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...

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

A spring and summer summary!


I can't believe, apart from writing about my Canada trip, the last time I updated this blog was in March! The time has flown by and I'm definitely going to try to not let it go this long again, so this is a summary of my spring and summer fishing.

My spring fishing started with a couple of trips targeting Zander on the Grand Union Canal. Dad and I were both looking forward to fishing for Zander for the first time this year, but when we arrived for our first afternoon, we bumped in to a local angler who told us it had been electrofished the week before to remove the Zander - not the news we wanted to hear. I did catch a zed on my fifth cast of the session, and another later on, but it wasn't like it used to be. Thankfully a couple of nice Perch put in an appearance and made up for the lack of Zander. Most of our fish were caught on the Fish Snax Mini Fry or Micro Grub.

 

Once the Pike and Perch had finished spawning and been given a good rest, we had a few trips fishing gravel pits. We’d joined a new venue last year which we hadn’t got around to trying much, so we thought we’d explore this. We’d heard rumours of some very big Perch being caught there accidentally by Carp anglers, so we were keen to give it a try. On our first trip we had very little action, but towards the end of the day my Dad had a very subtle bite whilst his 7cm Zander Pro Shad  was falling to the bottom. He struck and hooked at first what we thought was a Pike, but as it came up to the surface we both had quite a shock as it revealed itself to be an enormous Brown Trout! It thrashed about on the surface, and then, disaster - it threw the hook. We were both gutted - it would have been an extremely unusual capture from this particular gravel pit, and we both think it was somewhere around the 10lb mark - if not, bigger.

Over the course of a few trips on the pits, we mixed up our fishing between targeting Perch and Pike (and hoping one of us would hook in to another monster Brown Trout!). Jerk baits are a favourite of ours in late spring and the 7cm, 10cm and 12cm Salmo Sliders and 14cm Salmo Sweeper caught us some nice Pike, fished on a twitch and pause retrieve. The Salmo Hornet also worked well earlier in the year, and has been deadly recently on big reservoirs, which I'll talk about in my next blog post.




As the warmer weather started to finally put in an appearance after what had been a pretty grim winter, we fancied having a couple of trips stalking Carp on the fly. We had our eyes on a small but difficult gravel pit that I’d never fished before, but which my Dad used to regularly fish for Carp - however, he hadn’t fished it for over 25 years! On his very first cast, we couldn’t believe it as a very big Carp came up and took his fly, which we think was over 30lb, but unfortunately, it ran straight over a high gravel bar and cut the leader. Dad was gutted - what a return that would have been! After persevering for another couple of hours, I managed to hook one and bully it away from the bar, which was a nice Common of around 17lb.


Things slowed up a bit from there, so we decided to stop off on a lake on the way home, where Dad managed to save himself from a blank with a nice double.

We had one more trip flyfishing for Carp, but it was another tough day because of a chilly northerly wind, but Dad did catch a nice 19lb’er.


By mid May it was time to head to one of my favourite reservoirs and flyfish for the Zander. It’s something that my Dad and I always look forward to, and using floating and intermediate lines, we had some great sport fishing around the weedbeds, with one evening producing 19 up to nearly 10lb. At times there were double hookups and Dad managed to capture a shot of when the fish were really switched on, with me playing a Zander and him playing one with the rod in his left hand, whilst holding the camera in the right! A few nice Perch and Pike put in an appearance too.




Over the course of the month, the water temperatures rose and it became what we consider too warm for targeting Zander in the reservoirs. Thankfully, this coincided with June 16th and the opening of the river season, which was perfect timing as we were really looking forward to targeting Chub with some of the Salmo crank baits, especially the Salmo Lil’ Bug. The Lil’ Bug is a small, cylinder-shaped wake bait that looks a lot like a beetle, and I’d heard it had been deadly for Chub for some of the Salmo guys last season, so we could’t wait to give it a swim.

On the morning of June 16th, we came across a shoal of Chub on a gravel run and it was the perfect opportunity. We decided Dad would have the first shot and on his very first cast, as he swum the Lil’ Bug in front of a fish, it came up and absolutely annihilated it!


That was to be the first of many Chub we’d go on to land this summer on the Lil’ Bug, and some of the takes have been awesome to watch! Along with the Lil’ Bug, the 4cm Hornet and 5cm Minnow have also caught us a few rubber lips.







In the summer of 2017, we spent a lot of our fishing time targeting Barbel on lures, which was a huge learning curve for us and a real eye-opener, as we managed to stalk some fantastic fish on creature baits. We were both really keen to replicate our success last summer this summer, although we knew it wouldn’t be easy as Barbel are a lot harder to catch on lures than Chub! We visited some of the stretches of river that were successful for us last season, but this year, the bankside vegetation was extremely thick, and the river was much weedier, which made spotting Barbel difficult. Thankfully, perseverance paid off and after a few unsuccessful trips, we managed to catch two in the same day, both on creature baits.



Whilst targeting the Chub and Barbel with softbaits, we’ve also picked up the occasional bonus species. On one afternoon stalking Chub, I spotted a couple of nice fish and made a cast to them, but this greedy Brownie beat them to the lure! Whilst in the net it coughed up three Minnows, which turned out to be very similar in size and colour to the Micro Grub it had just taken.



On another trip, I spotted a very good Chub under some reeds and made a cast to it. I watched the Chub rush towards the lure, felt a take, then hooked in to what I thought was the Chub, but instead this Perch had beaten it to the lure!


It's surprising how willing a Carp can be to take a lure at times. Over the past few years I've caught them on a variety of different soft baits, and on our last trip targeting Chub and Barbel, I managed to make a good cast to this Common, with the creature bait landing just a few inches in front of it’s nose. Sometimes they spook, but this one tilted down and hoovered up the lure!


I haven’t fished on any rivers since the beginning of September, having concentrated on fishing reservoirs since they opened up on September 1st. Dad and I had a great summer, and although I will miss the warmer weather, there’s a lot to look forward to in the coming months!

Monday, 13 August 2018

Exploring Ontario and Québec's fantastic fishing!


As a mad keen lure and fly fisherman, I’ve learnt a lot from reading and watching how American and Canadian anglers target Bass, Walleye, Yellow Perch, Pike and Musky - species very similar to our predators here in the UK. I’ve been lucky enough to fish in Florida a few times for Largemouth Bass, but for years my Dad and I have talked about organising a trip to try and catch Musky, Walleye, Smallmouth Bass and other species. We normally try and go on holiday over Christmas or in the colder months, when the northern US states and Canada would be far too cold for a fishing trip (unless you like ice fishing!) and Musky would be out of season, but this year, we decided to have a change from the norm and have a holiday targeting the species that have influenced so much of our fishing here in the UK.

Out of the species we wanted to target, we knew the Musky were going to be the toughest to catch, so the trip was based around targeting ‘the fish of 10,000 casts’, with other days fishing for Smallmouth Bass, Walleye and other species fitted in around those. We spent a great deal of time researching which area to visit to give us the best chance of catching these species, as well as there being lots to do in the area (as it would also be a family holiday), and came to the conclusion that the area around Ottawa ticked all the boxes. We contacted John Anderson of the Ottawa River Musky Factory, a guide renowned for casting for and catching monster Muskies, and John very kindly recommended a couple of other guides who could help us catch other species too. A plan was formulated and we were soon preparing for a trip to Canada!

We arrived in Ottawa late in the evening, picked up the hire car and stayed a night near the airport, but we were up very early in the morning because of the jetlag. Our first week of the trip was based in Kingston on Lake Ontario, where the St. Lawrence River forms, and we were going to be driving down in the afternoon, but our plan was to stop off at Cabelas en route. As we were up so early, we were at Cabelas just as it opened to have a look around and stock up on a few items!


Later that afternoon we arrived in Kingston, and the evening was spent gearing up for two days fishing with Dave Curtis for Smallmouth Bass, with maybe the chance of a Walleye or Musky. To give you some idea of how big Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River is, just the Kingston area alone has over 1000 islands, with the biggest over 17 miles long!

On our first day’s fishing with Dave, we targeted Bass, and although we had a fairly slow start, the fishing warmed up as the day went on and we both caught our first Smallmouth Bass, along with plenty of others.




Most of them were caught drop-shotting plastic worms rigged wacky style, but the best fish of the day took one of the new Fox Rage spinnerbaits in Table Rock, with a Zander Pro Shad trailer. Pound for pound, they’re like Perch on steroids - intense head shaking, powerful runs and jumping too! I really wish we had them in the UK - no wonder so many people fish for them in the US and Canada!


The Great Lakes have some of the biggest and best Smallmouth Bass fishing in the world - one of the reasons for this is because of the abundance of Round Gobies, which the Smallmouth love to eat. They're native to the Black and Caspian Seas but got in to the Great Lakes system through ballast from ships. In fact, my very first Smallmouth of the trip coughed up a Goby! We managed to catch a few Gobies later on that week whilst fishing tiny lures from the shore, and compared them to the Fox Rage Grondles, and they were very similar.



The next day was split in to two - we spent the morning Musky fishing, but with no interest by lunchtime, we took a break in a restaurant on an island in the St Lawrence River, and after having probably one of the best burgers I’ve ever had, we had a look to see if the wind had calmed down enough for us to venture out further in to Lake Ontario to search for Walleye.


Luck was on our side as the wind had calmed down enough. Normally, July is a bit early for targeting Walleye in Kingston, as they’re migratory fish and don’t usually show up until August, but, just like the UK, Ontario is experiencing an unusually hot summer, so Dave guessed the Walleye may have turned up early, so this was his first attempt at catching Walleye this season on Lake Ontario. Not long after we started fishing, I caught my first Walleye, and a fantastic looking fish too between 7-8lb - I couldn’t believe it!


Then about half an hour later Dad hooked up and landed an even bigger fish, which was over 30” long - not bad for his first ever Walleye!


Although we continued fishing for another couple of hours without a bite, we were more than made up with both catching our first Walleye, with Dad’s being considered a trophy fish!

The DIY fishing around Kingston was really interesting. Kingston Harbour is based where the Cataraqui River meets the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario, and the crystal clear water meant you could see a lot of the species we were fishing for. Using a variety of lures, some of the species we caught included Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth, Rock Bass, Yellow Perch, Pumpkinseed, Round Gobies, Black Crappie and even a Brown Bullhead (Catfish) I caught on a wacky worm!





One of the highlights though was Dad catching a Freshwater Drum, which he stalked dropshotting a Rage Critter on 8lb line! It gave him an unbelieveable fight, taking him under boats, jetties, then in to a massive weed bed, before the line suddenly went slack after grating on something. We thought the line had cut on some Zebra Mussels, and Dad put the rod down, crossed his arms and bent his head down in frustration. By this time a crowd of around 30 people had gathered behind us from the town and all sighed at the same time, as we thought he'd lost this fish. 30 seconds later I then spotted his line moving in the opposite direction, so he picked the rod back up, and amazingly it was still on! After another nerve-wracking few minutes, I finally managed to squeeze it in to our pan net, and the crowd let out a massive cheer!


That fish was caught on our last night in Kingston, and the next day we headed to Montebello in Québec for Musky and Longnose Gar. The route took us through Ottawa city centre, which is a spectacular looking city, and it’s amazing how, by just crossing the Ottawa River, which runs through the city, the language changes from English to French. Montebello is a small, quaint town situated roughly half way between Ottawa and Montreal, famed for having the world’s largest log cabin - the Fairmont Chateau Montebello.

Our first day’s guided fishing here was with John, targeting Musky. It took us a little while to get used to fishing with longer rods than we normally use here in the UK (which were 8’6”), and I can see why they use them, as the longer rod helps with the figure of eight, which is so important after every cast, and it’s something we're definitely going to try here in the UK.



It didn’t take long at all for us both to have a couple of follows from Muskies, but they didn't seem to want to take the lures. That continued throughout the day, as we had at least another 10 follows from Muskies, some of which were very big, and we both hooked fish - Dad hooked two (one was on a topwater lure which was a fantastic take) and I hooked one, but all three shook the hooks. John was saying that the Musky can be crafty, and even rub their lateral line along the lure to check whether it's a real fish or not. We did catch a couple of Ottawa River Pike though - they were only jacks, but they had beautiful markings.



Despite not landing any Muskies on day one, we were very confident one of us would at least catch a Musky on our remaining two days fishing with John. However…

So far on our trip, the weather had been fantastic, but that was all set to change, and we ended up having two days of record-breaking rainfall for the region. It meant we had to postpone a day’s Gar fishing we had booked and also one of the Musky days, but unfortunately, by the time the rain ended the Ottawa River had turned from clear to just a couple of inches of visibility - not good news for our Musky fishing.

On one of our days between fishing trips, we visited Parc Omega, which is a huge reserve for native animals that you can drive your car around, take a bag of carrots and feed the animals from the car! It was very interesting and a great laugh feeding them through the car windows, and I’d definitely recommend it. Only it's antlers stopped this Caribou from getting it's whole head in the car!


On the way back we also visited Plaisance Falls, which was pretty spectacular, especially after having so much rain. Unfortunately though, this was another place we intended to fish, but weren’t able to because of the coloured water and the incredible amount of water roaring through.


We were very lucky to have a break in the weather for our rescheduled day’s Gar fishing, with sunny, flat calm conditions forecast, and we were really looking forward to targeting them with Rob Jackson, who specialises in targeting them on the Ottawa River. RJ is also the host of Renegade Bass TV, a show dedicated to Bass fishing competitions in Canada. Longnose Gar are a smaller species than the Alligator Gar, growing to around 20lb, but found as far north as southern Ontario and Quebec. The way RJ fishes for them is by sight casting to them in very shallow water with shallow diving crankbaits, or flies.


Although the water was really murky in most places, it didn’t take long for us to spot our first Gar of the day basking in the sun, so I cast my 7cm Salmo Minnow to it, and not long after, my first Longnose Gar was in the net!


Then Dad spotted one almost immediately after releasing my fish, and caught that too, which was a very nice fish of 49”!


Gar are one of the few species you can cast to, draw the lure back towards the fish without spooking it, and as the lure swims past it's nose, the fish makes a complete u-turn and takes the lure, which was awesome to watch!

After such a great start, we decided to break out a fly rod. For this we used a 9’ 9wt, a floating line and a leader of around 7ft, and a bite tippet of 60lb fluoro, and tied to this was a yellow Clouser Minnow my Dad had used for fishing for Barramundi in Australia in stained water. Our next two chances both saw us land our first fly-caught Gar, and again, my Dad managed to land another good fish, slightly longer than the last one!




One more Gar later, the horizon turned black and a huge electrical storm started to loom towards us from the south west, which wasn’t forecast, so a decision was made to call it a day and head back to Montebello early. We were very lucky with that short window of perfect Gar conditions, as it absolutely threw it down for the rest of the day, but despite going home early, we had a great time fishing for them - they’re an awesome fish and very under-rated in Canada! Cheers RJ for a great day!

Now all eyes were on the Musky for our remaining two days with John. We were very unfortunate that the rain had coincided with our holiday and coloured up the river, and we had to dodge one or two very big storms whilst we were fishing too. There was one afternoon where a storm came up really quickly on us, with torrential rain and lightning, and as we were tying up the boat to a jetty, everything went white, the pressure dropped and I heard probably one of the loudest bangs I’ve ever heard. We ran to land and took cover under a hut, waiting for the storm to pass by, and when we came out there were some guys sitting in their Hummer waiting to launch their boat, who watched the bolt hit a tree on the bank of the island opposite us, which wasn’t too far away!


We went back out for another hour of fishing - this is the storm in the distance, after it had moved through.


During another storm, John welcomed us back to his Musky Den to take shelter. It was absolutely fascinating, with Musky lures and memorabilia hanging up everywhere, each with their own stories.



John did everything possible to help us catch a Musky, but unfortunately, the lack of visibility made the fishing extremely challenging, and when the conditions are against you, there’s not much you can do about it. It was a huge learning curve for us though, and I can now see why they’re called ‘the fish of 10,000 casts’ and why people become addicted to them! We had a great time fishing with John and I’m sure we’ll be back - we have unfinished business!


On our very last day, whilst packing to go home in the morning, we decided to have one more hour fishing just outside the hotel. We caught a few different species, and Dad’s last fish was a nice Smallmouth caught on a Salmo Rattlin’ Hornet - a great fish to round off the trip with.


We had an awesome time in Canada and managed to land 14 species between us in total. John, RJ and Dave are fantastic guides and if you’re interested in fishing in and around the Ottawa area, I’d highly recommend them. The people were friendly, the food was fantastic, and the wildlife was amazing too. And we didn’t even scrape the surface - an even better excuse to go back!