The Origins of Riverkeepers and Gamekeepers
The origins of riverkeeper and gamekeeper come mainly from the fishing and hunting history of England and the rest
of Europe. One of the most famous riverkeepers was Frank Sawyer who wrote the now classic book Nymphs and the Trout. Sawyer a
riverkeeper on the Wiltshire Avon was a friend of the legendary G.E.M. Skues (Nymph Fishing for Chalkstream Trout and Minor Tactics on the
Chalk Streams). Most of these streams and rivers were privately owned or leased. Some gamekeepers took care of both the water and the land, while other estates or land areas had separate river and
The job of the riverkeeper was to take care of the stream and improve it for fishing. This was accomplished in a number of ways including
maintaining proper plant life in the stream, increasing the amount of spawning gravel for the fish, etc. The riverkeeper also maintained
the “beats” or fishing spots on the stream for anglers as well as patrolled the stream for poachers, basically a modern day fish
warden. In the case of Sawyer he was perhaps the first to understand how the life cycles of the insects related to proper
stream production and increased quality of the fishery. Sawyer put down boards in the stream so the mayflies could lay their eggs on them
and have a better chance of survival.
Gamekeepers often raised birds and made sure the hunting preserve had the correct ecological conditions necessary to support the
wildlife. Gamekeepers were well versed in understanding what it took for the preserve to prosper. Gamekeepers like the riverkeepers
advised the members on hunting methods and proper equipment.
The riverkeepers were also extremely knowledgeable fly fisherman as shown by Saywer’s expertise and analysis in his book. In essence the
first riverkeepers were also stream scientists even though they didn’t have a degree. In America we had our own chalkstreams or spring
creeks and the Letort in Pennsylvania had their own stream caretaker or riverkeeper like the legendary Charlie Fox. Click the trout to go to the
Cumberland Valley and one of the birthplaces of fly fishing in America.