Chew Valley Reservoir Pike – Tony’s Specialist Scene
With little in the way of fishing coming his way for a long time Tony had been looking forward to his planned trip to Chew all winter, was he to be rewarded with something special?
I said in my last piece that after struggling to get out fishing for various different reasons for over two months, I was really looking forward to getting back onto the bank and getting the rods out again.
Fortunately I had something really special to look forward to, as during the first week of February I was the guest of my good friend Ian for the first of a couple of two day pike fishing sessions on Chew Valley Reservoir, the trout water near Bristol that has been the Mecca for big pike in the UK for several years.
It was to be only the second time that I’ve ever fished the place and to say that I was really excited at the prospect would be a severe understatement Based on my experience from the year before and from all the other information that I could gather from other friends that had fished the water, plus past catch reports and fishery details, I had a very good idea of where we should be heading for our two days’ bank fishing. We even arrived the day before to have a good scout around and to prepare ourselves for a good early start the following day.
Fortunately everything went pretty much according to plan and early morning on the first of our two days we were set up in our favored section of bank and ready to get fishing. Conditions were cold and breezy, but everything was fairly bearable with the wind primarily coming from behind us and things were looking quite reasonable for a result of some sort.
Unfortunately the pike had other ideas and decided that our piece of bank wasn’t going to be the place to be, or weren’t interested in anything that we were offering and we failed to catch. The trout were rather more enthusiastic about our deadbaits however, especially the softer skinned varieties, and eventually after we’d both experienced several dropped runs and other weird little pick-ups I eventually hooked something that did a little bit of pulling back. Whatever it was that I’d hooked, certainly didn’t appear to be the hoped for heavyweight pike, but some big trout-water pike can be deceiving and put up only a very feeble resistance, so I wasn’t going to take any chances until I could see the fish and clearly asses what it was that I’d hooked.
Unfortunately once the fish came into view it soon became apparent that it wasn’t a pike, but a brown trout, although to be fair it looked to be a pretty nice example of one. Anyway it was soon netted and unhooked, but being such a good-looking fish it definitely warranted a quick photo or two before being carefully returned.
Unfortunately the big ‘brownie’ was the only fish that required use of the landing net over our initial two day session, but we’d certainly enjoyed the experience and both Ian and I couldn’t wait to get back in a few weeks’ time, towards the end of the month, when we had another two day bank session to look forward to.
In between the two pike fishing sessions on Chew I had a house move to take care of and a particularly painful flair-up of my arthritis that was giving me an ever increasing amount of bother. Fortunately the house move went remarkably smoothly and most importantly all the fishing gear appeared to have survived the move without mishap or damage; although everything was in total disarray and I was really struggling to identify where everything that I needed for the second trip to Chew reservoir was located.
Eventually however I was able to find everything I needed for the trip and managed to pull everything together late on the day before our first day on the water and I was even able to grab a couple of hours sleep before we were due to make our ridiculously early start.
What was even more worrying though were the painful problems I was having with my shoulder. I actually suffer quite badly from extensive arthritis, but normally try and ignore it as best as I can and stay well clear of any drugs and painkillers as I don’t like the awful side-effects and fuzzy-headedness that usually goes with them. However the discomfort that this particular flair-up was causing was something that I couldn’t easily ignore and I had to resort to some powerful painkillers and other drugs to enable a certain amount of respite from the pain and a few hours’ sleep each night. Things were so bad I even considered cancelling the trip at one stage, but eventually concluded that the opportunity to pike fish at Chew again was too good to miss and decided that I’d go down with Ian again anyway, but ensuring that plenty of painkillers were stashed away along with all the rest of the kit.
On the journey down to the reservoir on the first day of our second trip we had a lengthy discussion about where we ought to be heading for. From the latest information that we could gather, it seemed like the pike that had been coming out from various different areas over the previous couple of weeks and were obviously pretty well spread out. This meant that several areas had the potential of throwing up a big fish. We eventually drew up a shortlist of areas we fancied and a priority order that we’d use for our initial investigations.
Fortunately on arriving at Chew, we found space for ourselves in our initially favored area and eventually had our kit transported to our swims and were just about ready to get the first baits in the water as dawn made its presence felt. My shoulder problems prevented me from putting too much effort into it, but I was happy enough to cast one of the two deadbaits out, but I also wanted to get a big bait out in a reasonable depth of water, which meant using a bait boat. Eventually I had the biggest herring I had with me, which only just fitted the hopper of the bait-boat, positioned out somewhere I was happy with and I made the decision that so long as it wasn’t disturbed by trout or anything else, I’d be leaving it in the same spot until either a pike picked it up, or it was time to reel in for the day.
The day was anything but comfortable, with the frost in the shadowed areas sticking around all day and a rather stiff onshore breeze adding an extra bite to the cold conditions. The fishing was slow and as the day wore on neither Ian nor myself, or the guys on either side of us, experienced any pike action at all.
There was plenty of bait changing and re-positioning going on around me, but I stuck to my plan of not re-positioning the big herring deadbait that I’d been happy with first thing. However despite the various deadbaits and tactics being put into practice on our stretch of bank it was looking increasingly like we were all going to experience a disappointing ‘blank’ on our section.
Then suddenly, without any kind of warning, I had a bobbin off on the rod with the big herring on and, on closer inspection, I could see that line was being steadily taken out as something made off with the bait in a nice, slow but determined manner that can often mean that a good-sized fish has picked up the bait. After a quick ‘thumbs up’ to Ian who had noticed that I’d suddenly jumped up by the rods, I was quickly winding down to the fish and sweeping the rod back to make contact.
It was pretty obvious from the start that I’d hooked a good fish, as although there were no initial fireworks the weight that I could feel transmitted down the line, and the steady determination of the fish as it plodded about out in the reservoir, had me in no doubt that this was a pike that I wanted to see safely engulfed in the landing net. As the fight progressed the fish made a few steady, powerful runs; nothing too dramatic, but enough to let me know that this clearly wasn’t a fish that I could afford to try and bully into the net… and to get me thinking about just how big it might be.
My side of the fight wasn’t helped by the fact that my shoulder problems also appeared to include the fact that I’d got a trapped nerve or two in the shoulder region, which was causing a very strange loss of sensation down my left arm and a much reduced ability to grip with my left hand. This meant that rather than being able to firmly grip the reel handle as normal, I had to form a sort of clumsy hook type arrangement with my thumb and first two fingers and try to work the reel in that way.
Getting fearful of losing control of the reel handle at any moment certainly didn’t help the fight, especially as it was becoming clear that I could be attached to something special as it gradually got closer and closer to the bank. Eventually though, a very decent-looking pike came within netting range and Ian soon had it within the folds without too much drama. A quick glance confirmed that it was indeed a very decent fish and I know that after many years of trying, I potentially had a ‘30 plus - though it was going to be tight.
While Ian looked after the fish in the net held in the margins and a small crowd of interested onlookers gathered around I got all the weighing and photo equipment ready by my big unhooking cradle. A couple of minutes later we had the huge fish on the mat and with a really simple unhooking job quickly sorted we soon had it on the scales. After a bit of swinging about as the fish calmed itself in the weigh sling a verdict of 30lb 14oz was reached.
My previous pike PB was a fish caught from Sywell Reservoir in Northamptonshire, some 30 years previously, weighing in at 29lb 6oz. With a couple more low 29lb plus fish in the intervening years, a ‘thirty’ was proving hard to come by, but eventually I’d managed it and I couldn’t have been more delighted! It was a really clean and very healthy looking fish and it was a very proud few moments as I held her up for the obligatory photo session.
Ian helped me to carry her back to the water’s edge, and as I dipped the end of the weigh sling to carefully allow the fish to swim off when she was ready I couldn’t help but think that perhaps fate, or the fishing gods, or whatever, had eventually taken pity on me. With my enforced lay-off from my fishing over the last couple of months and my perseverance despite the pain of my arthritis related issues, perhaps I’d somehow been rewarded with something very special?
So eventually it’s been a really great start to the year for me and with plenty of fishing opportunities to look forward to in the months ahead I’m filled with enthusiasm and can’t wait to get back onto the bank.
Until next time… happy fishing!
By the Same Author
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- Bob Church, Bream Fishing and No Bites: Tony’s Specialist Scene