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For the last couple of winters we’ve watched Wandle trout cutting redds and spawning, electrofished year-old trout from places where little Trout in the Classroom graduates shouldn’t have been…

… but still never knew for certain whether our schools’ farmed-strain trout had ever started spawning successfully in the Wandle.

Finally, here’s proof provided by our already-award-winning Anglers’ Riverfly Monitoring Initiative: after 80-plus years, trout have begun breeding again in South London.

Yesterday morning, Duncan and I were doing our monthly kick-sample on the Hackbridge stretch of the river, shuffling in the gravels and sweeping a net through the ranunculus just downstream from the Wandle’s first flow deflector to dislodge olive nymphs, freshwater shrimp, caddis: all important invertebrates that act as a proxy test for water quality, and tell us about the health of the river’s food web.

And when we tipped the contents of our net into a bucket of water to start sorting and counting the bugs… there was a tiny swim-up brown trout fry.

This year’s Trout in the Classroom releases aren’t scheduled to start until later this week.

So this tiny trout, carefully photographed and released, can only have been a wild fish, hatched just weeks ago from a gravel spawning redd near Shepley Mill.

(Duncan and I are both self-employed realists, out on the Wandle in all weathers, and more accustomed than most to the ups and downs of her fortunes.  But it’s only fair to say that, as the full enormity of what we’d discovered sank in, we whooped triumphantly… and then shook hands very solemnly in the middle of the river).

Within months, we hope that the older cousins of the barbel and dace stocked here last December will also use these same gravel shallows for their own spawning.

It’s a brilliant vindication of the Wandle Trust’s and Wandle Piscators’ strategy to work with the Environment Agency, the Wild Trout Trust and many other partners to improve adult and juvenile habitat for all fish species on this stretch of the Wandle – and a massive boost for our ongoing mission to improve water quality, clean gravels, and open up fish passage throughout the river.

80 years on, trout are breeding again in the Wandle.

Now we just need to make sure they can do it again, and again, and again.

9 Responses to “Proof at last: trout are breeding again in the Wandle!”

  1. Rob Denny says:

    Theo et al,
    You have no idea how much joy that brings to me too.

  2. Theo says:

    Very many thanks, Rob – and to everyone else for their kind words over on the Fly Forums!


    And at Smallstreams too:


    (No pressure, little trout!)


  3. Theo and the whole Wandle gang

    Congratulations, you must be elated and Gideon must be whooping with Joy; really pleased for you all, your efforts are outstanding.

    One day I will get to London and visit the Wandle.

    Keep going and working at this.


  4. Gideon Reeve says:

    Well Andy I think I’ve got a touch of whooping cough at the moment but yes I was very delighted and excited by the news. Thanks for your words of support. Hope you do make it down south some time, if we dont see you in your neck of the woods first.


  5. The return of trout to any river is something to be celebrated. We are lucky to be living in times which give hopre that man can allow nature to repair the damage we have created in the past. lets hope the damage we are doing climate wise right now doesn’t reverse the trend.
    and my favourite them on health.

    Eating more fish is an inteligent way to healthy eating.
    And to be even more healthy go catch your own.
    The outdoors and excersise and eating fish – a supper powerfull health kick

  6. Theo says:

    Fly Fishing Reels, many thanks for your support – as you say, the return of pollution-sensitive species like trout to any river is cause for celebration, it’s great to see the Wandle taking one more step towards becoming a healthy, self-sustaining ecosystem.

    However, as a word to the wise, it’s important to emphasise that we can’t sanction taking any fish from the Wandle at this stage: this is still very much a recovering river, and any removal of its fish stocks could severely damage its chances of recovery.

    We should also mention the probable health risks associated with eating fish from rivers like the Wandle that have been so heavily industrialised and polluted for so many years. Although the water is clean, heavy metals and other pollutants will persist in the river’s silt almost indefinitely, being ingested by invertebrates and becoming more concentrated as they move up the food chain, and ending up toxically concentrated in the top predators (for an immediate parallel, think mercury in tuna). The fish themselves will be fine, but any human who eats them very probably won’t be.

    Sorry if any of this comes over as negative, but it needs to be said – and once again, thank you very much indeed for your support, which we appreciate hugely!


  7. […] fight! Admittedly thse are both a bit bigger than your dead one and have used up their yolk sacks. The Wandle Piscators Blog Archive Proof at last: trout are breeding again in the Wandle! […]

  8. Jason Hill says:

    After catching a number of surprise trout at Shepley Mill in January I did think this was going to be a likely recruitment spot. Even more so after going back in March and seeing a number of exuberantly rising fish. I shall be passing on my congratulations at the next Wandle clean-up in Sutton, at the weekend!

  9. […] In the four years since a guided Wander up the Wandle became a fixture in the Wild Trout Trust’s annual charity auction, the river’s trout population has been steadily increasing. […]

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