Hi! My name is Sam Edmonds. Those of you who know me are aware that I am just 'ever so slightly' keen on my fishing and the love of the outdoors.
Fishing has been a part of my life since the day I was born. I suppose it comes as no surprise when you have a Dad that's fishing crazy. We fish together literally all of the time and have had some fantastic times spent trying to catch all kinds of fish here in the UK and on holidays abroad. Along the way I have met some great fishermen and some of these have become really good friends.
The more I fish the more my fascination and appreciation for the sport grows and catching fish is just the start - there is so much more to angling: travelling, nature, wildlife and watching some spectacular sunrises are just a few.
So I'd like to share in my blog some of my fishing experiences, captures and other related interests such as photography and writing. I hope you will enjoy reading it and find something that interests you too...

Monday, 28 August 2017

Stalking Barbel on lures

I don't know where the time has gone this season so far! It's been a very busy summer, with lots of coaching for Get Hooked on Fishing at various places, including the BBC Countryfile Live show at Blenheim Palace. Hundreds of people have caught their first ever fish, which is great to see and hopefully many of those will take up the sport! In amongst the coaching, Dad and I have managed to squeeze in a few trips on rivers local to us - we had planned to start the season on the Thames, but unfortunately, we'd been working on the boat back at our house and didn't manage to get it finished in time. So, for the start of the season, we fished some of our local rivers instead for a few different species on lures, such as Chub, Barbel and Perch.

We were fishing just after the crack of dawn on June 16th - for the first few hours we planned to target Perch with the low light levels, then once it really got bright we would change to stalking Chub and Barbel on lures. At about 6am Dad hooked a big Perch, a fish we both saw, and thought was over 3lb. He hooked it in a very tight swim, and sadly it swam in to the snags and came off! What a first fish of the season that would have been for him, but losing a fish like that wasn’t really the start we were hoping for!

With nothing to show for by 8am it was time to change targets and try another section of river, and it wasn’t too long before Dad caught his first fish of the season - a Brownie, which was quickly followed by a decent Chub - one of five Chub he went on to catch on the opening day.

Over the past few years, my Dad has been lucky enough to catch a few Barbel on lures, and I’d been desperate to catch one ever since he caught his first in 2013, whilst we were lure fishing with Paul Garner on the Warwickshire Avon. After Dad caught his first Chub of the day on June 16th this year, I spotted a Barbel in amongst some Chub on a gravel run, and managed to make a good cast to it, with my Power Nymph landing inches from the Barbel’s nose. There was a Chub of around 1lb 8oz sitting right next to the Barbel, and I was praying the Barbel would beat the Chub to it. Thankfully, the Barbel dived down on the Power Nymph, sucked it in, I struck and all hell broke loose! After a crazy fight in inches of water, I managed to land my first lure-caught Barbel!

A couple of hours later, Dad spotted the tail of a Perch poking out from between some rushes, in only about a foot of water. He couldn't see the head of the fish, but there was just enough of a gap between the rushes to drop his Power Nymph where he predicted the fish's head would be, so he lowered his creature bait in to the tiny gap, and watched the fish's tail shoot forward. He instinctly struck and hooked in to the fish, which actually leapt out of the water a couple of times, resembling the fight of a Largemouth Bass! It then leapt out of the water again, and Dad netted it in mid air!

Not long after releasing the Perch, Dad then spotted a few Barbel in a super overgrown swim, in a gap on the far bank of the river, sitting under some reeds. He made a fantastic cast and managed to hook one! I thought mine gave me an incredible fight but Dad had one hell of a fight on his hands, and would need to dodge the reeds, rushes and streamer weed to land it, and somehow, he did!

It’s his most impressive lure caught Barbel to date, not just by the size but the way he cast through the rushes and underneath the reeds on the far bank -  and landed it through this!

Whilst stalking the Chub and Barbel, I spotted a shoal of fish that looked a lot like Grayling. I’ve only ever heard of one or two Grayling being caught from the River Lea, but to see if they were what I thought they were, I decided to set up a light drop-shot rig, with 3lb line, a size 14 Owner Mosquito hook with a Powerbait Maxi Bloodworm nose-hooked on. After a few casts, one finally took, and it turned out to be what I thought it was - a Grayling, which is my first from the River Lea!

By the end of the day we’d landed 8 species in total - it would have been 9 if I hadn’t lost a Carp I stalked, although I did manage to catch a nice Carp a few days later, just before a nasty thunderstorm rolled in. Dad also managed to catch a nice Chub on that morning too, which weighed 5lb 9oz.

The conditions for the first few weeks of the season remained ideal for stalking, with crystal clear rivers and plenty of sunshine helping spot the fish. Since June 16th, we’ve learnt a lot about targeting Barbel with soft plastics, and also managed to catch quite a few along the way.

I’m not saying it’s the easiest way to catch a Barbel, or that lure fishing is the new top method for them, but tricking a Barbel in to taking a lure is a very exciting way to catch them. I’ve been amazed at how eager they can be to chase down a lure, often beating Chub to the soft bait!

The gear we’ve been using is not a lot different to what we use for targeting big Perch - a powerful spinning rod of around 7ft that can cast up to 18g (5/8oz), paired with a 2000 - 2500 front drag reel. It’s important that this is spooled up with a good quality braid that is strong enough to bully a fish out from reeds, streamer weed and snags, but also has a fine diameter, making it easy to cast tiny weights accurately - we’ve been using Spiderwire Stealth Smooth in 20lb. Attached to this has been a fluorocarbon leader of around 12-15lb, which is about 16 inches in length, then tied to this is the lure - a small creature bait of around 1”-2” in length, rigged on to a jighead of around 2g.

We’ve found this has been a good weight for where we've been fishing - getting the lure down to the bottom at a steady speed in various currents, whilst also making the appendages of the creature bait kick in to action. The jigheads I’ve been using have a strong size 6 or 8 hook, which are perfect for rigging on creature baits in the 1”-2” size range.

One of the most important things we’ve found is to choose the right moment to make the cast. Ideally, the lure needs to land inches in front of the Barbel’s nose for it to even consider taking the lure (although we've had the odd fish swim as far as 3ft to grab the lure). This may require waiting a while for a fish to move in to a position where you’re able to cast a lure just in front of them, whether that’s swimming out from some snags, or dropping back behind some streamer weed. If you can get the cast right, watching a Barbel pounce on your lure as it hits the bottom is an awesome sight to witness!

Most of the stretches we’ve been targeting the Barbel also contain some very nice Chub, some of which we’ve managed to catch, but we’ve both lost a couple of very good fish this season too, bigger than any of the Chub we've landed so far this season.

I’ve really enjoyed stalking the Chub and Barbel on lures this season - not just because it’s an exciting and challenging way of fishing, but we’ve spotted lots of other species of fish too, including some nice Bream, Carp, Pike, Roach, Dace and Perch, and you can sometimes come across a few surprises too, like the Grayling we found on June 16th. We’ve actually managed to catch a couple more Grayling since then - it would be nice to see them establish themselves in the Lea and I’m looking forward to trying to catch one on the fly now!

One morning whilst stalking the Chub and Barbel, Dad noticed a good Perch emerge from the streamer weed. He quickly made a cast with his creature bait, and within seconds a 43cm fish was in the net! It was significantly bigger than any Perch we've ever caught or seen from this stretch of river, and made for a nice surprise!

The last four fishing trips we’ve had have been flyfishing reservoirs targeting Pike, Perch and Zander, which I’ll talk about in my next post!

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Flyfishing for big Zander

Every month I try to update my blog, but unfortunately I’ve let it slip recently and I’m now playing catch up for May and June! I was aiming to get this post up before the start of the river season, but I’ve had a very busy month or so, which has delayed this blog post.

Mid May marks the opening of flyfishing for predators on the Anglian Water reservoirs. Targeting Pike, Perch and Zander on the fly on these venues is something I always look forward to every year, ever since my Dad took me on my first trip flyfishing for predators on Grafham back in 2005.

My Dad first fished Grafham for these species on the fly back in 2001, and quickly learnt that there was some fantastic fishing to be had, especially for the Zander, which he soon became fascinated with. At the time, flyfishing for Zander was quite new, so experimenting with fly patterns was quite important, and creating flies that work well for the species.

All four of the reservoirs have the potential to break the British record for Pike and Perch, but Rutland and Grafham also have the added bonus of producing a monster Zander. Although Dad and I haven’t caught any of the real monsters, between us we’ve caught around 50 over 10lb to date, with the biggest weighing 14lb 9oz. I’m sure we’ve probably hooked and lost a couple though over the years!

The take from a Zander can be pretty awesome at times - you can almost feel the fly being engulfed in to their jaws, and any zed over 5lb will give you a good fight on a 9wt, with lots of hard, dogged headshakes, plenty of lunges and sometimes even some uncharacteristic runs, like a Pike. The three species actually all fight quite differently to each other, and we can usually tell what species is on the end of our line before we’ve even seen the fish.

Dad and I managed to fish on the first day of the new predator flyfishing season, but the conditions weren’t on our side - 17mph westerly winds were not what we’d been hoping for. We started off flyfishing for Zander, and it didn't take long for us to land a couple of nice zeds. After an hour and a half though, the wind got so strong that it became dangerous and almost impossible to cast, as we were struggling to keep our balance as the big waves were rocking the boat around all over the place! With the wind speed increasing we decided to head for calmer water, closer to the bank. During May you can find the Pike in relatively shallow water, so for most of the day, we mainly targeted Pike, something which we also really enjoy for the first few weeks of the new predator flyfishing season. The first few hours were pretty quiet, then I had a follow from a good fish, which turned away at the boat. About an hour later Dad also had a fish follow him in, but this one slammed his fly!

Not long after catching the Pike, Dad also caught a Zander in just 6ft of water on his floating line.

We didn’t have any more action for a few hours, so for the last couple of hours, as the wind was calming down, we decided to switch lines and target the Zander again, and managed to add a few more fish to our tally for the day, including a Perch which Dad caught, to complete what we call a ‘Grafham Grand Slam’ - Pike, Perch and Zander all in the same day!

On our next trip, we decided to concentrate on fishing for the big Pike, hoping that we may land one even bigger than Dad’s fish on our last trip.

We had a slow start, with just one scraper double in the first 8 hours of fishing, but then, at around 4pm, I was stripping my line in ready to make another cast when I felt some resistance, that felt more like weed than a fish. I halfheartedly struck anyway and the ‘weed’ started to headshake! I’d hooked a very big Pike, but after the first few headshakes it zoomed away from the boat, and as I thought I had it under control, it came off! I was gutted as I knew it could have been quite a special fish, and it was beginning to turn in to one of those days where it all went wrong, as Dad had also lost what we think was a big Zander earlier in the day whilst fishing for the Pike. After another hour of no more follows or takes, we decided on having a change of plan for the evening and targeting Zander instead. It turned out to be a very good move…

In four hours of fishing, we landed 18 Zander, with the biggest weighing 11lb exactly, along with a couple of Perch. Not only did I manage to catch my first double figure Zander of the year, but it meant that I’d also caught my first ‘Grafham Grand Slam’ of the year too!

Over the following few weeks we managed to squeeze in three half day trips, and landed some nice Perch and Zander, along with my biggest zed of the year, which was caught almost accidentally really. We were fishing on quite a rough afternoon and I’d made a cast, which had ended up in a tangle. There was only a short length of line out from the rod tip so I started to undo the tangle so I could make a better cast, when ten seconds later I felt a savage take, instinctly struck and hooked in to this 12lb 11oz zed. It wasn’t the prettiest looking Zander I’ve ever seen, in fact I’ve never seen one that’s looked so tatty!

Our last trip was about a week before the beginning of the river season, and also just before the beginning of the hot spell of weather we had for a couple of weeks. Dad had a fantastic afternoon’s fishing - to start off, he caught two Zander on his first two casts, both around 8lb.

About an hour later he caught his biggest zed of the season so far, weighing 11lb 12oz!

The action came thick and fast - five more Zander followed throughout the rest of the afternoon for Dad, whilst I also managed to catch five up to 9lb 8oz.

Whilst Dad was playing one of his fish, we watched another four or five fish follow the Zander he'd hooked on the sonar.

Then, at the end of the day, just before the boats had to go back in, Dad caught two Zander on his last two casts - and both were over 10lb!

One thing that Grafham always guarantees on a cloudless day is an amazing sunset, something I’ve been lucky enough to see many times. This photo was one that Dad took as we were driving home - we decided to pull over and take some pictures from the dam.

We’d had some brilliant fishing over the course of that month, but it was now time to turn our attention to June 16th - the opening day of the river season, which I’ll talk about on my next blog post!

Monday, 15 May 2017

Spring fishing... so far!

So far this Spring, my fishing has probably been about as mixed as the weather we've had! I've fished for a variety of species, from flyfishing for Carp and Trout, to quivertipping for Roach, to lure fishing for gravel pit Pike and canal Zander. It’s nice to target different species with different tactics rather than stick with one style of fishing, and even when the river season was open, my Dad and I had been talking about targeting some Roach on a local gravel pit. Crystal clear gravel pits are fascinating places to fish - in fact I enjoy walking round gravel pits spotting fish almost as much as I do fishing them!

We managed to fit in a few afternoon trips targeting the Roach, and to give ourselves the best chance of catching them, we decided to fish in to the dark. Our best results came on dull, overcast days, or when it got dark, as the lake was crystal clear and the fish felt more confident feeding in low light levels. Our best session came on a very dull, overcast, windy day - in four hours we banked 38, with a few over the 1lb mark, including a bonus 3lb Perch caught on double red maggot!

Dad also managed to catch a nice Perch the following day, just shy of 3lb.

After a few trips targeting the Roach, we were itching to get back to some more active fishing, and now the Pike had finished spawning and had a good rest, it was time to start lure fishing again. Late Spring can be one of the most exciting times to lure fish for Pike, especially in shallow gravel pits - ideal places to target them with frogs and even surface lures. Recently, I was wandering around a gravel pit and watched a Coot chasing away a small Pike, which was eyeing up the Coot’s chicks!

Some of my favourite lures for gravel pit Pike at this time of year are in the picture below - starting from the top is the Sébile Magic Swimmer 125mm slow sinking model, the Berkley Powerbait Kicker Frog, Berkley Powerbait Rib Shad 4.5", Sébile Stick Shad 114mm Suspending and a Chatterbait, rigged with a Berkley Pit Boss trailer.

The Powerbait Rib Shad has been one of my favourite shads for Pike since it came out in 2012 and lately it’s been working very well for us - it’s a great size for small and large Pike, and has a wide paddle tail that has an exaggerated swimming action when retrieved. Dad’s caught some very nice fish on these in the last couple of weeks, fished on a straight retrieve in the Blue Shiner Gold and Tennessee Shad colours, both great for fishing in clear water.

On one particular trip on a very large gravel pit, he landed three doubles, all on the Rib Shad, including this 101cm fish, which may have been a twenty if he’d have caught it a couple of months earlier!

The Kicker Frog was probably my favourite Pike lure last year, and this Spring it has also been working well. The takes can be unbelievable - there was one recent fish that followed the frog out from some bulrushes I’d cast to, and continued to follow it across a shallow bay, bow-waving all the way behind the frog before annihilating it just a couple of metres from the rod tip!

We also enjoy lure fishing canals at this time of year, and a couple of weeks ago we had an afternoon trip on the Grand Union Canal targeting Zander. We were curious to see what the fishing would be like as we’d heard that it had been electro-fished with the purpose of removing the Zander. It’s a shame that this has taken place, as the GUC is a fantastic canal to target Zander. Despite hearing this, we were quite surprised that in the first half hour of fishing, we’d caught two Zander and two nice Perch, which was encouraging, but throughout the rest of the afternoon we covered a good mile or so of bank and we only had two more bites, both of which turned out to be Zander. The Zander fishing had indeed been slow, but what was really strange was the lack of Perch - we’ve caught good numbers in the past whilst targeting the Zander, and we only caught two! Maybe it was just one of those days.

When I got back home, I did some research on the removal of Zander from the GUC and it turns out that over 2000 Zander, totalling around 1.5 tons in weight, were removed from around 20 miles of canal. That’s roughly 100 zeds a mile, with an average size of around 1lb 10oz. Obviously the sizes would have been mixed but Zander reach maturity at around 40cm in length, which is around 1lb 8oz in weight, meaning many future generations of Zander have also been affected by the recent electro-fishing. Hopefully one day, the electro-fishing will stop and Zander will be allowed to find a natural balance in the ecosystem of Britain’s longest canal.

Apart from a short hot spell during the first week of April, this Spring has been noticeably cooler than the last few, and looking back at our fishing notes, we were actually flyfishing for Carp by the end of April last year. Last week we had one relatively warm, sunny day, where for the first time since that hot weekend in April, the Carp were close to the surface at our local Rib Valley Lakes, and Dad and I decided to take advantage. Although it was sunny, the north-easterly wind still made it feel quite chilly, and the Carp weren’t as interested as we were hoping - in fact, we only had a couple of chances, and Dad took his on his very first cast! It turned out to be a 20lb 4oz Common, which he caught on one of his home made mixer flies, made from deer hair.

I’ve also managed to fit in a couple of trips flyfishing for Trout, one to Grafham and another on the East Warwick reservoir at Walthamstow after a coaching session for Get Hooked on Fishing. I had a great day with the Pitsford Pirates, fishing with Bart Farmer at Grafham - the buzzer fishing was awesome! Walthamstow isn’t the easiest place to catch Trout, but in the couple of hours we had Dad and I banked five Rainbows, fishing buzzers and damsels under the bung.

Aside from the fishing, I’ve been doing lots of coaching for Get Hooked on Fishing lately at both Walthamstow and Rib Valley. At the end of March I ran a couple of Get Back in to Lure Angling sessions for the Angling Trust, and had a great group of anglers from Romania come along to one of the sessions. What was interesting was that despite all coming from the same country and getting on as if they’d known each other for years, it was the first time many of them had met, as they were part of a Facebook group for Romanian lure anglers in the UK.

We fished on the High Maynard reservoir but, unfortunately, the fishing was really tough, with just one Trout landed, although after the session Dad did manage to bank a nice Perch from the academy pond on a Shrug Minnow.

I really hope the weather starts settling down and warming up soon, as I'm looking forward to when the Carp really come up on top and we can flyfish for them. I also can't wait to flyfish for the predators on the midlands reservoirs...