What a season it has been on the Bristol Waters. Both Chew Valley and Blagdon Lakes have fished as well as I have known them in my 24 years as a Professional Guide. The trout have been the biggest average size ever and so strong that I have had to up my usual tippet strength from 8lbs to 10lbs to avoid being broken!
The opening of both lakes was in early March, with masses of large black buzzers present in huge numbers. This started a feeding frenzy and meant that apart from Chew’s opening day, where I fished a DI3 Sinking line in wet and windy conditions, for the next 6 weeks I fished nothing but floating lines with nymphs, Buzzers, Diawl Bachs and Crunchers, with sometimes a FAB or Booby on the point.
Static nymphing was the order of the day until mid-June, when the weather started to get hot and left me praying that we would avoid the kind of Summer that we experienced last year! Water temperatures did get up to 22 degrees on both lakes, but thankfully not for too long. The trout headed for deep water and occasionally into the aerator boils where the flow of water seems to keep them active.
Chew developed a brown algae bloom for a couple of weeks, followed by green algae. This did little to help the fishing and I spent most of my guiding time at Blagdon. It is brilliant having two amazing lakes so close together, so if one is not fishing well, I can always switch to the other. It is extremely rare for both lakes to go “off”, but very common that both fish well, I’m a lucky angler!
Once the air temperatures dropped and the nights became cooler, the fish on Chew moved away from the deep water and went in search of late season small buzzers, hoglice and corixae. The shallow areas off Denny Island and the False Island began to fish well, especially during the England Loch Style Final, where 31 of the 100 anglers managed bags of more than 10 fish on day 1, with the top bag catching 23 fish! Day 2 was always going to be harder and due to high winds and rain, the top rod caught 9 fish. Pablo Mullins is the 2019 Loch Style Champion and I am pleased to have finished as Runner-up and back in the England Team for 2020.
Dry fly tactics did not play a big part on Chew until late September, but now it is a key method. Blagdon enjoyed superb dry fly sport from early September, particularly in the deeper water off the Dam. Teams of Hoppers, Bob’s Bits and Carrot Flies are my favourite “go to” patterns at this time of year.
With only a month or so to go until the close of the season, I expect the trout on both lakes to be looking up for their food, so dry fly and washing line techniques will feature in most anglers’ methods. However, there are always big fish feeding at this time of the year and a DI3 with larger Minkies and Sparklers will be effective.
The trout in these parts have not fed on fry for over 10 years and in all the years I have fished the Bristol Waters, Daddies do not feature on their menu either. Who knows though, perhaps at the back end of this season will see this all change.
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