John Horsey Fly Fishing Web Log

John's Fishing Blog

Will these winds never end?

All boats have been cancelled on Chew today due to the strong Southerly winds - that's why I am sitting at home writing my blog!
I was on Chew for the last 3 days and have sat through 3 different wind directions, bright sunshine, rain and even thunder.  Yet the trout fishing has been incredible.  On Tuesday, I fished with an old mate Paul Kurgo and his father Edgar - Paul is new to fly fishing and they boated 5 big rainbows and a cracking brownie - all on nymphs off the East Shore and new Picnic Area.

On Wednesday, Tony Ling and I managed 8 trout apiece on a mix of dry flies and nymphs - from the same areas.  Fish were stuffed with hoglice, bloodworm and buzzer.

Yesterday, Derek Aunger and I took another double limit using either straight nymphs or washing line behind Denny Island.

All the fish fought really hard and many were over 3lbs in weight, so you can see why it is so frustrating to let the wind spoil today's fishing and put a halt to such a good run of form.

I'm out for pike tomorrow, but the weather forecast is not good ..........

England International on Loch Harray

Last week I fished Loch Harray in the Orkney Isles and volunteered to manage the Team in the absence of a full time manager.  What a place!  In 4 days, the Team boated an average of 140, 11-inch plus fish on the 4 days of practice - and that meant we would have caught at least the same amount each day of undersize fish.  Harray is alive with brown trout - all wild and the hardest fighting trout, pound for pound, that I have ever caught.

We fished with the help of ex England Captain and World Gold Medallist Brian Thomas, who has lived on Orkney for the last 14 years.  He showed us the method of fishing Sedgehogs on the Skerries - shallow areas strewn with large rocks - the takes were explosive!

The main method however, was sinking lines - DI3, DI5 and DI7 sinkers complete with 4 flies - several of them muddlers.  Takes came either on the drop, during a punctuated retrieve or on the hang - in other words, whenever the flies lifted or fell in the water.

We had a team of 14 which included no less than 9 new caps- all experienced anglers, but first time for an International Match.  And this was a truly unique venue with truly unique fishing.  Wales on the other hand had the strongest team I have ever witnessed, with an incredible 9 previous Captains of Wales - very impressive!

Scotland too had a very experienced side and of course, a fair degree of local knowledge, while Ireland are well versed in the art of catching wild brownies.

The fishing got harder throughout the week of practice, but even with an estimated 5000 fish being caught during the week, Harray still fished well on the day.

Sinking lines proved to be the best tactic, particularly Airflo Sweep Lines and the Skerries were not so productive as in recent days.

Congratulations to Wales for an emphatic victory, with Scotland 2nd, Ireland 3rd and us picking up the Wooden Spoon - our lads all gave 100% but sometimes you have to concede that you were fairly beaten by better teams on the day.

Give Chew a visit

Since opening day this season, Chew Valley has been on fire!  Only the recent 6 weeks of strong winds has dulled the action - and that has not been for lack of fish activity.  Even during the sun and wind, trout have continued to feed and the buzzer hatches are really prolific the second the winds drop.

Hopefully, this trend of strong winds will soon pass, giving us some settled weather.  The best areas are shallow water with no weed - once again, the Chew trout are staying well clear of any large weedbeds.

Last year's low levels meant the lake bad was exposed for months in some shallow areas and this has had a marked effect on the weed growth for this season - hence the greast fishing of late behind the Island - all in shallow water.

If you're looking for some proper nymph and dry fly fishing, then head on down to Chew - you won't be disappointed!

Brian Thomas with a Loch Harray Brownie
Paul Kurgo with lovely Chew brownie

More amazing action on Chew

It seemed like the whole of May was blighted by strong, cold winds, so I for one am pleased we are now into a new month.
June is traditionally one of the best months on the Bristol Waters, but it'll have a hard act to follow the sport and weather we had in March and April!  Perhaps the seasons really are changing.

Despite the windy weather, we still had great fishing at times, especially on Chew.  Last week, 2 of my clients; Michael Ruthven and Bill Tucker, enjoyed their best ever morning session in Herons Green, with both anglers taking limit bags before 2:00pm using teams of Diawl Bachs and Buzzers.  Plenty of boats drifted by, just catching the odd fish, while Bill and Michael frequently had fish on at the same time.  Speed of retireve was critical - nice and slow, with floating lines - not midge tips.

Behind Denny Island has been the best area recently and we have taken fish in just 2 feet of murky water - amazing!  The rainbows are fighting harder than I can ever remember and good quality Hardy Mach or Rio Fluorocarbon in 8lb BS is essential.  Avoid the finer diameter fluoro's as they simply cannot cope with the savage nature of the Chew Trout at the moment - the knot strength is not good enough.  I wish I had a pound for everyone that has told me their expensive fine diameter fluoro has broken lately!

The trout are now moving around from Denny Island and the spit off Denny is starting to produce good bags of fish for the first time this season.

Weed growth and water levels.

Chew is about 5 feet down and the weed growth is already prolific over the Roman Shallows, Herriots and Nunnery Spit.  Strangely enough, the shallow bays by Hollowbrook and Herons Green are not infested yet and the trout are feeding avidly there on either bloodworm or huge black buzzer. 

Trout on the major reservoirs appear to hate weed with a vengeance and I never find them feeding or even swimming- around it.  Sometimes they feed on the edge of weedbeds, but even that is severely limited.  If the weedbeds get as dense as last year, then I fully expect the rainbows to leave those areas and populate the non weedy places - areas such as Whalley Bank, Woodford Bank, part of Villice and the Sailing Club - in fact, exactly the areas they could be found in huge numbers last season.  These places have very hard clay bottoms and weed growth is never a problem.

Spring International on Loch Harray

Next week, I will be away on Loch Harray in the Orkney Isles, fishing for England in the Spring International match.  We have 9 new caps in our side, but all are seasoned competition anglers and almost household names.  I am the Player/manager for this match and Clive Collier is Captain.  Andy Haskins, Si Morris and Alan Williams are the other experienced caps.  Ex Lexus Champion Lloyd Pallett is a new cap, as is regular Trout Fisherman Magazine contributor Leigh Pond and England Rivers International angler Keith McAdam.  Well known match anglers John Calvert, Harry Fox, David Wortley, Jim McGonigle, Paul Kitchen, Andy Croucher and Bob Shaw make up the rest of the team.

Harray is 6 miles long and 1 mile wide, so we will need as much practice as possible - hence the need to be there for a full week.  Our Team Coach is ex England International Captain Brian Thomas who now lives on Orkney in the quirky named village of Twatt!  Brian is an expert on many styles of loch style fishing and his knowledge will be invaluable.

The Scots team have to be the bookies' favourites due to their local knowledge, but the Irish are used to fishing for wild browns on their own Loughs and the Welsh Team are travelling up today to practice longer than any other team.  So all in all, it looks like being a fantastic match with plenty of top name anglers and ghillies alike.  All we are hoping for is some decent weather and no gale-force winds that could force the match to be abandoned.


The Chew pike have been active of late and I have had some great sessions, catching lots of fish - best last week from 8 twenties being Justin Whitfield's 22:08 fish.  I have also been reapturing some of the near 400 pike that I have tagged and am surprised to see that most have put on less than 2lbs in weight in a whole year! 

I see plenty of pike anglers out on Chew nowadays fly fishing for the pike.  This element of the sport is certainly one of the only growth areas and with sensitive management by the fishery; is a welcome addition to our fantastic sport.  Just one tip to some of the many pike fly anglers out there and struggling at the moment - SLOW DOWN and SCALE DOWN!

I love all species of fish that can be caught on a fly - be it perch, roach, pike, grayling, carp, barbel or trout.  My best ever roach weighed 3lbs 4ozs and took a Diawl Bach Nymph while bank fishing off Moreton - the angler next to me, when told it was 3lbs 4ozs shouted back "yeah - Fxxxing things"!
I also sadly remember the days when trout anglers on Chew threw their perch up the banks in disgust - much the same way that river anglers have tried to obliterate the Grayling for so many years.  Let's not make the same ignorant mistake with the pike.

To date, I have had 18 trout with cormorant marks and just 6 with pike marks.  This figure will probably change as the majority of Chews several hundred cormorants are away from the lake as they breed - prossibly off the Pembrokeshire and Western England coastlines.


If I can get an internet connection on Orkney, I will update my blog during the week - but don't expect any secret flies or methods from the Loch - all will be revealed after the International!

Bill Tucker with one of his Chew limit bag
Justin Whitfield's 22:08 pike

Chew's amazing start continues

The strong winds have dropped and Chew's incredible start to the trout fishing season continues!
I fished with Rob Ratcliff yesterday and rose fish every drift in Herons Green Bay using Dries.  The buzzers were hatching all day long - big ones - and the trout were feasting on them.  I cannot remember when the trout have fought so hard on Chew and all of our fish were 3lbs and over.
We had 2 cormorant damaged trout but no pike damage - I think anglers cannot tell the difference between pike and cormaorant damage and are simply labelling everything as pike damage.

Pike on buzzers

My friend martin Cottis did an autopsy on a 6lb pike he caught on a Diawl Bach Nymph and guess what it had been feeding on? Buzzer - it was stuffed with nothing but black buzzer nymphs, proving that the odd capture of a pike on a nymph is not a coincidence - these smaller pike obviously have buzzers high on their list of food.

I also caught a 20lb pike on "black" Friday 13th May and it had one of my tags in it's dorsal fin rays.  I have tagged over 300 pike since the start of last season and over 10% have been recaptured.  Along with Bristol Water, this sampling enables us to check on the growth rate, recapture rate and movement of the pike. Incredibly, when I checked my records, it was caught on the very same day exactly 1 year ago by Mark Thompson and it weighed 17lbs 08ozs - just 2 1/2lbs weight increase in a whole year.  This shows that the likely diet for that fish was roach and not trout.  Over the course of a year, a big double eating trout at 2lbs average weight would have increased in weight by far more than a measly 2 1/2lbs!
Those sadly misguided individuals who are blaming the pike for Chew's poor form in recent years, are obviously way off the mark  A few years ago, they were blaming the cormorants whenever the fishing got hard - now it's the pikes' turn to carry the can!

First cuckoo

Friday 13th also heralded the first cuckoo on Chew this year.  For me, this is a real sign that Summer is on it's way.
I also saw a Hobby chasing insects in Villice Bay on the same day - so not such a "black" day after all!

With the 10 day forecast predicting a spell of warm weather with light winds - the fishing could get even better.

John with 20lb tagged pike

ARRGHH!!! Strong winds and bright sunshine - the worst fishing conditions!

When will this spell of strong, cold, North Easterly winds stop?  Coupled with constant bright sunshine, this has to be the worst conditions for trout fishing.
The Chew and Blagdon trout hate these conditions and when I was at Rutland Water last week, their trout responded by going off the feed.
The last 2 days on Chew have been very tricky, with deep fished nymphs the only way we could catch during the sunny, windy weather.  As soon as the winds dropped for a while, Herons Green came back on and the fish started to feed on the almost instant buzzer hatches.

Still, we must not complain - the opening month has been amazing, thanks in a big way to the light winds and warm air temperatures - I suppose we were due for a change.  The forecasters predict lighter winds as we approach the weekend and I fully expect the Bristol water trout to respond by feeding on the buzzer and daphnia and coming much closer to the surface again.

Just have a look at the size of the bloodworm and buzzer present in one of my Chew trout yesterday - if you look carefully, you will also see Hoglice and even Shrimp - these show how deep the fish have recently gone.

Pike action improving, but lots of smaller fish

The pike fishing with fly on Chew has started to improve, with lots of follows and many smaller fish.  However, Seb Shelton recently had a 27lb 8oz fish and one of my clients; Andrew Cadman, caught this cracking 24lb beauty.


I am keeping count of the marked trout I am catching this season and so far, it is very few.  Just 3 pike marked fish and 13 cormorant marked trout from around 150 landed (and many returned).  Most of the cormorants have left for the coast to breed and the pike are obviously feeding primarily on the many roach that I have already seen this season.


The Swifts arrived at Chew on Friday and by Saturday, there were hundreds chasing the buzzers!  I still haven't seen a house martin on Chew, but saw loads at Rutland last week.  No less than 14 buzzards were on a thermal above Chew last week and I think I spotted my first Hobby last week.  At times, there are more than a dozen Shelduck feeding on the buzzers at Chew.

Bloodworm, Caddis, Buzzer, hoglice and shrimp spoonings
Andrew Cadman with his 24lb pike

Italian adventure

First, many apologies for not updating my blog recently.

No excuses, but I have just been away running Lexus Heats and practicing for the World Championships in Italy before the organisers close the venues.
What a place Bolzano is!  Wonderful scenery and fantastic hospitality.
Our guide is top Italian International angler Edgardo Dona - a long-time friend from many World Championships.

Edy runs his own tackle business in Italy and is a phenomenal angler.
We fished 3 rivers and looked at the lake venue - Lago de Brais - which was still covered in ice as it nestles some 1800 feet up in the Dolomite Mountains!

Team Manager Ian Greenwood and I spent our trip catching brown trout, marble trout, rainbows and grayling.
Obviously, I cannot divulge our methods at this stage, but I can say that we are very much looking forward to the World Championships later in the year in late August/early September.

Chew still on top form.

I was on Chew today and still it is producing masses of fish - mainly on nymphs and some even on dries.  The buzzer hatches are getting better and better as April moves on - the only thing that might call a halt to all this activity is a spell of colder weather.  Sun and wind today did nothing to dampen the trouts' appetites, with fish even rising at times whenever the wind dropped - despite the sunshine!

I am off to Rutland early in the morning for an England Team Press day organised by major sponsors Hardy & Greys, then back the same night to run 2 days of Lexus Individual Heats on Chew Valley for Friday and Saturday.

Still some places available for the Chew lexus Heats on 29th and 30th April - just drop me an email to reserve a place.


Lago de Brais
Nice Grayling

Heatwave helps the trout fishing!

How much longer will this spell of hot weather last?  That's the question everyone is asking.  Today on Chew the air temperature was into the high 60's  and the water temperature was over 13 degrees C! 
For years now, the buzzer hatches seem to get earlier and earlier, but this year, they are also getting bigger.  Clouds of large black buzzer hang above the trees and hedgerows surrounding both Chew and Blagdon Lakes and the trout are feasting on the pupae.
But buzzers are not the only item on the fishes' menu, as clouds of daphnia are feeding on the algae in both lakes and the water is getting clearer by the day - I reckon we had 7 feet of clarity on Chew today - which is fantastic!

Nymphs on floating lines is still the main form of attack, with Buzzers and Diawl Bachs being the best flies.  During the bright sunshine, the trout are dropping a bit deeper in the water, so allow your nymphs to get down a few feet before starting your retrieve - which has to be as slowly as possible.

Pike still hard to tempt

I have had several trips after the Chew Valley pike, but they are still recovering from spawning and are difficult to tempt.  My last 2 trips have produced 3 doubles - the best at 14lbs, but I have had some follows from pretty big fish - well into the 20's in fact! 

My friend Danny Peet had a cracking 31lb 8oz fish last week, so it shows that the big girls are starting to come on the feed - we just need a bit more consistency.

Buzzers above the trees at Chew
Danny Peet's 31lb 8oz Chew Pike

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