Pike fishing lottery with Alix Hepworth

Mon 10 February 14


You Have To Be In It To Win It

Chew Valley. Two words that would send any hardened pike angler drooling gibbering wreck. The thought of casting out into its 1200 acres from either boat or bank with the possibility of setting hooks into a 40Ib plus fish is a massive draw! I think any piker that does grace its banks or boats does so with that thought firmly in their minds and not because of its scenic beauty. (It is very beautiful scenery though).Now myself and two of my piking buddies spent two days on this famous sheet of water fishing from the bank and not having ever fished it before, I felt the need to put as many things in our favour and glean any little bits of info that would hopefully make things easier on such a huge inland ocean. Without this being a who’s who of pike fishing and being called a name dropper, I did speak to quite a few well known”pikers” leading up to our trip who all gave their own snippets of information and added to the fact that the land lord of the pub we were staying in was good friends with John Horsey who pretty much lives on the water (for trout and pike.)We decided to concentrate our efforts on Woodford bank fishing in the tree lined section into Villis Bay for the first day.

A very early start was definitely on the cards to secure swims and after having arrived the day previously so that we could have a little walk round and get familiar with our surroundings things were a little easier the next day trudging through the mud with all the gear in the dark. Bait boats (yes I know people frown upon them) were utilized to get, certainly for me, soft baits like sardines at ranges of 100 yards, although they are not a necessity. It would be lovely to recount tales of endless monsters but ultimately it would be lies. Between the three of us we were all fishing with different baits to maximize our chances of a pickup and let’s face it, it only needs one take off that magical fish to cement the trip of a lifetime. When the first take was signaled we were all excitedly waiting with baited breath only to be met with what was obviously a false take off a trout. This happened on and off throughout the day and even though we stuck it out as long as we were officially allowed (an hour into dark) our efforts that day were met with little reward.

On reflecting over a couple of pints and a juicy steak in the pub on the evening, we decided on a change of scenery for the next day and decided on giving Whalley bank a blast next door to the sailing club. Once again a very early start was the order of the day and after some useful directions text to me by a fellow piker (thanks Chris Morris.)We were carefully winding our way down a very narrow overgrown lane ready to hit the Whalley bank. Two other vehicles were already in the car park when we arrived and it was glaringly obvious that they had either been there all night or had got there very very early .People had told me this happened and I suppose it’s something you either accept and get on with or just not bother trying to compete against, but understandable when the potential prize/s on offer can be some of the biggest pike in the country. Creeping gingerly on the overgrown bank, its grass firmly frost fixed we settled in and for the foreseeable future, made do with casting baits relatively short. To be honest we didn’t really have much choice as it was a pretty foggy start we were faced with, but it definitely seemed to add to the atmosphere. Once dawn broke properly, the sun made and appearance and burnt the fog clear, to leave a lovely day but just not ideal conditions for piking .Sat there on Whalley bank, soaking up the morning sun that after more than one “false take” The day before I was going to change over from the big block end feeders filled with mashed fish to just bare leads. The hungry trout must have been responsible for snatching at bits of fish that were hanging out the enlarged holes of the feeder. Not long after re positioning one of the rods with a Joey mackerel, the line pulled out the clip and I was into my first Chew pike. Unfortunately not the monster we all hope for but it saved a blank and was certainly a nice healthy looking fish. The weight was immaterial, but it was probably a low double to be honest.

Now there are probably lots of people that will tell you that when they catch a big fish from Chew, they caught it by design and knew they were going to catch because they were in the right place at the right time with the right bait. My take on this amazing bit of angling is that on a water that only allows pike fishing at certain times of the year, where nobody can fish it consistently, with it being 1200 acres in size where there are restricted areas certainly for bank anglers, it boils down to what I believe (even though I’ve only fished it once) fishing Chew is all about…..a “Lottery”!! You buy your ticket and you take your chance on boat or bank, time of year, location and you chuck your baits at em. If you’ve got a winning ticket you catch a fish or maybe more. If you’ve got the rollover jackpot ticket you latch into a 40lber and grin like a Cheshire cat for the rest of the season. Yes, don’t get me wrong there will be anglers out there, some of which I spoke to before my visit, who have caught pretty regularly from chew, but they are exactly the people who say it basically boils down to pot luck.

Any thoughts of venturing onto a water of this magnitude going back some years would of instilled the fear of God in me and I must admit that even now when we walked its hallowed banks the day before we were allowed to cast a bait, looking out across its sheer vast expanse of natural beauty, it made me feel somewhat apprehensive and very much insignificant. As long as I can get dates it is a water I would definitely fish again and having now done it and caught, albeit a small fish, there’s nothing any different to fishing a place like Chew compared to how you would tackle a local gravel pit or park lake, its big, but if the fish are there and feeding, just like a whole host of other waters, the fish are relatively easy to catch. Ultimately everyone goes to Chew to catch as many whackers as they can, some bending the rules along the way in order to achieve their goal, but if you go with the philosophy that you don’t need to complicate things, you don’t need to endure sleeping in your car, or use weird and wonderful baits and just buy your ticket and hope and pray that if a once in a lifetime pike comes along that you’ve crossed your fingers and done everything right and hopefully…..”It’s you”!!!

Alix Hepworth