Chew Valley Lake

Will these winds never end?

All boats have been cancelled on Chew today due to the strong Southerly winds - that's why I am sitting at home writing my blog!
I was on Chew for the last 3 days and have sat through 3 different wind directions, bright sunshine, rain and even thunder.  Yet the trout fishing has been incredible.  On Tuesday, I fished with an old mate Paul Kurgo and his father Edgar - Paul is new to fly fishing and they boated 5 big rainbows and a cracking brownie - all on nymphs off the East Shore and new Picnic Area.

On Wednesday, Tony Ling and I managed 8 trout apiece on a mix of dry flies and nymphs - from the same areas.  Fish were stuffed with hoglice, bloodworm and buzzer.

Yesterday, Derek Aunger and I took another double limit using either straight nymphs or washing line behind Denny Island.

All the fish fought really hard and many were over 3lbs in weight, so you can see why it is so frustrating to let the wind spoil today's fishing and put a halt to such a good run of form.

I'm out for pike tomorrow, but the weather forecast is not good ..........

England International on Loch Harray

Last week I fished Loch Harray in the Orkney Isles and volunteered to manage the Team in the absence of a full time manager.  What a place!  In 4 days, the Team boated an average of 140, 11-inch plus fish on the 4 days of practice - and that meant we would have caught at least the same amount each day of undersize fish.  Harray is alive with brown trout - all wild and the hardest fighting trout, pound for pound, that I have ever caught.

We fished with the help of ex England Captain and World Gold Medallist Brian Thomas, who has lived on Orkney for the last 14 years.  He showed us the method of fishing Sedgehogs on the Skerries - shallow areas strewn with large rocks - the takes were explosive!

The main method however, was sinking lines - DI3, DI5 and DI7 sinkers complete with 4 flies - several of them muddlers.  Takes came either on the drop, during a punctuated retrieve or on the hang - in other words, whenever the flies lifted or fell in the water.

We had a team of 14 which included no less than 9 new caps- all experienced anglers, but first time for an International Match.  And this was a truly unique venue with truly unique fishing.  Wales on the other hand had the strongest team I have ever witnessed, with an incredible 9 previous Captains of Wales - very impressive!

Scotland too had a very experienced side and of course, a fair degree of local knowledge, while Ireland are well versed in the art of catching wild brownies.

The fishing got harder throughout the week of practice, but even with an estimated 5000 fish being caught during the week, Harray still fished well on the day.

Sinking lines proved to be the best tactic, particularly Airflo Sweep Lines and the Skerries were not so productive as in recent days.

Congratulations to Wales for an emphatic victory, with Scotland 2nd, Ireland 3rd and us picking up the Wooden Spoon - our lads all gave 100% but sometimes you have to concede that you were fairly beaten by better teams on the day.

Give Chew a visit

Since opening day this season, Chew Valley has been on fire!  Only the recent 6 weeks of strong winds has dulled the action - and that has not been for lack of fish activity.  Even during the sun and wind, trout have continued to feed and the buzzer hatches are really prolific the second the winds drop.

Hopefully, this trend of strong winds will soon pass, giving us some settled weather.  The best areas are shallow water with no weed - once again, the Chew trout are staying well clear of any large weedbeds.

Last year's low levels meant the lake bad was exposed for months in some shallow areas and this has had a marked effect on the weed growth for this season - hence the greast fishing of late behind the Island - all in shallow water.

If you're looking for some proper nymph and dry fly fishing, then head on down to Chew - you won't be disappointed!

Brian Thomas with a Loch Harray Brownie
Paul Kurgo with lovely Chew brownie

More amazing action on Chew

It seemed like the whole of May was blighted by strong, cold winds, so I for one am pleased we are now into a new month.
June is traditionally one of the best months on the Bristol Waters, but it'll have a hard act to follow the sport and weather we had in March and April!  Perhaps the seasons really are changing.

Despite the windy weather, we still had great fishing at times, especially on Chew.  Last week, 2 of my clients; Michael Ruthven and Bill Tucker, enjoyed their best ever morning session in Herons Green, with both anglers taking limit bags before 2:00pm using teams of Diawl Bachs and Buzzers.  Plenty of boats drifted by, just catching the odd fish, while Bill and Michael frequently had fish on at the same time.  Speed of retireve was critical - nice and slow, with floating lines - not midge tips.

Behind Denny Island has been the best area recently and we have taken fish in just 2 feet of murky water - amazing!  The rainbows are fighting harder than I can ever remember and good quality Hardy Mach or Rio Fluorocarbon in 8lb BS is essential.  Avoid the finer diameter fluoro's as they simply cannot cope with the savage nature of the Chew Trout at the moment - the knot strength is not good enough.  I wish I had a pound for everyone that has told me their expensive fine diameter fluoro has broken lately!

The trout are now moving around from Denny Island and the spit off Denny is starting to produce good bags of fish for the first time this season.

Weed growth and water levels.

Chew is about 5 feet down and the weed growth is already prolific over the Roman Shallows, Herriots and Nunnery Spit.  Strangely enough, the shallow bays by Hollowbrook and Herons Green are not infested yet and the trout are feeding avidly there on either bloodworm or huge black buzzer. 

Trout on the major reservoirs appear to hate weed with a vengeance and I never find them feeding or even swimming- around it.  Sometimes they feed on the edge of weedbeds, but even that is severely limited.  If the weedbeds get as dense as last year, then I fully expect the rainbows to leave those areas and populate the non weedy places - areas such as Whalley Bank, Woodford Bank, part of Villice and the Sailing Club - in fact, exactly the areas they could be found in huge numbers last season.  These places have very hard clay bottoms and weed growth is never a problem.

Spring International on Loch Harray

Next week, I will be away on Loch Harray in the Orkney Isles, fishing for England in the Spring International match.  We have 9 new caps in our side, but all are seasoned competition anglers and almost household names.  I am the Player/manager for this match and Clive Collier is Captain.  Andy Haskins, Si Morris and Alan Williams are the other experienced caps.  Ex Lexus Champion Lloyd Pallett is a new cap, as is regular Trout Fisherman Magazine contributor Leigh Pond and England Rivers International angler Keith McAdam.  Well known match anglers John Calvert, Harry Fox, David Wortley, Jim McGonigle, Paul Kitchen, Andy Croucher and Bob Shaw make up the rest of the team.

Harray is 6 miles long and 1 mile wide, so we will need as much practice as possible - hence the need to be there for a full week.  Our Team Coach is ex England International Captain Brian Thomas who now lives on Orkney in the quirky named village of Twatt!  Brian is an expert on many styles of loch style fishing and his knowledge will be invaluable.

The Scots team have to be the bookies' favourites due to their local knowledge, but the Irish are used to fishing for wild browns on their own Loughs and the Welsh Team are travelling up today to practice longer than any other team.  So all in all, it looks like being a fantastic match with plenty of top name anglers and ghillies alike.  All we are hoping for is some decent weather and no gale-force winds that could force the match to be abandoned.

Pike

The Chew pike have been active of late and I have had some great sessions, catching lots of fish - best last week from 8 twenties being Justin Whitfield's 22:08 fish.  I have also been reapturing some of the near 400 pike that I have tagged and am surprised to see that most have put on less than 2lbs in weight in a whole year! 

I see plenty of pike anglers out on Chew nowadays fly fishing for the pike.  This element of the sport is certainly one of the only growth areas and with sensitive management by the fishery; is a welcome addition to our fantastic sport.  Just one tip to some of the many pike fly anglers out there and struggling at the moment - SLOW DOWN and SCALE DOWN!

I love all species of fish that can be caught on a fly - be it perch, roach, pike, grayling, carp, barbel or trout.  My best ever roach weighed 3lbs 4ozs and took a Diawl Bach Nymph while bank fishing off Moreton - the angler next to me, when told it was 3lbs 4ozs shouted back "yeah - Fxxxing things"!
I also sadly remember the days when trout anglers on Chew threw their perch up the banks in disgust - much the same way that river anglers have tried to obliterate the Grayling for so many years.  Let's not make the same ignorant mistake with the pike.

To date, I have had 18 trout with cormorant marks and just 6 with pike marks.  This figure will probably change as the majority of Chews several hundred cormorants are away from the lake as they breed - prossibly off the Pembrokeshire and Western England coastlines.

 

If I can get an internet connection on Orkney, I will update my blog during the week - but don't expect any secret flies or methods from the Loch - all will be revealed after the International!

Bill Tucker with one of his Chew limit bag
Justin Whitfield's 22:08 pike

Chew's amazing start continues

The strong winds have dropped and Chew's incredible start to the trout fishing season continues!
I fished with Rob Ratcliff yesterday and rose fish every drift in Herons Green Bay using Dries.  The buzzers were hatching all day long - big ones - and the trout were feasting on them.  I cannot remember when the trout have fought so hard on Chew and all of our fish were 3lbs and over.
We had 2 cormorant damaged trout but no pike damage - I think anglers cannot tell the difference between pike and cormaorant damage and are simply labelling everything as pike damage.

Pike on buzzers

My friend martin Cottis did an autopsy on a 6lb pike he caught on a Diawl Bach Nymph and guess what it had been feeding on? Buzzer - it was stuffed with nothing but black buzzer nymphs, proving that the odd capture of a pike on a nymph is not a coincidence - these smaller pike obviously have buzzers high on their list of food.

I also caught a 20lb pike on "black" Friday 13th May and it had one of my tags in it's dorsal fin rays.  I have tagged over 300 pike since the start of last season and over 10% have been recaptured.  Along with Bristol Water, this sampling enables us to check on the growth rate, recapture rate and movement of the pike. Incredibly, when I checked my records, it was caught on the very same day exactly 1 year ago by Mark Thompson and it weighed 17lbs 08ozs - just 2 1/2lbs weight increase in a whole year.  This shows that the likely diet for that fish was roach and not trout.  Over the course of a year, a big double eating trout at 2lbs average weight would have increased in weight by far more than a measly 2 1/2lbs!
Those sadly misguided individuals who are blaming the pike for Chew's poor form in recent years, are obviously way off the mark  A few years ago, they were blaming the cormorants whenever the fishing got hard - now it's the pikes' turn to carry the can!

First cuckoo

Friday 13th also heralded the first cuckoo on Chew this year.  For me, this is a real sign that Summer is on it's way.
I also saw a Hobby chasing insects in Villice Bay on the same day - so not such a "black" day after all!

With the 10 day forecast predicting a spell of warm weather with light winds - the fishing could get even better.

John with 20lb tagged pike

ARRGHH!!! Strong winds and bright sunshine - the worst fishing conditions!

When will this spell of strong, cold, North Easterly winds stop?  Coupled with constant bright sunshine, this has to be the worst conditions for trout fishing.
The Chew and Blagdon trout hate these conditions and when I was at Rutland Water last week, their trout responded by going off the feed.
The last 2 days on Chew have been very tricky, with deep fished nymphs the only way we could catch during the sunny, windy weather.  As soon as the winds dropped for a while, Herons Green came back on and the fish started to feed on the almost instant buzzer hatches.

Still, we must not complain - the opening month has been amazing, thanks in a big way to the light winds and warm air temperatures - I suppose we were due for a change.  The forecasters predict lighter winds as we approach the weekend and I fully expect the Bristol water trout to respond by feeding on the buzzer and daphnia and coming much closer to the surface again.

Just have a look at the size of the bloodworm and buzzer present in one of my Chew trout yesterday - if you look carefully, you will also see Hoglice and even Shrimp - these show how deep the fish have recently gone.

Pike action improving, but lots of smaller fish

The pike fishing with fly on Chew has started to improve, with lots of follows and many smaller fish.  However, Seb Shelton recently had a 27lb 8oz fish and one of my clients; Andrew Cadman, caught this cracking 24lb beauty.

Predation

I am keeping count of the marked trout I am catching this season and so far, it is very few.  Just 3 pike marked fish and 13 cormorant marked trout from around 150 landed (and many returned).  Most of the cormorants have left for the coast to breed and the pike are obviously feeding primarily on the many roach that I have already seen this season.

Birds

The Swifts arrived at Chew on Friday and by Saturday, there were hundreds chasing the buzzers!  I still haven't seen a house martin on Chew, but saw loads at Rutland last week.  No less than 14 buzzards were on a thermal above Chew last week and I think I spotted my first Hobby last week.  At times, there are more than a dozen Shelduck feeding on the buzzers at Chew.
 

Bloodworm, Caddis, Buzzer, hoglice and shrimp spoonings
Andrew Cadman with his 24lb pike

Chew's Best Opening Week Ever!

Chew Valley has now been open for a week and the action has been absolutely incredible.  I have fished opening weeks for over 20 years and I can honestly say that this is the best I can remember.
The weather has played it's part in a huge way - warm days to almost 20 degrees - very light winds - water temperatures of 11.5 degrees C - up to 8 feet of water clarity and most important of all - MASSIVE hatches of black buzzer.

Nymphs and Dries

Since Opening Day on both Chew and Blagdon; all I have used is a floating fly line and a team of Buzzers and Black Diawl Bach Nymphs.  At times, I have added a small Black Booby on the point at Chew to fish the "Washing Line" as the trout are so high in the water column, feeding on hatching buzzers and daphnia.
On the 2nd day of the season, I put up a team of dries and caught my first dry fly trout of the season - take a look at the pic below and you will see the Black Hopper firmly nestling in the scissors - you might also notice that it has a cormorant mark on it's flank.  There are still up to 100 cormorants on Chew and I have released 6 trout this season with cormorant scars - yet I'm still to catch a trout with a pike mark!


I fished the 2nd day of the season with my good friend Barry Hawyes from Reading and as usual, we had a great day.  Barry started the day with a bang off Moreton Bank and quickly boated several cracking rainbows on Diawl Bachs and Crunchers.  The weather was fantastic - flat calm and warm.  We moved to the North Shore and the fishing got even better.  We debarbed our hooks and fished catch and release for part of the day, finishing our limit bags at 4:00pm and making tracks early.  What a day!
 

Bird Life

The birds on Chew and Blagdon have been getting into the Spring spirit and Cettis Warblers can be heard all around both lakes.  The Sand Martins arrived at Blagdon on 16th March and I saw my first Swallow at Chew 10 days later.  Goldeneye are still plentiful, as are about 20 Shellduck that are feasting on the buzzers like everything else!  No Hobbies yet, but plenty of Buzzards, Sparrowhawks and Kestrels.  I am hoping an Osprey might make an appearance in the coming weeks on migration to Scotland.

Fish with me for free on Friday; courtesy of Bristol Water

On Friday I am doing the first of my 6 "Free Days" for Bristol Water.  Here, anyone who purchases a boat or bank ticket can have me for an hour or more - totally free of charge.  These days can sometimes be pretty hectic, but they are really enjoyable and I get to discuss tactics, flies and methods with both boat and bank anglers - anything from fly selection to double-haul casting techniques.

All you have to do is ring Woodford Lodge on 01275 332339 to book a session - maybe I'll see you on Friday!

Rainbow with Dry Black Hopper in scissors - note the cormorant mark
Barry Hawyes with silver rainbow off Moreton Bank

New trout fly fishing season only days away!

The new trout fly fishing season is only days away, with Blagdon Lake opening on Wednesday 16th March, while Chew Valley opens a week later on 23rd March. This season looks like being a bumper start, with Bristol Water holding back 000's of 3lb+ rainbow trout in the net cages at Chew all Winter long. These trout are in tip-top condition and should provide great sport for boat and bank anglers alike.

What we now need is a bit more rain to fill both lakes to capacity, then a spell of mild weather to promote some decent fly activity and get the fish feeding.  In recent years, floating lines and nymphs have been more effective than fishing sinking lines with lures... let's hope this trend continues!

Book a day now!

I still have a handful of days available for the start of the season, although Opening Days on both Chew and Blagdon lakes are fully booked. Contact me for any enquiries about availability.

Final session of pike trials

In between now and the start of the trout fishing season, I have a couple of days targetting the pike in the final week of pike trials and already there have been plenty of 30's caught.  Who knows, this last week might produce a fish over 40lbs 8ozs to break the previous Chew record - watch this space and I'll keep you informed via the blog.

Dyson cleans up with a near 24 pounder!

Warren Dyson started our day on Chew with a bang by landing a superb 23lb 12oz pike on the first drift. This is his personal best pike on a lure - which happened to be a Silver Professor Kusami Spoon - the same lure that accounted for Chris Tarrant's 27 lb pike in the Autumn Chew Pike Trials.

The weather today was great for fishing - overcast skies and light winds - the rain spoilt things at times, but for February, this had to be almost perfect - pity the pike didnt agree though!  Most of the bait anglers struggled to put together a few jacks, but the 3 boats that constantly drifted, using assorted lures, were rewarded with plenty of action.

Warren Dyson with his personal best lure caught pike from Chew at 23lbs 12ozs.

Big Pike hit the Lures!

The water is clearing and Chew Valley is filling - at last!
And what's more, the big pike are now hitting the lures as well as we soon found out!

On Monday I was guiding Rob Johnson and Paul Mersh - 2 very experienced predator anglers experiencing Chew Valley for the first time.
We had a great day.  Rob's first fish was a stunning 22lb 12oz fish that smashed into his soft plastic lure. 

Rob Johnson with cracking 22lb 12oz pike from Chew valley on a Lure
Rob Johnson's fin perfect 17lb pike from Chew Valley Lake on a lure

Let the 2011 Chew Valley pike trials commence!

Two weeks in and the pike trials are well underway! Here's a brief catchup on an eventful start:

I've been out twice in the 1st session with clients.  Day 1 was cancelled due to high winds which really ripped the water into a muddy mess.  I was out on Day 2 with Daryl Hunter who landed his first pike of the day within 10 minutes.  The fish took a deep fished soft plastic lure.  Daryl also landed another couple of fish but alas, no biggies!

The next trip was with Chris Tarrant and his good friend Sean - they both had several small pike, but nothing over 10lbs.  However, the highlight of the day was another personal best fish for CT from Chew - a cracking 3lb 8oz Perch taken on a 5 inch Silver Spoon fished ultra slowly along the bottom.

I am out with clients again this week and will report back - already there have been pike of 38lbs, 34lbs and at least 4 others over 30lbs have been landed.  It's looking good for a 40 pounder at this rate and who knows, maybe my boat will get it.

More soon

Chris Tarrant and a 3lb 8oz Perch taken on a 5 inch Silver Spoon Fly

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