Forget the countryside, urban fishing is the next big thing - and it's happening right in the middle of Sheffield

Paul and Jess fishing in the middle of Sheffield. (Photo: Tom Cockram).
Paul and Jess fishing in the middle of Sheffield. (Photo: Tom Cockram).
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if you thought fishing was all about lakes and rivers across the countryside, think again.

For urban fishing is taking off - and Sheffield is at the forefront of the hobby when it comes to pulling on your waders.

Sheffield is an urban fishing hotspot.  (Photo: Tom Cockram).

Sheffield is an urban fishing hotspot. (Photo: Tom Cockram).

Angling isn’t just the preserve of rural waterways - the heart of Sheffield is now home to a thriving fishing community and where nature is finding its way back to the city.

Car manufacturer Audi has sampled the delights of Sheffield's city centre fishing action and shared them in an online blog, which you can read HERE
Freshwater ecologist Dr Paul Gaskell of the Wild Trout Trust says the clean up of the River Don has allowed fish to return to the waterway which was once one of the most polluted in Europe.

He said: "Graylings, also called ladies of the stream, are particularly sensitive to dirty water. Their presence here shows just how the quality of the water has improved.

"It’s hard to believe they are thriving at the heart of one of England’s industrial bastions.’

The River Don is now home to many species of fish.  (Photo: Tom Cockram).

The River Don is now home to many species of fish. (Photo: Tom Cockram).

Indeed, rather than being in some idyllic country brook, Paul is standing waist-deep in the Don, demonstrating the benefits of Japanese Tenkara fly fishing to Jess England, a young fishing enthusiast. A few feet away is a busy bridge where a crowd of onlookers has gathered. It’s definitely not your average fishing expedition.

"Urban fishing is now a growing trend thanks to efforts to reduce water pollution," explaied Paul.

‘"In Sheffield we have seen a big change since the 1980s. Industrial activities have diminished and the Victorian sewerage systems have been improved, but there is still much more to be done."

Gradually people are waking up to the importance of water in urban areas and the diversity of the wildlife. Previously as cities developed, rivers were forced underground and constrained in culverts, tunnels and drains. Sheffield is spearheading a global movement called daylighting that seeks to open up buried waterways. It has led to a number of successful projects, including the creation of the Porter Brook Pocket Park in Sheffield.

Jess goes fly fishing in Sheffield.  (Photo: Tom Cockram).

Jess goes fly fishing in Sheffield. (Photo: Tom Cockram).

‘This park provides people with a lovely green space to enjoy in a part of the city where there weren’t any before,’ adds Paul, who was heavily involved in the project. ‘Its clever amphitheatre design also helps the city be more prepared to cope with heavy rainfall and flooding than before because the water has somewhere to expand without flowing into the street or into buildings.’

Paul believes that urban fishing plays an important part in the daylighting movement and explains that the more people become attached to the rivers and see the benefits they can offer, the more they will want to defend them. That’s why he is keen for the younger generations, such as 19-year-old Jess, to get involved.

Jess is already an accomplished fly fisher: she has been fishing with her father since she was a child on wild rivers in Scotland but this is her first experience in town. As a young woman she is a minority in the sport but believes that negative stereotypes of the sport are standing in the way of it becoming more popular.

‘Fly fishing is seen as an old man’s sport but it’s really not,’ she explains.

‘It can be quite extreme at times. You wade out into the water and you are constantly moving, casting the rod forwards and back. It’s also much more accessible to people in town than it used to be.

"Just be warned: once you have started it’s pretty hard to stop!"