Saturday, 12 April 2008

Chew Valley Bonanza!

I reckon most of us work too hard but don't play hard enough! That certainly goes for Jon Hettle; a guest of Nick Hart Fly Fishing. Jon runs a very successful insurance company, if you need commercial insurance do not look any further than Hettle Andrews, these guys know their stuff! Anyway last year Jon basically worked all hours at his office leaving very little time to pursue his passion in life; fly fishing. This year we have already spent several days together and on Thursday Jon arrived bright and early ready to go through some more casting. It doesn't matter how often you go fishing and cast a fly there is always something new to learn. A little tweak here and there can work wonders adding distance or perhaps accuracy but most importantly ... pleasure. After all that's just why we cast and fish, isn't it?

Jon worked hard as usual although I reminded him that while practicing regular breaks are a must if your performance levels are to improve. Relax, make smooth strokes and enjoy the tackle that your hard earned shekels have purchased. By mid morning Jon was really into the groove and seemed to be in Nirvana for a time as he cast the new 10'0" Hardy Demon Rod. The "oohs" & "ahhs" said it all; this is one very special bit of kit and have you seen the reel?!

Day 2 was to be a feast of fishing. Technically this week was supposed to be a holiday for me but while Jon is a client of mine he is also in fact a good mate and so I thought that I would take him fishing on the most major stillwater around here, Chew Valley in North Somerset. After some banter over a few Exmoor Ales at Woods the night before we arranged to meet at Three Acres Country House Hotel for one of Eds famous breakfasts before blasting up the M5 (and I do mean blasting ... sorry plod!) towards 1200 acres of some of Europe's best trout fishing. Arriving to a huge hail storm and pumping winds I began to wonder if perhaps I had got this one wrong. Nevertheless we tackled up in high spirits, after all we were out fishing, not working and that had to be a good thing!

Before we set off I had a chat with Martin, otherwise known as "Skater" who works at the Chew Lodge. The Bristol staff are second to none when it comes to information and skater was only too pleased to give me the low down. The great news, in fact music to my ears, was that there were rakes off fish throughout the area behind Denny Island. Now this just so happens to be one of my favourite parts of Chew so I fired up the engine in earnest and we headed off. Rigged up with a floater and two flies Jon set to work while I went for a 20ft Fluorocarbon leader and 3 flies consisting of Diawl Bachs from the Iain Barr stable and one of my own tying. A Chew favourite, all you need is Black Pheasant Tail for the body, some black cock hackle fibres for the tail and throat plus a copper wire rib and Glo Brite 4 head. Oh and handling 20ft leaders with droppers when landing a fish? Long rod, long handle net and extend your arm fully. Casting without tangling a 20ft leader? Try here!

We set drifts to cruise from the West across the bay behind Denny and into Hollow Brook. The wind at this point seemed to have died down and things were looking good, especially when I felt a heaviness on the line that met with a swift strike and a typically fit Chew Rainbow. Soon afterwards the wind blew up and we sort shelter just in front of the island which was surprisingly calm. A few casts in and I signalled a take only to see Jon's rod slam over seconds later. Brilliant, both of us had fish in the boat and Jon had caught his first ever Chew trout. As Jon said Chew is "real" fishing. With 1200 acres of water to deal with you must set out confident because if you don't expect to to catch, then you probably won't! In years gone by Chew seriously messed with my head and I endured many blanks but now I relish the challenge of a vast expanse of water. Many people believe that rivers are the most technically challenging venues we attempt but in fact I would disagree. Finding fish on large reservoirs, picking the correct tactics and staying with the fish is far more demanding and in many respects I find it is a greater challenge. As a guide I find working out what makes a large venue tick for clients as rewarding as helping them hook their first Salmon or Wild Brown Trout, pinnacles in an anglers career. Back to Chew ...

The weather kicked in. A furious Westerly delivered its worst and although I always advise that anglers "work with the wind", even I was starting to find it tiresome, let alone Jon who was on his first major reservoir boat session. We tried in vain to battle with it, drifting across the bay and even attempted to move from the island wondering if there was shelter elsewhere on the lake. The journey out from behind Denny was spectacular, huge rolling waves that we surfed up and down for about 150 yards. It was at this moment that I was pleased to be wearing a buoyancy aid which is compulsory at most reservoirs these days and rightly so. Exhilarating though the ride was, we knew we were beaten, there was nothing for it but to turn back and get behind the island, tucking right in to the lee shore. Unfortunately upon arriving back we found that most of the other anglers had done the same, leaving me no option but to take us a to the North shore end of the island which was calmer but still pretty fierce. However I was confident, this area has access to perfect Trout depths of 8ft to 20ft and superb drop offs that always hold fish.

It was the Rutland Heavy Buzzer another superb Iain Barr pattern that did it. I swapped it with the point Diawl Bach, chucked out a line, slightly across wind and just kept in touch with an ultra slow figure 8 retrieve. Half way back I felt a tiny tweak and smacked the hook home! A cast or two later and the same! Jon had been playing with his new #6 Hardy Angel which needed christening but soon bowed to my pleas to get going with a Rio Midge Tip on the Demon. Now we had a tactic I set Jon up with exactly the same kit and did it ever work. First cast, FISH! At this point I started to enter what I call "the zone", its like suddenly you are in the water with the Trout and you know exactly what you need to do; what flies, how to retrieve, when to strike. Concentration is at an all time high, the next fish will not be far away and it wasn't. Jon was in the zone too relishing the swift sport as the Demon tamed another Chew resident and then my 10'0" #7 Greys GTec followed. The extra depth achieved by the heavy buzzer had been the difference and it looked like we would not look back. Seven fish in the takes dried up. Had they gone deeper, were our tactics incorrect ... definitely not, the action had been too extreme ... the fish had moved.

Jon commented on the slow sport and I replied with my thoughts regarding a move when he cried "FISH"! Turning to see the rod bent I had to look twice as the angle of the line and rod made me think instantly that Jon was snagged on the bottom. Just one thing ... the line was moving! Instantly I said (as all of you who have been guided by me will know) ... "take it easy, give it line, BIG fish!" The fish just stayed deep and for several minutes all Jon could do was hang on. It was then that I realised this was no Brown, the very dogged deliberate scrap was down to none other than a Pike which had taken the heavy buzzer! I believe the bright wing buds on this pattern spark the Pike into feeding as later on I also had a Pike, though smaller than Jon's on a Crisp Diawl Bach. After a quick photo Jon's fish (a solid 10lb +) was back in the lake and we spent the next half an hour reliving the fight. This was turning out to be some day!

A move did the trick on the Trout front. Not to the other end of the lake, just 40 yards to the right as I had noticed a couple of boats below us net fish. This sparked a hectic spell for me as fish after fish took the Black Diawl Bach on the top dropper, although a few did come to the Buzzer and Crisp Diawl Bach. This is a great lesson in not losing the faith, the fish are there, just move around until you find them again.

The awesome thing about this game is you just don't know what will be next. A tweak on the line and I struck expecting a hard but short tussle to the net only to find that my line had shot under the boat in split seconds! Despite practicing hustling fish to the surface ready for netting and a quick release this fish was having none of it. That is until it turned in the sun and I realised I had hooked no ordinary Chew resident. Jon was on hand with the net and the first chance that came along he scooped up my prize. At 7lbs this was by best ever Chew fish and best from a reservoir. To have taken it on nymphs was even better, an experience I won't forget and thanks to Jon for getting a great photo of the fish. A little better than mine of the Pike taken during the gale, sorry about the horizon Henry!

We ended up with in the region of 22 fish to the boat, but numbers are not important. The day had a little bit of everything, the right mix of lows with some euphoric highs. I know it was good because I left the water buzzing and still am. So my advice to you is grab a rod and get up to Chew yourself because after all you know what they say about all work and no play ...

1 comment:

  1. A good report on Chew Nick - it's especially nice to find somebody willing to reveal their successful fly patterns! I've tied a few of your black diawl bachs in size 12 for a match there on Sunday - hope to go one better and tag an 8lb fish!

    I recently bought a new 6 weight outfit from Nick (Greys Streamflex 9'6" complete with a midge-tip & Snowbee floater & Neutral Density) and christened it properly at Chew a couple of weeks ago. I had a very successful day afloat and bagged my first limit there. Most fish fell at Wick Green to floating line & diawl bachs, though they were being very particular that day.

    Like Nick, I originally opted to use the favoured Midge-Tip with diawl bachs in sizes 10 & 12 but had no success with that line. My boat partner set up using a floating line & small db's in size 14 and he was catching the fish. So I followed suit and immediately reaped the rewards. I experimented with different size flies but they always picked out the size 14, wherever it was positioned on the cast - the Chew fish can be quite picky!

    Just to finish, my new Streamflex rod handled admirably, lovely and light in the hand, which made it perfect for a long boat session. Look forward to using it at the weekend and hope to bag my first midge-tip fish.....