John Horsey Fly Fishing Web Log

John's Fishing Blog

My biggest ever Brown Trout


I can now reveal that during my recent trip down-under to Tasmania, I caught my biggest ever wild brown trout.
Chris Bassano, my good friend and ex-Derbyshire cricketer, was my guide on the Lower Derwent River.  We both saw the fish move before casting to it, but neither of us realised just how big it was!

Closer to 30lbs than 20lbs was our considered estimate, but we did not have scales and we also wanted to release it, so in truth, we will never know.  However, I have caught scores of 20lb plus pike and plenty of 20lb plus lakers from Northern Canada, so I have a pretty good idea about estimating weights.  Chris too is expert on estimating brown trout, having weighed a 28lb brownie for one of his clients in the previous week - and that was from another river!

If you want to read more about this amazing fish and see more pictures of my trip to Tasmania, then get this month's Trout Fisherman Magazine as they have the exclusive story.  Take a look at the picture below and see what you think.

1st decent Chew pike of the new season

In my last blog I reported on how difficult it has been to locate the pike on Chew this season.  Lots of things have conspired to make things tricky, but I finally landed a decent 17.08 cracker yesterday.  Armed with my new-found confidence, I was looking forward to finding a few more today, only to be scuppered by 25mph winds and all boats on Chew cancelled!

Tomorrow it looks like the winds will ease and the weekend looks good - so I'm hoping my clients and I have some decent fishing.

JH and Chris Bassano with the monster Tassie Brownie
JH with 17.08 Chew pike

Massive rains fill Chew and Blagdon

March and the beginning of April saw beautiful sunny days, gin clear water and the trout feeding with a vengeance on both Chew and Blagdon.
April and early May however has seen unprecedented levels of rainfall fill both lakes to capacity.
Litton is full and overflowing, with a current running through the lower lake!

I have never witnessed the lakes rise so quickly and at Blagdon, the sound of the water pouring over the bywash could be heard clearly from Blagdon Fishing Lodge.



Chew was coloured in many areas last week, as a combination of strong winds and rising water levels.  Thankfully, most of the colour has now dropped out and the fishing is beginning to improve.

Blagdon was dirty at the Top End where the River Yeo flows in, but the rest of the lake was clear.  I fished Blagdon for 3 consecutive days last week and we caught some superb rainbows - mainly from Polish Water and Green Lawns, although the bank anglers were catching well off Ash Trees, Pegs Point and Orchard Bay.  The fish were very high ikn the water and we casught on floating lines with either straight nymphs, or washing line with a black booby on the point.  Buzzers and Diawl Bachs were the top flies.

All 3 days were cold and at times I wore 6 layers!  When the winds dropped and the air temperature rose; the fishing improved instantly.  It was certainly more akin to early April conditions than early May! At lunchtime we had to light the fire in the Lodge to get warm!

Thomas, one of my guests at Blagdon last week, caught his 8 fish limit on only his 4th fly fishing trip.  His bag included 4 fish over 3lbs and they all are now fighting like demons.

I have not heard a Cuckoo on Chew or Blagdon yet, but did hear one at Grafham Last week and one in Ireland the previous week.  The swifts have now joined the house martins, swallows and sand martins on both lakes.  Ospreys have also been sighted, but sadly; not by me.  There are loads of ravens in the valley nowadays and they are true aerial gymnasts.

Pike hard to find.

I have had several guided trips for pike on Chew, but apart from John Synnuck's 8 pounder, we simply cannot get them on the feed.  Every time it looks like they will feed, the weather changes for the worst and nowt happens!

My best weighed 10lbs but took a diawl bach nymph while fishing for trout!

Still, I am out every day this week on Chew, so I am hoping things will now improve.  It was amazing seeing an Albino Pike under my boat earlier this season and when the water was crystal clear, I saw some real giants.

There have also been very few spawning mortalities this season, which is unusual.

Grafham boat damage.

It seems every major reservoir is having a tough time of it this season.  Rutland have been pumping full bore to get the levels up - that brings dirty water and difficult fishing.  Bewl has been incredibly low and is now pumping from the Medway. 

I was at Grafham last week running a Lexus Team Heat - the previous day, we had to call-off the Individual Heat due to high winds!  8 boats suffered damage that day and they were INSIDE the confines of the harbour walls!


Thomas with the best rainbow in his 1st Blagdon limit bag
A full-to-the-brim Blagdon Lake
Chew Valley at full levels today (Monday)

Scintillating sport on the Bristol Waters!

Both Chew Valley and Blagdon Lakes have had their best opening spells for years.  Hot, sunny weather and cloudless blue skies helped the trout to feed with a real frenzy on buzzers, bloodworm, daphnia and even corixa.

Floating lines and nymphs have been the best tactics on both lakes.  Diawl Bachs, Crunchers, Stripped Quill Buzzers and Orange Headed Pheasant Tails taking scores of fish - many of which are over 3lbs average weight. 

A couple of days ago, Mike Brown and I were on Chew and we both hooked rainbows on buzzers that already had someone else's buzzers in their mouths.  My advice is to use strong Fluorocarbon at the moment, such as 9lb Hardy Mach or Rio Fluoroflex.  It is pointless using weaker tippet at the moment and with the incredible water clarity, it has not made any difference to my catch rate.

The clarity on Chew is the best I have ever witnessed - over 15 feet in places and in the bright conditions, this has driven the fish into deeper water, making it harder for the bank anglers.  However, last Saturday and Monday, the clouds returned and the fish instantly moved back into the shallower water and the bank anglers filled their proverbial boots!

The sand martins returned on Saturday and for those fishing behind Denny Island, the sound of the ravens as they mobbed the buzzards; was fantastic.

Sadly, all good things come to an end and I suspect the weather has taken a turn for the worst - but I am convinced the fishing will remain excellent on both lakes.

Mike Brown with a Herons Green rainbow
Two Buzzers in my trout!
Fraser Duffy with another sunny Chew rainbow

Chew Valley opens in style.

Beautiful weather, gin-clear water and plenty of feeding trout made the first few days of the season truly memorable on Chew Valley Lake.
For the second year in a row, the sun shone all day and the wind never rose above a light breeze, helping the trout to feed hard on daphnia, bloodworm, buzzer and corixa.

Most boat anglers fished floating lines and nymphs, although some used sinking lines in the deeper water with lures and boobies to tempt the daphnia feeders.

The boat anglers certainly had the best of the sport as the bright skies kept the fish feeding in the deeper water.  East Shore, the Spit off Denny Island and Herons Green were the best boat fishing areas, while Wick Green produced plenty of limit bags from the bank.

The pike have proved more elusive however and this is probably to do with the bright skies and crystal clear water.  I have had a few jacks to the boat and have seen several decent fish follow the fly, but turn away at the last moment.

Today the lake was flat calm for several hours and in this time, I witnessed dozens of trout rising to buzzers.  Oh how I wished I had a trout rod with me today!

Still, out again tomorrow and the rest of this week, so plenty of opportunities to take a few fish "off the top"!

Fantastic Blagdon fishing!

The opening few days on Blagdon Lake have been simply amazing!  The quality of the rainbows is superb and average sizes are well over the 2lb mark, with a smattering of overwintered fish as well.

Opening Day saw the bank anglers doing just as well as the boats, due to the fish being so close to the shores.  That trend has continued, but during the brighter days, the trout tend to move out to slightly deeper water.

Ash Trees has been the hot spot area, but Pegs point, and most of the North Shore has been producing the goods.  Action on the South Shores has not been so widespread, but Green Lawns and Rainbow Point have both been good areas.

Floating Lines with teams of buzzers or diawl bachs have been the norm, but sometimes a gold head nymph or lure on the point has helped to get the flies a bit deeper.

Dry Fly on Day 2!

Saturday started with a flat calm, so Anthony Tabor and I headed for Ash Trees.  There was a line of rising fish about 100 yards from the bank and I actually caught one on a dry fly - Anthony had 4 others on nymphs as I attempted to take my earliest ever trout on a dry from Blagdon.

Yesterday Les Toogood and I had another top day, with both of us taking limit bags and returning a few others during the course of the day.  We fished all over the lake and found fish to be pretty wide spread.  I managed a cracking 3lb 12oz overwintered fish from Butcombe late in the afternoon.

Most of the fish are feeding on daphnia, buzzers or bloodworm.  However, the fish off Rugmoor are full of corixa - very early for these, but very welcome as corixa will keep the trout feeding in the shallow water.

Chew to open this Friday.

Chew Valley opens this Friday and the water clarity is now about 6 feet.  The rainbows have all been stocked and should have acclimatised and spread out well by now.


Anthony Tabor with Blagdon rainbow off Green Lawns
My 3.12 overwintered Blagdon Rainbow

Blagdon opens in just 3 days!

This Friday sees Blagdon Lake open it's very large "doors" for a new season.  I went to the Lake today and am glad to report that it is only 2 feet off top level - last December it was only half full!
All the rainbows are now stocked into Blagdon and there should be a good head of overwintered rainbows and browns to supplement the new stock fish.

If last year is anything to go by, the main tactics ought to be Nymphs and Gold Heads fished on Floating Lines, which seems to be the norm nowadays.

Chew Valley opens a week later on 23rd March and levels there are similar, with about a couple of feet to go.

Some Boats still available with me for early season.

Although I am booked from opening day on Blagdon until Tuesday, that means I still have 2 days free next week.

Once Chew opens, I am booked every day until 31st March, but still have Sunday 25th March and Sunday 1st April free if you fancy an early season foray onto either lake.

Tight Lines on Sky last Friday

Last Friday's Tight Lines show with Keith Arthur was really enjoyable.  One of the segments was a short film of my visit to the Cayman Islands before Christmas and the remainder of the show was spent discussing trout and pike fly tactics on both large or small stillwaters.

17 year old up-and-coming trout competition star Sam Edmonds has already been featured on the show fishing Grafham for pike and zander.  Sam and his parents visited the studio and met all the cast and crew.

To download the free Pod Cast, simply go to,20494,19916,00.html

Cayman Islands article in this month's Trout Fisherman Magazine

For more information on the Cayman Islands, why not buy this month's edition of Trout Fisherman Magazine? 
Issue 429 carries my feature, pics and flies, showing how to fish for Bonefish, tarpon and a host of other species on this beautiful, paradise island.

South West England Qualifier - Chew Valley - Sun 24th June

More details to come soon, but put the date in your diary if you're keen to fly fish for England.

Chew's current levels
JH, Keith Arthur, Caroline, Gary and Sam Edmonds in the Tight Lines Studio

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