Pic of the day: Lest we forget…

Wandle cleanup 081115 - Wandle Trust

It’s already gone kinda viral across several social media channels… but now this astonishing shot of rubbish pulled out of the Wandle has also appeared in the Wandle Trust’s full report on Remembrance Sunday’s community cleanup

… we reckon it’s well worth reposting here for the record.

On this evidence, the Plough Lane (aka Barbel Alley) stretch of the Wandle is now one of the river’s worst fly-tipping blackspots, rivalling even the legendary Trewint Street in Earlsfield (check out what’s already been pulled out of this reach in February 2015 and November 2014 within the last year alone!)

Our friends at the Wandle Trust are still trying to work out exactly where all this rubbish is coming from. North Road bridge? further up the Graveney? down the opposite bank (gasp) from the allotments?

If you’ve got any ideas, don’t be shy about letting them know

(Photo: Wandle Trust)

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Urban fishing gear review: Vision Urban wading boots

Vision Urban boots 1

Camouflage takes on a whole new level of meaning when you’re fishing urban rivers. You’re not just trying to hide from the fish, you may also be trying not to stand out too much from the rest of the human population – whether you’re hopping on and off public transport, grabbing a beer or a burger, or just keeping your favourite fishing spots under the radar.

Here in the urban edgelands, classic tweeds don’t quite cut it, and fully-loaded technicality looks like overkill. As Alistair Stewart says, most people do leave you alone (“All dressed up in fishing kit, you look even more deviant than they are, so they kinda respect that!”). Still, why paint a target on your back, when you could be blending into your surroundings and fishing more comfortably all round?

That’s certainly been the thinking behind our own range of Urbantrout eco-gear – and it’s clearly also the point of Vision Fly Fishing’s new Urban wading boots.

Styled like classic ‘80s and ‘90s Rucanors and Converse All Stars, with just a touch of DNA from platform trainers, the details of these boots look funkily retro and intriguingly on-trend (you could see them as part of the ‘80s nostalgia style revival, and how often can you say that about your fishing gear?)

They’re also reassuringly chunky – we know it’s fairly common for American fly-fishers to wet-wade pristine streams in sneakers, but frankly that’s not something we’d recommend in Europe’s urban rivers – with tough felt soles and an extra measure of practical protection from those iconic white toecaps.

Canvas uppers feel tough and durable, but also lightweight (984g dry weight for the pair, compared to 1616g for the Orvis/Korkers on our boot rack) and quick-drying. This is a clear benefit for anyone mindful of not spreading invasive non-native species from catchment to catchment, or even the weight of water and saturated fabric we sometimes pack into our bags on the way home from distant destinations. Alternatively, if you don’t fancy travelling in waders, you could also use these boots as street shoes, with Sealskinz waterproof socks, and change into full waders on the bankside.

So how do Vision’s new boots actually perform on the mean streets and urban rivers?

When we wore them for the first time, dropping in on the Wandle Piscators’ World Rivers Day fish-in, nobody seemed to bat an eyelid on the south London buses, nor at the event itself – and that may be the best endorsement right there. (Urban camo? Tick).

Compared to conventional wading boots, you may suddenly be very conscious of white toecaps flashing on the lower edge of sight as you walk the banks and wade, but once you’re fishing, you realise there’s a lot of other white stuff on the bottom of most urban streams. In fact, the Urban boots are probably just the thing to blend into a scatter of plastic bags, broken sanitary ware and bits of formica worktop.

Certainly the fish weren’t bothered, and fishing deliberately close ranges with a leader-to-hand rig still brought lots of little chub, dace and roach to hand, while most other anglers along the river were reportedly blanking. (We’ll need to keep re-trying that style test in the future. Urban camo? Tick again).

In due course it might be sensible to fit screw-in studs to help cope with slippy grass or clay banks, but the boots’ basic felt has performed well on all other surfaces, from gravel and builders’ waste in the Wandle to smoother rocks on freestone rivers. (In fact, we’ve found the extra security kinda revelatory, after spending the last couple of seasons doing errm… controlled slides… on less grippy plastic soles from other manufacturers).

As you’d expect from the Vision brand, the new Urban boots are a radical re-imagining of what wading boots should look like – edgy, bold and full of attitude.

They’re so conceptual that you may not see copies in other manufacturers’ ranges any time soon, but they still give us hope for lots more urban-inspired fishing gear in seasons to come.

Because here’s the bottom line: where these most excellent street-style wading boots have blazed a trail to the river, can blue-jeans denim or dungaree-look waders really be far behind?

Vision Urban boots 2

Vision Urban boots 3

Vision Urban boots 4

Vision Urban boots and Wandle dace

Vision Urban boots 5

Vision’s new Urban wading boots were kindly supplied for this review by UK rep Jim Williams. When we last looked they hadn’t hit the Vision UK website yet, so we’d recommend contacting Jim direct to order a pair (RRP: £99.99)

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Urbantrout sidecasts: Monday 12 October

Richard Aylard, Mike Duddy, Shaun Leonard - WTT

(Photo: Wild Trout Trust)

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Urban river restoration: New strength in numbers for grayling in Chesterfield’s Rother

Grayling News - Autumn 2015

For those of us who like to make a note of future fishing prospects on our urban rivers (not to mention small but significant rewilding stories for our favourite inner city ecosystems!) here’s a good one for the diary.

On 25 June this year, according to Brian Clarke in the Grayling Society’s latest newsletter…

… the Environment Agency stocked 3,000 0+ to 1+ year class grayling in the River Rother in Chesterfield. This was the first of three stockings planned (3,000 in 2016 and 3,000 more in 2017). 

Grayling have for several years been caught by local anglers in small numbers, but this stocking programme by the EA will add to the existing small population, and also shows the EA’s confidence in the improving quality of the river.

Partly because of the very small and tenuous (and highly pollution-sensitive) grayling population that Brian mentions, Chesterfield and the Rother never quite made it into Trout in Dirty Places. But the story of the Yorkshire Colne shows how a little judicious stocking from the EA’s fish farm at Calverton can sometimes make all the difference, when once-great rivers have been almost completely wiped out by industrial and post-industrial pollution, and a new kick-start is all they need.

Sometime around 2017-18, somewhere in the Rother’s rusty canyons, you’ll probably find the Urbantrout team doing a little careful rod-and-line sampling…

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Cleaning up the Mersey Basin: Urban river cleanups for World Rivers Day 2015 and beyond

River cleanup - Mersey Basin Rivers Trust

Inspired by the success of community cleanup events on urban rivers all over the UK (including the Don, Cale, Slea and Wandle), the Mersey Basin Rivers Trust has announced a new series of last-Sunday-of-the-month river cleanups across the Manchester area.

Cleanups will run from 10.30am until around 2pm, and heavy gloves, hot drinks and cake (yes, every good urban river event really does run on cake!) will be provided.

The first cleanup takes place this Sunday, and frankly we can’t imagine a better way to celebrate World Rivers Day 2015.

If you’re anywhere near Manchester this weekend, why not get down to the Irwell in Bury (postcode M26 2QJ) and see how much rubbish you can help clear off the banks of this amazing urban river?

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Pic of the day: Tipping point

Tipping point - Adrian Grose-Hodge

You know that moment when all your friends’ Facebook and Twitter feeds start saying we’re tipping over from trout time into grayling season on our urban rivers and streams?

Yes, that moment.

(Photo: Adrian Grose-Hodge)

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Film night: CATCHing up on the Cale

Just in case you missed this back in April (even if you didn’t, it’s still well worth another look) here’s a great little video recording the moment when CATCH committee members and their local Environment Agency team got all low-cost medieval on a significant barrier to fish migration on the Cale in Wincanton.

(And while we’re talking about weirs and dams, here’s how not to do it on the Dordogne, without even removing the offending dam itself…)

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Urbantrout sidecasts: Monday 31 August

London's rivers - M@ Londonist

(Photo: M@ / Londonist)

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Pic of the day: If Carlsberg did balsam bashing…

Beddington balsam - Sally Ann Symis

It’s a fact that invasive non-native species like Himalayan balsam positively thrive in places where the balance of nature has already been thrown out of whack by human activities (not to mention the human activity of bringing them to western Europe from their native home in the Himalayas in the first place!)

This makes urban rivers, and the edgelands around them, some of the most important invasion pathways for INNS of all kinds.

And that puts urban river restorationists right on the front line.

Since 2010 or even earlier the Wandle Trust’s volunteers have been steadily pushing vast swathes of Himalayan balsam downstream from the river’s headwaters in Croydon and Carshalton, and last Sunday’s efforts were focused on Beddington Park, where Carlsberg recently filmed their latest TV ad, Kickabout.

Which meant we couldn’t help wondering, as we hunted down every last balsam plant on the banks of the Wandle under that sweltering sun…

… If Carlsberg did balsam bashing, how could they possibly do it better than this awesome lot of urban Rivers Trust volunteers?

(Photo: the Wandle Trust / Sally Ann Symis)

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Urban fly-fishing report: River Frome, Bristol

Bristol Frome trout - Robert Brown

For the last couple of seasons we’ve been hearing intriguing urban-trouty rumours about the Bristol Frome, a little limestone river which rises in the rural Cotswolds and flows broadly south-west past the university quarter at Frenchay to meet the much larger Avon in the centre of Bristol.

So when we heard how respected competition angler (and confirmed urban big fish hunter) Robert Brown was marooned in Bristol with fishing wagon problems, far from the Wye & Usk Foundation waters where he’d really planned to be fishing…

… we wondered if he’d like to have his rubber arm twisted volunteer for a bit of urban exploration along the Frome Valley Walkway instead?

Challenge accepted, came back the answer. And here’s the brilliant report he sent us:

By the time I was able to visit the Frome, it was the end of June and not ideal conditions as it was dead low – barely a trickle – and quite clear. Not ideal conditions for fishing as there were few flies and a lot of trout could be in hiding. However, quite good for surveying as visibility was so good.  

As it was trout were thin on the ground. I had 8 trout over 2 days fishing totalling about 10 hours. My first fish was quite a good one of about 2 1/4lb. This was also the biggest I saw; though I saw 2 others that were close to 2lb and had a fish of around 1.5lb. Most of the rest were about 30cm.  All the smaller fish came out of the streamy water, whilst the bigger fish (pictured above) was stalked. With effort you could probably get more. I spent quite a lot of my time chasing the abundant dace and chub. This was quite fun and I even had a bream, but that probably gives you a good idea of the kind of water it is – perfect for dace and chub, with the odd trout. 

The river bed is about 20 feet wide on average and where there is flow mostly very shallow.  Mostly this water doesn’t have the depth trout would require where it is in a natural state. However, being post industrial it is regularly impounded by weirs with long flats resulting. Again not ideal trout water, though the weir pools mostly have the odd trout in them. 

What I couldn’t help noticing was the heavy angling pressure. There were several people fishing on the days I visited. Mostly bait fisherman, but I did meet one fly fisherman. Even the coarse fish are most common in the areas that are inaccessible and/or private.  It was very noticeable that such areas had a lot more fish. However, as there is a path among most of the river, and much of it is in public parks, such areas are few and very difficult to access. 

As it was, the river was heaving with both people and dogs, being public parkland. No doubt you know the kind of place, but I still don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere with so many dog walkers. It is like all the world’s dog walkers have converged here for some kind of international convention. They arrive in fleets of vans each filled with cages of dogs. It is manic. Compared with here rivers like the Calder, Colne and Irwell really do feel like wildernesses. 

To be fair, I probably didn’t see the river at its best – it would have been nice to go one evening, or earlier in the season; or when it had more water. Or there was some kind of hatch. 

If you do visit then there are car parks at Oldbury Park and Snuff Mills with good access to the water. Snuff Mills seems to be a hot spot with fish to 5lb reported from the weir pool there on bait.  Further down the top part of Eastville Park is nice water, but hammered by anglers as I’ve mentioned above.

The Bristol Frome now comes under the care of the Bristol Avon Rivers Trust.

If you’re a local angler who’d like to get involved in a little urban river restoration, why not think about getting in touch with BART or even the Wild Trout Trust to start a new Trout in the Town project?

Bristol Frome - Robert Brown

(Photos: Robert Brown)

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