The Urbantrout Diaries: Spinners in South London
Flyfishing.co.uk is delighted to welcome Theo Pike to our regular writing team. Theo, founding editor of Urbantrout.net - a website dedicated to the urban fly-fishing and river restoration - will be taking an occasional look at his exploits with trout in those less than ‘usual’ places...
Over the past couple of months I’ve been fishing almost regularly on a stretch of the River Wandle I’ve known for years - but often walked past in search of better-looking water.
At first glance it’s an utterly unprepossessing stretch of urban river: straight, shallow, lined with concrete banks, often littered with rubbish from semi-derelict housing estates. But maybe what saves this one is the broken shade that allows a few weed beds to flourish - and the pocket water created by the years of discarded builders’ waste fly-tipped into the channel. (If you tried hard enough, you could probably collect enough to reconstruct the hard-working mills and grand Victorian villas which occupied these ancient cotton-bleaching grounds until they were finally demolished in the 1960s).
Throughout most hours of daylight, gin-clear and spooky don’t begin to describe it: this river still flows from the chalk springs that once forced Frederic Halford to learn how to fish a dry fly like the locals. But as I’ve discovered this blue-winged olive season, for a few moments some evenings between daylight and lamplight, you may get a chance to put your fly in front of a trout you’ll remember for the rest of the year.
Make your approach too early, and there’s still too much ambient light, even when you think you’re safely sheltered by the deep shade of the trees. Too late, and the street lamps on the paths through the estate will silhouette you as a looming black shadow against a sulphur glare - or spotlight every movement as if you’re a POW caught in the act of busting out of Stalag Luft III.
Either way, the whole river’s surface will rock with the departure of something enormous in this tiny stream. The hairs prickle on the back of your neck, and you’re suddenly almost glad not to be tangling with whatever that was, alone in the yellow dark, armed with nothing more than your pathetic little stick of carbon fibre.
But when you get everything just right, you’ll come upon a pod of fish feeding heavily on a blue-winged spinner fall - swinging from side to side in the current, swirling oily rise rings sideways into the concrete walls and trailing ivy stems. Drop your little dry spinner pattern somewhere into those rings, and hang on for the detonation, while Labrinth and Lady Gaga rip up the night from the tower blocks above.
Urban fly-fishing… this is it.
Theo is a freelance marketing, fly-fishing and environmental writer. He’s also Chairman of Trustees of the Wandle Trust, and founding editor of Urbantrout.net a website dedicated to the urban fly-fishing and river restoration improvements.
Theo’s trailblazing book Trout in Dirty Places: 50 rivers to fly-fish for trout and grayling in the UK’s town and city centres was published by Merlin Unwin Books in 2012. His new book on invasive non-native species is due in April 2014.
Articles by the same author
- Urbantrout Diaries 9: A Year of Mending Urban Rivers: Part 3
- Urbantrout Diaries 8: A Year of Mending Urban Rivers: Part 2
- Urbantrout Diaries 7: A Year of Mending Urban Rivers: Part 1
- Urbantrout Diaries 6: Taking the Fight to Invasive Non-native Species
- Urbantrout Diaries 5: Wet Weather in Wincanton
- Urbantrout Diaries 4: Spawning Time
- Urbantrout Diaries 3: Discovering the Dour
- The Urbantrout Diaries 2: Bashing Balsam
- The Urbantrout Diaries: Spinners in South London
- Heavy Metal Trout