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...

Thursday, 31 May 2012

World Catfish Classic 2012

This month has been extremely busy. So much so, that I ran out of time to write my monthly blog just before heading out to Spain with a small group from the Shuttleworth and Sparsholt Colleges, to help marshall the World Catfish Classic 2012. So there are two blogs below as there was so much to write about.

Two Sundays ago I had a very hectic day. After dropping my Dad off to fish in a flyfishing match called the Airflo World Bank Masters Final in the morning at Elinor Trout fishery, and watching for a couple of hours, my Mum then gave me a lift to College where 6 of us met before getting a minibus to Stansted and flying to Zaragoza later that afternoon. Once we arrived, Steve Waters, our teacher, and Rob Nunn, a head marshall, had hire cars ready to drive us the 1 hour journey to the quaint village of Chiprana. When we arrived we had tea in the sports hall that would be the central focal point of the World Catfish Classic, before finally arriving on the banks of the mighty River Ebro at around 1am and setting up camp. It seemed weird that only a few hours earlier I was watching one World Championship in England and was now about to watch another in Spain!

The first two days involved the Shuttleworth boys (Richard Allen, Jason Mackie, Matt Bedding, Joel Scrivener, Brandon Sharp and myself) and some Sparsholt students decorating the presentation hall with banners and flags, pegging swims and giving boat checks to arriving anglers and their teams, making sure all their equipment was safe.

Much of our work was also spent picking up litter and tidying up the river banks around the A, B and C sections where it was pegged. The amount of rubbish left by some visitors was astonishing - and apparently the litter we removed this year wasn't half as much as the year before! Last year, a whopping 25 tonnes of rubbish was collected by the Friends of the Ebro charity. I even picked up an empty beer can and a snake slithered out, as well as finding massive Centipedes and Praying Mantis in amongst the rubbish.

By the Tuesday evening, everything was ready to rock and roll. Flags from the nationalities of all the anglers and event organisers were paraded from the ancient church at the top of the hill in Chiprana, right down to the hall where the opening ceremony would take place. It was an amazing atmosphere, with the beating of the drums and all the locals from this sleepy Spanish village cheering and getting involved in the parade too. Later on that evening, anglers drew their peg scheme at the opening ceremony and returned to their bases before they were allowed to visit their swims at 7am the following morning, ready for the 9am start. The link to the parade is here.

I arrived at Section A, the area I was marshalling, early the next morning. This 2 mile stretch was meant to be notoriously hard for catfishing. With temperatures exceeding 41°C over the three days, it was quite challenging for everybody! As the first day progressed, Section A was living up to it's reputation, as the anglers struggled for bites. This area of the Ebro, a few miles downstream of sections B and C, is renowned for its Carp fishing and last year it held the Spanish Carp qualifier. There were literally hundreds of Carp on the surface all day, and swimming so close in the margins I even managed to stroke one!

In this section I was lucky enough to be marshalling the Spanish Carp fishing champion, Barry Wilson, in the same swim that he won it in, only this time he had to catch Catfish! It was his team-mate, Steve Howard of England that finally broke the deadlock right at the end of the day with a 55kg fish - his first over 100lbs. Shortly after the match ended I was given half an hour to fish using their tackle and I landed a cat of 47kg (104lbs). I was well chuffed!

They were the only two cats caught in Section A that day, but B and C had fished their socks off, with loads of cats landed and tagged, the biggest being 71kg! Luckily for the anglers in Section A, they were to rotate to Section B for the following day, where their chances of landing fish would be much greater. I was still to marshal Section A with the anglers who had previously fished Section C.

Just half an hour after playing that cat I was drafted down to play in a friendly football match. Our team, the WCC All Stars, were to play Chiprana FC's Youth academy. To put it simply, we got absolutely thrashed, the final score - 9 -1. Despite their average age of around 15 I've never played against such a good team!

The second day was another challenging one, with only two fish caught again on Section A. Both were from the same swim by the same angler, Gary Sheridan, of team USA who had one of 23.5kg and another fish at the last minute of 11kg. Daniel Tomi also caught a 12kg Common Carp in the swim next door - caught on Squid! Unfortunately, carp don't count though, neither did a cat of around 30kg that was within reaching distance of one angler before it threw the hook.

The 3rd and final day of the match was very tense. I was again marshalling Section A, but this time it was the turn of last year's winners Arnout, Ron and Lee to fish this area. At this point they were in the lead with a weight of 594.90kg. Ahead of Alexander Knittel, Huber Andreas and Florian Riedl of Germany, who were two swims along with a weight of 307.25kg. Only one fish was caught from Section A on the day, by Paul Fagan of England at 14kg, and all other teams blanked, but after having a bumper catch from Section B on the first day, that was enough to take Ron, Arnout and Lee to a 2nd WCC title. As I blew the final whistle, bottles of champagne were opened and sprayed in celebration and the Dutch flag was flown proudly high.

The presentation back at the sports hall took place after a fantastic Paella cooked by the Chiprana locals. All the anglers in my section that caught over the 3 days secured a top 10 finish. The Dutch team (Ron Beugelink, Arnout Terlouw and Lee Carpenter) came first with 594.90kg - a fantastic achievement. Germany's team of Alexander Knittel, Huber Andreas and Florian Riedl came 2nd with 307.25kg. Steve Howard, Alina Padurean and Tracey Lewis Wilson's England team came 3rd with 268.50kg and Beverley Clifford and Jason Ingley, another England Team came 4th with 261.70kg. The biggest fish caught during the match went to Sebastien Francois from France with an 82kg whopper!

After a long night of celebrations, Saturday morning was spent clearing up and by lunchtime we were done. The marshalls were then given time to do what they wanted, and there was only one thing on our minds... fishing!

A couple of us got a lift down to a tackle shop in Caspe and I bought a cheap spinning rod and reel loaded with 10lb line for 11 euros (as we weren't allowed to bring any tackle out with us). I also picked up a collection of shads and curltails, as well as jig heads, before we began fishing at the bridge at Chiprana and headed downriver. At 42°C the fishing was very tough with a bright sun glaring onto the water. We were based far away from the top areas for lure fishing for Zander, Perch and Largemouth Bass on the Ebro, which I heard was from the Dam at Caspe down to Mequinenza.

I fished until about 5pm as the river became busy with Carp and Catfish anglers. I hadn't caught anything, however, I had located some decent shoals of bleak in some areas and thought if the other anglers weren't fishing the whole night, I could get up early and fish these spots when there were less lines in the water.

Whilst everyone was asleep after another celebratory dinner that went on well in to the night, I had just 4 hours sleep before waking up at 5.30am. With jig rod in hand, climbing down the cliffs to the areas where I'd found the bleak shoals, I went fishing! The bleak were already being chased by some type of predator and were jumping out of the water - a very encouraging sign. It only took me about 20 minutes to bank my first Ebro Perch, all 8oz of it! I caught, and lost, a few more too, before it was time to head back for breakfast. All the fish were around the same size - nothing big, but good fun, especially on a light 11euro rod!

That was the last time I was able to fish before we set off on our journey home the same day. I wasn't sure what to expect when heading out to Spain but what a fantastic experience the World Catfish Classic turned out to be. It was a great laugh being with the lads from Shuttleworth College and meeting the guys from Sparsholt too. Some of the anglers in the match were fantastic company and I certainly learned a great deal from them when it comes to targeting Ebro Cats. I can only thank Steve and Chris at Shuttleworth College, Ross Honey and his fantastic team of organisers for inviting me to take part in an awesome match. All in all - an amazing experience!

May on the Fly

Before the World Catfish Classics, above, I'd been enjoying fishing for trout - whether in matches or just pleasure fishing on Grafham, Elinor and Farmoor. My Dad and I also had a recent trip to Walthamstow, which I love, as it's normally always a challenge - the fish in there are top quality. We caught 7 between us fishing buzzers under the bung, all hard fighters that never gave up. They were all good fish over 3lb!

At the end of April, I was supposed to be fishing in the Lexus European Championships heat on Grafham, however, this was postponed due to very high winds. Some of the practice days my Dad and I fished though, were brillliant. We had 20+ rainbows each time we went, on a methods such as - the washing-line on a Di5 line with a blob, cormorant and booby, or straight line nymphing with a team of buzzers and a diawl bach on the top dropper, which I really enjoyed as some of the bites were hard hitters!

The next match both my Dad and I fished was the Thames Water Shield, a fundraiser for the EYF team. Most of the anglers decided to fish from the sailing club down to the first car park, as the strong wind was coming off their backs, making it easier to get a line out. I decided to gamble and fished more into the wind a bit further down the bank. By fishing boobies on a Di7 shooting head with a static or slow retrieve, I bagged up at 1.45pm with the biggest bag of the day at 19lb 10oz, and with the biggest fish of the match at 3lb 9oz. It was only enough to take second place though, as Kieran Bonas won with 26lb including time bonus as he had finished earlier than me. My weight with time bonus was only 25lb 10oz - well done mate. My Dad caught 6 too to come 10th out of around 30 anglers.

The following day, I was meant to be fishing a qualifier for the Airflo World Bank Masters catch-and-release match on Farmoor 1. However, due to being invited by my College to marshall the World Catfish Classics in Spain on the same day as the AWBM Final, it meant I would not be able to fish it if I got through, as my plane was leaving in the afternoon of the same day. My Dad offered to take my place and fished the qualifier instead. He had a slow start on his first couple of pegs, but chopping and changing between fishing the bung on a floating line or the sink tip with a team of buzzers, he started to catch, and by the end of the day he'd caught 9 and lost 4. It was enough to win the qualifier for the final!

Before the final, we did manage to slot in our first proper session of the year flyfishing for Zander and Perch at Grafham. The fishing wasn't easy but we caught a few Zander in the end around the 7-8lb bracket, including my first double of the year at just over 10lbs.

What was surprising was the amount of big bream that took our Zander flies and were hooked cleanly in the mouth when we boated them - 4 doubles including two other smaller ones that fell for our large baitfish imitations, including a new P.B for me at 10lb 5oz. This could have been because the fish were spawning and may have been attacking the flies out of aggression, but, I'm sure they eat baitfish though, as we've caught them on shads and curltails whilst jigging in reservoirs and on fenland drains!

Our main focus of attention after this was the Airflo World Bank Masters Final my Dad had qualified for on Elinor. We had a great practice trip there 6 days before, catching 26 rainbows on buzzers, diawl bachs, and boobies on a washing line set up. I even caught 4 off the top on popper hoppers and CDC shuttlecock buzzers as the day progressed.

 Match day was very different though and didn't go very well for him. He had 9 bites, hooked and lost four but only managed to land one. He was frustrated to say the least, but it was just one of those days. He said some of the England Youths fished really well, a couple landing four or five fish. He realised he should have practised the previous day as pulling blobs seemed the way to go, not nymphing as had been 6 days previously. Unfortunately, he hadn't had the time to practise the day before the match though. Congratulations to Chris Jones who won it.