Georgie Pruden talks to Lucy Mantle from City Flickers, a new club with a mission to get young people out of London and hooked on fly-fishing.
For most millennials or Gen Zs, there were few elements less appealing than trucking up to the Highlands, wedged in the back of the car amongst the waders, waterproofs and wellies, smelly dogs and squabbling siblings, for a precious week of the summer holidays spent fishing with their parents.
Slumped miserably on the rainy banks of a fishless Scottish river, the only noteworthy catch of the day was likely to be a tightly cling-filmed ham and cheese sandwich, a packet of prawn cocktail crisps and a couple of orange Club biscuits for good measure. Sound familiar? Most of us will have been there.But there’s a resurgence of young people now rushing to the waterside – without parents – who are enamoured by aquatic conservation, the sustainability of fish farming and seafood consumption, all high on the drug of the tug and relishing in the glory of spending their weekends fishing on the banks of Britain’s most spectacular rivers.
City Flickers, co-founded by Lucy Mantle and Robbie Ellis, is a newly launched members’ club specifically targeting the under 35s living and working in London. Their ethos is simple but imperative for the future of preserving the eco-life of our rivers and oceans – to smash the myth that fly-fishing is just for the older, wealthier generation and that in order to be even remotely considered a true lover of the game, you will have dedicated your entire life to fishing rivers across the globe, you will be a lifelong subscriber of Salmon & Trout and you will know, confidentially, what the difference is between a ‘mini dog nobbler’ and ‘the jock’s shrimp’ (they’re fishing flies, btw). Putting it simply, City Flickers are here to remind us young’uns that fishing can actually be seriously good fun as well as being affordable and accessible to everyone, despite the outdated reputation it tends to receive.
We’re fizzing with excitement as we sit on the gloriously sunny banks of the River Shin, watching dozens of Goliath-sized salmon ferociously battle the downstream pull of a 12ft fall. Lucy reminisces about growing up at home at the Delphi Fishing Lodge in Connemara, Ireland, where she spent countless, miserable wet and windy weekends fishing with her parents and their friends whilst hating every single second of it.
“It wasn’t until three years ago when I caught my first fish, a brown trout, on the River Test that I finally realised why people spend so much time doing this. Nothing beats that feeling of catching a fish, whether it’s an absolute monster or the size of your little finger like mine was! I was instantly hooked and have been ever since. I’m like a child at Christmas. Even when I wake up with the most awful hangover from hell, I’ll be jumping straight out of bed and into the car, raring to go. I want everyone else to feel like that too”.
There’s no denying that Lucy’s passion for the sport is utterly intoxicating and contagious, as our conversation quickly deep dives into the preservation of ecosystems, fly and marine life before examining the atrocities of farmed salmon, particularly on the West coast of Scotland. “People watch these documentaries that come out on fish farming and it sticks with them for a couple of days but then head out to seafood restaurants regardless and eat farmed salmon that are highly contaminated with carcinogens and toxins from antibiotics and food dyes. The EU are making incredible headway in bringing sea farms onto land but it’s not enough. With Scotland planning to double their farmed salmon population by 2030 we need to take action in order to preserve our already rapidly declining wild stocks and make salmon more sustainable for future generations.”
It’s not fresh headline news that when sea-farmed salmon escape there is a direct detrimental effect on wild salmon; spreading sea lice and disease and hybridising offspring whose chances of surviving in the wild are significantly reduced. According to a report titled “Dead Loss” published in February this year, farmed salmon are also dying prematurely due to poor welfare conditions, with caged fatalities in 2019 doubling since 2013 to 25.8 tons in Scotland alone. The study also found that more than 13 percent of Scotland’s farmed salmon harvest was lost in 2019, three times higher than mortality rates on chicken farms across the UK, an industry already infamous for rearing livestock in atrocious conditions.
Research like this casts dark shadows over the farmed fish industry, but allows organisations like City Flickers to act as enlightening and spearheading educational platforms. A series of diverse and fundamentally important talks will be launching imminently via their website with a key focus on topics such as the eco-life and systems of rivers, insect and fly life, the conservation of ocean fish, and fish farming across the planet.
With rolling annual membership costing just £85 per year, City Flickers are enormously inspiring for the next spawn of fishing fanatics, bringing people together regardless of their experience for discounted fishing holidays, exclusive London events, talks, workshops and socialising opportunities. For many, living and working in London can be monotonous and lonely in equal measures but City Flickers offers a much needed respite for those seeking new or old pastime distractions. They provide an opportunity to spend Saturdays trout fishing on the River Kennet and Test, both within 90 minutes from central London, where you will be fed and watered by the most excellent spread of food and full stocks of rosé from as little as £115-£130 a day. They also offer a beginners’ day for just £5 a day where you are taught how to tie flies, how to catch and release safely and the general etiquette of fishing; all designed to ignite the passion and to share the beauty of the most wonderful sport.
So it really doesn’t matter how old you are, what you do, or where you come from to go fishing, but if you’re young and stuck in London, looking for more productive ways to spend your weekends, City Flickers is your one stop shop for meeting like-minded fellow fishing friends and will help launch a lifetime of unbeatable experiences, all whilst having a bloody good time. Tight lines!
For more information visit https://cityflickers.co.uk/