wye salmonThe demand to fish the Wye was such that in the mid-20th century it was a case of what is known as "Dead Men’s Shoes". Fishing was extremely valuable and anglers paid handsomely to be on the riverbank.

The pressure on catching fish was also high. All methods were used and beats seemed to accommodate many more anglers than they do today. In addition, gillies were employed to ensure catches remained high.

When the salmon runs collapsed in the early '90s, it was sudden and dramatic for all except the lower beats. Lots of fishing suddenly became available but there was no means of putting anglers in touch with it. In 2003 we contacted all the fishing hotels on the upper Wye and found only one (owned by a keen angler) who was able to accommodate visiting anglers. The economy linked with fishing had all but collapsed, along with most of the associated jobs.

“We calculate the Passport to be worth nearly £2million annually to the rural economy.

In order to meet the requirements of EU funding, it was essential to show that our work and subsequent improvement to fisheries benefitted the rural economy, either with direct employment or by boosting revenue. We needed a scheme that did just this and at the same time enable us to calculate the extent of these benefits. The launch of our pHish project and some post Foot and Mouth funding (Adfywio) to get visitors back to Powys were the drivers that created the 'Upper Wye Passport' in 2003.

WHIP, our first project, gave us the opportunity to market restored trout fisheries and by combining neighbouring farmers' ownerships we were able to make beats of a worthwhile size. This gave the farmers some real incentive to look after their tributary. Many also had B&Bs that could be filled by anglers during the less popular months of the year. Our first Roving Voucher (now Wild Stream) scheme was on the Edw, Clettwr and Duhonw. Simplicity was the key factor: fishers bought vouchers, posted them in the beat box and enjoyed a day’s wild trout fishing. Later we added fisheries on the main river, giving rise to the "Booking Office". Then came the Usk, Lugg, Arrow and Monnow followed later by reservoirs and still waters.

In 2007, The Rural Enhancement Scheme funded fisheries infrastructure improvements in Herefordshire - paths, huts and bank repairs. The project added another 35 fisheries including, for the first time, coarse fishing on the middle/lower Wye. An online facility was added making out-of-hours bookings possible. A webcam on a gauge heralded a novel way of providing information on water conditions. Now there are nine spread throughout the catchments.

In 2003, the first year, 13 main Wye and tributary beats generated a modest £1,845 in fishing sales. Ten years later this was over £250,000. We now have over 200 fisheries on board, including some outside the Wye and Usk and some of the area’s top still waters. We calculate the Passport to be worth nearly £2million annually to the rural economy.