Everyone’s Water: Urban and Wild in Northern England

My friend Duncan mentioned “urban fishing” when he invited me to Sheffield, England, and in my mind’s eye I saw the river I grew up on in Yarmouth, ME, though a bit more Shire-like. My childhood was spent on the Royal River, a stream that—like Sheffield’s Sheaf and Don rivers—held a few reminders of its industrial past. A chicken-processing plant and a sailing-cord factory once sat upon its banks. In those days, the river had higher-than-normal mercury levels due to waste from the processing plant, but over the years, those have dropped to safe levels for swimming and fishing. Today, it’s a scenic river with several parks dotted along its length. 

I arrived in mid-September. Sheffield’s Sheaf and Don rivers—one is the city’s namesake, the other is named for a Celtic goddess—meandered along walls that were likely centuries old, past industrial warehouses and under arched stone bridges. We wandered narrow, winding streets jam-packed with row houses looking for access points that would lead us to the rivers’ browns and grayling. It was an uncompromising reminder of those early days on my home river, scrambling over the old stonework of the factory foundations while I searched for browns with my first fly rod…

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