Thursday, 31 January 2008

Bass fishing interest

I am writing a feature about plugging for bass in calm weather at the moment, and it has really got me thinking about bass fishing all over again. I am continuously amazed at just how much interest there is in bass fishing, from boat, beach and rocks, with baits and lures, indeed I would say that nearly 50% of feedback that I get from anglers is about bass fishing - where to go, how to do it, what gear to use etc.. In my mind these fish are becoming more of a lifestyle thing now, to the point where increasing numbers of anglers really want to be become involved in mobile, light tackle fishing for one of our premier species. Above is Irishman Patrick Gallagher with a fine lure caught bass from Ireland that I photographed in autumn 2007. Not a heavy rod or tripod in sight - just a spinning rod and reel, a bum bag and a pair of breathable chest waders. This is the kind of fishing you do with a permanent smile on your face. Take a look at a load of bass fishing photos by clicking here.
But what is it about the bass that so inspires people ? Is it because some of our traditional sea fish are becoming harder and harder to catch, and as a result, this begins to turn people off staring at motionless rod tips for hours on end ? I don't know the answer, but I have various theories. Light tackle fishing for bass is a very active form of fishing, and even if you get skunked now and then (come on, admit it, none of us catch every time we go), you still feel as if you have achieved something really worthwhile. Just being outside and wandering our fantastic coastline take some beating.
I am out with Nick Hart tomorrow to photograph a fly fishing feature for Trout Fisherman magazine. The forecast is for a freezing cold day, so more than likely we're going to have to wrap up warm and be real men about it !!!! Still, it does not compare to an email I got from a guy in Canada today who helped me out with steelhead fishing last year - he said that it had just dropped to -52C (yes, MINUS 52C) where he lives in northern Alberta. Now that is proper cold. See some steelhead photos by clicking here. I believe there is a steelhead feature of mine in the next issue of Trout Fisherman, check it out when it hits the shops.
Some of you might know that apart from fishing, extreme music is my other obsession, and I have recently bought a couple of very good CDs that you need to check out. "To the Nameless Dead" by the great Irish band Primordial is just fantastic, and "Desert Northern Hell" by the sadly defunct Tsjuder is proper black metal - fast and furious with those essential catchy parts that make you bang your head and air drum uncontrollably. And to think that I turn 35 next week. I can still remember buying my first proper death metal album all those years ago - "Slowly We Rot" by Obituary (check here for some photos of them that I shot) and gleefully seeing my Dad rush upstairs and tell me to "turn that rubbish off. When on earth are you going to grow out of this music ?" Guess I never did.....................!! As I love saying to my 3 year old daughter - heavy metal is the law. The addiction just gets worse.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Happiness is.......a new reel

I mentioned the fact a while ago that I had come across a new shore fishing multiplier that I reckoned was plain awesome for our fishing here in the UK, and having threatened a purchase, I duly went ahead and indulged myself !! How could I not ? The Daiwa Saltist 30H seems to me to be the perfect 7000 size reel for much of our shore fishing, to use when we up the ante a bit and fish with 0.40mm (20lb) and even 0.45mm (25lb) mainlines. Check out the photo above of my new reel, loaded with 0.40mm Sufix Tritanium and an 80lb Sufix Zippy shockleader - these are fantastic lines, check them out here.
Anybody who knows me knows how highly I have rated the various Daiwa SLOSH 20, 30, 40 and even 50 models for many years now, indeed I have a lot of them here (SVs and originals) and they have done me proud for ages. I have two original SLOSH 20s, at least eight SLOSH 30s, one SLOSH 40, and we have used the SLOSH 50s a lot out in Namibia for the big sharks that are taken off the beaches. The secret to these reels is to set them up correctly - if you do that, they are about the safest, most reliable multipliers we can get our hands on.
And what about these new Saltist 30H reels I have gone and bought ? In my mind they are basically what the various SLOSH models were going to become one day with a bit of thought - and that day has arrived. The SLOSH has always suffered slightly from ropey handles (I have broken loads) and a gearbox that gets in the way a bit when you cast, indeed I know of some anglers with small hands who simply can not use the reels for distance casting. The Saltist though is a real breakthrough - essentially it is the size of a Penn 525 Mag or even an ABU 6500, yet it has a true 7000 or SLOSH 30 size spool and strength to size ratio that we need. The gearbox is now slightly forward and out of the way and the handle is far better. Of course the reel has a 6.1 retrieve ratio and masses of cranking power to get fish up fast.
And it casts like a dream as well - set it up like a SLOSH 30 and you'll cast trouble-free all day. Make sure there are two red brake blocks in there (mine came with them already in place), slightly under fill the spool (very important) and allow a little play to the spool via the end cap. I have not touched the bearings, but in time I will flush them out and put some Red Rocket Fuel oil in them. Mine cast very well with no trouble at all, but I had to take a bit of line off one of them as I had overfilled it initially.
I reckon these reels are fantastic, and perhaps the next generation of them will see an adjustable magnetic braking system to really keep them up to date. There really are very few fish swimming in our waters that you could not catch on these reels.
What about the stunning weather on Sunday ? I was over in North Cornwall with my family and some friends and we had lunch outside !! It was an incredible day and it was just great to see the sun shine for so long. It made me think of plugging for bass in fact.......

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Cutting edge - monster African tarpon on fly gear

This is off the scale !!! This huge 170lb tarpon was caught last week in Angola, west Africa, by FlyCastaway client Rob Lewis, seen here cradling this awesome fish with guide Arno Matthee. Thanks to Gerhard Laubscher of FlyCastaway for letting me know and also for providing the photograph. I have been saying for ages now just how good these South Africans are, and a fish like this is proof to the world of two main things in my mind - firstly, that Africa and the Indian Ocean has some of the best fly fishing on this earth, and secondly, that FlyCastaway are THE people to guide you. I have worked with enough people around the world and also fished, filmed and photographed enough in Africa and the Indian Ocean to know that what I say is true and is without exaggeration.

Gerhard has asked me to keep the exact location of this tarpon fishing a secret for the moment. Anybody who knows anything about tarpon fishing will know that the tropical west coast of Africa has always held the largest tarpon in the world - countries such as Angola, Gabon, Congo and Sierra Leone have monster fish, but generally they have always been caught using baits and lures (with some documented exceptions of course). Plus, of course, there have been various "security issues" over the years that I don't need to go into here. The FlyCastaway guys were convinced from their previous visits to Angola that the really big tarpon could in fact be taken by sight fishing to them with fly fishing gear. I have been to where these fish were caught in Angola, some years ago now, and the fishing is outrageous. I remember seeing the tarpon rolling and simply watching open-mouthed at the size of them. I think you could say that the FlyCastaway guys have proved once and for all that these big fish can be taken on flies !! Angola is perfectly safe to go to as a fishing destination and I would not hesitate in going back there.

Gerhard tells me that this measured fish of Rob's was the largest one landed, with a few others touching 140lbs also caught, and Gerhard himself lost a fish estimated at over 200lbs when his 130lb leader was chewed through. That is some fish to even hook in the first place, but I know Gerhard and I know how hard he will have smashed that fish. If the leader holds next time, you'll hear of bigger fish being landed. Get yourself booked up with the guys if you fancy a go at these fish - as you can imagine, their exploits have generated massive interest all over the world, so move fast. You can contact FlyCastaway direct by clicking here, or you can book through Aardvark McLeod.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Updates to my website

There have just been a load of updates to my website which you can access from the links or by clicking here. Check out the new stuff, but also remember that if you are looking for information on where to go fishing home or abroad, there is stacks of info contained within the various photo essays that you can find by clicking here. Lots of people email me asking where to go fishing, and so often the information they require is on my website already. Perhaps I should look into making this information more readily accessible.
Here are the details of the various updates :
  • the Latest Book on my homepage has been changed to the one that I have just completed. Click on the book cover there to pre-order, and find out more about it here
  • the link from the bass DVD on my homepage has been changed, click here for where you can now buy this DVD. I know of no other professionally filmed bass fishing DVD out there, and there are stacks of fish, tips, techniques and moments of fishing insanity on there to keep you going through the winter
  • there are a load of new bass fishing photos that I shot during autumn 2007, including some nice fish, awesome light and a few new toys. Click here to take a look
  • click here to see a bunch of new photos from my remote Seychelles trip to Cosmoledo that I did just before Christmas. There are some very cool shots there, including some really smart stuff on milkfish - just how impressive are these fish ? Plenty of GT shots there as well
  • I shoot a lot of UK based fly fishing which I love doing, and over time I have built up a huge library of material. Some new shots have been added, click here to see them
  • there are some new shore fishing photos from the UK and Ireland, click here to see them
  • a fairly recent update you need to check out as well are the photos I shot in autumn 2007 of the east and west coasts of Canada, fly fishing for Atlantic salmon and the mighty steelhead. What a country - click here to see a taste of this incredible place.

Anyway, there will be some more updates in due course, but I hope the above proves of interest to you anglers and even non-anglers out there. Nothing beats working in fishing, for it is the greatest sport going.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Weird but wonderful

I was thinking about these strange bumphead parrotfish today because I have been sent a feature of mine to caption for a magazine, and I have just sent a load of photos over to the US that feature these fish. They grow really big, but only recently have they been taken on flies on the flats. When they are feeding on coral you can feel the sound through the water and to see them actually being caught was just incredible. Below, FlyCastaway guide Keith Rose-Innes is holding one he landed. Not bad considering the first one he hooked that day bit his Velcro Crab fly in half !! Take a look here for a load more photos, and then speak to Aardvark McLeod about a trip to the remote Seychelles atolls such as Cosmoledo and Providence - in my mind the best flats based saltwater fly fishing on this earth.
I tried to make this fish look as I perceived it - different, slightly strange, but utterly fascinating. I often stick my 15mm f2.8 fisheye lens in mg bag, but rarely use it as it my mind it can look very gimmicky if over-used. But I knew straight away that this fish would work with the light and the fisheye lens to produce a very different looking fishing "trophy" shot. When the fish was suitably settled, I asked Keith to literally push the fish's "beak" into my lens and then I snapped away, always holding focus on the eye of the fish. The fly happened to be positioned perfectly and this one here was the standout shot in my mind. A fisheye lens really distorts the perspective and here I think it has worked well. The FlyCastaway guides are utterly professional to work with and they are pleasure to be around, except when they take the p**s about English rugby. OK, so they might have won the World Cup, but roll on 2011....... Guess what ? It's blowing a monster outside, the skies are dark grey and its lashing down. Don't you love it ?

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Our trains - what a rip off !!

OK, so this is nothing to do with fishing, photography, weather or even music, but I need to go on a rant................yesterday I had to go to a meeting in London, up and down from Plymouth in a day, and really the only logical way for me to do this is on the train. I had to do this a fair bit last year to go and see the people putting my book together (click here for details of it) and it was always a rip off in my view. I need to leave Plymouth really early to make it work, and we get nailed for peak fares. I parked up yesterday at Plymouth station to catch the 6am train to London Paddington, and went to buy a ticket. I bet you can't guess what this cost ? The guy behind the counter even had the gall to smile as he quoted me the princely sum of £235.00 for the privilege. How much ? Now don't get me wrong, everybody has a right to try and make a profit, but how on earth can these insane prices be encouraging people to travel on the trains, and not in their cars.
The people I was going to meet have to pick up the fare for me, but still, it's a complete rip off. If I was paying it myself I would drive because it's far cheaper for me to do so (indeed I do drive up sometimes). How can that be ? And to top it all off, the train was 30mins late getting into Paddington, and then 50mins late on the way home..............the only benefit I can see is that I can work on my laptop there and back.
And as for fishing, I spoke to a friend of mine earlier today about bass plugging/spinning rods, because in truth I am struggling to find one that really does what I want it to. He is kindly sending me a spinning rod that he has been developing for a while now, so whilst it is hardly bass plugging season right now, when I receive it I will go out and "fish" with it and report back. From his description it sounds like an awesome rod...............I will update you in due course. Could this be the rod I am after ?

Monday, 14 January 2008

I think I saw the sun.....

I got a hell of a shock on Saturday morning when I saw this yellow orb in the sky - was it the sun ? Whatever it was, it didn't hang around for long. OK, so it might be winter, but a little light never hurt anybody !! Just to make you feel better, below is a monster blue sky from one of the remotest places I have ever photographed - Providence atoll. Click here for more photos from that trip earlier last year.
I know plenty of anglers out there would class themselves as tackle junkies, indeed some of us have more gear than we will ever need. Now I reckon I am actually quite disciplined when it comes to my fishing tackle (granted, my wife might disagree) and in reality how much more gear do I need ? Apart from some nice new spinning rods and reels for my bass fishing that is, plus a few Shimano Stellas of course....
But I have seen a new shore fishing multiplier that I badly want, a friend of mine had a pair of them and I am green with envy - check out the Daiwa Saltist 30H, look here for the details. I have no affiliation with Daiwa, but I believe in being totally honest, and I reckon they make some of the best UK-style shore multipliers we can get our hands on, and this new Saltist 30H looks outstanding. Ask your local tackle dealer what he can do you one for and I reckon you will be surprised - better still, get a pair !! It seems to me that this reel is what the SLOSH 30 was always destined to be in the end, and people who know me know how much I have rated the various SLOSH 20, 30, 40 and 50 models for many years now. I must purchase !!

Friday, 11 January 2008

Rod building

With the strong winds and driving rain we had yesterday (where oh where is the sun ?), I went to shoot a really interesting feature for Sea Angler magazine - but actually indoors this time, about a Plymouth angler who works full time as a custom rod builder. The quality of work this guy produces is just incredible, in fact he can take old rods and make them look better than they were when they were new. It felt particularly satisfying to be shooting indoors as the rain smashed into the windows.......
And talking about Sea Angler magazine, I just got the new issue through the post this morning and there is a really nice rough weather bassing feature of mine in there (look at page 20 onwards) - I remember the particular day well, in fact Graham Hill and I both nearly got washed in trying to catch fish and get the photos. It does get the heart pumping though...............but we all know that there is a fine line between playing it safe and pushing it too far. See some more bass fishing photos here and here.
I have just been sent some really interesting new bass lures to have a look at, and whilst this is hardly the time of year to be throwing lures about, they do look great. I really want to see how they work, so as soon as I have more info I will put it up here. It amazes me just how many anglers are picking up the bassing bug.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Last month's cover

I also had the front cover of last month's Trout Fisherman as well, as you can see above - Nick Hart is holding a well conditioned rainbow trout that he took from Hollies trout fishery near Honiton late last year. It is the type of photo that you have to go looking for when the skies are grey and you can't shoot anything wide - coming down really low and trying to make something special out of the fish works really well when the light is flat. Every single photo job I do, I work on giving as much value to my clients as possible, whatever the weather and however the fishing goes. Nick is an easy guy to work with and is in my view one of the UK's top fly fishing instructors. Check out what he does by having a look at his website here, and also take a look at his new tackle website here.
There is a good looking feature of mine out in a big US fishing magazine called Destination Fish - the article is about the huge coalfish we targeted on the fly last summer out in Rost, Norway. Check here for a bunch of photos on my website. Whilst it is no sense any kind of "conventional" fly fishing, putting big flies down deep for these fantastic fish was a blast. It might be worth a crack at the big cod on fly gear next......if you need details on where to go, check out this photo essay here from when we filmed out there in 2006.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

You need Africa in your life....

For various work reasons I had to go back into my RAW files that I shot a couple of years ago out in Zambia, and this tight shot of a magnificent elephant really grabbed me. I shot it from a boat when we were fly fishing for tigerfish down on the Caprivi Strip. A bit of African light and warmth I hope might inspire you to visit this awesome continent for your fishing, indeed you owe it to yourself to do so if you can. I have only ever had hugely positive experiences when working and travelling in Africa, indeed for a while now I have been sorely tempted to emigrate over and spend the rest of my life catching big fish in warm weather !! If you ever want any info, be sure to check out the photo essays on my site, or contact me personally and I will do all I can to help out.

Here is a big 12lb tigerfish taken on the fly, by Gerhard Laubscher of the outstanding South African fly fishing guiding company FlyCastaway. Fish with these guys and you will understand why I rate them so highly. Tigerfish are plain awesome, indeed in my mind they could only come from one place on this earth - Africa of course. Fishing for tiger fish usually involves a free safari at the same time. Check out some more photos of these fish here. I hope the photos might prove to be a little bit of inspiration for this rubbish weather we have got at the moment - where is the sun ??!!

Monday, 7 January 2008

Brothers' DVD flying off the shelves

I have just heard that my younger brothers' 2007 feature film Rise of the Footsoldier is selling seriously well as a DVD, and it has only been out since Boxing Day - loads of shops and stores have sold out already. Make sure to get a copy and watch this awesome film for yourself - it is a no holds barred, unflinching look at the uglier side of life, but if this floats your boat then you are in for a treat. Turn the sound system up, close the curtains, make sure the kids are in bed and settle in for a proper UK film. My brothers Julian and William are currently writing their next script which I believe they will start filming sometime this this space. What an incredible achievement.
The local guys have caught a few nice thornback rays from the Tamar. These are always good fish to catch, with the majority coming close to the mouth of the river on ledgered prawn baits. The switched on anglers will net their prawns when they are around and then freeze enough down to last until they show up again. Frozen works just as well as live for the rays. Day or night does not matter in the Tamar when you are fishing the deepwater marks, but make sure to use enough lead to hold bottom - consider a good 6oz gripper to be a minimum requirement.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Front cover

The new issue of Trout Fisherman has just hit the shops, and the front cover is a photo I shot of Nick Hart with a nice rainbow trout from Valley Springs fishery. You might notice that Nick is wearing a new softshell fleece - it is one of the very good new Hardy EWS range that is due to hit the shops sometime soon. Check out the range here. I really like softshell fleeces, in fact I picked one up at the fly show in Denver last year and it does really well in this current cold weather.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Back to reality.....

Now that Christmas and New Year have been and gone, it is back to work with a vengeance - and what a shock !! I was out today shooting a fly fishing feature with Nick Hart, for Trout Fisherman magazine, and to put it bluntly, it was bl***y freezing.............Nick did great and caught some seriously nice rainbows in tricky conditions, but I am just so glad I bought a polar Buff from Nick before we headed out. These innocuous things are completely invaluable for all kinds of fishing, both hot and cold - check them out here and then buy one from Nick like I did - click here to do so. You will not regret it. We could not survive without the standard Buff for fishing in the tropics, but they also produce some great products for those colder days. That wind was cutting.......
The light was really tough today, and in these kinds of conditions you really have to think on your feet and make sure to place the angler against the right background, and then expose correctly for it. Some shots you can do, and some you can't. Nick is easy to work with and knows exactly what I am after, and we came away with a good looking feature. I shot most of it on ISO 400 and my 70-200 f4L IS lens, to come in fairly tight and take out as much of the sky as possible. As I always say, these grey-day shoots sort the men from the boys !! I am always amazed at the instant control that my digital cameras give me for a shoot like this. Above is a photo of a big rainbow trout that Nick landed.
What a difference to shooting in the remote Seychelles before Xmas - flats shirts, shorts, suncream and roasting, unrelenting heat and humidity. But what would fishing be without extremes of variety ?
And of course - a Happy New Year. Here is to 2008.....................