A Mixed Bag At Chew Valley Lake
Chew Valley Lake has been a hotbed for the specimen fly angler for many a year, with large over-wintered trout, perch to over 4lb, and pike breaching the magical 40lb mark gracing the net of lucky anglers most years. For the past 15 years, I have fished Chew Valley lake roughly 20 times a year, often more, depending on where the matches are held. This year I made it my mission to land a 3lb+ Perch on the fly, something I’ve never caught or really ever fished for.
Matt Russell and I decided to take a boat this past weekend for a spot of pleasure angling, a day where we are ‘free’ to look around the lake with little to no pressure to actually catch any fish, other than to feed our ego… Most days we’re out, we’re fishing/practicing for a match, looking for likely areas, methods and trout flies to report back to the team.
We arrived at Chew Valley Lake at around 8:30am and were greeted with bright sun and 12-15mph winds – anyone who knows Chew at all knows this is the ‘kiss of death’, but we were optimistic, tackled up on the boat and headed out onto the water. We had heard plenty of stories about the fishing and what areas to try at the lake, so headed to the North Shore, close to a regular stocking point and some shelter from the strengthening wind.
As I set up the drift, three out of five bank anglers along the North Shore bank were into fish, a great sign that we’d chosen the right area! It was great to see them using ‘colourful’ fly lines too, indicating the fish were high in the water. I strung up a 3ft Airflo Mini Tip, a four fly cast featuring two Foam Ass Blobs, and two Cormorant mini lures on the middle droppers. The water was pretty brown from some recent heavy rainfall, so a selection of black flies and a bright pattern would give great insight into what the fish can see. And as tippet goes, I wouldn’t worry too much about tippet diameter in brown water. For this type of fishing where takes may be hard and somewhat ‘unexpected’, I opted for 8lb Fulling Mill World Class Fluorocarbon – a real work-horse when it comes to hard fighting fish.
Our first drift was very successful, we landed right on a pod of stocked rainbow trout that were extremely willing to pull back! The majority of the fish fell to a Sunburst FAB on the point, quite often the scenario on the first drift.
We decided to head back around, going slightly higher up the bank this time. Matt and I both struck into fish, although this time each on the cormorants. As they came to the net it was obvious these were older fish, probably stocked early on in the season and cleaned up extremely well. The abundance of food in Chew Valley lake means stocked trout will switch to the natural food very very quickly and become well-proportioned fighting and eating machines…
As the sun got higher, the fishing seriously switched off. We worked our way around the lake for just a handful of takes, it seemed the older fish had gone off, and the North Shore where many of the stocked fish had been, was full of boats and getting a drift was tricky.
After scratching around for a few hours Matt suggested we go look at Woodford bank, while we were setting up our drift we spotted a guy netting a fish. Next cast, he had another… After four fish in the net, we noticed he was getting a number of decent-sized Perch! I in no way profess to be an expert at Perch fishing, but it seemed pretty much like casting the line out, letting the line sink, and pulling it back… I’m 99% sure there’s a bit more to it than that but we gave it a go…
I chose to fish the Booby Basher, a Di 8 40+ sinking line, with a team of two large Humungous Boobies (also available at the Chew Valley Lake lodge) strung up 6ft apart on 10lb Worldclass V2 Fluoro. Matt opted for a single Minky pattern on a Di 5 Sinking line, again on 10lb fluorocarbon tippet.
We were approaching the Jetty and both our first casts pretty much landed a few feet away. I let my line sink 10 seconds or so to around 8ft and slowly started to pull it back. Almost immediately I had the telltale signs of a small fish hitting a big fly… Tap. Tap. Tap… then over the rod went! At depth, using a heavy line even the smallest of fish can feel like a trophy… but after a short tussle, a 7″ stripey hit the net after engulfing the booby.
After releasing the fish and heading back round for another drift, we noticed the other angler weighing a fish in his sling, upon release from 60 yards away it looked a belter of a fish… We later found out it was a 4lb 7oz Perch!
Matt fished the Minky high in the water, casting out and stroking it back almost as soon as it hit the surface. It wasn’t long before his rod hooped over, no tap tap, no indication of a fish, just a hard WACK. It looked a good fish, somewhat ‘trouty’, darting about and taking line towards a buoy rope. It finally hit the surface and revealed itself, a plump Perch around 2.75/3lb in weight!
Between us, we managed to land well over 30 Perch in just a few drifts. The other angler in the boat alongside seemed to be getting one a cast! We fished late into the evening where we had been told the bigger fish may play, ball in anticipation of a proper 3lber… As the sun started to set I started to fish my flies a bit quicker, pulling fast once the line had sunk to the bottom in the deeper water. I used the Rapala knot to fix the Gold Humungous Boobies in place, hoping it would give it greater movement and tempt a larger fish. Just 3 casts later, the rod doubled over, a good fish that held deep and worked its way up-wind – I was 100% sure it was a double-figure pike as it just wouldn’t give in.
After a hard and solid fight, the fish hit the surface right in front of the boat, and I slipped the net under a very lumpy Perch! It was certainly the largest Perch I had caught – and weighed 3lb 8oz! And just another few casts later, a fish just over 3lb closed the day…
For those of you looking for a great insight into fishing for Specimen Perch at Chew Valley Lake, check out this great article from ex-ranger at Chew Valley, Jake Belgium.