The Wey is a well managed river system and the efforts of environmental agencies and sensible control by the officially sanctioned fishing clubs has resulted in healthy stocks of all manner of fish along its length. Wherever you see minnows in any quantity you have an assurance that the water is in good condition, and the Wey has these in abundance if you know where to look.
“In spite of the rain those brave enough to come had a great day,” said the organiser Andrew Mackenzie. “Plenty of fish were caught and the rain did not stop the barbecue from being a great success, too, thanks to a big waterproof cover.” Source: Surrey Advertiser 6th July 2007
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"Daiwa Dorking secured a league victory, going down in history as the most successful side ever, netting the Surrey Championship for the 33rd time in 35 years. Milo rep Simon Willsmore (Daiwa Dorking), after coming third overall at Willow Park the previous day, did well from a peg towards Blackboys Bridge with 12-5-0 of roach on pole and bloodworm. At the other end of the venue, John Merrett, from Fox Match Banstead, also got among the roach to finish with 9-12-0 on a venue that he won on when just 13-years-old." Dave Harper Fishing Column. December 2006 icCroydon.co.uk
WEY FISHERMAN'S TALE
"I looked forward to seeing them, as a 6lb chub is a great fish in anybody's book, but I was gutted when they arrived to see the angler posing with a chub, which would be lucky to go to 3lb-plus.
"Don't people realise they just make fools of themselves in the eyes of genuine fishermen for the sake of getting their picture in the paper?" thisislocallondon.co.uk 19th September 2007
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Many thanks to Patrick Butler for his guidance
The chub (Leuciscus cephalus) can grow up to 10lb (4.5 kg) in the Wey although the species can reach up to 18 lb (8 kg) and 24 in (60 cm) in length. Feasting on small fish like minnows, gudgeon, bullheads and young roach the female chub at up to 12 years outlives the male and grows faster and larger. The fish also feed on weeds. Prized by anglers for being able to put up a good fight the fish is not very palatable. Chub up to 5 lb 13 oz (2.67 kg) were bagged along the Godalming Navigation in 2005.
Perch (Perca fluviatilis) is regarded by anglers as being the most handsome of the coarse fish found along the Wey. Dark vertical stripes mark the flanks and the lower fins and tail fins are tinged with red. An arched spiny dorsal fin dominates its back. Again females are larger and can grow up to 20 in (50 cm) with weight reaching 3 – 5 lb (1.4 – 2.4 kg). An incredibly overfed specimen of 8 lb (3.6 kg) was landed in the Avon in Wiltshire in 1836. Obsessively carnivorous, bleak, roach and even smaller perch are particular favourites. The Wey tends to nurture lower weight specimens with perch usually around 2lbs (0.91 kg) being landed, although in 2005 one of 3 lb 3 oz (2.21 kg) was recorded on the Godalming Navigation.
Sometimes referred to as the ‘freshwater sole’ the perch was targeted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in the last war to provide wide-scale nutrition for the war torn nation and a large operation was set up to trap and can the fish.
A relative to the perch, ruffe or pope (Gymnocephalus cernuus) tends to be found in the the lower reaches of the Wey as it prefers slow flowing waters. Brown and black in colour with a spiny dorsal fin the ruffe is regarded as an annoyance by fisherman as it is a greedy aggressive fish.
The zander (Stizostedion lucioperca) is also a relative of perch and is a large predatory fish growing to some 20lb (9.0 kg) which being somewhat sluggish prefers the slower water of the lower reaches of the river and the deep waters of the Thames by Sunbury Weir where specimens of double-figure weights are caught on deeply-fished gudgeon and roach livebaits.
Not being a native species the zander was introduced into Britain in the 20th century and rapidly spread throughout the country from its original grounds in the East Anglian Fens. It is a popular game fish commonly active at night.
Not originally a British species, the common carp (Cyprinus carpio) was probably introduced into the Wey Valley by the Romans with first records in the accounts of an ecclesiastical feast in 1279. Common carp is also known as European carp.
Particularly favoured as a food fish, the carp was farmed for centuries by monasteries in their ‘stew ponds’ where they were fed on boiled grain to speed up the fattening process, rather than risking a smaller river catch.
A bottom feeder, the species siphons up algae, worms, shellfish and small fish, and in the right conditions can reach up to an incredible 40 lb (18 kg), although in the wild carp over 20 lb (9 kg) are extremely rare.
The fish is also the Wey’s longest living with specimens over 40 years having been recorded. Growing up to 23 in (58 cm) in length the carp is recognisable by the four barbels (a whisker-like tactile organ), one at each corner of the mouth. Carp has been caught up to 8lb 10 oz (3.9 kg) on Godalming Navigation in 2005, and Grass Carp, which were introduced to help control water weed are sometimes reeled in.
Although there are more than 200 species of this fish in the world the barbel (Barbus barbus) is the only one that resides in the River Wey. Favoured by anglers for its fighting spirit the barbel can reach up to 10 lb (4.5 kg) but as the eggs it carries are poisonous is not regarded as an edible fish. The species reaching up to 36 in (90 cm) can vary in colour depending upon the colour of the river bed and water with variations from yellow to brown-black, and are most active at night. As its name implies barbels hand from the corners of its mouth, these used to sense food. Barbel were caught up to 10lb 10 oz (4.8 kg) on the Wey in September 2004.
A distinctive looking fish with its orange fins and red eyes standing out against silvery scales, the roach (Rutilus rutilus) is generally regarded as the most adaptable of fish but tend to be easy prey to pike and perch being a smaller species. The roach rarely weighs in at more than 3 lb (1.4 kg) with a length of 8 in (20 cm) or so.
Izaak Walton (1593 – 1683), the author of the endearing The Compleat Angler published in 1653, described the rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus) as ‘a kind of bastard roach’. Easily confused for those not in the know its redder fins and protruding lower jaw provide markers, and like the roach tends not to end up on the dinner table. Anglers like the rudd as it takes the bait quite readily and a 3 lb 8 oz (1.6 kg) specimen was landed on the Godalming Navigation in 2005. Rudd tends to feed off small insects, crustaceans and plant material, although larger specimens do take the occasional unsuspecting fish.
Once a staple food for the poorer inhabitants along the Wey Valley, the freshwater common bream (Abramis brama) is not as popular on dinner tables today, although our European companions across the Channel still cherish its muddy flavour. A bottom feeder favouring insect larvae, worms and molluscs, the bream can live for up to 20 years. A catch of a ten pounder (4.5 kg) is unlikely in the Wey but has been caught elsewhere.
If you’re another fish the one species you really don’t want to bump into is the pike (Esox lucius). A huge appetite encourages them to take on anything they encounter including smaller fish of their own, although tall stories of pike attacking people and dogs tend to be discounted they do highlight the pike’s reputation for being voracious predators. Although a monster specimen of 72 lb (32.7 kg) was once caught in Loch Ken in Scotland it is rare that a pike reaches 30 lb (13.6 kg) or exceed 50 ins (130 cm). Pike was another fish that often featured in mediaeval banquets with baking the preferred method of preparation.
A fish sensitive to pollution, especially that produced by excess chemicals running-off from farmland, the grayling (Thymallus thymallus) is now being landed again along the Wey having been absent for a time which augurs well for current water quality. The fish can reach 5 lb (2.3 kg) but is greatly disliked by anglers along trout and salmon courses as it regards eggs of both species as a particular delicacy. A fine smelling fish with extremely delicate flesh, the grayling finds more favour on the tables of our continental cousins than it does on those of Wey households. Its Latin name hints at the fish’ thyme-like smell. This salmon-like large fish is easily recognisable by the rows of hexagons along the body and can reach 22 in (55 cm).
Brown trout (Salmo trutta), wild and stocked, are prolific in the upper reaches of the river especially in the North Wey above Farnham. It can be possible to see large specimens in the mill pool of Insington Mill near Bentley which was formerly the home of Viscount Montgomery. Fishing is not allowed at the mill.
The Peper Harow Park Flyfishers Club covers the River Wey around Oxenford Bridge and stocked the river here with 300 brown trout. Despite the variations in colouring all are the same species and can grow up to 39 in (99 cm) in length and usually live for five or six years, although there are records of 20 year old specimens being caught. A fish popular for its bulk and flavour.
Although never carrying much flesh the gudgeon (Gobio gobio) historically had a good culinary reputation especially in Victorian times when the fish was regarded as delicacy providing also a ‘good aid to digestion’. An extremely small fish weighing no more than 4 oz (115 g) apparently taste very sweet.
An extremely active fish is the bleak (Alburnus alburnus) which gives a good show of darting and jumping usually in shoals, and it is not uncommon to see one leaping from the water in pursuit of a flying insect, its silvery colouring flashing in the light. Usually used by Wey anglers as bait for larger fish the bleak rarely exceed 7 in (18 cm) in length and has easily removed paper-thin scales that were used during the 19th century to make artificial pearls.
The dace (Leuciscus leuciscus) is unlikely to reach more than 10 in (25 cm) at best and is not best liked by anglers as it competes for food often taking the line ahead of the larger species intended.
The bullhead (Cottus gobio), also known as Miller Thumb, is a spiny little fish which enjoys clean, streamy, well oxygenated water with gravelly beds. Children enjoy catching these along the river with nets by disturbing the stones they hide beneath. Bullhead can be found in the upper reaches of the North Wey above Farnham.
The eel (Anguilla anguilla) is common throughout the Wey and its tributaries. The eel drifts on the Gulf Stream in its larval stage as 'glass eels' across the North Atlantic from the Sargossa Sea in the Caribbean, and metamorphosing as a tiny transparent elvers migrate up the river from the Thames. The elvers found upstream tend to be females with the males remaining in coastal and estuarine waters.
Elvers are hardy determined creatures and can cross land and ditches to reach tiny streams and isolated ponds. After some years the elvers mature and return downstream as 'silver eels' in readiness to return to their breeding grounds across the open Atlantic.
Eels tend today to be regarded by fisherman on the Wey more as a nuisance than a catch, as they drive other fish away consuming groundbait and often get entangled in tackle with their powerful wriggling bodies. They are difficult to handle too having slimy skin, thought to protect the eel from salinity on their deep-sea travels, and powerful beak-like jaws. The tradition of catching eel for food has declined in Britain as the modern palate tends not to be keen on its rather greasy taste, although jellied eel can still be found in some of the markets in London and Essex. The fish is still popular in Europe and Asia, and although Britain exports eel the main European eel fisheries are in France.
And what river would not be without its minnow (Phoxinus phoxinus), that is excepting a polluted one as this fish only populates well-oxygenated clean water.
Often mistaken for young fish of other species by those only occasionally visiting the Wey, the minnow is actually related to the carp and usually can be seen in shoals darting about for safety as they are very easy prey for the carnivores along the river.
They feed mainly on insects and freshwater shrimps, but will also graze plants and algae. Growing to no more than 3 – 4 in (7.5 – 10 cm) it seems an unlikely dish but in mediaeval times the minnow graced the tables of the rich and powerful. The Bishop of Winchester, then lord and master of much of the Wey Valley, in 1394 served up 7 gallons (32 litres) of minnows in a banquet, a fact persevered for prosperity in his accounts.
Mr Walton of The Compleat Angler (1655), at a time when the fish was often served up in an egg dish, advised that ‘a minnow-tansy is a dainty dish of meat.’, with ‘tansy’ being a native herb (Tanacetum vulgare) readily used for flavouring dishes.
The Environment Agency has publicised the results of a study into the effects of pollution in our rivers including the Wey and has made a startling discovery. A third of male fish in English rivers are changing sex due to 'gender-bending' pollution.
Female hormones primarily from the contraceptive pill and HRT are being washed into the rivers after coming through the sewage treatment process intact and have so affected fish stocks that a significant proportions of male fish are now capable of laying eggs.
The study looked at the health of 1,600 roach in 51 rivers and streams. Tests showed that males had developed female sex organs and were producing eggs, with a marked deterioration in the sperm producing capability of the fish affected. Female fish were also producing abnormal eggs.
Previous studies had found similar effects on cod, trout and flounders.
The Environment Agency is investigating ways that sewage treatment processes could be adapted to reduce the amount of oestrogen being discharged into our waterways.
Sources: Environment Agency; Daily Mail 19th July 2006
Leisure fishing is a popular pastime along the banks of the river and is closely managed by landowners, usually through officially sanctioned clubs.
Farnham Angling Society (01252 320871) , founded in 1906, provides access for anglers to four miles (6.4km) of the River Wey at Dockenfield near Frensham, and Elstead.
Howard Lindsay Ltd provide fly fishing along a small stretch of the river between Bentley and Farnham.
The Peper Harow Park Flyfishers Club covers the River Wey around Oxenford Bridge (GR: SU935435) and provide excellent opportunities for brown trout fishing. Contact Hon. Sec. on 01252 722947 or email: email@example.com for details. (updated 08.12.10)
The Godalming Angling Society (01483 422791) , founded in 1881, have secured fishing rights for members along an eight mile (13 km) stretch of the River Wey and Godalming Navigation from Godalming to Shalford.
Guildford Angling Society (07976 592701) founded a year later controls the Wey from Town Bridge in Guildford down to Triggs Lock near Send.
Burpham Court Farm (01483 576089) provide fishing along the banks of the Wey by their Rare Breeds farm between the weir and Caly Lane, Guildford. (farm closed during 2009)
The Woking & District Angling Association and the Byfleet Angling Association (0208 86440067) between them control much of the river from Old Woking to Weybridge. RMC Angling (Cemex Angling) (01932 583630) manage a 550 yd (500m) stretch of the river near Addlestone.
The Thames Valley Angling Association (TVAS) (01494 523988) operate from New Inn at Send through to Papercourt, and from Walsham Gates to Thames Lock. Day tickets to fish can be purchased from local tackle shops at £3 per day, or from a bailiff on the bank at £5 (2012). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org The TVAS took over the fishing rights for this stretch of the river from the Wey Navigation Angling Amalgamation in 2011.
And at the historic confluence with the Thames the Weybridge Angling Society (01932 242978) has access.
A charity supporting access to fishing waters for disabled anglers including Broadwater Lake in Godalming is the Wey Valley Disabled Anglers Association (01252 542540)
Albury Estates (01483 202323) manages fisheries in lakes along the Tilling Bourne, a Wey tributary, and fishing along the stream.
The closed season for fishing along the Wey applies to the river and the two canals.
Cemex Angling have posted the following stock records for their Addlestone waters on their website. Chub to 6:02; Barbel to 6:08; Roach to 2:00; Pike to 17:08; Bream to 4:00; Carp to 8:00; Perch to 1:08; Eels to 2:00.
EDITOR'S NOTE: club contact details may change over time - please help us by advising of any changes you encounter.
The following is an excerpt from the fisheries report for fishing the section of the Wey Navigation posted by Total Fishing.
Tickets from the Wey Navigation Angling Amalgamation (contact details earlier on this page).
Healthy Fishing at New Haw
The Avon Valley League held a match (October 2006) on the Wey Navigation at New Haw and set a new match record.
The eddy behind the White Hart pub is noted for good catches and one of the competitors landed 15 bream at the spot. Further upstream at Pyrford another competitor landed a mixed bag of roach and gudgeon.
A highly invasive species of fish has been detected (March 2007) for the first time in the Wey Valley. The topmouth gudgeon (Pseudorasbora parva), which has been so far found in 24 locations across Britain, was discovered by a member of the public in Juniper Pond in Shalford. The small, grey type of minnow which is an Asiatic member of the carp family carries a micro-organism called a protist, which it carries harmlessly but can quickly infect other species by destroying internal organs. The European colonisation of the topmouth gudgeon has been traced back to Romanian ponds close to the Danube in the 1960s. In the mid-1980s the species had been introduced as aquarium fish in Hampshire.
The invasive nature of the fish, breeding four times as fast as native species and maturing at only one year of age, is of concern to the Environment Agency as the pond lies within the River Wey floodplain and in a flooding situation could escape into the river providing a major threat to native fish species over a wide area. The Agency has quarantined the pond erecting security fencing around it and providing nighttime security in readiness to carry out an eradication exercise. This will involve the use of Rotanone, a pesticide that will destroy all the fish regardless of species in the pond but leaves other wildlife and plantlife unaffected. Once the fish have been removed and destroyed the pond will be restocked.
Topmouth gudgeon also provide a threat to the natural balance of ponds and rivers by eating vast quantities of plant life and invertebrates, and the eggs of native species are consumed. The species is listed as a category 5 risk species under the Importation of Live Fish Act, the highest level of risk.
The Environment Agency have run successful eradication exercises elsewhere in the UK and have launched fish surveys along the River Wey to monitor for other instances.
Boost to Barbel Population
The Environment Agency released 100 12-month-old barbel into the river near Godalming on the 5th December (2007) in a bid to boost the species' population which has been under threat.
The long-living fish, which can live for up to 25 years, have struggled with a lack of suitable spawning and juvenile habitats and impoundments which is where the flow is reduced by impeding structures placed in the river.
Barbel require shallow gravel areas with fast flows in order to spawn. The hatching larvae use still and shallow bays to feed and avoid predators. The older juveniles graduate to faster flows on shallow gravels. The larvae depend upon these habitats in order to survive their first winter.
The Environment Agency carries out over 500 fish stocking transfers nationwide. The fish released into the Wey were bred at the Environment Agency fish farm at Calverton near Nottingham. The farm produced half a million fish last year.
A company investigating the installation of an underground gas storage facility in Albury discovered that more than 700 newts had colonised the shallow water of a man-made pitch along the edge of their well site. Although the two species were not on an endangered list Star Energy decided (July 2009) to have the amphibians re-homed.
The company called in a team of ecological consultants who arranged for each individual newt to be removed from the ditch, examined for any sign of disease and to check that no plant material was attached to them before transferring the amphibians to their new home. Two species were identified, palmate and smooth newts. The Surrey Wildlife Trust and Surrey County Council helped the company identify two suitable sites for the newts. 600 were transferred to Sherborne Pond in Dorset with the remaining newts re-homed at a newly created wildlife pond at Chilworth School.
Lethal River Invaders:
American crayfish were introduced in the late 1960s as an alternative crop for farmers. The crustaceans have since proved to be highly destructive and a direct threat to a variety of native species of aquatic creatures.
A Wey Valley ecologist has been monitoring the invaders for over twenty years, and although he has no positive news related to a possible decline in the species, he has however found that diners at a restaurant near the Tillingbourne in Shere thouroughly enjoy the fact that American crayfish are on the menu . . . MORE HERE
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