With the brown trout season just a month away those responsible for managing rivers up and down the country are gearing up for a busy time. The season starts in March and new rules governing the introduction of fish-farm-reared brown trout mean river keepers have had to think hard about their preparations for the season. The introduction of fish-farm-reared diploid brown trout to rivers has been outlawed since the start of 2015, with most rivers adopting one of three approaches. Some managers have opted to leave their rivers to be stocked by the existing native fish, others have elected to stock with fish-farm-reared brown trout produced from the eggs and milt of native trout while a third approach has involved the use of sterile triploid brown trout from fish farms. The first option seems likely to cause a gradual decline in the trout population of some rivers, where populations have suffered because of declining habitats for trout. Some tributaries, such as Broughton and Eshton on the river Aire once held enormous heads of trout, but now are a shadow of their former selves and would contribute few new fish for the main river. The second option seems affordable, since the fish would probably cost no more than diploids do. Additionally the gene strength of fish which would survive to spawn would be ideal and some of these fish would even be available soon with fish farms in many areas already attempting to rear native fish. The final option of the three has some disadvantages and one main benefit. While sterile triploid trout are reaidly available they cost at least 15 per cent more than the diploids they will replace and since they’re unable to breed they have a roaming tendency, much like rainbow trout. However, if they do stay in one stretch they will grow quickly and are supposedly good fighting fish. While each of these option have their merits, they’ll have dramatically different effects in different rivers, and each river manager will need to carefully weigh up what’s right for their beat. It is worth noting that many clubs across the UK have already started preparing for the ban in previous years. A good number opted to simply stop restocking altogether and introduce a ban on removing natural brown trout or at least impose a reduced bag limit. The results have been interesting, with most fisheries surprisingly seeing a big improvement in both the quantity and quality of brown trout, so it’s possible this is the best solution for rivers in most areas. In one area additional steps have been taken to make sure the local fish population is as healthy as possible ahead of the new season. The Severn Rivers Trust has opted to remove an historic weir from the River Rea to ensure fish can enjoy the run of the river. The weir, at Cleobury Mortimer in Shropshire, has prevented fish from travelling the length of the river for hundreds of years and now it’s gone fish will be able to enjoy free range to mate at ancient breeding grounds. The idea is that brown trout and salmon will be able to travel between fish habitats which are now connected having been long cut off from each other, and help keep stocks healthy. The move has been made because of a marked decline in fish species which has been noted by the Severn Rivers Trust in recent years. The Trust is involved in an ongoing drive to remove or improve man-made barriers to fish migration as a result. While river managers have geared up for the change in the law in a variety of ways, fish farm owners have done so by building their stocks high. At Allenbrook Trout Farm in Dorset, which sits on the River Allen near Wimborne St Giles, staff have been doing all they can to ensure they have high numbers of high quality fish to supply hundreds of tonnes of live trout to anglers, fisheries and other fish farms around the UK. Manager Trevor Whyatt, who has worked at Allenbrook since 1981, said he and his staff had been working flat out over the winter. “Our fish get the best of everything,” he said. “With the new laws we know that if people are going to introduce any new fish to rivers they want them to be the best they can be. “We aim to give our fish the best quality environment possible and the freedom to behave just how they would in the wild. A happy fish is a productive and economic fish.” With the trout kept in freshly pumped, oxygen-enriched water straight from the River Allen, and exercised in raceways of shallow, fast running water, they’re ready for rivers whenever they’re sent out. “We replicate what happens in the natural world,” said Trevor, “so these fish are able to go into a natural environment and thrive for the benefit of anglers and river managers.” With brown trout up and down the country ready for the new season, it’s time for anglers to make sure they’re ready too. If you need to prepare why not take a look at some of our fishing equipment and fishing wet weather gear?