Pike fishing in a winter wonderland

Cold day at chew_01



A cold winter’s day saw me fishing at Chew Valley Lake near Bristol, often heralded as the new mecca of pike fishing, and I’d managed to get a boat for two consecutive days, and, I was in the company of Pike Fly legend Nigel Savage. However, the weather was against us, with strong north- easterly winds forecast, with snow, and temperatures down to -8 (-15 with the wind chill). We must have been mad, but with the real chance of a huge fish you have to give it a go if you get the opportunities.

I love my lure fishing, and am a true lure fisherman at heart, but sometimes, when it’s this cold, baits can be better, so we decided to have the first day fishing lures / flies, and hopefully use them to locate the pike, then the second day fishing dead-baits.

We had to be careful, as I got the boat loaded up, not to slip on the vast crusting of ice on the floor and the seats, but we quickly loaded the boat – secretly hoping that it would warm up!

All the other boats were zooming off in all directions, all heading to their chosen spots. Chew isn’t a massive water, when compared to some trout reservoirs, and much of it is relatively shallow, averaging 10 – 12ft. There are several notable bays where pike anglers tend to congregate, but, because of how cold it was, we decided to concentrate on the deeper water. A few other boats also had the same idea, though I think we were the only ones crazy enough to be casting lures. We drifted past Paul Garner and Gordy Howes a few times, and both looked truly dejected!





We used a drogue to slow the boat’s drift down, and began by casting shads out of the front of the boat, keeping the retrieve slow, so as to make sure the lure stayed close to the bottom, where we expected the pike to be rooted.

On days like this you really have to almost hit the pike on the head with a lure to get them to take, but it’s still a good way to find out where they are, and on Chew you only need one bite.

By midday I hadn’t had a sniff, and by the looks of everyone else fish are few and far between, most other boats seemed to be at anchor, and fishing deads, maybe this would be a better approach? My reel had frozen up twice, and I had to keep de-icing the rod as the braid brought in the freezing water.





By 4pm we hadn’t had any action and the boats would have to be back in 30mins. Looked like a blank was on the cards, maybe a change of tactics for tomorrow, and no more pushing ice cubes from the rod rings, and Nigel’s hands were suffering from the cold- fancy pulling in a fly line in those conditions! Though I must admit that on days like this, I would put a pike fly up against anything, as they can be fished almost static and still be irresistible to the pike- if you know what you are doing.


Pike Fly_01



The next day

Change of approach today, we were going to anchor up and put some deadbaits out. Three reasons for this, 1) the lures didn’t do anything yesterday, 2) the three fish that were caught were on deadbaits, and 3) I didn’t want to get frostbite in my hands again. Nigel was happy with this as well, as it meant he could cast his fly around the boat and get a slower retrieve than when we were drifting.

The first thing to do was to find a nice sheltered spot out of the wind, it was bitter, and to be quite honest, I think we both thought we would be blanking anyway, so we thought we would bank someone warmer! The wind was whistling past, and we chose to anchor at the back of the island. The water isn’t that deep at only 8ft, but it’s worth a try, as the deep water didn’t produce anything yesterday.

Quickly two turbo smelts were flicked out to marinade in the icy water, and just as quickly one of the floats bobbed, and shot under the water, just as it started snowing. I wound down and pulled into the fish, and felt a healthy resistance on the other end. Quickly, a fish as surprised as I was, around 14 -15lb came to the side of the boat, and had to be handed out, as there was a flying treble that would have caught in the net. On lifting the fish in I realised it was a bit bigger then my first estimate, and after weighing it at 18.04 it was a lot bigger than my first guesstimate, maybe the cold was getting to me!




I quickly re-baited and flicked the bait back in with my Greys Prowla boat rod and Abu 6500 reel, I really thought another blank was on the cards because of the weather, but I was chuffed to bits with that fish, anything else would be gravy.

Just as I finished off some nice warming soup, (sweet potato with curry spice, very nice!) I looked left just in time to see one of my floats whizzing across the surface. After spilling soup everywhere, I manage to pick the rod up and it hooped over straight away, and this was obviously a lot better fish. But, how much better I will never know, as just as it got to the boat it rolled on the surface and the barbless treble popped out. It was a good 25+ as well, gutted! My boat partner did manage to get a shot of it on his camera as it rolled off the hooks, then preceded to keep showing me how big it was, on the view screen, cheers!

Looking around it was good to see no one had seen my hook- ups, it can be a problem on trout waters where you get the “catch at all cost” mentality come through, that, when you catch one, some tit is looking at you with binoculars and the next thing you know they are anchored in your swim with half the rest of the lake.


Cold water_01




Thoroughly disheartened, I re-baited and tried again, but nothing. Was it just a quick feeding spell? Or were the fish very localised? Then 45mins later and we decided to move slightly further down the wind lane, only 40 yards or so, but enough to put us in a new area, but keep within our scent lane from the first spot.

Again two smelts were dunked at the back of the boat, while Nigel thrashed the sides to a foam with his flies, literally as soon as we were settled, one of the rods went again.

I had to wind fast this time as the fish was running towards me, possibly it picked up the bait as it was moving up the scent line? Maybe? But I did struggle to keep up with it. After a quick, spirited fight, she was in the net, and this one looked a bit bigger than the first, and at 19.08 it was real fatty, a typical Chew fish, and turned out to be last of the trip. It was freezing cold, but we caught a few, so it just goes to show it’s always worth hiding from the cold wind in the shelter of an island, rather than going and finding the fish!



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Andy’s Tips

Fishing dead-baits on bigger waters, where you have a lot of wave action, requires the use of large floats, and large leads to hold the bottom.

I use these big sea floats, they are very buoyant, and most importantly you can see them from a long way, even in rough conditions. Don’t worry about the resistance putting the pike off, with the correct weight, your float should be nicely balanced


big floats_01