserve will help to increase the flow of water into the Dearne and thereby aid fish recruitment and improve the natural stock of the river.
In recent years the EA has introduced elvers into the river and constructed Eel passes on all the major weirs, in time anglers should be catching Eels once again.
One issue with the Dearne is accessing, the vast majority of its banks are owned by the environment agency and anyone wishing to fish can do so providing they hold a valid EA licence. Access to these areas is usually good but if in doubt check with the EA. The other issue which bothers some anglers is the state of the banks, access to the water in itself can be dangerous in some of the lightly fished areas the banks can be sheer vertical drop off which are not to be recommended.
Since 2009, the Manvers Waterfront boat club have attempted to take over the river under Canoe England’s access for all canoeing campaign. This has brought local Dearne anglers into conflict with the canoeists, who insist they use the river 365 days a year and pay nothing for their use. The EA seemed reluctant to back anglers concerns but thankfully, an access agreement has been agreed on which suits both parties and should see work done to improve the habitat and clean spawning gravels. The group of which I am part is also looking at litter pickups and cleanups of the river.
In 2013 with help from The River Don Consultative Fisheries Association, the EA agreed to a Barbel stocking plan for the river. Since that first winter almost 11.000 small barbel have been released into the river at various sites, starting at Adwick Bridge, Bolton on Dearne, Broomhill, Grange Lane Cundy Cross and Barugh Green.
These small fish will help to restock the river for years to come and gradually populate all south Yorkshire rivers.
The Work of the Consultative should not be dismissed as a talking shop, it gives Anglers an opportunity to engage directly with the EA Fisheries and other relevant stakeholders in our area AND I would encourage every serious river angler to get involved.