There are certain venues that have an aura about them that captivate and Chew Valley is one such place for many anglers. It is a venue that has a reputation as one of if not the countries best pike water. This is perhaps contrary to the wishes of some who treasure the venue as a trout fishery foremost. The trout anglers and the pike anglers have however to a large extent grown to tolerate each other and in many cases to share the water in harmony. The big fish allure has however brought its inevitable darker side with politics and petty disagreements that I have no interest in.
It is a big expanse of water and not an easy water to succeed on at times with its treasures often elusive. I have been rewarded in the past with several pike to over twenty pounds and have glimpsed far larger fish when water clarity has permitted. I have also witnessed fish other than pike including a roach found dead at over 3lb and some massive tench. It perch population is also impressive with four pound fish relatively common.
I joined long time friend Jon Patten in late June to have a go at the venues pike on the fly. After an early start and breakfast in a local pub we arrived at Chew Valley Lodge to pay for our boat. We launched full of anticipation for the day ahead with talk the massive pike that dwell within. It was great to be there afloat taking in the scenery as the cuckoo’s call echoed around the quintessential lush English countryside. It appeared the perfect fishing day with broken cloud and a light breeze. The water clarity varied indifferent areas with algae bloom and run off from recent rain impacting upon some areas.
The search began with us selecting favoured flies and casting enthusiastically as the boat drifted slowly its progress controlled by a drogue. The hours passed and the pike remained elusive after eight hours our confidence was ebbing away yet still will persisted. My fingers developed blisters and I wondered how many casts we had made and how many pike had seen our flies?
The weather also contributed to our woes with rain showers of cloudburst proportions punctuating the day. We did see a couple of pike swirl at our flies and we knew that the next cast always had the potential to produce the fish of dreams. Jon and I are undoubtedly stubborn and persistent anglers and able to absorb hours of failure remaining consistently upbeat as we know that angling is a journey and its rewards hard earned at times.
At around 6.30pm Jon eventually hooked a jack pike of around 5lb and saved himself from a blank day. An hour later in a different area of the lake he hooked another of around the same size. I continued to work hard at searching the water without success.
The evening saw the lake grow calm, dark clouds and blue sky reflected on the vast expanse of water and rainbows decorated the horizon. Rising trout dimpled the surface; I was by now fatigued and accepting of defeat but at same time savoured the atmosphere of the surrounding and already looking forward to a return in the autumn.
We spent the last hour of the session fishing the deep-water near the lodge where Jon hooked his third pike of the day. I too enjoyed a moment of triumph when my fly was seized and a pike momentarily boiled on a tight line before coming adrift. An expletive expressed my immediate frustration after close to twelve hours of continuous casting.
A chat to the fishery warden gave us a few pointers as to fly size and retrieve speeds that we will consider carefully when we return.