Caught by the River

It's Alive!

10th June 2009

As the coarse fishers among us are thinking ahead to the start of the new season next week, Theo Pike looks back at last season on The Wandle.

(Lino cut by John Richardson, from Caught by the River – A Collection of Words on Water)

Monday 17 September 2007. Acid-etched into all our memories here on the Wandle… a date that none of us involved with this unique little urban chalkstream will ever forget.

But if that was the moment when everything seemed to go wrong for the river where the locals once taught Halford to fish with a dry fly, maybe, just maybe, 2008 – 09 has been the season when prospects have started to improve again.

If you still remembered where to stalk them, some of the river’s Oldest Inhabitants could be lured from their lairs…

Jed barbel

… and within a year of the pollution, when we weren’t Riverfly monitoring, the Wandle Piscators felt it was time to get out on home water again:

Greg chub

Andy carp

Pumpkinseeds, grayling and other exotica may finally have bought the farm, but that just left more room for the old faithful roach and chub, with many more young ‘uns soon appearing from the EA’s fish farm at Calverton…

Adrian roach 2

Andy chub

… while a brace of dace obligingly caught, and then released, a dry Kite’s Imperial in front of Merton Bus Garage during a charitable Wander up the Wandle in aid of the Wild Trout Trust.

Andrew Gibbs

Boosted by Thames Water’s promise of 5 years’ support for the Living Wandle project, Trout in the Classroom trickles troutlings into the river every spring, getting kids reconnected with their local environment, and sometimes producing moments of heart-stopping psychedelia for us anglers:

Andy trout

But for those of us who remain strangely captivated by this river, and what really does lie beneath her surface, it’s hard to beat the retro surrealism of a matched pair of glass carp netted at a recent Wandle Trust cleanup…

Jane with glass carp

… except with our new Species Trophy, similarly dredged from the chalky depths, due to be awarded to whoever catches the widest variety of Wandle fish in the coming year. (Keep an eye out for the launch of this conservationists’ competition-with-a-difference in time for the new season!)

Abi with species trophy

On a river that’s all too familiar with acid, bleach and other horrors… maybe the best and truest memories really will be made like this.

If you’d like to join us in restoring the Wandle, and creating memories of your own on this wonderful little river, visit and