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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30 Responses to “Urban fishing: Rules change on Durham’s River Wear”

  1. michael hart says:

    well here it is from the horses mouth this is the 2nd time this post about refrigerated vans,they has never been vans with firdges ever! ive been part of the scene now for 36 years caught many times and paid many fines and fishing bans,no body ever uses large massive trebles with rope for line,its similar to fishing legit,only difference is yer use a bare treble usually a size 6-10 about the same size legit fishermen use,with a fast sinking line of course,so 80lb leader line is out 20 lb will do fine! as for industrial scale well the wear is a spate river which relies on rain to get the fish running properly,sea trout run anyway,so yer have a dry summer from say june till end of October like 2015 then it rains the first day nothing but pool hoppers 2nd and 3rd day is when it happens esp after a long dry spell,so yer go to the river opposite the wall as that’s now closed,yer can fit in 4-5 people tops since the closure of the wall the poaching had nearly ceased with one or two who think they know what they are doing fishing occaisionally see where this is going no body gets van fulls of fish,ive seen when someone has been fishing ileagally and the man fishing legal next to him has done the catching so its not a instant get rich quick thing as not everyone knoiws how to do it ,its not case of chucking a line in the water then hey presto fish,they is a art to it with both fly and spinning rod,people get this misconception that all poachers are scum cos they break the law well the ssmae ppl who think this probly get done for drink driving-wife beating etc…. real scum over 36 yrs ive seen two police who poached the fire chief of durham during the 80s and beyond,deer poachers,univercity students,a prison officer, a prison officers son,the dog catcher,a professor from durham uni,many stsudents,armed robbers,drug dealers,bank clerks a man of the cloth,a small crowd of female folk,hippies,bin men,old men,builders you name it and of course the unemployed as well as many miners back in the day when the uk was industrial,yeah seen it all,best ever haul was when they were building the fish pass back in the 90s we had a mad dry summer no rain till October then the fish came in there 1000s we had 273 from the tunnel 80 odd were salmon rest were sea trout over 10lbs we hit the tunnel 3 times getting 262 the 2nd time and 168 the 3rd other than that in 36 yrs that’s the only massive haul that’s ever came from the river,many times 15 fish have been taken by rod and line but average would be 2-4 fish a night or as many as yer want thru the day with a spinning rod but they was only me and two thers in the end doing it thru the day..ive tried in many fishing forums to voice this but the admins alays delete the post as no body wants to hear the full truth on how it was back then! I have been caught on the wear,tyne,south tyne,yorks esk,tees,, but have fished many other rivers lune,tweed,till,teviot,whiteadder,annan,nith,leven (yorks) eden,eaumont,border esk,plankey mill,saltburn beck,skinny beck,and Roxby beck (dalehouse)……….anyone want to know how it was and is now today let me know on facebook Michael coco hart

    • Theo says:

      Thanks Michael – fascinating first-hand testimony from (clearly) a snatcher of many years’ experience, which we’ve decided to publish in the interests of 360-degree coverage of the situation.

      However, to be clear, we can’t condone poaching in any form on any river, least of all our recovering urban streams. And we certainly can’t promise that your words will go any distance towards softening the authorities’ position on the new restrictions to fishing on the Wear…

      • coco says:

        Well the fishing is well open again after it was discovered that this was all a pack of made up lies : one might want to call it fake news lol now i did say i would fight for our rights and our water back and i did and we won two of us got together got it reopened well it was never legally closed : Hows the wear doing you may ask? fishing its T*ts off,at present june 28th 2022 the river at durham is jammed with both species but salmon are present in greater numbers than the ST lots of catches shrimp fly fishing too low at present for spinning down to 1 inch,two seasons ago we had a bumper run of pink salmon in july they was thousands one weekend when the river lifted and coloured up fish from 1/2LB to about 5-6LBs some people caught 20 plus fish many were fishing.This season dpring brought some big salmon esp in april and may we seem to be getting better runs early on these days dont get me wrong summer runs and back end are nothing short of awsome so if any fishers out ther ever in Durham city find raddison hotel both sides dont fish near weirs a no no and the rest is free in 2018 one day in june first few days in june the river came up and in one day i know of over 100 fish caught thats not counting the syndacate water below the free section was like that for days then all summer the river sort of held at 5 inches so we had summer salmon ever single night in huge numbers a new record was set last season for durham 34 LBs salmon 😉

  2. michael hart says:

    yes I agree no poaching sympathy,and these days I’m a legal fisherman on a quest to cath every native and none native fish in the uk which I’m nearly there and all fish a treat 100% well that I catch,what gets me is they are saying its a conservation area,well that’s a excuse,becuase looking at the neghbouring tyne at wylam we have a tidal river below the pool,most of the time the tide rarely enters the pool,the pool is the first freshwater stop for the salmon,they enter the pool through a mere 12 foot gap if that where immediately they have there first taste of pure freshwater,they immediately become dour and take time to adjust this in my opinion is a bigger vulnerability to the fish of the river wear,the said water on the wear at durham where the new byelaw will be enforced is at best a very good stretch for fishing full stop ! if it were handed to a angling club well it might get managed better ppl don’t realise that the E/A have there handsfull and cant be there 24/7 but to close it only adds to the fact that salmon fishing one way or other is all about £$£$£$£ nothing else,if the sea nets are bought off buy the rich they get this conception that more salmon will run the river which in some cases maybe true,others er no no,so more fish in the rivers means more tourists wanting to fish the river which means rent/permit money can be anywhere from £20 running into the £1,000s in some cases and now they trying the catch and release thing on,so riparian owners want to charge yer extortionate money to fish for salmon then yer cant even keep yer catch! or at least one for yer troubles,so poachers do it for money,landowners sell yer a days fishing for money,salmon rods are dam expensive when compared to course fishing gear,a salmon fishing license is also a expensive permit,everything to do with salmon is about money and greed when examined properly…..anyway enough said

  3. icetrout says:

    Good Lord,just how many fish are being poached to need a refrigerated truck ?

  4. brian fields says:

    I have to agree wholeheartedly with coco, i have fished the free stretch at durham for over 30 years,on a regular basis and had my license checked 4 times and also worked in the local tackle shop for 10 years, so yes i know most of the poachers and have also sold them most of their gear but never a refrigerated truck, incidentally the fish counter at framwellgate recorded one of the highest scores ever last year 22094 and it was only working part time althrough the summer may to october so it may have recorded the highest number ever who knows. Or perhaps the recession has now hit the salmon poaching on an industrial scale, basically the excuses used to close the free stretch are pathetic with very little to do with conservation and more to do with money but no doubt the police and the EA will devote more time this year to catching innocent anglers than they ever devoted to catching the poachers, the stretch in question could be policed by a trained monkey,half has a path beside the river the other half you can see all the way down when you reach the end of the path, yet again the majority suffer for the minority so lets have the free stretch open again

    • Peter scott says:

      I to have fished the river wear for 40 + years poaching has always been an off and on issue closing the free stretch is not the answer correctly controlled would protect the migratory fish and the law abiding anglers that are being percicuted under this said new bylaw would further protect and support the EA Police and the local authorities

  5. dDisgruntled Legal Fisherman says:

    Fished the free stretch legally, for the past few years never seen a poacher, never seen a refrigerated van and never seen a water Baliff!!! Bloody do gooders, I would like to test and see if the bye law legally challenged. Lets organise a days fishing en mass???

  6. Livid Legal Fisherman says:

    Fished the free stretch legally, so i thought, there where no signs up at the end of march i checked before i bought my rod license, when they did put a sign up it was in the car park, if you didn’t park there you would never see it, when they finally put the downstream limit sign up it was 300yds from the other sign and on top of the bank you could come upstream in the river and never see a sign, what a bunch of morons. So i thought i was fishing as i have done for the past 30 years took the police about 10 minutes to arrive pity they aren’t that quick with REAL criminals, i was filmed catching fish, small brownies, all returned as usual. I was going to be charged with attempted theft although i had no intention of taking any fish, bit like going into a shop and looking at something putting it back and still getting done for shop lifting because you might have taken it, surely that must be defamation of character.To the angler who would like to test the bye law you can’t because there isn’t one, the EA didn’t see the need for one, and the WAA a few blatant lies went a long way The Freemen of Durham where well and truly hood winked, the poaching is no where near as bad as they lied about, there is no fishing allowed from the high wall, and the major spot the tunnel at the ice rink is long gone, perhaps they would like to refute these FACTS they can’t because they can’t tell the truth that would mean having to re-open the free stretch and the police (who have gone along with these lies)having to deal with real criminals and by the way it was TWO officers who came to catch me, what did that cost the tax payer to deal with an innocent angler

  7. John says:

    Where can you fish down Durham with a seat trout and salmon liacance ? Info please

    • Theo says:

      Hi John – did you call just now on a very bad line?

      If so – or even if not – we understand that there’s still a free fishing area on the Wear on the Sands (below the stretch which is now closed). However, to be absolutely sure, we’d recommend contacting Durham City Council and / or your local EA Fisheries Officer.

  8. Livid Legal Fisherman says:

    You can fish from just above the pink house, the post (the sign has been nicked) is visible on the bank, the next sign is in what used to be the ice rink car park (if you don’t use that car park and use a certain exit you will never see it). Obviously the signs were erected by morons. You can walk the full stretch and not see a sign, you can work your way up river and not see a sign, but you can be arrested for fishing illegally. But back to the question, you can fish HALF the pool above the pink house and then down to the kepier farm sign, not really the best fly water on the river but nice for coarse anglers

  9. coco says:

    well in the summer of this year me and a friend went to fish durham one night and totally forgot that it was closed ! after say 20 minutes me mate who only wanted a sea trout decided that we go back to his for a coffee,and maybe hit the tyne later in the night ! anyway when we were in the ice rink car park the baliffs turned up {E/A} and asked me for my license which was in my van at me mates,so he then written me a “producer” on a piece of paper,then in the next breath got on the fone to who ever at their office and checked to see if i had a license ermmm,he said its ok yer got one so yer can chcuk that producer and nodded to the floor,so i asked him how many lobsters can yer legaly keep and what is the size limit? he didnt know and written on a piece of papaer then said its ok chuck it! poor little rain forest! he didnt really know a lot when i got talking to him in fact he knew jack siht about the environment by this time the main man turned up with a massive chunk of a man who was also a baliff,thay too knew nothing about lobsters or about the envirnment,anyway at that time i thought oh no its closed im breaking the law! but i said to the head bailff are we going to the police station for our actions he said no we know yer and we dont aresst anymore for this type of fishing anyway what yer on about coco yer aint done nowt wrong !!!! but me mate did he had a foul hooked sea trout and no license but he didnt loose any fishing gear or was no arrest for his terrible horendous crime…………..so two of us were caught at the free stretch the bailfs didnt seem bothered as its got nothing to do with them as long as yer fishing mannersim is ok……………bit like parking somehwere where yer aint supposed to ok a local by law created by a council not by parliment

  10. coco says:

    on another note about free fishing,the free stretch runs to the private road before kepier farm estates,now the original free stretch used to run to the public footpath in the middle of the now private road to the “farm” when “she” was “GIVEN” the road she then moved the sign up to the private road where the old medievil wall is,but she sort of claimed that fishing bit the extra bit,she was given the road as long as thay was a public footpath and public bridleway and that she allowed public amenities to stay the way it was,ie canoeing and fishing,so its ok for her to gradually move the sign slowly over 30 odd years to past the private road and into the free stretch ? ermmmmmmmmm summits very wrong with the fishing on the river wear and the local councils angling clubs and po-leeece

  11. Livid Legal Fisherman says:

    Coco is right the water below ferens park does not belong to kepier farm, the fact of the matter is no one knows who actually owns it was always assumed that it belonged to people who built the houses, however what is true is this, 30 odd years ago an angling federation of local clubs had the fishing rights on kepier pool, the stretch above was free stretch and the federation acquired that bit, but to go back to coco’s original thread SALMON and MONEY, the rent went up big style for the water it is good salmon water and the federation gave up the lease but forgot to return the stretch of water to its original state as free water, kepier farm then claimed it as theirs although it isn’t, i have fished it myself and been asked to move which i politely declined to do and carried on fishing, there’s not a lot they can do other than involve the police who will side with them and ask you to move but they definately do not own the water between the pipe and where the old fence enters the water downstream which is their original boundry, look on the net and you will find other threads on this subject

  12. Forget my previous post on where you can fish at Durham as i was through Durham yesterday and i mentioned earlier the sign had been pinched but the post was still visible. Well now they’ve put a new sign up and moved it 30 yards downstream and will probably keep going until the whole stretch is closed all for the sake of a bunch of morons and i mean the WAA not the poachers

  13. Richard Carlton says:

    Not much to add to this but would like to commend some brilliant and interesting observations and writing. I know this stretch pretty well and have never seen any industrial poaching. I have seen rubbish tipped in the river, however, and some dubious development allowed on the waterside by Durham CC, all of which cause more damage than the activities of a few anglers squeezed out by the salmon corporates.

  14. Theo says:

    Cheers Richard! I’ll echo what you say – many thanks to everyone in this discussion for keeping it clean and constructive.

  15. cocopops says:

    well after last yrs antics at durham on the now closed free stretch,the night my friend was caught without a license and also kept a foul hooked fish, by the way the fish in question in the landing net, i mean shook the hook it looked like it was very near the lip of the fish,we know now it was out side the scissors, still what has always been a legal fish, anyway the lad got fined near £800 and wasn’t banned, and they was no talk in court of fishing a closed free stretch……….so that’s a good thing.
    While im here a few days back in a salmon forums i was inboxed by a member who told me a story about Willington AC goes like this; some time back the “club” altered a fish pass/cree below or near jubilee bridge some where i never fish always full of idiots popped up and lots of dirty needles and such everywhere,but they ilegally altered the cree/pass,without consent and the alteration made the flow change which in turn held back the fish ermmm sportsmen eh? and also some flack over the fishing below jubilee bridge they claim its theirs and has been well proved it isnt,so based on that a club like that shouldnt be trusted and a rethink about the free fishing at durham needs to be “thought about” esp being one of the very few free fishing places that can accomodate disabled anglers ie the wall nice and flat for any wheelchair uses,and we need to encourage everyone abled bodied or not to fish !

  16. Livid Legal Fisherman says:

    Take a look at the picture at the top of this page and then go have a look at the same stretch in a few months time and you will notice a big difference, the powers that be have cut down every tree and bush on the closed part of the free stretch, these are trees that have been there for as long as i can remember and they haven’t just trimmed them they have cut them as far back as possible to make it impossible for the poachers to have anywhere to hide, on the other hand it also makes the stretch even easier to police, but that might mean the police and EA bailiffs actually having to do a proper job, i would hate to think that they had to confront a real villain and not some innocent angler who didn’t see the signs that really have been put up by morons, there is one to the left of the footbridge most people access the river down the right hand side and will never see it, there is another at the far end of the car park but you can exit the car park by two other routes and not even see the signs anyone with half a brain would realise you put the signs on the FAR bank facing the near then they can be seen. One other comment in October last year Chester ls Street Anglers resigned from the WAA, i don’t know why but could it have something to do with the free stretch, the lies that where told by the WAA and the totally underhand way in which the ban was achieved. It would be nice for some one from the WAA to get involved in this debate and try to justify their lies

  17. sadung says:

    banning the free fishing because of refrigerated vans taking fish in vast numbers what a load of bull **** if they want to stop poaching why not get out where the fish spawn on the gaunless cockfield area kids catching sea trout leaving them in bushes to rot idiots taking fish by the bin bag

  18. coco says:

    What happend to the Wear? well when i started in 1980 they had five bailffs,the tyne was no where near the river it is now as far as a salmon river is concerned and tees salmon were a myth,the coquet was top river back then,so in the early very late end of the 80s and early 90s we seen a increase in team members for the NRA (E/A) but a massive decrease in their presence.why? well by this time unknown to us at durham the tyne was repairing rather quickly and filling up with salmon,the locals at the tidal tyne ie north shields and surrounding areas also knew this,plus immigrant poachers form scotland were also poaching the north tyne and hexham areas so we seen a massive decline in the presence of our bailfs many times i asked why? and i got the same answer its not in MY hands i just get ,my orders from above who is above i still dont know,but other officers said its all political and where we patrol is decided days before we actually go on patrol,they also said we rarely get to act on what we know we always get told to go here or where ever unless a call is made to the e/a via police or public,so between the early 90s upuntil its closure yer either patrol a spate river or the tyne ermmmmm? not really a hard choice,so thats when it all went t.its up.


  19. graham says:

    just an update on this issue the north bank is all now fishable as long as you are in or at the waters edge, I challenged the bylaw for the north bank and the council and the police have confirmed for me that no offence would be committed for fishing there. I am currently in dispute over the south bank that was reportedly closed by the freeman of durham city as they claimed ownership of the fishing rights, but I have supplied to the police a document showing that the land was gifted to the people of durham by the ecclesiastical commissioners for England and assigns forever the land, being the course of water and the surrounding lands (this document is from 1860). the only rights the freeman hold is the right of herbage.

    • Lynnzer says:

      Can you enlarge on the North Bank rights please, ie post something to confirm the fishing rights and the length of river it applies to. It used to be from 100 yards below the weir but is that still the case.

      Also on the matter of the south bank I would think that herbage would only apply to common land and can’t see that being much more than the Sands area where it must have had grazing rights at some time or other. I doubt if it would apply further upstream to under the new bridge surely.

      It would be nice to see a link to, or a pdf copy of the Herbage rights assigned to the Freemen.

      I guess the way to test this would be a court case. I would be hugely sceptical that a charge of Theft would get anywhere. At best it would be a way forward if the Freemen could prove ownership of the trout etc which would be ultimately impossible. Trespass couldn’t apply either as the new byelaws don’t forbid access to the land. Poaching? Dunno about that either as that would need a specific law to be enacted and if the byelaws don’t state as much it can’t be used as a means of prosecution except by a misinformed police officer.

      As for access by way of wading in the river, this would be a no-no. There are some really deep pools on that length, way above wader height anyway, and the south bank is more or less inaccessible in the summer months as a result of the huge growth of the Japanese weed thingy. Makes fishing on the bankside nigh on impossible except for someone legering, but for fly or lure fishing I know from experience it’s not a feasible option.

  20. taddy says:

    well done Graham,you have done a fine job there and im sure everyone will agree that a wrong doing has been set right and maybe another wrong doing will be set right once and for all….at the end of the day, give “Them” in authoirity a inch and they WILL take a mile…….free fishing rules 🙂 🙂 🙂 😉
    lessons have been well learnt with regards to the past so instead of any haters out there giving the wear nothing but nagitive feedback and feeding the anti bloodsports craving for stopping all fishing and all hunting,give it the thumbs up,the wear is a outstanding river and desrves good publicity,and with regards to lessons learnt dont be fooled by silly chinese whispas of freezer vans etc….give the free section a chance at least,then if it goes back to how it was back in the day we can act in a fair way for the person who cant afford to pay radged money for a days fishing….

  21. taddy says:

    we could even double up the parking metres hell they seems to be hundreds of them into permit machines for people living in the county of durham a free permit for outsiders well make them pay like we have to on many other rivers that allow outsiders to fish in their boroughs,also the county must mean the historical line of the county so people in the north cleveland teeside areas will be able to fish for free as that was once in the county of durham ie north bank of the tees.fair is fair ive fished there since i was a kid and would have no oblection to a permit scheme,the money could be used to fix the screw that is mincing the fish or used to make habitat even more suitable

    food for thougt

  22. michael says:

    well done graham well done keep up the very good work-we want OUR water back,its ours not theirs

  23. graham says:

    if anyone has an interest in reading the documents that show the land belongs to the people of durham and not the freeman just do a quick google search for. the sands durham the commons commissioner. you will find everything you need to know. and just to say lots of people have resumed fishing their and nothing has been said to anybody.

  24. Theo says:

    Following a recent spate of difficult (ahem) responses in this thread, we’ve had to take the hard decision to close the discussion, at least temporarily. Thanks to all who have participated!

  25. Daryl says:

    Hello all

    I work as a property manager and happen to look after a property on the North bank – opposite the sands – on Frankland Lane. The garden practically touches the riverbank so is accessible to me. I would also benefit from free parking as a perk.

    Can anyone clarify if it would be legal for me to fish from this area?
    (wont be wading. will have a EA fishing permit)

    I fly fish for trout and have heard good stuff about this stretch. Hoping I can finish my property inspection before having a few casts.

    all help and info welcome
    tight lines

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