Friday, 30 January 2009

Off to Belize

  • I am frantically trying to clear a load of work before packing my stuff and heading off to Belize tomorrow - I have to leave early tomorrow morning to drive up to Heathrow, fly to Miami, spend the night there, and then fly down to Belize on Sunday morning US time. With the weather outside my window right now, I have to say that the chance of some big blue skies and a bit of heat sure is going to be more than welcome..........

  • The photos here are from a photo job I did yesterday with Nick Hart, for another piece in an upcoming series on casting in Trout Fisherman magazine (check out the current edition on pages 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23 for our latest feature). Yesterday was a tough shoot, with fairly appalling light levels, but we worked hard and nailed a good looking set of photos - I had to shoot most of the day on anywhere up to ISO 800 to get fast enough shutter speeds, but with modern digital cameras the files are so clean that it's not much of a problem. Yesterday was the kind of day when I really would have been struggling on ISO 100 slide film...............ah, the good old days of Provia !!
  • I am pretty sure that I am going to have proper internet access when we are in Belize, so I will do my best to keep this blog updated as regularly as possible, hopefully with some very cool stuff. The long range forecast for the UK seems to give it getting really cold again early next week, so I guess a quick "in and out" photographic trip to warmer climes ain't too bad. All joking aside, it's going to be great to work it really hard and look for lots of cool material - we touch back down in the UK next Saturday, and it just happens to be my birthday (nearer 40 than 30), so I reckon a wicked present would be England starting the Six Nations rugby really well. But nothing ever beats getting home and seeing my four girls again - wife, two daughters and of course Jess my sheepdog. Perhaps a big England win though......................................?

  • Make sure to check out the brand new Hardy, Greys and Chub websites, just launched this week I believe.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

What is the addiction with bass ?

  • The question was posed via a comment on this blog from Rob, see the original post here. So what is the addiction with bass ? Why do so many of us literally live, breathe and sleep these fish ? There are bigger fish in our seas, and there are fish that fight harder, so why do an increasing amount of sea fishermen spend so much time doing their utmost to catch the king of (sea) fish, the bass ?
  • Well the photo above says a lot to me about why I love my bass fishing so much - I spend very little time these days staring at two rod tips sat in a tripod. I've done loads of it, and I've even caught a fair few nice fish doing it (and it is always going to be awesome fishing), but if there is one thing that drives me forward in my fishing, it's change. Doing the same thing all the time loses its appeal for me in the end, but I never really spared much of a thought for serious bass fishing for many years. But look closely at the photo above - a lack of other people around, huge, lonely skies, no tripods, seat boxes, rig wallets or vast rucksacks full of millions of reels and lead weights, just the angler lost in their own personal thoughts, waiting very simply for a fish to find his or her bait in amongst the hypnotically rhythmical water.

  • I guess that bass fishing is just such a "true" form of fishing to me. I have nothing against whatever kind of fishing that anybody wants to do, but I just really like it when fishing is stripped right back to what it always was - man versus nature in its most basic form. Bass fishing forces me to keep learning all the time about the most vital ingredient in all kinds of fishing - watercraft. And it's this learning that drives me on and on. I guess I just want to know more all the time, but is that a good or a bad thing ?
  • As part of what I do, I have been asked the obvious question many, many times - "Why do you go fishing ?", and a bit like the title of this post, in reality we all love our fishing for so many different reasons, and these reasons are often very hard to really put into words, whether written or spoken. I try to let my photography of fishing speak volumes for why I do it, so I guess my visual interpretations are a huge part of fishing's appeal to me. Sometimes on my various photography jobs I have to photograph the technical bits and pieces to do with fishing, of course I do, but anybody who looks carefully at what I do photos wise will see straight away that it is the "being out there in the middle of it all" that is a huge part of going fishing for me, and especially with regards to bass fishing.

  • I love certain aspects of various modern technologies, indeed I embrace a lot of it in my work, but you can't get away from the fact that going fishing (or indeed hunting or shooting) is still one of the most natural things that mankind can do. Whatever the newspapers, think-tanks (daft term if ever I heard it), quangos or successive governments tell us day in, day out, we are still hunter gatherers at heart, and nothing is ever going to change that.

  • I guess I go fishing partly because I can't actually help going - something inside me drives me to go, and I guess that the bass simply happens to be a fish that perfectly suits many of the reasons why fishing does it for me. My own fishing is so wrapped up with my love of photographing it, and bass fishing gives me the perfect mix of it all I suppose - hugely exciting, very mobile, often takes place in stunning locations, often with great people, usually away from the crowds, and as a form of fishing, bassing is really being driven forward in this country by lots of forward thinking anglers who have got the bug as badly as I have. The people responsible for largely opening my eyes up to the thrills of bass fishing know who they are, and I am forever indebted.

  • And lastly, let's not forget that although I would lay claim to not being a tackle-tart, in reality I do love all these bass lures, modern Japanese-style bass plugging rods (see here), lovely looking spinning reels and assorted waders. Basically, I am addicted, and it just gets worse. The bass does it for me, plain and simple. All of you who are into bass fishing will have your own theories I am sure, but fishing's just fishing in the end, and it's what makes us who we are.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

This weather has been due......

  • If you have got the weather we have at the moment then welcome to the club - mist, grey skies, drizzle and generally a complete lack of sunshine is all I can see out of my office window right now. But we can't really complain that much with the (relative) amount of sunshine we've had so far this winter, in fact it's been pretty good. If I could be sent a little bit more of the giant golden orb for a photography job with Nick Hart on Thursday, that would be great - but the forecast says otherwise at the moment.......

  • I have put a few photos up from the ultra remote atolls of the Seychelles to see what you think of them in black and white - photographing those huge blue skies on pristine flats is as close to somebody like me is ever going to get to paradise, and I hope you notice that I am not complaining (too much) about our current weather. That's because on Saturday I am heading off to photograph some flats fishing out in Belize. Bring it on !!

  • I am convinced my end that huge blue skies can work well in various shades of black and white, if there is enough detail from the clouds to provide a load of depth and contrast. Don't get me wrong, I love the extremes of colour that flats based photography can provide, and I am really hoping for endless blue skies out in Belize, but I will also be looking out for any black and white opportunities that I see out there. On these kinds of work trips (might as well try and work in some cool places) I have to try to nail as wide a range of material as possible.
  • I am travelling out to Belize with a friend of mine called James, and he just happens to be one of the most awesome fly fishermen I have ever worked with. The guy is extremely modest and would never acknowledge this, but he has got a serious talent for smashing serious numbers of fish on the fly, indeed I believe James has landed over 100 different species of fish on the fly so far. Now that takes some doing. I have worked with enough talented fly fishermen on this earth to know how well James can fish.

  • The target species in Belize are going to be (weather depending) tarpon, permit and possibly snook, but we will wait until we get there and take into account our guides' advice. James and I are travelling via the international fly fishing travel company Aardvark McLeod - I do a lot of work with these guys and they always impress me in a big way. Not all fishing overseas has to cost an arm and a leg.....

  • On Saturday, James and I are flying out to Miami, overnight there, and then we head down to Belize the next morning. We have four and a half days' for fishing and photography (sleep is not an option, that's for the flights home), and then we arrive back in the UK just in time for the first match in the Six Nations. English rugby worries the hell out of me at the moment, but surely a massive revival is just about due ?

Friday, 23 January 2009

Technology can be great

  • I was walking my dog Jess early this morning and I got to thinking about how modern technology helps so many us in our working lives, plus also with our fishing. I seriously doubt whether I would be making a living in fishing right now if it was not for digital photography, the internet, computers, and the advantages they gives somebody like me who works on their own. This has been really banged home to me this week in fact, for various different reasons.

  • There are also a couple more black and white photos below that I have been playing around with - the first is of a flounder from a shoot the other day, and the second is from the east coast of Canada last autumn. I gotta see where I can take this kind of thing, I am really liking it.........
  • Take this photo shoot I did with Nick Hart on Tuesday - I am there to make it look as good as I can via the medium of photography, but it is vital that the technical side of the fly casting is correct, and that is down to Nick's expertise. With digital photography I can shoot away, try plenty of different things, and then at the end of the day I can dump the photos to my laptop and review them with Nick, before I head off home. He can instantly tell me what photos are technically incorrect from a casting point of view, and this then allows us to get rid of the dross and get the right images to Trout Fisherman magazine as fast as possible.

  • I then very quickly get these photos ready for publication my end, but instead of then copying the images to a CD or DVD and trundling off the Post Office in my car (none local to me anymore, it closed down), I zip the images into one compressed file and upload them over the internet. While that is going on in the background on my second computer, I can carry on with other work.

  • When I go away on a job, overseas for example, I go basically as a self-contained unit - I can photograph all day, edit photos at night, and write words in airports, on trains and planes (ok, not so easy in steerage class where I always am !!), plus, depending on where I am, I can often keep communicating with clients etc. It's far better for me to work my proverbial socks off when I am way from home, and modern technology allows me to do far more than I was ever able to.
  • One reason this technology thing really means so much to me is the ease with which somebody like me can move images all around the world. Putting good looking imagery in front of clients has never been faster or easier. Technology has made the world a far smaller place, and while I agree that on the one hand this can have its downfalls, on the other hand I see so many benefits. It got me thinking this week because I have uploaded different batches of photos to people in the UK, South Africa, America, Denmark, Argentina and Norway, all via the internet. Putting both low-res sample and high-res publishable photos and material in clients' faces (or Inboxes) very quickly and efficiently is the name of the game in my business. I am sure the same applies to a number of you.

  • And on the fishing front, I am continually amazed at how much international fishing information now buzzes around the internet especially, via various websites, forums and blogs. Take a forum like the one at, see here - so it might major on UK style sea fishing, but there are anglers from all over the place both viewing and posting all the time, and information is scattering far and wide as a result. Check out a US fly fishing news website like MidCurrent (see here) - before the internet, where on earth were you going to see this kind of up to date information and news from across the pond ? Granted, fishing around the world might hold no interest for some of you, but in my job I have to really keep my ears close to the grapevine, and modern technology allows me to do that extremely efficiently. Plus I am fascinated in all kinds of fishing all over the place anyway, regardless of whether I am ever going to do it or see it. We can all but dream about various things......

  • Please make sure to check out Paul's comments on my post from yesterday about scrapping Article 47 - Paul has very kindly put some details up there of more people to contact to register your protest, plus a reply he got back. Doing nothing is not an option when it comes to the future of our sport -sticking your head on the sand and hoping that any "future of fishing problems" simply go away ain't going to do any good at all. Modern technology makes it easier for us little guys to get seen and heard.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Scrap Article 47

  • Anybody with any interest in recreational sea fishing in Europe should be aware of the proposed Article 47 - see Nigel Farrage's own thoughts below. Nigel is an MEP and is the UKIP leader, and together with his two sons, they are all mad keen sea anglers. Please read Nigel's words and then sign the various petitions. There is also a forum thread all about Article 47 right here. Nigel is not just some politician who claims to love fishing because it gets him votes - I have fished with him and his sons in the past, and they are as passionate as you and I about their fishing.

"I had been enjoying a superb autumn on Dungeness beach, catching loads of codling up to 8lbs. On my last trip before Christmas I packed up at 2am. I thought how incredible it was that from April I might have to report my catch to the authorities or risk breaking the law. This is because on December 18 last year, with no prior warning, the European Commission announced that they intended to regulate sea angling. Be under no illusion, this represents the biggest threat to our sport ever and we must stand up and fight. The plan is to put sea angling on the same, discredited quota system as that used by the commercial fishermen. It will mean that ever private boat, yacht or kayak that wants to drop a line over the side will need a licence. All fish landed will need to be reported whether caught from boat or shore. Once the quota for angling is used up, any fish taken could result in a fine of £50,000! Without an army of officials, the likelihood is that many sea anglers will just become criminals, as bad laws are always treated with contempt. The odd person will be unlucky though and face massive fines. What is at stake here is not just the sport we love but one of the last freedoms that we enjoy. It must be stopped. Over the Christmas holidays I worried about the plan and I had plenty of time to do so as the easterly winds killed cod fishing stone dead. On my return to Brussels I was even more alarmed to see the plans to put these measures through at breakneck speed. We have to act now as the final vote by the European Parliament is likely to be in April. I would strongly urge everyone in the fishing community to oppose this proposal. There is no point in writing to your local MP and all power of fisheries has been given to the EU.

Visit the UKIP website, and sign the petition to have Article 47 dropped. Contact the MEPs for your area, they can be found at

Tell them that you want Article 47 of the 'Council Regulation establishing a Community control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy' to be deleted.

Clearly tell them you will not vote for them in the June 4 European Elections if they let you down.

Contact UK Fisheries Minister Huw Irranca-Davies at and urge him to get Article 47 dropped.

If tens of thousands take the trouble to lobby you will be listened to. MEPs need your votes to secure their next five year term. You can put pressure on them. I am appealing to angling groups in France and Holland and urging them to do the same. Don't let Brussels bureaucrats ruin our sport or our industry.

Stand up and fight!"

Nigel Farage MEP, UKIP leader

  • Make sure to sign this petition here as well - we sea anglers tend to have a tradition of general apathy towards potential threats to the future of our sport, but regular people like us need to wake up and be heard. We are not commercial anglers, and I have no time for recreational anglers who sell their catch on the side - either you fish because you love it, or you are a commercial angler. In no way am I damning the commercial guys by the way, that is not my point at all. Fish commercially with a license to make a living, and come under the various rules and regulations, or fish for pleasure because you are an angler. Any attempt by the powers that be to bring recreational anglers under the same regulatory umbrella as the commercial sector has to be stopped.

  • There is a good newspaper article online about the proposed Article 47, click here. Those charter fleets we see in our ports are having a tough time of it as it is, but now imagine you can't go out pollack or cod fishing later this year because there is no more quota left. Sure, you could go and catch a few and then watch them float off dead in the tide because you can't legally take them home and eat them, but who's going to do that ? I would support any logical measure to fine the hell out of any recreational angler who is caught selling their fish, and I am completely behind measures to protect our (dwindling) fish stocks, but recreational fishing must not be allowed to come under the commercial quota systems.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Precision casting

  • I started work yesterday on a new series of casting features with Nick Hart - these will come out in Trout Fisherman in due course. Nick is working on putting the technical aspects of fly casting into regular fishing scenes, so that the fisherman can take the various casts and learn more about when to actually use them to catch more fish. Casting is obviously a hugely important part of fly fishing, we all know that, but the aim in my mind is always to learn how to smash a few more fish in a given situation. The same could be said of sea fishing could it not ?

  • To start the process off, we needed to try and find a "look at this" opening photo to run across a couple of pages (DPS), and by pure luck the weather was with us from the off. There are lots of different ways to shoot casting, and a lot of them are set by the weather and background you have, but the moment I saw the light and situation I could "see" these photos in my head as strong opening shots- the photos above and below are a couple of examples. I made a really contrasty black and white version to see what it looked like, and I really like it, but it is up to the designers at Trout Fisherman as to what they use from yesterday's shoot. Nick is a complete pro at what he does and he is an incredibly easy guy to photograph.

  • The photo above is a more "regular" casting shot of Nick roll-casting a line along the margins, but even then these things take a lot of thought and pre-planning. I am always on the lookout for different angles and views, and I thought this photo worked pretty well with the orange line coming down through the frame. The aim is to provide a photo that can say a lot in regards to the words that Nick writes, and this kind of thing does that.

  • With a more technical shoot like this, it is vital that my creative attempts marry up properly with what Nick knows is technically right and wrong in a cast. This is the beauty of digital photography. On a shoot like this we can photograph a load of stuff and then check everything on my laptop to make sure any glaringly wrong stuff is deleted. Not that Nick would ever make a bad cast !! Imagine me doing the fly casting ?!!

  • As I have said before, working in fishing is never what it seems. This job of mine really gives me a huge kick, and I love almost every part of it (except for paying taxes especially), but my own fishing time now compared to pre-kids and pre-fishing work is somewhat of a scary reduction. In all honesty though I have never loved fishing more than I do now, and just getting to be around it all the time does me just fine. The world's a fascinating place. I am off to Belize at the end of next week on a photo job and I can't wait.......more details in due course.

Monday, 19 January 2009

That makes it four......

  • I have just found out that a photo of mine is on the front of the forthcoming Hardy UK and Europe 2009 catalogue, as you can see above. That just about makes my day, for I have no say in any of their catalogue covers - I just submit my photos when asked, and then wait to see what happens. Getting my photos on the cover of something like the Hardy catalogue gives me a real kick, and once again I am really pleased with the shot they have used.

  • The photograph is of their commercial director Martin Kelly doing rather nicely with a double-handed fly rod (I think he was using a Hardy ??!!) out in Norway last year. It's the kind of thing you shoot with a front cover in mind, but Martin never knew I was taking the photo. The trick with this particular photo was to dial in some minus exposure compensation to make sure not to blow the highlights out when they are set against the relative dark of the water and tree branches. That light blue Hardy shirt looks great, but when it is around any kind of bright light, a camera tends to want to blow it out. Cameras are great, but it is vital to know exactly when not to trust them and instead rely on what you know.

  • It is this kind of "eyes in the back of your head, be prepared to shoot wherever and whenever" attitude that you need to get anywhere close to succeeding in working in fishing. Am I anywhere close to getting to where I want to get in fishing ? Not yet, but I'm working hard to get there......
  • With this latest cover shot, that makes four for me - four of the Hardy & Greys 2009 catalogue covers have my photographs on them. That is what you could refer to as a result in my book. Above is the Greys 2009 Game cover with a photo of a decent steelhead taken in the wilds of British Columbia. I am somewhat pleased !!

  • Above is the Hardy 2009 Game catalogue that is out in the US. I shot this photo in Montana last summer, and I so badly want to go back and photograph a load more US trout fishing. In fact there are an increasing number of fishing related things that I want to do out in America. Check out a load of photos I shot in Montana right here.

  • And above is the new Greys 2009 Sea catalogue. There are stacks of my photos inside as well. The light in the photo really reminds me of a typical winter's day of sunshine and showers, but in fact I took this photo up in north Cornwall in July. You can't beat an English summer !!

  • You have to check out this insane saltwater fly fishing, see the video right here - these are the outstanding South African based FlyCastaway guides that I have worked with on numerous occasions, and without a doubt they are some of the most talented fly fishermen on this earth. This video is all about fly fishing for the world's largest tarpon off the coast of Angola. I remember sitting on the beach there some years ago, watching the tarpon and threadfin rolling around, knowing that we were not kitted out to fish for them, and vowing one day to get back there. These guys catch monsters on the fly, plain and simple, and you can fish with them by talking to Aardvark McLeod right here. Stuff like this does not come cheap, but the FlyCastaway consistently put their clients over some of the best fly fishing on this planet.

  • Nick Hart and I are out tomorrow to shoot some new casting stuff for Trout Fisherman magazine, so we will see what the weather brings and take it from there. I really like doing this kind of stuff with Nick, he is so easy to work with, and the fact that he can cast like a dream kind of helps. He is without doubt one of the busiest and best-respected fly fishing guides and instructors around, so make sure to get in early and book him up. I guarantee that your fly fishing will come in leaps and bounds - I guess I need to take my own advice and book Nick up myself, as anybody who has seen my cast a fly rod can attest to !!

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Now this is proper hardcore fishing

  • I just had an email from Cato over in Norway, the drummer for one of the finest metal bands on this earth - scroll down to my post from yesterday and you will see exactly what I am on about. Not only can the guy drum like a human spider, but he is also a madly addicted and seriously good fisherman. I still owe him big time for the Norway programme we filmed a couple of years ago - without his knowledge I doubt whether anybody here in the UK would ever had heard of Rost to this day (see here for photos of the mad fishing).

  • I thought my flounder job a week or so ago was properly cold (see the post here), but I now see that this was virtually a nice summer's day when you compare it to what Cato and his mates have been doing over in Norway. Look this at this page right here to see a photo or two of what they have been catching - I don't understand a word of it, but the fish speak for themselves.

  • Proper ice fishing - I mean going out on the sea ice, cutting holes in it, and smashing some seriously good fish. How about thornback rays to 19lbs and spurdogs to 16lbs ? Awesome fish by anybody's standards, but now bear in mind that a couple of days ago they were fishing in -20 Celsius, right through the ice - no need for any casting either. Now that is serious cold, but the fishing sounds spectacular. Put me into cold like that and I reckon I'd curl up into a ball and start crying, but there is a big part of me that really wants to see this kind of fishing being done, and especially when you consider the fish they have been catching. Looks like very cool stuff to me.

  • Cato also tells me that Enslaved have been nominated for a Norwegian Grammy for their outstanding album "Vertebrae" - if they don't win it, I'll be astounded. You see, as I always say, fishing and metal mix together just about perfectly. But perhaps not at -20.........

Friday, 16 January 2009

The best music of 2008

  • Let's get a few things straight here - in another life I would have been a rock star, travelling the world, and ripping stages and audiences to pieces with the ferocity of our extreme metal assault. But there is one tiny problem, and that is that I never had more than an ounce of musical ability. I could but dream though, and believe me, I did. I used to have a recurring dream (no, not those kind) at school that I was a guitarist for Slayer, and waking up was always a complete let down.

  • Fishing is what drives me, both as a passion and for my job, but my other obsession has always been music. I mean seriously obsessed as well. I have spent nearly seventeen years trying to convince my wife (then girlfriend many years ago) that there is no better music than metal, and that all other music means nothing at all. Seventeen years of trying, and still she dislikes it as much as the first time I played here Slowly we Rot by Obituary and told her that this had changed my life for the better. And she agreed to marry me !! Women eh ?

  • 2008 was an epic year for metal, but then I feel this every single year. Just when you think that nothing can top your latest favourite album, another one comes along and blows you out of the water. Many awesome bands released great albums last year, such as Amon Amarth, Septic Flesh, Opeth, Keep of Kalessin, Deicide, The Haunted, Martriden, Meshuggah, Nachmystium, Satyricon, AC/DC, Hail of Bullets - you name it, I bought far too many as per usual, but they all give me countless hours of listening pleasure. Rest assured that many a fishing feature is written this end while nodding my head in time to the music. Writing about deftly casting a fly in some remote little river mixes just great with the mighty Amon Amarth pouring forth from my speakers......
  • But there is one album from 2008 that stands head and shoulders above the rest. A release so good that I am still getting my head around it now, and that is after so many listens I know virtually every single drum beat off by heart. Norway's Enslaved are of course one of the most respected bands in metal, but even they have managed to surpass their previous efforts with the mighty "Vertebrae" - from the very first spin of the CD my eyes were popping out of my head. Can metal really be this layered, this textured, this subtle even, and just so damned good ? Anybody with any interest at all in heavier music should get hold of this CD, I can't praise it enough. A part of me thinks that I should be trying to find fault with the album because I know their drummer Cato through fishing, but I can't. Rarely does an album just keep on growing every single time you listen to it, but this one does. Cato's drumming is just immense.

  • Don't just take my word for it - listen to a few tracks right here. Then listen to them again, because this music requires plenty of time to breathe. There is that much to it. Then get hold of the album here. There is no benefit to me saying where to buy Vertebrae, and there is no financial incentive to me saying it is as good as it is. I bought a copy of the CD, as I do with all my music, but it gets me going that much that I want loads more people to realise just how awesome Enslaved are. They have taken the term extreme metal and spun it so hard on its axis that I reckon many other bands are wondering what on earth to do next. Anybody with any interest in metal should have this CD in their collection.

  • You could even stop working for a minute or two and watch an outstanding video off the new album, click here to see it. I see that the extreme music magazine Terrorizer also has this new Enslaved album as their no.1 release of 2008 - great minds think alike !! If they had not chosen it, I would have cancelled my subscription as a protest.

  • So there you have it - 2008 was an emotional year on the music front, and I reckon there is a whole load more to look forward to this year. The new Kreator album is already on its way to me for starters. Rarely does an album rise so far above the rest though, but Vertebrae is just that. Enslaved are where it's at.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Sneak peak at the new look Sea Angler magazine

  • On the 22nd there will be a new look Sea Angler magazine in the shops, and I have managed to get hold of a "sneak peak" at this important relaunch. Not only the cover, but a couple of features that will be inside the mag, including the next one in my bass fishing series. I hope you like the look of it, because I have to admit to being really excited about what the Sea Angler people are doing with the magazine............

  • I have worked on a freelance basis for Sea Angler for many years now, and they continue to use really high quality photography to illustrate the sport we all love. I am sure that most of us read sport and hobby related magazines for a mix of "wow, doesn't this look awesome, gotta do it" and also "I want to learn how to improve my own hobby/pastime/sport" - I know I do, and I do not envy the powers that be at the numerous magazines out there for having to create this kind of mix every month. I know I am a little biased towards the people I work for, but I reckon that the Sea Angler guys are pretty much spot-on.

  • The relaunch in my opinion makes this all look a whole load better again - very "fresh, clean and hands on", and I like that kind of thing in this kind of magazine. The kind of feature you can see above does what it says on the tin. Bear in mind that all kinds of anglers of all kinds of skill levels read a magazine like Sea Angler, and it is vital to cater to your readers with a strong mix of features. They have done a good thing I reckon in bringing back the dedicated Boat Angler section.

  • I love it when a magazine designer picks up on a particular photo that I just know is going to work well in a certain way the moment I have pressed the shutter. The photo you can see above in my feature is exactly that - in my viewfinder I could see my mate Graham Hill bringing a bass to hand, and at the same time I could see the photo running across two pages in my head (DPS, double page spread), allowing enough space to place text around it if needs be. He's a handsome chap isn't he ? Hell of a bass angler, all credit due.

  • This is exactly how I would like my current bass features to be turning out - a mix of good looking fishing action together with plenty of "how to". I am in no way a "fishing expert", indeed anybody who knows me knows how much I despise the word "expert", but I get to work with some of the best anglers you could ever hope to meet, all around the world. What they do rubs off on me, of course it does, and I like to bring this knowledge and what I know myself together in a way that I hope is easy to understand and also very accessible. Fishing is an easy thing to do, and I reckon the new look Sea Angler goes a huge way towards making the sport more and more approachable. Look out for the new issue when it comes out on January 22nd.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

My best (red) fishing rod of 2008

  • Being perfectly honest, I don't end up buying many fishing rods these days - working as a consultant for Hardy Greys means that I get to use and abuse plenty of different rods, but good as most of their gear is, they would be the first to admit that (at the moment), they do not make specialist bass plugging rods. Loads of UK tackle companies make very good spinning rods that will work just fine for a lot of bass fishing, but none that I am aware of actually make what I would now refer to as a "specialist bass lure rod", or in our terms, a plugging rod.

  • But do you really need to get into all this specialist kit ? Entirely up to you, but let me say that 2008 saw me finally come around to realising just how much we have to learn about ultra-modern bass fishing, and on that front I am referring to the gear as well. My friend Graham Hill and I have spent far too long over the years talking about what we would ideally like to see from a plugging rod, but neither of us really knew who to turn to. I was hearing more and more about bass fishing over in France, and I had seen plenty of catalogues, but still I had never actually held a rod that I felt was a proper "plugging" rod. I mean a rod that is purpose designed to work with modern lures, not an all round spinning rod that is designed to chuck virtually anything.
  • I have to give a lot of credit to Mick at Mr.Fish over in Jersey for putting me onto my ultimate plugging rod. There are various people that I talk to on a regular basis within the tackle industry, but it was through Mick that I first started to hear about these red Tenryu rods. Mick took himself off to France and did his own research - remember that the man is a serious bass junkie himself. We spoke a bit, he told me how good he believed they were (and bear in mind here that there are a lot of talented, forward thinking bass fishermen in the Channel Islands), but still I had not actually held one. But I had spent enough time and effort looking for the rod that I felt had to be out there, and I decided to take a punt on it - "go on Mick, here are my card details, please send me over the Tenryu Red Dragon Express". It was like a light bulb going on in that head of mine..............

  • My thoughts have not changed one bit from when I first got hold of this awesome fishing rod - in fact the red rod keeps growing on me every single time I use it. Few rods I have owned over the years have given me as much pleasure as this one. See my original thoughts on the rod right here, from when I first got hold of it. I stand by everything I said. They are not cheap, but I am so into my bass fishing that I would have paid more if required - this rod does exactly what I want from a plugging rod, and sometimes I actually try to prevent people I fish with from picking it up, because I know that one wiggle and one cast and they'll be getting one for themselves. It has happened on several occasions. I still get emails from anglers asking me "I am using so and so spinning rod and it works just fine, so can the Tenryu rods really be that much better ?" Take it from me, they are a whole different world apart from what we have been used to. The sooner we accept that here in the UK we could really learn a whole load more about our bass fishing, the better we are going to get at it.

  • I am not saying that every single angler who fishes with lures for bass should go and get one - make up your own mind, assess what you want, and take it from there. There must be something about them though, for more and more of these red rods are creeping into all the photographs I take of bass fishing. See here for example. Of course there are lots of spinning rods out there that will do the job really well (check back through my blog in 2008 for some thoughts on these kinds of rods), but it just depends on how far you want to take it.

  • So without a doubt, my fishing rod of 2008 is the Tenryu Red Dragon Express - but I am now thinking about getting the Tenryu Rod Bar 270 as well, and I'll explain why. The Red Dragon Express does me perfectly for my shore based bass fishing, and I feel totally comfortable with the length of it - roughly 10' long. But I have used the Rod Bar 270 a fair amount as well, and it is an incredible bit of kit - and it is roughly 9' long. My own personal opinion is that the modern soft plastics that we are really getting into can be worked that little big more effectively with the 9' rod and a tiny bit more give in the tip. The Rod Bar 270 is as lightening quick as the Red Dragon Express, but as an overall bass rod I think perhaps it offers a more rounded solution to some of our bass fishing. I would be really happy to own both, and I can see myself using the different rods on different spots. Come on, I'm a fisherman, and I love fishing gear as much as the next man. My lure addiction shows no sign of abating for starters......

  • So I had better start saving up for the Rod Bar 270 then !! This is serious money to spend on rods, but it is what I do and love, and I reckon they represent excellent value for money. I spend a lot of time with outstanding fly fishermen all over the world, and they have no problem accepting that if you want the best, you have got to pay for it. Take a top of the range Hardy, Sage or Loomis fly rod - they cost that much because they really are that good. Same with a rod like the Tenryu. Traditionally us UK sea anglers do not tend to like spending much money on spinning rods, for to us they have tended to be mere "add ons" to our more regular (and sometimes very expensive) high-tech beachcasters. But the world is changing, and a load of technology and thought is being poured into lure rods the world over. And us UK sea anglers are slowly but surely catching up................

  • Del rang me from the Isles of Scilly with tales of more big mullet, including a stunning fish of 6lb 10oz - to any of us this is a proper mullet, indeed I have never caught one that big, but Del did say that that particular fish managed to grab his bait just before a very interested 10lb plus fish got there. These are problems I would love to be dealing with, believe me !! I know so many good mullet anglers over here, yet so few of them seem to get their head around the potential for huge fish over in the Isles of Scilly - and I can say that about Ireland as well. Too much to do, and too little time.

  • I had a good day up with the guys at Hardy Greys on Monday, and what came out of it could be really exciting further down the line. Plans like we laid of course will take time to come to fruition, but if all goes well then we should be doing some cool stuff. Further news as and when I can say will of course come through this blog.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

First front cover of 2009

  • I am not completely sure when the current issue of Trout Fisherman hit the shops, but since it's a new year, I'll claim the above as my first front cover of 2009 - the photo is of Nick Hart at Blakewell trout fishery, and I have got to hand to the powers that be at the magazine. I really like the way they have used this particular photo.

  • Check out the feature inside, on pages 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 - the photo that runs across pages 6 and 7 is one that I remember shooting specifically for this kind of use, and all credit to their designer for picking up on this. It's hardly an award winning photograph that will be gracing London galleries, but in my job you have to keep thinking all the time to make fishing look different and exciting. Sometimes the weather and light allows you to really go a little creatively crazy, and sometimes you are more restricted. Whatever happens, you have to nail the job, and I thrive on the challenge this presents.

  • I am flying up to Newcastle early tomorrow morning, to spend the day up at Hardy Greys in Alnwick, and then I fly back down to Plymouth on Tuesday morning. On this blog next week I will talk a bit about my rods and reels of 2008 - I am not really into the ins and outs of fishing tackle (believe it or not !!), but last year it really hit home to me that here in the UK we have a long way to go on the tackle front when it comes to making effective, modern bass fishing gear. It is not a criticism at all, simply a fact. Modern, high-tech bass fishing is rapidly growing in interest in the UK, and the anglers that are really interested in it are increasingly looking to Japanese, French and US designed and built products.

  • We design and/or make some great fishing tackle in the UK, of course we do, but at times we could do well to realise that here in the UK we don't know everything about fishing, and it's a big old world out there with lots of different fish, fished for in lots of different ways. Plenty of guys I know are hungry for information from all over the world, and arguably the PC and the internet have become one of the most powerful tools there are for the learning and trading of knowledge.

  • And of course there are plenty of anglers who have no interest in anything that is not in their backyard - whatever floats your boat I suppose, but isn't it such fun to learn about how other anglers do their thing elsewhere on this fascinating planet ? So much of it has applications for our own fishing that we do, both home and abroad. Never has so much knowledge and information been so accessible, and this kind of thing really drives me on and on. Learning is what fishing is all about to me, and I reckon I learnt more in 2008 than I have for a long time. For a lot of this I owe huge thanks to many people, and you know who you are without me having to name you. Thanks to you all. Here's to learning even more in 2009.......

Friday, 9 January 2009

My best fishing line of 2008

  • There are many outstanding lines out there these days, indeed you have got to go far to find a really bad one I reckon. If I use mono lines, it has to be Sufix (Tritanium, Zippy, Synergie etc., all outstanding), but with the amount of bass fishing I do, more often than not it is going to be braid that I end up fishing with.

  • If I had to put my money on the table and come up with the best all round "regular" braid, then I still reckon Power Pro is it. This braid will work for our bassing just fine, indeed I have used Power Pro all over the world and it keeps on nailing fish. I see that Shimano have recently bought Power Pro, so I will be interested to see what happens here, but whatever does, you can use it with complete confidence.

  • But, and this is a big but - earlier this year I began using the top of the range, high-tech Varivas braids from Japan, and I can't help but say that these are another step up. A "regular" braid like Power Pro is fantastic, but these premium Varivas braids are in a class of their own. There are various reasons as to why I use them so much now for my bass fishing, but in reality I just like using them, plain and simple. They just feel right.

  • Braids don't come cheap as well all know, but they do last for ages if you underfill your spool and avoid loads of the dreaded wind knots. The absolute top of the range bass braid from Varivas is on the spool you can see in the photo above - a dull kind of grey colour. When I first felt this braid, I could not believe it, indeed I have never felt a line like it. A true 8 stand braid (as opposed to 4 strand), it is something else - the exact name is Varivas Avani Sea Bass Max Power PE, and you can get it right here. I said it wasn't cheap, but it is unlike any braid you have ever used. I use the 20lb for bass fishing, and I also have a reel filled with the 15lb for mullet fishing - honestly, this braid is so thin you can hardly see it !! In fact my mate Del rang me from the Isles of Scilly later yesterday afternoon to give me the update on his mullet fishing - three fish up to 6lbs, and guess what line he is using for it (and raving about) ? Yes, this exact braid in 15lb breaking strain.
  • But it is the very slightly thicker and more "regular" feeling Varivas Avani Sea Bass Braid that you can see on the reel above that I have been using most of the time. Cheaper than the Max Power PE stuff, you can get it here. I really like the 23lb breaking strain in the green colour, with a short length of Varivas fluorocarbon leader to my lure. This braid is outstanding to fish with, and one fill up lasted me most of last year without any problem at all. You can horse fish on it. In my mind this braid is a kind of "ultra premium" regular braid (sounds like unleaded), while the Max Power PE is plain and simple "the best".

  • My personal favourite for the moment has to be the slightly cheaper Varivas Avani Sea Bass Braid in 23lb breaking strain - I know the Max Power PE is a better line overall, but it is just so thin that sometimes it freaks me out. It is up to me now to get my head around using a line as thin and different feeling as this, because I know it works better for my fishing. But in all honesty, you can use both with complete confidence for all your bass fishing - they are that good.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Flounder fishing in amongst the icebergs

  • OK, so icebergs might be a little bit of an exaggeration (us fishermen, never !!), but when did you last see masses of floating ice in a south west estuary ? I can't remember ever seeing it, but considering that we were set up before dawn after the coldest night down here for twenty years, it's hardly surprising. Along with the flooding tide came rafts of floating ice. I was a bit gutted not to get some big blue winter skies to show it all off properly, but the forecasted cloud cover came in far earlier than they said. I would not have been that shocked yesterday to have seen a polar bear come floating past on top of an iceberg, it was that cold. OK, so not somewhere like Canada cold, but it was proper UK cold at least.

  • Still, it was a challenge for the guys to put baits out in between the rafts of floating ice, and a few sets of gear were lost - not to rocks but to the ice. How often can you say that in the UK ? Check out all the ice floating past in the photo above - mad !! Kingbsridge is such a pretty part of the world, and while I can not say that flounder are really my thing, I always love being out and about photographing them with a bunch of mates. With all these cold east winds and resulting clear seas we have had down here, at least the flounder fishing has been keeping lots of anglers going. The forecast says it will change over the weekend, so I will be interested to see how this might kick start our winter fishing.....
  • The guys did well to catch a couple of fat winter flounder yesterday in some tricky conditions, and thanks to Yorkie and his magic frying pan and kettle, we were kept warm with hot bacon sarnies and fresh cups of tea. The man is a legend !! Amazing that he can cook so well when he is out fishing, when I hear from his wife Debbie that Rob's culinary skills at home are what might be referred to as "limited ". Damn fine sarnies though, and thanks to Andy for giving my sheepdog Jess a bit of his - she wasn't getting any of mine !! Those eyes looked at me like I hadn't fed her for weeks, but I know Jess too well......

  • To talk of warmer climes - I had an email this morning from John Crabb, a Flycastaway guide and one of the finest all round anglers I have ever had the pleasure to fish with anywhere on this earth. I have worked with John in the Seychelles and also out in South Africa last year. John nailed a monster ragged tooth shark of around 500lbs (yes, you read it correctly - five hundred pounds) over the Christmas period down at Jeffrey's Bay, and another FlyCastaway guide (Tim, awesome angler as well) landed one of around 350lbs !!! John's shark took him under an hour to land, and that is some feat of fishing. Check out a photo of a somewhat smaller (but still monster) ragged tooth shark that John nailed for my cameras last year, right here. The guys also nailed some nice kob as well - jealous ? Me ? Never........complete and utter fishing insanity. Bet they didn't have to dodge rogue ice floes though !!

  • My late Del also rang me from the Isles of Scilly yesterday - they had an extremely rare frost, that is how cold it was, but the winds have swung around for him and the mullet are back in and on the feed big time. He has a fantastic mullet of 7.5lbs a couple of days before Christmas, plus got smashed by a proper monster, but then the winds swung around and killed the fishing for him. Just Del and his mate fishing over there, and nobody else. Heaven, pure heaven.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Best breathable chest waders of 2008

  • Granted, chest waders may well not be the most exciting thing that any of have in our fishing tackle collection, but for mobile bass fishing they are in my mind about the most important thing to get right. Being dry and comfortable whilst being easily able to roam around is so important to our fishing, and I know that decent chest waders help me catch more fish and also get a whole load more photos than I would without them. I wear chest waders for so much of what I do, both fishing and photography wise, indeed using them for bass fishing is just a part of the hell I put them through.

  • A lot of people know that I do some work with Hardy & Greys Ltd., and these people will also know that I am always honest and forthright in my opinions on fishing gear. I am not about to use anything that I don't reckon works properly, whoever makes it. So, bearing in mind that I do some work with these guys, logic decrees that I should be telling you that the most expensive Hardy EWC waders are my favourite for bass fishing, and that you should go out and buy them. Yes, they are fairly good waders, but are they what I tend to turn to for my own mobile saltwater fishing ? No, not generally.................

  • There are a couple of ways to look at buying chest waders for bass fishing (and if you are clever, for a hell of a lot of UK shore fishing) - either spend serious dosh on a top of the range pair like the Hardy EWS, or various Simms or Patagonia models. They will be awesome to use and they will last very well over the course of many years' regular fishing if you look after them.

  • But when was the kind of bassing a lot of us do ever going to be regular fishing ? It is easy to slip over on rocks and weed, and I am sure you will agree that sharp rocks rip and tear expensive waders as easily as they do somewhat cheaper ones. Believe me, I am talking from experience here.

  • So my theory tends to be to use really good cheaper breathable chest waders - easy to patch up with either the excellent Aquasure stuff (see here) or else simply use a load of good old fashioned gaffer tape. Better still, don't slip over in the first place, but that is often easier said than done !! The good news is that there are a lot of good quality chest waders out there from lots of manufacturers such as Greys, Orvis, Snowbee, Wychwood, Vision and Scierra.

  • But without doubt the standout pair of chest waders that I use for my bass fishing more than any other are the outstanding Greys G-Series ones - these are the cheapest waders the company does, and I really like using them. I am not paid to say this if that is any help, but I stand by how good they are, and that they are excellent value for money. A really good tip for the G-Series waders is to buy one size larger than you would usually take - for some reason they are cut slightly differently to other waders that I have used, and while I tend to take an XL in virtually everything I wear, in the G-Series I use an XXL, and I find them far more easy to move around in for long hours and many, many miles. Get hold of the excellent Hart Fly Shop right here and ask them to get you a pair.

  • So there you have it - my favourite waders of 2008. Not very sexy, but vital to lots of us. A bunch of guys I fish with also use and abuse the G-Series waders to great effect. As for wading boots, well in my mind the jury is still out on this one. I am hugely in favour of some kind of studded sole, whether it be on rubber or felt, but I am not completely sure if I believe in either buying the best you can afford because they will be more comfortable and durable, or otherwise buying cheaper and accepting that they will not last so long. Sounds a bit like my thoughts on the chest waders I know, but the wading boots issue is a bit different (they don't tend to tear and then leak for starters). I wear shoes and boots very hard anyway, so I go through most things eventually. Still to decide..............

Monday, 5 January 2009

My favourite bass lure of 2008

  • As we move swiftly into a chilly 2009, here are some thoughts on my stand out favourite bass lure of 2008. Anybody who has been following this blog will know that I have a bit of a problem when it comes to (shiny new) bass lures, but there was without doubt one single lure that stood out for me last year. Bear in mind that I am talking about a combination of what I saw caught, plus what I caught myself, for most of the time I tend to put my fishing gear down and take photos when the fish come on the feed.

  • So my top bass lure of 2008 has to be the Tackle House Feed Shallow, as you can see in these photos. I saw a huge amount of good bass taken on these lures last year, and I actually managed a few myself as well !! Lures like this are not easy to track down, but you can get them from Mick at Mr. Fish. No, they are not cheap, and yes, you would be well advised to replace the (rubbish) trebles with some decent ones, but the lure kills, plain and simple. But why on earth does a company like Tackle House put such awful hooks on such a good lure ?
  • There are of course many outstanding bass lures out there, and some need not cost a bomb. The continuously outstanding Maria Chase BW in holographic silver is going to keep on catching plenty of fish (get them here), and last year I really learnt a hell of a lot about modern bass fishing, and some of the tools we can use to improve our catch rates. Lures such as the various and outstanding Duo Tide Minnow and Terrif range, the Xorus Patchinko, of course the excellent Lucky Craft Flash Minnow, GunFish and Sammy (see here) are always in my lure box now, together with an expanding range of soft plastics such as the Slug-Go and the MegaBass XLayer. If you want to see a load of decent bass taken on various lures last year, there are loads of my photos here, here, here and here.

  • But it was the Tackle House Feed Shallow that I saw the most bass caught on - bear in mind of course that a lot of the guys I fished with were using it a lot of the time, but there is obviously something about it. The lure casts well and fishes just below the surface at a fairly fast rate, with a stunning "side to side kind of slightly slashing" action, and this suits a lot of the bass marks I fish very well. The silvery/reflective colours are my favourites as I remain convinced that bass switch on to these colours both in bright and dull conditions. I remember one flat calm morning we fished in Ireland when nothing was happening - the sea was like glass and the clarity was almost too good, but eventually a nice fish obviously could not resist roaring out from behind a rock and smashing into my Feed Shallow. That was the only bass of the morning.

  • If you have any interest in sharks and the sea, I really hope you watched the recent Natural World programme on the BBC - this was some of the most impressive great white footage that I have ever been fortunate enough to see, and the South African guy involved in the story has my utmost respect. This seriously was a hugely inspirational and stunning programme that every single person with any saltwater interest should make sure they watch. Great white sharks have always fascinated me, and they will continue to do so. If you live in the UK and missed this programme, you can watch it on the BBC iPlayer service right here. Immense in every way.

  • Anyway, back at work and 2009 stretches out in front of us all - here's to the best possible year in what we all know are going to be some turbulent times. But if there is one thing to get us all through whatever happens, it has to be fishing. What else can provide such a release and a rush at the same time ? What else forces us to keep learning new stuff all the time ? Here is to a successful fishing year for us all, whatever you choose to fish for, and wherever you do it.