In 2000 the then Wye Foundation joined up with Usk owners and anglers to buy out netting and putcher interests in the estuary. Working together showed how much there was in common with the interests on the Wye and at the end of an appropriate 'engagement', we merged.

Local anglers had noticed a decline in numbers of the Usks famous brown troutThe first venture for the new Wye & Usk Foundation was to put a bid to the European Regional Development Fund. We succeeded in gaining approval for two paired projects that covered the Usk catchment from source to Abergavenny.

Starting in 2004, together they were called the Usk Project, or more simply UP!

The initial budget of £0.9 million was extended in 2007 for work upstream of Brecon, taking the total budget to £1.12 million.

The need for UP!

While the salmon numbers on the Usk benefitted from the net buy off, there was still considerable scope for improvement.

In addition, the famous Usk brown trout was not as numerous as it once was. Many regular fishermen were pointing out that while the average size of trout has risen dramatically (2lb fish were becoming more common), numbers of small fish were declining.

Stocking with hatchery reared fish was taking place which was bad news for the river. It is expensive, fails to tackle the underlying problems and endangers the native populations. In addition, 'stockies' are no substitute for the famous native Usk trout.

The upper photo is of the Honddu (Usk tribtary) as we found it in 2004. The lower photo shows the recovering stream after habitat work in UP!Fishery scientists use the term 'lack of recruitment' to describe the phenomenon of poor juvenile fish production. The problem lies in the smaller tributaries. Siltation, diffuse pollution, habitat destruction and obstructions are the prime suspects and UP! was the means of putting these right.


Habitat restoration

The funding was used by the Foundation to restore the degraded habitat in the Usk catchment. Over 36km of stream was restored on the following rivers: Bran; Crai; Ysgir Fawr; Grwyne; Upper main stem Usk; Ethrim; Rhiangoll; Tarell and Honddu.

Fish migration

We also restored the access to these tributaries for migrating salmon and trout. Fish passes were built on the Cynrig, Rhiangoll and Crawnon. Meanwhile, significant barriers to fish migration were removed on the Cilieni, An important Usk spawning stream (the Cynrig) was blocked by a weir impassable to salmon and trout. The Foundation built fish pass was completed within UP! in 2006Menasgin, Sorgwm and Ychen while minor barriers were removed on the Tarell, Menasgin (again), Honddu and Grwyne.

Sustainable benefits

A marketing strategy similar to that set up in pHish was used to bring the benefits of river improvements to the rural economy with the ultimate goal of making these improvements self- funding and sustainable. The UP! project launched the Fishing Passport in the Usk catchment.

Project partners

Our partners (listed below) included for the first time Brecon Beacons National Park, through which most of the rivers involved in the project flow.

The Foundation is also grateful to all the Usk owners and anglers who had faith in us to deliver this project and supported it financially, and to our partners who together have made it possible to assemble such a substantial and worthwhile scheme.

These include: Environment Agency; Countryside Council for Wales & Forestry Commission (now Natural Resources Wales); Brecon Beacons National Park; University of Wales, Cardiff; United Usk Fishermen's Association (now Usk Fishing Association); Keep Wales Tidy and Wildlife Trusts.