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...

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Sri Lanka Part Two: Fishing Lake Bolgoda

We really enjoyed the first half of our holiday to Sri Lanka, and the fishing had been fantastic. Our trip wasn’t over though and we still had more fishing to look forward to at our next destination, and after a week and a half in Kirinda in the south, it was time to move on. After a 9 hour drive (with a few stops for some sightseeing, and also at our taxi driver Kamal’s house to meet his family for a cup of tea), we arrived in the pitch black at a small ferry that took us on to Ruskin Island, situated in the middle of Lake Bologda. Here we would be targeting Barramundi, Ox Eye Herring, and the fish we were really hoping to catch, the Clown Knifefish (also known as the Featherback in Sri Lanka).

Bologda is a huge estuary around an hour and a half south of the capital, Colombo. Similarly to Kirinda, there is so much wildlife - we’d wake up most mornings to a 5ft long Water Monitor just outside our door, and as we were fishing we had Monkeys and Crocodiles watching us! There was one particular Crocodile that was huge - it must have been 13ft long!

We had a day exploring the island, relaxing and preparing the fishing gear before getting up at 5.30am the next morning for our first day’s fishing with our guide, Sakthivel. Our first morning was spent in the lower part of the lake, and using small crank baits and bucktail jigs, we caught Mangrove Jack (Snapper), Ox Eye Herring, Giant Herring and small GT’s, which were great fun on light tackle. The Mangrove Jack fought particularly hard!

I also managed to catch a species of Catfish that Sakthivel said was the first time he'd seen one caught on a lure, using a bucktail jig that my Dad had tied up back at home. I've since found out that it's called a Shovelnose Sea Catfish.

We returned to the house for lunch, which would normally be a Sri Lankan curry cooked by our chef Asheen, before heading out in the afternoon for our main target - the Featherback.

As we journeyed to our first spot for targeting the Featherback, we woke up thousands of Fruit Bats resting in the trees, which was an amazing sight!

Around half an hour after leaving our apartment we arrived at some prawn traps, and we couldn’t believe what we were about to see next. There were Featherback rolling literally everywhere! However, they soon had us tearing our hair out, as they proved very difficult to catch. We made cast after cast, trying many different hardbaits and soft baits, when suddenly, I had a very delicate bite on a Sébile Koolie Minnow, which I struck in to - it zoomed towards the prawn traps, but unfortunately came off! About an hour later, just as we were running out of time, Dad also lost a fish on a 3” shad. It had been a frustrating afternoon to see so many fish and not catch one - it had us wondering what we’d done wrong, but we had been warned that they can be frustrating to catch!

The next morning, which was New Year’s Eve, we started at a different area, and after trying even more lures, after an hour or so I pulled out a Berkley Powerbait Rattle Shrimp and showed Sakthivel, and he gave me the thumbs up that this could work. Not long after, I had a tiny tap and hooked in to a fish! The fight was similar to that of a Tarpon, leaping everywhere - the main difference though was that this fish was swimming backwards as well as forwards! Even as it slid over the net it was still trying to swim backwards to escape! I was over the moon as I’d managed to end 2016 with our main target species of the trip!

Later on that morning, after trying the Rattle Shrimp for another hour or so without a bite, Dad suggested that one of us should try a Power Tube, so I rigged one in Pumpkinseed up on a Berkley Nitro Beam hook, which also looked very much like a shrimp. This worked almost straight away and I soon landed my biggest Featherback of the trip!

Unfortunately for Dad though, he lost a Featherback, which shook the hook as it leapt out of the water. Our morning session was over, but at least one of us had caught our main target species. We fished for Barramundi that afternoon, but only caught a couple of small GT’s and Giant Herring - these were still great fun though on light gear!

Now we were hoping that on our last day’s fishing, which was on New Year’s Day, Dad would be able to land a Featherback. Dad was desperate to catch one and I could see he was feeling the pressure!

The Sri Lankans certainly know how to party for New Year - the parties and fireworks were still continuing as we were heading to one of the Featherback spots at 7am!

When we arrived the fish were very active and I caught a fish almost immediately on a Rattle Shrimp, then Dad hooked up soon after arriving, but he lost it, then hooked another but lost that one too! It’s rare to see him get wound up by a fish but these Featherback were really getting to him!

About a hour later, he hooked up again, and we were praying that this one wasn’t going to come off. It was very acrobatic and then, right at the boat, it leapt out of the water - but thankfully landed straight in the net! Phew! I don’t know what Dad would have done if he had lost that one!

It turned out to be the biggest Featherback of the trip, and then shortly after, he caught another smaller one on the tube.

Over our three days fishing we’d definitely noticed that the Featherback had really short feeding spells, and the best action had been in the mornings, probably due to the tides. Dad was relieved to catch those fish in the morning as, just like the previous days, the fishing in the afternoon had been much tougher. They’re an awesome looking fish and I would love to catch one on the fly - definitely an excuse for another trip back!

I managed to capture a few of the Featherback we caught on my GoPro, which I've put in to a short video.

That afternoon I had a Barramundi swirl at my crank bait - if I’d have hooked and landed it, that would have been another new species for me. That was the last of our guided fishing, but we had one spare day before heading back to the UK and we decided to have a couple of hours wandering around Ruskin Island to see what we could catch. Dad was using a Pit Boss Jr. and had cast in to a pond on the island full of lillies and duckweed, and as he retrieved it back across the surface, we noticed a wake chasing it. It was stopping and starting again, and then, from beneath the duckweed a huge Frog came up and nailed it! It was the biggest Frog I’ve ever seen - with its legs extended it was well over 1ft long! Unfortunately though, as we were using a barbless hook, as Dad was holding it ready for me to get the camera out, it somehow unhooked itself and escaped! That wasn’t the only one though - we ended up catching a few more, although none as big as the first one!

Those two and a half weeks flew by, and two days later we were back in a frosty UK. We’d set out to catch as many different species as possible and we ended up with 37 in total, which was awesome! A big thank you to Sportquest and Gamefishing Asia for organising our trip and making it a brilliant one, and to our guides Nico, Sakthivel and our driver, Kamal!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Sri Lanka Part One: Saltwater fishing in Kirinda

Back in March last year, my family and I booked up a fishing holiday with Sportquest and Gamefishing Asia to Sri Lanka. We had researched the fishing in many countries and had been looking for a trip that would give us a great chance of bumping up our species lists, and at the same time, a good chance of catching some big fish on lures, such as Giant Trevally. The one species that really swayed our decision to go to Sri Lanka in the end was the Clown Knifefish, known in Sri Lanka as the Featherback, which was a fish Dad and I had been dreaming of catching. Sri Lanka looked like a beautiful country to visit and try for these, as well as many other species.

We flew out on the 18th December, staying for Christmas and New Year, with five days fishing booked with Nicolas Jamin in Kirinda on Sri Lanka’s south coast, and then a long drive to Lake Bolgoda in the hope of Featherback. The idea was to lure fish using different techniques so we could maximise our chances of catching different species - using poppers and stickbaits for big GT’s, heavy speed jigging in deep water and light or slow jigging on the reefs, which proved to be a great way of bumping up the species list.

We took along a range of chugger poppers, pencil poppers, floating and sinking stickbaits for the GT’s, as well as some GT Ice Cream lures. The takes were absolutely insane as they blasted our lures! Then all hell breaks loose, and you have a full on battle with one of the meanest, toughest, strongest fish that swims! It had been a while since I’d caught a big saltwater fish and my first big Sri Lankan GT, which was also one of my biggest of the trip, beat me up big time!

Most of our days were spent fishing various methods, but on two of the days we fished exclusively for big GT’s, and on our penultimate day, Nico said we were on a mission to catch as many GT as possible, as he was starting a tagging programme. On that day we boated 16 between us to around 20kg and lost at least 5, and missed as many takes. The Sébile Splasher 190, Heru Skipjack 150, GT Ice Cream Skinny and FC Labo floating stickbait were our four most successful GT lures.

Earlier in the week, whilst targeting the GT, I also managed to land a nice Spanish Mackerel using one of Nico’s poppers - the whole fish came flying out of the water as it took the lure! I was lucky not to get bitten off, as the teeth on a Spanish Mackerel are razor sharp - the popper also cost upwards of $80 too, which would have been costly!

Dad also caught a big Bluefin Trevally on a chartreuse Sébile Splasher. He seemed to be a Bluefin Trevally magnet throughout the whole trip - he must have caught well over 20 on all the lure methods - and I only caught one!

We also caught a few GT’s speed jigging and light jigging. I’ve only ever tried speed jigging once and that was in Mauritius a couple of years ago, and just like the popping for GT’s, it’s an exhausting way of fishing, especially in over 30°C, but very exciting.

At Kirinda we hooked up in to some very big fish - you’d hook up, get a few headshakes and then the fish would go on a run that was almost impossible to stop on the gear we were using! Nico reckoned these were huge Dogtooth Tuna. We did manage to land some of the fish we hooked speed jigging though, including smaller Dogtooth Tuna, GT’s, Barracuda, Tuna and Bluefin Trevally.

Some of the best fun we had was light jigging with speed and slow jigs between 60g - 120g. Before we headed to Sri Lanka I bought a PE2 slow jigging rod, which I coupled with an Abu Revo Toro Beast loaded with 30lb Whiplash, and this proved to be a great move - not only for catching multiple species, such as Tomato Grouper, Rainbow Runner, Doublespotted Queenfish and Lunartail Snapper, but I was amazed at the size of the fish it could handle! We caught some nice Gold Spot Trevally and I also landed this Spanish Mackerel after it gave me one hell of a fight! The drag on the Revo Toro Beast was certainly singing, but it was very smooth and handled the fish really well.

Nico also managed to catch this amazing looking Napoleon Wrasse - a fish that he’d been wanting to catch for many years.

We caught a lot of smaller fish too, but it's always great fun when you're not quite sure what you're going to hook in to next and all of these were new species for us, which really made our trip.

One of the best sights I saw whilst fishing was a Blue Whale spouting, with the back and tail coming out of the water as it descended in to the depths - it was absolutely huge! We also saw Dolphins and on the following day, which was Christmas Eve, we went on a safari in Yala National Park. In the space of 24 hours I saw a Blue Whale, Elephants, Water Buffalo, Monitor Lizards, Crocodiles, Wild Boar, Deer, Hares, Mongoose, Monkeys and a Leopard!

There were plenty of monkeys around, even around the hotel Dad and I were heading off fishing for the day and my Mum turned the TV on, which she had been watching the night before, and there was no reception. Later that morning, whilst we were fishing, she asked at the reception desk, and they got a mechanic in to have a look. It turned out that Monkeys had stolen the satellite dish!!

Christmas Eve turned out to be a very special one as our taxi driver, Kamal, and his family joined us for the safari - his wife Priyanka, his daughter Prishani and son Shehan. You couldn’t find a friendlier family and after the safari we had a great Christmas Eve gala dinner at our hotel with them, with a few beers afterwards!

On Christmas morning we went fishing (as you do!). Kamal took us to a river, so we took an LRF rod along with us to see if we could catch some new species. It only took 30 seconds or so for Dad to catch his first fish, which was only a few ounces, but it was certainly a new species. He dropped it back in the water whilst I was getting the camera out, then he saw the head of a Crocodile of about 10ft long loom up from the murky water and engulf the fish! He didn't have much chance of landing it on an LRF rod! Frustratingly, we didn’t get a picture of the fish - so we still don’t know what it was!

Just a few minutes later, we heard something running behind us along the road. We didn’t look behind at first, thinking it was a stray dog, which there were plenty of, but then, I looked around and it turned out to be a huge Monkey, probably about 4ft long! It missed us by a couple of feet and continued to run along the road for another 20m or so before disappearing behind the rocks!

Anyway, we moved after half an hour as we hadn’t had any interest since Dad hooked the Crocodile. We went to the estuary of another river, which was an amazing setting to fish in - there were Elephant footprints in the sand and loads of monkeys - on the other side of the river this time! There were many different types of birds, especially Kingfishers, including the Pied Kingfisher. We caught a new species for us both here (which I’m yet to find the name of), and I also landed a small GT on a crankbait.

We had a fantastic time in Kirinda, and we really enjoyed our stay at Elephant Reach Resort and fishing with Nico. Both Nico and his mate Achila were brilliant and Nico was arguably the best guide we’ve ever fished with - his knowledge and experience of fishing for a multitude of species all across the world is mind-blowing! Not only that, he's a great guy, very friendly and very helpful.

On the 28th it was time to move on to our next destination - which I’ll talk about in my next post!