Before his tragically sudden and early death on 10 September this year, Will Tall was a leading figure in the project to restore the River Wandle – playing prominent roles in the launch of the Wandle Piscators’ riverfly monitoring programme and the rehabilitation of Cannon Hill Lake.
Will grew up in Chesham Bois, and learned to fish in childhood on the nearby River Chess. He took a degree in General Science at Durham University, where he played rugby in the second row for Hatfield College. After university, he played in the same position for Rosslyn Park while carving out a successful career in the telecommunications industry, working as BT’s head of internet communications for eight years before moving on to his first directorship at Voxsurf. Several similar senior roles followed as he became a sought-after consultant and start-up mentor for a range of companies in the technology sector.
Will joined the Wandle project just before the notorious pollution incident in 2007, when he met Theo Pike in a pub in Wimbledon Village to talk about his idea of launching one of the UK’s first whole-catchment riverfly monitoring schemes on the Wandle. For this pioneering citizen science work, he was awarded the Thames River Restoration Trust’s inaugural John S. Hills Memorial Award in 2009.
Will understood that in order to convince water companies and government bodies of the need to take action, it is necessary to assemble hard scientific evidence, and this was the first of several initiatives which he set up for this purpose. As one of the earliest champions of the Anglers’ Riverfly Monitoring Initiative, he became a trainer for the Riverfly Partnership, and sat on the Partnership’s governing board. In this role he inspired many other groups to look after their local rivers, and collaborated with Dr. Cyril Bennett on an ambitious project to reintroduce Mayflies to the Wandle.
As co-Senior Vice Presidents of the Wandle Piscators, Will and Theo worked together on developing several small-scale river restoration projects (before the scale of everyone’s ambitions, perhaps inevitably, started generating larger projects that could only be feasibly managed by the Wandle Trust’s full-time staff). From this point he turned his focus to Cannon Hill Lake, a semi-derelict coarse fishery in an old brick-pit on Cannon Hill Common – fundraising, building new fishing platforms, installing aeration equipment, planting lilies with a novel lobbing technique, procuring new stocks of fish, and restoring the lake as an asset for the local community. He also took a particular interest in bringing young anglers into the sport, and managed Merton and Wandsworth’s junior angling teams for the London Youth Games.
For several years Will led the Wandle Piscators’ fly-tying evenings, and he recently became involved in the fly-dressing traditions of the Flyfishers’ Club. He helped Charles Jardine with the winter tying programme, and worked with Peter Hayes and Tim Benn to reorganise the club’s fly-tying cabinet with new materials and a range of ‘instant fly kit wallets’ for a range of popular flies.
On the water, Will was the epitome of an all-round angler – as happy teaching youngsters how to dangle maggots for tiny stillwater roach on Cannon Hill Lake, as pursuing pike, perch, trout and grayling with all kinds of tackle on the Thames, Tame, Wandle, Wylye and Itchen.
He was a man of immense stature in every respect. We will miss him greatly, and we extend our deepest condolences to his wife Jo and his daughters Georgina and Hannah.