|Chew Valley Lake (1200 acres)|
|Chew Valley Lake (1200 acres)|
One of the best stocked fisheries in Europe, famous for the 'top of the water' sportWhen this man-made lake was built in the 1950's, its 1,200 acres were flooded with 4,500 million gallons of pure Mendip water. It opened for flyfishing in 1956 and soon established itself as the best stocked trout fishery in Europe, a reputation many would say it retains to this day.
Chew is relatively shallow, with an average depth of only 14ft at top level and a maximum depth of just 37ft. The area it covers was once rich farmland, and is now fertile ground for the aquatic life so necessary for quality trout fishing. Several farms and houses had to be removed before the land was flooded, and old roads, hedgerows and tree stumps can reappear when dry summers cause the level of the lake to drop.
The deepest part of the lake is down by the Dam and the outlet tower, where the steeply sloping shores of Walley Bank and the North Shore put depths of up to 20ft within the reach of bank anglers.
Southwards the water gets progressively shallower until at Herriots End, where the infant River Chew enters the Lake, there are only a couple of feet of water covering the tree stumps and river bed. Between these extremes are a variety of contours including the large offshore shallow areas of the False Island and the Roman Shallows where dense weed beds appear in the warmer months, producing huge quantities of aquatic and insect life, the never- ending larder of the Chew Valley trout.
Chironomids (aquatic midges) provide the highest proportion of the fly life of the Lake; some so small they are almost invisible, others, like the large reds anglers call Grenadiers, are up to an inch long. Often massive hatches of these midges occur in early morning or late evening, giving rise to many moving fish taking the flies as they emerge at the surface. On soft, cloudy days these flies can hatch all day long and produce the kind of 'top of the water' sport for which Chew Valley is renowned.
Sedges comprise the other main group of aquatic flies seen on the lake and trout will feed eagerly on these too, either sub-surface on the caddis larvae and pupae, or when the adult flies emerge and skitter across the surface, usually in the late evening.
Many other aquatic fauna including snails and corixae also feature on the fishes' menu, and trout will sometimes feed exclusively on them in and around the weed beds.
At certain times of the year Chew Valley produces clouds of daphnia. These can appear in any area of the lake and at varying depths depending on brightness and wind direction. The trout will gorge on these and become very difficult to take with imitative patterns. Bright mini lures can often be the only way to tempt them.
In late summer large shoals of roach and perch fry can congregate around the margins and weed beds, provoking a feeding frenzy among the browns and rainbows which in turn can mean a red-letter day for the angler fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.
Day and afternoon bank fishing permits are available at Woodford Lodge. No fishing is allowed from the Dams or stone embankments, the Sailing Club, in front of the Picnic Areas and in the Nature Reserve. Care must be taken when fishing from the shore as deep holes and ditches occur around the lake side.