I’m on my knees in crystal clear shallow stream; I’m trying to tempt fish with an artificial fly. The shoal are holding position against the current, covered by a natural shelter of a weeping willow branch. The fish are less than a rod’s length away. I’m using a six-foot rod, so that’s very close indeed. The targets are too close even for a bow-and-arrow cast. I’m hardly breathing. I just can’t get the fly into position.

This is no rural idyll. The constant sound of heavy machinery in an adjoining industrial park definitely says ‘urban fishing’. This is South London’s own chalk stream, the River Wandle. I was looking for trout, but this stretch seems to just contain chub. I moved position to another more accessible pool. The clear water revealed dozens of (mainly small) chub. On a previous visit to this spot, I’d noticed fish of all sizes very attracted by my relatively large size 10 pink  Czech Nymph. They preferred this to another smaller, natural fly on the same line, despite it being too much of a mouthful. I resolved to get some pink shrimp small enough for these fish to take. The fulling mill Pink Micro Shrimp in size 16 fitted my requirements. Using a bow-and-arrow cast,. I pinged this fly into the head of the tiny pool. It attracted the attention of just about every fish it passed. However, even a small size 16 fly was too big for most to take, until one fish with a mouth big enough, intercepted the fly. I netted the small chub without too much fuss.


Small chub, Squalius cephalus


I moved upstream, to where the water tumbled down a weir, hoping that I’d find trout in the faster water. To counteract the increased flow, I tied on a heavier perdigon nymph. This slim fly was also a size 16, but featured an oversized tungsten bead. I soon came up against the limitations of my six-foot rod. The perdigon was just too heavy for my light set up; I had to switch back to the smaller shrimp. No trout caught or seen here, so it was time to move on.


I relocated to another favourite stretch of the Wandle where I often see big wild brown trout. Disappointingly, no such fish were here today.


A ‘bow-and-arrow’ cast is the only realistic way of placing a fly on parts of the River Wandle.


Another shoal of chub – bigger fish this time – were hiding under trailing bankside brambles. Using the bow-and-arrow method (which is made easier by my choice of a very short rod) I fired the tiny pink shrimp into the stream just ahead of the shoal. I thought my aim wasn’t good enough, but a sharp eyed chub came out from hiding and snaffled my fly on the first cast. My lightweight 7X leader (with a couple of ‘wind’ knots) gave me concern, but I was able to get the fish in the next without too much bother. (Well, I did have to drop into the water to do the netting). I didn’t weigh or measure the fish – wanting to keep it wet – but this is easily my personal best chub. I’m even more pleased it was taken on the fly too. Later, I reflect upon this catch, and realise in all the times I’ve fished this tricky section of the river, this is the first fish I’ve caught there.


A quick photo of my personal best chub…



…and it’s gone.


Two fish was going to be the tally today. I tried on another more open, faster flowing section for a while. Despite the room to do a proper fly cast, this is where I lost a fly. My other favourite stretch had no available parking – and no good fishing story every contains the line “I had trouble parking”. Reluctantly, I had to call it a day, and face the traffic of suburban London to cross over the Thames back home.



Total Catch:

  • 2 Chub (Micro Shrimp Pink)