Chew Valley needs little introduction to most experienced fly fishers. It is a man made reservoir, built in the 1950's and opened for fly fishing in 1956. At that time it was the first of the large man made lakes opened for trout fishing and following on their years of experience at Blagdon, Bristol Water soon established their new water as the best stocked fishery in Europe, an accolade that many would say has never been lost.
At top water level the lake extends over 1200 acres and is filled with 4500 million gallons of Mendip water. It is a shallow lake, averaging only 14 feet deep with a maximum of just 37 feet. Its waters cover areas that were excellent farming land, providing a rich ground for the aquatic life so necessary for quality trout fishing.
Many farms and houses were demolished before flooding, and often roads and hedgerows re-appear when the level of the lake falls in summer. The deepest area is by the Dam and outlet tower where the steeply sloping shores of Walley Bank and the North Shore give access to depths up to 20 feet well within reach of the bank.
As you progress southwards the water shallows until at Herriots End, where the River Chew enters the lake, there is often only a couple of feet of water covering the hidden tree stumps and river bed. Between are many varying depths including shallows at the False Island and Roman Shallows where prolific weed beds grow during the warmer months producing huge amounts of aquatic and insect life, the never ending larder for the Chew Valley trout. Chironomids make up the vast proportion of the fly life of the Lake, some so small they are hardly seen and some, like the famous Grenadiers are up to an inch long. Often there are massive hatches of these midges at early morning or late evening giving rise to many moving fish taking flies from the surface. On cloudy, soft days these midges can hatch all day producing the famous 'Top of the Water' sport for which Chew Valley is so famous. Sedges make up the other main flies seen on the lake and the trout will readily feed on these as they live beneath the water as caddis nymphs and larvae. Snails and corixa also figure highly in the trout insect diet; the trout sometimes feed exclusively on them in and around the weed beds. At times Chew Valley produces clouds of Daphnia, a food that the trout gorge themselves on. These can be found in most areas of the lake and at varying depths depending on wind direction and brightness. Often the trout are very difficult to tempt with imitative patterns when feeding on daphnia and a bright mini lure is the only way to tempt them. There is a large head of coarse fish in the lake and in late summer their progeny are just the right size for a trout's meal. Then is the time when the trout can offer a feeding frenzy for the anglers lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.
Bank fishing is available by the day or afternoon with permits obtainable from the Fishing Lodge. No fishing is allowed from any of the dams or embankments, the Sailing Club, in front of the picnic areas or in the nature reserve. Care must be taken when fishing from the shore as deep holes and ditches do occur around the lakeside. There is a fleet of 32 motor boats for hire to fish on Chew Valley. Advance booking is advisable especially on weekends. Life jackets must be worn when afloat on the lake. These are available upon request. Anchoring is not permitted from the Dam to the line of yellow buoys between the North Shore and Walley Bank. No boats are allowed in the area marked by white buoys in front of Stratford bird hide. Pike fishing trials will once again be running this year. Fishing is permitted by spinning and dead baiting from October 15th to the end of November.