Over 100 years of fishing at the lakes

Our lakes aren’t just for holding raw water, we’ve some world famous fishing too!

You already know we provide clean water to your home and all of those around you, and you probably already know that we service 1.2 million homes, not only within the city of Bristol but a wide area around it too. Yep, our service area stretches west to the shores of the murky Bristol Channel, down south to the outskirts of Bath and north into South Gloucestershire too. If you’re really keen, you might also know that we’ve been around since 1846 and actually, we’re one of the oldest water companies in the UK. But, did you know that we also have a rich history in providing world class fishing?

Anglers will tell you that what they do is simply about ‘catching fish’. Its physical and mental wellbeing benefits are well documented and perhaps more important now than ever before! Our lakes have a rich history in providing exceptional fishing with their plentiful stocks and peaceful surroundings. It’s no wonder customers visit our lakes from all around the world to come fishing.

old photo of a man with hat and coat holding a net full of trout

Fishing has been a part of Bristol Water for almost as long as Bristol Water itself. That’s a pretty long time. Just 58 years after we first began, in 1904, locals started seeing some truly monstrous wild trout leaping from the water at Blagdon lake. Wild fish that many anglers can only ever dream of catching. These fish came from the River Yeo when it was dammed to create the lake. Trialled fishing started and it soon became apparent how special the lake would come to be for anglers from all corners of the world.  Back then, anglers were catching wild brown trout up to 4lb 13oz which, if you know anything about fish, is more than a little impressive!

Anglers had the choice to either fish from the shores of the lake or hire a boat with a ‘ghillie’ to join them on the water. We charged 10 shillings for a day’s fishing – equivalent to around £6.50 today. Bargain!

The same year Ubley hatchery was born, rearing brown trout fingerlings to stock the lake. Back then, fish feed was expensive and difficult to source. Instead a dried ground liver was used to fatten the fish up! Since then the fish farm has grown and migrated to Blagdon pumping station where our team rear over 80,000 stocking sized rainbow and brown trout each year.

In the early years, Blagdon trout became world famous pretty quickly and in 1906, a shipment of ova (fish eggs) was sent to New Zealand to help populate lakes and rivers on the South Island there. These eggs took an arduous  three week voyage on the steamship SS Maori, protected in Sphagnum moss which was collected from the Mendips  nearby. Eggs were kept in crates known as ‘howietown’ crates and it was the ship’s Chief Engineers’ responsibility to look after thi precious cargo during the voyage. To do so, he would place ice over the trays to keep the ova at the required temperature and remove any damaged eggs daily. Keeping the eggs cool and protected was vital to ensure they made the arduous voyage.

Many previous attempts to transport eggs had been met with failure so, on arrival to the South Islands with 85% of the eggs ready to go, the Chief Engineer was awarded £5.00 by the Chairman, a very handsome bonus back then! Over 8,000 of these eggs hatched at Opaho hatchery and subsequently went on to populate many of New Zealand’s waterways with our famous brown trout! Today, New Zealand has arguably the best wild brown trout fishing in the world!

old photo of a man picking trout eggs

Back on British soils things progressed swiftly with hordes of anglers arriving to get in on the action at Blagdon Lake. Many would travel to Blagdon using the nearby train that brought coal and supplies into the pumping station just a stones throw from the fishing lodge, a timber framed building completed with a thatched roof and built around 1924. Today, the building looks very similar but rest assured, it’s a little more modern in its construction!

Since then, fishing at Blagdon lake has gone from strength to strength and increasingly the sport has become more and more accessible for the community to get involved in.

swimming trout

If you’re interested in fishing at Blagdon Lake, or any of our other waters why not give one of our tuition days a go? You don’t need to bring anything other than suitable clothing, a hat and glasses. We supply all of the equipment and licences and our qualified instructor will go through all of the fundamentals to get you going. We even give you the opportunity to get out on the water in one of our famous fishing boats to put what you’ve learnt into practice!

Check out our website here or drop our lakeside team a call to find out more on 01275 332339.