During the summer of 2009 I booked a trip to Cape Cod to wrestle with the renowned Striped Bass. I booked this trip not knowing who I was going to be sharing this week with but upon arrival into Boston Logan Airport I met Russell Cowell from the Isle of Man. Along with Mike Green and Jamie Groom, Russell and I spent a fantastic week fishing all around the Cape Cod peninsular catching these magnificent Striped Bass.
We`ve all kept in touch during the last few years, sharing photos of our recent trips both home and abroad. In February 2013 Russell told me he really wanted to catch a pike on the fly and asked me if I`d be willing to guide him in the UK. I`m really no expert but I did suggest to Russell that a trip to Chew Valley at the end of May could be on the cards. We spent the next 4-6 weeks looking at the potential route from the Isle of Man and how we could arrange the flights to coincide with our journey to pick Russell up from the airport. After a few weeks of trying, Russell decided that as it was TT week on the Island and the flights to get back were going to be full, coupled with a flight into Liverpool and hiring a car he was going to leave it. No sooner had a read that e-mail I got another one saying, “4uck it, I`m coming, I said I will and I`m doing it” I rang him straight away to be sure he was happy to fly to Liverpool, hire a car to drive to Chew (5 hours?) and then do the same to get back. I booked the boats and the accommodation and soon enough I was up at 5am on the 29th May and on my way.
Russell was waiting at the Hotel for 8am and shortly after this Mike and Jamie arrived too. We all ate breakfast together and regaled a few old stories from when we met to set the tone for the next 2 days.
Mike and Russell partnered first and were out into the lake followed by Jamie and myself. The day started off very nicely for the first few hours, warm and sunny with a moderate wind. This disappeared at midday and the wind was howling and the rain made a soft appearance. The fishing was tough too, and between myself and Jamie we had just once fish, expertly boated by Jamie.
Mike and Russell however managed 3 fish. Russell has never been pike fishing before and to catch 3 fish on his first days fishing in poor conditions was a terrific achievement, especially as the fish were all caught on a fly. What Russell wasn’t aware of at this time, was that his first days fly fishing for Pike was about to be eclipsed by a day he will never forget…
We all got back to the boathouse after the first day and Mike Green gestured a “pint swigging” hand movement in my direction which I acknowledged with a bright eyed firm nod! We got back to the hotel and had a feast fit for a king followed by half a dozen pints of Cider!! Well, we were in Somerset, what else were we going to drink.
Russell and I were last to bed, we managed just one more pint before we vowed to go back to Chew with renewed enthusiasm.
The day started dark, windy and miserable but we decided to have a concerted effort on our first drift. I was flagging after the night before and elected to take a break rather than casting what felt like a chicken into a 30mph wind.
We moved around the lake a lot that day and tried some of the small bays for nothing other than a couple of follows and pulls. At around 2pm I said to Russell that if we`re going to catch a big fish it will be from where we first started fishing.
We slowly motored around to the area of the first drift and made a start… within literally a few minutes Russell yelled, ” I`m in, and it feels really heavy”. Every time line was gained the fished plunged deeper. The rod was bent double and despite being on the reel, the fish was taking every bit of line that Russell had previously gained.
We had shown the net to the fish on four occasions without success and we knew it was a good fish. Eventually, after a dogged fight, the fish was netted. I looked down in the net at the fish and said to Russell immediately, “mate, that`s a massive fish”. We both rolled the fish in the net and whilst I knew it was a “thirty” I didn’t want to jinx it so I said ” i reckon that must be about 28,29 pounds” Russell is no stranger to big fish and he estimated it to be 32.
Jamie arrived to weigh the fish after we`d taken a few photos and he said it looked to be around 34. After weighing the wet sling to zero the scales it was the moment of truth. Jamie held the face of the scales towards him and said we were all wrong. I have to mention at this point that the fish had lost some spawn during the photos and whilst being retained in the water, we didn’t feel it was appropriate to take the fish to land for weighing. The needle bounced between 39 and 42 pounds so being a conservative bunch we agreed that at 39lb she was a magnificent capture for an angler who had caught his 4th fish on only his second days pike fly fishing…
The rest of the day was just a formality after that capture. Russell managed to snag his Airflo Sixth Sense Di3 and break his rod into the bargain, do you think he cared?
Safely in the net!
39lb Chew Valley Pike
Back she goes, fit and healthy