For those that read the angling press you could be forgiven for thinking that you could just turn up to Pike fish at Chew and expect to catch a 30lb+ fish with ease. Over the past 6 years I have fished Chew more times than I care to remember and spent what a mounts to a small fortune in pursuit of a monster Pike. I spend several weekends afloat each year on the famous reservoir and the biggest Pike I have mustered so far is a fish of 24.4. Still a very respectable fish but that is the only 20lb+ fish that I have had from there. Double figure fish are more common although I feel that these are getting rarer and smaller “jacks” are plentiful. At this point it is worth mentioning that the only method I have used on Chew is the fly which is the most difficult method you could to chose to catch a big Pike on but when you do catch it is by far the most satisfying.
With reports of a couple 40lb+ fish coming out on fly already this season myself and Mr C decided to head down for a couple of days a bit earlier than normal. Our first trip is normally in May but big fish and a mild winter combined to make us head down for a couple of days in April. I left the house at 4:15am having had little sleep due to the usual excitement a trip to Chew brings with my head filled with dreams of getting that fish of a lifetime.
We arrived to a perfect morning with the weather being overcast and a slight breeze which would be just enough to push the boat along with the drogue out. After a breakfast in the lodge we headed out to our usual starting point in about 12 foot of water. As is usually the case we picked some good fish up on the Humminbird but no takes or follows materialised. It’s amazing how despite seeing fish on the finder you never seem to catch one at that point in time. I’m not a huge fan of fish finders but they are invaluable when it comes to giving you information on contours and depths.
As the morning wore on the clouds disappeared and the wind dropped to reveal bright sunshine. Admittedly not the best conditions for fly fishing for Pike on a large clear reservoir when you can easily see the bottom in 8 feet of water. Despite this we continued on, as you do, searching the usual spots. With no fish by lunchtime we decided to try a new area near Denny island. We had found an area around 11 feet deep and a few boulders on the bottom. Rather than drift over it with the drogue the plan was to anchor in order to allow us to search the area thoroughly. After a couple of casts I had a take on a roach pattern on the di-3 line. Several more casts were made to the same spot in the hope the fish might take again but it wasn’t to be. I put another cast out to the left of me and let the fly sink for a few seconds to fish it as close to the bottom as possible. After a few strips of the line everything tightened up and something was violently shaking it’s head desperately trying to throw the fly. The fish came to the surface and I saw the huge mouth of a Perch. I could see the fly hanging from it’s mouth so I was desperate to get it in the net. After a couple more lunges she was safely ensconced in the net where the hook promptly fell out. I didn’t want to tempt fate but I could tell it was around the 4lb mark and was delighted to see the scales pull down to 4.1. It was also nice to catch a big Perch from Chew so early in the season too as we normally fish for them in September and October when they are a bit easier to locate.
After I had calmed down I put a cast out back to the spot where I had previously had the take. A couple of strips of the line later and another fish was on only this time it turned out to be a Pike of around 6lb.
Despite the lack of wind we upped anchor and moved a bit further out into about 17 feet of water where both myself and Mr C caught another small Pike each on a very slow drift. By this time the sun was becoming unbearable and it wasn’t helped by the fact I managed to drop my sunglasses into the water where they slowly sank to the bottom. We continued to target deeper water in an area that we don’t normally fish but we didn’t manage anymore fish.
After tea we decided to target the area around the cages and boat jetty. This area is always thick with shoals of Roach and with a depth of around 22 feet is always a good area to target at this time of the year. The evening is particularly good as there will always be a period of time where the Pike and Perch switch on and start to feed on the masses of Roach. The feeding time doesn’t last long but it can be quite frenzied.
We fished for around half an hour before Mr C managed a small Pike and then we both had an hour of explosive sport where we both caught several fish. The fish scrap like mad in the deep water and quite often you think you’ve hooked something much bigger. One of the fish I caught coughed up several small Roach while I was playing it and it was interesting to see that they all had their tails missing. Was this due to the digestive acids in the Pikes stomach or do they have their tails bitten off by the Pike first before being devoured? Neither of us had anything big but we both had a fish around low double figures. As quick as the feeding started it finished abruptly and you wouldn’t think that there was any Pike in that spot. We both managed 10 fish apiece which was great considering how slow the sport had been all day. The weather for day 2 was supposed to be better and we were really looking forward to what the second day would offer.
After a lovely breakfast and a few hours sleep at the B&B we arrived at Chew to more wind and overcast weather. Pretty much how day 1 had started. The previous night one of the wardens had advised us to try Herons Bay as there had been some good fish come out of there over the last couple of weeks. It would be foolish to ignore his advice so that is where we headed. The wind was favourable and it would allow us to drift that area perfectly. We spent a good couple of hours fishing that are but neither of us had so much as a pull so we decided to move onto Stratford. We drifted in and out of Stratford a few times without success. Stratford is an area that consistently produces big fish from May onwards when the water warms up slightly. In hindsight we should probably have spent more time in Herons and ignored Stratford. We then went back to where I had the big Perch when Mr C had a small Pike around the 6lb mark.
We were both a bit flummoxed as the conditions were perfect and much more favourable to the previous day. None of the usual areas were producing and neither were any of the new spots that we tried.
By mid-afternoon the south westerly wind was really quite strong and it made drifting the main water very difficult. We did’t fancy any of the bays and the sheltered area behind Denny Island didn’t produce anything so we decided to give Stratford another go as it was a bit more sheltered.
We picked up a few fish on the finder and on one drift Mr C had a couple of good Pike and a big Perch follow his fly back to the boat. With renewed enthusiasm we said it was only a matter of time before one of us was into a fish. We continued drifting before I felt resistance on the line. Thinking the fly was catching on the lake bed I continued the retrieve before it went solid. I lifted the road thinking I was hooked on the bottom and the rod hooped over before the rod tip lunged over and everything went slack. My stomach fell to the floor and at that moment I knew that I had just lost a very good fish. The fly came back all mangled and I could immediately tell what had happened. The fish had taken but instead of getting a hook hold the fish had got the fibres of the fly stuck in it’s teeth. I was gutted and this is what fishing at Chew can do to you. You always seem to get a chance of a good fish or at least have one follow back to the boat but hooking them is a different matter. I suppose this is the reason why we go back. You never know if the next take is from a 4lb fish or a 40lb fish. It really can be a heartbreaking place.
We continued to fish but as the day wore on we knew it wasn’t going to happen. We went back to the cages where the previous day we had so much success but the wind was so strong it wasn’t safe to anchor. We spent the last hour in Villice bay before we decided to call it a day and I suffered my first ever blank on Chew.