Blagdon lake

Amazing sport on Chew & Blagdon

 The opening few weeks of the fly fishing season on the Bristol Waters has been nothing short of amazing!  Buzzers have hatched in their millions on sometimes the coldest of days and the trout have gorged themselves on them.

For the last 2 days I have fished Blagdon then Chew with Trout Fisherman Magazine taking photo's for articles.  I also worked with Guido Vinck and Bruno Chermanne from Belgium last week along with Tony Donnelly doing pics for a Belgian Magazine called Le Pecheur Belge.  Each day was incredibly productive and we landed rainbows of up to 7lbs and browns to 4lbs.

When the cold winds drop, dry fly tactics or floater/midge tip lines with nymphs are the best methods, but when it gets cold and windy, nothing seems to beat a DI5 with a combo of Booby, nymph and Blob.  However, I have not yet had the need to fish the flies fast - a steady figure of eight seems to work much better.

Pike on the fly

The pike have now definitely spawned and some days the sport is very good.  Locating the pike has been tricky at times so I have used plenty of petrol looking for good areas.  The water temperature at the moment is around 13 degrees C and this time last year it was a mere 4 degrees C!  That was a cold Spring.

On Good Friday I had my first 30lb pike of the new season - 30:04 to be exact.  And it was a cracker of a fish - one of the deepest pike I have ever caught on Chew.

As usual at this time of the year, several very big pike have been caught by trout anglers using Black Boobies.  I weighed a 21:08 pike on the weekend caught by visiting angler Graham Bodsworth hooked fair and square in the top of the mouth on a size 12 Black Buzzer!

My 7lb Chew Rainbow
Tony Donnelly with a cracking Chew brownie
John Horsey's 30lb 4oz Chew Pike

Bookings being taken for 2014 Season!

The new season is only a few weeks away, with Blagdon opening on 15th March and Chew Valley a week later on 22nd March.
Now is the time to think about getting new tackle; spools of leader materials, tying some new fly patterns, investing in that new rod or reel you've been promising yourself and of course, booking some days on your favourite fisheries.

My bookings have been pretty heavy this year already, with only 5 days remaining in March, 2 days in May and 10 days left in June.  April is still fairly clear and judging by the recent levels and previous seasons, should be a good month.  If the weather stays warm, then it should be a brilliant month, with plenty of fly and most fish feeding on buzzer pupae and bloodworm.

If you fancy a guided day fly fishing for trout - or perhaps scaling up a bit and trying for pike on the fly - then drop me an email via the "Contacts" page.  I can supply all tackle for trout or pike and there is no extra charge for this.

Both Chew and Blagdon are now overflowing and looking fantastic.  Bristol Water are doing their usual repairs and maintenance to their two fleets of boats and they will all be ready for Opening Days.

Blagdon Fishing Lodge
Blagdon spillway overflowing
Chew overflowing at a rate of knots!

Cracking start for Blagdon

 Blagdon Lake opened last Saturday and the fishing was fantastic.  My 8 fish weighed a massive 28lbs 10ozs and all were taken using a floating fly line.
I fished with Simon Pledge and he too caught his 8 fish limit and they weighed over 22lbs, making it a combined limit bag of over 50lbs!

The best fish on the day was a superb overwintered rainbow of 5lbs 4ozs which took my size 10 Black Diawl Bach Nymph off Polish Water.
Most of our fish took the Black Lure on the point and all had some daphnia in them but little else due to the very cold water and air temperatures.

A couple of days later I fished with Dougie Grant and due to the strengthening Easterly wind, we spent a lot of the day in Pegs Bay and off Rugmoor Point.
The water here was a bit dirty, but it made no difference to the trout - they fed well all day and once again, we fished floating lines with a Black Lure on the point with Diawl Bach Nymphs on the droppers.

We had 4 fish over 4lbs, including 2 overwintered rainbows of 4lbs 2ozs and 3lbs 2ozs.  Again my 8 fish weighed in excess of 28lbs!

Bewl called off

I was due to fish Bewl on Saturday for an England get-together, but due to the awful weather and the distances our team had to travel, it was postponed.  Just as well as there was 3 inches of snow in High Wycombe where I had been staying.  

Because of this, I was to miss Chew's Opening Day for the first time in many years, although I was due to be out on the Sunday.

As it happened, I also missed that day and have to admit I was not too sorry.  I popped in to the Lodge mid afternoon and spoke to some of the anglers.  Scott Roberts showed me a pic of the ice that had formed on his rod rings.  Another angler told me he had put his rod down in the bottom of the boat and it froze solid, making it hard to prise away again to fish!

Plenty of trout were caught on the opening 2 days, but most from the top of the wind around North Shore, False Island and the main Picnic Area.  I am sure that as soon as this cold spell of weather relents, the fishing on both lakes will be explosive, with plenty of overwintered fish being caught.

What a difference a year makes .......

Just to give you an idea of what this time last year gave us, here is a pic of Opening Day on Chew last year.  We fished in shirtsleeves and needed sunscreen!

My overwintered 5lb 4oz Blagdon Rainbow
Another overwintered Blagdon Rainbow
2012 Chew Opening Day weather

Massive rains fill Chew and Blagdon

March and the beginning of April saw beautiful sunny days, gin clear water and the trout feeding with a vengeance on both Chew and Blagdon.
April and early May however has seen unprecedented levels of rainfall fill both lakes to capacity.
Litton is full and overflowing, with a current running through the lower lake!

I have never witnessed the lakes rise so quickly and at Blagdon, the sound of the water pouring over the bywash could be heard clearly from Blagdon Fishing Lodge.



Chew was coloured in many areas last week, as a combination of strong winds and rising water levels.  Thankfully, most of the colour has now dropped out and the fishing is beginning to improve.

Blagdon was dirty at the Top End where the River Yeo flows in, but the rest of the lake was clear.  I fished Blagdon for 3 consecutive days last week and we caught some superb rainbows - mainly from Polish Water and Green Lawns, although the bank anglers were catching well off Ash Trees, Pegs Point and Orchard Bay.  The fish were very high ikn the water and we casught on floating lines with either straight nymphs, or washing line with a black booby on the point.  Buzzers and Diawl Bachs were the top flies.

All 3 days were cold and at times I wore 6 layers!  When the winds dropped and the air temperature rose; the fishing improved instantly.  It was certainly more akin to early April conditions than early May! At lunchtime we had to light the fire in the Lodge to get warm!

Thomas, one of my guests at Blagdon last week, caught his 8 fish limit on only his 4th fly fishing trip.  His bag included 4 fish over 3lbs and they all are now fighting like demons.

I have not heard a Cuckoo on Chew or Blagdon yet, but did hear one at Grafham Last week and one in Ireland the previous week.  The swifts have now joined the house martins, swallows and sand martins on both lakes.  Ospreys have also been sighted, but sadly; not by me.  There are loads of ravens in the valley nowadays and they are true aerial gymnasts.

Pike hard to find.

I have had several guided trips for pike on Chew, but apart from John Synnuck's 8 pounder, we simply cannot get them on the feed.  Every time it looks like they will feed, the weather changes for the worst and nowt happens!

My best weighed 10lbs but took a diawl bach nymph while fishing for trout!

Still, I am out every day this week on Chew, so I am hoping things will now improve.  It was amazing seeing an Albino Pike under my boat earlier this season and when the water was crystal clear, I saw some real giants.

There have also been very few spawning mortalities this season, which is unusual.

Grafham boat damage.

It seems every major reservoir is having a tough time of it this season.  Rutland have been pumping full bore to get the levels up - that brings dirty water and difficult fishing.  Bewl has been incredibly low and is now pumping from the Medway. 

I was at Grafham last week running a Lexus Team Heat - the previous day, we had to call-off the Individual Heat due to high winds!  8 boats suffered damage that day and they were INSIDE the confines of the harbour walls!


Thomas with the best rainbow in his 1st Blagdon limit bag
A full-to-the-brim Blagdon Lake
Chew Valley at full levels today (Monday)

Scintillating sport on the Bristol Waters!

Both Chew Valley and Blagdon Lakes have had their best opening spells for years.  Hot, sunny weather and cloudless blue skies helped the trout to feed with a real frenzy on buzzers, bloodworm, daphnia and even corixa.

Floating lines and nymphs have been the best tactics on both lakes.  Diawl Bachs, Crunchers, Stripped Quill Buzzers and Orange Headed Pheasant Tails taking scores of fish - many of which are over 3lbs average weight. 

A couple of days ago, Mike Brown and I were on Chew and we both hooked rainbows on buzzers that already had someone else's buzzers in their mouths.  My advice is to use strong Fluorocarbon at the moment, such as 9lb Hardy Mach or Rio Fluoroflex.  It is pointless using weaker tippet at the moment and with the incredible water clarity, it has not made any difference to my catch rate.

The clarity on Chew is the best I have ever witnessed - over 15 feet in places and in the bright conditions, this has driven the fish into deeper water, making it harder for the bank anglers.  However, last Saturday and Monday, the clouds returned and the fish instantly moved back into the shallower water and the bank anglers filled their proverbial boots!

The sand martins returned on Saturday and for those fishing behind Denny Island, the sound of the ravens as they mobbed the buzzards; was fantastic.

Sadly, all good things come to an end and I suspect the weather has taken a turn for the worst - but I am convinced the fishing will remain excellent on both lakes.

Mike Brown with a Herons Green rainbow
Two Buzzers in my trout!
Fraser Duffy with another sunny Chew rainbow

Fantastic Blagdon fishing!

The opening few days on Blagdon Lake have been simply amazing!  The quality of the rainbows is superb and average sizes are well over the 2lb mark, with a smattering of overwintered fish as well.

Opening Day saw the bank anglers doing just as well as the boats, due to the fish being so close to the shores.  That trend has continued, but during the brighter days, the trout tend to move out to slightly deeper water.

Ash Trees has been the hot spot area, but Pegs point, and most of the North Shore has been producing the goods.  Action on the South Shores has not been so widespread, but Green Lawns and Rainbow Point have both been good areas.

Floating Lines with teams of buzzers or diawl bachs have been the norm, but sometimes a gold head nymph or lure on the point has helped to get the flies a bit deeper.

Dry Fly on Day 2!

Saturday started with a flat calm, so Anthony Tabor and I headed for Ash Trees.  There was a line of rising fish about 100 yards from the bank and I actually caught one on a dry fly - Anthony had 4 others on nymphs as I attempted to take my earliest ever trout on a dry from Blagdon.

Yesterday Les Toogood and I had another top day, with both of us taking limit bags and returning a few others during the course of the day.  We fished all over the lake and found fish to be pretty wide spread.  I managed a cracking 3lb 12oz overwintered fish from Butcombe late in the afternoon.

Most of the fish are feeding on daphnia, buzzers or bloodworm.  However, the fish off Rugmoor are full of corixa - very early for these, but very welcome as corixa will keep the trout feeding in the shallow water.

Chew to open this Friday.

Chew Valley opens this Friday and the water clarity is now about 6 feet.  The rainbows have all been stocked and should have acclimatised and spread out well by now.


Anthony Tabor with Blagdon rainbow off Green Lawns
My 3.12 overwintered Blagdon Rainbow

Blagdon opens in just 3 days!

This Friday sees Blagdon Lake open it's very large "doors" for a new season.  I went to the Lake today and am glad to report that it is only 2 feet off top level - last December it was only half full!
All the rainbows are now stocked into Blagdon and there should be a good head of overwintered rainbows and browns to supplement the new stock fish.

If last year is anything to go by, the main tactics ought to be Nymphs and Gold Heads fished on Floating Lines, which seems to be the norm nowadays.

Chew Valley opens a week later on 23rd March and levels there are similar, with about a couple of feet to go.

Some Boats still available with me for early season.

Although I am booked from opening day on Blagdon until Tuesday, that means I still have 2 days free next week.

Once Chew opens, I am booked every day until 31st March, but still have Sunday 25th March and Sunday 1st April free if you fancy an early season foray onto either lake.

Tight Lines on Sky last Friday

Last Friday's Tight Lines show with Keith Arthur was really enjoyable.  One of the segments was a short film of my visit to the Cayman Islands before Christmas and the remainder of the show was spent discussing trout and pike fly tactics on both large or small stillwaters.

17 year old up-and-coming trout competition star Sam Edmonds has already been featured on the show fishing Grafham for pike and zander.  Sam and his parents visited the studio and met all the cast and crew.

To download the free Pod Cast, simply go to,20494,19916,00.html

Cayman Islands article in this month's Trout Fisherman Magazine

For more information on the Cayman Islands, why not buy this month's edition of Trout Fisherman Magazine? 
Issue 429 carries my feature, pics and flies, showing how to fish for Bonefish, tarpon and a host of other species on this beautiful, paradise island.

South West England Qualifier - Chew Valley - Sun 24th June

More details to come soon, but put the date in your diary if you're keen to fly fish for England.

Chew's current levels
JH, Keith Arthur, Caroline, Gary and Sam Edmonds in the Tight Lines Studio

Two great days on Blagdon

I have just had 2 great fishing days on Blagdon with Barry Hawyes and Bryan Brown.
On Thursday Barry and I drifted along the shallow water off Polish Water in front the Lodge to land a double limit of 12 rainbows, returning 3 browns as well.

Barry had the best fish at 4lbs and it took a Diawl Bach Nymph.

The following day, Bryan and I fished Cheddar Water, Polish Water and Butcombe Bay to land 10 rainbows and return one Brownie.
Bryan also had a superb 3lb Perch on a Sparkler Lure fished on a DI3 sinking line.

The tactics for both days were floating line and straight nymphs - Diawl bachs and Crunchers using 8.3lb Hardy Mach Fluorocarbon (brilliant leader material).
At times we also switched to lures on a DI3 sinking line - normally when the wind picked up and the fish went off the feed.

My advice is to get a boat or two on Blagdon before the end of October - it's fantastic fishing!

Barry Hawyes and a 4lb Blagdon Rainbow
Bryan Brown's 3lb Blagdon Perch

Vandals strike at Chew!

The 2nd session of Chew Valley Pike Trials were marred by vandals who set fire to some of the boats on Sunday evening, causing over £25,000 of damage.
Six boats and 5 outboard engines were totally ruined by this senseless act of vanalism.  Thankfully, a visiting pike angler spotted the fire and called the fire brigade, otherwise the result could have been catastrophic.

It was a sickening sight on Monday morning, seeing the burnt-out carcasses of the boats, with charred remnants of the wooden gunwales and transoms floating around on the surface of the lake.  The fibre glass hulls burnt so savagely that the engine mountings disintegrated and the engines dropped into the lake.  The recovered engines were ruined.

Pike session number 2 off to a great start.

The previous 2 days had been excellent, with light winds and warm air temperatures.  More pike fell to deadbait tactics than in the first set of trials, but still the lure anglers were making the headlines.

Two visiting lure fishers drifted over the deep water on Monday and although the winds were near gale force, boated fish of 22lbs and the biggest so far at 32.08 - both taken on spoons.

I fished the first 2 days and had 3 twenties - a 20.08, 23.04 and at last knockings on Sunday evening, a fin perfect fish of 24lbs 8ozs.  All took slowly fished soft plastic lures using a Greys Prowla medium Lure rod, a Shimano Rarenium reel, loaded with 50lb Power Pro braid.

Tight Lines Pod Cast

I really enjoyed being on Sky TV's Tight Lines programme last friday night.  Keith Arthur and I chatted about Chew, Blagdon, trout and Pike - both with flies and lures.
If you missed the programme, then you can download the entire Pod cast from the Tight Lines Website.

Chew's burnt-out boats
John Horsey Fly Fishing

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.


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

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