Hi! My name is Sam Edmonds. Those of you who know me are aware that I am just 'ever so slightly' keen on my fishing and the love of the outdoors.
Fishing has been a part of my life since the day I was born. I suppose it comes as no surprise when you have a Dad that's fishing crazy. We fish together literally all of the time and have had some fantastic times spent trying to catch all kinds of fish here in the UK and on holidays abroad. Along the way I have met some great fishermen and some of these have become really good friends.
The more I fish the more my fascination and appreciation for the sport grows and catching fish is just the start - there is so much more to angling: travelling, nature, wildlife and watching some spectacular sunrises are just a few.
So I'd like to share in my blog some of my fishing experiences, captures and other related interests such as photography and writing. I hope you will enjoy reading it and find something that interests you too...

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Flyfishing for big Zander

Every month I try to update my blog, but unfortunately I’ve let it slip recently and I’m now playing catch up for May and June! I was aiming to get this post up before the start of the river season, but I’ve had a very busy month or so, which has delayed this blog post.

Mid May marks the opening of flyfishing for predators on the Anglian Water reservoirs. Targeting Pike, Perch and Zander on the fly on these venues is something I always look forward to every year, ever since my Dad took me on my first trip flyfishing for predators on Grafham back in 2005.

My Dad first fished Grafham for these species on the fly back in 2001, and quickly learnt that there was some fantastic fishing to be had, especially for the Zander, which he soon became fascinated with. At the time, flyfishing for Zander was quite new, so experimenting with fly patterns was quite important, and creating flies that work well for the species.

All four of the reservoirs have the potential to break the British record for Pike and Perch, but Rutland and Grafham also have the added bonus of producing a monster Zander. Although Dad and I haven’t caught any of the real monsters, between us we’ve caught around 50 over 10lb to date, with the biggest weighing 14lb 9oz. I’m sure we’ve probably hooked and lost a couple though over the years!

The take from a Zander can be pretty awesome at times - you can almost feel the fly being engulfed in to their jaws, and any zed over 5lb will give you a good fight on a 9wt, with lots of hard, dogged headshakes, plenty of lunges and sometimes even some uncharacteristic runs, like a Pike. The three species actually all fight quite differently to each other, and we can usually tell what species is on the end of our line before we’ve even seen the fish.

Dad and I managed to fish on the first day of the new predator flyfishing season, but the conditions weren’t on our side - 17mph westerly winds were not what we’d been hoping for. We started off flyfishing for Zander, and it didn't take long for us to land a couple of nice zeds. After an hour and a half though, the wind got so strong that it became dangerous and almost impossible to cast, as we were struggling to keep our balance as the big waves were rocking the boat around all over the place! With the wind speed increasing we decided to head for calmer water, closer to the bank. During May you can find the Pike in relatively shallow water, so for most of the day, we mainly targeted Pike, something which we also really enjoy for the first few weeks of the new predator flyfishing season. The first few hours were pretty quiet, then I had a follow from a good fish, which turned away at the boat. About an hour later Dad also had a fish follow him in, but this one slammed his fly!

Not long after catching the Pike, Dad also caught a Zander in just 6ft of water on his floating line.

We didn’t have any more action for a few hours, so for the last couple of hours, as the wind was calming down, we decided to switch lines and target the Zander again, and managed to add a few more fish to our tally for the day, including a Perch which Dad caught, to complete what we call a ‘Grafham Grand Slam’ - Pike, Perch and Zander all in the same day!

On our next trip, we decided to concentrate on fishing for the big Pike, hoping that we may land one even bigger than Dad’s fish on our last trip.

We had a slow start, with just one scraper double in the first 8 hours of fishing, but then, at around 4pm, I was stripping my line in ready to make another cast when I felt some resistance, that felt more like weed than a fish. I halfheartedly struck anyway and the ‘weed’ started to headshake! I’d hooked a very big Pike, but after the first few headshakes it zoomed away from the boat, and as I thought I had it under control, it came off! I was gutted as I knew it could have been quite a special fish, and it was beginning to turn in to one of those days where it all went wrong, as Dad had also lost what we think was a big Zander earlier in the day whilst fishing for the Pike. After another hour of no more follows or takes, we decided on having a change of plan for the evening and targeting Zander instead. It turned out to be a very good move…

In four hours of fishing, we landed 18 Zander, with the biggest weighing 11lb exactly, along with a couple of Perch. Not only did I manage to catch my first double figure Zander of the year, but it meant that I’d also caught my first ‘Grafham Grand Slam’ of the year too!

Over the following few weeks we managed to squeeze in three half day trips, and landed some nice Perch and Zander, along with my biggest zed of the year, which was caught almost accidentally really. We were fishing on quite a rough afternoon and I’d made a cast, which had ended up in a tangle. There was only a short length of line out from the rod tip so I started to undo the tangle so I could make a better cast, when ten seconds later I felt a savage take, instinctly struck and hooked in to this 12lb 11oz zed. It wasn’t the prettiest looking Zander I’ve ever seen, in fact I’ve never seen one that’s looked so tatty!

Our last trip was about a week before the beginning of the river season, and also just before the beginning of the hot spell of weather we had for a couple of weeks. Dad had a fantastic afternoon’s fishing - to start off, he caught two Zander on his first two casts, both around 8lb.

About an hour later he caught his biggest zed of the season so far, weighing 11lb 12oz!

The action came thick and fast - five more Zander followed throughout the rest of the afternoon for Dad, whilst I also managed to catch five up to 9lb 8oz.

Whilst Dad was playing one of his fish, we watched another four or five fish follow the Zander he'd hooked on the sonar.

Then, at the end of the day, just before the boats had to go back in, Dad caught two Zander on his last two casts - and both were over 10lb!

One thing that Grafham always guarantees on a cloudless day is an amazing sunset, something I’ve been lucky enough to see many times. This photo was one that Dad took as we were driving home - we decided to pull over and take some pictures from the dam.

We’d had some brilliant fishing over the course of that month, but it was now time to turn our attention to June 16th - the opening day of the river season, which I’ll talk about on my next blog post!

Monday, 15 May 2017

Spring fishing... so far!

So far this Spring, my fishing has probably been about as mixed as the weather we've had! I've fished for a variety of species, from flyfishing for Carp and Trout, to quivertipping for Roach, to lure fishing for gravel pit Pike and canal Zander. It’s nice to target different species with different tactics rather than stick with one style of fishing, and even when the river season was open, my Dad and I had been talking about targeting some Roach on a local gravel pit. Crystal clear gravel pits are fascinating places to fish - in fact I enjoy walking round gravel pits spotting fish almost as much as I do fishing them!

We managed to fit in a few afternoon trips targeting the Roach, and to give ourselves the best chance of catching them, we decided to fish in to the dark. Our best results came on dull, overcast days, or when it got dark, as the lake was crystal clear and the fish felt more confident feeding in low light levels. Our best session came on a very dull, overcast, windy day - in four hours we banked 38, with a few over the 1lb mark, including a bonus 3lb Perch caught on double red maggot!

Dad also managed to catch a nice Perch the following day, just shy of 3lb.

After a few trips targeting the Roach, we were itching to get back to some more active fishing, and now the Pike had finished spawning and had a good rest, it was time to start lure fishing again. Late Spring can be one of the most exciting times to lure fish for Pike, especially in shallow gravel pits - ideal places to target them with frogs and even surface lures. Recently, I was wandering around a gravel pit and watched a Coot chasing away a small Pike, which was eyeing up the Coot’s chicks!

Some of my favourite lures for gravel pit Pike at this time of year are in the picture below - starting from the top is the Sébile Magic Swimmer 125mm slow sinking model, the Berkley Powerbait Kicker Frog, Berkley Powerbait Rib Shad 4.5", Sébile Stick Shad 114mm Suspending and a Chatterbait, rigged with a Berkley Pit Boss trailer.

The Powerbait Rib Shad has been one of my favourite shads for Pike since it came out in 2012 and lately it’s been working very well for us - it’s a great size for small and large Pike, and has a wide paddle tail that has an exaggerated swimming action when retrieved. Dad’s caught some very nice fish on these in the last couple of weeks, fished on a straight retrieve in the Blue Shiner Gold and Tennessee Shad colours, both great for fishing in clear water.

On one particular trip on a very large gravel pit, he landed three doubles, all on the Rib Shad, including this 101cm fish, which may have been a twenty if he’d have caught it a couple of months earlier!

The Kicker Frog was probably my favourite Pike lure last year, and this Spring it has also been working well. The takes can be unbelievable - there was one recent fish that followed the frog out from some bulrushes I’d cast to, and continued to follow it across a shallow bay, bow-waving all the way behind the frog before annihilating it just a couple of metres from the rod tip!

We also enjoy lure fishing canals at this time of year, and a couple of weeks ago we had an afternoon trip on the Grand Union Canal targeting Zander. We were curious to see what the fishing would be like as we’d heard that it had been electro-fished with the purpose of removing the Zander. It’s a shame that this has taken place, as the GUC is a fantastic canal to target Zander. Despite hearing this, we were quite surprised that in the first half hour of fishing, we’d caught two Zander and two nice Perch, which was encouraging, but throughout the rest of the afternoon we covered a good mile or so of bank and we only had two more bites, both of which turned out to be Zander. The Zander fishing had indeed been slow, but what was really strange was the lack of Perch - we’ve caught good numbers in the past whilst targeting the Zander, and we only caught two! Maybe it was just one of those days.

When I got back home, I did some research on the removal of Zander from the GUC and it turns out that over 2000 Zander, totalling around 1.5 tons in weight, were removed from around 20 miles of canal. That’s roughly 100 zeds a mile, with an average size of around 1lb 10oz. Obviously the sizes would have been mixed but Zander reach maturity at around 40cm in length, which is around 1lb 8oz in weight, meaning many future generations of Zander have also been affected by the recent electro-fishing. Hopefully one day, the electro-fishing will stop and Zander will be allowed to find a natural balance in the ecosystem of Britain’s longest canal.

Apart from a short hot spell during the first week of April, this Spring has been noticeably cooler than the last few, and looking back at our fishing notes, we were actually flyfishing for Carp by the end of April last year. Last week we had one relatively warm, sunny day, where for the first time since that hot weekend in April, the Carp were close to the surface at our local Rib Valley Lakes, and Dad and I decided to take advantage. Although it was sunny, the north-easterly wind still made it feel quite chilly, and the Carp weren’t as interested as we were hoping - in fact, we only had a couple of chances, and Dad took his on his very first cast! It turned out to be a 20lb 4oz Common, which he caught on one of his home made mixer flies, made from deer hair.

I’ve also managed to fit in a couple of trips flyfishing for Trout, one to Grafham and another on the East Warwick reservoir at Walthamstow after a coaching session for Get Hooked on Fishing. I had a great day with the Pitsford Pirates, fishing with Bart Farmer at Grafham - the buzzer fishing was awesome! Walthamstow isn’t the easiest place to catch Trout, but in the couple of hours we had Dad and I banked five Rainbows, fishing buzzers and damsels under the bung.

Aside from the fishing, I’ve been doing lots of coaching for Get Hooked on Fishing lately at both Walthamstow and Rib Valley. At the end of March I ran a couple of Get Back in to Lure Angling sessions for the Angling Trust, and had a great group of anglers from Romania come along to one of the sessions. What was interesting was that despite all coming from the same country and getting on as if they’d known each other for years, it was the first time many of them had met, as they were part of a Facebook group for Romanian lure anglers in the UK.

We fished on the High Maynard reservoir but, unfortunately, the fishing was really tough, with just one Trout landed, although after the session Dad did manage to bank a nice Perch from the academy pond on a Shrug Minnow.

I really hope the weather starts settling down and warming up soon, as I'm looking forward to when the Carp really come up on top and we can flyfish for them. I also can't wait to flyfish for the predators on the midlands reservoirs...

Monday, 20 March 2017

Earn your stripes!

After returning from Sri Lanka, our plan was to have a few trips along some of our local rivers, to get back in to the swing of fishing in the UK, before heading to rivers further afield trying to track down some big Perch. Unfortunately, we didn’t get off to a good start as two days after returning from Sri Lanka, my Dad came down with Dengue Fever. It was a nasty bug and kept him out of action for a while, but thankfully he’s OK now. Thank goodness he didn’t come down with it when we were on holiday!

When he recovered and we managed to get back out fishing, we decided to take it easy and not travel too far, whilst Dad recovered to 100%. We were quite lucky in that we hit on to some good fishing almost immediately, and caught some nice Perch on Pit Boss Jr’s, Rocket Craws and Ripple Shads.

The biggest, which weighed 3lb 4oz (45cm), took a Ripple Shad in Racy Shad.

After each fishing trip, I take down notes on what we caught, what lures/flies worked on the day, weather etc., and on the evening I caught the 3lb 4oz Perch, as I was writing down some notes from the afternoon’s fishing we’d just had, I decided to count up how many Perch over 3lb I’d caught on lures and flies. Once I’d figured out that I’d caught 99 Perch over 3lb, my target for the remaining five weeks of the season was clear - to catch one more Perch over the 3lb mark!

We started fishing short afternoons on a few of our local rivers, but, unfortunately, the fishing got much harder, so to locate the fish, we had to walk many miles, covering as much water as possible. We did catch the odd nice stripey, with my biggest weighing 2lb 11oz, but my Dad did catch a 3lb 2oz - why couldn’t I have caught that instead?!

We then had quite a lot of rain, which coloured up the rivers to a point where there were just a couple of inches of visibility, so we decided to try a couple of gravel pits. After a couple of trips I’d caught quite a few Pike, but not my intended quarry.

A few more days passed and the rivers had started to fine down to a very nice colour, so it was time to fish the rivers again. There was one particular stretch we had in mind that we hadn’t fished for around 3 months, but my Dad and I were keen to give it a go.

We started around 1pm and after two hours of fishing and a mile of bank covered, neither of us had managed a bite. Moving in to the next swim, there was an overhanging bush on the far side of the river that looked particularly interesting and I made a good cast right under it. I began to hop my Texas rigged Rocket Craw along the bottom, when I felt a very quick ‘nip’, which I was sure was a bite, but it wasn’t enough of a take to set the hook. I was hoping it would come back for another go and after 3-4 more jigs I had a much better take, which I hooked. I could tell almost straight away it was a Perch, characterised by the heavy head shaking, and as it broke the surface I knew this was the fish I’d been after, so I’d better not lose it! Thankfully a few seconds later it slipped over the rim of the net, and it was a lot bigger than I’d initially thought! My Dad and I both knew it was well over 3lbs, but by just how much?

The fish went on the scales and weighed 4lb 2oz (47cm) - I would have been pleased with a scraper 3lb’er, but I was over the moon with a 4lb 2oz!

During the final few of weeks of the season, most of my trips were short early morning or evening sessions. The first couple of weeks after I caught the 4lb 2oz, everywhere we fished seemed to have switched off (apart from a few Pike and the odd Trout - Dad caught a nice fish whilst targeting Chub, and I caught one an hour after dark drop-shotting!).

The harder the fishing became, the further we had to walk so that we could find fish. Although we didn't catch many Perch during the quiet period, the fish we did catch were of a good size. The Sick Fish Jr, rigged on a 5g jighead, caught most of these fish.

We also had a trip to a gravel pit we hadn't fished before, and I was lucky enough to catch this old warrior just before it got dark, along with a jack Pike.

Our plan for the last week of the season was to make the most of the spare time I had early in the mornings or late afternoon/evenings. On one late evening trip, after a biteless couple of hours leading up to dark, we were just about to call it a day and head home when something slammed Dad’s white Rocket Craw, in pitch black conditions. It turned out to be a 3lb 6oz (42cm) Perch - not the best looking stripey he’s caught, but it proved that fish were still feeding after it got dark. After taking a few pictures, it was time to head home for dinner, but we planned to return on our next opportunity.

We returned a couple of days later on a warm bright and sunny afternoon, which really made it feel like Spring! Whilst walking to the area we wanted to start fishing, we spotted several Carp in the margins. We both quickly changed to tiny creature baits and tried to stalk them, and I came very close to hooking one when a fish sucked my creature bait off the bottom, but when I struck the hook didn’t set! Whilst this was happening Dad spotted another fish sitting on the bottom. It was hard to make out exactly what species it was, but he couldn’t resist casting his creature bait close to it. One cast was all that was needed and he hooked in to what he first thought was small Carp - then he noticed it had stripes! It turned out to be a cracking Perch of 3lb 13oz (45cm).

A few minutes after releasing the Perch, I hooked and landed a jack Pike, that was followed in by a Perch that was longer than the Pike! I called Dad over to have a go for it, but by the time he’d run up the bank with his rod, the fish had swum away. The Pike was only tiny but out of curiosity, I measured it, and it turned out to be 44cm, so it was obvious that the Perch that followed me in must have been a good fish!

Later that evening, just before it got dark, we returned to the area where the Perch had followed me in, and I hooked and landed a very long Perch, measuring 46cm. Despite being 1cm longer than Dad’s 3lb 13oz, it was actually 10oz lighter, weighing 3lb 3oz, which goes to show that you can’t guess the weight of the fish just on a measurement.

The next day was March 14th, the last day of the river season. We decided to target Chub on lures first, as we knew it would be our last opportunity to target these until June 16th, before trying for Perch again as it got dark. Over the past month we’d fished some very Chubby looking sections of river, where we know there are big Chub, and we’d both been surprised that we hadn’t caught one, even whilst targeting Perch on lures, but for the last day we decided to visit a stretch we hadn’t fished since the summer, but we knew there can sometimes can be the odd big Chub.

To start with, we made a few casts to an overhanging bush, with just a follow from a tiny jack. After I’d felt like I’d covered the bush, I decided to move upstream to cover another overhanging tree. My first two casts weren’t particularly accurate but on my third cast, the lure landed exactly where I wanted it to, right tight to the roots - when the lure landed in the water I actually said to myself ‘that’s the one!’. I hopped my creature bait about six inches off the bottom, hopped it again and then had one hell of a take and struck in to a big Chub! It immediately tried to get into the roots, but luckily I managed to turn its head and guide it in to mid river, before Dad came to the rescue and netted it for me, as I was in an awkward, tight swim. At 6lb 3oz and 58cm in length, it was a new P.B!

After a couple more hours targeting Chub, and catching a few jacks, we thought we’d try and end the season with a 3lb Perch. We only had two bites between us that evening - one tiny Perch that dropped off as I was lifting it in, and then Dad hooked a very short but plump fish. It wasn’t quite a 3lb’er, but at 2lb 11oz, Dad had caught a nice Perch and I’d caught a P.B Chub to sign off a very enjoyable season!

Aside from my own fishing, throughout February and earlier this month I’ve been running some lure fishing sessions for the Angling Trust and Get Hooked on Fishing at Rib Valley and Walthamstow. February isn’t the easiest month to catch fish, but hopefully the participants have learned something new from the sessions. I know some of the guys have been out fishing since and caught some lovely fish, so well done to them!

As the end of March nears, the coaching looks set to take off as the weather warms up - bring on the Spring!