WTT Blog

Loopy carriers

Posted on November 26, 2018

Loopy carriers

Andy Thomas, WTT Conservation Officer for the South East shares some insights on chalkstream carriers: 

Although not exclusive to chalkstreams, man-made distributaries, loops or carriers pose many fishery owners and managers with difficult challenges, particularly when the flow into their particular system is controlled by a top-end hatch or weir. These challenges can be much more problematic when said hatch is owned by a third party.  If your club is lucky enough to have rights over the main channel, as well as the carrier, then great, but many do not and it’s always a surprise to me that so much harmony exits, particularly in the chalk stream valleys, where water is often split between two, three or even more parallel channels.

Habitat workshop on the Culdaff River, Ireland

Posted on November 08, 2018

Habitat workshop on the Culdaff River, Ireland

Gareth Pedley describes a workshop carried out with volunteers from the Culdaff River Community Angling Club, the Inishowen Rivers Trust and the Loughs Agency to learn about techniques for tackling excessive bank erosion - and does some valuable work too!

Developments on the Dove at Birdsgrove

Posted on October 03, 2018

Developments on the Dove at Birdsgrove

A WTT advisory visit in 2016 on behalf of Birdsgrove Fly Fishing Club (BFFC) to the River Dove, Derbyshire, identified seven weirs along the 5km length of river fished by the club. The impoundment of water by these structures is detrimental to river habitat, fly and fish populations,especially from a fish passage persepctive, and natural sediment transport. The advisory visit report stimulated a debate within the club about what could be done to improve the fishery and it was decided to work towards the removal of the two weirs that had been built by the club in the past.

The results are in: barriers down, fish up

Posted on September 07, 2018

The results are in: barriers down, fish up

I’ve been looking forward to this moment for quite some time now…..well, at least a year. The monitoring of my pet project from pre-intervention (weir notching and removal / partial demolition over six structures) to several years post is quite revealing, and I’ll let the data do the talking.

Now, as a scientist, I know there are a few caveats associated with the figure above. But as there was no specific funding pot for the monitoring of the works for this duration, I am making the best of the situation. So, all surveys were carried out in each of the years for roughly the same amount of time (effort), over similar distances, using similar kit, and roughly the same time of year (although 2018 was a little later because of the incredibly dry spring / summer we have just experienced). Ideally, all of these parameters would have been standardised; ie identical each time.

Goldilocks weather

Posted on September 03, 2018

Goldilocks weather

What has happened to our young trout during all the recent 'abnormal' weather? It's a question I have heard discussed and been asked directly quite regularly of late, and I intend to post a response with a relatively local flavour, here on the blog, in the not too distant future. However, to pre empt that, I thought I would post some thoughts from my colleague in the south, Andy Thomas. Glaciers were still retreating from Cumbria when Andy first started working on rivers, so he's seen a thing or two....

Please note that this article was originally published in the WTT Summer Newsletter (one of the perks of being a member), and hence was written prior to the extended warm & dry period that subsequently ensued! 

Connectivity at Coniston Cold

Posted on July 09, 2018

Connectivity at Coniston Cold

And so it comes to pass….Coniston Cold weir, which in various forms has been a man-made obstruction to fish passage on the R Aire in N Yorkshire for the past 180 years at least, is no more. Instead, there is now 20.4km of uninterrupted free passage along the Aire and a major tributary.... and all for less than £8k!

Coniston Cold Weir: 19m wide and 1.2m headloss, with a 4m horizontal block-stone apron

I will not reinvent the wheel and spend time here discussing how weirs cause environmental issues. The evidence is abundant and simple to find in the scientific literature, and my colleague Paul Gaskell has recently summarised much of that, here. Then there are global-local events like World Fish Migration Day to raise awareness and I would wager that almost every conservation body involved with river restoration has a hit-list of target weirs on their local patch.

All about the (sea) trout

Posted on June 14, 2018

All about the (sea) trout

Hopefully a few sea trout have found a bit of water (not round here mind) and are starting to return to our rivers at the moment. Fitting then to hand over the blog to Angus Lothian, a PhD student at Durham University (see his first blog here) to reflect on a new network for sea trout research.

Salmo trutta is a truly fascinating ‘species’, with such varying life history strategies and showing large phenotypic plasticity, exemplified by their key characteristic of partial-migration.  It is not yet fully known what drives partial-migration, with a component of a population of trout smolting and emigrating from rivers to sea, and the rest remaining river-resident.  Although the trout has often played second fiddle to Atlantic salmon, recent surges in the interest of trout ecology and biology, and in particular sea trout, has led to a rise in the number of scientists and PhD students researching this field.

MSc Research with WTT

Posted on May 23, 2018

MSc Research with WTT

I’ve just had the pleasure of hosting two MSc students from Queen Mary University of London (co-supervised with Dr Chris Eizaguirre), partly for the WTT Annual Get Together, and partly to undertake some fieldwork specifically for Charlotte Pike’s project. I alluded to their research projects in a former post and now I have the pleasure of handing over to them to update you.

Charlotte’s project focuses on the use of stable isotopes to determine the success of river restoration. I will be analysing samples from pre and post intervention works against an unimpacted control site on the same river to see how the restoration has affected the ‘architecture’ of the food web. Hopefully it should be more like the control! The intervention works have been carried out by the Ribble Rivers Trust at two locations; Bashall Brook and Towneley Hall. At Bashall Brook, a riparian zone has been created where banks of the river were previously bare; essentially livestock exclusion fencing now removes the impacts of grazing and poaching. This strip of vegetation acts as a buffer to reduce nutrient run-off from farmland, keeps the ground more stable and resilient to flood damage to reduce soil erosion, and provides necessary refuge for wildlife. At Towneley Hall, a partial weir removal and a rock pass re-instates the connectivity of the River Calder allowing fish to move between formerly fragmented habitats. These interventions have been conducted to improve the quality of the habitat at these two sites, and it’s my job to find out what changes have occurred as a result! 

Reflecting on NoWPaS 2018

Posted on March 27, 2018

Reflecting on NoWPaS 2018

Quite a few of our guest bloggers recently have been at the same conference. Unfortunately, I could only follow the key scientific revelations via Twitter from afar but I have been alerted to some work of which I was previously unaware, so I am hoping to establish contact with those people and perhaps they will contribute a blog or two in the near future. Here, Jess Marsh (she of the water crowfoot and salmonid community research) has kindly offered to tell us briefly about NoWPas.

A week after the 14th annual NoWPaS workshop was wrapped up in spectacular style with a traditional Finnish nuotio, or campfire, we are reflecting on an inspiring week of exciting salmonid research, new experiences and friendships.

NoWPaS 2018 participants at Oulanka Research Station, Finland. Photo taken by Angus Lothian

Spot the difference(s)

Posted on March 10, 2018

Spot the difference(s)

Gather some fine fishy folk into a room and get them talking (as if you could stop ‘em) about brown trout. How long do you reckon it would be before the topic of colour or more likely spotting pattern would creep in? Let’s face it, we love our spotties! It’s just such an integral part of their beauty and wonderful diversity.

So, for no other reason than the sheer beauty of ‘em, I’m going to ask you good supporters of WTT to snap a few images of wild brown trout spots when you’re out this season but specifically trying to focus on one area – square on and below the dorsal fin. In fact, just like the images scattered around this page, trying to avoid any large patches of glare / reflection / contrast. These images were lifted from 'whole' fish shots, and hence aren't the best quality. I'm hoping you can provide some close ups of the fish flank.

WTT 'twixt research & conservation

Posted on February 22, 2018

WTT 'twixt research & conservation

The observant amongst you may have noticed and even (hopefully) read the blog I posted from MSc students at Queen Mary University of London after they had completed an electrofishing survey with me as part of a training exercise. Each year, at the same time, a cohort of Freshwater & Marine Ecology students ‘(re)samples’ Woodplumpton Brook where I have been working with Wyre RT to improve the watercourse habitat and connectivity. Well, two of the most recent students were so enthused by the experience and some of the work that I do at the WTT that they have signed up to complete their MSc projects under my supervision and with Dr Chris Eizaguirre (QMUL).

Both of the projects I will outline below have actually been in existence for a while, and both use my academic expertise in stable isotopes. Stay with me! Each is in partnership with other organisations, and so the students will benefit from work experience outside of the purely academic arena, as well as from developing an extended network of contacts which may well be useful further down the line at job-hunting time!

Why Presume to Remove Weirs? (with River Dove Case Study)

Posted on February 02, 2018

Weirs and the Backwards Ways that Rivers WorkOne of my favourite sayings on river restoration is a mangled quote from a movie

"...boxing is an unnatural act. Everything in boxing is backwards: sometimes the best way to deliver a punch is to step backwards...but step back too far and you ain't fighting at all".

So my mangled version starts out "Everything in rivers is backwards...". Basically, I never seem to run out of new examples of "what SEEMS to happen in a river is actually the complete opposite of what really happens".



The rest of this article looks at many of the "backwards" things about weirs and rivers - and finishes off with a real-world case-study that is playing out right now on the River Dove.

One spoiler alert is that, from an ecological point of view, it is almost always safe to assume that:

The best biological outcome for a river is the removal of some or all of an artificial weir. 
Now, I don't expect you to believe that right off the bat and then go about your day...

...and there are...

CATCH in Wincanton and News of the First Recorded Wild Brown Trout Following Their Hard Work

Posted on January 24, 2018

Blog posts are like London Buses it seems!

This one is just a very short "Congratulations" to the Folks at CATCH (Community Action to Transform the Cale Habitat) and the video put out by Wincanton Window (embedded below).



All of the folks in the partnership mentioned in the video have done HUGE amounts of work (from classroom education projects to habitat working parties and endless enthusiasm for engaging more people in their local river and much more besides).

A big disclaimer from me is that, although this project is supported by/affiliated with our Trout in the Town project - it has been Mike Blackmore who has fulfilled that role for the WTT rather than myself.

So massive well done to all involved (especially you Gary Hunt!)- it is wonderful to see all of the fish and wildlife coming back to the Cale. Of course, it is absolutely delightful to see that wild brown trout put in an appearance as well!

It seems to be all the rage for recovering urban stream projects in the "Trout in the Town" family - as this recent example from the Lyme Brook in Staffordshire also shows.

Paul