ON A balmy evening in early summer, the River Kelvin f lows flat and glossy. Alistair Stewart, a long-time dry-fly angler of its waters, looks for good spots to catch brown trout and the search has so far taken us from Dawsholm Park to Garscube Estate and now back to Maryhill.

Fishing in urban areas certainly has its own charms: the partially-submersed obstacle course of shopping trolleys, traffic cones, crates and tyres, the burnt-out cars at the riverbank and the threat of crime.

"I've heard stories of anglers getting rods taken off them, ? says Stewart, 32. "Nothing like that has happened to me. You get the odd occasion where someone might throw a bottle of Buckfast at you, or Irn Bru, but nothing serious. My theory is that if you look like an absolute idiot when you go fishing, people are going to leave you alone. I walk everywhere - I don't drive - so I get funny looks waiting for the bus in Partick in my waders. ? If Stewart appears remarkably relaxed with having bottles thrown at him, it's because the experience pales into insignificance compared to what else a city river has to offer. "My worst nightmare is discovering a dead body, ? says Stewart, a social worker. "I've heard that if they discover one, most anglers report it to the police anonymously to avoid the paperwork. ? Luckily, he has so far only mixed with the living. He occasionally meets young, novice

fishermen who don't know one fish from the next and hold up their catch for identification. More often than not, however, he encounters locals who express their surprise that there are fish in the Kelvin to be caught. One elderly man was particularly taken aback, as his childhood memories of the river were brightly coloured. Specifically, blue, green and red from the dye discharged by the factories upstream.

Stewart used to have the same attitude. "I never fished in the Kelvin when I was young, ? he says. "I think the Kelvin is in people's subconscious: they don't think of it as being a trout river or a salmon river, it's just there. It's thought of as a dirty river and that's the way I saw it as well. Then eight years ago I moved to Anniesland and came down here one evening. ? The Kelvin was a dirty river. It had been a receptacle for factory discharges during the 1950s and 1960s, including effluent from paper mills and chemical and dye factories. The closure of these and the cleansing effect of decades of plentiful rain reversed the river's fortunes. In 1999, anglers and scientists celebrated the first official opening of the salmon season on the river. Further significant improvements came between late 2001 and 2003, when old waste water treatment works in the river Kelvin catchment were closed

and replaced with the Kelvin Valley Sewer. This meant sewage no longer entered the river - instead, it enters the Clyde via a modern sewage works in Dalmuir - and the improvement in water standards was immediate.

Ian Reddick has fished in the Kelvin for a decade. He thinks fish stocks have been fairly consistent throughout the improvement in water quality. Salmon and sea trout have always spawned in the river and he recalls lots of brown trout. The latter is rarely killed and eaten by anglers, which used to be because the water quality ruled out a freshtasting fish. Now, it's because the river is still in recovery and anglers prefer to let the trout spawn and keep fish stocks up.

"None of the fly-anglers I know kill any of the trout from here, ? says Stewart, who has killed and eaten only one brown trout in his eight years fishing on the Kelvin (and says it tasted good). "They kill the salmon, though ? I don't really believe in killing fish, to be honest with you.

In a recovering river like this, you've got to conserve stocks. Every salmon and trout you kill, it's just another fish that's not going to spawn. It's different down the Clyde - although the city stretches of the river offer no fishing. Up Lanark way, it's stuffed with trout. They're nice and plump and there's plenty of them, so I'd maybe kill them up there, but not in the Kelvin. You're killing the future of the river - that's the way I look at it. ? The River Kelvin Angling Association (RKAA) issues season permits, which cost pounds-15 for a year. "It's probably the cheapest salmon fishing in the UK, ? says Reddick, committee member of the RKAA and Friends of the River Kelvin (Fork). "Certainly some of the anglers kill and eat sea trout and salmon. As the Kelvin runs through the centre of a big city, you can just walk there and fish for very little cost. ? Reddick says he has had little

experience of the disadvantages of fishing in the city. Youths once threw stones at him while he fished in the River Ayr, which could have been very dangerous had he lost his footing either trying to avoid them or upon being hit by one, but he has had no problems at the Kelvin. He has heard of other anglers who advise that it's best to fish in pairs in urban areas, just to be safe.

Of the benefits, his experience is plentiful. "I have seen an otter, ? he says. "It was around 5pm in May, four years ago. I was at Kelvinbridge and stopped and watched it for about 20 minutes. It caught two eels and ate them under the bridge at Great Western Road. It had a look at me every now and again, but maybe because it was so used to seeing people along the Kelvin walkway it wasn't bothered.

"Kingfishers are quite a rare bird in Scotland, but they're frequently seen on the Kelvin. You always spot something of interest. I've seen lots of mink, herons and sparrowhawks. Another good sign of improving water quality is the insect life. Trout fishers are interested in the insects trout are feeding on. Over the years, we've noticed many new species appearing that weren't there before because the water was too polluted. Now it's improved we've seen new species appearing, such as caddis flies - there have never been so many seen in the Kelvin as this year. ? Stewart has also observed changes in fly-life: "In the past few months there have been yellow mays, which is nice to see. In traditional fishing rivers you get flies such as march browns, but because the Kelvin isn't yet in tip-top condition, you don't get flies like that here. ? While the water has become much cleaner, however, it

has also become shallower since sewage ceased to be pumped into it. This presents a new problem for fish stocks and other freshwater wildlife. During periods of low rainfall, the river can run very shallow. When compounded with hot weather, the water in the basin heats up and oxygen in the water is depleted.

"Trout and salmon tend to thrive in well-oxygenated cold water, ? says Reddick. "When the water gets too hot, it kills the fish. They can't breathe. In recent years, some of the fish have died because of that.

"There are a number of reservoirs high up in the hills, and some run down into tributaries which run into the Kelvin. It would be good if, during periods of low water in the Kelvin, we could get some extra water released from the reservoirs. That would help to keep the river healthy during the summer. ? Both the centrality of the Kelvin and its recovering status mean that it is, more than anything, a community river. Fork was formed in 1991 and has the cormorant as its logo because when the bird returned to the river it was a sign of its cleanness. The group organises regular clean-ups, while individual anglers often go out of their way to clear rubbish from the river on days they're not fishing (though Stewart tentatively points out that shopping trolleys can actually be ecologically beneficial to a river: the weeds that grow around them provide shelter for juvenile trout, which can feed

on insects attracted by the weeds).

Indeed, the Kelvin has even played a part in building community relations. In 2004-5, a Sense Over Sectarianism (SOS) project took youths from Pollok to learn to fish in the river. To qualify for the scheme, they first had to attend an anti-sectarian workshop. Alison Logan of SOS, based at Glasgow City Council, says it demonstrated to youngsters the constructive activities available on their doorstep.

"It provided them with an alternative activity and broke down barriers between pupils at denominational and non-denominational schools, ? she says. "It was a great success. I've heard that a group of boys who went continue to fish to this day. They're hooked, for want of a better word. ? The Scottish National Angling Programme recently launched a pounds-350,000 campaign to encourage more young people to take up the sport across Scotland. A healthy and accessible river in the city appears a good place to start. Patrick McKendry, owner of Cafaros, a fishing-tackle shop in Glasgow city centre, says he has customers as young as 10.

"We get a lot of boys coming in, from all backgrounds, ? he says. "They normally come in the evenings or on Saturday afternoons with their pals or parents, and are usually looking for hooks, weights and line, but you do get some coming in for their first rods.

"For at least two or three years there, there was a real decline in the number of younger lads coming into the shop. I think computer games and the like took them away from fishing, but things have picked up in recent months, which is good to see.

"Some need help with what they need and some don't, but I'd say in the main they are all serious enough anglers. It's good to see the young generation coming back and the numbers growing. They're the young anglers of tomorrow, after all. ? Back at the Kelvin, there's been no trouble from the potential young anglers of tomorrow. That said, we've not been troubled by fish, either, though the brisk walk through a few kilometres of rhododendron and bamboo-lined paths is a pleasant enough way to spend an evening.

"Some people think fishing is lazy, ? says Stewart. "But with fly-fishing, you're constantly on the go, walking up the river and looking for fish. The other night I ended up walking about 6km going up and down.

"I often get people asking me about the best spots to fish. I generally tell them to get their waders on.

Alistair Stewart has a website, www. theriverkelvin. co. uk