The Fight to save the Fishing at Chew Valley Lake.
Email from Martin Cottis to Members on 7th January 2021
Richard Evershed and Martin Cottis representing the BRFFA met with Ben Newby of Bristol Water on Thursday 3rd seeking clarification of their plans for the future of fishing on Chew Valley Lake.
We received this statement from Bristol Water today after questioning whether fishing will be continuing next season to dispel current rumours.
“We remain committed to ensuring high quality fishing at our lakes. However, having recently performed a review of our Fisheries activities we have concluded that we should explore alternative ways of operating these services through suitable partners.
We are keen to talk to interested parties and the angling community, so if you are interested in providing these services then please contact Ben Newby who is leading this assessment. Ben’s details are email@example.com.
For the avoidance of doubt fishing will continue on our lakes next season for all our customers.”
Bristol Water Plc.
Head Office | Bridgwater Road | Bristol | BS13 7AT | United Kingdom
Taken from Email from Martin Cottis to members on 25th November 2020
Minutes of Steering Group Meeting Tuesday 15th October 2018
Minutes of Steering Group Meeting Wednesday 6th June 2018
Minutes of Steering Group Meeting Wednesday 6th May 2018
Minutes of Steering Group Meeting Thursday 15th February 2018
of Group Meeting Thursday 15th 2018
17th January 2018
A fisheries support group has been set up by Bristol Water. Comprising anglers who represent a range of different interests, the group will provide input and feedback on plans to improve the lakes and the fishing experience. The members will also help to ensure that plans stay on track and that benefits to customers are being delivered.
The Support Group held its first meeting on January 10th and here are the notes of that session.
The next meeting is on February 14th and the topics to be covered will be:
How do we get information out to new comers?
How do we ensure they continue with their interest into fly fishing?
What packages could we offer?
Can we get local anglers to help provide a pathway for newcomers?
(BRFFA is already committed to supporting this scheme and has been identifying volunteers)
Open days/Family days
How many should we host and when?
What should they include and what do they NEED to cover?
What support and volunteers can we provide
If members have any feedback or other ideas please contact us via this webpage or on our Facebook page
December 2017 - Correspondence between Bristol Water Chief Executive, Local MP and BRFFA Chairman
8th December 2017
Bristol Water Fisheries post.
To ensure improvements are made to our sport fishing offering, Bristol Water Fisheries have listed what we believe to be the 5 main areas of improvement for season 2018. During the season, other aspects of our business will be looked at and discussed jointly with BRFFA and the AT. The five changes below, for now, provide a foundation upon which we can move forward together proactively and positively.
1) Continue to improve level of information given to our customers. Stocking data in particular.
- More data in catch reports- water quality, water temps, and algae counts. (start with first catch report in March 2018)
- (Internally) Improvements in recording stocking data. More communication between staff and Operations Manager, Alan Dymock. (effective immediately)
- More online exposure. Pictures of key stocking areas in the height of summer. More stocking videos.
- Invite customers to NEW open days at different times of the year. (1 early season, 1 or 2 mid-season and 1 late season 2018)
2) Do more to encourage beginners (and to return)
- New tuition packages on offer. £60 beginner day £100 beginner package. Talk with local instructors to make sure it works! Look at possibility of training key members of staff or members of local angling groups to GAIA level of instruction. (early discussions with BRFFA and staff required- Start investigating Jan-Feb 2018)
- Family days! With assistance from BRFFA members. Free to do, held throughout the summer season. Cook catch eat possibly? Season 2017 saw a suggested open day on north shore that never materialised due to time constraints. We plan to execute several family days in season 2018, predominately in the summer season. We believe there is an opportunity to net off the jetty area and stuff it full of 1lb-1lb 4oz fish for beginners to catch. We could have a sign posted gutting area for those interested and an area where trout could be simply cooked in different ways. (Possibly something mark w could help with?) (summer 2018)
3) Be more active online.
- Look at possible YouTube blog. Assistance from Nicki brown/ Erik Sebok- (Start March 2018)
- Short stories by our customers- already being implemented. Season ticket on offer as a prize. (Started December 2017)
- Continue picture competition. A success! Highlights why our lakes are special to so many people. (Started early in season 2017)
4) Further investigate customer requirements
- Survey being provided in new year (January 2018) Catch up with BRFFA to discuss findings- Late Jan/Early Feb 2018
- Particular consideration of pricing and possibility of sporting ticket as a trial at Chew Valley Lake.
- Continue club meetings early season and late season. Q & A session at end of meetings.
5) Be more proactive in gaining catch return data and fish movements.
- Ensure staff are persistent in asking for catch data from previous bookings that are highlighted on day of booking. BRFFA to help monitor progress. (effective start of season 2018)
- Investigate tagged trout. (feb 2018)
8th December 2017
Email to club members from Martin Cottis
I said that I would report back on the committee meeting with Bristol Water management team, which was on Monday.
I will start by saying that the meeting was a really positive one and that B.W. have taken heed of many of the aspects that we have been questioning. Present at the meeting were Steve Smith, Alan Dimmock and John Harris, along with Mark Withyman, John Horsey, Andrew Wiles and me. After a brief introduction, Steve outlined a few changes that have happened. Firstly B.W. have a new C.E.O. - Mel Karam, and it seems that much of the change of heart regarding potential lake closures for 2019 is down to Mel. All the B.W. staff seemed to suggest that Mel is much more on the side of fishing at the lakes than the previous C.E.O., and also more of the current board of directors appear to be following Mel’s lead. This is all good news. Steve has also had a change in his overall responsibility as now his “title” is “Community and Lakeside” manager. He explained that this means that he will be three days in head office dealing with the wider community of Bristol Water users (he has responsibility for people struggling to pay bills, and also for bad debtors, to name but two areas) and only two days at the lakes. One other aspect mentioned at this point is that B.W. is now MOSTLY British owned!
Steve, John and Alan emphasised that the fishing still needs much more support, but, that B.W. are going to “put more in” in the next couple of years to see if they can generate more in return. Alan announced that he has 20,000 more fish to go in. John then took over the rest of the meeting with a prepared statement of intent. I will attach his notes below. There are some very positive aspects to all of this and as a committee we agreed with B.W. management that we will work hard to support their positivity. But, it was stressed that many of the changes are, at least to start with small, but we agreed, that in making change, SMALL STEPS are often better than trying to go right into huge changes.
We ended the meeting spending quite some time on working out how to keep hold of the new fishermen and women who attend the beginners’ days on the lakes and then struggle when they hit the water! WE decided that we would ask club members if they would get involved in a “Mentoring scheme”. This would involve an experienced angler being prepared to spend some time with a beginner and show them a few tricks, some areas where there is more chance of catching a fish or two, and basically encouraging the newcomer to keep with it. WE are going to discuss this further as obviously, if club members give up their spare time (which may well be precious) they may need something in return. At this early stage we are looking at maybe asking a mentor to give up one or at most two short sessions a month. We don’t envisage it being whole days or even half days! Once we have decided how this will progress I will compile a list of club anglers who are prepared to take part and the management will then check that list as to suitability. If you think you may be interested please let me know.
Have a look through the attached PDF from John and PLEASE let me have feedback!
Happy Christmas to all club members.
7th December 2017
BRFFA Committee Action Plan 2017-18
We recognise and welcome the opportunity to work directly with Bristol Water to implement changes to fishery management.
We have tried to lead engagement for over a year but have had limited response and no confidence that BW are addressing the underlying issues that have led to a significant drop in angler numbers. At the request of Steve Smith we did produce a report on our ideas for developing the fishery (attached) but few of these were implemented.
The ‘risk mitigation and cost cutting’ mindset that we have seen so far needs to be moderated with fresh emphasis on generating revenue. We now want to drive more constructive engagement with a greater degree of accountability for decisions taken and the information on which they are based.
We therefore propose the following as the basis for early constructive engagement:
1. Formal review group
Establish a formal review group to monitor progress against agreed action points. We suggest quarterly meetings with the actions and progress shared across Bristol Water and the wider angling community in order to provide proper accountability for results and to gather wider inputs.
The group should consider the financial results and forecasts. While some of this is sensitive and would not be subject to wider disclosure, we are sceptical about figures previously provided.
This should include a formal request, through the Angling Trust, for a monthly profit and loss account to be provided in confidence. This would demonstrate the impact of operational changes but also with the considerations of alternative operators or business models.
Such a meeting would improve the perception that BW are open to change and have the longer term future of the fisheries at heart. The current lack of any statements and engagement is damaging that perception.
2. Improved engagement
The BRFFA would take a more proactive role in both promoting the fisheries and in publicizing the work being done and the responses from BW. We should start with a summary of the meetings held to date.
One member of the BW staff has already started a Facebook page gathering feedback from anglers on the sorts of improvements they would like to see. We should build on this, incorporate any new sensible suggestions.
3. Improved Bristol Water promotion
The BW public relations department to be more proactive in promoting the fishery and the sport. We were disappointed that there was, for example,:
no publicity for the Home international fished on Chew in 2017
no recognition for Chew’s 60 birthday last year
Many of our recent responses highlight not only the sporting facilities but also their economic and community benefits. This needs to be reflected in corporate and customer publications.
Consider running family fishing days with free tuition with the Angling Trust and Get Hooked on Fishing.
4. Stocking policy
An accountable and authoritative source of information on stocking levels. Recent information has been vague and intermittent.
A more flexible approach to stocking with weekly stocking from the bank, a more sensible number of fish stocked pre-season and better management of anglers’ expectations.
The current model of growing on fish on-site is not feasible in the longer term. It is very resource intensive and costs could be reduced by buying in fish and redeploying staff (as done at all other major reservoirs).
Also, the maintenance of the infrastructure at Blagdon represents one of the biggest risks to future fisheries viability.
We would like to see an independent validation of the total costs for rearing fish on site versus the costs of buying fish in.
6. Customer service
Online payments in advance to speed up booking in
A more flexible and speedy approach to allocating boat numbers in the morning rush
Making catch return cards, and pens, always available to improve return rates.
A loyalty card system (eg buy 10 boats and get one free) and a monthly draw for a free boat from returned cards. This would improve angler perceptions and deliver more information
Something about the café facilities?
A printed and/or online guide available to anglers to help them with tactics appropriate for Chew and Blagdon?
7. More flexible ticket options
While we appreciate the need to not dilute revenue we would like more consideration of different ticket options, especially at times when the lake is quiet – midweek and evenings.
We would like more flexibility and imagination in selling unused boats rather than leave them idle – even something like “lateboats.com”
8. Management and staff
We appreciate that the current staff do their best with limited support and a range of other pressures.
We are concerned at the lack of genuine fisheries management experience within the team and would like to see inputs from recognized fisheries consultants to advise on more difficult issues
Unlike other major fisheries there is very little actual trout fishing experience or involvement within the ranger team. This helps considerably with customer relations and should be a key part of future recruitments. Training of rangers could be considered.
Improved training could also be made available.
9. Season opening times
Opening a month earlier and closing a month later would certainly increase revenue at times when the lakes are often fishing at their best.
Consider approaching English Nature to see if there is any flexibility in extending the season.
10. Financial Aspects
The fishery needs some financial support from BW HQ to help reverse the decline in attendance, restore reputation and win back confidence in the angling community:
Advertising – Online, magazine, PPC Campaigns, Email
Offers and inducements
A cost base review to determine if BW are paying a fair market rate for their products and services – for example, £6k to host and maintain a content managed website seems exorbitant
BW should look to the angling communities’ knowledge base to consult on areas outside their own expertise – for example to develop/ acquire software such as online booking and payment systems. We are confident there would be many suitably qualified in the angling community to provide help.
11. Catchment Management
Consider working with the local rivers trust in a partnership initiative to reduce nutrient and pesticide inputs to the waters from poor farming practice and private sewerage facilities. Some funding from Bristol Water could be leveraged with funds from environmental grants schemes to create a much more comprehensive package. This might reduce algal blooms, weed growth and fly life declines, as well as the obvious benefits to water treatment costs.
12. Rebuild reputation
It is important that BW recognize the reputational damage that has been done to the fly fishing on their waters. If this action plan begins to be implemented we see the opportunity for a “relaunch” of the fisheries at the opening of the season. This could highlight the improvements planned and would, importantly, demonstrate that BW are listening to their customers and are serious about the future success.
1st December 2017
Post from the BRFFA committee.
THE FIGHT TO SAVE CHEW AND BLAGDON IS ON
Members will be aware of the Bristol Water plans to cut back on trout fishing at Chew.
Steve Smith addressed a meeting of members earlier this year. Since then, the committee have been trying to drive further constructive engagement with Bristol Water. We produced an action plan in the Spring which we hoped would stimulate further activity, but only some minor points were ever considered.
At a meeting with the committee in November Steve Smith further outlined his plans for the virtual closure of Chew to trout fishing and significant changes at Blagdon. We felt these had not taken account of the potential for the waters, nor did they properly address many of the perceived shortcomings in how the lakes have been run
As the committee did not feel that our ideas, and the wishes of the wider angling community, had been properly considered, we decided on some more positive actions.
We approached the Angling Trust and their CEO Mark Lloyd for support and a meeting was set up with local MP Jacob Rees-Mogg. Correspondence with the BW Chief Executive and a further meeting with Steve Smith took place. This pressure resulted in the BW Board rejecting the proposals for Chew and Blagdon and deferring any future decisions for another 12 months to the end of 2019.
We are now looking to keep up the momentum and press BW to undertake some positive improvements to the fishing, service and facilities around the lakes.
The Angling Trust put out a press release which has got interest from the angling and some local media. We have now produced our own press release to keep the story alive and we hope for more coverage in the angling mags and Somerset and Bristol papers.
The BRFFA committee have now produced a further, detailed action plan. Angling Trust have set up a further meeting with BW in mid-December at which this plan and proposals from the fisheries team will be reviewed.
We will keep members up to date with further updates as they emerge.
Post by Bristol Water dated 1st December 2017
Moving forward positively into season 2018
Well season 2017 has now come to an end and all of our team here at BW fisheries would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued support.
An end of season report will be published in due course but please understand that work never ends and our main focus for the next week or two will be getting all 2018 information published and out to our customers.
It would be fair to say that it has, yet again, been a testing season for many reasons. There have been lots of rumours of closure of lakes but we are pleased to clarify that it is business as usual and we are looking forward to 2018 commencing.
We understand some customers feel that they have not been heard over recent seasons and as a result we look forward to improving our communication with the angling community over the coming season. This will start with an online survey which will be published in January for our angling community to complete. We urge all of our customers to complete this survey as honestly and accurately as possible. We are hopeful that results gained from this survey will give us a better insight into the demands of our customers. Ticket offerings and prices will be released in a few days’ time, but we would like to be clear that these are subject to change/alteration should feedback suggest this is required. Of course alterations will also need to be financially viable to be implemented.
As well as the online survey, continually we will make extra effort to engage with important stakeholders such as local angling groups and national bodies to determine what changes are to be implemented. Over the coming months our Fisheries and Recreations Officer, John Harris and our Operations Manager, Alan Dymock plan to meet with some of these important stakeholders to give a more detailed summary of some of the daily challenges we face. We hope that this will give some clarity on what changes are possible and which are not.
We also plan to engage more with our anglers and will be hosting several site visits throughout the season. This will include inviting anglers to our fish farm and stocking areas to show them what work goes on ‘behind the scenes’ as well as provide them with some clarity on some of the issues we face on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.
Key to season 2018 we are planning to make an extra effort to encourage newcomers to the sport. This will include new special rate beginner ‘packages’ as well as family days. We hope that this will encourage beginners and family’s to not only try fly fishing but also help them to progress to fishing on our waters. We plan to work alongside our local instructors to make sure that this new offering gets off to the right start!
The above are just a few things we are planning to do in the coming season. We do hope that the angling community can support us and we look forward to building a better relationship with our customers in season 2018.
To finish please take some time to have a quick look at the photos that are attached. These are a collation of photos throughout the season that really go some way to remind us all just how special the lakes are.
13th November 2017
1st December 2017