Fly Fishing In Unusual Places - by Tim James


Helicopter rides to remote regions, pristine rivers funnelling sapphire blue water, and individuals sporting ear to ear grins holding oversized relatives of fish species that are more likely found in someone’s tropical fish tank. Fly fishing is certainly photogenic as any cursory browse through a retailer’s annual catalogue can attest. In fact many parts of the Amazon, for example, witness more double hauling than some of the UK’s waterways, particularly those located within the concrete jungles of our biggest cities. However, for those seeking adventures closer to home, these venues can throw up some lovely surprises indeed. 

What and where

Within my home city of London, any water body outside of the River Wandle, with its population of wild brown trout, Walthamstow reservoirs, Hayes Trout Farm or Syon park with their stocked ‘bows, seldom, if ever see a fly angler grace their banks. Nevertheless, many urbanised regions contain stillwaters ranging in size from small ponds to huge windswept reservoirs, to small streams teaming with dace and chub. Reverting to London, even our deep docks harbour Perch, Zander and even Bass. 

How to find these places 

I select urban venues based upon two categories; 1) The species I want to catch and; 2) whether the venue is suitable for fly fishing (water clarity, casting space and whether I can get my fly within holding zones). For example, a lake may have clear water but if the fish are located in areas you can’t cast to then it’s time to find somewhere new. The only way to identify if a venue is a viable prospect is to just get stuck in with high hopes but low expectations. 

When investigating a venue for the first time try to stop and chat with other anglers and never write someone off because of how they look. During a recent trip to the Canary Wharf docks, I bumped into two marijuana and alcohol-fuelled lure anglers (one with quite a few missing teeth). They provided invaluable information and showed me photos of quality perch and one cracking zander taken from the docks. 


A couple of my best fishing spots are where fishing is prohibited. On my local stream, the local authority doesn’t permit fishing but no signs are stating this and these rules are not enforced. However, I still employ a little discretion by fishing at quieter hours and avoiding one very public stretch. If you do find yourself challenged by local busy body ‘Richard & Judy’ types always be polite and move on….. you’re a representative of the angling community so it’s important to conduct yourself in a manner which doesn’t bring disrepute to the sport. 

In summary

Many of these urban venues harbour specimen sized fish, are easy to get to by pubic transport, are very often free and can throw up some surprises for the fly angler willing to experiment and take risks. Why not give them a go, there’s nothing to lose.

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