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)

2 Comments

2 Responses to “Urban fly-fishing report: River Frome, Bristol”

  1. Fryti says:

    Hey! Is this particular spot near Snuff Mills?

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