Saturday, 21 May 2016

trout in the city




















The angling gods are laughing. My long awaited trip to the River Wandle is not progressing entirely to plan. Yes I have seen some trout. I have seen their backsides hightailing away from me before I can get anywhere close. The trouble is you see, they see me first, no matter how stealthily I think I am sliding into the river. I have landed a couple of specimens though. These are a terrapin and a lady's stocking. The terrapin is of course a non native species and as such should be euthanised. But, peering into its shell and seeing its beady little eyes peering back at me I don't quite have the heart so I put it back where I found it. And the lady's stocking? Well it isn't my size. 
 
My good fishing buddy for the day, Paul Williams, has warned me that the trout here are super-spooky. Considering how many people walk past them all day long I would have thought that they would be a bit more approachable. We fish every likely spot though as we move upstream and I have to say this really is a charming little river. There are the inevitable intrusions of the urban metropolis that surrounds but the river appears to be in rude health, thanks in no small part to the hard work of The Wandle Trust. As we walk the bank we have a chance meeting with Theo Pike, angling writer and conservationist, and one of the driving forces behind the restoration of the river as a trout stream. Theo is out fishing today too, working his way downstream. Theo tells us that the fish are indeed especially spooky, due in part to the high water clarity. The upstream dry fly was invented for the Wandle he tells us and I believe him.

My hopes are waning a little as reality bites. I had two outcomes in mind for today. Firstly to catch my first tenkara salmo. Secondly to realise my ambition to catch a native brown trout within London. Most of the trout in the Wandle have grown on, or are descended from fingerlings re-introduced by the Wandle Trust and Environment Agency. Some years on they have now established as a naturalised breeding population and that's wild enough for me. This is my first trip to running water with my tenkara rod, and fish or no, I am enjoying the experience of casting my nymph down along the margins of the emerald green weed rafts. The presentation that tenkara allows is so delicate and precise, I just know I can catch one of these fish if I can get close enough..       
      




















Paul has worked hard before my visit to scout out good marks for us to try. He is keen to show me an industrial looking pound that marks the uppermost reach of this stretch of the river. Upstream from here the river was covered over long ago and now runs beneath factories before tumbling out into the basin beneath us. I don't know the industrial history of this site but this reminds me of a mill pound. The water slides over a concrete sill to boil and swirl like a cauldron or deep plunge pool in a mountain stream. As my eyes becomes accustomed to the light and patterns on the surface I can see the fish Paul is pointing out. There are some roach, some chub - and yes trout. I can see by the posture of the trout that they are 'on the fin' - alert and on station just outside of the heavier flow and ready to intercept food items that pass within reach. 

The current is chaotic and it is purely by perseverance that my beadhead pheasant tail nymph eventually passes in front of one of the trout I can see deep below. There is a butter coloured flash as the trout darts at my fly but fails to connect as the current swings the fly out of its window. I can see the fish is agitated and aggressive and I manage to get another drift past. This time it connects, briefly, only to come unstuck a second later. I feel the bump through the rod and fancy I can feel the bead rattle as I floss his teeth with my fly. Third time lucky though and this time he is properly on. The little esoteric zoom rod handles him well but he is using the heavy water to his advantage and bringing him successfully to the net is not a forgone conclusion. After a some frantic moments and some brisk netsmanship from Paul though I have my prize. A quick photo' and in he goes, swimming off with attitude, to appear back on station a few minutes later.

My first native trout on tenkara and caught within London! I know the world is all fucked up but this says to me that perhaps there is still a chance..    


6 comments:

  1. It certainly was a nice little fish buddy

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    1. All down to you, thanks again old chap!

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  2. Nature always give us a chance.
    Interesting post, and congrats on that tenkara trout!

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    1. Thank you Michael, the journey continues!

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  3. Another great write up David- and I'm really pleased you met Mr Theo Pike, who is a real star of urban fishing and conservation. Thought you two would get on!

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    1. Thanks Dom, I was blessed with serendipitous day!

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