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Fisheries and filming on our waterways

Our canals and rivers have a strong appeal for film-makers, television producers and art directors amongst others. The waterways are regularly used for everything from major feature films and TV dramas, to advertising shoots and documentaries. This generates both income for the Trust and increased public interest for our waterways.

Production still of Call The Midwife BBC show filming by canal

As the largest owners of fishing rights in the UK, it's not surprising that from time to time, there is interest in filming angling activity on our waterways too.

Obtaining permission for filming and photography

Individual anglers who are taking footage on a mobile phone for their own personal use would be exempt from having to apply for permission or pay a fee. Out of courtesy, if the personal filming or photography involves persons who are not known to you, then please seek their permission first.

Where the photo or film footage is being undertaken for commercial purposes and/or involves the presence of a film crew on the waterways then permission from the Trust will be required.

How to obtain permission to film

The Trust has a small team who deal with all filming and photography enquiries. They can be contacted at [email protected]. The applicant will then be sent an application pack. There's lots of information on our website filming and photography pages to help you get started with planning your shoot.

Is there a fee and what length of notice is required?

There is always a fee, the level of which will depend on various factors including whether the towpath will need to be closed and how much Trust staff time will be involved in making the event happen. The application process typically takes at least five working days so we strongly advise that you submit your application well in advance of when you plan to undertake the work.

Some dos and don'ts when it comes to filming fishing

People who are new to fishing can sometimes inadvertently put themselves at risk of fishing without the correct permissions. Therefore, you will need to obtain a permit either from the controlling angling club or via the Waterway Wanderers' scheme (if the fishing rights are included in this scheme) as well as hold an Environment Agency rod licence.

It is important that people are not encouraged to fish in inappropriate locations. Angling clubs who rent fishing rights on the canal network have to adhere to the terms of the Trusts' standard angling agreement document. For example fishing is not permitted in locks or within 25 metres of a lock approach. A lock approach is where the water width begins to narrow near the lock entrance. Similarly never film anglers fishing at water points (angling is not permitted here) or within 25 metres of a swing bridge. There is a real risk of injury or even death if fishing in close proximity to overhead electrical powerlines so never be tempted to film anyone fishing here under any circumstances.

Setting a good example and adhering the club rules

It's important for the image of angling and the continuing growth of the sport on our waterways that anglers being filmed demonstrate exemplary behaviour. Even celebrity anglers are not at liberty to turn a blind eye to local club rules. Indeed there must be liaison with the controlling angling club prior to the film being shot. Do make sure that the club is in agreement with the project being undertaken. Should you need information regarding the controlling angling club visit the fishery search page of the Trusts' website.

Do not film fishing equipment blocking the towpath or do anything else that puts the image of angling at risk. There are some useful hints on our Share the Space, Drop the Pace fishing video.

Check out the close season situation

I won't embarrass a reporter friend who, with the Trusts' advance permission, undertook a magazine feature in early March on a section of waterway with the intention of promoting the venue as the perfect spot for fishing in April and May. Alas, he had not checked whether the venue was open all the year round and it turned out that it was not! Follow the link for more information on the traditional close season.

Last Edited: 08 April 2016

photo of a location on the canals
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