Monday, 30 June 2008

Pounding seas

  • Ever since we got here late on Friday, the seas have been pounding in, pushed by pretty strong onshore winds and really up and down weather - one minute the sun is out and I am getting the suncream on, and the next minute it is nearly time to put a fleece on. Still, this kind of weather is what makes us Brits great !!

  • I tucked away as much as I could this morning close to Trevone to try plugging for bass, but those waves just kept on pounding. I had to time it so that I cast and fished in a lull between the biggest waves, and then backed off as the lines of rollers came in. I knew it was too rough for lure fishing, but I wanted to give it a go - a fish turned on me, but I could not tell if it was a bass or a pollack. The actual clarity of the water is not that bad, but it is going to have to calm down somewhat for me to have a proper chance up here on the north Cornwall coast.

  • But to be perfectly honest, I am not really that bothered that plugging conditions are not great, for I am getting some proper time to spend with my family. Work and travel has been pretty hectic recently, so I am loving being out of my office for a few days and getting to spend uninterrupted time with my wife and two daughters. I have even played a bit of golf, but frustratingly not that well as I have not been playing much for ages. That little white ball could drive a man insane !!

  • I am not sure what the weather is forecast to do, but if it calms off I am going to get back out for a few hours bassing. And if not, at least I have got a week in south east Ireland coming up from the middle of July - now that is something I seriously can't wait for.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Was that summer ?

Canon 1D MK11, 16-35mm f2.8L lens (at 31mm), ISO 200, f9, 1/100, polarising filter

  • OK, it's a bit premature to start moaning about the end of summer, but it certainly felt like it yesterday. I arrived back from a grey, windy Newcastle into Bristol airport last night (wearing shorts and t-shirt of course, how sensible is that ?), to be met by howling winds and torrential rain. I feel really sorry for all the people at Glastonbury for the weekend, including a good friend of mine - why is it that it seems to always rain there ? There is no way that we can have a summer like last year's is there ?

  • To take myself away from the gloom of an overcast morning, above is a photo of a nice big bass that my mate Graham caught last autumn over in Ireland. I wish I could show you a photo of my latest, greatest capture, but with work and travel recently, my own fishing efforts have been zero. That is going to change from this weekend though, for I have a few days over in Cornwall with my family to look forward to. I have packed the alarm clock for a few early morning plugging sessions.........

  • I have a few really interesting new bass lures here to try out, including some that I have yet to see anywhere in the UK. Some of them look lethally effective, so I will give them a go and see how they do - watch this space. All in the name of "work related research" I assure you. Not that I like playing with new toys or anything like that.

  • I sent a bunch of these US soft plastic Slug-Go lures over to a couple of mates in Ireland recently, and I am hearing sketchy reports that they are working really well for the bass. When I say sketchy, what I really mean is that I think the guys have really begun to nail fish big time on these Slug-Go lures and are trying to keep it quiet from me !! But I have my would not believe the action these soft plastic lures have when they are fished properly, indeed I have yet to see a lure like it. Check here for where you can get hold of them in the UK. Don't get me wrong, hard plastic lures are great for bass fishing, but there is a quiet revolution going on with soft plastics - just take a look at the French bass anglers for a start. You are going to hear a lot more about them over the next few years I am sure.

  • One thing I really notice about travelling in the US is the welcome you receive - shops, restaurants, hotels, you name it, most of the time you are met with a beaming smile and an offer of help. I really like this attitude. Manners cost nothing in life, and it is something my wife and I are working hard to instill in our two girls. On Wednesday evening, I checked into a hotel just over the road from Newcastle airport at about 11pm, to be met by a surly, sour excuse for a receptionist who hardly had the good grace to look me in the eye and say anything more than a mumble of "this is what you need to pay before you can have your room". Nothing approaching "welcome, how are you ?" or "enjoy your stay" or "what can we do to help ?". Nothing of the sort. I should have said something, but in truth I could not trust myself to remain calm. A lack of manners really winds me up. My rant for Friday morning is now over !!

  • If you get The Field magazine, check out a really good looking feature of mine on the insane golden dorado fishing I photographed earlier this year out in Argentina (check here for a stack of photos). Look on pages 86, 87, 88 and 89 - I really like the fact that they have used one of my fish jumping shots as a whole page image on page 87. My thanks to the designer for picking it out.

  • Remember to have a look through my Montana photo gallery which I have put online - check here for a selection of photographs from one of the most special places I have ever been on this earth. I am still dreaming about it.

  • Gerhard from FlyCastaway emailed to tell me of a 16.5lb tigerfish that one of their clients caught on Monday, on a fly of course, at a new camp they are using in Mozambique. That is some fish on the fly, but then not much surprises me with the FlyCastaway lot - in my mind one of the top guiding outfits on the planet, and I do not say that lightly. Speak to Aardvark McLeod about booking trips to fish with them - and for Argentina and Montana. You can see a bunch of my tigerfish photos here. Tigerfish are deeply impressive fish to be around. It has been too long since I have been to Africa, so I can't wait for my South Africa trip at the end of September. Nowhere feels like Africa.

  • Anyway, I am off on holiday for a few days later on today, but I will do my best to keep this blog updated - hopefully with a few reports of a few nice bass. You don't know how much I am looking forward to getting back over to Ireland in July.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Montana photo gallery online

Canon 1D MK111, 70-200mm f4L IS lens (at 70mm), ISO 400, f8, 1/200, polarising filter

  • Check out an online gallery I have just created of some of the photos I took out in Montana last week - click here to have a look, or alternatively, look at the Links section on the right hand side of this page and get to it from there. I hope you like them - what a place.

  • Nick Hart and I arrived back in the UK after lunch on Monday, and I got back home just in time to see my two girls before they went to bed. Going away for work is a blast, but nothing ever beats getting home and seeing my family - obviously I could not resist showing my daughters the clothes that I had got for them in Bozeman, and they insisted on wearing their new dresses down to breakfast the next morning. I never thought I would say this, but shopping for clothes for my girls is more fun than buying fishing gear or CDs - mad I know, but it's true.

  • The trip to Montana was simply out of this world, indeed the place was everything that I hoped it would be and more. Where we were was without doubt one of the most stunning places that I have ever been lucky enough to see, and Nick and I are already planning a return trip to try and nail the Yellowstone river when it is firing properly. Talk to Aardvark McLeod about getting yourself out there sometime soon - it really is that special.

  • It has been eyes down here since I got back, trying to process all the photos I took out in Montana in time to take up to Hardy Greys - I fly up to Newcastle tonight and then go through what I got up there tomorrow for their catalogues etc. On Thursday night I fly back down here and then go away on Friday for a few days with my family over to Cornwall. Yes, of course, the bassing gear is packed and ready to go - what on earth are early mornings and evenings for ?

  • Above is one of the photos that I really like - moody light over the mountains, a really pretty little spring creek, and a fly angler looking carefully into the water for some willing trout. I deliberately under-exposed this image slightly, to accentuate the sky and retain the different colours in the sky and the grass, and I think it's worked pretty well. This is the sort of photo that I would really like a magazine designer to pick up on and run it across two pages, but you never quite know what your features will come out like. That is the nature of the business. You take the photos, hand them over, and then see what the various designers end up doing with your material.

Canon 1D MK111, 70-200mm f4L IS lens (at 75mm), ISO 200, f11, 1/400

  • Above is the last photo I shot out in Montana, of Nick getting out of his waders and slinging the fishing gear in the back of the car for the last time before heading home. The sun behind is rising on another perfect Montana day, and I grabbed the shot just before it became impossible to place the glare behind the car and create a silhouette. These kinds of photos are not planned, for I like to shoot as much as possible "as it happens" - I tend to think that fishing never looks any good when things are set up and staged.

  • I am really looking forward to getting back out and slinging some lures for bass. The weather seems a bit up and down, but it looks ok to me for a bit of plugging - reports are a bit sketchy it seems, but I know of a few fish showing. I really can't wait now to head over to Ireland in July to fish and photograph, especially after that huge 72cms bass the other day that I heard about. To get a bass that size on a lure would be something very special indeed......

  • On the metal front, it is also very cool to get back home and find a new CD or two waiting for you - take it from me on this one, you need to go and buy "Kolossus" by the Norwegian band Keep of Kalessin. You can see a video of one of the new tracks here. Their last album "Armada" was immense, but this new one is off the scale it is so good - fantastic levels of brutality mixed with insane melodies that get you right between the eyes. The drummer is off another planet he is so good. This is without doubt one of the great extreme metal releases of the year so far. What on earth do they put in the water over in Norway to keep producing such immense metal ? I put it on yesterday while my daughters were having their tea, and they loved it (and my wife hated it) - that is all the recommendation you need !!

  • Both Nick and I bought the most incredible book just before we left Montana on Sunday - it is not a fishing book, but it is without doubt one of the most awesome publications I have ever seen. Called "Yellowstone to Yukon - Freedom to Roam", it is a series of breathtaking photographs and short essays on this amazing part of the world - scenery and wildlife. The photographer is called Florian Schulz, and you can see more of his incredible work here. Some more details on the book can be found here, and you can buy it here for not very much at all. This kind of publication really inspires me to keep working on trying to improve my photography all the time.

  • A friend of mine up in Scotland has just emailed to tell me about a 17lb rainbow trout he caught the other day on a size 16 fly, from a float tube !! Stuart is one of the nicest guys you could hope to meet, and he is an excellent fly fisherman into the bargain - I bet the fish towed him around for a fair while. He also tells me about some really big salmon coming off the Dee very recently........

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Thirteen miles of fishing heaven - the Bighorn

Canon 1D MK111, 16-35mm f2.8L lens (at 16mm), ISO 320, f8, 1/100, polarising filter
  • Yesterday Nick Hart and I were lucky enough to fish and photograph on one of the world's most famous trout rivers, the Bighorn. There is no way to do this river proper justice in one single day, but we gave it a real go. There are 9000 trout per mile on the upper stretches of the Bighorn (!!), and since the waters are crystal clear, you can see hundreds of trout moving around all the time, plus whitefish and the odd big carp. This is driftboat fishing heaven, and as you can see above, there are plenty of places to get out and wade fish. This is surely some of the finest trout fishing on this earth.

  • We drifted thirteen miles of trout fishing heaven yesterday - our guide Clarke Smyth must have thought we were barking mad (you can't help but get excited over this kind of stuff), but he was as good as it gets, and put Nick over a load of fish. Just being able to see so many good fish moving around in that water gets the pulse racing big time. We had to drive a bit to get there, but that is the beauty of where we are staying - there is just so much fishable water in this past of America, so whatever the conditions you are going to be able to find world class fly fishing somewhere fairly nearby. And when the Yellowstone is firing, there is insane trout fishing right beneath Yellowstone Valley Ranch. You could literally fall out of bed here and catch big trout, or do a day somewhere nearby, and fish some more after supper. This is pure trout fishing heaven.

Canon 1D MK111, 70-200mm f4L IS lens (at 200mm), ISO 400, f8, 1/320, polarising filter

  • The brown trout on the Bighorn have such powerful looking jaws and are simply a thrill to be around. I was looking for a different kind of fish shot in this lovely wooden net, and this nice brown was the one that played ball. I really love photographing good looking trout fishing, and out here in Montana it is about as good as it is ever going to get. Neither Nick or I can believe how few UK fly fishermen come out here to fish - it's so easy to get here, and the set up at Yellowstone Valley Ranch is perfect. We are looking to try and come back perhaps in late October to fish and photograph the Yellowstone river when it is firing properly.

Canon 1D MK111, 16-35mm f2.8L lens (at 16mm), ISO 320, f8, 1/125, polarising filter

  • Above you can see Nick hooked into a really nice trout that he hooked up when we were wade fishing on a section of the Bighorn. I can't really believe that we have been lucky enough to see what we have seen out here, and that is also bearing in mind that the average water conditions at the moment are not good. The story is that from mid-July the fishing is really going to go off big time. This is a freak year though, for usually mid-June is prime time. I am over the moon with the material I have got out here, but I also know that we have seen a mere tiny percentage of what this place can offer. Too much to do, too little time to do it in. That's life.

Canon 1D MK111, 16-35mm f2.8L lens (at 24mm), ISO 250, f9, 1/100, polarising filter

  • Here you can see Nick cradling a perfect brown trout, in about the best condition possible. These fish were caught by drifting weighted nymphs along the bottom of the river, either dead drifting with the speed of the boat, or casting and swinging them when wading. When there is a decent hatch, apparently there are scary numbers of trout coming up to dry flies. We wore chest waders to do this fishing yesterday, but our guide Clarke was wet wading - and believe me, that Bighorn water was running cold !! I am not that brave.... (but even Clarke admitted that at one point his toes were totally numb). I was glad of the heavy duty nature of the Hardy EWS waders I was wearing, and they have done me proud this trip.

Canon 1D MK111, 16-35mm f2.8L lens (at 31mm), ISO 250, f9, 1/200, polarising filter

  • I couldn't not work on making something of the jaws of these browns - some people would say (rather sadly) that this is just "making the fish look bigger than it is", indeed I have heard this kind of rubbish before. But it is not - this kind of photo is me having a bit of creative fun with a fish, working on getting away from the standard "grip and grin". Why not make the fish look good and different ? Our main priority though is the safety of the fish, so they are never kept out of the water for more than a few seconds at a time, and this one went off really strongly after it's quick modelling shoot.

  • Nick and I fly back to the UK today, after a seriously incredible trip. I have been blown away by my first visit to Montana, and I will be back as much as possible. This is some of the world's finest yet accessible fly fishing, and I really hope that more Brits will make the easy journey out here to experience it. There is just so much space out here, and so few people. You could have such fun family holidays in this part of Montana, indeed I will be bringing my girls out here when they are a bit older. Speak to Aardvark McLeod as soon as you can about coming to smash a few of these magnificent trout among the most outrageous scenery you could ever hope to see. What a special week it has been. I also hear that the weather back home has been rubbish !! Back to bass fishing....

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Spring creek fishing

Canon 1D MK111, 16-35mm f2.8L lens (at 16mm), ISO 100, f16, 1/10, polarising filter, Gitzo Traveller tripod
  • Within this vast Yellowstone valley lie several natural spring creeks that come up from the ground, run gin clear for a few miles, and then pour into the mighty Yellowstone river (which is still roaring and unfishable with a mass of snow-melt water). We drove no more than ten miles from Yellowstone Valley Ranch to fish this stunning little creek, and for me it was a dream day's photography. For most of the day we are covered with huge blue skies and framed by these wonderful mountains that line both sides of the valley. For Nick it was also perfect fly fishing - challenging and hugely rewarding. We could see literally hundreds of wild brown and rainbow trout, sometimes rising to flies, and also hugely wary of fishermen. Nick Hart is a seriously accomplished fly fisherman though, and can really think on his feet. With huge effort and thought he caught a fair few stunning trout from various stretches of the creek. What a result - behind the creek roars the Yellowstone river that is going to take a few weeks at least to become fishable, yet here lies this stunning natural chalk stream essentially. but without the stocked fish and managed banks.

Canon 1D MK111, 15-35mm f2.8L lens (at 31mm), ISO 320, f3.5, 1/800, polarising filter

  • Wow !! What a stunning wild rainbow trout - look at those perfect spots and fins. Nick worked for these fish, but the reward was more than worth it. I woke up yesterday morning thinking about a shot like this, where the head and eye of the fish becomes the focal point of the photo, and a deliberately large aperture has gradually defocused the rest of the fish and the background out. The incredible light and stunning nature of the fish has enabled me to get a photo like this - the kind of thing a magazine could run across two pages and then bleed in text around it, with the heading below the fish. Now you can see why I wake up so early all the time - this head of mine doesn't like to shut down that much !! But I wouldn't change it for the world. Getting the chance to come and work in a place like Montana is so incredibly cool that I am still having trouble coming to grips with how special it is.

Canon 1D MK111, 70-200mm f4L IS lens (at 100mm), ISO 400, f10, 1/125, polarising filter

  • With the Yellowstone river being blown at the moment (and yes, I am coming back when it is in proper condition), I have been looking for a kind of "look at this fishing surrounded by vastness" kind of photo, and yesterday I got the chance. It was a bit of a weak sky behind the mountains, but you can't get it perfect all the time !! I'll take the snow-capped peaks any day of the week, so I guess we have the best of both worlds here at the moment. Nick is in fly fishing heaven, and I am still drooling like a loon at the views around here. Seriously, if fly fishing for wild fish in outrageous surroundings is anywhere close to your thing, do yourself the best favour you can do and come out here now. Aardvark McLeod can sort it all out for you very easily - I hope to see you here, because I am coming back to the American west as much as I can in the future. All I need is some proper fly casting lessons from Nick and I might even have a bit of a fish next time !!

Canon 1D MK111, 70-200mm f4L IS lens (at 70mm), ISO 400, f8, 1/160

  • After an early supper yesterday, we headed straight back to the spring creek to do some more - how could you not ? Paul Roberstson (the manager of the lodge here) took Nick out on a classic Montana drift boat for a proper go at the rising trout, and Nick duly smashed plenty on little buzzers. The trick to this photo was to hold the exposure, i.e. the balance between the moody sky, and the last bit of sunlight on the boat. What a perfect end to the day. I am now having another cup of coffee, looking out on the sun beginning to illuminate this wonderful valley - this is as close to paradise as I am ever going to get. We are off fishing the Lower Madison today on a drift boat and I can't wait.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Yellowstone National Park fishing

Canon 1D MK111, 70-200mm f4L IS lens (at 135mm), ISO 200, f10, 1/200
  • Waking up yesterday morning well before dawn was inevitable, but it did give me the chance to watch the sun rising over the huge valley we are in here. Above is about the coolest site for a caravan that I have ever seen, just outside of Yellowstone Valley Ranch where we are staying. The snow that still tops many of the mountains around here gives a clue as to why the fishing is tough at the moment though.....

  • They are having one of their latest ever springs out here - the snow-melt should have happened a while ago, but we are right in the middle of it now. The decision was taken yesterday to head right up into the world famous Yellowstone National Park to fish a few rivers in there. You can guess the levels of excitement from Nick and I as we made our way through the gates to the park and very soon encountered bison, deer and even a few elk. I had not realised just how huge bison are, but when you see one crossing the road like cattle of sheep would on Dartmoor, you get a full sense of their scale. Below are a couple of bison - I would love time to really try and nail some decent wildlife shots out here, but we have a job to do, and that concerns fishing.

Canon 1D MK111, 300mm f4L IS lens + 1.4TC (420mm), ISO320, f8, 1/640

  • Now I would love to say that we smashed more trout yesterday than you can shake a stick out, but in the end we were skunked (bear in mind that this was a "play" day, in that we were unguided. Things change today !!). Make no mistake, Nick Hart worked his socks off on loads of different stretches of water, using plenty of different methods, but the local trout population were simply not playing ball at all. It is very much worth checking out Nick's blog for the technical details of what went on yesterday, but for me it was just a dream to be photographing fishing in such a place like Yellowstone National Park. We probably saw about 1% of this vast park, and still I came away totally in a complete state of awe.

  • Nick and I are getting a load of photos together for Hardy & Greys Ltd., and the gear is doing great. Nick is using and wearing a bunch of brand new Hardy products for the shoot (some of which have yet to hit the market), and to put the stuff against the kinds of places we are seeing is just outrageous.

Canon 1D MK111, 16-35mm f2.8L lens (at 16mm), ISO 320, f8, 1/160, polarising filter

  • Above you can see Nick tackling up on the side of the Firehole river - those deep blue skies and fluffy white clouds do it for me in a big way!! We parked up and dropped down the side of a remote valley to get in here, and both of us were surprised to say the least that a monster local brown trout did not go and impale itself on Nick's fly. Today is always another day.......

Canon 1D M111, 16-35mm f2.8L lens, ISO 250, f8, 1/80, polarising filter

  • Above is the last bit of water we tried before heading out of the park and back for a late and welcome supper (the food here is far too good). This is a stretch of the Gibbon river that winds across a stunning meadow in the park, and to Nick's right were loads of bison, no doubt amused at us guys doing what we do. It was a frustrating day, for most of the waters literally breathed of fish, but sometimes fishing likes to kick you hard and remind you that it takes a bit of extra hard work to begin to come to grips with a place.

  • I remain utterly blown away with this part of the world. Yellowstone Valley Ranch is one of the best and friendliest places I have ever had the privilege to stay, and the setting on the banks of the Yellowstone river is simply magical. This valley is on a vast scale - what a great place it would be for a family holiday. The great outdoors and masses to do - fishing, horse riding, white water rafting, hiking, skiing, or just taking it easy, you name it, you can do it all out here and I can't wait to come back already. Not that many hardcore fishing places make a great destination for the whole family, but here is in my mind just about perfect. If you want wide open spaces, stunning waters and a true sense of what it is all about, speak to Aardvark McLeod and get yourself out to Montana as soon as you can. Honestly, I can not rave about this place enough, and it does not cost half as much as you think it should. It's also very easy to get out here from the UK.

  • A friend of mine over in SE Ireland has emailed me a photo of a 72cm long bass he had on the first day of their new bass season, 16th June - what a fish to open the account with, and of course it went back. They smashed a load of fish, so you can guess I am sure how excited I am to be heading over there in mid-July, right after photographing some Atlantic salmon fishing on the Namsen river over in Norway.

  • And you might be wondering how on earth I have got the time to update this blog out here ? At the moment it is just after 5am, and I am typing this and watching the valley here light up for another perfect day in paradise. As always, I am struggling to get my body on US time - I woke up just before 4am this morning, thinking about photos, fishing and extreme metal of course. Lots of sleep is never really an option on trips like this, it's far too exciting to waste time grabbing loads of kip, and I can always catch up a bit on the flight home. Sleeping pills, headphones, iPOD, Norwegian black metal and eye shades soon knock me out. Anyway, it is fast getting light outside and in half an hour the chef will have filled the coffee pot up......

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Staggeringly beautiful place

Canon 1D MK111, 16-35mm f2.8L lens (at 16mm), ISO 400, f11, 1/200, polarising filter

  • I am totally blown away by how beautiful it is out here in Montana - it is all I can do to stop drooling like a loon at the view. Nick Hart and I had a very cool day wandering around a load of different fly fishing shops in and around Bozeman and Livingston, before arriving at Yellowstone Valley Ranch. The two of us could also not resist going shopping for some clothes for our respective kids - you should have seen it, Nick and I going all soppy over adorable outfits for our children.

  • The photo above is of Nick and our hire car on the road out of Livingston. Just look at those snow capped peaks and vast blue skies and you will understand I am sure why I am walking around with my jaw on the floor in sheer amazement. Our world is a beautiful place. There is too much to see and to little time to do it. Once again, I am blown away that I can legitimately call this my work.

  • It was really warm here today, like a really good UK summer's day. I am typing this blog just as the sun is going down on the banks of the Yellowstone river where we are staying, in this beautiful wide valley surrounded by white-capped mountains. I can now see just why this part of the world is known as Big Sky Country. Montana is the "Big Sky State" in fact. The skies go on for ever......

  • How on earth am I going to be able to sleep tonight ? I am far too excited about finally getting the chance to photograph this world class fly fishing, surrounded by about the most outrageous scenery you could hope to see. Some of the rivers are blown out because of the late snow-melt, but it does not matter one bit - there are so many options out here that it is possible to find decent fly fishing in virtually any conditions. We have got some awesome plans laid down for the week ahead. Nick and I are like a couple of kids.

Canon 1D MK111, 300mm f4L IS lens, ISO 200, f8, 1/200

  • I grant you that the photo above is hardly going to win any awards, but this was the first time I have ever seen a grizzly bear, so I had to get a few snaps. Nick and I passed a place outside of Bozeman that looks after a few grizzly bears that have been mistreated and can not go back into the wild. Yes, the light was far too harsh to shoot this kind of photo, but I can't go home and not be able to show my daughters that their dad has seen a grizzly bear. OK, so I hardly stalked it down like a real man out in the wilds, but seeing them up this close was awe inspiring. There is actually a very healthy population of wild bears out here in Montana, so no doubt at some point this week I will be legging it across some meadow when I hear a rustling in the bushes......stand and face it like a man ? Yeah, right.

  • Anyway, I had better get my gear sorted for tomorrow. Cameras, lenses, waders, suncream, sunglasses etc., everything needs to be checked and re-checked. And what an exciting end to the US Open golf - I caught the last few holes over lunch. Words can not describe how good Tiger Woods is.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Here in Montana

  • After a fairly long journey, Nick and I arrived at our hotel in Bozeman about midnight local time (we are seven hours behind you in the UK out here). For me that was over 24 hours on the go with no sleep, so crashing out for a bit in a hotel bed was more than welcome. The flights were fine, we got all our bags through, and I woke up this morning to see snow-capped mountains surrounding the hotel, with huge blue skies and not a cloud in site. You might guess that I am in a seriously buzzed up state of excitement about finally getting the chance to photograph out here........

  • And I know that Nick Hart is just waiting for his chance to get at the legendary wild browns and rainbows of Montana. We saw plenty of guys on the various flights with rod tubes and fly fishing holdalls. This part of the US is a trout fishing mecca and we are so looking forward to getting started - later on this afternoon we will drive out to where we are staying, at Yellowstone Valley Ranch and start doing what we came out here to do. If you are into world class trout fishing and locations, you owe it to yourself to come out and visit a place like this, so talk to Aardvark McLeod about doing so.

  • Nick and I had a few hours to kill yesterday in Denver airport, so we found a place to get a decent burger and watch the last few holes of the US Open golf (ok, so I did, it's not Nick's thing) - I was willing on Lee Westward to make the play-off, but sadly he came up one stroke short. But what about the legend that is Tiger Woods ? How does he keep doing it ? He needs a vital putt to make a next day 18 hole play-off, and of course he goes and sinks it. I would guess that Tiger is mentally one of the strongest people there is. I bet he takes the title today......

  • Why is it that a vital international airport like Heathrow is such a complete dive, yet somewhere like Denver is how an airport should be - clean, calm, plenty of places to eat something at regular (not rip-off like at Heathrow) prices and lots of room to move around. Airports are not my favourite places in the world to spend time in, but you have no choice if you need to travel, so the least amount of time I can spend in or around Heathrow, the better. Just look at that recent Terminal 5 fiasco. Anyway, Monday morning (afternoon to you) rant over !!

  • The bass close season has just ended over in Ireland, so I am fully expecting to hear from my mates about some awesome bass catches - best of luck guys, but leave some for me please for July. You will be able to see reports of some of the catches at this excellent forum here, and check specifically here for bass fishing comings and goings.

  • Anyway, I had better go grab some breakfast and get the gear together for the work we are doing out here. Just to be able to call what I am doing here my work is a dream come true, and believe me, I still have to pinch myself every single time. Just having the chance to work in and around the sport of fishing is what I always dreamed of. If internet connections are working fine all week, I should be able to post some stunning photos up here during this trip, so keep an eye on the blog for that.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Epic cod fishing

Canon 1D MKIII, 70-200 f4L IS lens (at 78mm), ISO 400, f8, 1/500, polarising filter
  • What a fantastic day's cod fishing out of Poole yesterday - clear blue skies, stacks of incredibly good conditioned cod, and a seriously cool bunch of guys on board. I was very kindly invited to come along by Tom Bettle, and it was a blast. He sells these fantastic Jenneau boats for a living, and together with his mate Chris Mazey, they co-own this stunning 23' version called Quest II - what a boat to fish on. There are three of the guys into cod at the same time in the shot above, with a nice fish coming to the net. It was some of the best cod fishing I have ever been lucky enough to see here in the UK. These guys seriously know their local boat fishing, indeed it was one of the finest private boats I have ever fished on. Why on earth have I not fished out of Poole before ?

Canon 1D MkIII, 16-35mm f2.8L lens (at 16mm), ISO 250, f10, 1/100, polarising filter

  • Now this guy can seriously fish - Adam Franklin is a member of his local Poole Bay Small Boat Angling Club, see their website here. Here he is with a typical cod from yesterday - we did not see any monster fish, but this early summer fishing they have is not about that (although Adam had one of 23lbs last summer on the same grounds). Plenty of the fish went back to fight another day, and we all took a few fillets home to eat (ok, so I don't eat fish, but my wife and two young daughters love it - I also get to claim rather heroically that I caught them all myself !!). I did actually manage a couple of fish myself in between photographing, and it was huge fun. I saw cod to nearly 10lbs being caught, and every single fish was just in about the best condition you could hope to see.

Canon 1D MKIII, 16-35mm f2.8L lens (at 16mm), ISO 320, f10, 1/200, polarising filter

  • Above is Tom Bettle with one of his many cod - in between skippering the boat with Chris, Tom managed to nail stacks of fish on his 6-12lb class Penn outfit and 16lb braid mainline. The style of "hopper" fishing these guys do with the range of plastic lures simply would not work properly without the direct nature of the braid. Look at those big blue skies as well. Photographing on boats is tricky, because you have so few angles to work with, so blue skies and loads of fish really makes for a great combination. The fact that the anglers were all extremely talented also makes my life that whole lot easier. I think I rather let the side down with my couple of drops down (sorry guys !!), but somehow a couple of desperate fish managed to impale themselves on my lures............

Canon 1D MKIII, 16-35 f2.8L lens (at 16mm), ISO 250, f10, 1/160, polarising filter

  • You are stuffed without a good wide-angle lens when photographing on a boat, and you have to accept a certain failure rate on the photos with the boat moving around all the time. This creates havoc with focusing, so on a job like this I tend to take a lot more than I need to, just to play it safe - above is co-owner Chris Mazey with a cod of nearly 10lbs. I love these fish, especially when the sun is out. These particular twin-tailed lures really nailed the cod hard yesterday. I tend to look for a mix of a higher than normal shutter speed and whatever corresponding aperture I can get, bearing in mind that a boat is moving and shaking - slower shutter speeds on a rocking boat just give blurry photos that are no good to me at all.

Canon 1D MKIII, 16-35mm f2.8L lens (at 16mm), ISO 250, f8, 1/300, polarising filter, fill flash

  • This is Adam's dad, Graham Franklin. He quietly smashed loads of cod on every single drift, including this cracker. I am so pleased to have nailed a proper UK cod fishing feature, something I have not done for a while, and during summer makes it especially pleasing. I am so grateful to Tom for contacting me and asking me to come out for the day - now I am looking forward to getting back to Poole later this summer for some of the awesome bass fishing they have on their local grounds. A bass of over 18lbs was weighed in to their club last year - what a fish. Thanks for having me along guys, I had such a great day.

  • What about the rugby this morning ? For the first fifteen minutes we were taking it to the All Blacks big time, but then they woke up and nailed us hard. We did show some guts, plus some very good forward play at times, but I think we have some work to do in the backs. Charlie Hodgson misses a shocker of a tackle to concede a try and I felt it was right to take him off soon afterwards. I am going to be in the US for the next match, but I hope England can really take the game to New Zealand for the full eighty minutes next weekend.
  • I am just about packed up for this Montana trip that I leave for tomorrow. I do really enjoy heading over to the US, and the more I learn about this vast country, the more I am seeing just how much world class fishing they have. I have wanted to see Montana for ages now, so I guess this is my chance. The next time I post on this blog, I will be over the pond and on a somewhat different time to back home. I am just hoping that the weather shows the place off as much as possible.................

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Getting ready.......

Canon 1D MK111, 24-105mm f4L IS lens (at 24mm), ISO 100, 1 second at f16, polarising filter
  • I thought it might be worthwhile publishing the technical details of the photos I put up here, as I get a few emails asking about taking photographs of fishing and all that surrounds it. I shot this sunset the other day when I was walking back from a bass fishing session. The sky looked awesome, almost like a roof on the world - a one second exposure requires the use of a tripod of course, and I am really using the tiny little Gitzo Traveller carbon fibre tripod a lot these days. For ages I have been after a really small but sturdy tripod to carry with me all the time when I am out fishing, to get shots I otherwise could not have got. I am not interested in carrying a huge great hulk of a tripod around with my fishing gear, so this little beauty does the trick. I know of nothing better on the market - yes, it costs, but it is a part of my working life. Check out the Gitzo tripods here.

  • If this fine weather holds, I am due to be out of Poole tomorrow on a boat, some 25 miles offshore, chasing cod, a species which I have a lot of time for. It's a bit of a drive from Plymouth, but this is the kind of thing I love doing for work - new place for me, a different way of catching them, and some thoroughly nice guys to spend a day out at sea with. If it happens, I will post the results here on Saturday - after England take on New Zealand in the rugby at 8am on Saturday morning I believe. As they say in Outer Mongolia - bring it on !!!!!

  • I am just about to book flights to go and shoot some Atlantic salmon fishing on the Namsen river over in Norway for a few days in mid-July, with some of the guys from Hardy. Now this is something I can not wait to see, and current reports are of some outstanding fishing. My friend Cato Bekkevold had a load the other day up to 32lbs from the Gaula, and they were spooled several times he tells me. One of the extreme metal world's finest drummers (for Enslaved) and a seriously good angler as well - does life get any better ? Guess what we are talking about doing together next year ? (it has something to do with salmon)

  • Sunday is getting closer, for that is when Nick Hart and I are leaving for Montana over in the US - reports from where we are going were of snow showers yesterday, so I am packing everything from a thermal buff and heavy duty Hardy EWS waders and wading boots through to suncream and t-shirts. The long term forecast is for it to warm up - personally I would love to see a mix of snow and sunshine to photograph this awesome part of the world. But I'll take anything we get as I know Nick will nail the trout (no pressure).

  • My heart bleeds for my friends over in Ireland, so this is to let you know that I am thinking of you as the end of the bass close season draws nearer. I know how you have been suffering. The fact that you have got great tides and a nice long range forecast for the 16th of this month does not make me at all jealous, seriously. I will be thinking of your multiple bass when I wake up in Bozeman next Monday. Graham and Patrick have I know been staring longingly at their brand new Tenryu plugging rods sitting in their fishing rooms, pleading to be used............

Monday, 9 June 2008

Outstanding new magazine

  • There is a fantastic new fishing, shooting and hunting magazine that has just hit the news stands in the US, and it is really worth tracking down if you are into the outdoors life. Called "The Travelling Sportsman", it deals with the best fishing and hunting destinations on this earth, and I am really pleased to have the lead feature in there. Check out pages 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 for my words and photos from one of the remotest Bahama island - Great Inagua. Those eagle-eyed among you might also spot some other photos of mine in the magazine as well........

  • The Travelling Sportsman's website can be found here. I am fascinated in all kinds of fishing from all around the world, and this magazine is exactly the kind of publication that I reckon the fishing and hunting world seriously needs. All credit to the people involved. The editor Doug is one of the nicest guys you could hope to meet. Why can't we have a publication like this in the UK ?

  • If you ever get hold of the Norwegian fishing magazine "Alt om Fiske", check out a big feature of mine in issue number 3, 2008 - all about the outstanding trip to Rost we had last summer chasing monster coalfish on the fly (check here for the photos). OK, so I don't speak or read Norwegian, but the magazine is well worth tracking down. Look on pages 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29 for my words and photos. I sound good in Norwegian !!

  • There is a very cool DPS photo in there (pages 24 and 25) of the stunning looking Hardy Zane rod and reel that Nick Hart was using to smash the coalfish with. It's the kind of photo that you know looks really good the moment you frame it up, but then you are relying on a forward thinking designer to pick the shot out and use it. I am really pleased with how they have used this particular photo. It was taken with my Canon 16-35mm f2.8L wide angle lens, plus a polarising filter. And yes, the horizon is deliberately wonky !!

  • Since we're talking about fishing magazines here, have a look at the current edition of Sea Angler for a mullet feature of mine that I shot earlier this year. Look at pages 66, 67, 68 and 69. If you get the right conditions down here, mullet can be caught virtually all year round and the guy I shot the feature with is without doubt the best mullet angler I have ever come across - Martin Larkin. He is also heavily into his carp fishing, and he landed a 42lb common carp the other day. That is some fish, and it was in stunning condition.

  • And on the subject of mullet, my friends in south east Ireland keep emailing me to tell me about the vast shoals of monster mullet that they keep seeing. Granted, they might be tearing their hair out with the bass close season still upon them, but these mullet have got me going big time. For a while now it has struck me that Ireland is a serious mullet mecca just waiting to be discovered. Oh for more time................

  • Not long now until I head out to Montana with Nick - we fly out next Sunday from Heathrow into Denver, then we connect up to Bozeman. I can not wait to finally get the chance to take photographs out there, and I know that Nick is "mildly" excited about fishing those famous rivers and streams. Trips to where we are going can be booked through Aardvark McLeod. If internet connections allow me to, I will keep this blog regularly updated when we are out there, hopefully with some outrageously pretty fly fishing photos. I'd better start thinking about what camera gear to pack.

  • I told you the other day about the new Opeth album that is out, called "Watershed" - I have been listening to it virtually all the time since I got it, and take it from me, this is a monster release. Some albums take proper time to grow on you and reveal themselves, and this is one of those - I am completely blown away by how good this CD is. There is an insane amount of talent in this band and I can't wait to see them live when they next come to the UK.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

First light bass trip

  • I sneaked out yesterday morning at 4am for a plugging session with a friend over in Cornwall, to coincide with the last part of the flood tide. But when we got down there, conditions did not look half as good as the forecast had promised. There was a nice bit of sea running though, to put some "life" into the water, so Andy and I gave it a proper go for a few hours.

  • There were loads of small bits of weed in the water which made plugging a bit tricky, for half the time we would pick up a bit on the retrieve, and then that kills the action of the lures. But it was more than fishable. I love being out early in the morning when nobody else is around, it is such a special time of the day.

  • Andy caught this bass below on a Maria Angel Kiss lure in the blue colour (see here for them), and he also got hit a couple of times. Another bass also came clean out of the water to try and grab the lure right at his feet, but missed it !! This fish came fairly early on, so we both thought that a few more fish might show themselves......

  • I had a nice bass of about 3lbs follow my lure right in to my feet, only to turn away and never show itself again. Of course I would have loved to catch it, but I also get a hell of a kick out of actually seeing these awesome fish in the water. How hard did I try and will that fish onto my lure ??!! I am sure you can imagine the expletives that were ejected over the choppy water when the fish didn't hit my lure - I need to grow up a bit, but fishing gets me terribly overexcited. I was using an Aurora Mackerel coloured Lucky Craft Flash Minnow in an effort to get down a little bit deeper than the Maria Chase BW goes. I also caught a small pollack on the Flash Minnow - I am getting good at nailing small pollack on the bass lures. But not so good at nailing the bass at the moment !! Still, it's always very cool to see one caught.

  • What a stunning day today, perfect for going to the beach with the kids, my wife and of course my dog Jess. I can not for one second understand why some petty-minded local councils ban dogs from some of the beaches around here in south Devon, so we go to places where Jess can run around chasing seagulls and basically having a blast. Strikes me that if we do not stand up for ourselves, we are all going to be banned from having any fun or taking any normal risks in this country, in case it gets in the way of health and safety issues. And then we'll all get priced out anyway with the scary increases in the cost of living. Nothing like a Saturday morning rant..............

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Saw my first UK salmon

  • Right after I read about Nick Hart's salmon that he caught early on this week and then posted on his blog, he called me up to tell me that conditions were once again looking perfect - could I make it up there for Tuesday late afternoon/evening for another crack at them ? What do you think.......? Clear some stuff here at the desk as fast as I can for the rest of the day, chuck the photo gear in my bag and head on up there. The only way that Nick and I are going to nail some decent photos of UK salmon is if we can remain flexible, or so much as our diaries will allow.

  • We were fishing/photographing a stunning stretch of the River Exe that runs close to Exe Valley Fishery where Nick and Neil Keep teach various fly fishing skills to many hundreds of clients. Conditions looked very good indeed for a salmon or two. I feel a bit daft that the only time I have photographed Atlantic salmon is over in Canada (see here for the photos), and I really wanted to rectify this here at home. The westcountry is a great part of the world for so many kinds of fishing.

  • Nick successfully nailed this salmon in the early evening, on a Kylie Conehead fly and a Hardy Demon rod and reel. I was over the moon to see this fish, and although it might be a little coloured, who gives ? My first sight of a real English salmon, and I am so pleased it came from a westcountry river like the Exe. There were a few other fish moving around as well. You really should get in touch with Nick and Neil and ask about being guided for stunning fish like these.

  • If time and conditions enable another quick trip like this, we'll do it again. Such special fish to see. Of course the salmon was successfully returned after a few photos. If you keep fish close to the water and remove them for as short a time as possible, no harm ever comes to them.

  • In the meantime, Nick and I are both getting far too overexcited about this trip out to Montana that we leave for on the 15th of this month. I can't wait for the chance to photograph such an incredible place.

  • If you want to catch monster tarpon right now, then check out this link here. My mate Rodney Goodship of Fish the Dream has had a last minute cancellation for a week's tarpon fishing later this month - it is on a half price offer right now, first come, first served, so get hold of Rodney if you can make this week. As you can see on this blog back in early May, I fished and photographed with Rodney out in their base in the Florida Keys and we had an awesome time - this guy does tarpon fishing big time, as well as everything else down there. If I wasn't going to Montana, believe me, I would be booking this up myself.........

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Not the finest fishing session

  • Three of us headed up to the rugged north Cornwall coast on Saturday evening to try for a ray or two, but we ended up with virtually nothing - James landed one miserable dogfish to show for all out efforts. I am hearing of some good ray fishing around the south west, but I guess we picked the wrong spot !! Above you can see James blasting out another bait.

  • We left Plymouth in the pouring rain, and it then cleared up around Bodmin. But when we got to the north coast, it was shrouded in a dense fog that never lifted the whole time we were there. Conditions seemed to be excellent, with a nice swell rolling in and a good tide as well, but for some reason the rays were staying away from our sandeel baits.
  • But just how good are those Daiwa Saltist reels ? I first put them on this blog back in January, see here for my review. I am seeing more and more shore anglers using them to great effect, and at the moment I know of no better 7000 size shore multiplier that we can get our hands on. Mine are loaded up with 20lb yellow Sufix Tritanium, with my current favourite shockleader, rig and trace material - the staggeringly good Sufix Zippy that is now available in the UK. Check here for details. You have to use this line to understand how good it is.

  • I hear that more and more forward thinking bass anglers are starting to get hold of the Tenryu plugging rods that have so grabbed me. Reassuringly expensive, but worth all of it, these rods are where it's at right now for me. Whilst I am using the Red Dragon Express and can't find one single fault with it, arguably the most popular model is turning out to be the Rod Bar Model 270, see here. Think I might start saving up again !!

  • Well done to Nick Hart for grabbing a few hours before work and landing a nice westcountry salmon, see here for the report. I have yet to photograph salmon in the UK, but they are such special fish to be around. My only experience of them was over on the Gaspe peninsular on the east coast of Canada, an experience that totally blew me away. Check out some photos here, and then book yourself a trip of a lifetime with Aardvark McLeod. Read Pete's report of a monster permit on the fly out in Cuba the other day - what a fish !! Just how badly do I want to photograph that saltwater fly fishing ?

  • My mate Cato Bekkevold over in Norway has just emailed me to tell me about some great zander fishing they have just had, for fish up to 20lbs !! Together with a few nice pike on surface lures, this convinces me more and more that Norway has some of the best fishing around. I also hear that they guys are doing really well up at Rost for the halibut, cod and coalfish. See here for some reports. Reports are also excellent for the start of their salmon season.

  • Anyway, enough about fishing for today - onto my other obsession in life, extreme metal. I can't believe that any metal fan does not listen to the awesome band Opeth - I know of no other group which so successfully blends such far out, progressive elements into their own brand of crushing death metal. The lead singer can seamlessly switch between stunning clean vocals and one of the world's most brutal death metal roars as naturally as I can switch between fishing and metal !!, and it makes for a seriously good band. I have just got hold of their new CD, called Watershed, and it is a hell of an album - spin it over and over and you'll start to lose yourself in this stuff, it's that good. The kind of CD you really need to sit down and listen to the whole way through. Listen to some tracks here. I photographed these guys in London a while ago, check through this lot here for some very cool photos of them, a few of which appeared in Metal Hammer magazine.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Plugging for pollack

  • I went to try for bass again around the low water on Friday evening, and again the conditions looked good - not quite as promising as the day before, but still very favourable. It was just me and my dog Jess and nobody else. After all the rain we had, I never had a drop of it out fishing and there was even a really pretty sunset as well. What an awesome way to spend a Friday evening - out on the rocks with nobody else in sight.

  • Low tide was around 8.40pm, and I really wanted to try the last few hours of the back tide and then an hour or so up, but unlike on Thursday, I never even saw a sniff of a bass. Why ? I have no idea. It felt good, I liked the slight jump in the size of the tide, and it just screamed bass at me, but all I caught were some small pollack. At least these honest little things tend to jump on the hook when a blank is looming, and while I love catching (proper) pollack from the shore, it's the bass that I am after.

  • Pollack are actually a species that more anglers should chase - I don't mean the little ones that are hitting me all the time at the moment, but the bigger fish that you can catch from the deeper rock marks. I love fishing for them in Ireland, but the best shore fishing for pollack that I have come across so far has been out with my mate Del in the stunning Isles of Scilly. Hooking big pollack in over twenty five metres of water on deep-spun jellyworms and sandeels is about as much fun as fishing is going to get. I also really like using lighter spinning gear to chase them from the millions of rock marks over in Ireland - I still believe that there are many thousands of spectacular fishing spots over there still waiting to be discovered. I only with I had a lifetime to spend looking around...........

  • The tides are now building nicely into next week, and I'm going to try and fit in as much bass fishing as weather and work will allow before heading off to Montana in a couple of weeks. The great thing about going plugging is that you can do lots of short, sharp sessions that can fit in well around a "normal" life. I love the fact that you are always doing something - it is a very "involved" way of sea fishing, and moving around the rocks and gullies all the time to look for places to cast really keeps me thinking. Staring at rod tips chasing bigger fish is what makes us sea anglers what we are, but light tackle, mobile fishing is where it's at for me at the moment.

  • I am booked up for a week's fishing and photography with my mate Graham Hill over in Ireland for July - the tides are fantastic and all we can do is hope for a bit of decent weather. There is a strong chance of some awesome bass fishing at that time, both on lures and on bait. Check here for the sort of fishing I have had with Graham over the last few years. Any keen sea anglers should get themselves over to Ireland for their shore fishing. I can't get enough of the place.

  • After that week with Graham, I head back via North Wales to do a couple of bass related jobs up there. This should be a blast and I can't wait to see this part of Wales, I have heard so much about it. It should be really interesting.

  • And then at the end of that week in July it is the CLA Game Fair where Nick Hart and I do fishing demonstrations together over the three days. If you have any interest in fishing, hunting, shooing or the outdoors, you should get yourself along to this fantastic event, held this year up at Blenheim Palace. I always look forward to this weekend - what a shame it had to be cancelled last year, but this one is the 5oth anniversary and it will be a blast. If you come along, I'll be around the Fisherman's Village most of the time, so please come and say hi. You could even come and watch the demos that Nick and I do !!