THOSE LESS PRODUCTIVE DAYS

Compiling reports for NDANs I see lots of images of good fish and stories of success and these can inspire but can also raise expectations leading to disappointing days. I feel sure I am not the only one who sometimes sets out full of expectation and ends the day feeling slightly deflated.
In my case this disillusionment doesn’t last long for I know that if I keep at it long enough something good will come my way. Basically, effort equals reward and if you can afford to invest time and a little thought good things will eventually happen.
I have enjoyed a few non-productive days recently, fish caught wise anyway. There is generally a positive to be drawn from less productive days in the nature that surrounds or the company that is kept.
I have already swung a fly across the River on numerous occasions in search of salmon and have learnt to accept blank outings as the normal. The salmon just are not present in any numbers so all you can do is believe in the fly and present it to the best of your ability in the places that salmon are known to rest on their migration upriver.

A trip to Chew Valley Lake with my good friend Bruce Elston in early April proved a frustrating day. We set out on a mirror calm lake after a Full English in the Lodge. With bright sunshine and only a light- breeze we knew it was going to be hard going. Plus; we didn’t know what mode the pike would be in pre or post spawning? Local guide John Horsey told us he had seen some big fish but that they were proving fickle following the fly and then turning away.
The mighty Chew holds a certain fascination as the next cast can always bring the fish of dreams.

We drifted the water extensively that day. Twenty pound plus pike followed our flies; glimpses in the clear water that failed to connect.
We took a short break from the piking to have rest and tempt a trout on a buzzer.

But with huge pike to target I find it difficult to stop casting big flies after bigger targets.
We fished until the light faded as the sun sank below the hills. A day full of memories, we exchanged many fish tales and laid plans for future trips.


Chew is a magnet for twitchers and whilst I am no ornithologist I always enjoy hearing the birdsong and watching the many birds that haunt the lake. Grebes, swans, moorhens and coots. We caught sight of a hawk gliding over the reeds and I wasn’t sure what type it was.
We will be back later in the Spring once again.

Upper Tamar lake has been hailed as a mecca for big perch anglers. I headed there full of expectation. A couple of pots of juicy lobworms from Quay Sports a bag of raw prawns and a bucket full of ground bait mixed with mole hill soil. I had been given a tip on a productive swim and arrived at the lake shortly after 8:00am.

It was the day after Storm Noa and the wind had dropped but it was still a tad breezy and cool. Bright sunshine and a cool North West Wind. I was well wrapped up and relished the early signs of spring. It was good to see swallows and martins swooping low over the water.
The bobbins remained stubbornly static throughout the first couple of hours. Eventually I started to get a few twitchy bites on the lobworm baits. As the day drifted past I eventually caught a few tiny perch on lobworm and one on the prawn. A brown trout of around 8oz and a single roach. The fish would have thrilled me fifty years ago as a young angler but with age comes expectation.


As the light faded from another day I headed for home pondering my lack of success and looking forward to the next trip.

CHASING PREDATORS

As I write this on a Sunday morning rain is lashing down beating against the window driven by a strong South West wind, the fire is crackling in the grate. It’s a good time to reflect on two days chasing predators with good friends.

I was awoken by the alarm at 3:45am on Thursday morning eager to visit the legendary Chew Valley Lake near Bristol. The 100 mile journey proved uneventful and I pulled into the carp park at 7:30 to greet my long term fishing buddy Bruce Elston. Shortly after 8:00am we were anchored up in twelve feet of water as the morning sun illuminated the calm lake.

We both cast out dead-baits beneath crimson topped floats the baits resting on the bottom. Lures were cast to search around the boat and a pike followed Bruce’s latest lucky lure to the side of the boat before disappearing with a flick of its tail.

My float stood abruptly to attention before sliding beneath the water! I wound down immediately to feel a pleasing resistance. Chew Valleys long history as a water containing massive pike always gives a deep sense of anticipation. Is this a jack or the fish of dreams, that thirty pounder or perhaps even a forty?

The pike is a jack of five or six pounds. Ten minutes later the float slides away again and this time it’s a far better fish. As it approaches the boat it launches itself attempting to shake the hooks free. The image of the pike erupting from the water in a flurry of spray is one of those images that will be etched upon the minds eye for many years.

The pike pulls the scales down to 17lb 3oz and is no monster in Chew terms but a good result for an occasional piker like myself.

This proves to be the highlight of a great day shared with a good friend. We savour a full day upon this vast reed fringed lake. Planes fly overhead from nearby Bristol Airport a sign that the world is moving once again after two very strange years. A pair of swans fly past majestically, terns and gulls constantly twist and turn in the winter sky. The cold winter air bites at the extremities. Sausages sizzle on the stove and the kettle whistles as we enjoy the occasional warming joy of hot tea and coffee. Blood trickles from lacerated fingers after handling numerous pike as the day progresses. All of today’s fish fall to dead-baits, joey mackerel, smelt and blueys.

We end the day with seventeen pike between us and two hard fighting rainbow trout that also seized dead-baits.

We arrived back at the jetty as the light began to fade. “Any good ?” I ask a fellow angler. “A few Jacks and a low double; not what we came for”. he replied in a slightly dejected tone. Bruce and I had also come in hope of that fish of a lifetime but had enjoyed the day immensely just catching a good few pike. Savouring the atmosphere and anticipation. I have fished Chew for close to twenty years and will keep returning. One day I might just tempt that thirty pound pike but if not I will enjoy the journey and each dip of that crimson topped float.

A mid twenty conger
(Above) Les Smith with one of many spurs
Rob Scoines holds a bull huss with attitude

Steve Dawe with vividly marked huss

(Above) Brian Hopcroft with a good spur
Good eel for Chris Hodgson
Bob Hopcroft with a fine spur.
Chris Hodgson with a good spur

The next day I set sail from Ilfracombe with seven other anglers in search of spurdog. We are blessed with a calm day sandwiched between days of strong winds. The spurdog packs seven miles offshore provide an exciting day with over two hundred a conservative estimate. A few good conger to mid-twenties add to the excitement along with handsome bull huss their sides decorated with a multitude of leopard like patterns. Hopefully a full account of this trip will appear in a future edition of Hookpoint Magazine.