History of Lymmvale by Mike Wilkinson

In the early 1970’s Lymm Angling Club purchased an ex-quarry in Whitegate, Cheshire that was run by Lymm stalwart John Stubb’s uncle; Stan Lewis.  The purchase was granted aided by the Sports Council whom met half the costs, at the time it was thought to be something of risk as the water was very acidic, too much in fact to support healthy populations of fish, although at the time some perch were present in the water.

Mike Wilkinson and John Stubbs at the Vale in 2006

The water was apparently drained down, the perch removed and then treated with hundreds of tonnes of limestone to adjust the pH, the exercise was successful and the pH was raised to a neutral level of around 7.0 to 7.5, this is where it has remained ever since.

Lymmvale in the early – mid 80’s from Point Swim

An original depth Map from 1976

By the time the water received its first fish around 1973/74, which were Trout; as it was used initially as a fly only trout water, it was named Lymmvale.   The first coarse fish were stocked around 1974, these were golden orfe, they were stocked as ‘test’ fish as much as anything as they are very susceptible to any change in pH levels and need a neutral pH to survive healthily; which is what they did and went on to make Lymmvale famous throughout the Country for its huge shoals of specimen orfe.  You see not only did they survive they soon started to breed successfully and grew at astonishing rates, to the point where the British Record was achieved by the early eighties with several fish reaching the 4lb barrier.

Mike with a 5lb 12oz Orfe in 2003

Before that ‘The Vale’ received its first stocks of tench, these fish came from a water on the Woburn Abbey Estate around 1976-78 and the water was fished as a coarse water from then on, except in the ‘old closed season’, which is when the water was still fished for trout.  In the early eighties ‘The Vale’ received further stockings of tench as well as its first stockings of barbel , chub and a few eels from salmon stretches of rivers like the Teme and Severn; a practice that was allowed in those days by the authorities.  Throughout the eighties several more stockings of tench from various sources took place and further smaller stockings of chub and barbel followed too.

A 10lb 5oz Tench caught in 2003

Such was the success of the orfe by this time the water appeared orange at times as there were simply thousands of them, by the end of the eighties some orfe were easily exceeding the 5lb mark; the Record around 1990 was just shy of 6lb’s.

Golden Orfe 7lb 4oz caught in 1999

Going back to 1982, this was the year when ‘The Vale’ received its first carp via illegal means.  During this year another Lymm water; Whitley Pool was polluted and 11 carp between 15lb & 18lb were rescued and placed in the trout holding nets at Lymmvale.  Not long after this a member got the boat out of the boathouse and took it upon himself to free these fish from the nets; he was caught and expelled from the Club receiving a lifetime ban.  ‘The Vale’ now had its first carp; these fish received no further companions until 1996 when 24 doubles were stocked from Founders Pool, these fish were between 11lb and 14lb and all in pristine condition;  three wels catfish of 9lb, 10lb 14oz and 12lb 6oz were stocked at the same time along with four 3lb bream from the same water.  Following these stockings around a dozen ghost carp between 2lb and 14lb 10oz were stocked from Horseshoe Pool on the Antrobus Golf Course during the same year.  In 1997 approximately 150 small heavily scaled mirror carp were stocked, the survivors of this stocking are now being caught at between 18lb and 26lb+, but this stocking was thought by many to be one stocking too many as far as carp numbers were concerned.

24lb 7oz fully scaled – 2009

A 21lb 11oz Ghostie – 2006

‘Nessie’ at 22lb 4oz in 2007 sadly no longer with us.

Other significant stockings included;

94 1lb to 3lb chub again from Horseshoe Pool in 1994; these fish went on to achieve massive weights of over 7lb and some touching the 8lb mark.  500 further small chub up to 1lb+ were then stocked over a three year period between 2004 and 2007.

A 7lb Chub – 2003

A 7lb 4oz Chub – 2005

Small numbers of golden tench were stocked sporadically from around 1994 and some of these have grown on impressively, with several specimens exceeding 6lb’s and the largest caught being 8lb 15oz.

A 7lb 12oz Golden Tench – 2003

In 1996 approximately 2000-2500 juvenile tench and 100+ rudd were stocked from the Stockpond after a fish rescue operation after low oxygen levels during a very hot summer.

In May 2001 14 large orfe were stocked between weights of 3lb 1oz and 8lb 15oz along with 24 rudd between 1lb 6oz and 2lb 10oz; these fish were from a private water that had never been fished.

In December 2006 2 further catfish of 12lb 6oz and 27lb 5oz were stocked from New Pool; a water we have just regained fishing rights for.

A 31lb 8oz Catfish – 2007

A 40lb Catfish – 2009

A 55lb 4oz Catfish – 2008

Even though ‘The Vale’ has long been the Club’s ‘jewel’ it hasn’t been without its problems; in the early nineties the water was decimated by a huge influx of cormorants, hundreds of small orfe and tench to 3lb’s were wiped out, annual catch return totals of 8-10,000 fish a season fell to around 1500-2000 within just a few years.  Although this was extremely traumatic at the time, it was the catalyst that turned Lymmvale in to the specimen water it is now, before that it was simply a fantastic pleasure water with the only “specimen” sized fish being the orfe.

The annual stockings of trout also held back the growth rates of the fish in Lymmvale, right up to 1998, the large numbers of trout used gorge on the natural food leaving little else for the coarse fish. When those stockings ceased the natural food larder recovered and the growth rates of the fish, in particular the tench and chub improved almost over night so to speak.

2000-2005 were ‘The Vale’s’ glory years, in this time, numbers of huge tench were caught, at its peak there were around 5 or 6 different double figure tench in ‘The Vale’, the biggest caught being 11lb 8oz.  Around 2002-2003 there were huge numbers of massive chub getting caught, one three month spell in 2003 produced no fewer than at least 15 different 7lb+ chub to various regulars targeting them, the biggest caught being the following year at 8lb 1oz.

Another Lymmvale Tench at 11lb 2oz – 2004

Due to the increase of carp numbers the size of the tench getting caught started to suffer and from 2006 the water began a slow but steady decline; compared to the glory years just experienced.

In 2008 the water was dealt a major blow in the way of an outbreak of gill maggot, around 100 quality fish of most species were lost; since then the water had been moody; however in 2010-2011 the water began to fish more like its old self.  In a bid to address the balance of species and improve the health and growth of the tench approximately 50 double figure carp were removed in 2010 following on from around 10 that were removed before the gill maggot problems.

Since these removals the remaining carp have grown on impressively and there have been encouraging numbers of 7-9lb tench caught again, although large catches of tench have been few and far between it looks promising for ‘The Vale’ to once again produce double figure tench.

Help for Heroes Tench Fish-In Tench 8lb 7oz – 2012

Through all these problems one species that has kept growing regardless has been the catfish, all were at new top weights in 20011; the largest being 62lb 0oz and other two ‘originals’ being caught at 40lb+, 39lb+.

Although on the whole 2011 was a productive year for anglers targeting the Vale it did suffer from a couple of significant losses, two of its famous resident ghost carp; Rocky (top weight 28lb) and Nessie (top weight 27lb) passed away along with a mirror of 26lb+.  The water is also currently experiencing low water levels as are many other waters across the county; this has been a contributing factor to the amount of weed growth last year; its something that has occurred before in the Vale’s past and its always returned to normal eventually, fingers crossed that it will again.

Nessie one of the Vales most popular Ghosties

I am still quite confident that with just a little help from us Lymmvale will once again rediscover those glory years experienced at the beginning of the new millennium, it’s evolved and done it before so I’m certain it can do it again.

Mike Wilkinson.

3 thoughts on “History of Lymmvale by Mike Wilkinson

  1. Great read Mike, brings back some super memories. I fished ‘the vale’ from 2002 to 2007 and will always treasure the time spent on the water, it’s characters and the massive fish I caught.

    I have since moved on to other waters, producing increasingly massive fish; so it is unlikely I will every fish the water again – but you never know!!!

  2. thank you for such an interesting article as i,am joining lymm this year and look forward to fishing this special place

  3. Very interesting read, Mike. I fished the Vale regularly, mainly for the carp, between about 1998 and 2006, the “Golden Years” as you refer to them. I absolutely fell in love with the place. I fish other waters now, some with bigger fish, but no water has captured my heart like the Vale did. A truly special water. Sad to hear of it’s decline, but I’m sure it’s still as beautiful and enigmatic.

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