Fishing has been a part of my life from an early age. My Dad introduced me to angling and I quickly developed a passion for not only being out on the water fishing, but being outdoors. I have a fascination for catching different species of fish on lures or flies, and I’m as happy exploring the tiniest of streams as I am being out on the open ocean. I’ve been very fortunate to have travelled to some spectacular destinations, both here in the UK and abroad, trying to catch as many species as possible. So far, I’ve caught 228 species.

I work for Farlows fishing, shooting and country clothing store in London, and I’m a Consultant for Fox Rage and Salmo lures. I’m also an Ambassador for the Angling Trust and have fished for England in two disciplines - the England Youth Fly Fishing Team and the Team England Lure Squad.

Through fishing I’ve met some great people and seen some amazing wildlife and scenery, and I’d like to share some of my experiences through my blog...

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

End of season reservoir and river Perch

I like to think of March as a month of two halves. The first couple of weeks I normally try to pack in as much fishing as possible before the river coarse season closes, and then the last couple of weeks are spent catching up with things, one of them being my blog! It was an extremely tough end to the season on the rivers I fished (although both my Dad and I caught some nice fish in the end), but before I talk about that, I should reflect on some great reservoir fishing I had at the beginning of this year.

January can be bitterly cold and bleak on a big expanse of water, but after not getting out on a reservoir since mid November, Dad and I were keen to kick start 2019 on a reservoir, if the conditions were calm. Luckily, January 2nd was forecast to be exactly that, and we headed to Grafham to target Zander and Perch. We couldn’t believe how low the water levels were - they were so low, that the harbour was bone dry, and the four boats on the water were being kept on a buoy chain almost in the middle of the reservoir!

The last half of 2018 was very mild and we were hoping the fish hadn’t moved in to water that was too deep, as we don't like fishing too deep for Perch and Zander. We headed to an area where we’d caught some nice Perch and Zander in the latter half of last year, and we were pleasantly surprised when some large arcs started showing on the sonar in around 16ft of water. We set up a drift over them, and shortly after, I had my first fish of 2019 in the net - a Perch of 2lb 12oz!

However, that was just the start. Jigging 11cm Slick Shads and 10cm Zander Pro Shads, both in the Ruffe colour, fish of 2lb 8oz, 2lb 11oz, 3lb, 3lb 1oz and and 3lb 8oz followed.

An important factor to take in to account is the size of lure, and after one of our Perch coughed up a smaller Perch, we knew we'd found the right size of shad.

The days go frustratingly quickly in January though, not only because the days are so short, but this year, because the harbour was out of action, the wardens needed longer to prepare the boats for the next day, so by 2.45pm we were back at the dock unloading the gear.

We were absolutely raring to go back, so a boat was quickly booked for my next free day. That morning, we drove up to Grafham, but just before reaching the roundabout on the A1 where you turn off to go to the reservoir, I had a call from the lodge saying their boats had become unchained from the buoy during high winds the night before and were floating all around the reservoir, and a couple of them had flipped over, so they told us we couldn’t go out on a boat and would have to drive on to eiter Rutland or Pitsford. Not wanting to waste the day, we made a split second decision to go to Rutland. We were gutted as we had been so looking forward to returning, and to cut a long story short, the rest of the day turned out to be a bit of a nightmare!

Another few days passed before I had the opportunity to go back again. The fishing was made difficult by stronger winds than were actually forecast, which limited us to certain areas of the reservoir to fish, although I did manage to catch a Perch of 3lb 1oz.

Despite only boating one fish, we were still confident that there were quite a few fish in the areas, as we had seen quite a few arcs on the fishfinder there, but weren’t able to fish properly due to the choppy conditions.

The next trip was exactly what we needed - almost flat calm conditions. We started in the area where we had found the fish on the last trip, but after a slow start with no bites and hardly seeing anything on the fishfinder, we decided to move to an area of the reservoir I had caught a nice Perch the week before. Whilst motoring along, I spotted a big group of sizeable fish on the sidescan, so Dad and I set up a short drift over them.

Casting 11cm Slick Shads in Ruffe, the first drift produced a Perch of 2lb 15oz, then on the second, I hooked in to this 4lb'er (46.5cm) - so stopping for a quick drift turned out to be a good call!

Later on that day, Dad managed to land a 44cm stripey, which was quickly followed by a Pike.

There was time for one last trip before the season on the reservoirs closed. It was a much tougher trip although Dad did catch two good Perch. The first took the ever-reliable Slick Shad, and the last fish was caught on a 12cm Zander Pro Shad in the new UV Pearl colour.

I really enjoyed those few trips on the reservoirs, but with just six weeks left of the river coarse season, we were now eager to switch back to rivers, and make the most of the remaining time we had. On our first trip back on the rivers, recent snowmelt had caused them to colour up - not exactly ideal conditions. In the past though, when the rivers have been high and coloured, we've often picked up some nice Chub on lures, so as neither of us had caught a Chub for a while, we decided to make them our target. We had one bite all day between two of us fishing, but at least Dad's fish was a nice one!

Over the coming days the rivers fined down and eventually became crystal clear. I often mention that my local rivers are not the easiest places to catch Perch, and over the years it has become progressively harder, but none of the previous seasons compared to how difficult the end of last season was. We had to keep trying different tactics and lures to save us from blanking, and before the heavy rain coloured the rivers up during the last week of the season, we often had to scale down to tiny softbaits to get any bites at all. Despite their small size though, the 5cm Micro Tiddler Fast in Stickleback, fished on a drop shot rig, was not only a blank saver, but helped my Dad catch this 3lb 13oz (46cm) Perch, which just goes to show that even small lures can catch good fish!

He also managed to catch a couple of nice Chub whilst targeting Perch.

For a change from the rivers, we decided to have a day targeting Pike on a gravel pit, and although we didn’t catch anything large, we had some great sport, banking 12 Pike on a variety of lures.

I had the last three days of the season off work, but I could see the weather was going to be wet and wild, and it certainly was! It brought with it a lot of rain, colouring up the rivers, which we actually thought would be a good thing after a couple of months of almost crystal clear water, but with it came some seriously strong winds. On the first afternoon of fishing, downstream gusts to nearly 50mph made fishing jigs extremely difficult, so we both switched to using crankbaits, so we could feel the lures working properly.

It turned out to be a good move - within a few casts this 3lb 4oz Perch nailed a Salmo Sparky Shad, fished on a twitch and pause retrieve. It was shortly followed by another nice Perch for my Dad, which took a 4.5cm Rattlin' Hornet.

The penultimate day of the season was a bit of a disaster for us - despite fishing for most of the day, we hooked three fish but didn't land any! We just had to hope the last day would be kinder to us…

On the last day of the season, we planned to spend the morning targeting Chub, before moving on to Perch in the afternoon. Within a few casts my Dad thought he’d hooked a stick, and as he brought his suspected ‘stick’ up to the surface, it actually turned out to be a very big Chub! The fish then woke up from it’s otherwise dormant state, shook it’s head and the creature bait came flying out of it’s mouth. Normally, I find Chub absolutely slam lures, especially in coloured water, so Dad was very unlucky, as we both think that if he’d have had a ‘proper’ bite, he would have struck properly and not half-heartedly when he first thought it was a stick, getting a better hook set. It was a frustrating start the day, and we were praying for our luck to change. Another bite quickly followed from the same swim, but this turned out to be a Pike, which took a Salmo Bullhead.

By 3pm, with the exception of another jack Pike, they were the only two bites we’d had all day. The wind had been relentless, so out of curiosity, we decided to try an area of river I’d only caught small Perch from before, but was fairly sheltered from the gale force gusts. Within three casts of arriving, a big Perch followed in my sinking 4cm Salmo Hornet. I paused the crankbait, watched the Perch circle it, and then suck it in - the most exciting take I’ve had from a Perch this year so far! It weighed 3lb 2oz, and would be my last fish of the river season.

Since the end of the season, Dad and I have been mostly preparing for targeting a fish we've had on our bucket list for a long time, so we're crossing our fingers all the planning and preparation pays off!

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Cranking it up for Pike, Perch and Zander on reservoirs

Happy New Year! Instead of a summary of the whole of 2018, this blog post is about my fishing from around September last year onwards, which I haven’t got round to writing about - until now!

A few days before the beginning of the lure fishing season on the midlands reservoirs, Dad and I had a trip to Grafham flyfishing for predators. We had a slow start, but by the end of the day, that had completely changed. I had a great day, managing a ‘Grafham Grand Slam’ as we like to call it, with some good Pike, Perch and Zander.

I really enjoyed my reservoir fishing last Autumn. Although I’ve fished the midlands reservoirs for quite a few seasons now, September and October 2018 were an eye opening couple of months for me and Dad, mainly because we approached them slightly differently to previous years, and the results were very interesting. Over the last few years Dad and I have spent much of our time flyfishing in shallower water than previously, so when the lure fishing season opened, we decided to concentrate on fishing in depths between 6ft and 18ft, which is relatively shallow water compared to the average depths many anglers fish on the reservoirs.

Whilst I spent most of my time fishing shads on a straight retrieve, which was very effective, resulting in some nice Pike, Perch and Zander, Dad decided to concentrate most of his time fishing crankbaits, and we were really impressed with how well they worked. He tried a few different crankbaits but the 6cm Salmo Hornet, fished either with a straight or erratic retrieve, stole the show, helping him catch a good number Perch (with many over the 3lb mark), Pike and a very nice Zander.

On virtually every trip we fished on a reservoir, he always managed to catch at least one fish on the Hornet, normally of a decent size, and on some of the days he outfished me whilst I was persevering with softbaits!

As well as the 6cm Hornet, the 11cm Slick Shad and 12cm Zander Pro Shad, both in the Ruffe colour, worked well on a straight retrieve, and jigging, for all three species - including a 10lb 13oz Bream which took a Slick Shad Dad was fishing!

The Slick Shad in particular seemed to work well for the Zander. On one trip, we were fishing in around 14ft of water at the time and Dad made a long cast, and soon after he began a straight retrieve, he had a savage take, resulting in his 30th 10lb+ Zander from Grafham.

If we were targeting Pike, the tried and trusted Replicants helped us catch a few nice fish, especially in the new super natural colours, and the 18cm Pro Shad worked well too.

In the second week of November, we’d planned a trip to Wales to visit family, and as they live very close to the River Taff, Dad and I couldn’t help but think about venturing down to the river for a few hours flyfishing for Grayling. We hadn’t fished for Grayling for a while and on our last few visits we’d been unlucky as the river had been unfishable due to heavy rain, so we were crossing our fingers on this occasion that our luck would change. The river wasn’t perfect, but it was just about fishable and the water levels were dropping, which was good news as we’d be able to wade.

We set up our 5wts and ventured along the river until we found some slack areas to fish, as the current was still very strong, and 10 minutes later I hooked in to my first Grayling of the day, a fish of around 1lb 8oz. After releasing that fish I had another take in the same pool, which I missed. I cast back and then hooked in to a much better fish, which managed to swim in to the main current of the river and gave me a nerve wracking fight. When the fish came close to the net I was amazed to see how long it was, and I could see it was going to comfortably beat my P.B! I wish I had measured it, but in my excitement, I forgot - although I did weight it and it was 2lb 7oz.

We didn’t have any more bites in that spot, but we ventured further on downstream, and over the course of the day we landed another 17 Grayling to just over 2lb, plus a couple of bonus Trout. I really wish we had a similar kind of river to the Taff closer to home, as the fishing is very addictive. The flies that worked best for us were Dirty Pink Shrimps, Duracell Jigs, and some home-tied Gold Bead Hares Ears.

When we got back home, as we had a busy few weeks coming up and couldn’t really fish full days, we decided to have a few short trips targeting Perch on our local rivers. My local venues seem to be becoming more and more difficult each year, but we persevered, often only having one or two bites a trip, and my Dad managed to bank a couple of nice stripeys, mainly on the Rage Pro Grub in 8cm, and the Fish Snax Mini Fry. Both of these soft baits are perfect for rigging on a 2/0 offset hook for fishing on an offset jighead, or a cheb rig, as many of the areas we fish are very snaggy.

The Pro Grub has continued to be effective. At the beginning of December, we had a trip testing out a couple of new lure rods for Rage, and when we pulled up and got out of the car, Dad said to me 'it would be nice if one of us could catch a 4lb+ Perch today'. About an hour or so later I had a good take, which at first I thought was a Pike, but it took me by surprise when I saw it was a good Perch, and I was very relieved when I slipped it in to the net! For a Perch weighing 4lb 1oz, it was a relatively short but very chunky fish, and my second biggest of the year!

With the conditions looking so good I thought we might end up catching a few more nice fish, but after releasing that Perch, we had just two more bites, one from a Perch of around 12oz, and a jack Pike. Still, I was very chuffed with the fish from earlier on! The fishing continued to be slow leading up to Christmas, but thankfully, that changed with the arrival of the festive season!

Dad and I enjoyed a few hours fishing over the Christmas period, starting on Christmas Eve. It was a last minute decision to fish that afternoon after a busy morning, but with just an hour and a half of light to spare, we hopped in the car and dashed to an area we felt at least one of us would have a chance of a big Perch. It also gave me the chance to try out the 8cm Pro Grub in the new Super Natural Zander colour, which I hadn’t got round to trying yet. The colour also looks very much like a Minnow, one of the main prey fish for Perch in my local rivers. It didn’t disappoint - I had one delicate tap, set the hook, and minutes later I was unhooking a Perch of 3lb 5oz - an early Christmas present! Dad also landed a nice Perch fractionally under the 3lb mark.

Over the years Dad and I have made it a tradition to fish on Christmas morning, even if it’s just for an hour or two. We’ve had some great and unusual experiences whilst fishing on Christmas Day in the past, especially on holidays abroad. In 2009 I hooked a Caiman whilst flyfishing in Costa Rica, and the Christmas before last, whilst in Sri Lanka, Dad hooked a huge Crocodile on his LRF set-up! But we’ve also caught some nice fish on Christmas Day too - a few years ago Dad landed a brace of Perch, both weighing 3lb 5oz in a couple of hours fishing, just before returning for Christmas dinner!

This year, Dad and I decided to have a friendly match against each other on a different river close to home, early in the morning so we could be home for family coming round early afternoon. We decided at the start it would be on numbers of fish, instead of wasting time measuring them, as we only had a couple of hours to fish. The first hour was really slow and neither of us had a single bite, but in the last hour we both managed to catch four fish each (five Pike and three Perch), resulting in a draw!

Anyway, I’m looking forward to this year and seeing what it has to bring. I hope you have a good one - all the best for 2019!