Urbantrout beanies: Made for keeping the cold out (and still with FREE P&P!)

Urbantrout beanie hats 3

It’s been a weird (and mostly very wet) winter so far in the UK. But on the off-chance that you can ever actually make it onto the water, Urbantrout’s famous beanie hats are here to keep the weather right outside where it belongs.

They’re double-layered, cable-knit, and made with a short front peak to shield your eyes from the worst of the rain, show and sleet.

Best of all, there’s a heavy double fold of fabric that pulls right down to keep your ears warm (read: not just grayling or pike fishing gear, but perfect for LDO and March Brown season too!)

As usual, P&P comes completely free, and 10% of profits from these steelheader street-style hats will go straight to fund urban river projects.

Click here to visit the Urbantrout shop and grab yours today!

Urbantrout beanie on the river

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Urban fishing: Rules change on Durham’s River Wear

Durham fishing

Since Trout in Dirty Places was published in 2012, we’ve noticed virtually no changes to the fishing regulations on any of the featured 50 urban rivers across the UK.

Naturally, the real world had to catch up with the printed page at some point (after all, working as a kind of continuity blog for the book was one of our original reasons for setting up this site!)

So now we’ve noticed the January 2016 issue of Trout & Salmon carrying the following announcement from David Carrick about a stretch of the River Wear in Durham which has always been vulnerable to salmon and sea-trout poaching:

The ‘Free Stretch’ in Durham City is to be closed for fishing for the 2016 season and beyond. The area at Framwellgate Waterside is already closed for fishing on the north bank; now the right bank is to be closed from the weirs down to the western area of the Sands.

Conservationists have condemned this area as ‘salmon and sea-trout poaching on an industrial scale’. A new bylaw is being sought that will ban all types of fishing in this area. The move is backed by the trustees of the City of Durham Freemen, who control riverbank access, and is supported by the Durham Constabulary, Durham County Council, the Environment Agency and the Wear Anglers’ Association.

In the area concerned, salmon and sea-trout are held up by the weirs at Framwellgate, making them vulnerable to poachers, some of whom have refrigerated vehicles to take their haul away.

The Freemen’s trustees have set aside 350 yards of the south bank, well away from the poaching hotspot, which will remain free fishing for law-abiding anglers. ‘No Fishing’ signs will be erected, giving both police and Environment Agency powers to arrest anyone contravening the new banning order.

A spokesman for the Wear Anglers’ Association’s members said: ‘Conservation of wild salmon and sea-trout stocks is vitally important to the future of the River Wear. Numbers of these precious fish have been dwindling over the years. The indiscriminate plunder of the river’s migratory fish at Freemen’s Reach must stop’.

Since this announcement, there’s also been some interesting discussion over the Fly Forums (though we reckon confirmation of those 350 yards at the Sands remaining fishable by lawful urban anglers may go some way to defusing tensions).

If any fishing regulations have changed on your local urban river since the publication of Trout in Dirty Places, please let us know, and we’ll gladly provide an update here on Urbantrout.net

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Urbantrout sidecasts: Monday 11 January

Springwater Park cleanup - Prestwich Whitefield Guide

(Photo: Prestwich & Whitefield Guide)

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Film night: Natural flood risk management in Stroud

As one of the warmest and wettest Decembers on record spills over into a grey and soggy January, and flood risk management in urban areas continues to polarise the national conversation

… it’s easy to feel kinda helpless in the face of epic natural disasters like the Irwell floods that recently took out the 200 year old Waterside pub in Summerseat.

But as this video from Stroud District Council shows (and as we suggested a couple of weeks ago) properly insight-driven urban flood defence often has very little to do with conventional steel-and-concrete hard-engineering solutions.

Especially when your town sits at the confluence of lots of steep little streams that once funnelled hydropower down to your ancestors’ mills, but now just drop hundreds of cumecs of flood water into your own modern homes and businesses…

… why not try holding most of that rainfall back in the hills with natural materials instead – and a truly whole-community and Catchment Based Approach to flood risk management?

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Happy Christmas to all our readers!

Urbantrout Xmas 2015

It’s that time of year again (even if some of us are still waiting hopefully for the white fluffy stuff to arrive) and Urbantrout is here to wish all our readers a very fishful festive season.

(Don’t forget… the Urbantrout shop will be taking orders for cosy Christmas beanies and hoodies, as well as caps, t-shirts and books, all the way up to Friday 18 December).

Big thanks to everyone who’s read and supported Urbantrout this year, a Happy Christmas to you all… and we can’t wait for 2016!

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Urban river futures: Deconstructing Desmond

Desmond_Atmospheric_River_-_Wikimedia_Commons

As large swathes of Scotland and northern England start the mopping-up process after Storm Desmond ripped through the British Isles over the weekend, some frankly terrifying photos have continued to emerge, showing a whole new side to some of our best-loved urban rivers.

It’s one of those clichés of environmental consciousness that we all live downstream, but this knowledge seems to get more personal every day in these times of irrefutable climate change and the turbo-charged weather episodes that they seem likely to bring.

Motivated by their need for hydropower, clean water, and, yes, waste disposal, our ancestors built many of their most important settlements on convenient streams and rivers – or, better, their junction points. Meanwhile, they tamed and exploited the surrounding landscapes, clear-felling the forests on the hills for firewood, building materials or pit-props, and making the uplands continue to pay by running sheep, deer or grouse.

But we’ve happily stayed on in the towns they founded… until the last few years, when living with lots of valuable personal and economic infrastructure on the flatlands at the confluence (for instance) of the Eden, Caldew and Petteril in Carlisle, or the Clyde and Kelvin in Glasgow, or any number of other rivers, with all those big bare hills upstream, has suddenly started to feel terribly, terribly, risky.

Until the next time… there but for the grace of God go all of us.

While hard-engineered flood defences (up to and including submarine-standard glass panels topping the flood walls in Keswick) can sometimes provide a very small proportion of the answer, in very particular cases, they’re impossibly far from being the whole solution. When torrential atmospheric rivers can sucker-punch us with almost 16 inches of rain in 24 hours, we need exponentially more radical flood defence strategies to interrupt that water’s movement through the landscape, and stop it all converging on our vulnerable highly-inhabited pinch-points at the same time.

Most urban rivers form only part of their catchment. For their sakes, and for everyone who lives near them, this recent spate of floods makes it clearer than ever that visionary whole-catchment management is the only answer, working with the entirety of the landscape to contain these new, vast volumes of water in their journey from the hills to the sea.

Luckily, we’re not short of ideascase studies or even existing mechanisms. Working with farmers and landowners to reforest the uplands with deciduous native trees can help them absorb rain water 67 times faster than leaving them fully grazed or burned and naked to the sky. Restoring and rewilding the rivers lower down their courses can convert them from high-speed flumes to complex, dynamic systems where water actually wants to meander and linger. (And in return for delivery of these valuable ecosystem services, what if urban FRM budgets now started replacing traditional farming subsidies?)

Even if some or all of this sounds impossible at present – for political, economic or any other reasons – remember the flip side.

Fifty years ago or less, who but a lunatic would have dreamed of catching wild trout and grayling from the brutalised urban reaches of some of these rivers we now need to help on a wider landscape scale?  Desmond has a message for us all, and it’s not too late to listen.

Flooded Eden at Appleby - Jeremy Lucas

R Kelvin Old Millhouse Partick - Jill Ferguson, FORK

(Image 1: “DesmondAtmosphericRiver” by NWS OPC – https://twitter.com/nwsopc. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons. Image 2: Jeremy Lucas. Image 3: Jill Ferguson / FORK)

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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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