Bristol Water has announced that it will delay a decision about the fishing it offers at its waters, which include the world-famous Chew and Blagdon, for 12 months after pressure from the Angling Trust and MPs.
Anglers were shocked and angry to hear news that Bristol Water was considering a massive reduction in trout stocking and facilities for fly-fishers at Chew Valley Lake with effect from 2019. Chew Valley Lake has been one of the UK’s best still water trout fishing venues for over 60 years and in 2000 hosted the World Fly Fishing Championships. The proposals, which were intended to save money and reduce financial risk to the water company, could have brought meaningful trout angling to an end at this historic venue and led to job losses at local businesses which are reliant on trout anglers.
The Angling Trust organised an emergency meeting with Bristol Water, two independent guides who make a living taking people fishing on the lake, and committee members of the Bristol Reservoirs Fly Fishing Association (BRFFA), a club with over 150 members and a member of the Angling Trust & Fish Legal. Bristol Water agreed to listen to alternative proposals for management of the fishery put forward by the angling representatives, and its board announced this week that the decision would be delayed for 12 months.
The Angling Trust, angling club representatives and professional guides met with local MP Jacob Rees-Mogg on Friday 10th November. The Angling Trust contacted members of the All Party Parliamentary Angling Group to get their support for the protection of trout fishing at Chew Valley Lake.
Tens of thousands of people have fished at Chew Valley Lake over the years and it is very popular with competition anglers because of the technical challenges it offers. Many local businesses rely on trout anglers visiting from throughout the UK and around the world for a significant part of their turnover. In recent years, changes to the management of fish stocking, problems with water quality and lacklustre customer service have led to reduced footfall, but Chew remains a very popular lake for trout fishing. The Angling Trust is organising a meeting in December to discuss future management of the fishery and the potential for better promotion and more competitions.
The Trust will also be writing to OFWAT urging the regulator to review its guidance to water companies to ensure that they support angling at their waters.
Charles Walker MP, Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Angling Group said before the announcement: “At a time when water companies need all the friends they can get, this miserably mean act by Bristol Water demonstrates how tone deaf this company is. I urge its board to get a grip before it does lasting damage to Bristol Water’s corporate brand.”
Dave Drake, BRFFA Chairman said: “We have been challenging Bristol Water’s decisions and have been very grateful for the support of the Angling Trust in forcing this re-think. We now look forward to working with all parties to restore Chew Valley to the world class facility that it has been and can be again.”
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal said: “As angling’s representative body, we will fight to protect fly fishing for trout at Chew Valley Lake and try to persuade Bristol Water to meet its moral obligation to restore this historic venue to its former glory. The reservoir has strategic importance for fly fishing competitions and as a convenient venue for local and visiting fly anglers alike, many of whom have fished at Chew for several decades. We want to see Bristol Water following the example of other water companies like Thames Water and Anglian Water, which actively promote and encourage angling on the waters they own.”
John Horsey, a professional fishing guide on Chew Valley Lake for over 23 years, Angling Trust Ambassador and Team England International angler said: “I was co-presenter of Channel 5’s series ‘Chris Tarrant goes fishing’ which included an episode on Chew. Anglers across the world regard Chew Valley Lake as one of the very best trout fly fisheries ever and the thought of losing this venue due to a relatively pitiful financial deficit is unthinkable. As a competition organiser myself, I regularly arrange huge events that fill the boats on both Chew and Blagdon with anglers for days on end and they in turn add value to the local community by shopping in the villages, staying in local hostelries and eating in the Chew Valley’s many pubs and restaurants. It is imperative that Bristol Water save this world famous venue from closing as a fly fishery and protect its 60 year heritage for future generations.”
Lee Lashenko, landlord of the Stoke Inn, the nearest pub to the lake, said: “It would be a disgrace and a tragedy if anything was allowed to threaten the fishing at the lake, for trout or pike. Not only does it generate a tremendous amount of business for us and a host of other local businesses but it has become part of the local community and local culture, building many good relationships and friendships over the years.”
Simon Pledge, Manager of the nearby Carpenters Arms said: “The Carpenters Arms has been host to trout anglers in the Chew Valley for many years on both a residential basis and as a watering hole where stories & memories of the day are shared, laughed about and (hopefully) remembered for many years to come. To lose the heritage of this world famous local venue would definitely have an impact on our business both economically and socially - what a great loss this could be.”
Neville Fickling, Angling Trust Ambassador and specialist predator angler said: “Chew Valley is without doubt the best pike fishery in the UK, if not the northern hemisphere. To lose it would be like selling Lords Cricket Ground to build a supermarket. It is also a cherished still water trout fishery. In the day of multi-use waters it is important that angling is carried out on all water supply reservoirs where it is already allowed. Where exceptional fishing exists it needs to be nurtured otherwise the next generation may not have anywhere to fish.”