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, 29 December 2017

Pursuing Pike and Perch in the run up to the New Year...

It’s been quite a while since I’ve updated my blog, so this post is a summary of the fishing I’ve done since October. I haven’t fished any reservoirs for predators for a couple of months now - most of my fishing has been spur of the moment trips, targeting Perch on rivers and Pike on a couple of large gravel pits.

Back in October, Dad and I joined a syndicate that consists of some huge gravel pits, that we’d heard had produced some good Perch. It’s always exciting joining a new syndicate, especially when you’ve heard rumours of big fish that have been caught from the venues, although this wasn’t the first time my Dad had fished these gravel pits. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, along with a few mates, he used to fish the pits for Carp, where, between them, they caught some cracking fish, so he was excited to rejoin and relive some old memories! He also caught some nice Pike there during the winter months on lures and deadbaits, which I was keen on targeting with larger lures. We weren’t expecting it to be easy, but we like a challenge!

Our first trip was a bit of a disaster, as an algae bloom made visibility poor, and it was not what we were expecting as the gravel pit is normally gin clear, although a jack Pike saved me from a blank. On our second outing, which was an afternoon trip for about two hours at the end of the day, shortly after catching a jack Pike, Dad had a big Perch follow his crank bait in - I didn’t see the fish, but he reckoned it was well over 3lb. Frustratingly, so far, that’s as close as we’ve come to hooking in to a big Perch there. Dad also had another Perch of around 1lb follow him in on the next trip, but it’s the big Perch we’re hoping for.

One evening, I hooked a fish at around 40 yards jigging a Berkley Havoc Sick Fish Jr. It felt like a big Perch at first, especially when I first hooked it at long range, but it turned out to be a Pike of around 8lb. As I netted the fish, it coughed up a Perch, and amazingly, the Perch was still alive! Both fish swam off fine - that Perch had a very lucky escape!

We’ve also had a couple of trips on another of the gravel pits, targeting Pike with bigger lures. On our first trip over there, I had a very big Pike follow my chatter bait in - it must have been 22-23lbs. I let the chatter bait fall to the bottom and the Pike sucked it in right at my feet - I struck, and the lure came flying out of the fish’s mouth, and it spooked! I was really gutted, although I did manage to land a nice Pike later on in the day on a jerkbait, and between us, a few others over the course of a couple more trips - Dad landed the biggest measuring 102cm.

Probably my favourite venues to target big Perch are on rivers, but unfortunately, my local rivers have fished really hard. I did get lucky on a mornings fishing at the end of October, where I managed to catch two nice Perch within the space of about half an hour. As I was about to lift my Texas rigged creature bait out of the water ready to make another cast, a good Perch zoomed up and took the lure at the surface - I struck, and unfortunately, the hook didn't expose. The fish was still there so I dropped the lure back in - it slammed it again, I struck and the lure came flying out of it's mouth again! As I was checking the hook, a leaf fell in to the water and amazingly, the Perch took the leaf off the surface, so I lowered the creature bait so it was sitting on the surface and gave it a couple of twitches, then the fish turned round and took it again - third time lucky and this 3lb 2oz (42cm) was mine!

The morning was about to get a lot better, as this fish was shortly followed by a much bigger one - an immaculate stripey weighing 3lb 11oz and 46cm, which is my biggest of the season so far - hopefully there are more to come!

Over the next month we had a couple more short afternoon trips, and although the bites were few and far between, we caught a couple more nice Perch, as well as a nice Chub that fell for a Rocket Craw.

One evening, we returned to the stretch where I caught the 3lb 2oz and 3lb 11oz and found that the river was very coloured. We weren’t expecting it to be coloured, so I changed to a white Rocket Craw and caught four Perch in the last hour and a half. I prefer not to have re-captures but this 46cm stripey seems to have a liking for creature baits!

About three weeks later, we had a few inches of snow, which melted quickly after raining a couple of days later, and gave the rivers some extra water we desperately needed. As the colour was dropping out of the river,  Dad and I planned to make the most of the ideal conditions and target the Perch. Our first afternoon trip was when the river was still quite coloured - I only had one bite that afternoon, but it was a nice Perch that took a twitch tail drop-shotted beside a boat, which coincidentally was called Sam!

We had another three short afternoon/evening trips after that, but despite the perfect conditions, in three trips we had just two bites - however, one of those was well worth venturing out for! This year, my Dad has had bad tennis elbow, and despite having a cortisone injection in the summer, lately his arm has been playing him up again. Before fishing one afternoon, Dad asked me if he could use my 7’ Villain spinning rod and Revo STX20 reel, which is a fair bit lighter than the set-up he normally uses, so we swapped rods. Once we were fishing, because of the low light and coloured water, Dad decided to change to a brightly coloured creature bait, fished on a cheb rig with a 3g head. Not long after changing, Dad hooked and landed an immaculate Perch weighing 4lb 1oz - an early Christmas present!

The winter months are normally quiet for Get Hooked on Fishing, but since the beginning of December I’ve been running Get Back in to Lure Angling sessions for GHoF, in conjunction with the Angling Trust and Environment Agency. The scheme is aimed at lapsed anglers who would like to try fishing again. I ran three sessions before Christmas, and on the first of those we decided to mainly target Perch. The fishing was really good and quite a few Perch were caught up to 2lb 2oz.

A couple of days later, Dad and I went back, this time fishing ourselves. About 15 minutes after starting, I hooked in to a good fish, which I thought was a good Perch at first, but it then made a long run and I then realised this wasn’t a Perch - it turned out to be a Carp!

Thankfully we went on to catch a few Perch later in the day...

For the next two Get Back in to Lure Angling sessions, the lake where we normally target the Perch was frozen, so we mainly targeted Pike on the big lake. With crystal clear water and both Saturdays being bright and sunny, the conditions made the fishing hard. At the end of the most recent Get Back in to Lure Angling session, I decided to have a few casts with a jerk bait, and on my third cast I saw a Pike miss my lure - I kept on retrieving and it engulfed the lure almost at my feet! It turned out to be a lot bigger than I first anticipated, weighing 21lb 5oz and measuring 108cm!

On the day before Christmas Eve, I had a trip to Grafham flyfishing for Trout from the bank with the Pitsford Pirates. We normally have a get-together around Christmas time and I was really looking forward to catching up with them, as it was the first time I’d fished with the team for a good while. As always, we had a great laugh and the fishing was good too, with lots of hard fighting Rainbows and a couple of nice Browns being caught.

Both my Dad and I have been very lucky to have spent some good times fishing together, and with friends during 2017 - we’ve learnt a lot and caught some very special fish along the way too. Happy New Year to everyone and tight lines for 2018!

Thursday, 5 October 2017

A memorable Pike to top some great lure and flyfishing!

During the last week of July and the first week of August, we had quite a bit of rain, which cooled down the temperatures after what had been a very warm June and July. With a couple of free days at the end of the month, I thought after a week of cooler weather it might be a good time to visit the midlands reservoirs and flyfish for Pike, Perch and Zander, so Dad and I booked up a half day on Grafham.

We were a bit unsure how it would fish as we hadn’t fished it since early June, but on my very first cast of the afternoon I had a pluck, just as I was about to lift my fly out of the water. I cast back in the same direction and as I was retrieving my fly I had a much better take, that I struck in to and hooked. After the first few seconds of hooking in to a fish on the fly, I can normally guess what species I’ve hooked, and I was pretty sure on this occasion I’d hooked in to a Pike, as the fish went on a couple of unstoppable runs, which aren’t that characteristic with Perch and Zander. It wasn’t a bad fish either - at 19lb 4oz and 100cm, it was a great start to the afternoon!

The Pike were really switched on and by the time we had to head back in to the harbour, we’d caught another five Pike, with all of them being over 12lb, along with a few Zander and Perch too.

It had been a fantastic afternoon and as you can imagine we couldn’t wait to get back! However, I had a busy fortnight coming up, with four days at the BBC Countryfile Live Show, which was sandwiched between some coaching sessions I was running for Waltham Forest Council at the Walthamstow Angling Academy, so it would be at least a week and a half before we could get back there. On our first opportunity, we returned to Grafham, and although we wanted to fish a full day, we were still quite tired after all the coaching, so we decided to have another afternoon trip instead. Dad had also been suffering from bad tennis elbow, which had got worse since the start of the fishing season. He actually had a cortisone injection booked for the next day, which he wasn’t looking forward to as he hates needles!

The conditions on the day were looking good - the temperatures had cooled down even more, and it wasn’t too windy. Dad said to me that he would just have the occasional cast and would see how his arm fared throughout the afternoon, and after around an hour of fishing he hooked in to the first fish of the afternoon - a Pike just under 10lb.

Not long after releasing this fish, we both spotted a big Pike roll about 70 yards or so away, so we immediately up anchored and headed over to the area where we’d seen the fish roll. On Dad’s second cast, using one of his homemade flies, which I’d nicknamed the ‘Zander Lander’ (although it catches all predators), he had a good take and set the hook. We immediately realised that this was a very big fish - it hardly moved at first, just hugging the bottom before moving very slowly over towards the anchor rope. I could see he was putting as much pressure on the fish as possible - his 10wt looked like it was going to explode! We both didn’t say a word throughout the entire fight and even my heart was pounding! Unfortunately though, it had found the anchor rope and the line started to grate, but thankfully he managed to steer it away and it then went on two unstoppable runs. It then swam around the other side of the boat, and the fish very slowly started to come up to the surface. Eventually, we saw this huge Pike emerge, and Dad steered it towards me with the net, and in it went, head first!

I can’t repeat what he said when it went in the net on my blog, but I’ve never heard him swear so much! We were both stunned and shocked at it’s size. After a few pics, we quickly laid it on the measuring mat and it was at that point we realised how huge it was. At 124cm it was the longest Pike we'd ever seen, and on the scales it weighed 37lb 2oz. Whilst Dad held the fish in the water by the root of the tail, I measured it's girth with a piece of 20lb line, and it was 59cm when laid out on our measuring mat. After a couple more minutes of reviving it and admiring it in the water, it started kicking until eventually Dad just couldn't hold on any longer, and it swam off.

Dad then showed me the fly that he’d caught the fish on, not realising he’d caught it on a smaller version of his Zander Lander, which was tied on a size 2 hook! He’s caught some fantastic predators from Grafham over the years, but this fish topped them all!

After a short while trying to comprehend what had just happened, we started fishing again, and two casts later Dad hooked in to another fish! This time it was a Pike weighing 15lb 12oz, which, in comparison to the 37, looked like a jack pike!

Although Dad told me he was only going to have a few casts, his adrenaline had kicked in and he kept on fishing - he actually told me wanted to try and catch a 10lb+ Zander and a 3lb+ Perch in the same afternoon! Although he didn't manage it, he did catch another three Pike, all good doubles, 2 Zander to around 8lb and to cap it off, right at the last minute, a Perch of 2lb 14oz (42cm).

When I wasn’t taking pictures, I also managed a 17lb 7oz, a jack and a couple of nice Zander too. It was then a mad dash back to the harbour, which we managed just in time!

The next day Dad had his cortisone injection and was advised to rest his arm for the next fortnight or so, but I just couldn’t resist another afternoon back there to give it another go, so I fished by myself whilst Dad joined me in the boat, as he wanted to get some fresh air, although it must have been very frustrating for him not being able to fish and being forced to watch me! I caught two more Pike, and four Zander, along with a Perch of 2lb 14oz.

Over the next week Dad’s arm slowly improved and about a week later we returned, this time both fishing, and we were joined by Nigel Botherway, host of TalkSport’s ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ radio show every Sunday morning. The aim was to try and help Nigel catch his first Perch and Zander on the fly. Sadly, the fishing was really hard and we caught just three Perch between us, but it was great to spend an afternoon in the company of Nigel and talk about fishing trips abroad, which we all really enjoy. This turned out to be our last trip flyfishing for the predators on Grafham, before the lure fishing season opened on September 1st a week and a half later.

On the opening day for lure fishing, we decided to mainly target Pike, although we would bring lighter set-ups and smaller lures just in case we came across some Perch and Zander. We got off to a good start, as it didn’t take long before Dad caught the first Pike of the day - a fish of around 11lb. This was the start of a short spell where the Pike really switched on - I caught a 14lb’er, then I cast back out, retrieved my lure and as I was about to lift it out of the water, a much bigger Pike took the lure, shook it’s head a couple of times and came off. I quickly cast back out and luckily, it took the lure again - but this time I landed it! At 20lb 6oz and 105cm it was to be the biggest Pike we’d catch that day. Then almost as soon as we released it, Dad caught another Pike!

After a couple of hours with no more action in that area, we decided on a change of location in the afternoon. Dad fancied trying an area that, to be honest, didn’t really appeal to me at the time, but I thought that a couple of drifts wouldn’t hurt. I quickly had a take and and hooked in to a fish on my 150g heavy jerk bait rod, that I thought was a Trout. Dad hooked in to a fish at the same time, but he was using a much smaller shad on a spinning outfit. When both fish came to the boat, they both turned out to be good Perch - especially my supposed ‘Trout’! We quickly got them in the net, and they turned out to be 2lb 11oz and 3lb 8oz (46cm). My fish, the 3lb 8oz, had completely engulfed a 6” lure!

We’d found a shoal of good Perch in between 6 and 16ft of water, and I switched to fishing an 11cm Ripple Shad in Cappuccino, which I fished on a straight retrieve. We landed around 12 more Perch, and all but a couple were over 2lb. I also landed a Zander of around 5lb too. They were absolutely wolfing the Ripple Shad!

We returned the next day and started fishing for the Pike again, and with just one follow in the first few hours of fishing, we decided to go back to the area we’d caught the Perch the day before, and target these again. We searched for them on the finder and found they’d moved in to slightly deeper water overnight, and were now in between 21 and 26ft of water. We went on to catch around 20 Perch, again most over the 2lb mark, along with another Zander and three Pike. I also managed to catch something I didn’t really intend on catching - a cold!

Unfortunately, my Dad came down with it a couple of days later too and it completely wiped us out for about a week or so, which was very frustrating as all I wanted to do was go fishing again! After about a week and a half I just had to get back out, and whilst I still wasn’t 100% and didn’t think I could hack a whole day on a reservoir, I had an afternoon on my local river targeting Perch. I hadn’t targeted Perch on rivers for a couple of months, but just 15 minutes in I had an almighty take, which I did hook, but it very quickly came off. I reeled my lure in and found the fish had completely blunted the hook! I quickly sharpened it, cast back out, then hooked and caught a lovely 3lb 5oz (43cm) Perch! It took a Pit Boss Jr. in Blue Shiner Gold.

Since then, we’ve had a couple more trips back to the reservoirs, although the fishing has become considerably harder, which is not surprising after the first month of the reservoirs opening for lure fishing. The trip before last was very frustrating for me - I hooked four Pike and only landed one! We have had some nice Perch though.

As the temperatures continue to cool down, hopefully we can look forward to more good predator fishing in the coming weeks!

Monday, 28 August 2017

Stalking Barbel on lures

I don't know where the time has gone this season so far! It's been a very busy summer, with lots of coaching for Get Hooked on Fishing at various places, including the BBC Countryfile Live show at Blenheim Palace. Hundreds of people have caught their first ever fish, which is great to see and hopefully many of those will take up the sport! In amongst the coaching, Dad and I have managed to squeeze in a few trips on rivers local to us - we had planned to start the season on the Thames, but unfortunately, we'd been working on the boat back at our house and didn't manage to get it finished in time. So, for the start of the season, we fished some of our local rivers instead for a few different species on lures, such as Chub, Barbel and Perch.

We were fishing just after the crack of dawn on June 16th - for the first few hours we planned to target Perch with the low light levels, then once it really got bright we would change to stalking Chub and Barbel on lures. At about 6am Dad hooked a big Perch, a fish we both saw, and thought was over 3lb. He hooked it in a very tight swim, and sadly it swam in to the snags and came off! What a first fish of the season that would have been for him, but losing a fish like that wasn’t really the start we were hoping for!

With nothing to show for by 8am it was time to change targets and try another section of river, and it wasn’t too long before Dad caught his first fish of the season - a Brownie, which was quickly followed by a decent Chub - one of five Chub he went on to catch on the opening day.

Over the past few years, my Dad has been lucky enough to catch a few Barbel on lures, and I’d been desperate to catch one ever since he caught his first in 2013, whilst we were lure fishing with Paul Garner on the Warwickshire Avon. After Dad caught his first Chub of the day on June 16th this year, I spotted a Barbel in amongst some Chub on a gravel run, and managed to make a good cast to it, with my Power Nymph landing inches from the Barbel’s nose. There was a Chub of around 1lb 8oz sitting right next to the Barbel, and I was praying the Barbel would beat the Chub to it. Thankfully, the Barbel dived down on the Power Nymph, sucked it in, I struck and all hell broke loose! After a crazy fight in inches of water, I managed to land my first lure-caught Barbel!

A couple of hours later, Dad spotted the tail of a Perch poking out from between some rushes, in only about a foot of water. He couldn't see the head of the fish, but there was just enough of a gap between the rushes to drop his Power Nymph where he predicted the fish's head would be, so he lowered his creature bait in to the tiny gap, and watched the fish's tail shoot forward. He instinctly struck and hooked in to the fish, which actually leapt out of the water a couple of times, resembling the fight of a Largemouth Bass! It then leapt out of the water again, and Dad netted it in mid air!

Not long after releasing the Perch, Dad then spotted a few Barbel in a super overgrown swim, in a gap on the far bank of the river, sitting under some reeds. He made a fantastic cast and managed to hook one! I thought mine gave me an incredible fight but Dad had one hell of a fight on his hands, and would need to dodge the reeds, rushes and streamer weed to land it, and somehow, he did!

It’s his most impressive lure caught Barbel to date, not just by the size but the way he cast through the rushes and underneath the reeds on the far bank -  and landed it through this!

Whilst stalking the Chub and Barbel, I spotted a shoal of fish that looked a lot like Grayling. I’ve only ever heard of one or two Grayling being caught from the River Lea, but to see if they were what I thought they were, I decided to set up a light drop-shot rig, with 3lb line, a size 14 Owner Mosquito hook with a Powerbait Maxi Bloodworm nose-hooked on. After a few casts, one finally took, and it turned out to be what I thought it was - a Grayling, which is my first from the River Lea!

By the end of the day we’d landed 8 species in total - it would have been 9 if I hadn’t lost a Carp I stalked, although I did manage to catch a nice Carp a few days later, just before a nasty thunderstorm rolled in. Dad also managed to catch a nice Chub on that morning too, which weighed 5lb 9oz.

The conditions for the first few weeks of the season remained ideal for stalking, with crystal clear rivers and plenty of sunshine helping spot the fish. Since June 16th, we’ve learnt a lot about targeting Barbel with soft plastics, and also managed to catch quite a few along the way.

I’m not saying it’s the easiest way to catch a Barbel, or that lure fishing is the new top method for them, but tricking a Barbel in to taking a lure is a very exciting way to catch them. I’ve been amazed at how eager they can be to chase down a lure, often beating Chub to the soft bait!

The gear we’ve been using is not a lot different to what we use for targeting big Perch - a powerful spinning rod of around 7ft that can cast up to 18g (5/8oz), paired with a 2000 - 2500 front drag reel. It’s important that this is spooled up with a good quality braid that is strong enough to bully a fish out from reeds, streamer weed and snags, but also has a fine diameter, making it easy to cast tiny weights accurately - we’ve been using Spiderwire Stealth Smooth in 20lb. Attached to this has been a fluorocarbon leader of around 12-15lb, which is about 16 inches in length, then tied to this is the lure - a small creature bait of around 1”-2” in length, rigged on to a jighead of around 2g.

We’ve found this has been a good weight for where we've been fishing - getting the lure down to the bottom at a steady speed in various currents, whilst also making the appendages of the creature bait kick in to action. The jigheads I’ve been using have a strong size 6 or 8 hook, which are perfect for rigging on creature baits in the 1”-2” size range.

One of the most important things we’ve found is to choose the right moment to make the cast. Ideally, the lure needs to land inches in front of the Barbel’s nose for it to even consider taking the lure (although we've had the odd fish swim as far as 3ft to grab the lure). This may require waiting a while for a fish to move in to a position where you’re able to cast a lure just in front of them, whether that’s swimming out from some snags, or dropping back behind some streamer weed. If you can get the cast right, watching a Barbel pounce on your lure as it hits the bottom is an awesome sight to witness!

Most of the stretches we’ve been targeting the Barbel also contain some very nice Chub, some of which we’ve managed to catch, but we’ve both lost a couple of very good fish this season too, bigger than any of the Chub we've landed so far this season.

I’ve really enjoyed stalking the Chub and Barbel on lures this season - not just because it’s an exciting and challenging way of fishing, but we’ve spotted lots of other species of fish too, including some nice Bream, Carp, Pike, Roach, Dace and Perch, and you can sometimes come across a few surprises too, like the Grayling we found on June 16th. We’ve actually managed to catch a couple more Grayling since then - it would be nice to see them establish themselves in the Lea and I’m looking forward to trying to catch one on the fly now!

One morning whilst stalking the Chub and Barbel, Dad noticed a good Perch emerge from the streamer weed. He quickly made a cast with his creature bait, and within seconds a 43cm fish was in the net! It was significantly bigger than any Perch we've ever caught or seen from this stretch of river, and made for a nice surprise!

The last four fishing trips we’ve had have been flyfishing reservoirs targeting Pike, Perch and Zander, which I’ll talk about in my next post!