I have travelled to Bristol for many years with work, and in the few days of summer when it’s light enough to fish in the evening ( a lot less than at home in Scotland) if I am able I usually try to get out on the Bristol Barrows, known locally as “the tanks”. Three big concrete bowls near the airport. It makes for something to do which beats sitting in a bar or looking at the four walls of a hotel room each night. The fishing can be very off or on. It tends to be feast or famine, you either catch a hatful or nothing. Water temperatures do tend to be a lot higher than home and by July seeing some blue-green algae is not unusual and carpets of thick tangly weed usually fringe the bankings so fishing without getting caught up in the stuff can be a challenge.
However, the tanks have two bigger siblings nearby, Chew Valley and Blagdon. For many years I have harboured a desire to get out on one or the other at some point. The problem is fishing starts either first thing in the morning ( for day boats ) or after 14:30 for the afternoon/evening session. Neither being practical for this working boy. But finally after all these years, the cards fell for once in my favour, and I found myself in the position of needing to be down here for two weeks and were I to travel home late in the week I would have had to been back on a plane heading south on Sunday afternoon. I was as well staying down. I was even able to make arrangements to start early Friday and so finish in the time that I could get over to the Woodford Lodge at Chew and get an afternoon/evening boat. The weather was even set reasonably fair with cloud and sunshine, but neither too threatening to the fishing and there was even a bit of a breeze. Well actually, quite a strong wind in places to be honest.
I made it to Chew after a bit of a nightmare drive around 15:30 ( just in time to catch the lodge before it closes at 16:00 and get organised with an evening boat. My preference had always been Blagdon as I have heard it is more natural in its topography but the lodge while happy enough to sell me a ticket for there, said it had not fished well for a while and Chew was the better bet. Plus to get to Blagdon I was going to have to get back in the car and get there and after the drive over already I simply had spent enough time driving.
You need to do a safety DVD if going out in a Bristol Water Boat so another ten minutes was lost to that then I was able to go get tackled up and get all my gear to the boat and was finally heading out full of expectation after four. The keeper at the lodge had given me a number of locations to fish, which I am guessing reading between the lines, were areas fairly recently stocked. He kept pointing out Heron’s Green Bay which was two bays round from the Lodge. Not just circling it but marking it with a big cross. This was where to be of all others.
Finally on the water
I motored round there in a fairly stiff breeze and a bit of a wave and was pretty surprised how shallow it looked. The weed comes right up to the surface and as I neared the dam wall that supports a roadway here, caution overtook confidence and I stopped going any further as I really felt like I was going to ground, it was like motoring over nothing but weed. As soon as I turned the boat side-on to the wind it was moving very quickly and initially, I thought the drogue might be a waste of time it being so shallow looking. So I tucked my self into a little inlet in the reeds of the bay and anchored there to make a start and get a feel for the place if I could target some fish. Also, I wanted to have my sandwiches with the boat at rest so planned to have my tea after a wee while here then see what happened.
Lots of Life, just not fish
The fly life is prolific. I have never seen so many flies, especially damsels, coat the surface of any water, I think they were being blown off the fringing reeds and onto the water as they climbed out to hatch and there were waterlogged damsels everywhere, also Corixa, various aquatic flies I have never seen in my life in very striking colours and subsurface there were loads of big black buzzers and damsel nymphs wiggling about. Possibly the biggest self-service restaurant for trout I have ever witnessed. But where were the fish? I never saw one. Not on top nearby or anywhere in visual or audible range. I fished for about 45 minutes and a few other boats appeared, drifted the bay and left fishless.
Once I had eaten I upped anchor, drogue at the ready and now having seen other boats run right into the roadside I drifted the bay twice fully covering the whole area. Not once did I see or hear a fish. I was told to stick to floating line tactics preferably using a washing line set up to keep out the weed but noticing big pockets where the weed was maybe 4 of 5 feet subsurface, even tried a midge tip to get the flies right above the weed top in case fish would nip up and grab them The pattern choice seemed fairly obvious, as I could lift the big buzzers out the water to look at them and agreed with what I was told, black or olive diawl bachs or buzzers. I even tried a damsel for a while as it seemed a totally legitimate tactic with both the life and lack of rainbows to see. I tried skinny cormorants, and crunchers too, as they looked so like much of the life on display.
After a fruitless fish on this side of the water, I decided to head right across upwind and try an area on the other side called Wick Green Point. There was another bay nearby my first location I was told was worth a look but as the other boats I saw out, only spent a short time in there I suspected there was nothing to hang around for in there either.
Across the other side, I found a few slicks and the drogue let me spend long enough to drift in towards the bank a couple of times but like before no fish showed and I stuck to the midge tip which I felt offered more chance of getting close to the fish. I was shocked on the motor across the middle of the lake how much weed was at the surface level so it can’t be so deep even in the middle.
A fish-I finally see one!
As time wore on it looked like a heavy rain shower might be coming or even thunder and not having my usual waterproofs with me I opted to run ahead of the weather and make for the dam area to see if I could get a bit shelter. By now it appeared only two other boats remained out. (and one of them wasn’t trout fishing Iater learned). In the shelter of the bay where the main dam is, I finally got out the wind and there were quite a few bank anglers here plus the one other boat…maybe there were fish here. At 20:45, half an hour before the session end I saw my first sign of a fish. One rose in open water between me and the bank out of range of me or the bank anglers. I could hear their conversation and it seemed very much like “it wasn’t happening” In that last half hour I seen vast clouds of sedges coming off the water, I was covered in them. There were also loads of what looked like midges with long stringy things underneath, I am guessing that’s eggs but could not catch one to examine. Surely now there would be a late rise. I was regularly relocating the boat to cover areas near the risers. No, the fish simply never switched on. I think in all I maybe seen 10 fish show here and it was like one fish here, another elsewhere, nothing really got going and I never saw anyone catch a thing, and all but one bank angler packed up and left.
Nine fifteen ( finishing time down here) soon arrived and I motored back along side the other boat from the dam and I think maybe it had been out all day, and got one fish. They seemed to be regulars judging by the banter with the water keepers. One other boat appeared and the anglers emerged and said one had 14 the other 6!!! I asked the younger lad, you had 14 fish? Where about?… “No,” he said, “a 14lb Pike and his dad had a 6lb’er!”
The waterkeeper said some bank anglers earlier in the day had 5 or 6 near the dam fishing on Damsels of some sort but that was about it. So a big disappointment I must be honest. I really thought that I would at least have some sport targetting fish, whether I caught any or not, but they seem scarce. I have no doubt there are fish there but whether the weather or water temperature has switched them off I am not sure. Some areas the water felt quite cool, others almost bath water warm.
I do though have other fishing plans in new places arranged for this weekend, hope the weather holds out.