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Trout in Dirty Places

By Peter Lapsley

To most of us, the words ‘trout stream’ conjure up pastoral pictures of limpid rivers meandering through water meadows, of bubbling brooks in sylvan settings or of flower-flanked back-eddies beneath tumbling waterfalls. Theo Pike’s new book, Trout in Dirty Places turns such imagery on its head, and is indicative of the major ways in which our approach to fly fishing and fisheries management has changed for the better.

Until quite recently, few anglers were as actively involved in environmental matters as they would have liked the world to believe. When the water they fished became degraded, they tended to shrug their shoulders and wander off to pastures new. Spurred on by The Wild Trout Trust (WTT), collaborating with naturalists’ organisations and greatly helped by the resources of the Anglers’ Monitoring Initiative, things are very different now. Wherever you look, long-lost rivers are being brought back to life, usually led by just a few people with the necessary vision, energy and enthusiasm. Theo Pike is one of them.

In his new book, Theo has identified 50 rivers in which one can fish for trout and grayling in towns and cities throughout the UK. Nobody could be better qualified to write such an important work. As chairman of the Wandle Trust, Theo and those he has inspired have achieved the seemingly impossible, transforming south London’s River Wandle, classified as a sewer in the 1960s, into a truly productive mixed fishery, sustaining at least ten species of fish including brown trout, which spawned there last winter for the first time in living memory. The Trust has also been running the ‘Trout in the Classroom’ project for ten years now. In 2010/11, seven local schools participated, the youngsters releasing into the Wandle trout fry they had reared themselves. There can be no surer way of getting local children to take ownership of  a river, guaranteeing its future (see my article, Catching them young, in the October 2012 issue of FF&FT).

Theo could have been tempted to write a whole book on the Wandle. Instead, and far better, he has simply given that extraordinary example its fair share of space in a book covering a multitude of urban rivers on which comparably good work is being done. Just as a taster, amongst the most astonishing of them are the River Bollin, where it runs through a tunnel under Manchester Airport’s Runway Two, where the fishing is free, and where trout to 3lb have been caught; and the River Don, sacrificed to the textile, paper and steel industries for over 200 years, on which the well known guide and entomologist Stuart Crofts has been leading one of the WTT’s first ‘Trout in the Town’ projects, and which now sustains trout in excess of 5lb and grayling to 1½lb and more.

As is to be expected from Merlin Unwin books, Trout in Dirty Places is handsomely produced. Each river has three or four pages of authoritative and very readable text, numerous excellent photographs and a summary page, explaining who is looking after it, how to get there, seasons and permits, fishing tips and a selection of local landmarks.

This is a truly important book, a landmark in fly fishing history, and a snip at £20, a proportion of which goes to the WTT and the Grayling Society. Buy your copy today.



Trout in Dirty Places
By Theo Pike.
Merlin Unwin Books; £20

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