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 230 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, 5 December 2012

Personal Best Perch filmed on Tightlines

Is it just me or has everyone had, or has, the flu at the moment? I only got over it about a week ago, and most of my fiends and family have been infected with the dreaded lurgy too! Unfortunately, it's messed up quite a lot of our fishing this month, which has been very frustrating.

I always enjoy flyfishing Elinor, and 3 weeks back, this is where the Pitsford Pirates had a team get-together and a BBQ. It was a great day and we all caught plenty of fish, on various methods and flies. Some of the fish were so close to the bank we were able to roll-cast to them! Unfortunately, I lost a huge rainbow, which at first I thought was a Pike. It would certainly have been a P.B if I'd landed it, and I'm pretty sure it was over 10lbs! Even Charlie saw it and he reckoned it was a right lump! Bart's Lemon Chicken on the BBQ was really tasty too!

Our next session was along a local stretch of the River Lea, which, lately, has been slow compared to the same period last year. I managed to catch, what my Dad and I call, a Lea 'Grand Slam' - a Pike, Perch and a Chub in the same day. The Chub was around 3lb 8oz and took a drop-shotted Berkley Power Minnow.

That same evening, we had an e-mail from Keith Arthur, asking us if we'd be up for a day's fishing in front of the Sky Sports cameras on the Lea for Perch. It was a no brainer - but we were a bit worried and explained the fishing had been very difficult there. Despite this, I was still confident one of us could hit our target and land a 3lb+ Perch. So a date was penned in the diary…

It was going to be a busy couple of days as I'd also planned to fish with Dr. Paul Garner on Rutland vertical fishing for Zander the day before fishing with Keith. By the time these trips came around though, the flu had really set in and I must admit, I was feeling quite groggy. The weather was forecast to be much windier, but luckily this held off until the last couple of hours when fishing Rutland. My first fish of the day was actually a lovely Brownie, that we estimated weighed around 6lbs, taking a drop-shotted Berkley Gulp soft bait.

 As the day progressed, we hooked plenty more fish but lots of them just didn't seem to stick!  We all caught though and I really enjoyed the day - it was great to meet and spend a day out fishing with Paul, and I'm really looking forward to fishing with him again in the future.

As soon as we got home from Rutland we prepared our gear to fish the next day with Keith along his old stomping ground - the River Lea. We met Keith and the camera crew early in the morning but, by the time we'd chatted and got miked up for the cameras, we'd already missed one of the best times of the day, so I was a little concerned!! The river was very clear but the conditions were near perfect as we had plenty of cloud cover, so I was still hopeful.

It took around 3/4 of an hour until I had my first bite, and minutes later I had a Perch to show to the camera - not a massive fish of around 1lb 10oz, but we were off to a good start!

About 20 minutes later, whilst talking to Keith and the cameras were rolling, I cast tight to the far bank and after a couple of jigs I had a bite on the drop. It didn't feel big at first, as it had swum towards me, but then it started to feel as if it had some weight to it, and I thought that it might have even been a pike, but as it boiled, I could see it was a very big Perch. When I got it in the net, it was a massive relief as I knew it was a good fish, well over 3lbs! As I lifted it on to the bank though, I could see that this fish could be extra-special. Keith weighed it on camera and at 4lb 4oz it was my biggest ever from the Lea, and a new P.B. I couldn't have asked for better timing!

From then on, the fishing became very quiet. I had one good whack soon after releasing that fish in the same spot, and that was it. Even a change of tactics to the Drop-Shot - the 'clean up' tactic as it's nicknamed in America - failed to produce. Even though my Dad was watching most of the time, he did have a few casts and caught a fish of around 2lb. I can't thank Keith enough for the wonderful opportunity to fish with him and be filmed by his brilliant camera crew!

Since that day, we haven't ventured far as we've still been getting over this nightmare flu/cold - I just hope I didn't give it to Paul or Keith! The only places we've fished since are a few sections of the Lea. We've caught plenty of Pike but the Perch haven't put in much of an appearance - until recently…

Fishing one afternoon/evening session a couple of days ago, my Dad had a great result. He had four bites - 3 of those were Perch over 3lb (3lb 3oz, 3lb 7oz, 3lb 9oz) plus a nice Pike of around 8lb!

I'm looking forward to watching Tightlines on Friday - I just hope I come over alright in front of the camera.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Pure Fishing!

Never in a million years, when I first started fishing, would I have imagined that one day I'd become a consultant and be part of the predator squad for one of the world's largest chain of tackle companies - Pure Fishing. Not only that, to be working alongside Dr. Paul Garner and some of the country's leading anglers still feels a bit surreal - or a bit Sébile - sorry, I've got lures on the brain at the moment! It's a massive opportunity and I'm really looking forward to working with the team.

With the exciting new ranges of lures that are continually coming to the UK, lure fishing is enjoying a renaissance, so it's interesting times for the artificial angler and I feel very lucky that Pure Fishing have chosen me. Feeling and sometimes watching a fish take a lure or a fly is nothing less than electrifying and very, very addictive.

A few years ago, on returning from a trip to Florida, my Grandad brought back some soft plastics designed for Bass, Walleye and Crappie. At around the same time, my Dad was teaching me how to lure fish with spinners, plugs and spoons. To be honest, I wasn't too sure about using those weird looking plastic baits, but tried them anyway and, to my surprise, soon started catching fish on them.

It didn't take too long before I caught my first 4lb+ Perch, which was, coincidentally, 5 years ago yesterday - and that's when the lure fishing bug really set in. I was very lucky to land that fish as, during the same cast I'd hooked a snag but managed to retrieve my jig. I then let it fall to the bottom again straight after I'd got it out, and continued jigging. The fish had followed it out from the snag and took a Berkley twintail - somehow though I'd managed to land it on a hook that had completely straightened!! It seems unreal that the Perch fell to a Berkley bait and now I'm a consultant for them.

Anyway, that's roughly how I got in to the exciting world of lure fishing, and over time my fascination for all other kinds of artificials has grown too.

Since joining Pure Fishing's Predator Squad a fortnight ago, not surprisingly, I have been fishing a few times, mainly on my local rivers. With so much rain, and river levels fluctuating, sport has been patchy.

We rarely catch double figure Pike from the River Lea, so it was a nice surprise landing a fish of 13lb 3oz. It took a 2" Berkley Ripple Shad I'd been trying out, intended for Perch, that also fooled a couple of other smaller jacks. That afternoon my Dad also caught two reasonable Perch and a Pike.

On another afternoon trip a couple of days later, when the river had settled down a bit, my Dad landed a cracking Perch weighing 3lb 7oz that took a Texas rigged shad. Texas Rigging is a method that both my Dad and I have had quite a lot of success with recently, especially when fishing in and around snags and branches.

Our last outing was a venture to Rutland, our first time predator fishing there this season. Although it was sunny, there had been a hard frost and combined with the wind, made it bloomin' cold! But we still managed to catch quite a few Zeds each, plus a lovely Brownie that was probably over 5lbs!

The drop-shot was outfishing jigs - split tails and Berkley Split Belly Shads were doing the business. We probably would have caught more fish if we hadn't had gone off exploring - the days are so short now it's hard cramming everywhere in on such a big water! Before we knew it the sun was setting -  but we didn't want to go in as it seemed like the zander were really starting to switch on.

The following evening was a Rib Valley Flyfishers meeting with guest speaker, Keith Arthur. Keith is such a good speaker - he told us all how he got to where he is in the broadcasting business, fishing the Lea Valley and many other interesting stories. It was a fantastic night.

On Sunday I'm off with the Pitsford Pirates to fly fish Elinor - it will be my first time fishing with the team which I'm really looking forward to. Hopefully, we'll all catch a few fish!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Perch on Plastics and the Pitsford Pirates

It's that time of year again when we begin to feel the first frosts, and leaves are falling in all their golden colours. The fish that sums up Autumn most of all, for me, is the magnificent Perch and it's hard to beat targeting them on lures and flies. The weather this past month hasn't been very kind though. If the rivers haven't been carrying too much coloured water, it's been blowing a hoolie, making reservoir fishing hard going. My Dad and I have had to cancel quite a few trips because of the wind, and I seem to spend so much time checking the weather, I think it's turning in to a new addiction! Second to fishing, of course...

It hasn't completely stopped us though from catching quite a few Pike and Perch on the better days, including some cracking stripeys over the 3lb mark. The biggest of those I caught last weekend on the River Lea. It was my first bite of the afternoon, and weighed 3lb 8oz, taking a liking to my Texas rigged shad fished in a snaggy area.


That same afternoon, my Dad lost a fish that looked bigger than mine, and may have even been a 4lb'er. He had the fish on the surface but just as it was going over the net it shook it's head and threw the trebles on his crankbait. We were both absolutely gutted!

Another place where we have caught some nice Perch recently is Grafham. We've fished it twice since I got back from Italy marshalling at the World Carp Classics. My Dad also fished it with Jack Simpson at the beginning of September whilst I was away, on the opening day of the predator trials. He had 3 zander to around 8lb and one perch, and said it was a difficult day. Even on the two days I fished it, the fishing was challenging but I managed to boat some good Perch and a couple of Zander, caught mostly drop-shotting split tails. We also had a couple of hours throwing big lures for Pike, but we only had one or two frustrating follows.

Back in August, at the EYFA Captain's Day match, I won a prize in the raffle. It was a ticket for two to fish Chew Valley from a boat. I'd never fished Chew before, so my Dad and I decided to make the 6 hour round trip last week and try flyfishing for the Pike.

Within half an hour of venturing out in to the 1200 acre reservoir, my Dad was playing his first Chew Pike - only a small one of around 8lb, but it was a good start.

We were both feeling really confident, and fished hard all day, covering as much water as possible. Apart from my Dad losing another Pike, and me catching a couple of greedy Rainbows on big Pike flies, that was all the action we had. The conditions seemed perfect, and we weren't sure what we'd done wrong, but talking to a couple of locals when we arrived back at the lodge, it had apparently been fishing poorly for a few days. But that's fishing and I'm still really looking forward to trying it another day.

One afternoon we took our lure rods to a local gravel pit. Luckily, there weren't too many bivvies, so we were able to move about. It was gin clear and we had to wait until the last hour before the fish switched on, when we landed some nice Pike to low doubles on spinnerbaits and jerkbaits. Watching them follow you in and inhale your lure is exciting stuff!

Fishing in Ireland with the England Youth Flyfishing Team a couple of months ago was, sadly, to be my last Youth International as I'm now too old. I really enjoyed being part of the team - it was a great experience for me. Not only did I fish with, and make good friends, but I learned much faster, and so much more, than I would have done fishing on my own.

I was really hoping that one day I could join another team, but I didn't think anything would happen for a while, if at all. However, Charlie Abrahams, a member of the Pitsford Pirates, phoned me with some brilliant news that they would like me to join their team. I already know four of them as they are also members of the Rib Valley Flyfishers Club, and I'm now really looking forward to fishing with them in matches next year.

Talking of the Rib Valley Flyfishers - on the 29th September, the Club had an open day on the Millennium Lake at Rib Valley Fishing Lakes. It was free for anyone who wanted to learn or improve their skills in flyfishing, pick up tips or even try and catch their first Trout. A few members, including me and my Dad, were there to help and give advice. Sadly, the conditions were almost identical to last year's Open Day - it was almost cloudless with bright sunshine, and the fishing wasn't easy, with few trout being caught. Apart from not catching many fish though, I think most newcomers went away learning something new about flyfishing.

To sum it up, the fishing's been tricky lately - but chopping and changing methods and using different lures and flies have kept a few bites coming. Hopefully, there'll be some good fishing to come in the next few weeks, before the Winter really sets in!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

World Carp Classic 2012, Lake Bolsena, Italy

On the 30th August I had an earlier start to the day than most, as the fisheries students from Shuttleworth College arrived at Old Warden at 1am. We were there to catch the minibus that would take us all to Gatwick airport for our 6.45am flight to Rome, en route to the World Carp Classics 2012.

Since Ross Honey founded the event in 1998, this competition has always been held on a French water, but this year it was all change as the host venue was Lago di Bolsena in Italy, a volcano crater that has filled with water (and fish!) over thousands of years, located about 2 hours North of Rome.

Apart from holiday makers bathing on the black volcanic sands or going for a refreshing swim in the 28,000 acre lake, carp anglers from every corner of the globe had gathered there prior to the opening ceremony on the 2nd September. However there was much to do before the match could begin!

After a dip in the lake and setting up camp at the aptly named 'bivvy city' on the day of our arrival, the following morning I was picked to place pegs around the lake with Sparsholt students Ashley Bunning and Tom Broomhead along with my tutors, Chris Vaughan and Steve Waters. Rob Nunn, who was fishing for the JRC team, also kindly stepped in to help with the pegging, as it was an enormous task. Each sponsored section had 16 pegs, and there were 10 sections in total, starting at the Rodbox section, which was very hard to access as there were long, windy and steep dirt tracks. We worked our way through the picturesque towns of Marta, Montefiascone and Capodimonte, right the way round to the last section, which was CC Moore, situated in Bolsena.

Our work involved lapping the lake, hammering pegs in and using the GPS to write down co-ordinates, so after the peg draw anglers would be able to mark them on their sat navs, making finding their swims easier. Trekking around the perimeter of the lake we saw plenty of wildlife, and many species of fish such as Chub, Tench, Pumpkinseed, landlocked Sand Smelts, mediterranean Barbel, and most interesting of all for me, loads of Largemouth Bass.

The whole pegging process took around 3 days. Following that, it was then a case of putting out marker buoys with the chief policeman in the area, at the 200m limit - if any angler placed their baits out any further than the buoys during the match, then they would be issued a yellow card!

It wasn't long afterwards before the 6 day match got off to a very wet and windy start - a storm had set in for around an hour.  The wind and rain was so strong it blew some angler's bivvies up the bank! I was marshalling the CC Moore sponsored section, which stretched from the marina in Bolsena for nearly 2 and a half kilometres to the East. Here, there were anglers representing England, the Netherlands, Austria, Serbia, Poland, Slovakia, South Africa, and host nation Italy.

Over the course of the week it became apparent that anglers based in and around the town centre were catching more than most. This was possibly due to the many tourists feeding the waterfowl with bread. Ardy Veltkamp and Richard Simeons, based on peg 13, which was right next to the marina, were picking off fish as they were entering or coming out of it. One evening I walked down to their peg at around 10.30pm to weigh a good fish. Almost immediately after releasing a nice common, another rod went off and they were in again. Whilst Richard was playing that fish out in the boat, the rod on the left also screamed off and Ardy hooked up too! For them it was a sleepless night as they landed 6 commons in total to just under 14 kilos.

Andreas Papesch and Kurt Flieger, the Austrians in the peg next door, also had a busy night, landing 5 fish to just over 12 kilos too. It took myself and Lauren, another Shuttleworth marshal, quite a while to weigh them all in the morning!

These two pegs were the only ones that consistently produced fish all week. The only other anglers to catch were Frank Warwick and Jason Cann on peg 10, who landed 2, their biggest weighing 9.8kg. Unfortunately, all the swims to the right of peg 10 didn't even produce a run!

On Thursday morning I managed to get an hour or so of free time between doing the rounds of all the swims (keeping an eye out for any problems and chatting to anglers), so I wandered in to Bolsena to have a look at the fishing tackle shop. It stocked quite a few of the softbaits my Dad and I normally buy in America and use for targeting Perch, Zander and Pike at home. I ended up spending most of the remaining Euros I had on split tail shads and drop shot weights!!

These were also perfect for targeting the huge numbers of Bass in Bolsena we were seeing along it's shores that had been winding me up all week. As marshals, we didn't take any fishing gear with us, but Jason Cann on peg 10 was keen on trying to catch some Bass, and he very kindly let me borrow one of his rods to use, which we shared for the remainder of the match. I used a size 4 thin gauge carp hook and 9lb zig rig fluorocarbon to create a drop shot rig, that I loop-to-looped to the 40lb braid! A 12ft 4lb tc carp rod isn't ideal, but that's all we had!

Later that evening, I fished for around an hour along a short length of bank and within minutes I was holding my first Italian fish - a tiny Pike! Not long after releasing it, I hooked in to something a lot more acrobatic, which turned out to be my first Bolsena Bass of around 1lb.

This wasn't the only one I caught that evening and in a short amount of time combined over the course of a couple of days, I landed another 20 Bass to around 1lb 10oz, all falling to the drop shotted split tail shad. I was actually outfishing many of the locals, some of which were curious about how I was catching them! Speaking to them, most were fishing texas rigged senko-style worms.  Although they weren't massive fish, it was still great fun watching some of the Bass engulf the split tail almost at my feet. I reckon Bolsena would make a brillant venue for a American Bass-style tournament, either from boat or bank. But I didn't get much time to fish as I was here to marshal instead...

Back to the marshalling, after weighing 3 good fish first thing Saturday morning to 16.2 kilos that Ardy and Richard had caught during the night on peg 13, and a couple the Austrians had caught too, I blew the final horn at 8am to mark the end of the competition. A few hours later, once the anglers had all packed up, crowds began to gather in the town square of Bolsena, as all the anglers eagerly awaited the announcement of who'd won the World Carp Classic 2012. Listening to the walkie talkie during the week, the very fishy looking Pescalis and Club Carpin sections I'd pegged earlier in the week had been producing some amazing catches, but the winners, Peter Micula and Norbert Pongracz of Hungary came from another busy section, PVTV, with a total weight of 329.9kg, and who walked away with £10,000. They also caught the biggest fish weighing 22.5kg too. The team winners were Stewart Downing, who is the director of Pure Fishing, Rob Nunn, Andrea Campanini, Fillipo Mongrandi, Tomas Vanek, and Peter Hofierk of JRC Europe1 with a combined catch of 382.2kg. - well done to all of them. Also a special well done to Ardy Veltkamp and Richard Simeons for winning the CC Moore section, where I was based for the week - they won £1000 worth of bait! That's a lot of boilies!

In total 483 fish were caught, and I think only 2 of those were mirrors, for a combined weight of 5011 kilos! We flew back to Gatwick early the next morning after probably one of the best carbonaras I've ever had - the Italian cuisine was to die for, especially the Pizzas and the Ice Creams! I had a great time with all the Shuttleworth and Sparsholt students - also, thanks to our tutors Steve and Chris, to Ross Honey, and to the media crew for all of their hard work during that busy week. I'd definitely like to go back some day and give the Bass another go!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

My first 4lb Perch on the Fly

Just after we arrived back from Ireland, John Rochester, a friend of my Dad's ever since they were at school together, came to stay. They'd not seen each other in years. The two of them used to fish together when they were young all the time, so my Dad suggested a couple of hours one evening introducing him to jig fishing. Lure fishing has changed considerably since they last fished together - back then spinners, spoons and plugs were the order of the day. Now there's a huge array of new tackle and tactics, especially with the use of soft plastics.

A cloudless sky made for some difficult fishing, with just one follow from a Pike of around 8lb to start with. As the sun set and the light diminished we were hopeful that the fish would switch on. It wasn't until the last half hour before dark that we had any action when I managed to land a small jack. Very soon after, my yellow twintail was taken on the drop and resulted in a lovely perch of 3lb 4oz.

John had taken to the jigging technique quickly but unfortunately, along with my Dad, lost a fish each. We were all a bit frustrated that we hadn't banked more as those two fish I caught were in an area that held a big shoal of small silverfish, which the perch had obviously been feasting on. However, by the time we'd found the baitfish it was almost dark and we'd run out of time. So an early morning session a couple of days later was on the cards.

Two days later, we were up at first light without John this time, but this didn't prove to be that much better. We did catch a couple of pike each though and Dad landed 2 beautiful Perch of 2lb 9oz and 2lb 10oz, most of our fish falling for crankbaits.

A few days later we had a trip to Grafham flyfishing for trout. In all the years we have fished the reservoir we have never seen so many pinfry. Almost everywhere you looked there were huge shoals of fry and the trout were making the most of it - it was just like watching schools of tuna smashing baitfish and the sport was fantastic at times. On our first trip we caught 27 fish, and on another trip there caught 15. The best methods and flies seemed to be floating or midge tip lines fished with an 18ft leader and 3 flies - either diawl bachs, hares ears, corixa or pheasant tail nymphs. A Woofta or Cat Booby on the point proved very successful when pulled through the surface.

One of the reasons for going to Grafham was to practise for a match the following weekend, organised by the England Youth Flyfishing Team. 'Captains Day' is held every year on Grafham as a friendly get together and farewell to that years Captain of the team and any members that are leaving - this years captain was Kieran Bonas.

The match was well attended with around 50 anglers taking part, half of which were adults. With temperatures on match day exceeding 32°C and the lake being flat calm made fishing difficult. My boat partner was Mick Whittle. Mick started with a Di5 line pulling blobs and I started off fishing a Midge Tip line with a Diawl Bach on the top dropper, a Corixa in the Middle and a Cat Booby on the point. I caught my first and biggest fish in Gaynes before relocating to the bowl of the Dam where I'd found a few fish in practice. This is where I caught the rest of my fish, as well as a Perch around 1lb 12oz! I managed to land 5 fish for 13lb on the dot, with the biggest fish weighing 4lb 7oz. It earned me 4th place, but well done to Adam Worker for winning the match with 7 fish, and for also landing the biggest fish of the day too.

For a while, my Dad had fancied a trip float fishing on our local River Lea, so we dug out some old gear including a whip and fished for a few hours between Ware and St. Margarets. On my Dad's first cast he lost a good double figure carp on his whip using a single caster - although he didn't have much chance of landing it on 2lb line as he was hoping for roach! It was a lovely sunny evening spent watching the float and we both ended up with a mixed bag of fish including some nice roach up to around 10oz and I also had a good bream weighing 5lb 1oz. Both of our bags probably weighed around 10 - 12lbs.

A couple of mornings later I had a phone call from Chris Vaughan, my tutor from college, asking whether I could help out teaching some children how to fish at a park lake in Potters Bar. It was a great chance to put my ADB qualification in to use. So, 2 hours later, I was at the lake with Richard Allen, another one of my mates at college, and Claire Baker, a tutor at Shuttleworth College. Using simple float gear on a whip, each child had around 15 minutes fishing - some were only as young as 3 or 4 years old! Although it was quite hectic, everyone caught a fish and it was great to see so many happy faces - they all really enjoyed it and didn't want to stop. It was amazing to see so many girls wanted to try it as well, and were not frightened to hold the fish, like some of the boys!

Before heading off to the World Carp Classics in Italy, which my next blog will be about, we managed to fit in one last outing on Grafham flyfishing for predators. My first cast of the day resulted in a Zander of 9lb 2oz, then, on my fourth cast I hooked in to something very special. I knew straight away it was a good Perch, as I could feel the typical head shaking of a big stripey. Minutes later I was holding my first 4lb Perch on the fly! As any angler could imagine I was over the moon, and so was my Dad. It had taken one of my Dad's patterns, our top predator fly I nicknamed 'The Zander Lander', and it was probably one of the most fantastic looking stripeys I've ever caught.

Moments later, whilst my Dad was playing another Zander, Bob Church and Mike Green came over to see how we were getting on. After a quick chat we all got back to our fishing, then it was Bob's turn to get in on the action, landing a cracking Pike and a Zander on the following cast. It had been a lively couple of hours fishing, but the action soon dried up, so we had to keep on the move, looking for more fish. By the end of the day we'd netted 8 Zander and the one Perch.

Forty eight hours later I was on a plane heading for Italy with the Shuttleworth and Sparsholt lads to marshal the World Carp Classics, which I'll write about in the next few days.

Monday, 20 August 2012

England win Gold at the Youth Flyfishing International 2012, Lough Owel

Over the last few months, the England Youth Flyfishing Team have been training for the Youth International Flyfishing Championships. This year it was to be hosted by Ireland on Lough Owel. We were unsure of what we'd be up against as the match was being held on a water quite different to reservoirs stocked with triploid rainbows, which is what most of us are used to here in England. In Ireland we would be targeting small browns, with a mix of wild and stocked fish - but we were still all looking forward to a different challenge.

On the 29th July my Mum, Dad and I left home to meet with most of the England Team at Holyhead Port, before sailing to Dublin. Once landing in Ireland we then drove an hour and a quarter to the Bloomfield House Hotel, situated on the banks of Lough Ennell, where all teams would be staying for the week. On the evening of arrival, all the anglers were welcomed and briefed about the forthcoming 3 days at a dinner. Later that evening, England had our first of many team talks, discussing the areas that each England boat would practice the next day, as well as tactics to try.

That same evening Paul Gillies drove our team, in the minibus, to Lough Owel so we could have our first look at the lake. It was enormous - we couldn't even see the other end from where we were standing!

The next morning we returned to the 3000 acre lough ready for the first practice of two. My boat partner was Fen Oakley, who set up with a team of dabblers on a slow glass line, whilst I opted to fish deeper on a Wet Cel II line fishing small nymphs, seeing as it was quite bright. We were told to cover the area between the Pumphouse Reeds round to the Ash Ditch.

On our first drift I bumped off two fish right outside the pumphouse. It was then to be another 4 hours before we had any more interest. The lough was flat calm and the skies were almost cloudless, and we could see the bottom of, what must have been, 25ft of water. I asked our boatman to move us further out until we couldn't see the bottom anymore, and first cast I caught my first Lough Owel brownie. Spooning the fish after I killed it proved interesting as we found it stuffed full of Sticklebacks.

I also landed another two before heading in for dinner and a team discussion. Talking between us, some had done well and some hadn't, but it was all about gathering as much information as possible.

The second practice day saw a complete change in the weather. A strong southerly wind and heavy rain had moved in, which were better conditions for fishing. Fishing with Dom Sheratte in the morning, we found a small shoal of fish around Lady's Island - Dom had 2 and I had 1.

We came in at lunchtime and after another team talk I headed out with Gary Owen for the afternoon to the small pump house and Brabazon's. Here, I caught another 5 fish, using a midge tip with an Irish stimulator on the top dropper, a diawl bach in the middle and a double olive on the point.

By the evening our team felt that we'd figured out where most of the fish were, and it was now a case of fine-tuning what tactics we'd use on match day. Carl Malpass, one of our team coaches, had done well catching 9 fish, all on dabblers. Others, like myself, were getting plenty of interest to red-arsed Irish Stimulators or Green Peters. After a comprehensive team talk, we were all happy with what areas and methods to use on the day of the match.

At the boat draw following dinner, I was paired with new Irish cap Colin O'Reilley, and our boatman was Carl Owens, who fished last year for Ireland at the International on Menteith. Some of the team tied a few flies before going to bed, but it was the committee and the coaches who stayed up most of the night tying essential patterns for the crucial day. Thank you to all of them!

After a hearty breakfast, the teams made the 20 minute drive from the hotel to the fishing lodge at Owel - match day had arrived. It was incredibly windy, with gusts well over 25mph - if this match was held on Rutland or Grafham, there was no way the boats would have been allowed out! Most of us set up with slow or fast glass lines. I opted for the slow glass, using an Irish Stimulator, (that we nicknamed the BBD) and Dabblers to start with.

Before the match started, all the teams paraded behind two bagpipers, marching down to the lake from the fishing lodge. It was an amazing experience, with all the parents and spectators cheering us on and waving flags.

Very soon after that, the horn was blown and the match began!

As I had first priority on the motor, I asked our boatman to head to the small pump house, where I'd caught the day before. When we got there though, the waves were dangerously high, and the heavens opened with torrential rain. After half an hour I had my first fish to the boat. Unfortunately, there was a size limit and this was only a fingerling, so it couldn't be counted!

It took about 3 hours before we found some fish, which I cast to and after 2 strips landed my first and biggest fish of the day, a brownie of 1lb 11oz, which had taken a claret dabbler. We covered the pod again and I landed another in quick succession.

Unfortunately, it was then my boat partner's turn on the motor and he wanted to move to the other side of the lake where it was calmer. Here, I landed another fish around the 1lb 8oz mark. Colin also caught a fish there too.

We didn't have any more and before we knew it it was nearly 5pm - time to go back in. Arriving back at the dock and talking to some of my team-mates, it sounded like we'd done well as no-one had blanked in our team. We also heard a couple of boats from the other teams had come in early as they didn't like the rough conditions. A nervous and tense weigh in followed...

Afterwards, it was clarified that England had won for only the second time EVER in Ireland, the last time being in 1996, which was also at Lough Owel. We'd also won by the biggest margin ever in an International in Ireland, with a combined total of 38 fish, followed by Ireland's 28, Scotland's 24, and Wales' 12.  When we heard the news, we all agreed to celebrate by jumping in the Lough!!


It was then back to the hotel for a quick shower and change in to our England suits before our second parade of the day, again behind the bagpiper, to the presentation room for the Gala dinner. Everyone was presented with their medals and trophies, including James Atkinson with the biggest overall bag of 7 fish and Adam Worker with the biggest English fish. England then received the Bob Church International Trophy. It was a moment we all will never forget.

Our team captain, Kieran Bonas, collected the trophy and did a great speech thanking everyone. A bottle of champagne was popped open which soon disappeared!!

After Phil Longstaff, our manager, said thank you to everyone, he'd agreed before the match that if England won, we could shave his head! We asked him if we could, and he said "let's get this over and done with!!" The whole team dived on top of him and put an apple in his mouth while Gary Owen, one of his best mates, shaved lines through his hair!

Then he said "Now this is where the match really begins!" He wanted a Cheesy Puff Competition between himself, Gary Owen and Dom Sheratte, our vice captain!

One of the best parts of the evening was the four teams getting together and having a good laugh. The banter continued well in to the early hours of the morning - we were in stitches all night.

At breakfast the following morning, everyone was a bit hung over, but the biggest shock was when Phil turned up - with no hair, as Gary had shaved the rest of it off!

After everyone said their farewells and left for home, the hotel seemed really quiet. Mum, Dad and I had decided to stay on for a couple more days just to chill out and have a day fishing somewhere. In the end we decided to have a trip to Galway, which has a beautiful coastline. We fished for a few hours in a small harbour near Keeraunnagark, flyfishing and lure fishing. Dad caught 3 species on the fly - Corkwing Wrasse, Pollack, and even a Blenny, while I caught the same, including a Mackerel, on lures.

That was the last time we fished in Ireland. It had been my first ever visit to the Emerald Isle, and the experience had been fantastic. The Irish were very friendly and the countryside was beautiful.  I'm really looking forward to going back there one day as there's so much fishing to do out there. I'd like to end by saying thank you to everyone that helped out with the team, including the Committee and all of the parents, plus a massive well done to Phil Longstaff and his coaching team of Gary Owen, Carl Malpass and Ryan Worker. I am proud to have been part of such a great team, and I wish them all the best of luck for next year, as I'm too old for the team now!

You can see more photos of the Youth International in Ireland in my Flickr library by clicking here