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 228 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, 9 July 2015

Sky Sports' 'Tightlines' - the end of an era!

The small town of Alnwick in Northumberland is famed for being the home of legendary game fishing manufacturers Hardy and Greys. It's now also the UK headquarters for the brands Berkley, Abu Garcia and Shakespeare, to name a few, and at the beginning of June, Dad and I made the five and a half hour journey up the A1 for a meeting to discuss new lures coming out in 2016. However, we did break up the journey, meeting with Greys Brand Manager Dave McCartney on a lake in Yorkshire for some product testing.

I thought we were going to be targeting Pike, but we soon found out that there are no Pike and Perch in the lake and that we would be targeting Trout, as the lake was a former Trout fishery! Luckily, we'd brought along some small lures for Perch, so Dad started off with a Berkley Shrug Minnow in Orange Glow, whilst I started with a crankbait - a Sébile Puncher 5cm floating in Ghost Rainbow. I'd been told that the lake was full of Sticklebacks, and the Ghost Rainbow colour, to me, seemed to closely resemble them in size and colour. Neither of us needed to change lure again that afternoon!

Within a few casts a stunning Brownie shot out from the margins and slammed my Sébile Puncher, and shortly after, Dad caught 2 Rainbows, one of which was around 5lb!

About 20 minutes later, I hooked in to another fish, this time at range. It was quite hard to tell whether it was any size until I got it closer to the net - then I realised it was something very special. It was a huge Brownie - a new P.B weighing 9lb 14oz!

We released the fish and as it swam off, it coughed up about 15 Sticklebacks, all of a similar size to the Sébile Puncher.

Sadly, we only had time to fish for a couple of hours, but I'd have loved to have continued for a bit longer. We still had to get to Alnwick and check in at our hotel, so after another half hour's fishing and one more Brownie for Dave, we were in the car and on our way even further north!

The next day I had a meeting at the Pure Fishing UK headquarters, before Dad and I were shown around the Hardy and Greys factory. It was fascinating watching rods being put together, and fly reels being cut and shaped out of lumps of bar stock aluminium! The factory also make components and parts for Dyson vacuums and the International Space Agency! We then visited the Hardy museum, learning how rods and reels have evolved over the last century or so. Interestingly, I didn't realise the original Hardy 'Fortuna' reel of the 1920's was designed 'for Tuna'! It was a great day and if you're in the area, I'd certainly suggest stopping by.

Keeping on the subject of Trout, three weekends ago I fished in my first fly competition of the season - the Airflo International Midland Heat at Grafham, with the Pitsford Pirates. I practised with team-mate Pete Elliot the day before the match and we had a great day, but the conditions on the match day were completely different - almost flat calm and heavy rain showers, compared to a bright and windy day when Pete and I fished together previously.

I started off pulling with a fast glass line and caught two fish but the bites soon dried up. Our team captain, Charlie Abrahams, was doing well washing lining on a floating line, so I switched lines and managed to catch another 3 fish. The team caught 39 fish in total, including the biggest fish of the day at 5lb exactly, caught by Bart Farmer, and it was enough to help us secure second place and qualify for the Midland Final! Well done shipmates! 'Aaarrrrr!'

Dad and I have also had a couple of trips flyfishing Grafham and Rutland for the predators. Although the fishing has become a bit harder over the past month, we've still caught a few nice Zander - Dad has caught the biggest fish, weighing 11lb exactly.

I've been to a couple of Get Hooked on Fishing 'Family Fishing' events this past month - at Orton Pond near Peterborough and Rib Valley Fishing Lakes near Ware. We've also been introducing some year 10 students to fishing every Monday at our project in Walthamstow. Over the past few weeks, the students have caught a mixture of species, including Roach, Rudd, Tench, some stunning looking Carp, and Rainbow Trout and Perch on small soft plastics, and on Monday, I caught this Tench drop-shotting a small piece of Berkley Gulp! Sandworm!

Today, we had a class of sixth-formers who had never fished before, and they all caught at least one fish, including this pretty looking Mirror!

The Rib Valley Family Fishing event went really well. We held the event on the Millennium Lake, which is normally the Trout lake, but it opens for coarse fishing on the 1st June. We also had special permission to lure fish the lake for the day, as the Team England Lure Squad kindly gave up their time and came along to demonstrate different lure fishing tactics.

Luckily, we were blessed with fantastic weather - sunshine all day, although not ideal conditions for lure fishing, but a great day was had by all. A massive thank you to all of those who came along and helped make the day a success!

The following day, Dad and I fished Pitsford for an afternoon with Eric Edwards, who had kindly come all the way down from St. Helens to help at the Rib Valley Family Fishing day and stayed the night at ours.

Although Eric sometimes uses lures as big as this Pike and doesn't normally take pictures of fish under 30lb ;) , it was his first time fishing Pitsford, so we took a picture of his first Pitsford Pike! We had a great afternoon and boated a good number of Pike between us, and lost quite a few too - the best fish weighing 14lb 14oz.

Unfortunately, the next day I came down with a bad cold, which Dad caught a few days later - terrible timing considering June 16th was just a couple of days away! We'd planned to fish the Thames on our boat on the opening day of the season, but we both felt so rough we decided to go local instead and concentrate on targeting Chub with lures.

Despite feeling under the weather, we managed to get fishing by 5am and stalked a few Chub to around 2lb 8oz on Berkley Micro Sparkle Nymphs.

The highlight of the morning though was when Dad stalked a lone, immaculate Barbel on a Micro Sparkle Nymph - what a fight it gave him!

Shortly after releasing the Barbel, he caught his first Perch of the season on the same soft bait, which was also a cracker!

The fishing became quite hard in the afternoon as the sun came out and Dad started to feel quite rough, so we decided to go home, catch up with some work and get some rest before heading out again early the following morning. We'd spotted a couple more Barbel during the day and our aim was to try and catch another. We returned to the same stretch, but the fish seemed very spooky and after landing one small Chub, we relocated to another stretch of the Lea to see if we could stalk a Barbel.

At first we saw three huge Chub (one was well over 6lbs), which soon disappeared, so we ventured upstream, trying to spot fish. After walking for nearly half a mile without seeing anything at all, we were beginning to wonder where all the fish had gone, but when we reached the weir at the top of the stretch, we couldn't believe what we found - at least 15 Barbel (some big ones too) along with 25-30 Chub, all spawning.

It was incredible to watch, but we decided not to fish for them as they were clearly spawning and we didn't want to disturb them. I did manage to stalk a nice Lea Brownie though, again on the Micro Sparkle Nymph.

The weekend before last, Dad and I fished with the rest of the Team England Lure Squad at Ardleigh Reservoir, practising for the forthcoming World Championships in Estonia, with Eric Edwards, Ron Dalton, Rikki Cooper and Wayne Fletcher.

Wayne managed to get us special permission to camp out on the banks of the reservoir so we could start fishing early the following morning. The fishing was quite challenging in hot and sunny conditions, even when it came to targeting the Perch in deep water, but we caught plenty of stripeys, as well as Pike, on a variety of different tactics. To make things interesting, on the afternoon of the last day, we decided to have a pairs match to see which pair could catch a measurable Pike (45cm+) and a measureable Perch (22cm+) and get back to the jetty the quickest. All three boats managed to get back in under an hour, but it was Dad and Wayne that managed to complete the challenge first!

I'm going to end this post on a sad note. In 2011, when I was 16, I couldn't believe it when Sky Sports approached me and asked whether I'd like to take Keith Arthur out flyfishing on Grafham, filming for 'Tightlines'. We had a fantastic day, targeting Trout in the morning and Zander in the afternoon, and a couple of weeks ago, I was asked again whether I'd like to fish with Keith, again on Grafham, for the very last shoot for Tightlines. As I've mentioned in this month's and last month's posts, Dad and I have been catching a few nice Zander from Grafham, including five doubles to 12lb 8oz, but things can change very quickly in fishing, especially when you're up against the worst possible conditions for targeting predators - cloudless and still, and the hottest day of 2015 so far - the following day was the hottest July day since records began. We also had an almost full moon, which may not have helped. Casting bulky flies on heavy Di7 lines, using 9wt and 10wt fly rods and pulling up anchors in those conditions is demanding, to say the least!

I did manage to catch a Zander (only a small one by Grafham's standards), but it was probably one of the most frustrating days I've ever had fishing Grafham. We tried so many areas and waypoints on our GPS, all around the reservoir, with one bite all day to show for our efforts. I was very upset as I wanted the day to be a success for the last ever shoot for Tightlines, but it just wasn't to be. What was even more frustrating was once Keith and the cameramen had left, my Dad wanted to fish for the last hour of light, as he'd been driving the cameramen around all day, and on his second cast, he hooked and lost a Zed at the boat, and then went on to land three more before we had to head in! By this stage, I felt pretty sick! The Zander had switched on for the last hour after everyone had left.

I've been very lucky and privileged to have fished with Keith on a few occasions for Tightlines, and also featured as a guest in the bothy. It's an amazing experience visiting the Sky Sports studios, bumping in to faces you've seen on telly like Chris Kamara, and doors opened for us by Kirsty Gallagher - one of the most surreal experiences was sitting in the make-up room, chatting to Keith about fishing whilst having our faces airbrushed! I'd like to say a huge thank you to Keith, Mick Brais and the team at Sky Sports for giving me the opportunity to appear on Tightlines - it's a sad loss to angling as it has covered such a diverse range of fishing for all anglers, all over the country for the last 20 years. Just like Bernard Venables and 'Mr. Crabtree Goes Fishing', Keith and his 'Tightlines' show will remain legendary!