Wednesday, 24 September 2008

It's official - extreme metal makes you more of a man

  • Or at least it will if you listen to the new Amon Amarth album, "Twilight of the Thunder God". I was getting worried, but this CD turned up just in time for me to load it onto my iPOD and take on my South Africa trip. This is an immense release, surely one of the greats of the year, and if this insanely catchy yet crushing death metal doesn't make you want to become a Viking then nothing will. Find the nearest horse, saddle up, and grab a huge sword - ride on into a victorious sunset with this music blasting at full tilt and I guarantee that you will feel more of a man !! Who said music does not influence people ? They very plainly have not heard this stuff. I can feel the urge right now to swing an axe, slice with a sword, and generally go on a Viking rampage through the ancient countryside. After I have done that for an hour or two I'll come home, make my wife a nice cup of tea and then give my two daughters a bath and put them to bed.

  • Check out some of the tracks right here, and then I implore you, buy this CD and make your life feel a whole lot better. The vocalist is a man mountain, and he roars with such passion and aggression that sometimes I find myself getting misty eyed with the sheer emotion of it all. I am going to do my best to see these guys on the forthcoming Unholy Alliance Tour, along with Mastodon, Trivium, and the finest thrash metal band the world has ever seen, the mighty Slayer. The last time I saw Slayer live they ripped the place to pieces.

  • Also check out the new album from The Haunted, called Versus - this band was originally born from the ashes of the awesome At The Gates, and they have released some truly outstanding and brutal thrash metal that leaves many other bands for dead. Check out some of the new tracks here. The Haunted are insanely good.

  • How cool is that ? Two CDs that I have ordered turn up right before I am due on a long flight, so if you are flying to Johannesburg tomorrow night with British Airways, don't worry if you see a guy dressed as a Viking running up and down the aisles, it's only me enjoying my new albums. Not that I need to grow up or anything.......

  • I suppose I should now say something meaningful about fishing, but instead I am going to charge downstairs on my horse and give my kids a talking to about not letting music influence you. "Be like your Dad and you'll be just fine". Best get myself packed up and ready to leave for the airport tomorrow.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

A few more recent Irish bass trip photos

  • I thought it would be cool to put a few more photos up from my bassing trip over to Ireland last week - above is Cian O'Halloran with his 9lb 9oz bass that he took on a lure on that awesome first morning. Asking a guy to smile when he has just landed his best ever bass is not hard to do. If anybody wants to doubt the weight of the fish, feel free, but take it from me, what this photo does not show one bit is the extraordinary girth of his bass.

  • The kind of photo you see above is a very deliberate silhouette shot, whereby I focused on the two guys and then deliberately underexposed the shot to make the rock and the anglers essentially come out black, therefore retaining the fantastic colour in the early morning sky. I do not mess around with trying to change colours in Photoshop when it looks as good as this already. I really like the darkened, swirling bit of sea at the bottom of the photo as well - this all just says "bass fishing" to me. The early bird gets the worm !!

  • Here is Andy Bignell with one of his first ever Irish bass, and I deliberately asked him to push the fish towards me and then I focused on the eye of the bass and used a large aperture to blow the background right out of focus and therefore draw your eye right in on the fish. Has it worked ? Up to you to decide, but magazines tend to like these kinds of photos to slot into a feature, and I need to shoot stuff that sells - it is my job after all. It's all very well wanting to shoot purely "creative" stuff all the time, but the successful photographer is going to make sure he or she shoots a mixture of material that works for their particular markets, with one eye of course on any future openings........I tell you, the amount of stuff that swirls around my head from day to day is worrying. I even tend to caption a lot of my photos in my head as I am shooting them. Mad ? Obsessed ? I'll let you decide.

  • Conditions like these are a dream to photograph - they might not be that great for bass fishing, but the period after first light has allowed me to produce what looks very much like a black and white photograph, when in fact what I have done is used a polarising filter and the correct angle of the sun to essentially burn the background out and bring the rocks and angler in as a silhouette. Looking at a full size photo on a decent monitor, you can begin to see into the crystal clear water as well.
  • A fairly "standard" grip and grin photo of man plus fish, where the aim is to grab a couple of decent photos and not harm the fish. Graham nailed this nice pollack on a soft plastic lure one afternoon, and it gave him the typical pollack runaround, crash diving hard and generally doing its best to create mayhem. Graham is a very easy guy to photograph and he cradled the fish gently with the aid of these Berkley Pistol Trigger Grips that a bunch of us have started using this year, see here for details. Note the brand new Greys Platinum breathable waders that he is wearing - keep an eye on the Greys website for when these great new waders are going to be launched. It might not be the finest photograph ever taken, but it is in focus, correctly exposed, fairly tightly cropped, and the fish went back just fine. Give me big blue skies with a fine fish like the pollack and I can make them shine big time..........

  • I am leaving from Heathrow Terminal 5 on Thursday evening, flying down to Johannesburg, and then John Crabb from FlyCastaway is picking me up and we are heading straight for the coast. He is a seriously accomplished rock and surf fisherman, as well as being rather handy with a fly rod as well, so it is going to be a blast of a trip. Wish me luck for Terminal 5, it is the first time I have ever flown from this particular and no doubt delightful corner of Heathrow. I will post when I can from South Africa, so keep checking back here.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Front cover and some Irish bass thoughts

  • Above is a current cover photo of mine on the front of the US magazine Destination Fish - this strange looking fish is a bumphead parrotfish that was caught by South African fly angler Rob Lewis out on Providence atoll in the ultra-remote Seychelles. I believe that I might have been the first fishing photographer to document these creatures being successfully targeted and captured on the fly, on the flats, and I have got a bunch of awesome photos. I really like their choice of my photograph for the cover (well I would, wouldn't I ??!!), and I imagine that it certainly "jumps" at you from the newstands. There is only one guiding company on this earth that I trust to put you onto this kind of world class saltwater fly fishing, and that is FlyCastaway. Fishing like this does not come cheap, but if you can do it, talk to Pete or Charlotte at Aardvark McLeod. Check out a bunch of my Seychelles photos here, here and here.

  • I have naturally been thinking a lot about my recent trip over to Ireland - was there anything more we could have done to nail a few more bass when the weather went really still, clear and settled ? Usually I would have fancied our chances big time on the baits, but the weeks leading up to my most recent trip had seen insane amounts of rain, and a lot of the bait marks were far too coloured up to produce the goods. I have just heard that in fact they are starting to fish well again as the freshwater starts to clear away. Sod's law !!

  • I know that Andy is just about coming to terms with his first Irish experience, and I hope to get him back over there next year. On our penultimate morning he got hit on his lure, and then immediately saw a huge bass jump behind it. This fish came at his lure a couple more times, but would not take - Andy nearly fell off his rock, and put the size at "well into double figures", and bear in mind that this guy has personally witnessed fish to 13lbs plus being landed over in Cornwall, so he knows his bass. Much like Graham back in July, Andy proceeded to talk fluent Swahili for about an hour after he saw that huge bass......

  • I manged to get a bass over the 6lb mark on this penultimate morning, but as Pat grabbed the lip of the fish, it turned and shed the hooks. It hit me right next to a rock and really put on the gas, but these red Tenryu rods have serious power in reserve for when you need to play them hard. So we did not get the photos, but at least the fish went back just fine, that is always the most important thing to me. I de-barb all my treble hooks on my bass lures as I believe it is far better for the fish, and unhooking is just so much easier and more efficient. The less time spent trying to remove hooks, the better the fish recovers. I do not believe that I have lost any fish due to doing this - the bass that got away would have got away with or without barbs, and I would hope that the majority of bass anglers crush the barbs on their trebles.

  • That morning also saw a rather excited Pat doing his best not to fall off another rock with excitement - with all this nearly falling off the rocks, you probably think they are all overdoing the Guinness, but in fact Pat saw a bass he reckons was nudging 14lbs swim right beneath him in the crystal clear water. The fact that the fish was not interested in his lure was mildly frustrating to say the least.

  • Whichever way you look at it, this recent Irish trip was still a huge success - we saw plenty of decent fish, and for the most part the light was excellent and I managed to get a load of photos that I am really happy with. The photograph with Pat and Graham being hit by a big wave is in fact one of my favourite I have shot this year (see this post here). I could see that Pat had a fish on, and I knew that Graham would get right in there to help his mate land it. Moving as fast as I could over some seriously treacherous ground, I dialled in -1 stop of exposure compensation to my Canon 1D MK111 camera/70-200 f4 L lens combination as I walked/crawled/scrambled over the seaweed covered rocks, to prevent blowing the exposure with all that white water against a dark rocky background, and the result was an awesome sequence of shots that in my mind show the kind of bass fishing on the edge that a whole load of us enjoy. Being in the right place at the right time comes from a lot of practise and a certain amount of luck, but mostly it comes from knowing when not to fish. Believe me, I want to fish all of the time, but this is my job, and I need to get the kind of photos that are going to sell for me time and time again. Nailing a photo like that is as much of a thrill to me as catching a decent fish - yes, I am in love with my job, and I am proud to say so. I am also lucky enough to work around some fantastic people, and I am forever in their debt.

  • I am flying out to South Africa on Thursday evening, so I had better get on with clearing some work and then getting ready for this trip. It has been far too long since I was in Africa, and I can't wait to see those vast skies and smell those unmistakable smells of the most awesome continent on earth............

Friday, 19 September 2008

The final irony - the weather became too good

  • Would you believe it ? After the dire summer we have had in the UK, and we then go and get perhaps the flattest, clearest, least lively and sunniest two days I have seen so far for the end of my Ireland trip. Awesome for photos, lovely to fish in, but hardly the best for serious bass fishing. You can't win with us anglers - when it's terrible we want it better, and when it's flat and warm we want some movement !! As we walked back to the car after yesterday morning's last session, I tell you, south east Ireland has never looked so pretty. Deserted, hazy calm and always calling me back. Above is a photo of some misty conditions we had just after first light - stunning for photos.

  • Here is Patrick Gallagher with a fine bass from earlier in the week, taken from a stunning part of the Irish coastline that again seems to receive no serious fishing pressure at all. Patrick is a fantastic guy and has got bass fishing seriously bad - he is a pleasure to fish with, as is his good friend Cian. Thanks again guys, what a fantastic few days. Graham Hill is a true gentleman. The greatest thing about working in fishing is getting to meet so many awesome people in such interesting parts of the world, and I feel truly privileged to know people like this.

  • The guys are starting to do serious damage with modern soft-plastic lures like this Megabass XLayer you can see above, fished on an articulated jig head. Set ups like this work really well when you can enticingly bounce and flutter then along estuary bottoms and big sand patches, or even up and over a mass of weed covered boulders. These particular lures can be really hard to get hold of, but they are really nailing some big bass over in Ireland at the moment. I know that Mick sells them right here. The French bass anglers are heavily into using soft-plastics, and I would imagine that we will be getting our heads around them properly in due course. They slay big time when conditions are right.

  • As you might have guessed, I rather like photographing bass !! I could spend far more time around these magnificent fish than I already do, and at the moment my heart is telling me to move over to south east Ireland and simply immerse myself in the finest shore fishing for bass that I know of. What a place. I took my mate Andy Bignell over with me this time, and I think he has come back a changed man - I know he is struggling to come to terms with the place, and I can't wait to get him back out there. We had some up and down fishing, but the times when it was firing were simply off the scale.
  • Don't do this at home, part 3 : this is what it takes sometimes to access the best bits of coastline. Andy Bignell is using a rope here purely because the ground is a bit slippery and steep, and wading boots do not offer the best grip on wet grass and loose rocks. The photo makes it look more extreme than it really is, for the other day I got down here just fine without a rope, and I am not into taking unnecessary risks for my fishing. Well, not too many......

  • I finally got home at about 4am this morning - all was going too well. The Stena Line ferry crossing from Rosslare back to Fishguard was perfect as always, and we pulled into Swansea services to get a bite to eat at about 7pm. Andy noticed smoke coming from my engine as we drove in and I stopped the car straight away. Luckily Andy trained as a mechanic many years ago, and straight away he noticed that my fan belt had gone - if I had been on my own, I would have thrashed the car to within an inch of its life, I know nothing about them at all, and like an idiot I had forgotten to renew my old AA membership. I had promised my eldest daughter that I would be back today for her 4th birthday, and I was not about to let a broken down car get in the way. Eventually an AA tow truck got us back to Plymouth just before 4am (yes, it cost a fortune to join on the spot and get a tow home, but it was worth every single penny), and I stumbled into bed and was woken by my two very excited daughters at 7am. As I said the other day, nothing beats getting home to the family and seeing those smiles on their faces. I could not do what I do without my wife holding the fort back at home, she is an awesome woman.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Some up and down fishing

  • The bass fishing over the last couple of days has been very up and down, (after such a snorting start on our first day), but when it is good, it is really good. Some of the marks have been very quiet though, and this has forced us to really think and work hard to find fish - but things do tend to come right eventually in Ireland. Above is Andy Bignell with a 5lb 4oz bass he took this afternoon on a crab bait fished tight to the rocks. This fish really crashed around the gullies before we could land it.

  • Above is Andy bait fishing for bass, right before he hooked the fish above. The bass here are in incredible condition at the moment - full of fight, very well fed, and bristling with intent. You need to see these fish up close and get them on the scales to see just how heavy they are for their size.

  • Don't do this at home, part 2 : Here is Graham getting right in amongst it again on a plugging mark here in south east Ireland. We all tend to push it a bit when the fishing is on, but none of us are into taking stupid risks to catch more fish. As I said the other day, Graham knows what he is doing out here. It looks very cool though, and he was well wrapped up in his waterproofs before standing on this rock - great for photos.,

  • Proof that it works - Graham with a 5lb bass he took on a soft plastic lure, the Megabass Xlayer, fished tight to the rocks. This lure also accounted for some nice pollack, including the one you can see below. The guys out here are going mad for these soft plastic lures, and we had a few bass this morning on the high water, bouncing the lures up and down along the bottom. When they hit, they hit big time.
  • Anyway, I need to get on and charge my camera batteries, sort through the photos from today, and then get some sleep. We are pushing it really hard out here, but the more ground you cover, the more fish you catch when bass fishing - what we are doing here is not for the angler who would prefer to stay in one spot and look at rod tips. This is highly mobile, light tackle fishing, and I love it as much as always. I might be knackered, but you can guarantee that I will wake up before my alarm clock before dawn tomorrow morning, ready to do it all over again. We are mad....

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Out in Ireland - surely bass fishing can't get any better ?

  • Andy Bignell and I got here bang on time yesterday, with an easy Stena Line ferry crossing from Fishguard to Rosslare, and a short drive this side to our hotel. We met Graham and made a plan to be on the rocks for first light, together with local bass freaks Pat and Cian. Dawn this morning was stunning, with a beautiful sunrise and really good plugging conditions, and I knew something might be up when I very quickly caught a bass around 3lbs on a Halco popper. I honestly thought I had seen south east Ireland as good as it can get for bass fishing, but this morning's session was simply off the scale........

  • After my one bass, I essentially stopped fishing to make sure I got proper photos of the awesome light and the fantastic fishing - this place never ceases to amaze me, and as always, guess how many other anglers we saw on the rocks this morning ? That's right, none !! The mind boggles. There were around fifteen bass landed today, a few more lost, plus some nice pollack - Graham had a treble hook busted by a really good fish, and as well as the outstanding fish below, there were some others around the 6 and 7lb mark - this coastline is as good as it gets for bass fishing, and the whole area we fished this morning was completely new to me. That's it, enough talk, I have got to move over here !!

  • Here is Cian O'Halloran with the best bass of the morning, a cracking 9lb 9oz fish taken on the shallow diving minnow of the moment, the classic Tackle House Feed Shallow (you can get them here). This is a fish if a lifetime, and Cian saw it come right in and hit his lure at his feet - what a bass, well done to the man, and as you can see, it was not difficult to ask him to smile !! Of course the fish went back just fine after the photo call.

  • Don't do this at home !! Above is a somewhat extreme example of landing a bass - Graham is by the water's edge to help Pat land another decent bass, and they both got a proper soaking into the bargain. Both of them know exactly what they are doing though and they were in no danger - it made for a bunch of great photos, and I happened to be perfectly lined up to shoot the events unfolding. The bass was successfully landed, photographed, and returned. I know that some people are going to think that this is unsafe fishing, but Pat and Graham know these waters and are simply not into taking risks. Believe me, it looks far worse than it was. Anyway, you've got to be in it to win it !!

  • Most of the bass this morning were short and very stocky, and the photo of Graham above does not do justice to the fish - we gave it around 7lbs, and of course it went right back. This modern lure fishing is such a blast. All of us are fishing with these outrageous red Tenryu plugging rods (see them here) and all of us can't believe we have gone so long without them. The ease with which I could work my popper early this morning was staggering - just a simple and small snap of the wrist and the popper was doing its lethal business. I got hit hard as well on big Duo Tide Minnow (see here), but really I had to stop fishing and take photos, it was that good. A bunch of bass were also taken on the ever faithful and highly successful Maria Chase BW in the holographic silver colour (get them here). Basically, the fish were on big time this morning.

  • How can you have more fun in fishing than this ? A bunch of fantastic people, a deserted coastline, decent weather conditions (ok, so we got hit big time this afternoon by a bit of "Irish mist"), and even better tides tomorrow morning. I really thought that south east Ireland had shown me the best bass fishing that I am ever going to see, but then we have a day like today and I see just how much more potential there is out here. Andy is blown away, indeed I think he is not quite sure how to take in what he is seeing, and he has been bass fishing for years. I keep banging the drum about bass fishing over here, but it really is that good.

  • We climbed and walked over some seriously treacherous ground today, but as with a lot of fishing, the more effort you put in, the greater the rewards. All of us are wearing decent breathable chest waders and wading boots, they are essential for this type of mobile fishing - the new Greys Platinum waders and wading boots are being seriously used and abused by Graham and they are coming through with flying colours. You simply can't put fishing gear through a harder workout than the kind of stuff we are doing over here. Anyway, time to dry the gear out ready for another early start tomorrow morning....

Friday, 12 September 2008

Front covers and packing for Ireland

  • Hardy are really going into the US in a big way right now, and to help with this they decided to launch a North American version of their catalogue for 2009 - it will be available at the Fly Fishing Retailer Show that is taking place 14th-16th September over in Denver. I am really pleased that the cover of this catalogue is a photo of mine from my recent Montana shoot with Nick Hart (check out a whole load of photos from that trip right here). Yes, that's the back of his neck you can see there - he is a great bloke to work with, and in fact it was Nick who suggested shooting this kind of photo. To be able to work with people who have such a positive and creative input into what I do is a real help. I really like their choice of the front cover here as it is not a shot that one would instantly go for, but in my eyes it kind of gets to you and pulls you in. I hope the catalogue goes down really well in the US, and there are a stack of my photos inside as well.
  • Above is the cover for the forthcoming Greys 2009 Game catalogue, and again it is a photo of mine on there - this time the shot is of an autumn (fall) steelhead from the Bell Irving river in the wilds of British Columbia. Check out a bunch of photos from that particular trip here, and then talk to Aardvark McLeod about heading out to target these truly magnificent fish. Steelhead are a species on which I could spend a serious amount of time, and I have plans to photograph a lot more in the future. It's always a real kick to get a front cover of a magazine, book or catalogue, and I really like the publications that the people from Hardy & Greys produce. I might do a lot of work with them, but I have no say at all over which photos make the various catalogue covers.

  • I am getting my gear together for this Ireland bass fishing trip that I am leaving on tomorrow. Obviously I am going to be taking my ultimate lure fishing rod, the Tenryu Red Dragon Express, and both Andy and Graham also have these things. I still have not found a rod on the UK market that comes near to this thing for out and out lure fishing. You can get them right here. These red rods are without doubt my fishing tackle find of the year so far.

  • For the bait fishing side of things, I will continue to use my Greys BZe rods - they are fantastic for light touch ledgering in the estuaries and surf zones, and they do all I ask of them repeatedly. For casting 4oz weights and nice crab baits, I have yet to find better rods, but perhaps their new Platinum Bass rod might be the one.........

  • I am also taking over a pair of new Greys waders and wading boots that are due on the market I believe early next year - we are going to give them a proper working over, and they look excellent. Mobile bass fishing is a great way to use and abuse products to their limits.

  • I will do all I can over in Ireland to keep this blog updated with our bass fishing exploits - we have some fantastic tides, and the weather forecast is looking ok, so if everything goes to plan then we should see some decent fishing. All one can do is push it as hard as possible and then hope that the fish oblige........

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Back from Canada

  • Pete and I arrived back at Gatwick yesterday morning after a short flight back from Canada - a 30 minute hop from Fredericton to Halifax, an hour on the ground (so I've sort of been to Novia Scotia !!), and then only just over five hours back to London. Just time to pop a couple of sleeping pills, grab a couple of hours kip and then drive back to see my family. As ever, it is about the biggest thrill possible to get back to my wife, two girls and of course my sheepdog Jess - her paw is fully healed up and that means I can take over to Ireland on Saturday.

  • What an awesome trip it was - this was my third time over to Canada, and every time I get back I start thinking about just how much there is to see and do over there. We got chatting to a couple in the airport who had been over to check out some houses prior to emigrating there in a year or so. The amount of house and land you can get for your money in the Quebec and New Brunswick areas is staggering.......

  • The thing that really got to me the most was the astounding amount of world class salmon fishing that these areas have, from pure sight fishing in crystal clear rivers to double-handed work on the famous pools of the mighty Miramachi. Some of the all-inclusive trips over there can work out a lot cheaper than heading up to Scotland, and I am amazed that this stunning part of Canada is not receiving a huge influx of European salmon fishermen every season. What I really love is the the fact there is simply no class system attached to the salmon fishing over there at all - you either fish or you don't, whoever you are and whatever you do. Fly fishing happens to be the way that it is done, and everybody seems to do it. I would highly recommend that you talk to Pete or Charlotte at Aardvark McLeod as soon as you can about a trip over there.
  • I now have a couple of days here before I head over to Ireland with a friend from Cornwall. Once again we are going to be fishing and photographing along the deserted south east coastline with my mate Graham Hill. The weather has been appalling recently, but all the forecasts I can get hold of are all pointing towards a good, settled spell of weather that should be just about perfect for the bassing. I love this kind of fishing as you can most likely tell, but it is also work for me as I need a huge amount of photographs to illustrate all the bass related features that I am writing for various magazines at the moment. Yes, I love my job, but then why not ? Life's too short to spend this much time doing something I hate.

  • Andy and I will be driving up to Fishguard on Saturday and taking the fast Stena Line ferry over to Rosslare. I love this journey because the anticipation builds in me all the way, to the point where I get so excited that I rarely sleep much on the first night there. Told you I was a fishing junky !! Whatever happens with the fishing, I love every minute of my trips over there, and perhaps if I ask nicely, Graham might pull on his dancing shoes and sing for us (sorry mate).

  • The photo above was from my most recent Irish trip, and perhaps if I ask nicely the skies might be that blue again ? Here's to dreaming......

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Truly wild salmon fishing

  • Yesterday over here was one of those days that I will remember for the rest of my life - we were taken into the middle of nowhere to fish for these famous salmon, miles up some logging trail, down what might loosely be termed a "track", and into the deep recesses of the woods !! Kind of sounds a bit like Deliverance I know, but it was truly special. We came upon this magical pool on the Little South West, a tributary of the Miramachi river, and for photos it was sublime. It is a big holding pool for the salmon, and with some rain the day before, our guides reckoned we should experience a bit of wild Canada. I am so lucky to have been to a place like this.

  • To get to the remote salmon fishing out here, you need a serious four wheel drive vehicle, a compass in your head, and a deep understanding of your surroundings. I would get so lost out here. The guides that Country Haven Lodge work with are first rate, and salmon fishing runs through their veins - numerous generations of famous local guiding families have been involved in salmon fishing for ages around here. There is so much fly fishing for salmon out here that you could spend a lifetime fishing and still have more water left to discover - if you want to experience some hugely affordable (yes, salmon fishing does not have to cost the earth), world class salmon fishing, get in touch with Aardvark McLeod as soon as you can. This whole area is a hidden gem which we in the UK know far too little about.......

  • There were a few salmon moving through the pool yesterday, and Pete managed to hook one on a dry fly - this is about as exciting as salmon fishing can be, taking these magnificent fish off the surface like a trout. The sun even came out to light up the scene just about perfectly.

  • Here is Pete McLeod with his fish prior to release. What a special trip it has been out here - we fly back tonight, getting into Gatwick sometime on Wednesday morning UK time, and then I am heading back home to see my family. A couple of days later and I will be packing my gear up to head over to Ireland on Saturday to photograph some more of the awesome bass fishing. I hear that the weather has not been up to much, but surely that will change for me ? What a "summer" we have had !!

  • More fly fishermen need to check out this eastern part of Canada, for there is so much awesome stuff out here. It staggers me that I have heard so little of rivers like the Bonaventure, Cascapedia and Miramachi - why is that so ? Easy flights from the UK, the fishing is not very expensive, and the salmon are all over the place. There is also great trout and striped bass fishing, plus whale watching, wildlife tours, and of course, the finest coffee in the world - Tim Hortons. Their coffee is my new addiction - far too nice !!

  • Part of the reason that yesterday was so special was because we were give the most awesome barbecue right out in the middle of nowhere, on the side of the river. I have heard plenty about how good moose is to eat, and finally Pete and I got the chance yesterday to have some. This was the whole experience rolled into one perfect day. Our guide expertly cooked a whole hunk of moose on a portable barbecue, and it was one of the finest meats I have ever eaten - easily as good as everybody over here says it is. Just look at how civilised the whole thing was yesterday. These people out here really know their stuff big time. I really fancy wandering off into the woods to hunt me a moose of my own and bring it back for the freezer, but considering that the big bulls can weigh over 1200lbs, I think it might be a little hard to fit it all in my hold luggage !! Perhaps just a leg then......

Saturday, 6 September 2008

On the Miramachi

  • We fished for one more day up on the crystal clear Bonaventure river, and Pete hooked a couple of salmon - but both decided to come off !! One was a proper fish as well, but that's salmon fishing. You can see the big blue skies we have been having, which is somewhat different to the "changeable" weather that I am hearing about back home. Please be nice weather for my trip over to Ireland next weekend......

  • Sight fishing to fish as magnificent as the Atlantic salmon is something very special indeed, and all reports around here are of a very good season this year. We left the Bonaventure early yesterday morning and drove further south into New Brunswick and the mighty Miramachi, one of the world's most famous salmon rivers. Pete and I are staying right on the riverbank at the Country Haven Lodge, another fantastic place where the people can not do enough to help you. Canada is a country that is easy to fall in love with, and I am even hearing about some awesome striped bass fishing not that far south from where we are right now.

  • The Miramachi is a huge river system, with many tributaries that fish well on various water levels, and conditions here at the moment are pretty good. The river is a kind of tea colour, so it is not sight fishing, but still the guys are using lots of dry fly techniques and single handed rods to fish these waters. A 50lb plus salmon was landed recently, and one of the guys here took one of 22lbs yesterday morning.

  • This is our guide Pete from yesterday - he lives right on the banks of the Miramachi and tells me that in winter they race up and down the frozen river on snow-mobiles. Salmon fishing out here is a religion, and everybody seems to be involved with it somehow. I am blown away by how few people there are in this part of the world, and just how friendly they are. When you come to a place like this, it certainly opens up your eyes.
  • This is Pete McLeod wading the mighty Miramachi just as we lost the light last night - he hooked a really good salmon which decided to practise its own form of catch and release and come off !! Mildly frustrating, but we have a few days here to get the job done. Loads of fish are moving through the river system at the moment, so with some time on the river we will hopefully see a few nice fish. Anyway, it's about breakfast time here right now, so I had better grab some food, get the camera gear together, and head back out.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Dry fly fishing for salmon

  • We had an awesome day yesterday on the Bonaventure river. Eventually the cloud cover gave way to big blue skies, and the rise in temperature really switched the salmon on. The water out here is crystal clear and you can see the fish lying up in the pools - the fact though that you can see them does not make them easy to catch !! These fish take real skill to nail, so it's good that I'm taking the photos and not fishing for them - my fly fishing ain't exactly pretty.

  • Pete McLeod caught three fish, lost another, and rose perhaps ten more to his flies. There was nothing massive landed, but seeing salmon come up and take dry flies right off the top is seriously exciting stuff, and is a very unique way of fishing for them. There are some US clients here in the lodge who have been coming for this style of fishing every single year for ages now, it is that good. One of them had a fish around 25lbs yesterday on a dry fly.

  • We saw some huge fish lying in the pools, some salmon had to be around the 30lb mark, and a couple of really big fish did rise to Pete's flies. The heart stops momentarily every time !!

  • The dry flies are generally enormous bombers that sit high on the surface of the water and obviously annoy the salmon into having a go occasionally. It's very technically demanding fly fishing, something for the angler who really likes a proper challenge.

  • Here is Pete leaning into one of his salmon as our guide Jean-Marc gets ready with the net. Such an exciting day and by the time the end of supper came I was falling asleep in my chair - the lack of sleep caught up on me big time. We are just about ready now to grab some more coffee and head out onto another stretch of river.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Arrived in Canada

  • We arrived at Camp Bonaventure around 11pm local time last night, after an easy flight from Gatwick to Fredericton via Halifax (Novia Scotia), and then a five hour drive north up onto the Gaspe peninsular. The weather when we arrived was stunning - warm, huge blue skies, and then we drove north as night came in. The roads out here are seriously empty and the people are as friendly as ever. Canada is an awesome country.

  • Bearing in mind that we arrived here at Camp Bonaventure around 4am UK time, obviously the body clock is a bit off, so I collapsed into bed last night and went straight to sleep. But it was less than four hours later when I woke up, thinking I had somehow had a lie in, when in fact it was 3am local time. So I have been pacing around waiting for breakfast while other more normal people are asleep, doing my best to keep quiet (yeah, right), sorting out my camera gear, doing some work on my laptop (as is the norm, it's free wireless access here - why is there not more of this in the UK ?) and thinking plenty about the job I am here to do. Plus drinking lots of coffee to keep the brain engaged. The first day on a trip like this is always done on adrenaline anyway.

  • Current reports are of some good salmon fishing - we are going to be on a couple or rivers around here where it is all about sight fishing for them, and then in a few days we will drive further south and spend some time around the huge Miramichi river system. There have been Atlantic salmon taken to over 50lbs fairly recently, so we shall see what happens !! That is a serious lump of fish.....

  • The place we are staying at is fantastic - right on the banks of the Bonaventure river on the edge of the wood. I know Pete is really keen to check this place out properly for his clients, so make sure to check back with him here in due course about trips out here. The lack of people out here is simply incredible, I love it.

  • Nick Hart's Open Day last Saturday was a roaring success, and I was sad not to be able to make it. They had perfect weather and had stacks of people around to check out what was going on. Nick has put a full report up on his blog here.

  • I am hearing fantastic feedback about this new online "Catch Magazine" that I posted about a couple of days ago - reports from the guys in the US are more than positive, so that is great news. I am proud to be involved with something like this.

  • Anyway, it's about breakfast time here, so it's time to get something to eat, load up the trucks and then go and nail this stuff properly. I will put some photos up when I can. You have no idea how excited I am to be able to call this kind of thing my job.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Awesome new online fishing magazine

  • Check here for a brand new online fly fishing magazine, concentrating primarily on outstanding, inspiring photography from the world of fishing. "Catch Magazine" has been created by Brian O'Keefe and Todd Moen over in the US, and considering that Brian is one of the fishing photographers who I most respect, I naturally jumped at the chance to become involved when they asked me. This publication is just awesome - the guys have pulled away from pages and pages of "look at how well I can write" text and instead have filled the online pages with "look at how scarily impressive fishing is" photography - kind of like fishing porn for the connoisseur. And I reckon the thing looks simply breathtaking - well done guys, I am proud to be involved.

  • This is the premier issue, and they will be bringing a new issue out every two months I believe. I love this new kind of online publishing where there are loads of video clips and hotlinks inserted throughout the pages, meaning that there is far more than meets the eye if you are prepared to look. For those of you not up on these new forms of publications, there are full instructions on how to get the most out of Catch magazine if you click on the bottom of the cover page on "click here for navigation help". The pages "turn" just like a paper magazine if you click on the "Forward One" button on the bottom right of the page. You can also click on any of the features direct from the contents page.

  • There are a whole load of breathtaking photographs in there from some outstanding photographers in the world of fishing, proving once again just how impressive fishing can look if it is done properly by people who really love the sport. I seem to be the only Brit in there, so I am doing my best to keep our end up strong !!

  • Check out my "Greatest Hits" feature in there from page 17 onwards - I love what they have done with my material, and click on the "i" symbols on the bottom right of the pages to see more info on the photographs. As I said, few words, loads of awesome images, and a hell of a good concept. There is some seriously cool stuff throughout the magazine, including a couple of film shorts - it certainly opens up one's mind to where this kind of thing might go.....

  • You can subscribe for free here - what have you got to lose ? It costs nothing, and when the nights draw in and the temperature drops towards winter (ok, so we've hardly had what might be called a summer), fire up your computer and drool over this new online magazine. This kind of thing really inspires me and I know that there are plenty of people out there who will really enjoy this new magazine.

  • I am packing up for my trip to the east coast of Canada tomorrow - I am travelling with Pete from Aardvark McLeod, and current reports are of some outstanding Atlantic salmon fishing at all the three lodges we will be visiting. I will do my best to keep this blog updated throughout the trip. I am seriously looking forward to this one. The few days we had over there on the Gaspe peninsular last autumn were hugely special (see the photos here), and I am told this time that there is a real chance of seeing some salmon coming up to dry flies. Bring it on as they say !!

  • Pete has got hold of some very good looking new gear from Hardy for this trip, and I know he is really looking forward to putting the stuff through its paces - not that he is a tackle tart or anything like that, but the guy has got a lot of rods and reels.

  • My wife is much better now and I have been released from looking after my girls full time, so that makes it a whole lot easier to get myself ready and go away on this trip. Nothing in life is more important than family, and while I love everything about my job, it can be hard to spend so much time away from them all. Come the middle of October and I have plans to try and be around here for a proper length of time. But with what I do, work is work, and you never quite know what is going to come up from time to time.

  • Anyway, next time I update this blog I will be over in Canada, so I wish you all good weather and stacks of nice fish. Please save a few for me.