Is Chew Valley the best pike fishing venue of all time? That’s the question being asked this week after anglers landed fifteen 30lb-plus pike, topped by a 40lb 8oz specimen, in just seven days’ fishing.
The 1,200-acre Somerset venue continues to confound predator enthusiasts and defy previous experiences at trout waters, where catches of big pike usually peak before tailing off.
With Chew seeming to go from strength to strength every year, Angling Times polled the country’s best pikers for their verdict on whether it is even better than the two venues widely held to be at the top of the pile¬ Blithfield in Staffs, which produced the record brace of 79lb to Eric Edwards back in 2001, or Welsh ‘pike Mecca’ Llandegfedd, formerly home to the current 46lb 13oz British record.
“It’s Chew all the way for me ¬ it’s a phenomenon,” claimed former British pike record holder Neville Fickling, who last week landed a 30lb 8oz fish from the venue.
“Blithfield has produced more 35lb-plus fish, but Chew just gets better and better and logic dictates it will only continue to improve. The key is its huge stocks of pike and other coarse fish,” he added.
Another angler who’s awarding Chew the top spot is Wolverhampton-based Gary Banks.
“Chew’s my No1. Anyone can fish there and have the chance of catching a 30lb pike,” said Gary.
“One year Blithfield produced sixteen 35lb-plus pike in just eight days, but it’s nowhere near as prolific now. Since its heyday in the late 1980s, Llandegfedd has produced barely any big fish,” he added.
Their views are echoed by one-time Llandegfedd regular Paul Stephenson.
“Nowhere’s as good as Chew these days. It’s not as good as Llandegfedd in terms of really big fish, but it just keeps getting better. One boat on Chew recently caught more big pike in one day than 40 anglers managed from Blithfield in two,” said Paul, who caught seven pike over 30lb from the British record venue, including three from 35lb to 38lb.
But one who remains unconvinced about Chew’s real potential for leviathan fish is lure aficionado Derek MacDonald, who has caught 30lb-plus fish from all three waters.
“For sheer numbers of big pike, then Chew is right up there. But in terms of huge fish, Llandegfedd remains the best,” said Derek.
“I’m convinced a lot of it is down to the availability of spawning habitat for the pike and other coarse fish. Chew boasts plenty of shallow weedy bays for the fish to spawn in but the other two don’t, especially when the water levels in each typically fluctuate every spring. As a result, only some year classes of fish survive in Llandegfedd and Blithfield,” claimed Derek.
This last point about year classes by Derek might help to explain the mystery about why the results on Chew continue on an upward curve, while elsewhere angling pressure often leads to a decline in the quality of sport.
The relatively shallow nature of Chew compared to the other two venues is also cited as a contributing factor in its success. Big pike are widely considered to suffer from being hauled up from the deep water found in many trout reservoirs.
Chew manager Bob Handford, who has worked for the venue’s proprietor Bristol Water for more than 40 years, admitted the venue’s productivity continues to surprise him, regardless of the reasons behind it.
“I do worry about the fishery peaking and the bubble bursting, but so far that hasn’t looked like happening. Despite us extending the pike trials into February four seasons ago, the reservoir continues to thrive,” said Bob.