Chalkstreams, Coarse fish on the fly, Dace, Fly-fishing, River restoration, Urban rivers, Wandle

Hogsmill holiday

Hogsmill dace

Somewhere in the depths of this apparently endless winter (cue another wild nor’easter kicking snow in the face of casting practice and trying to tune a recalcitrant switch rod to throw big intruders, never mind actual fishing)

… Adrian and I grabbed a window in the weather and headed out for a day on a nearby river that wasn’t the Wandle.

The Hogsmill really is the Wandle’s pretty little chalkstream sister, rising from the same block of chalk to fill ornamental ponds in Ewell before flowing 11km via a sewage treatment works down to the Thames at Kingston.

But while the Wandle got completely engulfed by factories and mansions of industrial tycoons, the Hogsmill managed to retain a wide green corridor of ancient meadows for much of its length – not to mention a few Pre-Raphaelite artistic aspirations.

Even as the Wandle’s Arthur Lasenby Liberty was chuckling about sending all his dirty water down to William Morris at Merton Abbey Mills, and John Ruskin was agonising over cleanup work never given and lining Carshalton’s headwater pools with rocks from the Lake District…

John Everett Millais was using the streamy upper Hogsmill to pose Lizzie Siddal as Ophelia in a setting that still presents an ideal of chalkstream biodiversity.

Meanwhile, William Holman Hunt let his Hireling Shepherd loiter on the same deep, alder-hung meanders, and set his Light of the World in a picturesquely-decaying doorway of the gunpowder mills a few miles downstream.

Adrian Hogsmill 1

This chilly midwinter day, Adrian and I got off the train just above the sewage treatment works and took a long march up the Hogsmill to Ewell, spying out chubby holes, plumbing likely-looking runs for future reference, and spotting some of the 9 weirs where the Wandle Trust will be tackling total-catchment fish passage problems with CRF funding later this year.

Being urban fly-fishers through and through, we found no good excuse not to wade up and under the echoing culvert where traffic roared overhead on the A3…

… and took time to notice subtle installations of modern urban art including a decapitated doll’s head ironically trampled into the muddy path beside the stream.

Hogsmill 3

And finally, somewhere near Ophelia’s Pool, we found a couple of pods of authentically rising dace, and landed three of them on our ultralight rigs.

We’d started the new year right.

Hogsmill 1