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...

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.