Two years ago my Dad sent me a photograph of a 36lb pike taken on the fly by a friend of his on Chew Valley Reservoir in Somerset. My jaw hit the floor when I saw the photo and I made it my quest to try and catch a decent pike on the fly.
While I do fly fish for pike in Scotland, I made a decision to make an effort and travel to the most productive big fish water in Britain, Chew, and have a realistic chance of the fish of a lifetime. My first couple of trips were largely spent trying to learn about the water, fish location and underwater features. We managed plenty of fish to 16lbs and had follows from bigger fish but had never managed to boat a specimen. In June 2009 I did manage an 18lb, 20lb 4oz and 23lb 1oz fish in one day but having lost a much bigger fish my hunger for big fish had not yet been satisfied.
So at the end of April 2010 we took two boats for five days with a view to catching fish feeding after spawning. We were frustrated with fish following but not hitting the flies (probably down at least in part to fly selection) but did manage a handful of fish topped by a new fly caught PB for myself of 24lb 3oz. then in May my colleague, Nick Rae, and I took a boat for two days desperate to catch the fishing just right. With the weather having been cool and windy for over a week we decided to fish with fast sinking lines from Scientific Anglers on #10 weight rods plus a five foot Seaguar leader with twelve inches of AFW Toothproof Titanium wire Albright knotted to the business end. We fished small (6-8 inch) flies on a quick retrieve to work the flies at around 6-8 feet in around 10 feet of slightly coloured water. On the first day we had a few doubles and a few jacks, however it was on the second day when all the time and effort finally paid off.
With a South wind we headed to the south end of the lake with a view to drifting from the shallows over some slightly deeper water where we knew from past experience that the bottom was very uneven. On my third or fourth cast I managed a small jack and for some reason changed my fly to a Kelly green flash pattern with green marabou hackle. Around a dozen casts later as I hung my fly at the side of the boat about to make another cast I looked down just as a huge toothy mouth engulfed my fly and powered away, spraying water into the boat with a single stroke of its tail. I only caught a glimpse of the fish and burst out laughing as it took of around the boat, I had seen enough to know it was a good twenty and Nick started to prepare the boat for landing and weighing the fish. Nick was still getting everything ready a couple of minutes later when I had the fish at the surface ready for netting, I casually remarked ‘You could get that with the net if you want’, and Nick looked up surprised to see the fish ready for landing so soon. He netted the fish and lifted it onto the wet unhooking mat, it was only then that I saw the girth and length of the fish in full and started to shake. We zeroed the dampened sling on the scales and Nick lifted the fish so that I had the joy of reading the weight of 35lb 2oz on the fox digital scales.
I let out a loud cry of relief and joy (loud enough that John Horsey 200m up wind heard) and quickly got some snaps of the huge fish which I had been lucky enough to catch. After such a short fight she swam away strongly after her short time on the boat and I just sat back in awe at what I had just achieved. We did have a few more fish including a couple of doubles that day but to be honest it did not matter to me anymore, I had achieved my goal and done something which I will probably never repeat (not for the lack of trying). This made the 400 mile drive home a lot easier as I was still buzzing with adrenaline. I still think about this every day and I am even going back in September to hopefully land the fish of a lifetime for Nick.
Many of the staff at the shop enjoy fly fishing for predators so if you need any advice just drop us an email or give us a call.