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, 20 October 2013

The FIPSed 6th Carnivorous Artificial Bait Boat Angling World Championships

If there was one word to describe the experience of representing England in the FIPSed 6th Carnivorous, Artificial Bait, Boat Angling World Championships, it would have to be AWESOME! To fish against some of the world's best lure anglers, along with Team England - Matt Netherton, Gary Palmer, Evaldas Skablauskas, Eric Edwards and my Dad, was a huge honour.

The venue for the World Championships was Lough Erne, in Northern Ireland. The Lower and Upper Lough Erne systems, combined, are approximately 35,584 acres - that's 12 times the size of Rutland, with 154 islands. Some parts of the Lower Lough resemble the sea! Although we were only allowed in the match to fish an area around a third of the size based around Enniskillen, it was still a huge area to cover in two, 6 hour practice days. So to ensure we covered as much water as we could, Mike Skipper, the Team Manager, broke the match area in to three sections. Gary and Eric concentrated on the east side of Lower Lough Erne, Matt and Evaldas fished the west side of Lower Lough Erne, and my Dad and I covered the river from Bellanaleck to Enniskillen, along with the bottom section of Upper Lough Erne.

On the two practice days, my Dad and I fished the way we mostly fish, which is power fishing with soft plastics, crankbaits and spinnerbaits - trying to cover as much water as we could. Whilst I used lures that I was pretty sure would work, Dad was doing the experimenting and changing lures a lot more often than I was.

That way we were hoping to find out what was and wasn't working, and maybe find a lure that other teams weren't using that would be effective on the match days. Over the two practice days I caught 8 Pike and 8 Perch, and we'd worked out some good spots and tactics to approach both match days with.

The minimum length for Pike was 50cm, and 6 of those 8 Pike I caught were over 50cm, and the minimum length for Perch was 22cm, but only one Perch I caught was over that mark. So, with the way the points worked, it made more sense to fish for Pike. Gary and Eric had found Pike in deep water in the Lower Lough, so they headed there on match day 1, whilst Dad and I planned to fish upstream and fish some deep holes in the River Erne and a quiet bay, where we'd picked up some better Pike in practice.

The opening ceremony was held on Thursday night, and every team walked on stage in turn, whilst their national anthem was being played. They were then introduced by the team manager to the other competitiors. It was a very proud moment for all of us!

The atmosphere on the first match day was electric. All the boats were allowed to leave the pontoon at 9.30am, but fishing commenced at 10am.

There were two referee/marshall boats, one that headed downstream through Enniskillen to the Lower Lough, and one that went upstream. During the time period between 9.30am and 10am, you weren't allowed to overtake them otherwise the team would be penalised, so everybody was jostling for positions, tight behind the marshall boat, so when it did reach 10am, boats zoomed off in all directions, and for me it was one of the most exciting parts of the match!

On match day 1, Eric and Gary landed 2 Pike over the 50cm mark. My Dad and I had a slow start at our first spot, which the French also fished with no joy, but at around 11.30am we moved to a deep hole in Tamlaght Bay and I quickly landed the first Pike of the day at 65cm. From there, the fishing seemed to improve for us, and after trying a couple more areas, and returning back to the bay, we landed another 7 Pike - 4 of those came in the last three quarters of an hour. We ended the day with 8 Pike and a Perch, though only 5 Pike were over the 50cm minimum size. One of my Pike was 49.75cm!! How close is that?!

After day 1, England were placed in 6th, and my Dad and I were in 5th place individually. Team England were all feeling confident of a good second day, but things didn't go quite to plan…

Gary and Eric had a major problem. They'd planned to fish in the Round 'O' on the river in Enniskillen town centre first, before heading back on to the Lower Lough. However, there are some sluice gates further downstream and on the Saturday night they had been shut without any of the competitors knowing. This caused the river to stop flowing, and it had a great effect on the fishing. They caught 3 Pike between them, however one was undersize.

Our game plan was to head straight back to where we'd caught 4 Pike from in the last three quarters of an hour of day 1, as we felt really confident we'd catch some more there. Unfortunately, another boat followed us to the same area, but they did leave within about half hour having not caught. I had one Pike there and Dad missed a couple of plucks, but my fish was undersize. We moved on upstream to another hole in the river that drops to over 40 feet deep, where there were plenty of baitfish, and where Dad had caught two Pike on day 1 of the match. On his very first cast Dad landed a Pike, but again it was undersize. By about 2pm we were struggling for bites, and in a nutshell, the fishing became really tough. After trying a few more spots we headed back to Tamlaght Bay, which had produced well for us on the afternoon of day 1, hoping a rest during the day would have helped the fishing. It was still really hard though - what was good timing was when Andy Ford and the camera crew from Sky Sports turned up in their boat to film us, and I hooked and landed a 59cm Pike whilst the cameras were rolling! But that was the only other bite we had all day.

After the match had ended, the atmosphere remained very tense as the teams awaited the final results at the presentation. In the team event, first place went to Italy, second place was awarded to Russia, and in third place was Romania.

The individual champions were Janas Prialgauskas and Vladas Valukonis of Lithuania, runners-up were Alexey Shanin and Alexander Panchekhin of Russia, and third place were Jacek Gorny and Tomasz Kurman of Ireland. Congratulations to them all!

The presentation was followed by an amazing closing ceremony, then it was a night of Irish dancing and music, delicious food, and lots of banter (especially between England and the Irish!!) which everyone really enjoyed. A lot of the teams gave gifts to each other, which was very kind of them, so a big thank you from Team England!

I must also say a few more thank-you's before I end this post. Firstly, to Mike Skipper, for choosing us to be part of the Team England Lure Squad. Secondly, our guide and steward Geoffray Begard, who was fantastic company throughout the 2 days practice and the match days. Others I'd like to thank are Grantz clothing, for making the team some quality t-shirts, hoodies, fleeces and caps to wear; Mark Houghton for making every team member a crankbait with the Team England Lure Squad logo and our name on each, as a momento; Lynx for supplying us with traces; Savage Gear with waterproofs, and Parmaris with lifejackets.

The Irish were fantastic hosts - the venue they'd chosen for this World Championships and the Killyhevlin hotel, including the evening entertainment and food, couldn't have been any better.

In the short space of time Team England have been together, we have all gelled so well and it was a horrible feeling for us all when the results were not what we'd hoped. I think England's final placing mainly boils down to not having enough knowledge of the venue. Some of the top teams had already ventured out months ahead and practised, namely the winners Italy, runners-up Russia and last year's world champions Ukraine. But due to the team being put together fairly late and not having the funds, we just weren't able to. What we have to take from this experience is that we have all learnt so much about fishing in a Lure Fishing World Championship. It was England's first time, as well as France's debut, and both teams finished 12th and 13th respectively. I really don't think we're far off the other teams though, and England will put everything we've learned from this World Championship to use next year.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Awesome action on artificials!

For the last few weeks my Dad and I have been preparing to fish the 6th Artificial Bait Boat Angling World Championships, and I can't remember ever having such a busy month! With just a few days to go before Team England head out to Ireland, the last few days have been a bit manic, so I've only just got round to updating this blog.

Following on from my last post, many of the Anglian reservoirs have now opened for lure fishing, and the Team England Lure Squad decided to meet up on Grafham on the first day of the lure fishing season. It was very warm, and flat calm, which made for a tough day's fishing, and much of the activity happened in the last two hours for us. We'd only caught 2 or 3 fish by around 5pm, but as the light levels lowered the fish seemed to switch on. We ended up catching 7 Zander and 3 Perch between us - Dad caught the biggest Perch right at the end of the day at 3lb 8oz on a jigged Berkley Ripple Shad.

It was great to meet up with the team members we've both never met, and discuss tactics, game plans etc. for Ireland, and also catch up with some other great friends that were fishing Grafham the same day too.

Since then we've made a couple of trips back, and temperatures have cooled down a touch. Although the Zander fishing has been quite slow, which, again, could be down to water temperatures still being quite high, we've caught some cracking Perch.

On our next trip to Grafham I was getting over a nasty cold, and wasn't quite sure whether to go or not. But, mad as we are, I decided to go for it! Within just a few minutes of fishing, venturing out was made worthwhile as my Dad landed a cracking Perch of 3lb 11oz.

From then on, we caught a few more Perch up to 2lb 11oz throughout the day, but strangely only one small Zander. With just an hour to go we decided to return to the area where Dad had his 3lb 11oz from in the morning, in the hope of another big fish. I'd been drop-shotting a Sébile Magic Swimmer Soft for most of the day, trying out a new stinger drop-shot rig (an idea my Dad came up with recently), and as soon as I dropped it down to the bottom I felt a good thud and set the hook. After a tense heavy-headshaking fight, eventually I got the Perch safely in the net, and it tipped the scales round to 4lb 1oz!

After photographing and releasing that beautiful fish, we had time to catch one more Perch before we had to head back in, otherwise we'd be late! We were so fired up for trying it again, we decided to return just two days later. Dad and I spent the first half of the day targeting Pike, but we didn't have a follow or a touch. Maybe as it cools down even more, the Pike might switch on a bit. For the last few hours we couldn't resist fishing for Perch and Zeds again, and almost instantly after dropping down my drop-shotted Magic Swimmer Soft I caught a Perch of 3lb 5oz!

However, in the end it wasn't as productive as the last trip, but I did land a nice Zander of around 9lbs.

On that same trip it was also great to bump in to Andy Lush, owner of the Friendly Fisherman tackle shop and top lure angler, who had a great day's fishing targeting Perch with his boat partner.

Just after fishing with the Team England Lure Squad on Grafham, my Dad and I met up with Steve Phillips of Total Coarse Fishing for a feature on targeting river Zander on soft plastics. I'd chosen to fish the River Ouse right in the centre of Ely, a place where I have some great fishing in the past catching lots of Zander, although mainly small, plus some nice Perch and Pike. The trouble was we hadn't fished it for around four years! So we had an afternoon trip there, just to get an idea on how it was fishing. It wasn't easy, but we had a few Zander, Pike and Perch, and were hopeful it would fish just as well, if not better, for the feature.

On the day Steve came along, the fishing was much harder than we anticipated - sometimes we'd catch upwards of 30 Zander in a day along there, but that wasn't the case on this trip!! We did catch a few fish though, mainly Pike and Perch, using a variety of different tactics to see what worked best. We even fished well in to the dark - one of our favourite times for catching Zander at Ely, but we struggled for only a couple of bites.

That's just the way it goes sometimes, but there hadn't been any rain for a while so the river was quite low and clear - maybe a good downpour might have livened the fishing up. But we had a great day with Steve and I might head back up there this winter to see whether the fishing is any better then.

A couple of days later, that good downpour finally arrived, freshening up the rivers. Dad and I decided to try some of our local rivers for Perch, and made an early start the following day - on first appearance I thought the river still looked a touch too coloured, but 20 seconds later we found out that wasn't the case! Dad made one cast, and within seconds hooked and landed a Perch of 3lb 8oz! I hadn't even cast out! What a start!

Over the course of the day we covered long stretches of river with a variety of tactics and methods, before covering all the areas we'd caught from again with a drop-shot. Drop-shotting a split tail was the tactic that fooled my biggest Perch of the day, weighing 3lb 13oz, and we ended the day with 21 others to nearly 3lbs.

Our next trip resulted in 16 more. The highlight of that day was when Dad had a Perch follow his jigged shad right to the margins. He let the jig fall to the bottom and stood like a heron. The Perch then eyed up the shad for a few seconds and then engulfed it! I don't think he knew quite how big the fish was at the time, but at 3lb 14oz it was a fantastic looking specimen! Watching a fish take the lure has to be one of the most exciting elements to lure fishing.

We've had a few more trips along our local rivers since, but none have been quite as productive. My biggest fish recently was a 6lb 4oz Bream, that was hooked in the mouth and took a drop-shotted split tail! I thought it was a huge Perch at first! But it was still a lovely fish to catch on a lure.

On October 1st, my local lake opened for predator fishing. As of late, we've both been very busy getting ready for the World Championships, but when the lake is just 150 yards from your house, it was hard to resist! The fishing wasn't easy, as the water was very coloured - out of all the anglers deadbaiting, I think only one fish was caught. We spent a lot of the day experimenting and trying new lures - I was also trying out a new Abu Garcia Veritas heavy jerkbait rod, and christened it with a cracking Pike of 15lb 1oz, which took a Sébile Koolie Minnow.

We ended the day with 10 Pike and a few small Perch, then right at the last knockings Dad caught a stripey of bang on 3lbs, to round off a really enjoyable day's fishing.

Now it's back to packing, and somehow trying to slim down all the lure gear so it fits in the car, before heading out to Ireland early Tuesday morning. I'm really looking forward to seeing the other team members and competing in the World Championships. COME ON ENGLAND!!