Ben Humber

My angling year is always broken down in to months, then species and then venues. Without doubt my favorite species and venues has to be Chew valley reservoir for pike.

I have fished Chew for many years and until recently lived only 10 minutes away so always classed it as one of my local waters.
I love Chew not just for the monster pike and perch but for the whole experience, after all it is the most consistent big pike water in the country and to be able to fish it with friends creates many happy memories even when we blank!

If you look at the angling press it would seem that everyone who fishes Chew bags a thirty pound pike with a couple of twentys for good measure... well that is certainly not the case! Chew is tough and there are many blanks by some of the best anglers in the country, in fact Chew seems to favour people who have never fished it before and usually have a low double as a personal best and gives them a thirty or forty pound pike on their first visit as if to rub salt in to the wounds of all the chaps who have sat blanking for days and years on end!

Anyway it was my time to have a bite of the apple this week and I had two days fishing on the bank. All my fishing is one big jigsaw and I have to piece all the bits together to try and make the picture which is my target fish, this jigsaw starts way beyond just chucking a bait out and hoping for the best...

If I'm fishing any venue that holds big fish I will do my homework and look at maps, weather leading up to the date and after, chat to other anglers and bailiffs, check any social media on the venue and of course visit the venue before the day and have a walk around.

I really enjoy all the homework side of things as it's part of the journey to hopefully putting fish on the bank. The next phase of the jigsaw is the tackle preparation, now this is vital to the success of the trip and not done correctly could actually kill a pike and maybe even one of the biggest pike in England!! That may sound extreme but it's reality.

When I prepare tackle I make a list of what needs to be done and work my way through it, I tie my own traces so these have to be perfect, braid has to checked, rods and reels in perfect condition, alarms with spare battery's, head torch and a spare one, long nose forceps and cutters plus a duplicate set. The list goes on and on and for example let's just say I missed a weak spot on my braid, one of my rods had a cracked ceramic ring on the eye and my bite alarm had a dead battery, there are three very high chances of a dead pike there due to not hearing the take with the dead battery so a deep hooked pike, a lost fish with a set of trebles in its mouth due to weak braid and it snapping on a big fish during the fight or the braid being cut on the cracked ceramic ring, if anglers didn't check all their gear was in tip top condition imagine the consequences to all the fisheries across the country.

With all the homework and preparation done it was time to fish and I was ready and prepared. The weather on the day was fairly awful and I was fishing at one end of the reservoir with the gale force wind directly in my face, which meant setting up was tough; actually it was more than tough it was terrible! Once all set up it was time to sit back and relax with the kettle on and watch the sunrise.

Quite often with predator fishing there is a feeding window, which can be minutes or a few hours depending on a lot of different things so you need to be ready. It wasn't until about 8am until the drop off indicator fell and signaled a bite. As I lifted the rod and gently tightened the braid I could feel the pike turning the bait so wound down and struck, in to thin air! The hooks just hadn't connected to the pike so was a bit of a disappointing start but better to strike early than late.

I got the bait on exactly the same spot again which took forever in the awful weather and within minutes the braid pulled from the clip and started peeling off the spool whilst the alarm continuously sounded, these are the takes I love and with a nice clean sweep of the rod I was connected to a pike that I could tell wasn't huge but was a start. The pike gave a very good account of itself and fought all the way to the net and was probably just over 10lb in weight.

Just as I was getting the rod ready to send back out exactly the same happened to my other rod and the alarm screamed while the braid fell from the spool, I wound down and leant in to the fish and the fish stayed on the spot and shook it's head several times then bolted and tore braid from the reel, it was a good fish and battle had just begun!! This fish fought very hard and didn't want to come close to the bank as the water was very shallow and this made the fish make several powerful runs away from the bank. I had my mate Joe talking in my ear through most of the battle telling me it was a monster pike, just what you need to steady the nerves!

Once the fish was netted it was obvious it was indeed a huge pike with an incredibly wide girth, I unclipped the trace and Joe held her in the water in the net while I got the weighing and unhooking gear ready, at 31lb 7oz she was a huge fish in mint condition and we were both made up. That was the feeding window and there wasn't another bite for the whole day.

Two days later I had my second bank day, the conditions were perfect although there was a storm due later that evening - quite often I have found fish will feed before a storm so felt fairly confident. This time I was in a different area of the lake, but still fishing similar underwater features and depths. The feeding window was again around 8am and I had a couple of low doubles by 9:30am so things seemed promising. The next fish was a lovely pike of 18lb 2oz, which like all Chew fish was in immaculate condition and gave a very good account of itself.

We had only just released the last fish back in to the lake and were repositioning the bait again when I said to my fishing partner john it would be nice if the other rod went off now and as if by magic the swinger dropped and the alarm sounded, picking up the rod I struck instantly into a solid fish that swam straight towards me at a ridiculous speed which made me think it wasn't that big. A couple of rod lengths from the bank I could see the red bait flag on the top treble out of the water so knew the fish was hooked on the last semi barbed treble.

I waded out towards the fish and increased the pressure so it raised its head and to my horror it was hooked on a single prong of the last treble which could well of been the barbless prong of the treble and to add to this it was a huge fish that was just behaving odd by coming towards me! I loosened the drag knowing that any second she would wake up and she did and tried to tail walk several times whist heading back out to where I hooked her.

I was using strong tackle and keeping the rod low and with consistent pressure I managed to get her very close in again, once in the net in the water I was able to unclip the trace and pop the single treble out which was the barbless one - Lucky!

This fish was again a Chew monster and weighed in at 30lb 1oz!
I had another small fish after that then it died and the feeding spell finished. The storm came in earlier than forecasted and was awful making it very hard conditions to fish in with floating weed everywhere and gale force winds with rain didn't help.

The jigsaw was complete, preparation is everything in fishing and having tackle and equipment you can trust on not to let you down is vital.