The days are getting shorter and the nights getting longer. With cold crisp mornings, dew on the grass and mist in the air, the signs are that autumn has well and truly started. This can only mean one thing for the coarse angler – the predator fishing season is not far away!
There are several magical venues which Pike fishermen consider the holy grail in the UK – Loch Lomond comes to mind, The Thurne system, Chew valley lake of course, and the mighty river Wye; but none more so than Llandegfedd reservoir in Wales.
Llandegfedd is the lake where the UK record Pike was captured, at a monstrous 46lb 13oz by Roy Lewis back in October 1992. Amazingly the record still stands at this Welsh fishery, despite it coming down to within a few ounces from English fish caught in recent times, such as the Wykeham lakes beast which peaked at 46lb 11oz.
Llandgefedd reservoir held Pike ‘trials’ almost every autumn since the early 1990’s. Coarse anglers were allowed access to this premier trout fishery for just a few brief weeks to get a chance at landing an enormous esox. On ‘Deggy’ as the venue is affectionately known by pikers, the fishing was never easy, and many hardy souls spent countless fruitless hours afloat chasing the dream. For the lucky and committed few Llandegfedd coughed up multiple 40lb plus fish, which to this day is almost unrivaled, with only Chew valley lake just across the Bristol channel coming close.
Sadly over the years from the glory day’s in the 90’s the pike fishing went down hill. Size and numbers gradually declined in the lake, and in 2010 after an experimental February trail period that produced little or no catches, it was decided to stop all predator fishing to give the pike a well earned rest and a chance to recover their numbers.
In 2015 the angling press announced that Llandegfedd was to re-open it’s doors for pike anglers after a 5 year hiatus, for Mondays and Tuesdays only throughout September and October. Names were taken and a draw was to be made late August.
I put my name down, but to my disappointment my number never came up against the hundreds of applicants who submitted their details. Then, just a few weeks ago my phone rang. It was an old pal of mine, Welsh S4C TV presenter and chef Anthony ‘Ants’ Evans ”Sut mae boy, how do you fancy a day on Llandeg, September the 8th?”. Well the answer was obvious and immediate – yes!
Naturally I jumped at the chance to fish such a hallowed pike water, which for me was just a 20 minute journey down the M4. The date was for the second day of the pike trials, so expectations were high on what we might find lurking in the depths.
My last visit pike fishing trip to the fishery had been in 2006, where in two hard days myself, and Fishtec team members Tim Hughes and Allan Crawford-Plane manged a decent enough return with a couple of pike each, with my first ever ‘big’ pike of 19lb 12oz being taken on a lure.
The day finally came and we arrived at the fishery at about 8.00am. Conditions looked absolutely perfect for pike fishing; it was overcast with a moderate breeze – just right!
We had a bit of time to kill until the 9am start, so we popped into the all-new visitor center, which had been built from scratch for 2.5 million the previous year. The sparkling new and well thought out facility was a vast improvement over the old portacabins, and inline with many other top UK trout fisheries there were now spotless toilet facilities and a purpose built cafe for anglers situated in the upper story. There are also plans to integrate a fishing tackle shop into the visitor center, catering for both fly and coarse fishermen.
As any angler knows the secret to a successful days fishing is a hearty breakfast to keep you going all day; and believe me as a connoisseur of a fishery fry up all over the country they know how to make a good one at Llandgefedd. We ate an awesome breakfast whilst looking out over the lake, It was well worth turning up for!
After eating our fill and enjoying a great cup of coffee we headed downstairs and collected our ticket and life preserver from the rack outside the lodge. Boats were packed, rods rigged and engines fired into life- the atmosphere was electric and everyone was itching to head out into the lake. At 9.00am everyone cut loose, and in traditional pike trial style it was a mad scramble to get to the ‘hot spot’ which had produced 7 x 20lb plus pike to 26lb the day before.
We were a bit slow on the uptake getting off the jetty, and never being one to follow the herd I decided we should find our own fish. My thoughts on tackling the fishery were to cover water and try lures – these fish had not seen a sea deadbait for 5 years, so in my opinion lures would be the best strategy, and if nothing takes you can often provoke a follow so you know fish are in the vicinity.
Some of my favouirite lures for pike are soft plastic rubber lures – there are some great ones out there such as the Fox replicants, Storm wildeye shads and more recently the outstanding Savage Gear 3D trout range; with their life-like detailing, pliable soft rubber compound for extra movement, and a built in tail rattle these great lures are often my ‘go to’ pattern in the box. I picked out the golden albino colour to start, which has brought me excellent results on other trout water pike trips.
Our first stop was a large bay on the right hand side of the reservoir. Nobody else had ventured into this area, in fact the vast majority of the other boats had clustered into a small area at the top end of the reservoir, as had bank anglers.
The wind was just perfect for a gentle drift without a drogue, and after and hour or so nothing had happened in fairly deep water, so we took a drift tighter into shore. Just as we drifted to within yards of the bank, I turned the engine to motor off and spotted out of the corner of my eye a pike lying about a yard off the bank. Another drift through followed, but this time dropping the lures extremely close in. Ants was the first to catch a fish, a spirited jack on a firetiger fox replicant. We had several more jacks and attacks to the lures for the next hour along the short area of bank – including a couple of following fish that looked into the mid -teens.
We gave the area a rest after catching a few fish, and covered many other potential fish holding areas all around the lake, in both shallow and deep water with nothing but a couple of sharp pulls and follows from overly curious trout for our efforts. As the day went on we did see a decent fish landed on a boat which had anchored up all day, right in the center of the ‘hotspot’ but otherwise all seemed quiet.
A return to the bay brought us another couple of jacks, and more follows, but this eventually dried up as the sun finally broke out at the end of the day. At the end of the day we had a quick catch up with other anglers and some biggies had been landed, including 4 x 20’s to 27lb 7oz and of course we heard the usual stories of the monster that got away!
We had a truly enjoyable day on the water and hope to return later in the season, when the water temperatures will have dropped further and brought the big girls (which I’m sure are still in there!) onto the feed proper.
The predator fishing on Llandegfedd can only get better, and with a good spread of sizes and age classes clearly present there is great optimism for the future pike sport on the venue. Who knows? Maybe another British record is still down there lurking in the depths!
For more information on fishing Llandegfedd reservoir visit www.llandegfedd.co.uk/fishing-llandegfedd or call 01633 373 401