After several years of tough fishing conditions firstly at Chew and Blagdon, and latterly at Rutland and Eyebrook, the Chiltern stalwarts decided to venture much further north this year to Stocks Reservoir in the Forest of Bowland, under the gaze of Pendle Hill, just north of Clitheroe. The reservoir is fed by the River Hodder which runs peaty with water from the fells. Because of the travelling distance,  Monday was included as a travelling day before our 3 days of fishing and return homewards on the Friday.

Stocks Reservoir Fishery is quite unique in many ways. The owner Ben Dobson and Paul Bebb offer an unusually friendly, enthusiastic and personal service, and are full of very useful advice and assistance for those who are not familiar with the fishery. The reservoir itself is serenely isolated amongst the rolling Pennine hills.  There is an abundance of birdlife with curlew, lapwing, oyster catcher, buzzard and many other species and the call of the cuckoo can be heard frequently in the woods. It is a quite idyllic setting, and from time to time during the day it was easy just to relax, take in the stunning scenery and think just how lucky we were to be in this attractive location.

As our group numbered seven, on each day, one of the local regular fishermen very generously came out with us to balance the numbers for the boats and act as a guide for those not familiar with the water. That was a great help for us and was another measure of the great spirit of camaraderie there is between the staff and regular anglers at Stocks. As John Gamon and John Goldie had fished Stocks several times before, that all worked out very well for the group.

Apart from a very cold, torrential down pour at the end of the first afternoon and a couple of cold squally down pours on the third day, the north west weather was kind to us. A great feature of fishing Stocks is that there are usually fish everywhere, they don’t pod up as they do on some waters, and for most of the time they can be caught on a floating line with dries or nymphs. The leader set up is usually washing line with booby on the point and FAB on the top dropper with skinny nymph patterns in between. The typical dry fly setup is daddy on the point with hoppers, midas or beetle on the droppers. The fishing was challenging and the sport was superb with hard fighting fish. Everyone caught fish and no one had a dry net on more than one day. Top rod was John Poote who caught every day and netted a total of14 fish, nearly all caught on dries. Top rod for a single day was Geoff Darby who netted 8 fish on the Wednesday, a new record for Geoff!

As much as we might talk about the fishing, it would be very remiss not to mention the accommodation which is an important part of the annual fishing trip experience.  Ben Dobson had recommended the Clerk Laithe Lodge just on the outskirts of Newton-in-Bowland, with great views down the Hodder valley, and less than 7 miles from the fishery. We took over all 5 rooms of the Lodge which was perfect for us, and the owners, Matthew and Helena Lewis, looked after us royally.  The quality of the food and Helena’s cooking couldn’t be faulted.  Each morning she took our orders for dinner and then put her heart into cooking us exceptional meals for the evening. We could make no better recommendation than to say that, before we left, we made sure we were booked in for next year.