Welsh river champions: FF&FT and T&S double up in south Wales

There must be something in the air (or water…) because two of the UK’s leading fly-fishing magazines are visiting the urban rivers of Wales in their September 2022 editions…

Fly-Fishing & Fly Tying tackling the Taff and Rhondda with Terry Bromwell and Charles Jardine, while Trout & Salmon explores the Ebbw with Kieron Jenkins and Don Stazicker.

Guided by these Welsh competition fishing giants, it’s no wonder that Charles and Don have both produced riveting accounts of days of post-industrial rivers which ran notoriously black with coal dust (and worse) until very recently, but now have huge capacities to surprise us with the most astonishing trout… given time, dedication, or simply knowing where to look.

Both magazines should now be available at all good newsagents: get yours today!

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Urbantrout sidecasts: Monday 4 July

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Fins and Finns: Rewilding Oulujoki and other Nordic rivers

One of the wider Urbantrout team has recently been spending time in the Finnish city of Oulu, and simultaneously we’ve noticed a certain uptick in news from Finland’s urban and otherwise post-industrial rivers (of course, correlation still doesn’t amount to causation, no matter how influential we like to think our various team members really are…)

First came the short video above, showing how fish passage and translocation projects in the Hupisaaret Islands City Park have helped to restore native wild brown trout to the Oulujoki, where dams had previously extirpated them for 80 years.

Second, there’s this highly interesting paper on the values of recreational ecosystem services related to urban river restoration in the same Hupisaaret Park. Many aspects of ecosystem services have proved frustratingly difficult to pin down to real financial values, so it’s fascinating to see more detail of the restoration measures (dam reduction, year-round compensation flows, and gravel and habitat augmentation, some of this delivered by local volunteers) and how together they’ve been assessed at €55,246,721 annual aggregate recreational value (and even more when delivered as part of a wider suite of cultural and recreational improvements).

And thirdly, here’s an inspiring article on even wider-ranging initiatives to restore ecological functions in Finland’s rivers, which in common with other Nordic countries were historically destroyed highly modified for the forest industry as well as hydropower.

As our Finnish friends say: Pidä hauskaa!

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10 years of Urbantrout and Trout in Dirty Places

This month, it’s 10 years since Trout in Dirty Places launched on a (mostly) unsuspecting world. Merlin Unwin Books and Granger’s fly shop threw us one hell of a party, and for a few days, the weird idea of fishing in urban rivers was making headlines across the media, including the Independent, Radio New Zealand, and even BBC Radio 4’s Today programme with Evan Davis.

Urbantrout launched around the same time – designed to run updates and continuity for a book that would be unavoidably fixed between hard covers as soon as it was printed. We like to think that’s worked pretty well, to the extent that the whole original print run of Trout in Dirty Places sold out last year, with e-books available via Merlin Unwin from now on.

Since 2021, in the wider world, a lot of things have changed.

But one thing hasn’t… and that’s the obvious passion of local people for looking after urban rivers. In many cases, these blue-green threads, burrowing their way through dense conurbations, are essential for providing people with their closest and most accessible source of contact with nature: a clear theme in the Rivers Trust’s recent spring conference (Day 1 video here, Day 2 here) and a wider debate which only looks set to intensify in years to come.

That’s why, here at Urbantrout, we’re also aiming to keep you up to date on news of urban river restoration and inner-city fly-fishing for the foreseeable future.

In the meantime, 10 years of Trout In Dirty Places feels like a good excuse for an occasional remix of some of our favourite urban river photos over on our Instagram page – and maybe some focused updates on a few of those Dirty Places for good measure. (If you’ve been fishing any of these recently, we’d love to hear how you’ve been getting on with them, too).

Find us here on Instagram, and stay tuned for more news from the urban rivers!

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Urban fly-fishing report: Rivers Tame and Holme

The UK’s trout fishing season has well and truly opened again… and the Urbantrout crew’s Richard Baker and Adrian Grose-Hodge have just returned from a flying visit to some of our much-loved early season stomping grounds on Manchester’s post-industrial rivers.

Fellow urban river stalwarts John O’Brien and Mike Denny joined them for dry fly sport that peaked around lunchtime each day – necessitating plenty of tactical Kelly Kettle breaks to refuel on the bankside, and voracious appetites for local ‘babies’ heads’ steak pies and JOB’s legendary slow roasted lamb stew back at the lodge in the evenings.

An early trouting trip to the northern streams is always a very special palate cleanser before the main season gets underway. By all accounts, after two years of Covid-19 restrictions, this long weekend was more than usually welcome!

(Photos: Rich Baker and Adrian Grose-Hodge)

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The Wild Trout Trust charity auction 2022: Back, bigger and badder than ever!

The Wild Trout Trust’s annual auction is back, and this year it’s bigger than ever before, with no less than 366 lots to choose from.

One of the gnarliest challenges for any charity is raising long-term core funds which aren’t tightly tied to delivery of very specific short-term projects – and that’s why this fundraising auction is so important for the Wild Trout Trust.

Every penny raised makes it possible for their team of expert conservation officers to provide practical advice, deliver hands-on improvement projects, and bring in even more match funding from other sources. The Trust has low overheads, a small staff and an ever-growing group of volunteers, so the money from this annual auction makes a massive and measurable difference to our urban and rural rivers alike.

In 2022, there’s a varied selection of generously-donated lots that range from tackle and flies to fishing days and other experiences that money can’t normally buy. Naturally, with the Wild Trout Trust’s keen attention to urban river restoration, you’d expect some grittier inner-city options too, and once again we’re proud to curate the best of the urban lots right here for your bidding pleasure:

Lot 62: A selection of dry flies and nymphs for use on rivers across the UK, tied by guide and fly-tyer Phillippa Hake (whose home water is the superbly urban River Calder in West Yorkshire). All these flies are proven fish-catchers for Phillippa, and ones she wouldn’t be without in her box.

Lots 109 and 110: 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 Association. This beat runs right through the Scottish Highland capital, and is best fished for salmon with a fly.

Lots 136 and 137: 3 days for 2 rods fishing the waters of Merthyr Tydfil Angling Association, which offers not just the urban upper Taff and the restored Taf Fechan tributary, but also beats on the Tarrell and Usk.

Lots 144 and 145: 2 permits to fish on 4 weekends of your choice (Friday – Sunday) or 4 weekday blocks of any 3 days (Monday – Friday) across the waters of the Merthyr Tydfil Angling Association, as above.

Lot 224: An ‘arty crafty angling’ experience with broadcaster and Wild Trout Trust vice-president Matthew Wright and artist Hayes Hopkinson, to be spent exploring south London’s River Wandle not far from where Matthew went to school in Croydon. Hayes will shadow Matthew and the lucky winner, and present them (at a later date) with a painting that captures the essence of the day on the urban river that inspired the whole idea of Trout in the Town.

Lot 254: 1 day’s fishing for 1 rod, hunting barbel on the Wandle with Hector Rodriguez. Hector has been targeting barbel on the fly for the last 5 years, and starred in a short film for the Wild Trout Trust’s Virtual Get-Together in 2020. With the chance of a specimen barbel, roach, chub or trout on these rejuvenated London waters, this will be a day to remember.

Lot 331: 1 day for 1 rod, streamer fishing with Martin Smith for trout or pike on a Yorkshire river. Martin designed the classic Martin’s Minnow streamer, and let’s just say we’ve heard on pretty good authority that his favourite Yorkshire rivers are the urban ones…

Lot 339: 1 day’s fishing for 1 rod on the River Calder in West Yorkshire with Phillippa Hake, targeting wild urban trout and grayling with simple dry fly and nymph tactics.

This year’s Wild Trout Trust auction is now live, and runs until Sunday 27 March, when lots will close sequentially from 5pm through the evening.

Once again… please bid early and often, and we’ll hope to see you out there somewhere on our urban rivers!

(Photo: Wild Trout Trust / Hayes Hopkinson and Matthew Wright)

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Urbantrout sidecasts: Monday 17 January

(Image: Wild Trout Trust)

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Trout & Salmon explores the Yorkshire Calder

Sowerby Bridge might be familiar to you as the the setting for the BBC’s Happy Valley crime drama. It’s also the hometown of Phillippa Hake… one of the new generation of fly-fishers who has taken full advantage of the information age, rapidly ascending the learning curve to become an excellent angler in a relatively short time…

The Calder runs within walking distance of Phillippa’s house. It’s where she began river fishing, and she knows it intimately… It’s always exciting to descend into the riparian corridor of an urban river; one minute you are walking through HGVs in a haulage contractor’s yard and over a girder bridge supported by huge steel pipes, the next you are surrounded by trees, wildflowers and running water, a magical transformation that never ceases to amaze me…

Written by well-known travelling angler, film-maker and flyfishing instructor Don Stazicker, the January 2022 issue of Trout & Salmon magazine (out now in December 2021) features a vivid evocation of one of the Urbantrout team’s favourite northern rivers – the River Calder around Sowerby Bridge – as well as a stirring appeal for more of the same:

This river was fishless within my lifetime: that it now holds a fine head of fish in surroundings where I want to fish for them is a truly wonderful thing. We are constantly being reminded that the planet’s ecosystem is deteriorating. It is therefore so important to encounter places such as this, where enlightened legislation and the hard work of dedicated people has reversed that trend and restored life to something that was once sterile. It shows that not everything is a one-way street. We can reverse change, we can make a difference, and that difference starts on your doorstep. If you don’t support one or more of the angling conservation bodies, you really do need to ask yourself, why not?

At the core of his article, Don also provides a detailed interview with skilled local Calder fishing guide Phillippa Hake: a professional custom fly-tyer with a well-deserved reputation for spinning delicate, realistic dry flies and nymphs, which often make a generous appearance in the Wild Trout Trust’s annual auction.

Intrepid flyfishing women on urban rivers: this definitely feels like a moment, and it’s superb to see. The January issue of Trout & Salmon is available now from all good newsagents… grab your inspiring Christmas reading today!

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Film night: Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner…

Fly-fishing is a sport where women are known to excel – the record for the largest UK salmon is still held by Georgina Ballantine! – yet it’s still comparatively rare to see women on the bank.

Thankfully, there’s something about the egalitarian nature of urban fishing that seems to attract amazing women to the riverside: Susan Skrupa and Larysa Yefremova, Phillippa Hake, and now Amie Battams, who’s profiled in this week’s film night (once again shot and edited by Tim Pottage, aka Tim James).

As well as her regular social media updates from an increasingly wide range of rivers, Amie is an ambassador for the Mayfly Project, and the latest Wandle Forum newsletter announces that she’s also received a Wandle Grant to help her run women’s taster sessions on south London’s most famous chalkstream:

Women go fishing – taster sessions on offer – We’re supporting Amie Battams with a Wandle Grant to help introduce women to fly fishing. The Wandle is an ideal place to learn and has a strong angling history, including being where dry flies were first used. As the river has become cleaner so it has become ever more popular with anglers and Wandle Piscators was founded in 2004. If you want to know more and join a session then contact Amie here. The fish she is catching are “this big”! Proof in this video.”

Enjoy the film… and look out for this incredibly talented fly-fisher when you’re fishing in London too!

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Fly Fishing & Fly Tying: Urban fishing in Winchester

There’s no doubt that Winchester is one of the all-time-classic urban fishing destinations – since we saw that rippling chalkstream along the city’s Roman walls, we’ve loved it ourselves, never mind eulogising it in Trout in Dirty Places – and the latest issue of Fly Fishing & Fly Tying tells the story of how Cumbrian Daniel Calderbank has been discovering it in his own time.

Daniel includes wry observations of several situations that other urban fly-fishers will recognise, including that lightbulb moment of fishing a #14 pink shrimp pattern somewhere downstream of a coarse angler’s lucky supply of maggots (yeah yeah, we’ve all found ourselves doing it at least once…)

The article also features a fairly detailed description of the Winchester area’s total 4.5 miles of ‘free fishing’ (with Environment Agency rod licence) on the River Itchen, thanks to knowledgeable local guide Keith Dipper.

Get your subscription to FF&FT by clicking here, or buy a copy of this issue from any good newsagent.

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