Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Chew Valley Record

Well, where do I start! I spent 8 days pike fishing on Chew Valley Lake last year and was rewarded with my first twenty and a few jacks. The feeling that day I had my first twenty was enough to make my mind up there and then that I would be returning to this so called “Mecca of pike fishing” in 2014 in the hope of something bigger and better. So, when tickets went on sale for the 2014 trials at 09:00 on Saturday 03rd January 2014, I was sat with my finger over the call button on two mobiles and had dialled in the BT ringback request on the landline. At 14:51 on that same day, it happened! The landline rang back and I was through to Woodford Lodge! An achievement in itself and a lot like hearing that alarm sound! I was fortunate to be able to secure 8 days on the bank for 2014, 2 in February, 4 in October and 2 in November and I was very excited about the prospect of my return!

Our first 2014 session was to be 06/07th February, the Thursday and Friday of the first week of the 2014 spring trials. Chew fished extremely well Monday and Tuesday with numerous thirties to 38.08 being caught from the boat and bank (it very often does the first two days), so the anticipation was building! I received a phone call from an aquaintence of mine on the evening of 05th February who had been on the bank Monday and Tuesday and had managed a 19.14, a 28.14 and a 29.14. Unfortunately it wasn’t great news, the wind had really picked up on Wednesday and the water had coloured up meaning it hadn’t fished well at all that day. This was the first time we muttered the most over used cliché in pike fishing “it only takes one run…” and with those words till ringing in our ears we set off for the 190 mile journey….

I had got wind that certain areas of the lake had been producing the fish on the first two days, but I have my own theory about Chew pike so I already knew where we were heading and it wasn’t where the fish had been caught, or so I thought! I remained confident as I expected the other anglers would head to these recently productive areas in the hope that the fish would still be around, which would mean we may get some water to ourselves which can be a rarity on Chew but I think makes a big difference. We arrived at Wick Green Point around 03:30, expecting the gates to be locked as had been suggested. They weren’t, so we pulled onto the car park, unsurprisingly at such a ridiculous hour, to find it unoccupied. A quick scout around with the head torch on, revealed the wind was not as forecast and was actually blowing from left to right instead of, off our backs. Of no significance you may think but this caused a distinct delineation between the coloured shallower water and the clearer deeper water.

We hung around in the car and tried to catch up on the lost sleep, but it was no good! We were sat with Chew Valley Lake in front of us and when another vehicle turned up at 04:30, we began to get the kit out and set up slowly.

The first rod was cast in at 06:00 and at 06:10 I received my first run to a joey mackerel on my left hand rod. I wound down and felt resistance and with a sweep of the rod, it hooped over only for everything to fall slack in an instant. I reeled in to find just the head of the bait remaining. A frustrating start! At around 07:00 the same rod signalled another take, this time to a bluey head section. My God, if the same thing didn’t happen again! A third run to the same rod at 08:30 and this time it was on, thunderous head shakes 70 yards out and no line to be gained! Was this the one? Unfortunately not as the bad luck continued, and after about twenty seconds it all went slack again. This one was a good fish and the rod was hurled up the bank in a petulant display of frustration and disappointment. But, I had had three runs to the same rod from the same area, and this gave me confidence…

Time for a brew, to settle down after losing the good fish and to hatch a plan. Remember the line between the coloured and clear water, well the bait on the rod that had produced the runs had been positioned just beyond this in about 9’ of water so I decided that both rods were going to go out about 90yds in the baitboat to this range…

I mounted a medium Tesco sardine onto my size 2 Eagleclaws and took it out to “the line”. I tightened up to the lead, opened the bail arm, clipped on the rear drop off and switched on the alarm, and then turned around to reel in my other rod to re-position it in the same manner. Almost instantaneously, the alarm sounded and the drop off hit the bank stick. The thought of the three previous runs immediately entered my head and my confidence was shaken. In what seemed like an age, I had a little internal conversation with myself, “should I do anything different?”, “should I wait?”, “no, just do what you normally do!” and with that I wound down until I felt the weight and gave it a mighty heave!!

WOW! It was like being hit by a truck as the fish hit me back with equivalent force and the 3lb TC rod took on its full fighting curve! The fish kited right over my uncle’s rod, came to the surface about 70 yds out and breached like one of the great whales! “This is a good fish” was all I could manage…

The fight was unspectacular from this point as the fish succumbed to steady pressure and as it arrived in the shallow margin it was obvious it was a “mammoth”! By this point the two anglers to our right had come to see what all the commotion was about. All that was left to do was to get her in the net, a task that was entrusted to my long time fishing partner and my uncle….

To say it was a struggle would be an understatement! Her belly was on the lakebed and as she didn’t go in nicely first time the chord was now stuck under her belly making it near impossible to slide the net any further out to scoop her up! She was half in and half out when I dropped the rod and grabbed the arms of the net to scoop her up, my heart stopped when I realised that the hooks had already transferred into the net, but she was in and she was mine!!

I'd love to say I was totally composed and took it all in my stride but in truth I was a jibbering wreck! Shaking like a nervous fruit jelly as the great john Wilson would say! A real good job the two anglers next to me (Later introduced as Warren Hammond and Dave Harman) took control and ensured the fish was weighed and photographed correctly as well as putting her welfare first! My 40lb Avons were just not going to cut out, so I was fortunate that Warren and Dave had a set of Fox Digis to hand. I weighed her first on the Avons in my Korum Multimat just to check, and sure enough, the scales spun round and the spring crashed into the bottom of the case…

The fish was returned to the net and back in the water while the other scales were retrieved. She was weighed again in the Multimat and went 48.06 (the mat weighing 4lbs) which gave a weight of 44.06. Given the significance of the fish (a potential Chew Valley Record), Warren and Dave suggested it was not wise to take a weight in a sling weighing 4lbs and with this she was transferred into a proper sling that the scales had been zeroed on. The reading was 44.06! Warren was quick thinking and run the tape over her. At 47” she wasn’t a long fish but with a 26” girth, she certainly was a fatty!!

I just stood there with my head in my hands, what has just happened to me??

Warren, Dave and my uncle then proceeded to take some quick photos as I attempted to hold this beast in something like a presentable fashion and then it was time for her to go back….

As I cradled her in the shallow margin, the only thoughts that were in my head was for sheer and utter admiration of this ultimate predator that lay before me. An absolute privilege to have shared those few moments on the bank with her and as she gave out a powerful kick I released my grip and allowed her to gracefully slide away. Well, I hoped that was going to be the case, but instead she decided she didn’t want to leave and powered head first into the bank! She went away perfectly at the second time of asking and as I watched that enormous back and huge paddle glide through the shallow water, it all began to sink in!

The rest of the day was spent with my head in the clouds as I took phone call after phone call, recounting the story and describing my feelings. With each call and with each telling of the story it seemed to become more and more unbelievable, and by 21:00 I was worn out, with a major migraine and retired to the comfort of a Premier Inn bed…..

The next day passed without event, we arose later than planned at 07:20 and were in no rush to get on the bank. We decided to head to the lodge for breakfast but only after the boats had gone out, as I just wanted to “lie low” and enjoy the rest of the trip. We headed to the dam wall on Walley Bank which we knew was empty and had the whole bank to ourselves. It was a day of reflection and I didn’t fish very hard in all honesty. We hit the road at 17:15 as the rain settled in. The journey home seemed to pass extremely quickly and I was glad of the decent night’s sleep I had had the night before!

A few people have suggested with tongue in cheek “you may as well give up piking now…” and that got me thinking. I may have reached the pinnacle in terms of the size of an individual fish but that’s not what pike fishing is about for me. My top ten pike still contains low doubles and I have only fished a handful of waters in the grand scheme of things. It may seem like a culmination of efforts but to me this is just the beginning and I will be back at Chew in October and November and I have even now secured another 4 days for 2015, for having broken the lake record.

Another consideration in my angling career is that I have a 2 ½ year old son whom I dearly hope will one day be my fishing partner and that this story could help in firing up the angler in him from a young age. He already knows his pike from his perch and is practicing his poses and self takes at home, coming out with ubiquitous angling phrases such as “Daddy, it’s a whopper!”

My enthusiasm has been stoked and I can’t wait to get back out to catch my next BIG pike, now I know that dreams can come Chew!

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