Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
I am sure you weren't expecting to find a bit of poetry amongst these ramblings but this time of year always seems to bring the romantic out in me. This season has me thinking about bonfires in the garden, harvesting the remains of the vegetable plot and chopping wood to see us through the winter. The fishing can be pretty good too. With freshwater in the river this time of year can offer the best chance of a salmon, the trout in our streams are gorging themselves in preparation for leaner times and the fish on our reservoirs are starting to think about a higher protein diet and ganging up the fry. But there is no getting away from the fact that the winter is getting ever closer and so this time of the year sees me thinking about pike.
I met up with my mate Mark Bailey yesterday for a foray after pike on Chew Reservoir. Those of you that have followed these blogs for a while will know Mark, a fellow AAPGAI instructor, caster of razor sharp loops and pike nut. Mark's fishing CV is an unusual one, he started life as a pike fisherman, baits and lures, fishing all over the country, catching hundreds of pike and then one day he decided he wanted to catch them differently and picked up a fly rod. I doubt there are many British fishers that have pike as their first fish on a fly.
A bit like Grizzly Adams but with a fly rod.
Chew is a premier trout fishery that happens to hold a good number of coarse fish and pike, including some seriously big ones, both Mark and I are convinced there is a British record pike in there somewhere. Which is why we keep coming back. But the presence of pike poses a problem for those that manage the fishery. On one hand their core business is trout on the other they have anglers coming from all over the country to fish for the pike, by fly during the normal fishing season and then by more conventional methods on specific days through the winter when the fishery is normally closed. The bonus for the fishery owners is that that these fish are wild, not stocked, therefore free. The problem is the trout fishers are catching less fish and fish damaged by predators and they blame the pike. And so there is a conflict. The trout guys want the pike removed, the management don't want to risk losing the revenue from the pike guys, so to appease the trout guys they stock more fish. More fish = higher overheads and potentially more fodder for the predators.
Tackling up at the carpark I took the opportunity to chat to a couple of trout anglers, it was really interesting to hear their point of view. ' They put over 80,000 trout in here last year, 36,000 were caught, what happened to the rest? over 40,000 disappeared'. I can't vouch for the figures but I could certainly see how disillusioned he felt about the way the fishery was being run. I thought better than suggesting that perhaps the majority of those 40,000 were still swimming around the reservoir as opposed to every last one of them consumed by the marauding hordes of pike. These guys were considering not renewing their season ticket next year. 'The management are talking about netting the pike out, but that's all they do is talk'.
I can certainly appreciate these guy's point of view, but I can't help feeling that there is more to it than a simple need to cull pike, I say this as both a pike and trout angler. There is a school of thought that says that the pike in Chew are feeding predominantly on the coarse fish doing little, if any, significant damage to the trout population. I suspect that the truth lies somewhere between both camps. To cull pike, or remove them to another water, is to tinker with a delicately poised ecosystem. I can't help thinking that the solution should involve addressing a whole range of issues, stocking densities, average weight, feed prices, ticket costs, pike and cormorants (we saw over 300 on the water yesterday). Also I think the question needs to be asked, what is it that the trout angler wants? After the doom and gloom of the car park chat I went to look at the recent statistics, the rod average this year is over 4 fish per rod. I don't have the figures to prove but I would suggest that the average weight of these fish is considerably more than it was ten years ago. That doesn't sound too terrible to me. What do anglers feel is a fair deal for their day ticket? It would be interesting to hear from any of you if you fish this fishery, or indeed any others where pike also hang out.
Anyway, back to the fishing. After our chat we were half expecting to be beating the pike off with an oar. Unfortunately it wasn't like that, far from it. We saw a couple of fish roll, we had a couple of tweaks and one fish follow Mark's fly to the boat and that was about it. We cycled through the colours, the depths, the areas but all to no avail.
just a few patterns to try before we call it a day
An interesting day, despite the lack of fish, we will be back soon to try again. In the meantime it will be interesting to see how the argument develops.
we like them big, BIG!!!