Chew Valley Pike Trials

I bet you have your special little place where you like to sneak off too now and again, just to regain some confidence in your angling ability? Chew Valley is the place to go where fishing tackle is indeed tested and more than often dreams become reality.

Chew valley lake is a special place, both for trout anglers and now for the pike chasers alike. A combination of factors has led to Chew becoming the best Pike fishery in the UK with numerous 30 pound plus fish being caught.

The fishing is allocated by a limited numbers draw system which could see you rubbing shoulders with some piking legends such as Neville Fickling, Dave Kelbrick, Martin Bowler and the like. With 50 anglers fishing it every day of the trials it can be a bit of a lottery and getting on the earlier days of the week also helps. I was lucky enough to have a cancellation day for middle of the first week , but this only produced a double and some jack pike whilst that very same day two 40’s and 7 30’s came out! I think this was down to us moving spots too many times; the big ones were coming out purely to static dead baits left to soak for a good few hours.

My fellow Fishtec  staff member Garrett had put his name down for the draw and had been lucky enough to get a boat for Sunday, the last day of the first week. As a total pike virgin he needed an experienced guide and of course I leapt at the chance to have another crack at the chew pike. We set off at 6.30 am to get to the lodge for 8.00am, the idea being to wolf down a full English which is all part of the chew tradition. Garrett truly obliged and was the first to clear his plate, in fact it was picked clean of every scrap in a short space of time much to the amazement and amusement of our fellow diners.

The essential start to the day

We soon had our boat number and we headed out into a calm still and cold lake, which made a pleasant change from the recent wet and windy weather. I took us to a spot in open water on a drop off which had produced some great catches for me in pervious trials; it was here we sat it out for a good couple of hours and after fine tuning our position one of my floats finally bobbed under. I explained to Garrett the need to take in the slack line and then set the hooks with a firm sweep of the rod, but upon demonstrating this technique my trusted Greys prodigy boat rod fractured into four pieces with a loud bang! It was a bit of a hair raising fight bringing the fish to the side of the net on just a butt section with the danger of the jagged carbon cutting through my line at any moment, and to top it off I could see just one hook point of the two treble hook in the scissors of the pike. Thankfully my TF Gear redmist main line took the strain Garrett was a dab hand with the net and we got the fish in the boat. She was as fat as a hog and turned the scales at 22lb 4 oz.

Check the broken rod

22lb 4oz Ceri Pike

We sat it out for another few hours, with nothing but news of my pal Leighton Ryan and his boat partner landing a 25 and a 30!

TFG fan Leighton with his 25 pound lump

As it was getting on in the day I decided to take us to a shallow bay where Garrett would have a almost guaranteed catch of a jack to avoid the dreaded blank. Sure enough he soon got a run and landed his first ever pike.

Garrett’s First Jack

Not long after he had a dropped run and then connected with a confident pick up which bent the rod double, sadly it was not to be and the hooks pulled after a short fight. I had the feeling it was a real zoo animal maybe one of the 30’s! It was a hard call to make whether to stick it out in the same area, but I chanced It and took us back to our earlier spot for the last hour which is often the best time for a big one. Sure enough as the temperature and light fell Garretts float went under, and this time he stuck well and kept the pressure on. The fish wallowed on the top and was revealed as a decent fish, after a short tussle I did the honours with net and we weighed her in at 21lb 8 oz. Our time was up but I was well made up with a 20 each and helping Garrett capture a specimen pike of a size that has taken many experienced pikers years to achieve.

Garretts 20 pounder

Dave Lane Hardcore Sleeping Bag

I spend at least one night a week, during the spring, summer and some of the autumn, out camping. This means I can fish for 2 days but only necessitates one trip there and back. It makes more economic sense to do it that way. Up till now I have used a cheap sleeping bag from my carp fishing days. I guess it did the job OK. It was quite cheaply made to be fair and most of the bedchair attachments had broken and when the temperature dropped it was next to useless.

So I decided to invest in a new bag. Something that would keep me warm in the colder months but hopefully not cook me on a summer’s evening. I ordered the new Dave Lane Hardcore bag. I thought that with his name endorsing it, it must be good. I’m pleased to say that I wasn’t disappointed.

It is made from a breathable material, so even in the height of the summer you shouldn’t sweat your socks off. Well no more than you would normally on a hot summer’s night. It’s very spacious, which I like and has an intriguing design that enables you to expand the bag either side. You can unzip a folded section of the bag to add to its width by several inches on each side. The bag is surprisingly lightweight too. It seems unusually thin considering its ability to keep you warm in sub zero conditions. I have used the bag quite a bit recently and I felt very snug, despite the bitterly cold conditions.

The bag itself seems well made and I like the robust bedchair tags used for tying the bag onto the bedchair. The zips are heavy duty and nothing about the bag gives the impression of being made on the cheap. I don’t actually fish whilst using a bag, so I can’t comment on its ease of escape whilst a bite alarm screams at you in the middle of the night. What I can tell you is that its very comfortable, light and well made.

I would certainly recommend it.

Here is the manufacturers speil:

When temperatures turn freezer-like it’s time for the Hardcore Sleeping bag.

When travelling fast and light it’s time for the Hardcore Sleeping bag.

When you need a bag that breathes on warm summer nights it’s time for the Hardcore Sleeping bag.

When you need the best it’s time for the Hardcore sleeping bag!

This remarkable sleeping bag has been developed and tested to destruction by the UK’s best carp angler Dave Lane. Whether session fishing in the depths of winter, or quick overnighters in the summer, this is the only bag Dave Lane will ever use.

Pushing the boundaries of sleeping bag technology the Hardcore Sleeping bag is the first and only genuine all season sleeping bag, Hardcore is rated to expedition level for winter fishing, yet due to it’s intelligent breathable outer it will allow you to remain perspiration free during hot, summer nights.


• The highest warmth to weight ratio
• Premium quality filing – instant and sustained heat throughout the coldest nights
• Breathable – no more unpleasant sweating during warm nights
• Unique expander panel – adjust your sleeping bag for your individual body shape
• Soft, luxurious lining
• Genuine all year round comfort
• Crash Zips – so easy to exit
• Bedchair attachment straps
• Tested and approved by Dave Lane

See the Fishtec website for more information:  TF Gear Dave Lane Hardcore Sleeping Bag

Dave Lane – First Trip of the Season

My first trip of the year was on January the second, which just happened to coincide with one of the biggest low pressure systems of the winter sweeping across the country, the forecast was pretty foreboding and they were talking about storm force winds and rain, not something you usually get the fishing rods out in?

For some reason that I still cannot figure I had decided to fish on the opposite bank to the one I usually favour, I think my reasoning was something to do with the dog actually. On the road bank of the lake Paddy only gets a pathway behind the swims and I thought that he could do with the extra exercise that the grassy area of the far bank offers. Also, I had been concentrating on the road bank for the last few trips and I was getting a bit bored of the same old view every week so it would make a nice change for me too. The fish can come out from either side and the mild weather seems to have kept them on the move a bit this year so I was just as confident whichever side I chose.

The rocky bank (as it is known) would have the disadvantage of the wind pumping straight into it but, as I’d arrived before the worst of it had hit, I was confident that I could get enough bait out there at the start and just fish over it for the two nights ahead, regardless of the conditions.

If I had realised at the time quite how severe it was going to get then I might have chosen differently but, by lunchtime I was quite happy with my swim choice, the bait had spodded out there without too much hassle and I had all four rods on good, clean areas.

By mid afternoon I was starting to have doubts as the wind had trebled in strength and the waves were starting to crash into the front of my swim, which unfortunately faced straight out into the strengthening weather. By the time it got dark the full force of the low pressure system was upon me and the radio was saying the winds were gusting at sixty miles and hour but, from where I sat, it felt more like 160 miles an hour!

If there ever was going to be a test for the new bivvy then this was the night, I had to have the door zipped firmly down the entire time as the wind would have inflated the sides and ripped the pegs out in seconds if not. Throughout the first half of the night it was unbelievably bad and then, about midnight, it was as if somebody had a switched on an extra turbo-booster and any chance of sleep went out the window.

At one stage I risked going out for a wee and found that my unhooking mat, rod bag and all the extra little bits and pieces I had left outside (including a bucket of maggots) were all strewn across the field behind me, hanging from bushes and brambles.

At half past five in the morning, just as the wind was at it’s very strongest, one of the rods burst into life and I actually groaned in pain at the thought of having to go out there and deal with a fish. I’d half thought it might just be a big tree branch blowing through the lines or something but no; it was definitely a carp and an angry one as well. It was almost impossible to feel what was happening at the other end of the line; in fact it was all I could do to stand upright. The worst part was the netting, as I lifted the net off the ground it was like putting up a sail, it was almost ripped out of my hand.

Somehow though, between the waves, the uncontrollable landing net and the driving rain I managed to scoop up my hard won prize and I was pleased to see that it was considerably bigger than the previous weeks offering.

Hiding behind the fir trees to the side of the swim I managed to get enough shelter to weigh him in at twenty seven pounds, a fair reward for all the endurance I suppose.

The photography was a bit hairy though as I has to set up my nice new camera on a tripod and just pray that the wind didn’t smash it to pieces before I could gat a couple of quick shots.

With the fish all sorted and returned I unzipped the door and climbed back into the comparative warmth and serenity of the bivvy only to find that my bed had been totally dog-napped and he was fast asleep with his head on my pillow!

The next day was one of the wettest and most miserable days imaginable, I really wanted to move to somewhere more comfortable (like home) but the rain just slashed down relentlessly and I decided the easiest move was to zip the door back down and go to bed, staying put for yet another wild night. Luckily though there was a slight shift in the wind, the southerly stopped and left only the strong westerly which meant that it wasn’t blowing straight at me anymore and I could actually have the luxury of an open doorway. Once again though I had the only bite of the session and the fish decided not to make a return visit for the second night. I was pleased to get the first one of the year under my belt but there must be a way of getting more than one bite every forty eight hours.

Next week I think I’ll either move about a bit more or maybe fish all four rods on different depth zigs in the hours of daylight before swapping back to the bottom for the nights. Whatever happens though, I doubt I’ll fish in conditions as severe as that again for a while.

Oh, and by the way, the bivvy stayed rock solid for the entire trip so it passed it big test with flying colours and I also managed to retrieve all my missing gear from the bushes, although most of the maggots had managed to make good their escape.

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary Nov 11



The slow progress to winter weather has affected the shore fishing in my region of Kent and the expected cod have not materialised, YET, from the beaches. Instead the small whiting, dogfish and now an influx of postage sized dabs are eating all the other species out of house and home. It’s grim if you are a shore specimen hunter and my advice is to desert Kent for the many other regions that are fishing much better. The recent TF Gear DVD fishing in South Wales is an example – Plenty of codling throughout the South Wales, Severn Estuary and Bristol Channel region and some bigger ones from the boat. Other reports from around the country suggest the cod fishing is superb in some regions. The North East is enjoying an influx of codling and they are growing fast,East Anglia has some and the North West is improving rapidly.

With all this in mind much of my recent fishing at home has been in competitions and I have had a mixed bag of results recently, but the bright spots included a win from a dud peg on Folkestone pier although it proved to not be a dud and I suppose that teaches us all never to give up because in fishing you just never know. A catch of garfish and mackerel in mid November was something of a surprise – how a float outfit stayed in my tackle box I don’t know?

I had a pretty poor day at the TF Gear Kent Classic on the Isle of Sheppey, plagued with small whiting, I managed two goers out of 60 fish. However, the company was good because I was paired with a local junior. Although to be honest a paired peg was not what I had in mind and fishing in the disabled section was rather a handicap!

What I am doing is to try to get around catching those small whiting and any tips on that would be gratefully received. I have tried bigger hooks (2/0s) but even they don’t keep the 25cm whiting off!  With all the small fish around there is the temptation to go all in for the tiddlers with smaller hooks and lighter hook snoods, but the likes of size 4s and 10lb snoods really is a step too far and only practical in catch and release matches – Size 1s and 25lb hook snoods remain the sensible winter minimum.

With Christmas and the New Year looming is time for those seasonal events. Turkeys and Christmas fares attract lots of anglers who would not normally fish competitions and all this proves that lots of prizes are far more attractive than a big cash prize and although I have said it before a return to the old prize structure system may be the way for lots of clubs who are loosing support to go.

My next away event is the Clubman final inNorfolk where the Sea Angler magazine staff etc fish against last years Clubman champions, Holt Sea Angling Club. It’s a bit of a fun event really although you can bet that everyone will take it very seriously indeed.

Coming up is my annual pilgrimage to Kilmuckridge near Wexford for the Irish Winter beach championships on January 26th/27th and 28th. A very friendly multi day match with lots of Irish Craic Further Details/Entries to:

Warren Doyle, 98, Seacrest, Bray, Co. Wicklow. Phone: +353(0)1-2828769

Mobile: +353(0)86-8069961 (Evenings Please)



The new TF Gear Force 8 S MAGs with their one piece frame are proving popular – I have switched over to them after using one all season and I must say the addition of a power handle is essential for fishing.

Her are a few shore and boat fishing tips for the winter months.

Shore anglers watch out for frozen sand, cold shallow water and lots of fresh water, rain or snow melt. Nothing is worse for results at this time of year because the fish will not come inshore under such conditions. I have a rule and that is not to fish anywhere that I cannot cast past ground that is uncovered at low tide, from December through until April!

Bait shortages are the winter angler’s worst enemy and once the weather deteriorates to real winter mode and all the part time diggers pack it in you will start to feel the effect. No real answer other than to stay loyal to your dealer.

You can lay in a supply of frozen Calamari etc or even get the fork or bait pump out yourself.

The largest winter sea driven by gale force winds can ruin a good fishing trip because it’s always in the worst weather that the fish are around. Ways to keep you fishing when the wind and sea are near gale force is to include a few 8oz fixed wire grip leads in your kit. These help tow baits through the wind with a low punchy cast more effective than a high looping thrash, and ensure baits stay where the land. Also add an adjustable sliding butt cap to your rod rest because with it you can raise your rod tip and line much higher up above the waves and weed. Finally – don’t be afraid to fish the piers and deep water rock marks. Lots of beach anglers don’t even consider such venues despite them being so much more practical and productive in the “dead” of winter.


Something to Chew on

Today I paid a visit to a famous Trout water, Chew valley lake in Somerset, which at the moment is open for Pike fishing from the bank. This was an opportunity for me to test out several new sample rods from our up and coming TFG ‘Cutting Edge’ predator range of fishing rods which we have been developing over the past few months.

I arrived at the lake at dawn and set up a pair of 3.25 test sample dead bait fishing rods teamed up with TFG force 8 and Power bigpits on hardwear screw in bank sticks. On Chew It is often necessary to use a bait boat due the shallow nature of the reservoir. I placed a mackerel at around eighty yards and a smelt at hundred yards with a patriot boat and settled down awaiting a run.
All was quiet until ten’ o’clock when a flurry of activity commenced. I landed several Jacks within the space of on hour and had several dropped pickups. Each run got the adrenalin flowing as on Chew you just never know what could pick up the bait next.

The action seriously slowed down around noon so I rigged up one of the test lightweight lure fishing rods with 14lb grunt braid and a small rubber shad as I had spotted several large Perch crashing through the swim after some fry. I threw out the shad and bumped it back along the bottom bringing it right into the edge, a big stripy swooped in from nowhere and sucked up the lure into a mouth like a bucket. After a short but belligerent tussle a 4lb Perch was hoisted ashore. This was followed later by a 3lb 1/4. Several fish that followed the lure were bigger again – perhaps 5lb plus !

Through the afternoon things were slow on the Pike front, It was not till the last knockings that things picked up – I had a serious run which I struck into a solid resistance, unfortunately the fish turned and moved towards me at speed and then came off about twenty yards out. I thought this was game over as it was now practically dark when the Xsense alarm on the other rod bleeped into life with a real screamer. Lifting into the fish I felt an immense power, and far out in the gloom something angry boiled under the surface. Surely this must be on of those big o’l girls at last! After a terrific fight I reached out with the net into the dark and pulled it to the bank. To my amazement what was in it was yet another predator, a hefty brown trout of 11lb 1/2

I was made up with this capture and even though no big Pike had been seen I had achieved a predator grand slam and had a given the samples a good run in. The new fishing rods performed beyond all expectations and will be certainly forming the core of the new range which will continue to be developed this winter by the TFG team.