The purpose of this retrospective study was to review our experience with a consecutive group of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients using simple strategies to increase the use of autogenous vascular access, and determine whether the current trend of using synthetic bridge-graft fistula (BGF) rather than autogenous arteriovenous fistula (AVF), could be reversed, despite an aging population and broadening criteria for hemodialysis. All patients for vascular access surgery had careful preoperative clinical examination of the arm veins with outflow occlusion to determine the venous anatomy and continuity. Where no veins were apparent or their continuity in doubt, selective preoperative venography was performed. Where veins were unsatisfactory for forearm AVF, new or modified surgical procedures to use both the basilic and cephalic veins in the upper arm were performed. Intraoperative angioscopy was used to monitor vein quality and surgical technique. Ninety-eight primary vascular access procedures were performed in 76 patients, 75 (76.5%) AVF (forearm, n = 41; upper arm, n = 34) and 23 (23.5%) BGF. Forty-one of 76 (54%) had already had at least one previous access procedure prior to this study. More than one access procedure was needed in 16 patients. Preoperative venography was performed in 22 (22.4%) and intraoperative angioscopy in 45 (45.9%) of the 98 procedures. The number of revisions required to maintain patency was significantly higher for BGF (37 revisions in 14/23) than AVF (16 revisions in 13/75) (p < 0.0001, Poisson test) with an annualized secondary revision rate of 1.168 for BGF and 0.173 for AVF (p < 0.0001, Poisson test). AVF had both longer primary (p = 0.0001, log rank test) and secondary patency (p = 0.038, log rank test) than BGF. AVF as the primary vascular access can be significantly increased and the current trend of using BGF reversed with the use of simple clinical strategies to evaluate the suitability of the arm veins for vascular access.