In the Spring of 2010, my good friend Jamie Groom and I were on a two-day pike fishing trip to Chew Valley Lake. The water was a decent ‘greeny-clear’ colour, which we both like, but it was also pretty cold. The first day proved to be quite hard work: in the calm conditions, we boated a few fish, but really nothing to shout about.
John Horsey, the local professional, was out with a client that day and, towards the end of the afternoon, we saw a camera flash from his direction.
“John must have had a good one”, I said to Jamie, “I don’t think he would have taken a picture of anything much under 20lbs.”
Sure enough, when I spoke to John at the jetty he confirmed that they had caught two ’20s’. He also kindly gave me what turned out to be some very sound advise. Whilst watching us at times he had noticed that we were both stripping too fast.
“The fish are a bit lethargic at the moment”, he told me, “they seem to want it deep and slow. Give it a try tomorrow.”
The following day started badly. Jamie and I had stayed at Blagdon overnight, and halfway to Chew I remembered that we had left our waterproofs in the pub’s drying room —- blast! There was nothing else for it but to go back.
“Never mind”, consoled Jamie, “these things are all meant to be – today might turn out to be the one when you get a biggie!”
This day was cold and windy and, having the breeze on my right shoulder, it was very much a case of ‘chuck and duck’! After four and a half hours and several long drifts we hadn’t had a single offer between us, and it was looking pretty hopeless. Then, out of the blue, Jamie hooked a hard-fighting fish, which proved to be his fly-caught personal best at 16lbs 7oz.
“I have another fly of the same pattern but slightly larger if you want to give it a try”, Jamie offered. It seemed like a good idea and I readily clipped it on. Twenty minutes later I had an arm-wrenching, savage pull and a huge flank rolled on the wavy surface. Open mouthed I turned to Jamie and blurted “Did you see that?”
“That, my friend, is a ’30’!” he excitedly replied.
The fight was, in truth, not the longest I have ever had, but the huge lump cruised around steadily at depth. I’m not too sure it even knew it had been hooked! At the first chance, my boat partner expertly scooped it into the net, and I began to shake…
It looked absolutely ENORMOUS and we both guessed it at 35lbs. I was a quivering onlooker as Jamie lifted the beast onto the mat and prepared it for weighing. He lifted the sling with a grunt, smiled and said: “I think you’re going to be a bit pleased with this!”
Turning the scales around I saw, to my disbelief, that it was over 40lbs! We agreed on 40lbs 8oz, took 3 or 4 pictures and then, anxious for the wellbeing of that lovely creature, I slipped her back, getting soaked for my trouble as she powered back into the depths.
I shook for a further hour before I could resume fishing, but eventually I started casting again as the weather started to improve, and caught a further two fish at 8 and 20lbs. At the risk of sounding complacent, the 20 didn’t look that big!!
Everything is relative, and I wished at the time that Jamie had boated the 20, but I’m afraid that’s the way it goes sometimes. I have to say that he was the perfect gentleman, as always. What’s more, great angler that he is, he now caught two 20s himself on fly.
My momentous catch was, of course, a true case of ‘right place, right time’ luck, but needless to say, it is an event I shall never forget! It was, I believe, the first ’40’ to come out of the lake and, although surpassed since, as far as I know it is still the only one to have been taken on fly.