Friday, 31 October 2008

Slayer still rule !!

  • I have just got back from a brief trip up to London – what on earth is wrong with our trains ? We got diverted at Exeter on the way up, because of “flooding on the line”, and then at Reading the train was cancelled !! Get out and find another one to London they said. Come on, seriously, is this possible ? I got to my meeting about half an hour late, but luckily it was all ok. It would have been easier to drive up.

  • The main thing though is that Slayer still rule, big time. Few metal bands out there can rip a place to pieces like the mighty Slayer, and they did it in style last night. What an awesome gig. Many bands have tried, but no thrash metal band shreds like Slayer (and I include the once mighty Metallica in that statement - yes, they were once an awesome band, go and listen to Master of Puppets and you will see what I mean).

  • Amon Amarth were first on, and I was really excited to see them live – they were majestic, and blasted through a good number of tracks. I like it when a band looks like they are having a blast, and these guys were up for it. Classic, rousing metal designed to rip you a new face. This band is going places.

  • Mastodon are a good band, but sadly the intricacies of their music was drowned out in a terrible sound mix last night. I don’t know why Amon Amarth sounded so good and then Mastodon just sounded terrible. The drums were far too high in the mix and this completely killed what was going on. Sadly the same happened with Trivium, another band I like. Their latest album "Shogun" I reckon is really good, but they were actually too loud last night – if there can be such a thing !! Good songs somewhat ruined by another sound mix where the drums were just too loud and this meant you lost a lot of the guitars. A real shame as I have been looking forward to seeing these guys for a while now. Perhaps it is the acoustics in the Hammersmith Apollo ?

  • But then Slayer took the stage – to be fair to the other bands, who on earth wants to come on before this lot ? Most of the crowd seemed to be there mainly for Slayer, and they were awesome. A far better sound mix, a classic selection of tracks (War Ensemble, South of Heaven, Chemical Warfare, Seasons in the Abyss etc.), and then they did what I hoped they would do – played the entire “Reign in Blood” album from start to finish !!!! I was "emotional" because it was so incredible – the first track “Angel of Death” seemed to jump off the stage and throttle you with the sheer intensity of it, and to be able to close a gig out with a monumental song like “Raining Blood” is off the scale powerful. Slayer still rule. Slayer are still the undisputed gods of proper thrash metal. Metallica, where on earth are you ? Slayer is a blueprint of how a thrash metal band should be and I love them for it. Worship at the church of Slayer !!

  • Anyway, I had better check out what the weather is doing and see if there is any chance of getting out for a bit of bassing over the next few days. I have a lure that is new to me here and I am hearing that over in Jersey it has been catching some nice fish. Sounds like it might do the trick, so if I can get out and give it a go I will let you know how it does here.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Off to London

  • Tomorrow morning I am taking the train from Plymouth to London, for an afternoon work meeting followed by what should be an awesome gig - The Unholy Alliance Tour at the Hammersmith Apollo. Slayer, Trivium, Mastodon and Amon Amarth on the same bill should be a proper assault on the ear drums.

  • Our bass fishing on Monday evening was not a great success, and I am not sure why. There were plenty of fish moving through, of which some were of course mullet, but there were some bass around. Bob managed one small fish on a live sandeel, and I got at least three hits that did not pick up, but the fish seemed somewhat hesitant. Perhaps the rain we had last weekend did have an effect on them, although the colour of the water looked pretty good to me. The guys went out last night and had a couple of fish further towards the mouth of the estuary, and a big bass spat the hook right at the side of the boat, so they are around. I bet it was freezing last night out on the sea !!

  • We had our first frost of the season where I live this morning, so I guess winter is well and truly on its way. What a stunning dawn it was, and really I should have been put fishing at first light. But work calls at the moment......

Monday, 27 October 2008

Check out my new bass fishing series in Sea Angler magazine

  • I have been working on a whole series of features for Sea Angler magazine, based on modern bass fishing, and the first one is out right now, in issue 433 - take a look at pages 46, 47, 48 and 50. The photo above is the one they picked to go right across the intro double page spread, and I am really happy with it. It is of my friend Graham Hill casting out a bass lure at first light on the south east Irish coastline. See a bunch of photos from that particular trip right here. There are few more photographic styles of fishing than bassing, when the light goes off of course.

  • Make sure to keep an eye out for these bass fishing features - I am working on presenting as much modern bass fishing info as I can, mixed together with a whole load of stuff about clothing, watercraft, lures, baits, locations and methods. This style of fishing really interests me, and I want to work on putting across a lot of what I have learnt, and am still learning day to day. I want the info to be both really helpful and very accessible, for I worry sometimes that a load of anglers coming into the sport can be somewhat overwhelmed initially. I have always believed that fishing is a pretty simple thing to do, and I work hard on trying to put that across. Strange rigs and fifteen different reels on the beach have never been my style at all.

  • I am heading out later on today to try and nail a few photos of fishing live sandeels for bass, not far from where I live, and conditions are looking pretty good. We had a fair bit of rain over the weekend, but I am hoping not enough to be sending down so much freshwater that it turns the bass off. We shall see.......

  • On Thursday morning I am heading off up to London for an afternoon meeting, and then that evening I am going to bang my head for a few glorious hours at the monumental Unholy Alliance Tour gig at the Hammersmith Apollo. The last time I saw Slayer live was at this venue, and they tore the place up big time. I can't wait to see the mighty Amon Amarth open the gig as well (see here). This one is going to be a blast.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Is this the metal release of the year so far ?

  • Sometimes a new album comes along that literally blows you off your feet it's so good. Some hit you straight away like a bullet between the eyes (see here for example), and some are what I call "growers" - they take multiple listens to fully open up because they are so layered and full of different emotions, tempos, and overall hugeness. Go and listen to a classic album like "The Sham Mirrors" by Arcturus to see what I mean (check the track Starcrossed here).

  • The new Enslaved album "Vertebrae" is a truly immense release, indeed I am of the feeling that it is my album of the year so far. It is that good. This is a monster, a true "grower", something that I am listening to over and over again, and each and every time I am hearing new things that get me going. This is extreme metal, make no mistake, but it is hugely progressive, thoughtful and just downright awesome. When metal is this good I have to be careful not to weep with the sheer emotion of it all. Check out a few tracks here.

  • Every single track starts off of course as a song when you first "spin" the CD, but the next time around and you begin to understand just what is going on as the different layers of music within each song begin to open up and reveal themselves. Give me a few more releases like this and I might consider changing jobs and looking for work as a metal reviewer !! Seriously, "Vertebrae" is immense. Go and buy it now and then spend the whole weekend with it on repeat.

  • How on earth does a relatively small country such as Norway keep on producing so much outstanding music ? I would guess that more CDs than any in my somewhat huge collection are from Norwegian bands. Black, death, thrash, heavy, progressive, you name it, Norway contains some of the world's greatest metal bands. And the fishing ain't bad either...............!!
  • I am especially glad to be able to praise this new Enslaved album so much because their drummer Cato Bekkevold is a friend, and he happens to be one of the biggest fishing junkies in Norway. Apart from being an outstanding drummer and a thoroughly nice guy, he also writes and photographs about fishing for various magazines and books - Cato seriously knows his fishing, indeed he catches more big pike, cod, coalfish and other such beasts than anybody I know. I also know that he has a series of signature pike lures out there, made by a company a company called StrikePro, see here. How cool is that ? As I keep banging on about, what better mix can there be in life than fishing and extreme metal ? Except that Cato is actually doing the metal part big time, instead of simply air drumming like me !!

  • I still get emails about the TV programme that we filmed up in Norway, for those huge coalfish, cod and wolffish, and not many people know that we only got to hear about those places because of Cato. He told us we had to come and film the fishing at Rost and Saltstraumen, and I listened to him because I trusted his opinion. Anybody who has seen the programme will have seen how insane the fishing was up there, and it seems to be getting better and better every year. Check out some photos here, here and here. Cato came with us when we filmed - I owe that episode to the guy big time. What an outstanding drummer as well.

  • It is Cato you can see in the photo above and further on down the page - I photographed Enslaved up in London when they last toured the UK, for Metal Hammer magazine, and they blew the other bands off stage that night. As a live act they are truly immense, and after I had done my bit photos wise down in the pit, Cato had got me access to take photos around his drum kit. It was a blast. There are some more photos of the band below. Check here as well. Go and buy this new album.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

A proper bass...........

  • nearly got caught late yesterday afternoon. But not quite. OK, so the tides were very small, but I really fancied the conditions before they blew up a bit today - the last two hours or so of the back tide, great water clarity and a lively but manageable sea. I would rather have had larger tides, but when you reckon the chances are good, you've got to go for it. Work can be finished later. What on earth is the point of being self-employed if I can't sneak out of the office sometimes to go fishing ? Hell, I spent most of the last half of last year getting up at 5am to get my fishing book done on time (check here).

  • The sea conditions were better than I could have hoped for in fact, and I went for the lure that worked for me the other day (see the post here), the brand new Duo Tide Minnow 120 Surf in this holographic silver/white colour. I never thought I would see many bass, but I reckoned there might be a nice fish around somewhere. With my sheepdog Jess I virtually ran across the rocks and waded a couple of gullies (she swam) in my haste to get fishing.

  • After about twenty minutes, I was bringing the lure back at steady, medium pace, when all of a sudden a proper bass came up right behind a rock and smacked the back of the lure. I got a hell of a jolt on the rod tip. I'm not going to speculate on the size of the thing, but it was a big fish, and I was gutted he did not make proper contact with the hooks. A proper bass - a dark, wide head, broad across the shoulders, with a liking for this Tide Minnow Surf. He went for it, but it was one of those times when the fish didn't hook up. To say my heart missed a few beats would be a serious understatement, and I think I might have sworn a little - poor Jess thought it was at her !!

  • I knew I was not going to see the fish again as he had felt the hooks, and I carried on until the sun went down, but never saw sight nor sound of another fish. But I always wonder how many unseen fish your lure surely has to pass by during a plugging session. I had a feeling that I might only get one chance.......

  • You know when you have one last cast and wished you didn't ? That was me early yesterday evening - I had a bad feeling about it as my lure flew out. Yes, I went and snagged it up good and proper. A lot of the time I can wrench my lures out of most snags, but this time the Tide Minnow Surf was stuck good and proper and I eventually broke it off trying to free it. Poor Jess once again thought it was her that I was venting my rage on, but at least she got a decent walk back to the car to make up for my bad behaviour. I had better get on the phone and order a couple more of these lures. Check here for where you can get them. You've gotta be in it to win it as they say. So near yet so far.......

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Greys sea catalogue front cover

  • Above you can see the cover for the new Greys 2008/9 Sea catalogue, with my photo on it - I shot this on the rocks between Treyarnon Bay and Constantine Bay up on the north coast of Cornwall, with the imposing Trevose Head in the background. I love this rugged coastline, indeed it is where I first ever went sea fishing, and I can still remember the exact spot that my first ever wrasse went and jumped on my hook. I have spent probably many thousands of happy hours up on that coastline, both for fishing and for family holidays - a proper winter storm is really something to see when it crashes full bore into those rocks and beaches. Awesome ain't the word.

  • Come to think of it, we used to fish hard during the big winter storms for the codling, at places like Newquay headland and Flat Rock in the Camel estuary. We always played it safe and tucked out of the way of the worst of the weather, but it was always big south westerly gales that used to get the codling moving inshore. You have to have that colour and "life" to the water up there that the big south west storms create. Getting out of the van at midnight on top of Newquay headland with a force 8 raging away was quite something. Driving home at dawn was another challenge as well. We didn't catch big fish, but often we caught plenty - far better than going to lectures or writing essays at university !! Those were the days......

  • I am told that this catalogue will be in the shops sometime soon, with a bunch of new products in there. I really like the look of the new Greys Platinum Bass rod for starters (check here), plus the reworked Apollo clothing. It was always good stuff anyway, but the new bits and pieces are even better. Have a look here. If you fish in the UK, you know why we need decent waterproofs !!

  • Anybody notice anything about the front cover photo ? You need to know the coastline to understand what I am on about.............there are also a load of my photos inside the catalogue as well. Believe it or not, the cover photo was taken in the middle of summer, even though it might look more like a stormy winter's day. My brother and I (the guy in the photo) caught a couple of bass that morning on plugs if I remember rightly. Nice conditions.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

A mighty return to form.....

  • I was wondering when the mighty AC/DC were ever going to get back to releasing decent albums, and at last they have come good again with their new one, called "Black Ice". From the very first track, this is a typical AC/DC album that will have you banging your head and air-guitaring along with Angus Young all the way through !! Check out some of the new tracks right here. Will I ever grow up ? Life's far too short for that when music like this is still being released.....

  • You know what to expect, but that doesn't take away from the fact that nobody does it quite like AC/DC does - I read one rather snooty review over the weekend that was lamenting the fact that Black Ice did not offer anything very new or different, but he totally missed the point (typical pseudo-intellectual music journo who seems to hate all kinds of music anyway). AC/DC are so great because they write awesome songs, plain and simple. They know what works, they know what they are good at, and thankfully they have decided to spend some proper time in getting a decent album out there once more. Nonetheless, I will always be a Bon Scott man at heart. Now if only I could get tickets to see them on tour, for it proved impossible the other day......

  • I have heard various reports about the Jersey Bass Festival that took place over the weekend, and while the winning fish was a shade over the magical 10lb mark (on bait), sadly the fishing was not half as good as it had been in the week prior to the event. Ain't that typical ? But I gather that the guys involved had a blast, and there were over thirty visiting anglers over from the mainland - it seems to be a really well run, popular event, and I will try to get over for it one day soon.

  • Below is a photo that I really like, of Andy Bignell right at the end of a cast while the fog surrounds him in a quiet blanket. While the bassing might have been a bit quiet over in south east Ireland recently, Graham told me the other day of some more huge mullet they had seen, estimated to weigh over 12lbs !!! Now if only some decent mullet anglers would head over there and spend some proper time on these fish, they would get a proper shock I am sure. The tiny Channel Island of Alderney might well be the mecca for mullet anglers chasing big winter fish, I have had a feeling for some years now that Ireland might well be the place to head for as well. Oh for more time......

  • If you ever get the chance to check out the awesome Norwegian fishing magazine "Alt om Fiske", have a look in the current edition at a big feature of mine on those magical golden dorado that I fished for and photographer earlier in the year. Look at pages 72, 73, 74, 75 and 76 for my words (handily translated into Norwegian, one of my many talents ??!!) and photos. Not much in freshwater comes close to these mighty fish, check out a load of photos from that trip right here. There are also a couple of photo essays here and here.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

It's great when a new lure works.....

  • Step 1 - admit you have a problem.............yes, my name is Henry Gilbey, and I have a lure addiction. But ain't it great when a new one comes out of the packet oh so sweet, clips on just fine to the end of your line, flies out like a bullet, and then looks even better in the water than you thought it would. Seeing a bass nail it is the icing on the cake, and this happened yesterday afternoon. Check out the new lure above.

  • I got hold of this new Duo Tide Minnow 120 Surf lure the other day, and I just knew it was going to work for bass. From my (basic) understanding of French, it says on the packet to wind this thing slow to medium pace, and that it is very stable in choppier conditions. The Surf is somewhat "chunkier" than the other outstanding Tide Minnow lures, but then I guess that is what gives it the extra stability. The action of the lure when you make yourself slow the retrieve down is stunning, with a killer-looking, wobbling, rolling kind of action. The lure swims nice and shallow - not as shallow as the Tackle House Feed Shallow, but on a par with the Maria Chase BW I reckon. Fine by me. I just knew a bass had to nail it.

  • I went for the Holo White colour - the more I fish for bass with lures, the more convinced I am that the best overall colour for a lure is a kind of bright holographic silver or white, often with flecks of black in there, and this Tide Minnow Surf has got the lot. The hooks are good as well, and the first thing I did was to crush all the barbs down.
  • OK, so the bass was on the small side, but it nailed the lure big time, right where I fancied one might be lying. Andy and I virtually ran down the cliffs yesterday because the conditions looked just so perfect, but the fish decided to kick us hard. Andy caught a couple of pollack, I had some garfish chase and knock my lure, but where on earth were all the bass that we were sure had to be milling around ? Seriously, you could not have asked for better tides and water conditions. Frustrating to say the least.......but then I am hearing a few reports recently from anglers who are struggling for good catches of bass. Why ?

  • I eventually made my way out onto a rock that had a great looking weedy gully running out to sea, with a point just in front of it - time to get the new lure on, especially with a bit of gentle surf building up on the first of the push. Kind of what the lure was designed for. This Tide Minnow 120 Surf flies out, and about five casts into its existence it got nailed by a (small) bass - sadly the only one of the session. But at least we got one. I have a feeling that this lure is going to get a few more work outs this year if the conditions allow. To feel confident with a certain lure, I have to like what it does instantly, and this one fits the bill. It is hard for me to make myself slow down a touch on the retrieve, but it payed off. You can crank the hell out of it for sure, but it looks far better to me when you slow it down, and the bass obviously thought so yesterday. Check out the lure right here.

  • Step 2 - if the lure works, buy some more !! And if it doesn't work, buy some more anyway, to make yourself feel better.........

Friday, 17 October 2008

How about this weather ?

  • This weather we are having at the moment is stunning - I was out walking Jess this morning just before 7am, and to see dawn appearing was breathtaking. The first proper cold morning I have felt this autumn, but that's just fine by me. I fancy a bit of plugging for bass over the weekend with the big tides and settled conditions.

  • Above is one of the photos from my last Irish bass trip, when we had this incredible few hours early in the morning where the sun was struggling to burn though the fog, and it allowed me to shoot some really moody stuff. I deliberately underexposed the photo a little to make sure the rocks and angler remained essentially black shapes against the sky, plus I needed to make sure the sun was not washed out. Overall I am really happy with it, but of course you are not seeing the full size image on a properly calibrated screen. I hope it looks ok on this blog, because on my monitors here it looks awesome.

  • The only bad thing about that morning was that the fish simply would not play ball !! There were stacks of monster mullet milling around and sunbathing, but could we get any of the bass to hit our lures ? Could we hell............oh for a few loaves of sliced white bread and my mullet gear. There were double-figure mullet there, I kid you not.

  • I know I have mentioned it before, but I passionately believe that we need to keep looking for better and more effective ways of dealing with the fish we catch, if that is we intend to return them - and I do. Right now I still reckon that one of the most effective and cost effective tools to carry is this Berkley Pistol Grip, see here. I am not sure how many shops stock them yet in the UK, but they are worth tracking down if you are properly into caring for what you catch so that it goes back just fine. Make sure to wash them in fresh water and douse them in WD40 occasionally and they'll keep on doing the job.

  • I was driving back from north Cornwall early yesterday evening, thinking as I do about all kinds of things, and naturally I began to have debate in my head about one of my most favourite things on earth - extreme metal. What else am I am meant to do in the car ? I am booked up to go and see this Unholy Alliance Tour on the evening of October 30th in London, where Slayer, Trivium, Mastodon and Amon Amarth will be shredding my eardrums for a few delightful hours, and I can't wait......

  • So I am debating away in my head, thinking about the albums that have really affected my life over the years (and there are plenty), and then I began thinking about the greatest thrash metal releases of all time. We blokes are into top tens. And what still sits atop my list after all this time ? Come on, what else could it be other than the life-changing, thrash metal classic that is the immense "Reign in Blood", by the best thrash group of all time, Slayer (Metallica don't come close, too many rubbish releases in recent years and I can't forgive them for it). I'd put albums such as Master of Puppets by Metallica (their best ever album, by far) and Peace Sells..........But Who's Buying? by Megadeth in that top ten, but nothing yet has managed to knock the Slayer's 1986 masterpiece off its shelf. I was 13 years old when that came out, and I can still remember hearing "Reign in Blood" for the first time - what a great day. I'm getting all misty-eyed with emotion here.

  • So what did I do in my car last night ? That's right, I put it on at full blast and air-drummed for 28 perfect minutes while I drove home. What is really exciting is that I hear Slayer will be playing this classic album right through from start to finish at the gig I am going to see. Put this album on and it'll take you right back to those early days. Nostalgia rules !! Sleeveless t-shirts, studs, filthy jeans, spots, booze, fags and head banging - now those were the days.......

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Caught a few bass last night

  • We had six bass over the high water yesterday evening, and although none were of any great size and the light was pants, it was fantastic fun. Freelining live sandeels into a swirling current and then getting hit hard is such a "pure" form of fishing. My first drop back and I had to put the rod down to do something on the boat - I was sure I saw a tiny hit almost straight away, but of course thought "no way, not so fast, surely ?", and then a few seconds later the rod tip slammed down and stayed down. Not a big fish, but a blast in the racing current. The bass were in great condition, and things at this location bode well for the rest of the year.............

  • I tried a few lures, but there were a lot of leaves coming down and plenty of weed about, and all I ended up doing was snagging this up. Yesterday was designed for live sandeel fishing, but I would like to try some soft plastics right over the slack water period when it would be possible to search out the area a bit better.

  • There are various items of fishing tackle that my eyes have really been opened to this year, and one of them has to be Varivas braid - it is off the scale it is so good. The Varivas Avani Sea Bass Max Power PE braid is unlike anything else I have ever used (you can get it here), indeed it is so limp and easily usable that it hardly even feels like a braid if that makes any sense. Freelining live sandeels with this stuff is just so effective - I tied it to a swivel with a decent knot, and then tied a few feet of 22lb Varivas fluorocarbon on for the trace, to a 3/0 Varivas Big Mouth Extra hook (see here). Seems to be a pattern developing here - Varivas do some awesome fishing tackle. No, I am not sponsored by them, but I choose to use the best stuff I can find. High-end Japanese braid is where it's at for me.

  • I thought it would be a bit of fun to show this sequence of photos below that ended up in one of my favourite photographs that I have nailed so far this year. Below you can see Graham Hill running down the rocks to lend Pat Gallagher a hand landing a bass he has hooked on a plug. This all happened a few weeks ago over in south east Ireland, on the first morning when the fishing was simply epic (see here for the original post). All looks calm and relatively serene, but I am lined up with the camera because out of shot and the sea is looking seriously lively - I really fancy the chances of some very dramatic "classic bass fishing" shots.......................
  • OK, so Graham's run down to help Pat out with his fish, but look above and you can see him suddenly having to turn to brace himself against the wave that has just smashed against the rock on which they are standing. Pat is just starting to hunch down, but he has got a bass on the end of his line and is not about to give it up !! I have changed over from shooting a landscape format to portrait (upright) because I can see what is coming out of the corner of one eye, and I want to try and frame the full impact of the wave.

  • Now both guys have had no choice but to turn against the wave and adopt a fully braced position so that nothing bad happens. Pat now has to simply hope that his bass is well enough hooked to get through this. They know what they are doing.
  • The final photo in the sequence turned out better than I could have ever hoped for. Obviously you can not plan this kind of shot, for it very much depends on the conditions unfolding, where the anglers choose to stand, and of course, if you the photographer have your eye seriously on the ball and are watching every single thing that is going on. I really feel I have nailed one stand out photo that says virtually every single thing that I want to say about bass fishing in one shot - drama, excitement, risk, reward, movement, passion, insanity, escapism, you name it, this is what it's all about.

  • Note that both guys are wearing what we all reckon to be one of the very best waterproof "wading" jackets out there, the Greys GRXi model. Check it out here. Although this wading jacket was of course designed for the fly fishing market, it is just about perfect for mobile bass fishing, especially when you have a load of cold sea water breaking over your head. It surely goes without saying that breathable chest waders are a must.

  • Bear in mind that the three portrait photos are taken out of a sequence of perhaps twelve, all shot at nearly ten frames per second on one of my Canon 1D MK111 cameras. It all happened that fast, and because I had seen what was coming, I was lined up and ready to shoot - correct f-stop and shutter speed and corresponding ISO, to make sure I stopped the water stone dead and did not blow the highlights in the white of the crashing wave against the black rocks behind. Motor drive on, focus on Graham, and make sure to hold it there.

  • An increasing amount of people email me and ask how to get into things like photographing fishing, but there is very little advice I can give, for in the end we all find our own ways into this business, and I am totally self-taught at all this. But there is one thing that is absolutely vital - you have to know when not to fish. If you want to fish all the time, don't try to work in fishing. It is never what it seems.......

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Please support this fishing event

  • I have been emailed about this hugely worthwhile charity fishing competition that is being held in aid of Help for Heroes (click on the poster for a larger view) - if you can do anything to help, please do so. One of the organisers can be contacted here.

  • Help for Heroes can be found here - it is a charity that was launched last year to raise money for service men and women who have been injured in various conflicts around the world, and the amount they have raised so far is just staggering. This fishing competition is taking place on Saturday 25th October at Calshot Beach in Hampshire. The people involved in organising this have my utmost respect.

  • Well done to Nick Hart for nailing a westcountry salmon for the cameras, see here for full details. I know how hard it is to go after a specific species when making TV programmes, so the fact that Nick and Shaun did it is great news, and I know how much the pressure must suddenly have lifted from Nick's shoulders the very moment the net slipped safely under the salmon. These programmes are due to air on a forthcoming internet TV station - when I hear more about their transmission dates, I will post the details here. I have seen one completed episode and it is awesome - Shaun Fenton is the guy who has produced and directed my last two series, and he knows exactly how to make good fishing television. Nick aint half bad either !! I am really looking forward to seeing the completed series.

  • I am out this afternoon and early evening taking photos of some local bass fishing, right up a stunning estuary that shall remain nameless. We will be fishing from a moored boat, mainly with live sandeels, but of course I am going to fling a few lures to see what might happen. It should be a blast, but as is rather typical, we now have low cloud and grey skies that contrast somewhat with that stunning weekend we had. A picnic on the beach with the family in mid-October can't be bad, and that is exactly what we did on Sunday. And I was wearing shorts.............

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Recent front cover

  • Here is a recent front cover of mine, for Trout Fisherman magazine - I believe it was in the shops very recently, but I have been away a lot and did not get to see it for a while. It makes me really happy when your editor or designer picks out a photograph like this for use on the cover, for in the end a cover shot is designed to get people to pick the magazine up of the shelf and buy it. I could shoot wild brown trout for evermore.....

  • The issue of front covers really interests me, for I never get a say in it, and sometimes I am blown away by them, and of course other times I am left rather "cold" - granted, I have a slight bias towards the use of my photos, but in all honesty I love to see a cover that grabs you instantly and draws you in. Sometimes I am genuinely blown away by the magazine and catalogue covers I see, but on the flip side I think some of our publications could at times take a lot more time, care and effort over picking their covers.

  • Take the fantastic cover below, of a magazine that I do a bit of work for - the awesome FlyLife, based down in Australia (check here). There is a big GT feature of mine in there this issue, but it is the current cover that really grabbed me. I am not sure who shot it, but I love the photo, and I really respect the fact that the editorial team decided to put it on the cover. It's a very simple but well thought out photo (these are always the best ones) that immediately grabs me, mainly because of the excellent use of a very shallow depth of field on a wideangle lens to pull you right onto the eye of the trout. This particular magazine continues to look fantastic every single time, and I am really proud to have got the cover twice now - see here for one of them.

  • I can't believe how stunning the weather has been today, for I genuinely believed that I would not be wearing shorts any more this year - rest assured that they came out today though. I could take plenty more days like this, especially when I get proper time like to spend with my family. It has been fantastic being at home again. Many anglers' thoughts are now of course turning to cod fishing, but I have not let the bass go just yet..........

Thursday, 9 October 2008

This kind of thing makes my day.....

  • I appreciate it hugely when I get an email from an angler who has found something really helpful or useful in the TV programmes or DVDs we have made, and a couple of days ago I received this from Gareth Roberts (thanks for letting me post it here) :

"Just a short note to congratulate you on an excellent DVD on Bass fishing. Took some tips off it about the bass rigs using crab as bait. Result a 70cm bass nudging 8lb from the Menai Strait , 30m out on a running ledger using soft crab two varivas 3/0 pennel style as suggested on the dvd. Your reports on the bass fishing in Ireland are 'awesome'. Might hop on the ferry to try it someday."

  • To get feedback like this really makes me feel good about the stuff we have made, for fishing in the end is a continual learning process for all of us - trust me, it is impossible to know everything about fishing, and you would to well to steer clear of anybody who claims to know it all. The very word "expert" sends shivers down my spine !! If I don't learn something new every single time I go out fishing, then I have done something wrong. Well done to Gareth for catching a fantastic bass, and thanks for telling me about it - get yourself over to Ireland, you will not regret it. You can get the bass DVD here I believe.

  • The photo today is from my recent trip over to Ireland, just as the sun was going down over a flat calm sea. I love this time of day, but for some reason the bass were playing hard to get that session. Nowhere is perfect......

  • Just before I flew out to South Africa a couple of weeks ago, I put a post up about all things extreme metal, and I thought some of you might like to see a video of the title track to the album I was talking about - check here for it. Amon Amarth have made a monster of an album, and this video is stirring stuff. This without doubt proves, as I was saying, that extreme metal DOES make you more of a man - look at those swords, check out the costumes and the hard as nails expressions, bang your head relentlessly to the pounding rhythms and then copy what they are doing on the video. See ? Music does influence you. I reckon I could have been a hell of a good extra in that video shoot - my talents are wasted on presenting fishing programmes, when I could be out pillaging across the countryside on my (would have to be very strong) horse, wishing that I could have been a rock star. Anyway, back to work........

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Back home from South Africa

  • I landed at Heathrow at about 6am on Monday morning, still dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, so it was somewhat of a shock to step out into a temperature of 6 degrees !! And then on Monday night we had a proper storm come in here in Plymouth, with really strong winds and torrential rain - another lovely welcome home as I took my dog Jess for a walk at 7am Tuesday morning, fully kitted out in waterproofs. All that after having not worn more than shorts and t-shirts or tropical shirts for nearly two weeks. I know you are feeling real sympathy for me, because I am getting none here !!

  • But today it is beautiful, a properly crisp, early autumn morning, with big blue skies and light winds. It is such fun to be back home with my family, for it has been a seriously hectic few weeks of being away - but this is the life we have chosen and somehow it seems to work just fine. But now that I am back, I need to spend serious time in my office and get a load of photos sorted out for magazine features. Usually I never have a load of photos stacked up, but right now I have Canada, Ireland and South Africa material waiting to be processed, and I am just beginning to shift the Irish bass fishing stuff I shot the other day. I really like being away from what I have shot for a while, and then coming back to it with a refreshed and clinical eye - we nailed some awesome stuff over there, but I can only do this because I work with good people.
  • Look carefully through the spray above and you will see my mate Graham Hill banging a bass lure out. Note that he is wearing some seriously good waterproofs, the Greys Apollo stuff, check here. They have a lot of new gear out at the moment, and it is really worth taking a look at these waterproofs - we tend to need them in the UK. This is the kind of photo that you hope people are really going to pick up on, but at the same time I wonder if some people are also going to worry about it presenting fishing as being perhaps a little "extreme", when in reality Graham knows exactly what he is doing and would not put himself at risk. Well, perhaps a little bit, they are bass we are chasing after all.......

  • Above is Andy Bignell fishing just as the tide starts to drop, and right before I came down the rope to join him. It's a very simple composition, designed to work perhaps across two pages (a double page spread or DPS) with text laid on top of it. We shall see. You never quite know how various designers will work with your material.

  • Talking of good material, if you come across the US fishing and hunting magazine "Traveling Sportsman", check the current issue out - this magazine looks stunning and it is seriously going places. I am proud that a 10 page feature of mine is in there (pages 80 - 89), all about fly fishing for Africa's outstanding tigerfish (check some photos here), and have a look at the magazine's website right here. If you are into good looking fishing, shooting and hunting from around the world, get this magazine.

  • I have also been sent a copy of one of the most impressive fishing magazines that I have ever come across, called "Fishing Wild", hailing from Australia, and the brainchild of an outstanding Aussie photographer called Col Roberts. Have a look at their website here. Take it from me, this is a publication you want to track down, and how badly does it make me want to spend some proper time in Australia ? Thanks to Col for sending me a copy - when fishing is done properly it can look out of this world, but so few people really do it properly. Fishing Wild is done properly, like the Traveling Sportsman.

  • Check out a cod fishing feature of mine in the current issue of Sea Angler, on pages 50 - 55. I shot this out of Poole this summer with some great guys who seriously know their stuff on the boats.
  • Here is Graham with a bass that he nailed on a soft plastic lure out in Ireland, the MegaBass XLayer - you can get them here. I have a feeling that we have so much to learn over here about using soft plastics for our fishing, and I don't mean simply dropping down various lures over wrecks and reefs for cod and pollack. I mean potentially catching some really good bass, wrasse and pollack from the shore on a wide range of soft plastic lures.

  • I was speaking with Nick from Bass Lures yesterday, and he was telling me how well they had been doing recently on the Lucky Craft Wander - they caught some really good bass recently up in North Wales, and it seems to me that very few of us over here have any real experience of this particular lure. Nick was saying that it is designed to be fished at virtually any depth you want, and that you can even walk the dog with it under the water, as you would with a Sammy or GunFish on the surface. It sinks slowly and is easy to control, either with a kind of fluttering motion, or as a sub-surface kind of slider, and you can still use it over very shallow ground without fear of snagging it up. Plenty of anglers in the US rave about this lure, see here. The Bass Lures guys are all fanatical bass anglers themselves and I take what they say very seriously indeed - so yes, you guessed it, I have found another lure I am going to have to add to my ever expanding collection. I can't wait to give it a proper go. Anyway, back to the stack of photos to process.......

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Fly fishing for yellowfish

  • I am sitting in Johannesburg airport, waiting for my flight home, so I thought I would use a bit of the time to update this blog with some news of my last few days here in South Africa. This is the first internet connection I have had since my last update. What a trip. What a place. What awesome fishing......

  • We have been staying on the banks of the Vaal river at Parys, about an hour and a half outside Johannesburg, chasing these awesome smallmouth yellowfish on the fly. Above is Jako Lucas with a seriously good "smallie" that he took on a wet fly stripped back slowly. Working with these FlyCastaway guides is always a fantastic experience, for they are all outstanding fly fishermen and are huge fun to spend time around. The more time I spend with the guys simply reaffirms my belief that they are one of the best guiding operations on this planet. Check out what they do here, and then get in touch with them if you want to experience some of the world's best fly fishing.

  • We spent a bit of time rafting and fishing certain sections of the Vaal river, and the two photos above show Jako landing a nice fish and then paddling down to the next spot. Africa is usually about the whole experience, and I love it with a passion. There is just so much fishing to do.

  • Above is Jako with another big smallmouth yellowfish - these magnificent creatures are arguably more loved than trout down here, and big numbers of fly fishermen target them in the Vaal and Orange river systems. You can fish dry flies and wet flies, with upstream nymphing being particularly popular and successful in the faster, shallower water. These fish pull big time. All the FlyCastaway guys are so easy to photograph.

  • Here is FlyCastaway guide and all round "freaky good" angler John Crabb bringing a "smallie" to hand as the sun goes down on another perfect African day. Last night they smashed the fish hard on small dry flies, wading right out into the middle of the river. What is great is that the water is warm enough to wet wade - no need for chest waders.
  • The Vaal is also full of huge catfish and some nice carp, including this stunner that Jako nailed as he was trying for the yellowfish. We were hoping that it might be one of the rarer and more elusive largemouth yellowfish - these thing grow huge, but they are not as prolific as the hugely numerous smallmouth yellows. Very much worth chasing though.

  • You can see from this head shot just how adept the smallmouth yellowfish is at grubbing around on the bottom for the large percentage of its food. They simply light up when the sun is out, and all fish are of course returned.

  • Here's that carp barely slipping into the landing net - Jako just managed to fit him in there. The carp are in fantastic condition and John Crabb nailed a few that he saw literally tailing like bonefish. He also got smoked by a big, 30lb plus catfish !!

  • This has been a hell of a trip, meeting some fantastic new people, and also catching up with some good friends. I am already making plans for multiple return visits, but not before I get home and actually spend some proper time with my family. These last few weeks have been seriously travel hectic (check backwards on the blog for the info), and I have photographed a huge range of material that is going to illustrate a serious number of features all around the world. Now though I am so looking forward to getting home to my girls and being around for a while - my wife is awesome the way she holds the fort when I am away and I could not do what I do without her. If all goes well I should be landing at Heathrow early tomorrow morning, and then I have about a three and a half hour drive back down to Plymouth. Hopefully the bass are biting big time......

  • Far too many people simply have no idea about the world class fishing that is on offer throughout Africa, from some outrageous rock and surf fishing on the southern coastline through to monstrous Nile perch in Uganda. I have done a lot in Africa over the years, and I have every intention of doing a whole load more. This place gets to you in a big way. A lot of the fishing really need not cost the earth - and some really good news is that the incredible beach fishing in Namibia is really firing once again, and the guys are catching stacks of big sharks again, together with the edible species such as kob and steenbras.

  • Talking about kob (kabeljou), I am already about to put some dates aside for next autumn to come back down and fish with John Crabb again for some potentially huge kob - they have been caught recently to over 100lbs from the shore. Yes, you read that right, that is a "fish" and not a "shark" - imagine what that must look like. Anybody into serious shore fishing needs to check these kob out. A lot about how they are caught reminds me of our own bass, although this is on a somewhat extreme scale.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

There is nowhere like Africa....

  • I have just arrived in Johannesburg for the night, having spent the last few days on the coast around Kosi Bay - with no internet connection, hence the lack of postings here. It has been an epic few days where we have crammed in so many kinds of fishing, and I have been lucky enough to have been working with three outrageously talented young fishermen. I owe a huge thanks to John Crabb, Wes Rapson and Rob Kyle, they are some of the most talented guys you could ever hope to meet.

  • Check out the photos below for a brief glimpse of what has been going on out here - from big tigerfish through to amazing reef species, with boat fishing and extreme shore stuff in between. I will post more when I can, but take it from me, this place is awesome, and there is so much for me to learn about South African rock and surf fishing. You would not believe some of the stuff they get up to out here, it is off the scale it is so extreme. John's biggest fish off the shore for example is a 550lb raggedtooth shark !!! Look at the bottom photo for a "small" one he took off the beach last night, just a mere 220lbs. Seriously, the guys out here catch some scary big fish, and to them it is as normal as it is to us when we might nail a cod or a bass.

  • Above is Wes Rapson with a tiger fish of around 10lbs that he took on my first day out here - a big storm came in overnight and blew the beach out, but there is so much fishing down there that we could simply drive up the road and smash serious numbers of tigerfish on soft plastics and bait. I had almost forgotten how cool these tigerfish are.
  • My token nature shot - how could I not take a snapshot of these magnificent creatures ? I also saw a couple of black rhinos and their calves, but by then the light had dropped too much to get even a halfway decent photograph. As I said, there is nowhere like Africa - seriously, this continent is just so special, and there is so much fishing out here that is left to discover. Too much to do and not enough time.

  • Above is John Crabb with a 40lb plus yellowbelly rock cod that he took on a vertical jig out of Sedwona Bay. He also got smoked seriously by a big amberjack - the power on them is just mad. Using 80lb braid and a solid drag, the amberjack still managed to smoke him on the reef. Wes and Rob have had them to over 70lbs recently, and there are far larger fish down there - Rob also hooked and released a 250lb plus black marlin on a vertical jig the other day. I also experienced my first surf launch in a boat - never done or seen anything like it, especially when we came back in through the waves and then hit the beach at about 30 knots to get the boat out of the water. You have no idea how tightly I was holding on.

  • All the guys can cast these big rods, baits and lines with such power and ease, and they all fish with the reels down the butt. Any kind of braking system is immediately removed from a multiplier, and instead they thumb the line down as it flies out. I did not see one overun or birdsnest, and that is somewhat impressive.
  • Above is John Crabb having to literally drag the fish you can see below out of the rocks. Insanity !! To these guys it is another regular shore fishing day.

  • This is John's 220lb plus raggedtooth shark that he caught off the beach - I have been lucky enough to have done a lot of fishing in Namibia, but still it gets me when a fish as large as a shark is caught from the shore. To watch these guys fight and then land and release this fish at night was incredible - very hard to get photos of, but I did what I could to do the fish justice. Just another "regular" day's fishing here in South Africa. Seriously though, the stories these guys have been telling me of how they fish certain areas and for different species has had my eyes popping out of my head. These three are just off the scale they are so good at fishing, and I have learnt more in a few days than I ever thought possible.

  • I will post again when I can, but I am not sure when that will be - it may well me when I am back home. Tomorrow I am heading off to the Vaal river to spend some time photographing largemouth and smallmouth yellowfish, and I have just seen a photo of a 20lb plus largemouth taken on a fly last week. Please...........!!! They are impressive looking fish. The skies are big and blue here right now and conditions are looking really good.