Trout in the Town Blog

25/06/2013 - 10:20
I recently hosted Justin, the winning bidder for my lot in the Monnow Rivers Association auction. The WTT has worked closely with the MRA for a long time, so it was a very pleasurable way to support their ongoing efforts.

Justin did a great trip report of our urban adventure with photos here:

12/06/2013 - 08:22

We were fortunate to secure supporting funding from the Fishmongers' Company which allowed us to subsidise attendance at our biennial event in support of Trout in the Town project leaders. Brilliantly hosted by Salford Friendly Anglers; the theme for this year's Urban River Champions' Conclave was "Resilience". It is a characteristic that urban rivers can show in spades. It is also something that every volunteer - and especially every person who takes on the responsibility to run an urban project - needs to have buckets of.

However, everyone involved in these labours of love will experience real low points. It can get to feel like a hopeless cause in the face of external opposition as well as internal group tensions.

This was the reason that I asked Philip Sheridan to give the keynote address at this year's Conclave - for reasons that will become clear when you watch his presentation. Phil not only kindly agreed to speak, but also allowed us to reproduce his talk in the video below. I think that I am right in saying that, after a fairly standard opening paragraph or two for an urban trout stream restoration presentation, the audience was completely unprepared for the directions that Phil subsequently took.

Phil's wonderful talk is a reflective and personal journey that starts with an appreciation of a recovering post-industrial river, but moves through some surprising and very moving territory covering Phil's travels as a teenager, his work in helping the recovery of abused children, a near fatal accident and post traumatic stress as well as his own gruelling road to recovery. If you have ever felt that the circumstances of life have prevented you from reaching your goals, Phil's talk will provide inspirational pause for thought. He was certainly an inspiration to me as the conference organiser and on top of that - just like all the other contributors - made my job very easy by giving a fantastic presentation.

Get yourself a brew and a biscuit and give yourself a chance to absorb his presentation in the video below - it could change your life...

Phil also produced a handout that gives guidance on cultivating your own resilience. It is reproduced below so that anyone who needs it can refer to the list at any time:

I would like to suggest 10 ways to support and promote resilience for yourselves and your groups gleaned from various sources that support this:


  1. Build your wealth in good relationships
  2. Crisis can bring opportunity with it
  3. Identify and accept the circumstances that you cannot change
  4. Set realistic goals then take steady steps toward them
  5. When adversity strikes take decisive action - always do one more thing
  6. Celebrate the small wins
  7. Take pride in your efforts
  8. Keep an eye on the broader context
  9. Be hopeful - expect success - be analytical if it doesn't come
  10. Take a break

21/05/2013 - 10:00
Some very nice positive coverage here in the local newspaper for the Wigan Trout in the Town activities:


20/05/2013 - 20:03
An important video from Trout - The amount of damage caused by the floodwaters on the Otter Creek associated with Hurricane Irene was worse where there was access to healthy wetlands and floodplains was reduced.

14/05/2013 - 10:25
Last year key people from SUBSTANCE social research co-operative: and the Get Hooked On Fishing project: and myself put a LOT of work into an extensive funding bid to the Big Lottery Fund. The idea behind it was to generate interest, interaction and greater care of urban river corridors in the communities living close to them.

This expands upon the excellent achievements of GHOF that uses coarse fishing activities to train up "peer mentors" who then coach people their own age in angling skills and achieve accreditation that helps them into careers in angling. They have been able to report significant successes in reduction of antisocial behaviour and many benefits to the life-choices made by participants in the scheme. Some of the most comprehensive evidence for these successes was gathered through the involvement of SUBSTANCE as part of their huge research project covering "The Social and Community Benefits of Angling".

Part of my input into the new bid was to propose the use of fly fishing as an engagement tool - since it has the added dimension of requiring anglers to acknowledge and understand the whole foodweb and habitat quality that their angling experience depends on. This is an added bonus that isn't automatically realised - or particularly obvious - when using bait fishing methods. The more I looked into this aspect, the more I realised how suitable the "pared down" traditional Japanese form of fly fishing called "tenkara" would be in this respect. Much easier to pick up initially - and also featuring fly patterns that even beginners could tie within a few minutes with instruction.

I was also able to provide contacts with local branches of the "Trout in the Town" project who were already adopting and caring for their sections of urban river. The SUBSTANCE personnel drafted a questionnaire that could be taken out by Trout in the Town branch members to their local community to get a handle on what kind of interactions old and young people had - as well as how they viewed their local river corridor and the main challenges that they faced in their lives.

The absolute star performers in terms of pounding the pavements and achieving responses from the public were the Salford Friendly Anglers/Action Irwell group - whose project on the River Irwell is Salford's affiliated branch of the Trout in the Town network. If you've ever seen those bods with the clipboards on the street trying to get market research done - you'll know what a thankless task it can be. So the fact that the Salford squad were able, in their "spare" time, to collect over 130 responses to quite an extensive questionnaire was absolutely astounding (big respect to Mike Duddy, Nick Carter and Tom Donnai for those great efforts).

This gave me something else to get my teeth into for the project bid - and the figures made revealing reading; throwing up a wealth of interesting findings. By way of a very brief sample of examples, after transcribing questionnaire responses, I have plotted up "word clouds" for both the 11-19 year old and the Over 19 year old adult responses when people were talking in their own words about the main challenges faced by their community. The bigger the letters, the more frequently they were mentioned by different people.



It is interesting to note that both young people and adults felt that the lack of things for people to do is a significant problem. It is also interesting to note that many (if not all) of the remaining problems are things that angling projects have been shown to be very helpful in tackling.

As another small slice of the findings from my questionnaire transcriptions was an excuse for me to dust off my statistics text books to look at how likely certain responses were to be due simply to pure chance. A chi-squared test of the proportion of responses observed versus what you would expect due to chance indicated that a previous encounter with the opportunity to try angling substantially increased a young person's interest in getting involved with angling in the future.

As it turned out, the statistical test gave an estimate of less than one in six thousand for the probability of the above results arising by pure chance. Consequently, by creating those opportunities for involvement with angling (and consequently their local river corridor) there is a good chance of passing on some significant benefits to those communities.

On the back of the many months of work done in designing and writing the bid - as well as diligently researching the need for the project and the precise nature of the benefits it would bring, it was extremely disappointing when our initial bid was not successful. We have had feedback that indicates what aspects the funding body would like to see changed - so I hope that, in future, all of the respective partner organisations can find the time and money to support a revised bid. However, these things are far from certain; given the large investment of resources required just to put a bid together - with absolutely no guarantee of getting anything back to cover future costs.

So - a huge thank you and well done to our questionnaire collectors and interviewers and we hope that we might bring some things to fruition in future. In the meantime, it is at least very useful to know that there are perceived needs for positive things for community members to do; and that projects of this nature can make meaningful changes to how different generations of people interact. The potential for those community improvements to also enhance the enjoyment and the care of the urban river corridor environment is also really important to recognise and, where possible, encourage.

26/04/2013 - 12:34

Following my initial Advisory Visit on 8th December 2010 we were finally allowed to get our wellies on and make some habitat improvements to a stream in the Wigan area (close to where I partially mis-spent my youth!). So in March 2013 an intrepid band of local volunteers were led by Paul Kenyon, whose house backs onto the river, to participate in a WTT Trout in the Town habitat Practical Visit. We were also joined by local landowner Ian Parker who got firmly stuck into the labour – and is interested in additional works on his section of river just upstream.
The presence of a few wild trout in the reach shows the potential of this river – although it is currently periodically struck by serious pollution incidents that have emanated from a Victorian-era dye works upstream as well as Combined Sewer Outfall discharges. The provision of improved habitat in this reach is hoped to provide opportunities for generations of fish to thrive and reproduce in-between pollution incidents on the main river. It will also act to improve the resilience of fish populations using the (non-polluted) tributaries to spawn by improving survival prospects for juvenile and young adult fish. In this way, the abilities of fish to repopulate following catastrophe are boosted.
The irony that the “day to day” water quality is easily good enough to support trout is evidenced by the rapid-recolonisation of various “pollution-sensitive” invertebrate species living there – as well as the presence of trout above the offending periodic pollution inputs. The potential to invest in increasing the capacity of storm overflow tanks on the Combined Sewer system has been raised by the Environment Agency – and would be a very welcome and highly appropriate development. We hope that the presence of the wild, pollution-sensitive, trout AND the improved habitat will give us great leverage to seek the improvements necessary to protect against pollution from all sources. The occasional foul water event is the only thing standing in the way of a really thriving wild river.
The main thrust of the habitat works was to increase the complexity of the habitat by introducing and securely anchoring the crowns of trees into the river margins at alternating intervals. This would provide both an increase in the physical “shelter” habitat from predation and spate flows; but also introduce a degree of variety in the current speeds across the river’s cross-section. Both types of increased complexity are at a premium in river channels that have been historically straightened and locked in place with reinforced banks (such as this one).

Drilling a hole in a tree trunk using a petrol auger (so that the steel cable can be threaded through and attached to its anchor-point)

A Tirfor winch can be used as a cheap alternative to heavy plant machinery hire to position trees

Some judicious steering and cajoling of an awkward trunk can be required!

Paul (K) and Paul (G) apply the fasteners to the steel anchor cable - which is kept as short as possible

Where's my stick?

Where do you want this one?

Well-earned post-match refreshment :)

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