How You Can Support The Wild Trout Trust

Monitoring our rivers is a vital part of the Wild Trout Trust’s work Image source

Monitoring our rivers is a vital part of the Wild Trout Trust’s work
Image source: Ceri Thomas

There must have been something in the air (or the water) during the mid-late 1990s. Maybe it was an altruistic reaction to the pure me-first consumerism of the 1980s, or a slow-burn realisation that if we wanted good things to happen, we’d have to get together and do them ourselves, but the last years of the 20th century saw a quiet revolution in many people’s attitude to looking after our rivers.

In Wales, Devon and Cornwall, small groups of locals founded the first rivers trusts: the Wye and Usk Foundation, and the West Country Rivers Trust. In south London, the same thing started happening on the Wandle. And, somewhere in the western chalk streams, a few far-sighted trout fishermen decided they’d form the Wild Trout Society, which soon became the Wild Trout Trust. Theo Pike takes a closer look at the Wild Trout Trust (WTT), explaining what they do and how you can support them.

What is The Wild Trout Trust?

The health of trout in a river is a good indication of the health of the whole river

The health of trout in a river is a good indication of the health of the whole river
Image source: Ceri Thomas

Today, the rivers trust movement covers every river catchment in the country from source to sea, and the Wild Trout Trust is a well-established conservation charity that can’t have escaped the notice of anyone who fishes and cares for trout in the UK and beyond.

Put simply, if you’re interested in the health of a river or natural lake anywhere in Britain or Ireland, the WTT is here for you. The charity’s tight-knit group of 13 full and part-time members of staff (with more than 150 years of river-mending experience between them) delivers practical advice and hands-on habitat projects that may start with trout, but can often stretch way beyond this iconic indicator species to the health of the whole river or lake, and even its wider catchment.

How does The Wild Trout Trust help?

WTT-advisory

A WTT advisory visit highlighted this obstruction. “The prolonged burst swimming speeds required to pass make this structure an issue for fish passage.”
Image source: The Wild Trout Trust Advisory Visit – River Esk (North Yorkshire)

As you might expect, there’s a tried and tested formula for providing advice. First, there’s the advisory visit, when WTT conservation officers walk a stretch of river with all the interested parties, making notes, discussing options, and providing a written report with recommendations and sometimes project costings.

There are more than 600 AV reports available for download from the WTT website, and I’ve always thought that one of the Trust’s greatest gifts is providing ordinary people with knowledge and confidence to speak truth to power.

An advisory visit report, or a more detailed project proposal written up by a WTT officer to support a permit application, will often give you all the ammunition you need to approach the Environment Agency and say, “Look, here’s what we want to do for our river. Can we make it happen, please?

Practical help

river-conservation

Conservation work in progress on the Little Dart River, Devon
Image source: Shutterstock

This may actually be enough to get things going, but if you want to take your project further with the WTT, the next stage is the River Habitat Workshop, when the Trust’s officers will come back with tools and equipment to teach you and the other members of your group the techniques you need to improve your river yourselves.

It’s all about sharing solidly science-based knowledge for everyone’s benefit, and the Trust has published a comprehensive Wild Trout Survival Guide (now on its fourth edition) with detailed supplementary CDs covering chalkstreams, upland rivers and urban river restoration guidelines. There’s also an annual Get-Together, with locations rotating around the UK, and periodic Trout in the Town conclaves, when urban river groups can meet and share their experiences.

How you can help – the Wild Trout Trust’s auction

WTTauction

Place your bids in this year’s auction to help the Wild Trout Trust raise funds
Source: The Wild Trout Trust auction

Last year alone, the WTT delivered 196 advisory visits and 81 practical events, and helped to improve 365km of river with 3,600 volunteers. Some of this was funded as part of other projects with landowners, fishing clubs, rivers trusts and government agencies, especially the Environment Agency in England, and the WTT’s overheads are kept to an absolute minimum – for instance, all staff work from home. But every charity needs to find other sources of income too, and that’s where the Trust’s famous annual auction comes in.

In 2017, the auction raised an amazing £98,000 – by far the WTT’s most important single fundraising event of the year, allowing the charity to unlock as much as £490,000 in match and other project funding on a massive 5:1 ratio, as Kris Kent explains in this article for Eat Sleep Fish. The funds also help to keep the WTT’s team of officers on the road and in the river, paying for tools and equipment like chainsaws and waders for them and the volunteers they’re teaching.

This year, as usual, the benefits of the auction will flow both ways, not just helping the Trust to deliver vastly more than would otherwise be possible – but also providing bidders with rare and exciting opportunities to fish in many different places, sometimes with people they’d never otherwise get to meet, or even to buy rare books and other pieces of memorabilia. (I’m still kicking myself for missing out on that set of flies tied by Emma Watson – who knows what kinds of magic I could have worked with those?)

From years of personal experience, too, I know it’s just as satisfying to donate one or more lots to the auction, showing your water to someone new, and knowing you’re part of a virtuous circle that’s making our rivers better for everyone.

So, whether you’d like to expand your fishing horizons this year, or you’re simply motivated to help one of the UK’s most hands-on charities make even more of a difference to all our rivers, keep an eye out for the Wild Trout Trust charity auction from Friday 9th to Sunday 18th March, and please bid generously. The next wild trout you catch will thank you for it!

10 things you might not know about wild trout

The Wild brown trout is an ancient creature

The wild brown trout is an ancient creature
Image source: Ceri Thomas

  1. Wild brown trout have been present in north-west Europe for more than 700,000 years, throughout several major glaciations. Their natural range extends from Ireland in the west, to the Ural Mountains and the Caspian Sea in the east, and from Iceland in the north to Africa’s Atlas mountains in the south.
  1. Trout need very different kinds of habitat through their life stages – from silt-free gravel as eggs and alevins, to deeper and faster water with lots of marginal cover as older juveniles, to even deeper pools with more habitat diversity as adults.
  1. Brown trout can live as long as 20 years.
  1. The British record rod caught wild brown trout is 31lbs 12oz (14.4kg) caught on Loch Awe by Brian Rutland in 2002.
  1. Evolution means every river holds wild trout that are very slightly different – they’ve become adapted to the special conditions of the habitat where they live.
  1. By contrast, many strains of farmed trout have been kept in captivity for more than 30 generations, becoming adapted to life in artificial tanks and raceways. This makes them much less likely to survive in the wild, but their behaviour may disrupt wild trout in the meantime.
  1. The easiest way to tell a wild trout from a stocked trout is to look at the condition of their fins. Many stocked fish suffer from damage to their pectoral and dorsal fins (often healed, leaving them kinked or rounded). However, wild fish can also suffer from abraded fins and tails after spawning.
  1. Trout often become noticeably spottier as spawning time approaches, due to redistribution of pigmentation. Some of these spots may fade away again, but others stay to ‘fill in’ gaps between previous spots as the fish gets bigger.
  1. Trout and salmon can sometimes interbreed. Studies on the River Tweed have shown that up to 4-5% of juvenile salmonids can actually be trout/salmon hybrids.
  1. Even ‘resident’ brown trout migrate surprising distances within river systems. On the River Deveron, one 55cm female trout swam from the Blackwater to Montcoffer, a distance of 84km, within a month of being caught, tagged and released, before turning around and coming all the way back again!

 

Count down to opening day: UK reservoir fisheries dates 2018

The count down to the season has started! Image source: Fishtec

The count down to the season has started! Image source: Llyn Clywedog fishery

With the days becoming longer and lighter, it’s hard to ignore the excitement of a new trout fishing season just around the corner.

To help you get your plans for 2018 off to a flying start, here’s the Fishtec pick of our top 10 UK reservoir fisheries as the new season begins, including those all-important opening dates for your diary.

So, whether you’re an expert stillwater trout hunter, or completely new to this aspect of the sport, why not try exploring somewhere different this year?

• Stocks Reservoir (Forest of Bowland, Lancashire)

Stocks sits 600 feet above sea level in the hills at the top of the Hodder Valley, so you’ll need to wrap up warm to begin your season here. But all those extra layers will be worth it – Stocks is widely regarded as ‘the best reservoir fishery in the north’. To start your season at Stocks, try imitative buzzers, or black and white, green or orange lures, fished from the bank on a slow-sinking line in the clear, slightly peaty water.
Season opens: 24 February 2018
More information: www.stocksreservoir.com/

• Rutland Water (near Oakham, Rutland)

Seeming to float above the surface of Rutland Water when levels are high in early season, Normanton Church makes one of the greatest backdrops of British stillwater fly-fishing. A session close to this iconic building should be on every angler’s early-season bucket list. Trout grow to 15lbs in Rutland’s rich waters, and the U-shaped reservoir’s sinuous points and bays will provide you with miles and miles of bank to explore. If you’re looking for a midge hatch, the shallow South Arm is reputed to be one of the best and biggest buzzer fishing spots in the country.
Season opens: 9 March 2018
More information: http://www.anglianwater.co.uk/leisure/water-parks/rutland/fishing/

• Draycote (near Rugby, Warwickshire)

Surrounded by rolling countryside, yet within easy distance of several motorways, Draycote boasts the finest buzzer fishing in the Midlands – a very good reason to mark your diary for early season. You’ll need to hire a boat to drift the hotspots over Draycote’s famous shallow island ‘shoals’, but all the natural banks offer superb fishing too, and browns and rainbows grow on to sizes of 10lbs or more.
Season opens: 2 March 2018
More information: www.flyfishdraycote.co.uk/

• Grafham Water (near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire)

With its internationally-famous stocks of overwintered brown and rainbow trout, Grafham Water is one of Britain’s premier early-season fisheries. Loch-style fishing from boats for these turbo-charged fish is always popular, but taking a roving approach on foot can also be very productive, and even better access to the banks is planned in 2018. (Don’t forget, Grafham has become a stronghold for invasive ‘killer shrimp’ in recent years, so it’s vital to take careful biosecurity precautions when you’re fishing here).
Season opens: 2 March 2018
More information: http://www.anglianwater.co.uk/leisure/water-parks/grafham/fishing/

• Llyn Brenig (Denbigh Moors, north Wales)

If you’re craving top-of-the-water sport at the end of a long winter, the fourth largest lake in Wales may be your chance to catch a buzzer hatch. At a height of 1,200 feet in the Welsh mountains, booking a boat is often the best option to help you cover the water and take advantage of the prevailing wind. Llyn Brenig rainbows are famous for their fierce fighting qualities, and good early season flies include buzzers, cats’ whiskers, cormorants, blobs and boobies.
Season opens: 10 March 2018
More information: www.llyn-brenig.co.uk/fishing

• Llyn Clywedog (near Llanidloes, mid Wales)

Many reservoir fisheries are operated by water companies, so it’s refreshing to find one that’s run by a local fishing club for members and visitors. Llanidloes and District AA puts all its proceeds straight back into the fishery: the club stocks around 35,000 rainbow trout each season, and provides 29 boats including a wheelie boat. For 2018, they’ve also added 4hp petrol motors to all the boats. Local anglers put most of their faith in black buzzers, up to a size 12, for the months of March to May.
Season opens: 8 March 2018
More information: www.clywedogtroutfishing.co.uk

• Llandegfedd (near Pontypool, south Wales)

Easily accessible from Newport, Cwmbran and Pontypool, this is a Welsh fishery that’s run by Welsh Water. Llandegfedd is generously stocked with rainbow trout, but it also holds browns, as well as perch, roach-bream hybrids and big pike. Early season tactics are split between traditional floating lines and weighted nymphs, or fast sinkers with short lures or boobies. On their day, both can catch just as many fish! Llandegfedd has recently been threatened with closure, so please show your support for the fishery in 2018.
Season opens: 1 March (rainbow trout), 20 March (brown trout)
More information: www.llandegfedd.co.uk/fishing-llandegfedd

• Chew Valley Lake (Mendip Hills, near Bristol)

After hitting the headlines last year (when Bristol Water threatened to wind it down as a fishery) it’s testament to Chew Valley’s popularity that anglers’ protests persuaded them to rethink. The fishery has now won a reprieve, but it’s in all our interests to continue fishing it enthusiastically for grown-on browns up to 22lbs and rainbows up to 14lbs. Early season can produce epic midge hatches from the lake’s shallow waters, and a stealthy approach with imitative nymphs, emergers and dry flies on floating lines comes recommended by regular bank and boat fishermen alike.
Season opens: 6 March (season tickets), 8 March (non-season tickets)
More information: www.bristolwaterfisheries.co.uk/lakes/chew-valley-lake/

• Blagdon Lake (Mendip Hills, near Bristol)

Nestling at the foot of the scenic Mendip Hills, Blagdon has a legendary reputation for the varied sport it provides with its deep basins, shallow bays, and long narrow shape that makes it ideal for both bank and boat fishing. Five rowing boats and 15 petrol-driven boats (with low power output to reduce disturbance and wash) are available to book. Very much like nearby Chew, imitative tactics with small flies, especially black buzzers, are popular from the start of the season.
Season opens: 13 March (season tickets), 15 March (non-season tickets)
More information: www.bristolwaterfisheries.co.uk/lakes/blagdon-lake/

• Hawkridge (near Bridgewater, Somerset)

Wessex Water also runs other fly fisheries at Clatworthy and Sutton Bingham, but sharp-eyed social media buffs may already have noticed something new at Hawkridge in addition to the usual rainbows, browns, char, tiger, golden and blue trout this season: ‘sparctic’ trout, a cross between brook trout and Arctic char. Stocked at up to about 5lbs, with full fins and large pale spots on silver-grey sides, they’re stunningly beautiful fish. We can’t think of a better way to spice up your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed this spring!
Season opens: 28 February 2018
More information: www.wessexwater.co.uk/fishing/

 

Countdown to open season: at a glance

Fishery

Open season

More information

Stocks Reservoir

(Forest of Bowland, Lancs)

24 February 2018 www.stocksreservoir.com/
Rutland Water

(Oakham, Rutland)

9 March 2018 http://www.anglianwater.co.uk/leisure/water-parks/rutland/fishing/
Draycote

(Rugby, Warwickshire)

2 March 2018 www.flyfishdraycote.co.uk/
Grafham Water

(Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire)

2 March 2018 http://www.anglianwater.co.uk/leisure/water-parks/grafham/fishing/
Llyn Brenig

(Denbigh Moors, north Wales)

10 March 2018 www.llyn-brenig.co.uk/fishing
Llyn Clywedog

(Llanidloes, mid Wales)

8 March 2018 www.clywedogtroutfishing.co.uk
Llandegfedd

(Pontypool, south Wales)

1 March (rainbow trout),

20 March (brown trout)

www.llandegfedd.co.uk/fishing-llandegfedd
Chew Valley Lake

(Mendip Hills, near Bristol)

6 March (season tickets),

8 March (non-season tickets)

www.bristolwaterfisheries.co.uk/lakes/chew-valley-lake/
Blagdon Lake

(Mendip Hills, near Bristol)

13 March (season tickets),

15 March (non-season tickets)

www.bristolwaterfisheries.co.uk/lakes/blagdon-lake/
Hawkridge

(Bridgewater, Somerset)

28 February 2018 www.wessexwater.co.uk/fishing/

 

UK Stillwater fly fisheries opening 2018

Click to download your free handy guide

Chris Ogborne’s Top Tips for Small Stillwater’s in Winter

A small stillwater in winter.

A small stillwater in winter.

Now that winter has officially arrived – even if global warming means that temperatures sometimes feel more like September – it’s the time of year when a lot of anglers think about a well earned break from our sport. A lot, but not all. Those of us who simply cannot bear to be parted from the game for more than a few days at a time are looking at winter fishing and the options, particularly on small STILLWATERS, are many.

Unless conditions are truly vile, there’s very little that compares with a crisp winters day on the water. Provided you take all the reasonable precautions and use sensible clothing then winter fishing can be every bit as challenging, enjoyable and rewarding as anything we do in high summer. On occasion, it can even be more fun and you’ll always have the certainty that you’re fishing with fellow anglers who are even bit as committed – some might even say eccentric – as you are!

I also have to put a quick word in here for the owners of small STILLWATERS. They, arguably more than any other style of fishery have a real commitment in offering us anglers year-round fishing, and it follows that we should return that by supporting them through these tougher months. Last summer was hardly a vintage one and whilst for us it simply meant that we didn’t have the greatest fishing ever, for the fishery owners it translated directly into reduced revenue So an extra day or two right now WILL make a difference to them and they’ll be more than a little pleased to see us.

Support your local stillwater - get out there for a few ours in the pale winter sun.

Support your local stillwater – get out there for a few hours in the pale winter sun.

So let’s imagine for a moment that Christmas is a fading memory, that we have a free Saturday with nothing in the diary, and that the pale sunshine is tempting us out of doors. The fishery welcome mat is out and we’re heading for the water. Here are my top tips for getting the most out of the day.

*************************************************************************************************

Layers: you’ve heard it before but it still amazes me that most people’s idea of fishing clothing is little more than a jacket and maybe a waistcoat. The key to staying comfortable at this (and indeed ANY) time of year is LAYERS. Airflo offer some superb lightweight layers to keep you warm and importantly to keep you flexible. Avoid layers that simply add bulk and think instead about layers that allow you freedom of movement. Thermal underwear may not be a fashion statement but they are massively valuable, as is a light outer layer such as the Airflo thermolite Jacket. Remember that a dry and comfortable angler is always a more EFFECTIVE angler.

Weatherproof: and by this I don’t just mean waterproof, I mean proof against all weathers. Conditions at this time of year change rapidly and if you’re hiking around the lake or you’re more than five minutes from the car then you’ll need to think wind and waterproof as well as warm and dry. Nothing cuts a day short like having a cold run of water down the back of your neck! My Airtex jacket kept me dry this year in the worst that an Icelandic storm could throw at me, and I stayed fishing long after others had left for the hotel.

Food items: think about what the trout might, should, and could be eating. Yes, it’s true that some aquatic insect life tends to shut down for winter but this is by no means universal. I’ve seen good midge hatches in January and February, and in lakes where Spring fed water keeps temperatures up you can be really surprised at the level of activity. There’s a strong case to match the hatch as cold weather sport is emphatically NOT all about gaudy streamers and attractors.

Look for any sort of water inflow.

Look for any sort of water inflow.

Water inflow: it goes without saying that you should always try to read the water, but the real banker in cold weather is any kind of water inflow. It might be little more than a trickle, but any kind of flow will attract fish to a greater or lesser degree. Dissolved oxygen levels are always a key factor in finding areas where fish will hold.

Water depth: this is probably the second most crucial factor to influence where you choose to fish. In cold conditions the fish will inevitably look for deeper water and the deeper it is then the more chance there is of thermoclines. Sometimes the natural lay of the land will show you how the contours work, but on man-made lakes your best bet is simply to ask the owner or manager where the deeper areas are. Look for a VARIETY of depth if at all possible, as fish will move in and out of the deeper areas at different times of day.

A fish caught off a bank side feature - a large tree stump.

A fish caught off a bankside feature – a large tree stump.

Bankside features: It might sound absurdly obvious, but I ALWAYS look for bankside features both to hide me from view AND to provide underwater structure. Yes the willow tree on the bank provides shade and helps with watercraft, but less obvious is that the same willow will have a substantial root structure beneath the water surface. This in turn will hold food items for the fish, as well as providing them with cover and a retreat.

Keep moving: Wide open spaces along the bank may make for nice easy casting, but unless you’re extremely careful with your profile then you’ll very quickly have a fish exclusion zone in front of you. Even when you’re using the bankside cover its still a good idea to keep moving and changing your spot. Unless there’s a VERY good reason, I never spend more than 20 minutes without moving.

Speed of retrieve: in very general terms, the slower the retrieve the better at this time of year. The fish tend to get lethargic in very cold water and will be less inclined to chase a fly, so give them plenty of time to make up their minds. We’ve all seen those fish that seem to follow and turn away at the last moment – the reality is that they’ve probably been following for ages and we’re simply retrieving too fast.

Line choice: This goes hand-in-hand with retrieve speed. For my money, there’s very little that cannot be achieved with either a floating line or a slow intermediate. The Airflo ‘slow glass’ intermediate is probably the default choice for winter fishing as it allows so much flexibility, yet at the same time enables you to explore most if not all of the depths.

A result of the right fly choice being made.

A result of the right fly choice being made.

Fly choice: The ‘life’ factor: with slower retrieves it follows that flies with more natural ‘life’ in them will work better. Keep the streamlined and sparse flies for summer and choose patterns with soft feather or hackles. Nymphs and attractors tied too tight will look ‘wooden’ and lifeless whilst those with soft dubbings, mobile body materials, softer hackles and even rubber legs will look SO much better.

Timing: the middle hours of the day are almost always the best. Early morning is rarely my favourite time, particularly after an overnight frost. In similar vein, the last hour of the day rarely produces good sport as the fish are thinking about heading for deeper water to cope with the long winter nights. Even a little midday sunshine can work wonders for aquatic life, as well as giving us anglers a little extra vigour with a touch of warmth on our backs!

Last but by no means least is the packed lunch! I always include not one but TWO thermos flasks in winter, one for coffee and the other for a good thick soup. After a ten minute break with what my Dad used to call a ‘good rib sticker’ soup then I’m always ready for more fishing!

Tightlines, Chris Ogborne.

Mere Beck trout fishery

Our 8-acre Fly Fishing Water, set in 14 acres at Mere Beck, is within an ancient flood plain. We undertook a unique land diversification project by moving hundreds of thousands of tons of sand. We transformed our landscape into a large meandering re-circulating river system dedicated to fly fishing. As the system has been purpose built, we have been able to include the best features for fly fishing found in natural rivers. There are deep pools, shallower back water, faster moving water, even a section of surface walkway which allows you to fish free of bank side obstructions. Many aspects of fly fishing has been created, from small stream fly fishing to larger casting pools. Nature will make you disbelieve our story.

Facilities on offer at MereBeck

Disabled access: Yes

Tackle Hire: Yes

Toilets: Yes

Refreshments: Yes

Day passes: Yes

Phone: 0776 1120843

Web: http://merebeck.co.uk/

Mere Beck is unique moving water fishery combining many of the fly fishing challenges and conditions found in the wild such as stream, lakes, fast and slow moving pools, back waters, waterfalls and glides. Something new to try! A moving Lake!

BellBrook Valley Fishery

The fishery consists of 6 lakes in a most picturesque setting in 40 acres of rolling Devonshire Heartland countryside. It is mostly in the Bellbrook Valley with the lakes being bordered by woodland and hilly meadows.

There is a wide range of trout fishing available; the six lakes are all spring and brook fed and the water is extremely fertile with the adjacent meadow and woodland ensuring a good supply of natural food – consequently there is excellent imitative fly-fishing. This also contributes to the superb quality and excellent tasting pink-fleshed trout.

Facilities on offer at Bell Brook Valley Fishery
Disabled access: Yes
Onsite Tackle Shop: Yes
Tackle Hire: Yes
Toliets: Yes
Refreshments: Yes
Day passes: Yes
Phone: 01398 351292
Web: www.bellbrookfishery.co.uk/fishery/index.asp

Furnace Mill Fishery

Furnace Mill Fishery

Furnace Mill is a popular day ticket venue located in the western arm of the Wyre Forest, near Bewdley.
The site boasts four lakes stocked with carp, roach, rudd, tench, chub, perch, ide, bream and barble.

 

Club matches, opens and corporate days all catered for. Tackle and bait available on site. Safe parking.
For more information and match results/news please take a look at the website.

Facilities on offer at Furnace Mill
Disabled access: Yes
Tackle Hire: No
Toliets: Yes
Refreshments: Yes
Day passes: Yes
Phone: 01299266777
Web: www.furnacemill.net

Innis Fly Fishery

Innis fly fishery

Situated a couple of miles from the Eden Project in Cornwall, Innis is a three lake complex covering 15 acres, presenting each fly fisher with a range of challenging conditions to satisfy all levels of skill.

The lakes are freshly stocked with well grown trout from home grown fish stocks and fishing is allowed from 8am to dusk.

Facilities on offer at Innis fly fishery

Disabled access:Yes
Tackle Hire:Yes
Toilets:Yes
Refreshments:Yes
Day passes:Yes
Phone:01726851162
web: http://www.innisflyfishery.co.uk