Whilst the rivers in Derbyshire are not classified as chalk streams, they do run through a band of limestone which provides the rivers with the gin-clear clarity of chalk streams. The limestone strata also gives the rivers a high pH which in turn enriches with nutrients leading to an abundance of river flora and fauna.
The Derwent, at some 50 or so miles in length, is the longest river in Derbyshire. Apart from it's short passage through the City of Derby, it is a completely rural river, finally joining the River Trent just south of Derby. The Derwent's source is at Swain's Greave on Howden Moor on the flank of Bleaklow Hill.
The upper reaches offer some good fly fishing with plenty of trout and grayling, and beyond Matlock an increaing number of coarse fish are found including barbel and chub.
The River Dove rises on the slopes of Axe Edge, close to the Leek to Buxton road and runs southwards for 45 miles to join the River Trent forming for much of its course, the south-west border between Derbyshire and Staffordshire.
Although only a stream, the river Dove has a pronounced valley within half a mile of it's source. Beresford Dale is associated with Izzak Walton and his friend, though 40 years his junior, Charles Cotton, and the 17th century classic 'The Compleat Angler or The Contemplative Man's Recreation'.
The River Dove is no doubt one of the most picturesque and important fly fishing rivers in the world. The river enjoys healthy hatches throughout the year and no one should miss the mayfly fishing when the fish enjoy a veritable feast for two weeks or so. The mayfly hatches on the river Dove are as spectacular as those found on the Test and Itchen.
The River Wye rises on Axe Edge above Buxton and flows in a south-easterly direction through Buxton and Bakewell to join the Derwent at Rowsley, 15 miles later.
The Wye is a popular trout fishing river, frequently stocked for syndicates, hotels and others who pay for the fly fishing. The limestone gives the river it's lifeblood, enriching it with nutrients and giving it an alkaline nature. This leads to an abundance of insect life, thriving in the rich weed beds. The Wye trout quickly grow to large proportions on this heady diet of shrimps, sedges, upwing flies and many other invertebrates. The river is most famous for it's naturally breeding population of rainbow trout.
Chalk streams in Derbyshire
The River Lathkill must be one of Derbyshire's smallest rivers, but its interest and beauty easily make it one of the most impressive and it is a very popular tourist destination in the Peak District National Park. Much of the valley is part of the Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve and includes a Scheduled Ancient Monument, designated for its lead mine remains. The upper reach of the river is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a candidate Special Area of Conservation under the European Union Habitats Directive.
The river Lathkill and its dale can be accessed from several points along its length, but it is from the ancient lead mining village of Monyash across a hilly pasture that the top of the Lathkill ravine is reached. A narrow gap between towering walls of limestone where the floor is littered with rocks shattered by winter frosts, leads down into a narrow gully. The way opens out a little and opposite is a low cave under the cliff from which the old watercourse emerges, although in drier times the first springs are lower down.
The bed of the stream is thick with weed down to where Cales Dale comes in from the right. Here the trees begin and the right hand side slopes of the valley are densely wooded, while on the opposite side the white rock is weathered into strange shapes. Soon the course clears and the river flows briskly over a stony bed. The Lathkill now stretches ahead, a fine sheet of water with limestone cliffs on either side. If the deserted upper stretches are wild and abandoned, the lower reaches are friendly and full of tranquil beauty, the haunt of dippers and water voles.