NACA Sayers Meadow fishery

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Sayers Meadow

Sayers Meadow R.Wensum Lyng

IMG 0503The main focus of NACA’s early habitat restoration work which won us recognition with various awards and continues to stand as a blueprint for others to follow. With three stages of work now completed that have reprofiled the river channel and created a superb sequence of riffle/pool habitats.


Sayers Meadow is the original project fishery set up by NACA way back in 1988. As such, the intention was to restore a dredger-damaged section of the Wensum to something approaching its former glory, using habitat restoration techniques such as riverbed re-profiling, gravel riffle/pool sequence reinstatement, bankside re-planting and fry-refuge construction to name but a few.

To cap all this, plans also included stocking juvenile barbel, in an attempt to mitigate against the loss of the famous barbel fishery further downstream at Costessey, which by then was threatened by a new abstraction point for public water supply.

Three phases of works have been completed over the years, with another in the pipeline. This latest plan aims to deal with a number of large fallen trees by cutting them back so 50% of channel is unobstructed, and pinning the remainder to the riverbed to create LWD (Large Woody Debris) flow deflectors. There is also a proposal for another fry refuge, and some planting of bankside alders.

As is well known, the barbel were successfully stocked and they flourished for many years, reaching very impressive sizes and even threatening the national record at one point! There was however always an issue with population sustainability, despite gravel jetting on the spawning beds, gravel augmentation, juvenile habitat work etc, and when otters reappeared on the river, after a few years virtually all the big original barbel had succumbed to their predations. This left a struggling remnant population, which after much campaigning we managed to “prop-up” for a few years with fish kindly stocked by the EA. This has now ceased due partly to lack of available EA funding, and the remaining barbel are effectively on their own. About the only help we can give them now is continued gravel jetting to hopefully help with spawning success. This has been ongoing for many years now, the EA have been kind enough to help us with equipment and manpower. In these days of spending cuts we are having to muck in, get our waders on and get wet ourselves, as they have such limited capability that at best we get one EA operative.

Despite this doom and gloom, the fishery remains viable. There is currently a very healthy chub population, plenty of fives and sixes caught most years, with the occasional seven. Such a fish came out to John Stimpson in March 2015, at a very impressive seven pounds two ounces. All the usual Wensum species are present, and most have been caught to specimen sizes at some point in the past. Roach and dace are probably the most fished for other than the chub, some very nice fish are present of both species if you can find them! And of course barbel are still being seen and caught, though few people fish for them deliberately any more.

Situated in a quiet corner of the Wensum valley, the fishery comprises over a mile of river plus the two famous mill pools. Members often comment on what a pleasant fishery it is to spend time on. A wealth of wildlife can be seen throughout the year, some of it quite unusual.

There is a fishery membership of thirty-five, which is deliberately low to suit such an intimate river environment and also at the request of our landlord, who is incidentally very supportive of our efforts to improve and protect the river. Currently a season permit costs £95 and a limited number of guest tickets are available to fishery members. A waiting list is in force, for which NACA membership is a requirement.

Contact Tim Ellis (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or the website administrator if you are interested in joining.