Tuesday 1 July 2014

Chew on That!

Two Damsel Nymphs - What happened to the one on the left?
5.00am Thursday 26th June saw me spring out of bed with boyish enthusiasm, as seven of us from the Burrator Fly Fishers prepared to head north up the M5 into the Mendip Hills to fish at Chew Valley Reservoir. 

Now, I’ve fished at Chew at least a dozen times before, mainly in competitions, and the quality of the fish, the water, the breakfast and the tackle shop in the Woodford Fishing Lodge are second to none. I just couldn’t wait to get there and for my friends and I to have a memorable day.

I picked up Kelvin Nikulin en-route to Peter Macconnell’s house, where we piled into his car and headed off to pick up Tony Vallack. By the time we’d got on the A38, I think they were already becoming bored with my tales of leaping fish, smashed leaders and full bass bags. On arrival at Chew we booked in, bought our tickets and consumed our breakfasts and met up with Linda James before heading down to our boats. By now I think my car partners were ready to push me in the reservoir just to shut me up and douse my enthusiasm !

Chew Reservoir is set in beautiful countryside. The weather overnight had changed from the hot, almost windless, early June summer we’ve had, to an overcast but bright day with a brisk’ish veering wind from the southwest. The warden in the Lodge said it had been 'challenging fishing' for a couple of weeks, but that the change should see an improvement, so to stick to the ‘Chew formula’ of teams of Buzzers, Hawthorns and Damsels on a long leader or an intermediate line.  

Linda had elected to fish from the bank but the other six; myself and Kelvin, Tony and Peter, and Tony Hooper and his brother all opted for the boats. So the six of us headed for the west bank of the reservoir. Linda made for the deep water of the north shore. 

After 45 minutes without so much as a tug, Kelvin and I headed for the back of the wind across the reservoir and we sat in a calm reeded area, verging the ripple, in the hope that this would be where the trout were now gorging themselves on the plentiful chironomids, hawthorn flies, and blue and green damsels that buzzed all around us.  

We had been drifting gently for a while when, as I went to lift my flies from the water, I thought I’d caught the bottom. I gave the rod a couple of yanks to free the leader and then began a 15 minutes tug-o-war with something very un-trout like in its behavior. We were towed in various directions for some time before a beautifully marked pike of five or six pounds poked its head above the water. Kelvin very kindly offered to net it, but as I pulled the fish in it took one look at him and headed for the bottom again. It did this several times more before we got the net under it. There, firmly embedded in the 'scissors' was my blue and green hothead damsel fly. Hook removed using a pair of neoprene gloves as protection and photos taken of only the second pike I’ve caught on a fly, I held my new pike PB in the water until it recovered and headed back to the depths.

A personal best pike - but not for long
Once I had got my breath back I checked the flies, leader and knots and cast back in. Now where were those trout ? 

Another twenty minutes saw us drifting on to an area known as the 'Sunken Island'. Half way through a short jerky retrieve my rod tip bent round and there was a reassuring knocking from the business end of the line. 'This feels more like a trout', I said to Kelvin, 'I think we’ve found them at last'. Suddenly the rod took on a frightening curve. Visions of a new Chew Reservoir Trout Record flashed before my eyes; articles in Trout & Salmon, free tackle form top manufacturers, oh the glory, where would it all end ! 

Once again we were being towed all over the place and a dark green 'submarine' appeared some way from the boat, until it disappeared in a tail-thrashing dive back into the depths. Kelvin laughed madly as my jaw dropped in amazement.. How was I going to get this fish in the net, let alone the boat? ? After some considerable tussling, grunting loudly, and complaining about how my arms were aching, the fish made a last break for freedom but finally was in the net. I heaved it aboard and the arms of the net bent beyond repair. Unfortunately we didn’t have any scales to weigh the fish but Kelvin and I agreed that this, my second pike, was twelve to fourteen pounds. Amazingly, it too had taken the hothead damsel fly, which was, once again securely in the 'scissors'. However, the bend of the hook was now almost straightened out; with one more run it would have been free. Now that’s fisherman’s luck !  Once the photos were taken by my boat partner, I unhooked the beautiful beast, held it to let it recover, and it slowly swam downwards.

Now that is a 'Personal Best'!
After that it was all an anti-climax. A move to another location saw me hook a Perch of about a pound and a half, but still no trout.

Still not a trout!
So, where were the twenty thousand trout hiding in this reservoir? With numerous moves by our three boats, and all the other boats we saw, we covered most points of the compass. With all our different lines from floaters to ultra fast sinkers, to say nothing of  many changes of fly, we were unable to find a single trout between between us. So at 4.45pm we headed back to the Lodge to find Peter and Tony already packed up a deeply fed up. It turned out that only three trout had been caught that day, and not by any of us.

However, I had the compensation of two very splendid pike to make  an otherwise uneventful day one I won’t forget for many years.

Mark Clark 


  1. Mark, brilliant report! Anyone thinking of fishing Chew and reading your post first would be champing at the bit and not a trout in sight!

    My brother Chris lived at nearby West Harptree and had season tickets so was disappointed not to get a few trout in the net - we tried all his hotspots. Clearly the change in weather didn't happen quick enough to bring the trout on the feed and despite all the fly life that was fluttering about I saw nothing rising. The swifts and house martins had a field day, though!

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