I love a bit of wild swimming, bathing costume on of course. There’s nothing like lowering oneself into water that you know hasn’t accidently had too much chlorine tipped in it by the pool attendant and isn’t going to make your eyes go red. But for me, moving water always comes with the doubts over its purity and an unnerving feeling that something’s going to swim up to me and disappear somewhere unmentionable!

Being an island the coastline is never too far away and there’s plenty of “wild” swimming available there. Inland we have an abundance of lakes too but like any water, these can be dangerous - ignorance or disregard of the hazards probably played a part in the tragic lake fatalities reported in the press recently.

In my view, however, a river is the most dangerous of all to swim in, not least because they are harder to get to in an emergency. But for some reason there’s a growing population that think the rivers around here are safer than their own bath. Sadly, this attitude brings other negatives, most notably a free for all attitude with a disregard for anyone who lives near the river or a place where access is possible. No matter how big the sign that says “NO PARKING”, they’ll still want a front row seat. “PRIVATE PROPERTY NO PUBLIC ACCESS” also translates into an invite of the opposite for many, almost a challenge for them. Put a “PLEASE” in the signage and they think you’re being so nice you won’t care if they settle in for the weekend in a tent. The thing is, while the free-for-all brigade portray a harmless, laissez faire, live-and-let-live approach, take it from me, they are some of the most insensitive and selfish people I’ve ever met on the river bank. It’s their way or the highway.

With the state of the rivers as they are (poor to horrendous), a united front is of course needed among all water recreation to force politicians and regulators to take the necessary steps. However, the wild swimming community have become extremely vociferous recently. Every TV report or article on the environmental issues facing the Wye nowadays seems to have a wild swimmer either interviewed or leading the debate. It is often forgotten that for well over a century, the only people who have fought to protect rivers have been anglers.

Their call for Bathing Water Status for rivers may not be entirely what it seems either. To achieve this will cost more than we could ever afford, and work to clean up rivers will start to become all about humans and not wildlife. Even a clean river with no agricultural or water company effluent going into it carries dangers for humans - leptospirosis, cryptosporidium and various other nasties that will give you a dose. In the case of rivers, the only truly clean water is when you see it coming out of the ground. Even seemingly pristine upland streams might have a dead sheep lying just upstream or a remote house with a poorly maintained cesspit overflowing into it. [S2] 

It also needs saying that wild swimming anywhere in the Wye (and many other rivers) without the riparian owner’s permission is actually unlawful. Whether they like it or not, it is a trespass. The Wye Navigation Act (concerning the public right of navigation) does not include wild swimming. The Navigation Authority (EA) actually regard wild swimmers as a “hazard.” This is something that is conveniently over-looked by media articles when announcing the ten best wild swimming rivers in the UK.

I loathe the term “staycation”. I was never really sure what it meant but I did know it meant holidaying at home but it has now somehow morphed into a term used for holidaying somewhere else in the UK. While some of the increase in river traffic can be attributed to it, the volumes were increasing significantly B.C. (Before Covid). I was always worried it would affect business, anglers being put off despite our encouragement to fish early and late (the latter no longer relevant due to commercial “evening trips”), but to be fair it hasn’t, until now. I have refunded more anglers this season so far than I’ve done the whole time running Angling Dreams. The cause for refund? Nothing but simple disturbance from other river users. Some private, some brought there by companies who should be responsible and accountable for their presence. Can I claim losses? Probably, but I’m not there yet. I’d rather try and get those causing the issues to change their attitude and realise that we (anglers) are doing nothing to affect their trade or fun, but for years it has always been and still is the other way around.

We hear so much from Government bodies about “sustainable tourism” and use of natural resources. Believe me, the ever-increasing number of human beings visiting the Wye valley is anything but. I’m gathering some data currently that will back up our experiences of how unsustainable it really is, but I’ll leave this to my next report.

My biggest worry is when these other users trespass on the clearly marked private riverbank, to defecate or piddle on the SSSI and SAC, and they break an arm, or an ankle or worse, who is to blame? Is it the supplier if a commercial vessel, is it the EA or BCU for not sufficiently educating privateers, is it an all-round lack of accountability with the free right of navigation (which I might add was not designed for canoeing but initiated for industrial and commercial craft), or would it fall on the land owner? A quick call to my solicitor suggests it’s the landowner/fishery owner – how on earth can that be so when someone else is putting them there in such volumes? Owners do have some responsibility to maintain navigation under the Wye Navigation Act yet again, receive no benefit from the activity. In fact, it probably devalues their asset. The injustice is further compounded by the fact that there are some getting quite rich from increasing the traffic on the river. Yet they pay nothing for maintaining safety along the river and only increase the liability of owners.

Anyway, in short, river traffic is worse than ever, beyond capacity, and it’s really, really sad. I can only apologise to each and every person who is affected by it, and I am working on ways to reduce it. Not just for our pleasure, but for a sustainable future and for the SSSI and SAC that is currently very poorly.

If my word for it isn’t enough, here are some of the ways our anglers have described the river traffic lately;

"I picked a real “Phew what a scorcher” day to fish and was rewarded with a seemingly non-stop flow of boat traffic, with a good number of badly burnt oarsmen and women….ouch!
Many thanks to the landowner and The Wye & Usk Foundation for a enjoyable day’s fishing. A stunning spot and will definitely return in the Autumn to more water and less boats!"

"We started at 8am and didn't get any bites until 3pm, the flow of canoes was probably the highest I have ever seen in the years that I have been fishing the middle and lower Wye, quite literally constant from 10am until 3pm. Most of the canoeists were courteous and accommodating, but every now and again groups of Stags/Hens etc would pass in an inebriated state, making loads of noise, playing music, running into our lines etc."


"This is such a spectacularly scenic place to fish. It is a real privilege to be able to fish here…but…

A guided party of paddle boarders used the ‘beach’ area on the inside of the bend opposite The Weir Garden as a picnic site. This was despite the fact that I was clearly fishing there already. They appeared to be very relaxed about this and I gathered that this is a regular stopping off point. Might be worth bearing in mind for anyone else that is planning to fish there."

The Fishing Passport response to any reports of canoes, wild swimmers or paddle boards stopping along the banks of a fishery is as follows:

"According to the Wye Navigation Act, canoeists and other types of paddler should stop and get out onto the banks in emergencies only. While this is an unhelpfully vague clause in the legislation, it would be safe to assume that picnics would not be classified as an "emergency" and are in fact a trespass. In these situations, we ask that anglers politely request the name(s) of the company or organisation that is guiding the group (without ever putting yourself in danger) and pass this information on to us. We or the land/fishery owner will then be in touch with them."

This could bring me onto the algal bloom, but that’s enough negativity of this kind for one report! WUF sent out a newsletter with all the information needed – please follow the link at the end.

Back, finally, to the fishing. How was it in July then? Well, whilst slow for barbel on the whole, those who fed a lot of hemp, and I mean a lot, seemed to do better than others. The chub were hanging themselves, and the numbers have been quite astonishing. I really think the lack of weed has something to do with this, providing them with less cover and so spreading them out everywhere, willing to move for bait than if they had their usual sanctuary and wait until the cover of darkness. There was more on this in last month’s report. The eel catches continued and the small stuff too – during the hot spell of the middle of the month many anglers ignored the barbel and were fishing for bits, and some excellent catches were had.

One of the issues we faced in July was of course the heatwave – with 6 days of air temperatures over 30C and a lack of rainfall, the temperatures in the Wye rose to a whopping 24C. It was so bad that salmon were seen floating downstream dead. Many of the coarse fish species are hardy enough, but for barbel and predators it really isn’t good. Whilst they might manage if left alone, the lack of dissolved oxygen in the water means that these fish struggle to revive as they normally should following capture, no matter how well you look after them. Many fisheries closed their fishing, this is because there’s no way of monitoring their angler numbers. The Fishing Passport waters closed at the request of many of the owners who put their fishing with them. We didn’t close our fishing, we just encouraged people not to fish for barbel. They did this by fishing shallow with float gear, wading out in the water to keep cool and bagging up on silvers that had no issues with the water temp. Chub handle the temps well too, and there was plenty of sport with no reports of fish struggling.

I wonder if the high temps weren’t helped by the lack of weed cover. In years gone by when we used to wade out in the river, you could feel the water was cooler under and around the weed. Is there a mini greenhouse effect with a lack of ranunculus then? One thing’s for sure, there ain’t much of it left, and this is very, very sad, not least because it actually makes the river harder to fish blind. There are no obvious channels or clear runs to fish to. There are fewer holding spots for fish too, with them having to use the bankside cover more.  As mentioned last month, that is concerning with the amount of trespass and activity going on the banks due to excessive navigation. 

A positive of the hot weather or poor river conditions is the other fishing you can do. My own fishing took me to the coast on a couple of occasions - fishing for shark off the Solent, then tope and mackerel off the west coast of Wales. I also dropped back onto a stillwater or two around me, and there’s always those in The Passport of course. Trelough is a favourite of mine, but like any fishing one day is different to the next, as seen in the reports below. One angler has a bumper day, the next a most disappointing one. There’s Pant Y Llyn too, a stunning venue famous for its wild carp – located on top of a mountain near Builth Wells. It’s well worth a visit whatever the river conditions.

"C. R. from London 

Sunday 11 July 2021 (1 month ago)

Area:Hidden Lakes

Beat:Trelough Pool


No. of Anglers:1

We fished at Trelough on 11th July 2021. Perfect conditions until it rained in the afternoon. Caught approx 12 roach between 3 of us, all good sized fish. Spotted some huge carp but unfortunately did not manage to land any. 
All roach caught using sweet corn, from a range of areas around the pool. 
Would highly recommend this fishing pool. 

12 Other"


"C. P. from Midsomer Norton 

Monday 12 July 2021 (4 weeks ago)

Area:Hidden Lakes

Beat:Trelough Pool


No. of Anglers:2

Went back here looking for the carp, unfortunately only caught 5 small roach. when we fished here 2 years ago we saw high numbers of carp swimming and feeding, this time I saw zero carp, has something changed here?? probably won't return here. 

5 Other"

There have been some concerns voiced over barbel numbers, and going by catch returns I can see why. There are many factors for this though. Most likely it is to do with the cold spring and then the very hot summer – the worst combination for good fishing. The fish are not where they normally are and are not even that inclined to feed (apart from hemp). There were still some decent catches though, maybe not into double figures, but 7 or 8 barbel and 20 chub is a decent day’s fishing in anyone’s book right? I’m pretty sure a decent flood and cooler temps as we get into September then we’ll get a far better picture of populations.

One of the big giveaways that the stocks are still healthy has been the number of barbel showing by jumping and splashing. Frequently mistaken for salmon, the barbel rise is very distinctive, often with a tail slap and nearly always very splashy. Some drone work on a sunny day proved their populations too, and a short film on Youtube should be forthcoming. Fishing is patchy by its very nature, and we should wait until a full change in season and some decent quality fresh water before we start jumping to conclusions. In the meantime, catch returns such as the below demonstrate how you just have to hang in there sometimes.


"H. T. from AYLESBURY 

Thursday 29 July 2021 (1 week ago)

Area:Middle Wye

Beat:How Caple Court


No. of Anglers:2

Our favourite venue came up trumps to save what has been a disappointing week so far. Most of the fish came in the magic spell between 5pm and 9pm. Best barbel 9.11 lbs, most fish on double 8mm pellets and feeder tactics. 

9 Barbel, 7 Chub"

One thing’s for sure, if we don’t start handling the barbel properly then the numbers will go down. Although many stretches closed during the hot spell for this reason, we should be handling barbel better at all times through the year. I’d like to draw your attention to my barbel handling suggested code of conduct…

Barbel Handling

The following set of guidelines is relevant to barbel fishing year-round, and especially in summer. It often takes anglers by surprise when what seemed like a revived fish appears belly up shortly after release. By following the below steps this should nearly always be prevented.

  • As soon as a fish is landed, do not lift from the water straight away – instead leave the netted fish in the margin for a few minutes before unhooking. This is increasingly acknowledged as the most crucial step in ensuring a fish goes back strongly. It’s also a chance to get your breath back!
  • Have a pre-dipped unhooking mat close by, ideally on flat ground 
  • Unhook the fish as quickly as possible, and move your rig and line to one side, away from any net or where it may cause harm
  • If you wish to photograph a fish then make it as swift as possible – good preparation helps. Try and rest a fish again between photographing/weighing
  • Try to resist weighing fish that are not considered to be above the average Wye stamp – we suggest this to be about 7lbs
  • Find a suitable place to release – look for gentle flow and ideally where both hands can be used to support the net and/or fish. If releasing from a net use gentle encouragement to keep the fish upright – an upside down fish is not reviving
  • Never release a fish until it can consistently keep itself upright without your support. This is the most commonly overlooked step, yet is one of the only real signs of whether a fish is ready for release or not
  • Double figure fish can take up to 20 minutes to revive. Before releasing make sure they are upright for several minutes without your support

Instead of waiting for my report each month, don’t forget you can get up to date info by reading the catch returns on the Fishing Passport - either search for fishery or you can read the feedback by timeline. Amongst the feedback you’ll get an idea of trout captures, and one that stood out last month was a huge fish from Upper Tower fishery on the Usk – some fish I’m sure you’ll agree from the photo. There’s always other really interesting stuff and I can’t put it all in here, so apologies at this point for not mentioning every funny story we hear from anglers!

Times are tough weather wise and we are experiencing significant challenges all the time, please try to bear with it all though – many things with the environment go through phases, and if you can hold to the sentiment that the below angler has, a day fishing in the Wye valley is always a good thing.


"N. W. from Carmarthen 

Wednesday 7 July 2021 (1 month ago)

Area:Middle Wye

Beat:How Caple Court


No. of Anglers:1

Stunning day and good fishing as always. Fished early until mid afternoon. Plenty of bites early doors and some cracking fish all in great condition. Always feel privileged to fish this stretch stunning scenery."



Adam Fisher is a coarse and game fishing instructor and guide with a wealth of experience fishing the Wye. He also writes for magazines such as 'Improve Your Coarse Fishing.' For more information can be found here.

Wye & Usk Foundation E-News on the recent algal blooms, Thursday 6th August, 2021

"Here We Go Again....."


Please note that the views within this report are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of the Wye & Usk Foundation.