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...

Friday, 12 December 2014

Santa Craws!

In last month's post, I mentioned that I've been studying for my Level 2 Coaching Course, and as part of the qualification I have to run four sessions to participants, whilst being assessed by a current Level 2 coach. I held my sessions at Get Hooked on Fishing Ealing where James Thornhill, Ealing's Project Manager, watched over me. For the first two sessions my participant was Aaron Sokhi, and for the last two was Michal Dziemianko from the Polish Angler's Association. Prior to the sessions I hadn't fished at Ealing since the last Angling Trust/GHoF Family Fishing event there, and with the weather cooling down significantly since then, the fishing had become harder. Aaron and Michal were great participants, and a big thanks to them for coming along and helping me with my assessment - also thanks to James for assessing me too! Taking my Level 2 Coaching Course is all part of the GHoF Bedfordshire project, and I'll be able to reveal more news about the initiative after the new year, including a launch date!

Apart from one full day's fishing on Pitsford a fortnight ago, our trips have been short afternoon sessions close to home. Interestingly, this Autumn we've found that Crayfish imitations and creature baits have been very successful for both Pike and Perch along our local rivers. The Berkley Rocket Craw and Berkley Crazy Legs Chigger Craws have been two of my favourite soft baits this year and we've had some enjoyable short afternoons fishing these Texas style on Owner Ultrahead Finesse Ball Weights. The biggest Perch we've caught was by my Dad - a chunky stripey weighing 3lb 4oz, falling for a Rocket Craw.

A couple of days after Dad caught this Perch, we had an afternoon exploring a lake we'd never lure fished before. Dad started jigging with a 2" Berkley Ripple Shad, intended for Perch, whilst I was using a heavier set-up targeting Pike. Within 20 minutes of arriving Dad hooked in to a good fish on his light Abu Veritas spinning rod, which gave him an exciting fight - it was a stunningly-marked Pike of 16lb 11oz, which took his 2" Ripple Shad!

Shortly after, I also hooked in to a good Pike, but my run of losing fish continued - I'm guessing this fish was around 15lbs, and it came off right at the net! Apart from a small Rudd on a tiny curltail, that was all we caught, but I'm looking forward to going back and giving it another try!

Our only reservoir trip over the past fortnight was to Pitsford. Ken Brewster, Pure Fishing's Sales and Marketing Director, asked me if I could take him lure fishing for Perch, in the hope that he would catch a fish over 2lb. We'd had a trip to Grafham the previous week and caught lots of small Perch and Zander, but nothing big, so although we hadn't fished Pitsford for a couple of months, we decided to give it a try.

I fished with Ken whilst my Dad fished on his own in another boat. Throughout the morning we caught quite a few Pike on Berkley Ripple Shads and Sébile A.T Minnows, but no Perch.

However, at around 11am we noticed Dad about 80 yards away playing what looked like a substantial fish, again on his light Abu Veritas spinning rod. The fish had swum in to a big weeded so not only was he playing the fish, but a huge blanket of weed too! He eventually netted the fish (and the weed!), and I think it was probably one of the fattest Pike I've ever seen, weighing 21lb 9oz! It took a jigged Sébile A.T Minnow in Coffee Cream.

After releasing the Pike, we found a few smaller Perch and also caught a few more Pike, but the bigger Perch didn't switch on until the last hour or so. I landed a stripey of 2lb 15 1/2oz on a jigged Ripple Shad, then right at the end of the day, Ken caught a cracker of 3lb 8oz, again on a Ripple Shad, which smashed his previous P.B!

For my birthday a couple of weeks ago, I was very lucky to get a GoPro camera from my family, and earlier in the week I used it for the first time fishing a local river. During the afternoon, Dad and I limited ourselves to using only one soft bait, which has become one of our favourites over the past year - the Sébile A.T Minnow. It was fascinating filming bites, playing fish and getting underwater footage of the A.T Minnow. We caught lots of small Pike and Perch, then right at the end of the day Dad caught a Perch weighing 2lb 15oz.

Not long after, I also caught an immaculate stripey of 3lb 2oz, however there was so little light and although we got it on film, the footage was too dark to use, as you could hardly make out the fish - it was just a black shape! At least we managed to get a photo!

Here's the video...

2014 has been a big learning curve for me in many aspects, and I've enjoyed every minute of being involved with Get Hooked on Fishing, Pure Fishing, the Pitsford Pirates and the Team England Lure Squad. I hope you all have a great Christmas, and tight lines for the new year!

Monday, 17 November 2014

The 'few' that got away!

This past month, I've been working on the new Get Hooked on Fishing Bedfordshire project, as well as studying for my Level 2 Coaching Course, and squeezing in time to get afloat or on the bank seems to have been just as hard as the fishing. Disappointingly, when my Dad and I have gone fishing, and one of us has hooked in to a good fish, they've frustratingly come off - a couple of these we clearly saw, which were very big Perch. The most recent of these happened on the River Lea, when my Dad hooked in to a big stripey on a crankbait, which at first he thought was the bottom. It came up to the surface and shook free of the tail treble, which was a real gutter!

After losing that Perch, we returned a few days later for a short afternoon session. Unfortunately, the stripeys didn't play ball, but after changing to a Berkley Havoc Rocket Craw (which Dad had already caught a couple of small jacks on), at the end of my first cast a Pike swiped at the lure and missed - I then let the Rocket Craw fall to the bottom, which was followed by the Pike. One twitch was all that was needed and WHAM! It weighed 12lb 10oz, which is a good Pike for the Lea.

Not long after releasing the Pike it began to get dark, so I changed colour and fished a white Rocket Craw. After a couple of casts to an overhanging bush, as my Rocket Craw hit the bottom I felt something take. At first I thought I'd hooked in to another nice Pike as it tore off downstream, but as the fight went on, I began to realise it was likely I may have hooked a Carp, and as it broke the surface, my prediction was right!

It was a cracking fish, and after a couple of photographs, I put the fish back in the water whilst Dad went to get out the scales. I must have switched off at that point, because I let the fish go, forgetting that Dad was on hand with the scales. I turned around to him and said "it swam off fine" and he looked at me a bit shellshocked! I have no idea why I let the fish go without weighing it, as it was certainly my biggest lure caught Carp, probably around 14-16lbs in weight. I think I just wanted to get fishing again!

We've managed a couple of trips to Grafham and caught lots of Perch, Zander and Pike from a couple of interesting features we'd found on our Lowrance HDS, although none of these fish have been huge. On one of the days the reservoir was flat calm - almost like a mirror.

The biggest Perch, which Dad caught, weighed 3lb exactly, that took a chatterbait with a Berkley Pit Chunk trailer. Shortly afterwards, he lost yet another big fish, which we think was an even better Perch!

On the 31st October, Ketan Sanghani, a volunteer for Get Hooked on Fishing Ealing, embarked on a challenge to try and catch a fish from every GHoF project in the country over the course of two days, using a different technique or method with each Project Manager. My problem was that GHoF Bedfordshire is yet to be stocked with fish, as it was dredged last year and the fish were removed, so after meeting up with Ketan, who was also accompanied by Charlie Moore from GHoF Ealing and Sarah Collins, we quickly showed him around the project before jumping in the car and heading to a free stretch of the River Ivel about a mile or so away. By the time he'd arrived at GHoF Bedfordshire at 10am, Ketan had already fished with James Thornhill at GHoF Ealing and caught a Bream!

Ketan only had an hour to catch a fish, and we were hoping to catch it on a lure, so after targeting Pike and Perch for half an hour with no success, we switched to drop-shotting a Berkley Power Maggot and with just minutes to spare, Ketan caught a Dace!

After releasing the Dace, it was time to say goodbye as Ketan and Charlie headed to Cudmore Fisheries for the next leg of his challenge. The great news is that Ketan caught many species and completed the challenge, raising over £1000 for the Get Hooked on Fishing charity, which was match funded by Barclays bank! What an achievement Ketan and Charlie - well done lads!

We stayed and fished until dark, and it was probably a good idea we didn't continue to fish for the Pike and Perch as we only caught a couple, but I did land a chunky Chub on a Sébile A.T Minnow.

A few days later, Chris Gadsden, known as Crispy Duck to many of his friends and a good friend of the charity, had managed to get special permission for the three of us to to lure fish Royal Berkshire Fisheries for a day - a venue near Windsor with a reputation of producing big Perch. The day had been planned for quite a while and we were really looking forward to trying a venue which had never seen lures!

The night before, there had been the first hard frost of the year and it was also very foggy, so we arrived an hour late because of the traffic on the M25. We had a great breakfast in the café on site with Crispy before starting our fishing. It was very bright and sunny in the morning, but as it clouded over in the afternoon, we started to get some bites. Interestingly, we found that despite the coloured water, we caught most of our fish on very dull soft plastics, and when Dad changed to a really scaled down drop-shot rig with tiny soft baits, he started to catch almost one a chuck, although the Perch were only small, plus a couple of nice Roach. He did catch a couple of larger stripeys though, one of which was 2lb+, on a jigged Berkley Ribbontail Grub.

I stuck to using larger baits and didn't catch as many, however I hooked in to a very big fish, which boiled on the surface before throwing the hook right at the end of the day - I was gutted! I checked the hook and it was sticky sharp, so maybe it was just one of those things. Our luck has got to change sometime!

Crispy had also caught a couple of small Perch drop-shotting, and then fished with bait late in the afternoon, along with Eddie Edwards, Alan Bailey and Bill Rushmer, and it didn't take him long to catch a lovely Perch of 2lb 6oz, whilst Eddie and Alan landed lots of cracking Roach and the occasional Carp too.

Another angler also caught a 2lb 10oz and a 2lb 7oz Perch - maggots and prawns seemed to be the top baits. A big thank you to Royal Berkshire Fisheries for allowing us to have special permission to lure fish, and thanks again to Chris, Eddie and Alan for a great day!

Finally, last week I gave a talk on Wednesday evening to the Bedford region of the Pike Angler's Club of Great Britain. It's a bit daunting telling stories to seasoned anglers and thankfully, I didn't see anybody run out the door! Thank you to Andy Syddell for inviting me along - my next talk will be for the Suffolk PAC on January 6th next year.

Friday, 10 October 2014

The FIPSed 7th Carnivorous Artificial Bait Boat Angling World Championships

Last year, my Dad and I were lucky enough to be selected to fish for the first ever Team England Lure Squad in the 6th Carnivorous Artificial Bait Boat Angling World Championships on Lough Erne in Northern Ireland. To say it was an amazing experience is an understatement and thankfully, after the qualifiers back in May 2014, my Dad and I retained our places in the squad, along with Eric Edwards, to fish in this year's World Championships on Lac du Bourget in the French Alps. The new team members joining us this year were Dan Brackley, Rikki Cooper and Ron Dalton.

Dad, Eric and I had learned a lot from the 2013 event and we were desperate to improve on last year's performance. One of the reasons we didn't do well last year is because the team was set up very late and we didn't have time, or the funds, to get a practice trip to Lough Erne. With only two, six hour practice days allowed two days prior to the match, it's impossible to explore an allocated match area four times the size of Rutland! So, this year, earlier in September, Dad, Eric and I embarked on a 1700 mile round journey to the town of Aix-les-bains with Eric's brand new boat for three days practice. Unfortunately, we missed out on nearly a whole day as we had two tyre punctures on consecutive days, so this had to be sorted before we could head for home.

At 11 miles long and with depths of up to 450ft, Lac Bourget is the largest and deepest lake contained entirely within France, and it's probably the hardest and most unusual lake I've ever fished. Pike had to measure 50cm to count, Perch 25cm and Zander 40cm, and although we caught lots of small Perch, not one was measurable, and my Dad caught the only oversized Pike at just 50.5cm. We nicknamed this fish 'the £1000 Pike' as that was how much it cost us to go on our practice trip!

However, we came away with some valuable information for the team and we were all feeling confident for the tournament three weeks later. During the weeks leading up to the competition, we also had some great information that backed up all of our research we'd gained during our practice trip. It seemed Pike would be the target species as the Perch were too small, and from what we'd learned, Zander seem to appear out of the blue, but they're normally very big if you're lucky enough to latch in to one.

Sadly, from there, we had a catalyst of problems for the entire World Championships. Eric's bow-mount trolling motor didn't arrive in time, Rikki's trailer tyres were shredded as he was towing his boat through France, a broken outboard, a leak on a boat, a trolling motor was damaged and became unusable, a boat seat broke and worst of all, our manager, Mike Skipper, was taken very ill and admitted to hospital after the first practice day and missed out on the whole tournament.

All of these problems were incredibly soul destroying, to say the least, but it made us pull together as a team even more so, and Eric Edwards took on the role as both captain and manager.

We'd found areas in the north and south ends of the lake where we'd had action from Pike. The shoals of small, undersized Perch were huge - the structurescan on our sonar was black with them in some areas, and we found these shoals over weedbeds where the bottom dropped off from 15-25ft to 40-70ft. Some of these drop-offs were very sharp and steep, and although we came across so many fishy-looking drop-offs covered in weedbeds and shoals of Perch, the Pike were hard to come by.

The pairings that fished on day one were Dan and Ron, who headed to the north end, and my Dad and Rikki, who headed south, as my Dad had caught fish here on the practice trip. Lac Bourget certainly lived up to it's reputation of being the hardest of the French Alpine lakes, especially with very warm, flat calm conditions, with at least 34 of the world's top lure anglers and 5 teams not recording a single measurable fish on day one.

England caught two fish that were oversized, one of 59cm by Dan and one of 68cm by my Dad, which was England's biggest fish of the tournament. Both boats hadn't blanked and this boosted our points so after day one, we were placed 7th out of 16 teams.

Whilst the four selected anglers were fishing on day one, Eric and I drove around the perimeter of the lake all day with a map and binoculars, taking note of how other teams were fishing, what tactics and lures they were using and where they were based. Mike Skipper wanted each of the six team members to fish on the match days so Eric and I replaced Dan and Ron on day two, although instead of being paired with Rikki, my Dad would join Eric down the south end. We'd only seen four boats down there all day and two of those were the Russians, who were in 4th place after day one, so both Eric and my Dad felt confident of catching there.

I was to fish with Rikki up the north end of the lake as I had a good idea of what was going on up there and how to fish it, having practiced there prior to the match and observing boats there on day one.

We started in an area where we'd caught in practice, but after 45 minutes with no bites, we moved further north close to where the French Captain, Sylvain Legendre, was fishing with Gael Even. After adopting an unusual style of jigging we'd seen other boats using on day one, just 5 minutes later I got us off the mark with a Pike of 54cm caught on a 5" Berkley Flex Slim Shad. Not long after, news filtered through that Eric had caught a 60cm Pike too, so both boats hadn't blanked which was very important.

The fishing got much harder as the day progressed and although I caught another Pike on a 5" Berkley Split Belly using the jigging tactic, and Dad and Rikki also caught a Pike, all were undersized fish.

A huge thunderstorm started to approach the lake at around 2pm and the heavens opened shortly after. Then came the lightning and at 7 minutes past 3, all anglers were instructed to stop fishing, and the match was over.

Congratulations to Ukraine for winning the World Championships with 12 fish - to beat runners up, France on home soil and such a hard venue is an incredible feat. Russia came third with 8 Pike. Also, congratulations to the Irish pair Steven and Andrew Powell for catching the biggest Pike of the tournament at 117cm - what a fish! Talk about the luck of the Irish, haha!


Interestingly, out of all the measurable fish caught, only one was a Perch and there were no Zander caught - the rest were Pike.

England had caught eight Pike on the match days but unfortunately, only four of those were measurable and we dropped to 9th place out of 16 teams, but we've definitely improved on last year's performance. We beat last year's World Champions, Italy, as well as other top teams including Poland, South Africa, Belarus and Hungary. I'm looking forward to putting in to practice what I learned during that week here in the UK, and if I'm lucky enough to qualify, another World Championships!

It only remains now for us all to say 'Get well soon' to our manager, Mike Skipper.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Grafham's Monsters!

There's never been a better time to catch a big stripey, and with the opening of the midlands reservoirs for lure fishing in early September, it gives you a fantastic chance of latching into something special. Dad and I have fished every opening day on Grafham for lure fishing since 2006, and on the opening day this year we decided to concentrate on Perch and Zander, whilst on the second day we planned to target Pike. We had a great opening day, catching 64 fish between us - a mixture of Pike, Perch and Zander, the biggest Perch weighed 3lb 8oz.

We arrived on the second morning and it turned out to be flat calm and sunny - –not ideal conditions for Pike, so we decided to have a change of plan and continue fishing jigs and drop-shot rigs for Perch and Zander. Despite this, my first fish of the day was a Pike of around 6lb, then about 10 minutes later I had an almighty whack and hooked in to a very heavy fish. I knew straight away it was a good Pike as it started tearing off line. It was an incredible fight on my light Abu Veritas spinning rod and 1000 sized reel! We finally netted the fish and it weighed 20lb 3oz. It took a jigged Berkley Ripple Shad.

They were the only two Pike we caught that day, but we continued to catch quite a few Zander to 9lb 1oz and plenty of Perch. Later in the afternoon we returned to the same area where I'd caught my 3lb 8oz Perch the day before, and on my first cast I caught another of 3lb 2oz!

A couple of casts later, Dad hooked in to what also felt like a good Perch, which is what it turned out to be! It weighed 4lb exactly, and also took a jigged shad.

In total, over the two days, we caught 99 fish between us: 26 Zander, 70 Perch and 3 Pike. Unfortunately, we lost two fish right at the end of the day and these would have made it over 100!

Throughout the summer I've also had something else to look forward to - as from this Autumn I'm working full time for Get Hooked on Fishing on their new initiative and project called GHoF Bedfordshire. I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity to restore and develop the fantastic looking Estate Lake at The Swiss Garden to its former glory, and I'm really looking forward to spending more time getting the project up and running and restocking the lake.

A few weeks ago, Get Hooked on Fishing had their last Angling Trust/GHoF 'Family Fishing' event of the year, on the Grand Union Canal at Apsley Locks in Hemel Hempstead. Since the Spring, Sarah Collins, the CEO of Get Hooked on Fishing, and Clive Copeland, Head of Participation for the Angling Trust, have helped organise many of these events up and down the country, and in the initiative's first year, hundreds of people have participated and benefited. Another 70 came along to 'have a go' at the Apsley Locks event.

The lure fishing was surprisingly hard and we only caught a couple of small Perch, but it was another brilliant day put together by the Angling Trust Anglian Regional Officer, James Lewis.

We've also had a couple of great afternoon/evening trips along my local rivers in the past month. We'd had some heavy downpours which we felt sure would freshen the rivers up, and sure enough, a couple of days later, river conditions were looking very good. We started fishing along a local stretch at around 2pm, but after around 3 hours with just one fish each, we decided to relocate to another area of the river.

Within around 20 minutes of arriving I had a good take and hooked in to a Perch that weighed 3lb 9oz, caught on a jigged Berkley Ripple Shad, rigged Texas style.

On my very next cast, just after I'd released the 3lb 9oz, I had another good take and seconds later I had another good Perch of 3lb 11oz in the net!

Dad, unfortunately, lost a good fish from the same area, but after the bites dried up, we started to leapfrog each other downstream. About an hour later, as it was getting dark, and after catching some smaller Perch, I cast tight to a big snag and hooked and landed the biggest fish of the day, weighing 3lb 12oz and measuring 48cm, so I'd caught a trio of Perch in just over an hour for a total weight of exactly 11lbs! The bigger fish were very empty and I think both the 3lb 11oz and the 3lb 12oz will probably weigh over 4lbs towards the end of the season.

As I've mentioned in other posts, Dad and I were fortunate enough to make it in to the England Lure Squad for the second year running, along with Eric Edwards. In last year's World Championships, one of the areas where we went wrong was that we never managed to get in a practice trip to Lough Erne in Ireland, mainly because of funds and the team being put together late. There are two, six hour official practice days before the World Championships begin, and it's impossible to cover a huge expanse of water like Lac Bourget in France, (where this year's Championships are being held) in such a short space of time. This year, we were determined not to let that happen again so, a couple of weeks ago, Dad, Eric and I embarked on the 1700 mile round trip to Aix-les-bains in the French Alps to practice for the Lure Fishing World Championships 2014.

Lac Bourget is a stunning looking lake and very picturesque. I can't give away too much on what we caught and what tactics worked this side of the event, but it's a fantastic venue for holding a World Championships. A big surprise is that whilst practising, we came across some cracking Chub and Tench. Both Dad and Eric caught Chub - Eric's weighed 4lb 11oz!

Eric had a big Tench follow him too that was probably around 9lbs in weight! We also saw some locals catching Whitefish - something both Dad and I would love to try and catch after the match if it was possible. We had a really good time together.

Since coming back from our practice trip I've been very busy working on GHoF Bedfordshire, trade shows and final preparation for the World Championships so there hasn't been much time for fishing. But we couldn't resist one more trip to Grafham and we're glad we did, as we had another great day boating 34 fish. I caught my biggest Perch from Grafham this year weighing 3lb 13oz, again on a jigged Berkley Ripple Shad.

Interestingly, this year we've caught lots of small Zander between 1 and 3lbs on lures, and not so many larger fish, however Dad landed a cracking Zed weighing 10lbs exactly.

With only hours to go now before we set off for France, the England team are feeling very confident we can do well and we're really looking forward to it. COME ON ENGLAND!