Urban fly-fishing report: River Tame, Stalybridge

A few days ago, the new combined Trout in the Town team took to the rails to travel from (nearly) opposite ends of the country…

… and converged at Stalybridge for a flying visit to an urban river that’s been much in the news recently.

Paul and I both knew how the lovely little River Tame had been the subject of intense media scrutiny as the most heavily microplastic-polluted river in the world (at least among those tested so far). But we wanted to see this notorious stretch of the lower river for ourselves, and understand from local activist Woz Andrew just how much it meant to him personally.

Woz met us at the station and guided us round the corner to the river, explaining the challenges facing an almost totally urbanised (and still industrialised) waterway like the Tame, and reminding us we’d definitely be missing an opportunity if we didn’t wet a line while we were there.

Water levels were low, and the day was bright and hot, so we fanned up and downstream, fishing our favourite ultralight western and tenkara techniques. We’d all had little grabs and splashes at our flies before Woz finally hooked up solidly in the shadow of one of the bridges, and landed a beautiful trout on a dry fly.

(It’s worth mentioning at this point that catching little baby trout in urban rivers often delights us even more than bumping into big lunkers – their presence shows that habitat and water quality are both good enough to let a proper population pyramid form).

Several more fish followed for all of us, before honour was satisfied, and we raised a traditional can of Stella to this amazing river and its trout that are still surviving against all the odds, and desperately in need of all the help we can give them.

And then it was back onto our trains again, with boots still wet and heads even more packed with plans for other urban rivers that are similarly overlooked and underappreciated. (If there’s a river like the Tame in your life, and you’d like to help get it back on track, please give the Wild Trout Trust a call, or check out the new Trout in the Town Facebook page here).

The full story of our visit to Stalybridge will appear in the first issue of Pete Tyjas’s exciting new Fly Culture magazine, due out later this year… don’t miss it!

(Photo 1: Paul Gaskell, photo 8: Woz Andrew)

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Film night: Let’s hear it for the volunteers!

Volunteers Week runs from 1 – 7 June this year, and to celebrate the vital work of volunteers who are the lifeblood of many local river groups across the UK, the Rivers Trust has just released this short film of what it’s like to volunteer with the Don Catchment Rivers Trust.

In 2018 alone, the Rivers Trust tells us, DCRT volunteers have already filled over 1000 bags of litter from the catchment’s very urbanised riversides and waterways. They’ve also been working on practical conservation tasks in the Moss Valley to restore its biodiversity and heritage value.​

So, if you’ve been inspired by watching this video, why not check out some different volunteering opportunities in and around your local waterways this year?

(Hint: The Wild Trout Trust’s Trout in the Town programme is super keen to help more local people look after their urban rivers, and Rivers Trusts almost always need more volunteers too!)

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It’s a double hook-up! Urban flyfishing hits T&S and FF&FT in the same month

What’s this? Yes, you read it right: our little niche-within-a-niche of urban flyfishing has just scored (we think) a historic double hook-up…

…with big features in the pages of both Trout & Salmon and Fly Fishing & Fly Tying magazines in the very same month.

The June issue of T&S goes bold with a beautifully-crafted piece by ‘the writer formerly known as North Country Angler’ Matt Eastham, who visits fly-tyer Phillippa Hake on her home water on the Yorkshire Calder before heading higher into the hills above Hebden Bridge (and a deep, green, bouldery shot of Hebden Water gets the front cover too!)

Meanwhile, over in FF&FT, long-time Sheffield river restorationist John Blewitt writes about the renaissance of the Don, complete with photos of historic paintings of the bad old days of massive industrial pollution, and the river’s heroic efforts to rebraid its own mid-channel islands after those notorious dredging works at Malin Bridge in 2009.

Both June magazine issues should be available from good newsagents very shortly. So whatever else you do this month, don’t miss out on this opportunity for your double-hookup urban flyfishing fix…

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Urbantrout sidecasts: Monday 30 April

(Photo: David James Bendle)

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In the Telegraph: River guardians of the Tame

I’m knee-deep in the river Tame in Stalybridge, 15 miles east of Manchester. Beside me is Woz Andrew, a local fly-fishing guide. After climbing down a flight of stone steps from road level – hollowed by a century of boots and a remnant of this river’s industrial past – we have made our way slowly across, careful not to trap our ankles between the slippery boulders of the riverbed.

This river has been in the news a lot recently. Research by Manchester University’s department of geography revealed last month that it has the highest recorded concentration of microplastic waste not only in the UK, but in the entire world. With 517,000 particles per square metre, the Tame outscored the Incheon-Gyeonggi beaches in South Korea, Lake Chiusi in Italy and the Pearl river estuary in Hong Kong. The story went everywhere…

As any urban angler knows, pollution problems in city streams are nothing new, but there’s been a more-than-usually-horrible kind of can’t-look-away-from-a-car-crash fascination about the microplastics crisis on Manchester’s magical little River Tame – part of the mighty Mersey system that’s very dear to the hearts of many readers of Urbantrout.

Andrew Griffiths is one of these, and his follow-up investigation with local river restorationists Woz Andrew and Mike Duddy is a hugely valuable contribution to this still-unfolding global story. Click here to read it in full.

(Photo: Paul Cooper, the Telegraph)

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Trout & Salmon says: Meet the London rods

After December’s and January’s articles on urban fishing in Holmfirth and South London, Trout & Salmon has only gone and done it again…

… with a feature in the April 2018 issue on London-based fly-fishers (and the London Flyfishing Fair on 23-24 March).

By now, of course, most readers of Urbantrout won’t need much convincing that“urban fly-fishing is fashionable, healthy and inspiring”. But it’s still yet another excuse to visit the newsagents… so here’s our quick run-down of who’s involved and where they fish (and otherwise while away downtime in the Big Smoke):

Pick up your copy today, and see how other “city-dwellers get their fishing fix among the skyscrapers and sprawl…”

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The Wild Trout Trust charity auction 2018: Your chance to do good and go fishing!

Over the past few years, urban fishing has become such a fixture in the Wild Trout Trust’s annual charity auction that it’s hard to remember when it wasn’t – and when it was a novel kind of idea for us to list all the urban lots in one place for our readers’ bidding convenience.

Still, it seems like just as much of a good idea now as it did then, so here’s this year’s listing (our 6th in succession).

Once again, of course, we’d highly recommend reading through the Trust’s whole auction catalogue of 313 lots, if only to glimpse how some of the other (more rural) half live… and how you could, too, if your bid is a winner. Then, whatever looks good to you, please bid generously to help this amazing charity carry on their work to make rivers and lakes all over the UK and Ireland better places for wild trout and countless other species.

As Kris Kent also explains in this recent article for Eat Sleep Fish, it’s the single most important fundraising event of the WTT’s year. And of course it’s more than likely to benefit your own fishing in years to come, too.

Lots 62 and 63: 2 chances to win a week’s permit for 1 rod on the Town Waters of the River Ness in Inverness, presented by the Inverness Angling Club. This beat runs right through the Scottish Highland capital, and is best fished for salmon with a fly.

Lot 98: Presented by Ffynnon Taff Angling Club and Nicholas Steedman: 1 day for 1 rod on the legendary River Taff guided by Nick Steedman. The Taff is a big post-industrial river with some difficult wading, but hit this one right, and you may find huge trout and grayling rising freely to exceptional hatches…

Lot 113: A full season permit to fish the waters of Merthyr Tydfil Angling Association, which controls not just the Taf Fechan and urban upper Taff, but also beats on the Tarrell and Usk. (Whisper it softly, but some of the best wild trout we’ve seen on social media this year so far have apparently come from Merthyr’s upper Taff beats… )

Lots 119 and 120: 2 opportunities to bid for 2 days for 2 rods on the waters of Merthyr Tydfil Angling Association, as above.

Lot 223: Wander up the Wandle for the day with pro guide Damon Valentine, who’s taking over hosting this lot for the first time in 2018. You’ll get all the latest news on this inner-city chalkstream’s rollercoaster recovery – not to mention a chance to meet other Wandle Piscators and hook a trophy dace, chub, barbel or trout somewhere in south London.

So, as we say every year… Bid early, bid often, and we’ll see you out there on one of our urban rivers!

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Film night: Glen Pointon takes us to the hell-hole

It’s interesting to see how the idea of vlogging has come back round the loop again: maybe it never quite went away, but we’re sure there was some kind of hiatus between the old-skool DSLR / point-and-shoot cameras, and the new wave of smartphone streaming, Instagram stories and, well, you get the picture…

Anyway, vlogging looks like it’s back again, with a new generation of edgy urban fly-fishing faces like Damon Valentine (aka LondonFlyfisher) and Glen Pointon, who’s gearing up his new series of vlogs with this introduction to his ‘hell-hole’ home stretch of the urban Trent in Stoke.

(Fair warning from Glen himself: it’s rough, raw and depending on your day job maybe NSFW, but you surely won’t want to miss footage of one of the spots where ‘horse hunting’ first entered our very own Urban Flyfishers’ Dictionary…)

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Urbantrout sidecasts: Monday 5 February

(Photo: Wandle Trust)

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River restoration permit price hike: Please make your voice heard today!

When it comes to the future health of our urban and rural rivers, of course, the really big elephant in the room is Brexit.

But while we’re waiting to see how this will (or hopefully won’t) stomp all over the UK’s environmental protections, we want to draw your attention to something much more urgentthe Environment Agency’s plan to massively increase the cost of Environmental Permitting Regulations for river restoration works.

As the Wild Trout Trust points out, the principle behind EPRs is sound: EA consents can sometimes make our river-mending lives more difficult and complicated, but on balance they’re a good thing because they’re designed to make sure that works in and around rivers don’t damage the environment by mistake, or cause future flood risk problems.

But the problem with this new flood permit fee structure, which (unless anything changes) will take effect in April 2018, is that it will instantly increase the cost of every river restoration project by several hundred per cent.

In real-life terms, as Action for the River Kennet puts it:

For example, currently an EA permit to place woody debris into the river channel costs £50 but would increase to £764 – more than the work would actually cost to carry out. Similarly massive increases are proposed for permits for fish passes and off-channel fry refuges.

According to the Wild Trout Trust’s calculations:

The proposed charging scheme is complex and we’re working our way through it, but, as an example, it seems that work to protect a piece of eroding bank, more than 10m in length, using brash (so-called ‘soft’ engineering) will incur a permit charge of over £1000.

It’s easy to see how these new fees will make river improvements of all kinds much more expensive – maybe even completely financially impossible.

In fact, from April this year, there’s the very real risk that many vitally important projects all over the UK, led by fishing clubs, Trout in the Town volunteers, Rivers Trusts and Wildlife Trusts, won’t be able to happen at all.

Luckily, these proposals are still out for consultation until 26 January, so we’ve got 2 weeks to ask the EA to reconsider.

To help us get our points across (the consultation also includes environmental matters like nuclear waste, but you don’t need to address these issues if you don’t want to) ARK has produced this very helpful guide, and the WTT will also be publishing their model response shortly.

If you care about restoring rivers, please click here to make your voice heard before 26 January. Thank you!

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