River restoration, Trout, Trout Unlimited, Urban rivers

Trout in Dirty Places… in Maryland!

“Hi Theo, any way we can coax you across the Pond to speak to an audience of Maryland Trout Unlimited and our river project partners around Baltimore?” said the email from Tom Gamper in August.

“We’ve read Trout in Dirty Places, and appreciated how it laid out the team effort to turn urban streams back into natural and cultural recreational resources. We’ll also get you on some local water. What d’ya say?”

However glamorous the urban river writing and restoration life might look at first glance, it’s really not every day that I get an invitation to spread this kind of love in person, all the way from Dirty Places Britain to the similarly post-industrial cities of America’s eastern seaboard.  So… what could I honestly say to this question but a great big ‘yes’?

Those five days in October proved quite the flying visit in all senses of the phrase, but in addition to listening to my presentation about urban river restoration here in the UK, Tom and his generous colleagues made sure I got a true taste of Maryland’s rivers and landscapes: from urban waterways like the Jones Falls and Dead Run, to the Gunpowder Falls tailwater (including the otherworldly Hemlock Ravines – a stronghold for these iconic native trees against the invasive woolly adelgid aphid) and tiny brook trout streams in the Appalachians.

Just beside the Joe Brooks memorial on Big Hunting Creek, I found it especially fascinating to spot some textbook American river restoration structures – wedge dams, stone and log revetments and other current-pinching interventions – right there in the wild where they’d first been designed to make life better for wild trout. And of course, since Baltimore has a rich industrial history of brewing, it was only natural to sample a few (very tasty) local beverages at brew pubs like the Rockwell Brewery and the Brewer’s Art

Throughout these long and fascinating days, we also compared and contrasted our experiences of Trout in the Classroom and other community outreach programmes, and agreed that we’d love to see many more connections between US and UK river restorationists in the future.

In the meantime, I’ve just written up some of these recent adventures for the Wild Trout Trust blog: click here to read more, or here to find out more about the amazing work of Trout Unlimited’s Maryland chapter.