Urban fly-fishing report: Rea Brook, Shrewsbury

Urbantrout reader Spencer Clayton fishes many Borderland rivers including the Teme and Onny – and after reading chapter 21 of Trout in Dirty Places earlier this year, he’s been inspired to start exploring Shrewsbury’s magical little Rea Brook too.

At the end of last week he sent us this great catch report and selection of photos, which gave us a whole succession of shocks of nostalgic recognition, and reminded us forcibly how we’d only just scratched the surface, back in August 2010.

Some of those palmer-sipping grayling are growing up nicely… read on and enjoy!

Had a good day on the Rea Brook yesterday – on my second visit to this cracking little urban river controlled by the Shropshire Anglers Federation, I started fishing from the end of the White Hart cul de sac, and worked my way up to the golf course to fish a few runs there, and on up to Meole Brace Bridge. 

When I started fishing around 11.30am I noticed it was a cool day, a lot cooler than the last time I fished here in early August when I had another cracking day and caught a lot of fish.  

I started with a NZ setup on my go-to 3wt rod – Tan Klinkhamer #14 with a 2mm copper bead,  PTN #18  24″ below – and used a CDC Aphid #20 for the few rising fish.  Caught 16 grayling to 12″ and 4 wild brown trout to 10″, and lost a few as well. 

All day I only saw 4 rises to aphids and what looked like needle fly. Fly life was sparse, a sign that the end of the wild brown trout season isn’t far away, which is a sad feeling really, as high river levels due to the amounts of rain we’ve had have limited my days of river and stream fishing. But it’s rain we need for the rivers – last year it was gutting to see our rivers bare. 

The Himalayan balsam on the Rea Brook is a problem, with the worst of it being on the golf course making the river quite inaccessible. It needs volunteer days and some funding to clear and get rid of it. 

I ended the day at 5.30pm at Meole Brace, changed and packed all my gear into my back pack and walked back into Shrewsbury along the Hereford Road back to the train station – a lot of great buildings to see on the way and in the historic town, and also the River Severn where the Rea joins her.

If you fish an urban river that’s featured in Trout in Dirty Places – or even if it’s not – why not send us your own fishing report to let us know how it’s getting on?

(All photos: Spencer Clayton)

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25 Responses to “Urban fly-fishing report: Rea Brook, Shrewsbury”

  1. Nice article and a lovely little brook with some nice looking fish. Very inspiring to the urban angler and hopefully will encourage others to explore a little known stream nearby.

    John Stephens

  2. Spencer Clayton says:

    Its an Hidden gem John and thank you for your Nice comments. Just to let anyone know who is thinking of fishing this Cracking Stream , I would be more than happy to show anyone the parts of the Rea brook that I have fished and I dare say I’m sure I will fish too. Just contact Theo and he will give you my contact Details.
    Spencer Clayton

  3. Charles W. says:

    Splendid to see an urban River getting back to a better state. I spoke to Spencer outside Farlows .I was amused as he called me “Your Honour”.
    I’m not a High Justice Judge, just part of the Crown.

    I will follow this thread


    • Theo says:

      Your Royal Highness, we’re delighted to see you dropping by… will certainly keep you in the loop of developments on the Rea Brook and your realm’s other urban rivers 😉

  4. David Robinson says:

    Great article – has really inspired me to try the brook.

    Would be interested if anyone has any tips for access, places to park, best spots to fish etc?

    Much obliged.

  5. Theo says:

    Hi David – it’s relatively easy to walk the Rea Brook from its confluence with the Severn, but if you’re in a car, you could check out access from the Laundry Lane area, which will give you a good sense of the river restoration work that’s taken place to re-route the brook through the railway arch (see p131 of Trout in Dirty Places!) There may also be parking and access via the golf course, but I haven’t tried that…

    Best of luck and let us know how you get on!


  6. Tom says:

    Hi everyone,

    I live in the Meole Brace area, with the Reabrook Nature Reserve a 5 min walk from my front door!!!!
    I used to fish there loads as a child, having some good memories of growing up, it’s also a place I like to go for some peace and mind clearing. It’s been this past few weeks that I’ve been wanting to get back into it, while especially fly fishing. But with the licence dates, equipment etc… before returning to Uni, It will be something I’ll be starting next year now (2015) 🙁

    If anyone has any advice or what flies to use, I would be more than grateful for some friendly advice & tips!!!!

    I look forward to hearing back from people!!


  7. Theo says:

    Hi Tom – there’s a full chapter on the Rea Brook in Trout in Dirty Places, and I’m sure Spencer and others will also chime in, but I’d recommend a fly rod of 8ft or shorter for a 4 weight line or lighter.

    Flies: very small palmered patterns worked for me to imitate gnats and aphids (by coincidence this tying style actually seems to have been invented for the Rea Brook a few hundred years ago).

    Thanks for dropping by, and hope you can get out there sooner rather than later!


  8. Tom says:

    Hi Theo,

    Firstly, thank you for your message and for your advice!!

    I have some good news & some slightly concerning regarding the Reabrook.

    I’ll start with the good, I ended up buying a spin rod of 7ft size, alongside a reel, including hooks, weights, landing net etc….. I also got my rod licence and annual permit, so I’am all good to go!!! However, later on I really want to get myself into fly fishing mind.

    Now, to the concerning part, as mentioned I’ve been going to the Nature Reserve (back of Moneybrook Way) since a Child, having no problems. But, Just recently I have had two experiences, while looking out for fishing spots down there. It’s involved youths and some suspect behavior/activity. I have passed this on to the Head Bailiff who is forwarding it to the Police. So, hopefully that should have been sorted by now, but I just wanted to give everyone a tip off about that just in case. However, I shall be doing my fishing upwards, starting from the golf course etc..

    Again, thank you for your reply Theo, I look forward to hearing from you again, One question before I go, what size hooks do you recommend?? I have two packs of different sizes, I’m such a novice 🙂



  9. Theo says:

    Tom, thanks for the heads up about the suspect activity – I rather suspect it comes with the urban territory, however!

    I’m afraid I can’t help much with technical stuff on spinning tackle (fly gear is more my thing) but instinct says go smaller rather than larger: more subtle and also easier to extract from fish or yourself. For the same reasons, try to crush the barb down too.

    Glad to hear you’re getting out there, and do let us know how it goes…


    • Tom says:

      Hi Theo,

      Firstly, thank you for your reply!!

      It’s interesting to mention of the Urban element, just the other day I found a old picture (Britain from above website) on a street being built in Meole Brace 1930’s. In the background, all you could see of the housing estate I live now, just endless fields. While the Rea Brook was visible, so was the old mill located behind Moneybrook way, my Mum remembers that as a child, it was knocked down in the early 70’s, however small section of foundations does survive, while a picture shows what it looked like, alongside a old map dating from 1900. It was from that, I could pinpoint from both the old aerial photograph field boundaries, that were exact to the map where my house now stands!!! including the god awful retail park mind. It’s a nice wealth of history, with the Romans having bridges behind Moneybrook, evident of my Mum and her childhood friends finding Roman coins in the brook at one time.

      But enough of the history (laughs), Not to worry about equipment help, I have kept it small which I found was the right choice of a 7ft rod. After last posting up on here, I tried out my floating rig, only to discover the reel I had got with line, was absolute rubbish, it quickly ended my plans of a hour or so fishing!!! I ended up buying a new reel which has been excellent, I’ve been using only barbless hooks.

      Yesterday, I spent the whole day for the first time on the Rea Brook, having left in the morning, I didn’t come back until the early evening. Sadly, despite using three baits of sweetcorn, luncheon meat and bread, I didn’t catch a single thing. A friend of mine this morning has given me the advice of simply scrapping the float and using a 1oz weight instead, which is what I’ll be doing as my next tactic.

      But, I shall let you know how I get on!!!



  10. Tom says:

    Hi Theo again,

    I just wanted to let you know, I was given a collection of Fly rods last week, one dating from 1920’s!! alongside a large collection of books.

    Two rods, are modern & are new in their cases, one 9ft the other 10ft. So, I now have the foundation to start finally fly fishing & learning the craft.

    I just wanted to pick your brains, on what reel do you recommend, line & flies for the Rea Brook??

    Much appreciate your time in doing so, would be greatly appreciated 🙂


  11. Theo says:

    Tom, great news about the rods – you might find them a bit long for some areas of the Rea Brook if you’re wading, but off the bank they should be fine…

    On a brook like this, the main function of the reel will be to balance the rod – I’d suggest jumping onto the Fly Forums at http://www.flyfishing.co.uk/forums.php and asking for a range of recommendations there.

    Depending on the line weighting of your rod, I’d go with a weight-forward line such as the Barrio Smallstream – these have performed well for me recently and are very competitively priced.

    As to flies, little aphid and gnat patterns should work well – try an Adams in small sizes (#16 or #18 for starters). I’ve found Selectafly a very good source of flies in the past.

    Hope this helps!


  12. Tom says:

    Hi Theo,

    Firstly, thank you for your reply, time and advice, much appreciated as always!!!

    I’ve checked over the rods, the one is 8ft something which the weight is 5/6, the other is a 10ft both of the same make, carbon & brand new in their cloth sleeves. I have seen a Leeder reel new for 5/6 to which is £15, I want to get something sorted out just for the Rea Brook. But, this past week after weeks of trying, I have found a lovely spot to which is thriving of trout. The first near catch, was a 5/6lb rainbow trout!!! the other was a smaller weight, but still large brown trout, when caught it had baby brown trout around it, showing good signs of the location. While all of this concluded that more than a 4lb weight line is needed, so I’m possibly thinking of 7lb line for the Rea Brook.

    I also joined the Fly Fishing forum which has been great, been receiving some advice, like your own. But, I shall take note of those flies & browse that source.

    I also have a picture of the brown trout I caught, but I can’t upload it here, I’ll have to share it with you somehow.

    Again, thank you for your time and advice much appreciated, I look forward to hearing back from you!!



  13. Len says:

    I fished Rea last year as I was looking for a nice brook or stream for Tenkara fishing and this brook is a real gem, I took close to thirty grayling ranging from 8 to 16 oz.

    I’m thinking of spending a lot more time Tenkara style fishing this year on the Rea.

  14. Tom says:

    I’m about to start buying my equipment to begin fly fishing on the Rea Brook, the rods I was given last year are too big. I’ve been told to get a 6ft or 7ft?? 3/4w, 6ft I’ve only seen 3w. I’ve been told to get five foot tappered leader, tippet 3ft – 6ft, floating line, 3.5lbs tippet?? any help appreciated!!

    • Theo says:

      Tom, I’d probably recommend a rod no longer than 7ft6in for a 3wt line, although you could certainly go shorter and/or lighter than that (whilst researching Trout in Dirty Places, I fished the Brook with a 7ft 6in 1 weight and felt perfectly comfortable, even when a nice chub of about 2lbs took a liking to my fly). I usually use a 4ft furled leader with this rod, and about the same length of 3lb-ish Stroft tippet.

      Hope this helps, and do let us know how you get on…


  15. Spencer says:

    Hi, Any advice I can give I will , even come and show you the basics gents anytime.

    Hi T, hope your well my friend.
    Best Wishes

  16. Phil says:

    I and a few mates used to fish the brook in the sixties. We would get the train from Woodside and get off at Shrewsbury walking along the disused line to the golf course. Have been once or twice over the years to look but what a change!
    Love to fish it again.
    Regards Phil. ( Liverpool )

    • Spencer says:

      Hi Phil,
      Yes it must have changed a lot over the years. I was fishing there last Saturday, but for the first time on the lower Brook from the town onwards up to and into the estate. There’s lots of fish in there and being still warm in September… plenty of rising fish to the dry fly.
      If you need more info etc, give me a shout!


  17. Nice to read your comments on the Rea Brook which I have fished for 50 odd years.
    I am a coarse angler who catches a few trout and grayling whilst fishing for chub mostly. The brook is becoming more of a trout and grayling stream as the silver fish have been over predated and the cover removed in large parts, but it is always good to learn new skills and I have had to adapt over the 50 odd years I have fished here.I was told that as Meole brook it was the venue described by Izaak Walton when he was relating his methods to catch trout and grayling. how true this is I am sure someone will know.

    • Theo says:

      Thanks Steve! I’m not sure about the IW connection, but from what I can tell, the Rea Brook almost certainly influenced Thomas Barker, who wrote the Art of Angling in 1651. A stealthy approach with little palmered fly patterns (just like his!) still works perfectly on the Brook today…

  18. Mark Buswell says:

    I read the articles with interest I also live locally to Reabrook and the Severn. My question is about permits. Do I need one and where do I get them?


  19. Jon Evans says:

    Just stumbled across this – brought some memories back. My great uncle taught me to flyfish on the section above Meole Brace bridge back in the seventies. It was a jungle back then on the village bank, and I’d spend hours crawling about in the nettles trying to outwit the inhabitants. There would always be dace and chublets dimpling away – great practice. A size 16 thin-bodied black gnat anointed with mucilin was the way to go, and the dace needed a fast strike. The overhanging trees a little way above the bridge (still there?) were home to proper chub, which would come up to floating crust if you were prepared to stand like a heron for long enough. One glorious easter day after rain I caught a smallish trout on a Greenwells Glory, followed by another on ledgered worm and another on maggots under a bubble float. This bag motivated my great uncle to get out of his armchair in the kitchen and give it a go, and he caught one too, skating a dry alder downstream – a masterclass to my greedy eyes. I imagine the trout bonanza was the fruits of someone’s stocking upstream. Never ever saw a grayling. So glad to hear the river is thriving and still providing pleasurable fishing.

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