The Urbantrout Diaries: Year of mending urban rivers


After a few months’ break, our Urbantrout Diaries series returned to just before Christmas…

… with a blockbuster mini-series reviewing all the great urban river restoration projects that took place across the UK in 2014:

Part 1: Weir removal, fish passage and remeandering on the Wandle

Part 2: Community engagement, WFD compliance and Wild Trout Trust Conservation Awards for the Medlock, Calder and Brun

Part 3: Lower-cost (but no less effective) volunteer-led works on the Cale, Slea, Holme and Don

Please click on over to to read and wonder at all these groundbreaking initiatives (and visit the websites of the projects too, if you get a chance – you’ll find most of them listed in the blogroll on the right hand side of this page).

(Photo: John Sutton / Wild Trout Trust)

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Happy New Year… with FREE SHIPPING on all Urbantrout eco-branded fishing gear!

Warren McCarthy in Urbantrout beanie - Jim Williams

In the spirit of New Year sales everywhere, we’re stoked to announce FREE SHIPPING on all Urbantrout eco-branded gear from now until the end of January.

Whatever the winter weather throws at you, you know you’ll fish more effectively when you’re layered up with one of our cosy premium-weight hoodies… or maybe a thick cable-knit urban steelheader beanie hat (as above, heroically modelled by Warren McCarthy in recent freezing conditions for Jim Williams’ masterful long lens – our favourite shot of the year so far!)

Just click here to visit the Urbantrout shop, make your selection as usual from our range of beanie hats, hoodies, baseball caps and t-shirts, and our standard £4.00 UK shipping fee will automatically be deducted from your order.

As usual, a full 10% of profits from the sale of every piece of Urbantrout gear will go directly to help fund urban river restoration projects.

So fish where you live, rock your urban fly-fishing… and wear Urbantrout gear to show your support for the urban river restoration movement!


(Photo: Jim Williams / Vision UK)

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Happy Christmas to all Urbantrout’s readers!

Urbantrout Xmas 2014

Originally conceived as a unique and inspirational art project by London-based illustrator Jane Porter, the Wandle Alphabet is wholly formed from objects pulled out of the Wandle by volunteers during monthly community river cleanups.

This festive arrangement of the letters was specially created for the Wandle Trust’s charity fundraising Christmas card in 2010. Ever since then, here at Urbantrout, we’ve reckoned it’s the perfect seasonal representation of the vast variety of rubbish you’ll find in most city rivers – as well as the hidden beauty that’s also waiting to be discovered by those with the twisted discernment to appreciate it.

(Jane tells us the false teeth U is her favourite, but we’re pretty keen on ironically recycling that Mercedes badge as a Y…)

Many thanks to everyone who’s read and supported Urbantrout this year, a very Happy Christmas to you all… and bring on 2015!

Limited-edition A1 sized posters of Jane’s full Wandle Alphabet are available via her website, with all proceeds going to the Wandle Trust’s future work: click here to find out more about the Alphabet and her other outstanding design projects, or here to email her directly.

(Original Wandle Alphabet and card design: Jane Porter)

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Urbantrout sidecasts: Monday 15 December

Upper Wandle planting - Wandle Trust

(Photo: Wandle Trust)

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Urban river restoration: Tree kickers on the Goyt

Goyt tree kicker 1

Way back in November 2010 when we explored Stockport’s River Goyt for Trout in Dirty Places (and interviewed local river restorationist Andrew Parker and other officials of the Disley & New Mills Angling Club), one of the most fascinating angles on this river’s recovery story was the structures called tree kickers installed in the channel.

Securely anchoring whole trees into rivers is a low-cost technique imported from wilderness America, where tree sweepers and pieces of Large Woody Debris (LWD: interesting links here and here) in high energy channels tend to be a much more common feature of river hydromorphology than in the intensively-managed UK.

In the post-industrial, upland-spate-driven conditions of the Goyt and Sett, where pieces of LWD would accumulate and move downriver anyway in more natural flow regimes, Andrew and the Wild Trout Trust believed dropping mature alder trees into the river channel could kick-start a beneficial chain reaction of natural processes. Restrained securely with 12mm braided steel cable to their own stumps on the bank, the complex structure of these trees could also provide trout and grayling with refuges from fish eating birds and other predators, and might even reduce the risks of flooding further downstream towards Stockport and Manchester.

4 years later, how have those tree kickers been getting on? We wondered, for instance, if they’d created tree-sized slacks which then filled with silt and buried them… or would the Goyt’s high flows have scoured massive bomb-holes out of the river bed below the hinged LWD (which is what tends to happen when a tree falls into the similarly-flashy Wandle, much to Urbantrout’s delight and EA contractors’ occasional panic)?

So we dropped Andrew a line to find out. Here’s what he told us:

I made the trip to the River Goyt yesterday to walk along the sections known as Hague Bar Meadows and Mousley Bottom. (Tree kickers were also installed at Strines but I wasn’t able to walkover that section yesterday). 

The river was low; not unexpected because the reservoirs at the head of the Rivers Goyt and Sett are low. The good news is all bar one of the tree kickers appear to be in place: I’ll return to that other one in a moment. 

In the low water the cobble nature of the river bed is evident I would generalise that most of the tree kickers haven’t had either of the impacts you suggest. The high energy of the stream has pushed the hinged LWD hard into the banks; many of the locations appear to be on steeper gradients and my observation is that at low flow they have no impact upon the river at all – several are beached. However in higher flows these will likely create cover away from the main force with some overhead protection for avian predators. 

As for the ‘one that got away’: I think the tree kickers were installed in 2008. In 2010 we revisited and installed a soft revetment on an outside bend where a stone retaining wall was being eroded. Tim Jacklin and I spotted that one of the tree kickers, slightly downstream and on the inside bend of the river had done a grand job: it had created a slack and was buried, having built up a sizeable deposit of sediment around it. The restraining wire had always been a trip hazard, so we decided to release it. As we released the bolts we could hear the tree cracking where it was buried; we were more convinced that the restraining wire had done its job. Of course, at the next big flow the whole thing was washed away! 

Big thanks to Andrew for this knowledgeable assessment of how the Goyt’s tree kickers have fared – it’s this long-term monitoring which is often most difficult to obtain in any environmental restoration sector.

Goyt tree kickers 2 - Andrew Parker

Goyt tree kickers 3 - Andrew Parker

Goyt tree kickers 4 - Andrew Parker

Goyt tree kickers 5 - Andrew Parker

If you’ve heard of hinged tree kickers being used elsewhere in the world’s urban rivers, please let us know and we’ll aim to run a follow-up feature on this fascinating technique.

(Photos 2 – 5: Andrew Parker)

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Urbantrout peaked beanies: Now in steel blue stripe!

Urbantrout beanie hats 3

Winter grayling season is fully here in the UK, so it’s time to start piling on that cold-weather gear again. And in our experience (though we say it ourselves) there’s little better for keeping the bitter chill at bay than Urbantrout’s exclusive eco-branded beanie hats.

This year we’re celebrating urban grayling season by adding a new colour to the Urbantrout range: steel blue, in honour of the great old grayling fly pattern of the same name.

As usual, a full 10% of profits from these beanie hats will go directly to help fund urban river restoration projects, and they’re available right now in the Urbantrout shop.

Grab yours today, and feel warm inside and out this winter!


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Film night: Tying the Squirminator

Full disclosure: we haven’t tried or even tied any of these new-from-Stateside late Hallowe’en horrors jig patterns ourselves yet…

… although it’s perfectly possible we know a few people who have.

But if there’s a filthy hot fly pattern that’s catching winter grayling out there on our chilly urban rivers, we think Urbantrout’s faithful readers should be told. (That way, you can make your own mind up… right?)

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Urbantrout sidecasts: Monday 3 November

Urban fishing - Andy Buckley

(Photo: Andy Buckley)

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Pic of the day: At the sign of the Slammin’ Salmon

Southpark Seafood, Salmon St, Portland, OR

Time was when any self-respecting retail establishment advertised its wares with a fully three-dimensional sign hanging from its frontage or occupying the street outside.

Those days are now mostly gone (though it’s worth noting that the Flyfishers’ Club boasts a life-size wooden mannequin of a 19th-century angler in its collections, and sometimes uses that vintage angler’s silhouette as an unofficial club logo).

But this superb piece of urban art, blasting through somebody’s corner office on Salmon Street in Portland to signify the Southpark Seafood store, looks set to revive that grand old retailers’ tradition.

To whoever commissioned this magnificent salmonid signage… respect!

(Photo: via Unicoi Outfitters)

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Urban fly-fishing report: River Don, Sheffield

Urban Don trout - Howard Sooley

Professional photographer (and regular reader of, not to mention Trout in Dirty Places) Howard Sooley has generously shared this beautifully contemplative collection of shots taken recently on Sheffield’s River Don.

In these quiet, low-water weeks when urban trout-fishing shades into the hunt for inner-city grayling…

… it’s all about slowing it down with stealth, accuracy, and the very tiniest of flies.

Wooded urban Don - Howard Sooley

Urban Don - Howard Sooley

Grayling dorsal fin - Howard Sooley

Urban grayling - Howard Sooley

(All photos: Howard Sooley)

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