Urban fly-fishing report: Return to Winchester

It’s no secret that the Urbantrout team love the shoulder seasons. This autumn, after months of low water, a succession of storms and ex-hurricanes has finally rolled in off the Atlantic, lifting the rivers and giving us a few brief opportunities to catch a last trout or two before the season closed.

On the Itchen, of course, trout fishing doesn’t wrap up until 31 October, while the grayling are fully in season, so Rich Baker took a trip to Winchester last weekend to send us this catch report:

I only had limited time this morning, but I had a mission in mind: fishing the fast water through town with a French leader and heavy nymphs.

Having said that, I spent quite a lot of time messing about on the Old Barge, where I lost one big trout and caught several smaller ones in one of the outflow streams.

Finally, up into the true ‘town water’, and moving slowly in order to spot fish, I was surprised at where some of them were holding in outrageously fast riffles. I could see the odd fish, but trying to get a good drift with good bite detection ‘blind’ in water that fast was tough to say the least.

One grayling took about 50 drifts till I got it right! But it was great sport: French leader, lots of tungsten, and grayling in much faster water than I thought they’d tolerate, plus a few nice trout too.

It was lovely to be back on the old home water – I’d missed it.

(Photos: Rich Baker)


WTT Urban Conclave 2019: Launching the new Trout in the Town Urban River Toolkit

If you’ve read Trout in Dirty Places, or followed this site’s blog posts for long, you’ll likely know how much of a role Manchester’s beautiful but plastic-polluted River Tame has played in the growth of the urban flyfishing and river restoration movements (hint: quite a lot… and it’s still continuing!)

Which naturally meant it was highly appropriate for the Wild Trout Trust’s Trout in the Town team to choose Stalybridge, on the banks of the Tame, as the venue for their latest Urban Conclave this last weekend…

… not just for the purposes of assembling urban warriors to hear speakers like Mike Forty (Ribble Rivers Trust), Simon Ogden (Sheaf and Porter Rivers Trust), and Joe Pecorellli (ZSL: Outfall Safaris) and share experiences from city streams across the UK…

… but also for launching the Trust’s brand new Trout in the Town Urban River Toolkit.

Written by Theo Pike and Paul Gaskell, this new Toolkit updates the WTT’s original Urban River Guidelines with almost 10 more years of hard-won learning and experience. So it’s a full 98 pages of practical, empowering advice for anyone who wants to care for their local urban waterway, with detailed strategies for:

  • Understanding urban rivers and their surroundings
  • Organising river cleanups and other events
  • Inspiring and motivating volunteers
  • Funding and fundraising
  • Practical aspects of running an urban river group
  • Exciting project ideas
  • Case studies from successful Trout in the Town groups: SERT, River Worth Friends and CATCH
  • Getting your group accredited as an official Trout in the Town chapter
  • And much, much more

A pdf version of the complete Urban River Toolkit can now be downloaded from the WTT website for FREE, or you can order your own printed copy via Amazon for just £15.99:

If the new Urban River Toolkit inspires you to start looking after your own river, anywhere in the world, don’t hesitate to contact the Wild Trout Trust to help you develop your thoughts further…

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Pic of the day: A new sign of the times in Wincanton

Here at Urbantrout we’ve got quite accustomed to being awed by the innovative spirit shown by the team at CATCH in the Somerset town of Wincanton

… and now they’ve done it again, with a project to install a new and much improved sign on the approach to Hawker’s Bridge over the little River Cale.

After raising funds, they researched the site’s history, worked with local designers and manufacturers, and finally held a ceremonial unveiling last Friday evening in one of the heaviest rainstorms we’ve seen all year. As they’ve said on their Facebook page:

The sign that was replaced tonight was donated by CATCH to the town from funds raised from sources such as the Environment Agency, The Wild Trout Trust, the Town Council, and not forgetting jumble sales. Pub quiz donations, and even people’s wages from working at Glastonbury all form part of our ability to give back to the town. We’re not heros and would never proffer to be, but we do care about where we live… WINCANTON!

In our view, this is what Trout in the Town is all about: practical efforts in all weathers to bring an overlooked and under-appreciated urban river back to its central place in the life of a town.

Absolutely brilliant work, Gary, Matthew and all the CATCH team!

CATCH will be holding a River & Wildlife Day in Wincanton on World Rivers Day, Saturday 22 September. If you’re anywhere near Somerset that weekend, come along and find out more about their projects to restore the Cale and its surroundings.

(Photo: Steve Lee, CATCH)

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Urbantrout sidecasts: Monday 29 July

(Photo: Business Insider / Getty Images)

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Pic of the day: Trout outta Colliers Wood

One important aspect of the Environment Agency’s regular fisheries work involves electrofishing to monitor fish populations, and their schedule this year has just brought them back to the River Wandle at Colliers Wood.

And among more than 600 fish including barbel, chub, dace, roach, gudgeon and eels, they’ve reported catching this awesome little wild trout.

It’s not quite the smallest ever caught in the Wandle (that prize probably still goes to this even tinier trout that echoed round the world).

But it’s still a sight that never gets old for us: a trout so small and cute, yet clearly so full of badass gangsta attitude, healthy and happy, in the mean streets of south London and an urban chalkstream that was still an open sewer within living memory.

(And, of course, it’s proof that the original home of Trout in the Town is still thriving too!)

If you’d like to be part of the ongoing efforts to restore south London’s rivers (and maybe get trout swimming again in the Hogsmill and Beverley Brook as well as the Wandle) the South East Rivers Trust is currently recruiting a London Rivers Officer as a new face for the Trust in this area.

They’re also looking for enthusiastic volunteers to join their River Rangers Team, to help map and monitor invasive non-native species. Please do get in touch if either of these roles sounds like you…

(Photo: via Tim Sykes, Environment Agency)

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Trout in the Town: Rocking out in Bruton

Trout in the Town is the Wild Trout Trust’s project to help community groups look after their local rivers in towns and cities across the UK.

In recent months (and off and on since 2015) the Trust has been working with the Brue CREW community group in Somerset, as part of the award-winning Hills to Levels programme, to improve an urban stretch of the River Brue in Bruton.

What with design tweaks, uncertain weather, transport logistics, budget constraints and all the other kinds of black swan issues that urban river restorationists come to expect and sometimes even love…

… simply notching a weir and building two low-level berms has proved quite a saga.

But now the rocks have finally been dropped into place, with help from lots of enthusiastic volunteers, and the whole story is told on the Wild Trout Trust blog.

Click here to read all about it, if you haven’t already!

Update: this project has now been reported in the Mendip Times: click here to read the online version (scroll through to page 6)

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Pic of the day: Tunnel vision on the Irwell

One of the recurring bonus features of urban fishing is being able to get up close and personal with post-industrial pieces of architecture that few other people ever manage to see…

This year, the Urbantrout team kicked off the trout fishing season on Manchester’s rivers, for the first time in several years. A mere few days after biblical floods had hit the area, the fishing wasn’t the easiest, and we wondered if some of the fish were still displaced, or even whether some rivers like the upper Irwell were still struggling to recover from pollution incidents in the not-so-recent past.

When the fishing turns tough, we all know that tendency towards tunnel vision – focusing ever more tightly on beating the blank.

But, as Adrian and Rich discovered somewhere above Rawtenstall, just looking up from the water can sometimes reward you with another kind of tunnel vision completely…

(Photo: Richard Baker)

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Urbantrout sidecasts: Monday 1 April

(Photo: Tomos Brangwyn and Greenpeace)

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The Wild Trout Trust charity auction 2019: Bid for a season of urban fishing adventures!

Regular readers of Urbantrout will probably know that the Wild Trout Trust auction, which takes place at the start of trout fishing season in the UK each year, is the charity’s biggest annual fundraising event.

Of course, the fundraising aspect alone would be reason enough for us to support this legendary event. But it’s a regular annual feature on this blog for another reason, too: if it’s Wild Trout Trust auction time, that means it’s also time for us to get serious about scoping out a whole new season of urban (and other) fishing adventures…

As ever, for your planning pleasure, we’ve downloaded the full auction catalogue and highlighted all the urban fishing options in this feature. If these look good to you, please bid generously to help the Wild Trout Trust keep up their vital work to make rivers and lakes all over the UK and Ireland better places for wild trout and countless other species.

You can also follow the hashtags #WTTauction and #WTTseasonofadventures across social media.

Lots 62 and 63: 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 Club. This beat runs right through the Scottish Highland capital, and is best fished for salmon with a fly.

Lots 107 and 108: 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 110 and 111: 2 week-long permits to fish the waters of the Merthyr Tydfil Angling Association, as above. (Could this be your perfect excuse for a fishing holiday in and around the Brecon Beacons?)

Lot 170: Not as urban as some, but still in the heart of Winchester: 1 day’s fishing for 2 rods on the Winchester College water, where Skues, Grey and other flyfishing titans learned their craft.

Lot 208: Wander up the Wandle for the day with pro guide Damon Valentine (aka London Flyfisher). You’ll get all the latest news on the restoration of this inner-city chalkstream – not to mention a chance to meet other Wandle Piscators and hook a trophy dace, chub, barbel or trout somewhere in south London.

Lot 272: 1 day for 1 or 2 rods, fishing for wild trout on the River Tame (or another urban or semi-rural river in Manchester) with Woz Andrew of the Mersey Rivers Trust. The Tame and other rivers in this area are now producing wild urban brown trout in excess of 3lbs and sometimes even 7lbs.

Lot 273: 1 day for 1 or 2 rods, fishing for wild trout on the River Tame near Stalybridge, a stretch of urban river which featured in the launch issue of Fly Culture magazine.

Lot 275: 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. Phillippa is a rising star for both her fishing and fly-tying abilities, and the Calder is her local river.

Bid early, bid often, and we’ll see you out there for your new season of urban fishing adventures!


Film night: Longinoja, from gutter to creek

Among European river menders, the restoration of Longinoja brook has become a textbook example of local activism persuading local communities and public bodies alike to start valuing a little urban stream again.

Flowing through the Finnish city of Helsinki, this important sea-trout spawning tributary of the Vantaanjoki River was historically dredged and otherwise modified in its increasingly urbanised environment.

But since 2001, with support from the city authorities, the voluntary Longinoja project has included reintroducing gravel, rocks and woody material, restoring pools and riffles, improving fish passage, planting trees – all the familiar Trout in the Town elements of turning a straightened gutter back into a naturally-functioning stream.

The results have been impressive, with annual fry and smolt surveys finding up to 350 trout of varying age classes in 100 metres of the stream where spawning gravels have been restored.

And thanks to all this hard work, driven by local people like Juha Salonen, ‘Longinoja is most likely the most famous creek in Finland’, hosting visitors from all over the world for river walks and traditional campfire coffee.

This is not the open gutter it used to be. This is now our trout creek, our trout creek that flows in our backyard. That is like the biggest thanks, and the greatest reward of this work’.

Update: since we shared this film a few nights ago, it’s been announced that the Longinoja project has won the Finnish Biodiversity Award 2017-2018.

Massive congratulations to Juha and all the Longinoja urban river mending team!

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