Saturday, 28 February 2009

Today is the day

  • I am hoping this afternoon that against all odds, the English rugby team are going to awaken from their slumber and come out with only one thing on their mind - beating Ireland. No hang-ups, no excuses, so stupid penalties, no yellow cards, just a load of guts and glory. Granted, we played a bit of rugby against the Welsh, but we still lost. And how about France beating Wales last night ?

  • The life of an eternal optimist - English rugby supporters have had to be pretty tough to stick with the team since the emotional highs of November 2003, so perhaps this afternoon will be the time when we rise from the ashes and announce ourselves back on the world stage ? We shall see............

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Shore fishing for bass in France ?

  • Although the photo you can see above was shot in Jersey, in truth it could just as easily be over in France - a huge amount of French bass fishermen are fishing from fast, open boats with spinning rods and reels, doing the exact same thing you can see here. Tide, features, more tide, more features, bass love them all. Note the red Tenryu rod - these things are turning up everywhere, and this has to say something about how good they are. Starting to save up now for my Tenryu Super Mix 240..........

  • Therefore a lot of the development we see with "their" fishing is related to catching bass off a boat. Of course there is a lot of crossover between this more modern style light tackle bass fishing, but you also need to bear in mind that a rod and lure that has been developed for fishing say twenty to forty metres down in a fast tide is most likely going to be of little use to us for our shore fishing.

  • But I did spend a fair bit of time talking to various people at the Nantes show about the shore fishing opportunities in France. My spoken French is not nearly as strong as it once was, but I can get by. I love fishing from boats, and I hope to do plenty more of it in the future, but at heart I am most contented when I have to get out and walk serious miles. And I think I have come across some awesome shore fishing potential over in France for smashing proper numbers of bass and also wrasse on lures - I presume pollack as well, and those three species keep me more than happy.

  • When I asked one of the French guys whether they caught any wrasse off the shore on soft plastics, he laughed !! They catch stacks of them (100 in two days last year), and some monsters as well - wrasse to over 8lbs from the shore, on lures. Bring it on. Plus when conditions are right, big numbers of bass on hard and soft plastic lures. One angler was describing a particular technique to me where he was working a very small, 25g vertical jig rigged with assist hooks to fish a particular area of the shoreline in a very precise way, and in three consecutive casts he landed three bass over 9lbs. Insanity prevails. The exact places they are fishing are of course not heavily publicised, especially with the pressure the French fish receive from so many mad-keen anglers, but it seems that you can have some decent shore sport if you look around. We shall see......

  • As soon as time allows, I am going to try and head over to the west coast of France and begin to try and unravel more of what these guys are doing over there - and I really want to do a mixture of shore and boat fishing. It's perfect for me as I can just jump on the Plymouth-Roscoff ferry that departs about ten minutes from my front door. Seems to me that the open-minded, adventurous bass angler can find world class fishing in a lot of different places. Sure, it takes time, effort and money, but if you want to find the best fishing, it certainly ain't going to come to you. There is a part of me forever lost to the deserted coastlines of Ireland.
  • I shot a feature yesterday with Nick Hart, for Trout Fisherman magazine. We never saw the sun all day, but we had a fantastic time with some stunning rainbow trout in great surroundings. There was not a breath of wind and this allowed me to shoot the kind of photo that you can see above - Nick casting a perfect line with that awesome looking tree perfectly reflected on the flat calm surface of the lake. A modern digital camera tends to want to try and slightly over-expose a scene like this, and as a result a lot of the contrast and "punch" can be lost. In a situation like this I have deliberately dialled in a bit of minus exposure compensation to try and retain the overall look.
  • The trout that Nick caught were in fantastic condition, and this monster was the last one of the day. I lined this up as a cover-style photo, and in my head I could see the layout of the page already, but you never quite know what is going to actually end up on the front cover. We shall see what happens, but perhaps it is too far removed from "man plus fish" to make on to the front page. I really like how the guys at Trout Fisherman are making the magazine look, and I know how much hard work goes into it.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Bass fishing - the future ?

  • How on earth can such a seemingly simple bit of soft plastic like you can see above create such wanton desire among so many bass anglers ? A modern soft plastic lure like the MegaBass XLayer is to the untrained eye probably no more than a slightly dubious looking ribbed bit of strange rubber, but in the hands of a decent bass fisherman this thing comes alive. Watching the French guys demonstrating various hard and soft lures in the tanks was a real eye-opener. The XLayer for example is designed to be worked in slower tides, with a jig head roughly the shape of the one you can see above. You then literally make it jump and twitch up and down as you retrieve it. Kind of like the guys were using them when I was last over in Ireland in fact - and the bass were nailed big time. See the photos here.

  • You need to be able to impart such subtle movements and twitches to these things, and the more information that is literally transmitted down the rod and through your hand and arm will mean more bass caught. Might sound like rubbish, but it's true. That is why I a starting to save up for the red Tenryu Super Mix 240. The right tool for the job.

  • By no means am I am now saying that the only people who really know how to catch bass are the French, because that's rubbish. I know some pretty good bass anglers myself who can smash the fish big time. But on a personal level I like to learn all the time. I don't like standing still. The French are doing a lot of different things to us, and it fascinates me.
  • The lure you can see above is one of the best looking hard plastic lures I have ever seen - the picture of it does no justice to the overall shape and appeal of this thing, but when I saw this IMA Imagene 130 sitting in a glass stand at the Nantes show, my eyes nearly popped out of my head. This is a shallow diving lure that is designed to worked fairly fast, much like the Maria Chase BW, the Tackle House Feed Shallow and the various Duo Tide Minnow lures, the IMA Imagene will soon be in my tackle box, and specifically in the colour you can see above. A top-end Japanese lure like this does not come cheap, and they can be really hard to get hold of, but I know that in a while you will be able to get them right here. Ask and ye shall receive !! (after abusing your credit card of course) I have heard such good reports about IMA lures, and there is also a slightly smaller 110 model of this one that swims even shallower. Not that I like lures or anything.......

  • I had an email from my mate Cato over in Norway, and he caught a 17lb coalfish the other day when he was out ice fishing. That is some fish to catch off the shore !! A guy he knows was ice fishing last week and caught an 80lb ling - yes, you read it right, eighty pounds. Not off the boat, off the shore. OK, off the ice then. Wow. They have got some incredible fishing up in Norway. Cold but insane. Check out Cato's awesome drumming on this life-changing metal album here.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Today is the last day of the show

  • Yesterday was another really interesting day out here - it is not much use to spend all my time wandering around the show looking open-mouthed at all the kit on display. Granted, you could do this, and I did myself for the first few hours on Friday, but in truth I need to learn as much as possible.

  • I have talked at length with one of the most respected and highly successful specialist shore anglers out here, and he is completely obsessed with fishing for bass. Kinda sounds like plenty of us does it not ? This particular person is using a rod no longer than about 8' for all his shore fishing, and very specifically the Tenryu Super Mix 240. I wanted to know why.....

  • An angler like this guy wants a rod that can very easily switch from fishing more "conventional" hard plastic lures over to various soft plastics on either jig heads and or free swimming. Then he might go and put on a tiny 25g vertical jig, rigged with 1/0 assist hooks, and cast it close to one hundred metres and really search out huge areas of water by making this shiny piece of metal sink and flutter all the way in.

  • So are there rods out here that can do this ? And bear in mind that they are very different bits of kit to the ultra-fast action rods that the French love to use for fishing with hard plastic lures - essentially the things we are most used to using. I am seeing a lot of companies out here who are launching lots of specialist "do it all very efficiently" bass rods that are used for both hard and soft plastics, and might stretch to a little bit of very light vertical jigging if required. You can easily buy individual rods that are designed purely for what I would now term the three different bass fishing methods out here (hard lures, soft plastics, and vertical jigging), but it is interesting to see the "crossover" rods.

  • Tenryu without doubt is top of the three out here - the distinctly red rods are drawing big crowds all the time, and I see lots of guys walking around with red Tenryu rod bags that they have just bought. The Tenryu range is massive, and I want them all !! Dream on perhaps......

  • The Tenryu Super Mix 210 (say 7'), 240' (8') and the 270 (9') are the all round, "cope with it all very well" rods, and they feel stunning to pick up and waggle. I already know of a fair few bass anglers from Jersey who are using these particular rods, and if there is one rod I would now buy to really get me into fishing with the mountain of soft plastics available, it is going to be the Super Mix 240. Better get saving !! The shore guy was talking me through the reasons behind the Super Mix 240 specifically, and I could really see exactly what he was getting at.

  • But there are also plenty of awesome cheaper bass rods out here that will do the crossover style really well - I have talked a lot with the guys over at Sakura and Hart specifically, and there are some outstanding bits of kit for sensible money. The popular lengths for a rod that can do it all are without doubt 7', 8' and 9'. Bearing in mind of course that a lot of the bass anglers are fishing from boats of course, but around 8' seems to be the most popular length for this kind of rod, for both shore and boat work.

  • There are also loads of more regular spinning rods out here, but what in the UK I would now term "specialist bass plugging", the French anglers call spinning for bass - this is using more regular hard plastic lures like the ones we all love. Surface, sub surface, stick baits, wanderers, you name it, bass love 'em. So a "more regular spinning rods" out here is generally lightening quick to use.

  • Spinning (or plugging) rods out here are virtually all very fast action and seriously light. Gorgeous bits of kit at plenty of different price ranges, but you can see how the French bass anglers have so wholeheartedly embraced the fact that fast rods are far more efficient at working hard plastic lures from boat and shore. The length of rods range from 10' down to 7', and I have not seen a lure rod for bass yet that is over 10' long, and you can see that guys are more than happy to fish with the shorter rods. My own Tenryu Red Dragon Express is close to 10', and it is the most incredible rod to fish with, but I have to say that I would fish with a 9' specialist plugging rod off the shore with no worries at all. The Rod Bar 270 comes to mind.

  • Anyway, lots more to think about. Time now to go and get some coffee and wake Trevor up who is sleeping (and snoring) in the bed next to me - nice !! I am flying back to the UK tonight, and I am so glad I came out here. It is the lads from Jersey that I know who first told me that I had to come to this show, and I owe them another debt of thanks for switching me on to this stuff.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Can't sleep - some more French bass thoughts

  • My head is swimming with an information overload out here, and with all that going on I woke up at silly o'clock again. Kinda feels like being out on repeated night fishing sessions again. Only a few hours now until the Nantes show starts again, and today I am going to try and learn a whole load more than I did yesterday.

  • I wanted to try and find a principal reason why French bass fishing has become so technically advanced. Fishing trends and markets are driven by different things, but there had to be a reason to explain the explosion out here in fishing modern soft plastic lures generally close to or on the bottom, plus the increasing acceptance of vertical jgging as a killer method for the bass in deeper water.

  • The main reason I have found for all this modernisation is that there are literally so many French bass anglers continuously casting "conventional" hard plastic surface and sub-surface lures at the fish that the bass are basically getting spooked and moving out from inshore and are congregating more and more in the deeper, often very turbulent water. Fishing for bass is huge out here, indeed I was quoted figures yesterday that at least 50% of French sea anglers are active bass anglers. And bear in mind that sea fishing is really big out here.

  • Of course there can be some excellent shore fishing out here if you know where to look and can get away from the crowds (the same the world over with all kinds of fishing), but it is far more of a boat-based bass culture in France than it is in England. The guys are using these generally smaller, faster boats (loads of RIBs, perfect for fishing close to rocks and rips) to access the deeper water often way offshore - but bear in mind that a lot of the west coast of France is littered with islands and rocks that give so much varied bass water for the boat angler. Many of these offshore islands are where the keen shore fishermen go as well.

  • So the French anglers have had no choice but to keep developing more and more refined techniques and gear to catch these fish. The guys seem very happy with the actual numbers of bass or stock levels that they have around here, but they are being forced to literally "adapt or die". Either learn new methods or suffer a drastic reduction in your fishing returns. This is a very interesting philosophy to find so close to home on the saltwater fishing side.

  • It goes almost without saying that the range of what we would call hard plastic lures is about as refined as I have ever come across - more "please buy me" shallow diving and surface lures than you could believe, and I want to own them all, in all the different colours as well !! There is some stunning new stuff from brands such as Sebile, IMA, Tackle House, Duo, ILLEX etc. I watched a new Duo lure being demonstrated yesterday and had to stop my mouth opening all the time in a really intelligent "hang dog" look - the lure was insane, and the guy working it simply made it come alive. I was gobsmacked at how slowly and deliberately the guys fish some of their hard plastic lures. OK, so there is plenty of stuff that likes to be cranked hard and fast, but there is some really interesting stuff that likes to be worked closer to how you might work a soft plastic lure like the MegasBass XLayer or the Slug-Go.

  • And on the soft plastics front, this is what I find most staggering out here. I said earlier that the bass are tending to vacate the more pressurised inshore areas, and the guys are often having to fish deeper water to catch them. It is how they might fish say twenty to forty metres down that is really opening my eyes. The amount of different kinds of soft plastics (worms, shads, minnows etc.) and the variation in jig head weights, shapes and patterns is what has got into my head big time. Watching these soft lures being properly demonstrated in the tanks is blowing my mind. The lures look better than the real thing, seriously. I know we can use a lot of these methods in our waters, from boat and shore.

  • I was talking with a really well respected bass angler out here yesterday, and he was talking me through a specific soft plastic lure that was being demonstrated. It was a kind of worm, fished on a tungsten weighted jig head. The best results they get from this particular lure is to let it sink to the bottom in a bit of tide and literally allow it to sit there, nose down, while the body of the soft worm literally shivers and flutters in the tide. From time to time they will move it a bit, and these movements practically had me jumping into the tank to grab the lure myself. Even in a tank with no current you could see what was going on when the lure sat nose down, and the angler said the hits off the bass could be off the scale savage on the static worm. I am often guilty of cranking my lures too fast (too overexcited half the time), but these methods the French are using often require huge finesse, patience and skill.

  • I have been showing a few prints of my bass photographs to various people out here, and the reactions are fantastically positive. We might be lagging behind the French when it comes to modern bass fishing techniques (and we are, there is no point trying to stick one's chest out and deny it), but they really like the way we photograph and film our fishing. Interesting. Time to go and find some coffee......

Friday, 20 February 2009

This is a different world of fishing out here

  • This Nantes fishing show out here in France is simply staggering - I have been to lots of different fishing shows all over the world over the last few years, but never have I seen so much stuff that I know so comparatively little about. The French bass anglers especially are so technically advanced in what they are doing that my head is still spinning.

  • I have learnt so much new stuff about lure fishing for bass in just one day that my head feels ready to explode, but I can not tell you how exciting it is to almost "discover" a market that is thriving on the driving forward of technology and fishing methods. I have learnt a lot about French bass fishing over the last couple of years, but today was a real wake-up call as to how far down the line they actually are.

  • Now it's not to say that we are doing anything wrong with our bass fishing in the UK, because we are not. We catch some good fish from time to time with a variety of methods, but I now can not wait to start trying some of what I am learning about over here on "our" bass. I had no idea that you could successfully lure fish for bass in so many different ways, but bear in mind that it is only around ten years ago that this technological explosion in bass fishing methods and tackle began happening in France.

  • The actual fishing gear out here is off the scale - far too many stunning rods that are often designed to fish very specific methods, plus more soft and hard lures that you could ever dream of using in a lifetime. It is a tackle tart's heaven out here. It's been a long day though and we are about to go and grab something to eat. More tomorrow. My head is hurting with all this information and I am loving every minute of it.

Yes, I am a grown-up

  • At least that is what I keep telling myself. I am now nearer 40 than 30, I have a wife and two children, I am self-employed, I pay my taxes (wish I didn't have to though), and I read The Times and Terrorizer magazine at the weekend. But I am still a fishing junkie at heart, and there ain't anything that will ever change that....

  • I am out in France, in my featureless, bland hotel room, slowly going up the wall. Bouncing off the ceiling in fact. Woke up at silly o'clock this morning thinking about all the shiny lures, (red) rods and assorted bits and pieces that I am going to see at this Nantes fishing show today. Remember, this is a work trip for me, but there is no harm in loving your job. I have already written a fishing feature on my laptop this morning, done my emails, listened to loads of proper metal on my iPOD (that will never change either), drunk far too much coffee, and still it is not even time for breakfast. I have been fishing since I was seven years old, and still I can get so excited by it all that I can't sleep properly. Who needs drugs when you've got fishing ? And this is just a fishing show - it's not even going fishing. Do I have a problem ? comment.

  • When I can I will report back on this blog with my thoughts on the show. It should be a real eye-opener and I can't wait for it to start. I have so much to learn and absorb, and it is this which has got me so buzzed-up (ok, plus the rods, reels, lures, boats etc.) I've been up for hours now and I need to calm myself down a bit. Some more coffee I think.....

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Off to France tomorrow

  • I have the dubious pleasure of having to drive all the way to Stansted airport tomorrow morning to fly down to this big fishing show in Nantes on the west coast of France. The show is on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and if internet connections allow then I will do all I can to keep this blog updated with my findings at the event - especially on the bass fishing front. I have a feeling it will be a fascinating few days. All I have to do is to remain calm and not completely empty my wallet on lots of shiny new lures, rods, reels, and bits of soft plastic. From a phonecall with a friend of mine over in Cornwall last night, it seems that we who have lure fishing problems number many. He knows who he is, and he has got it really bad. I bet he blames me when his family question the arrival of yet another parcel at the front door !!

  • Great timing as well because the Six Nations rugby is having a weekend off, so I won't miss a game. I feel a little better now about the future of English rugby, but perhaps that's just me willing them ever onwards and forever hoping eternally !! Think positive.
  • For a bit of nostalgia, above is a photo of mine that was from the first time I ever met and fished/photographed with Graham Hill over in south east Ireland. He has become a very good friend and I look forward to many more days over in paradise - this picture made the front cover of Sea Angler magazine, where they cropped it to work on the page. See here for the cover.

  • If like me you are chomping at the bit to get through winter over here and back into the proper light tackle bass fishing season, help yourself through these lean times with an eyeful of how bass fishing can look. Check here and here for a load of photos of great days in the past - and here's to hoping for plenty more this year.......

  • I have just had a phonecall from my friend Rodney of Fish the Dream over in the Florida Keys to say that they have had a last minute cancellation. They now have the first two weeks of April free, and I know Rodney will do a deal on the fishing - this is prime tarpon time for starters, so if you can make it, get hold of Rodney right here. He is awesome on the tarpon and you will see a load of big fish hooked up - whether you can land these outrageously powerful fish is another matter entirely !! I should be heading out there in May to fish with Rodney. I can't think of a more cost effective way to fish the magical waters of the legendary Florida Keys than with Rodney.
  • Some news on another monster metal release to bring a delightful ray of darkness into your life. Vreid was born from the ashes of the mighty Windir (RIP), and the new CD "Milorg" is a huge album. Riff after riff of shredding Norwegian style metal, all in the best possible taste. You can here some tracks here. This one is really growing on me, and I will make sure to blast this through my skull on the plane down to France tomorrow.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

I am categorically not a fishing tackle tart

  • Yeah right !! I am not thinking much at all about all those lovely rods, reels and lures (and more lures) at the Nantes fishing show (watch my nose grow as I type that sentence). I have spent so much time in France, and I love the country and the people, but this will be my first real chance to properly delve into the French sea fishing scene. And obviously the bass fishing is a big part of what fascinates me here......

  • In all seriousness, weird rigs and strange set-ups don't do much for me at all, but give me a glimpse of high end rods, reels and those lovely, shiny "please buy me" lures and the tackle tart within me comes out to play. I've used countless different beachcasters over the years, and in my honest opinion I think we are making them about as good as they need to be, but the massive potential within the lure fishing side of things is what is driving me forward at the moment.

  • On that front, check out pages 120, 121, 122, 123 and 124 in the brand new issue of Sea Angler magazine. There is a very cool feature of mine on fishing for bass with shallow diving lures - I know I would say it is cool because I back my own photos (modesty eh ?), but the guys at Sea Angler are really making the magazine look very strong at the moment. All credit.
  • If you are interested in stunning photography, then I implore you to check out the outrageously incredible work by a photographer I have just stumbled upon. I love awesome photography of the world around us, and my wife gave me one of the most stunning photography books I have ever seen for my birthday the other day. Galen Rowell was an American photographer and environmentalist who tragically died in a plane crash in 2002. I can't believe that I have only just "found" this guy, but his work was and is truly inspirational. His use of light in his photography is truly jaw-dropping and it makes me realise just how far I have got to go before I am close to being fit to even carry the gear for these kinds of photographers.

  • Galen Rowell's website is here, and the (awesome) book my wife got me is called "North America - the beautiful" (the cover is above) and you can get it from Amazon right here. There are plenty more books by the same guy here as well. I love my photography and I feel that I am getting better and better every year, but when you see a collection of work from a guy as talented as Galen Rowell then you realise just how powerful a medium photography really can be. If my kind of work can better help to show fishing off in the best possible light, then that is what I strive for.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Going to the Nantes fishing show

  • Like a kid in a candy store - I am in a high state of excitement about heading over to France later this week for the huge "Salon Europeen des Peches en Mer" show (see here). This will be the first time I have ever gone to this major sea fishing show, and with the emphasis being on bass fishing you can now understand my "mild" excitement at going. On the serious side, an event like this is work for me, and on a less serious note, hell, it's a chance to feed my (lure) addiction even more !! Soft plastic heaven here we come.....

  • I am flying from Stansted to Nantes on Thursday and will be spending Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the show and then coming back home at the end of the weekend. My role there is to quite simply learn as much as possible about the rapidly expanding bass fishing market - I have various reasons for heading down there. If you have followed this blog for a while now, you will know how much I value what the switched-on French bass anglers are doing, and how much we are learning and still have to learn from them.
  • Take the bass you can see above - this is one of the largest bass I have ever seen caught, and it was nailed on a peeler crab bait over in south east Ireland a couple of years ago. I love my bait fishing for most things that swim, but the more I learn about the increasingly modern ways of fishing with lures, the more I am convinced that bass like this one can be more regularly taken on hard and soft lures. Go to the right places at the right time, use the right tactics and mix it all up with a big dollop of luck and you might just see a magnificent fish like this on the end of your line.
  • Allow these rabid mongrels into your life - you have to check out the new album from the British stalwarts Napalm Death, called "Time Waits for No Slave" - it is what I would term the second monster metal release of the year so far, right after this one here. A lot of people think that Napalm Death are just a load of noise, but you need to listen to them to hear just how downright groovy they are - yes, you heard it, groovy !! Heavy as hell, faster than a bolt of lightening frying your brain, but always willing to slow it down a tad and abuse your senses in the most proper of ways. Check out some tracks from the new album right here. If this does not get any self-respecting metal fan jumping up and down like a cat on a hot tin roof then you need to see somebody about it. Monday is getting better and better.

  • And onto the Six Nations rugby - a glimmer of hope is how I would term the England performance on Saturday. OK, so the Welsh beat us (grudging respect to you lot over the border), but we actually stood up and showed some proper guts. We played some decent rugby and we began to look like a team who can think for themselves a bit under proper pressure. If we had not given away so many stupid penalties and lost two players to the sin bin we might have actually been able to win the game (ok, maybe I am dreaming). It always hurts to get beaten by the Welsh, but they were by far the better side and even then they have had much better days. They are growing into an awesome team (it hurts to have to type that) Is this the first sign of an English revival though ? Should I start getting excited again about England rugby ? Time will tell, but at least we saw a glimmer........

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Nobody does it like the BBC

  • The majority of fishermen I meet have an increased level of interest in nature and the outdoors, so I am presuming that a load of you watched the staggering new programme on BBC1 last night - Nature's Great Events - 1. The Great Melt. If not, watch it as soon as you can on iPlayer right here. I love nature related programmes, and I still believe that when the BBC puts their mind to it they make the greatest natural history shows on earth. I spent most of last night's episode with my jaw on the floor. How many of you went "aah, aren't they sweet" when the first polar bear mum and her cub trundled across the screen ? I bet they aren't so sweet when they haven't fed for four months !!

  • How on earth is the BBC ever going to replace the timeless David Attenborough ? His commentary always lends an air of class, and I appreciate the fact that there is a gentle but persuasive environmental feel where it is required. Utterly outstanding, and I personally can not wait for the episode next week on the salmon migrations - how cool do the slow-motion shots of the bears waiting open mouthed for the salmon look ? Just imagine getting proper budgets and time to make fishing programmes look as cool as that ? And how about shooting them in full HD ? The mind boggles at the possibilities........
Photo courtesy Jako Lucas
  • I mentioned some recent and very good ray fishing around here from the other day, but how about the ray that you can see in the photo above ? Now that is proper ray fishing !! It is a 90lb plus stingray (not sure which type, there are loads) caught in South Africa a few weeks ago by one of the FlyCastaway guides, Jako Lucas. I have worked with Jako in the Seychelles and in South Africa, and as well as being a seriously talented fly fisherman and guide, Jako is also scarily good at rock and surf tactics for the silly-sized kinds of fish you can see here. More keen fishermen should check out the shore and boat fishing opportunities in South Africa - how do you fancy being spooled by a shark that takes exactly 1000 yards (yes, one thousand) of line off you ? I know somebody that this happened to. We have some awesome fishing around us here, but it never gets as "out there" as it does in places like Africa. Insanity prevails.

  • Thanks to Stu and a couple of comments he placed on this blog (check here)- please take the time to read the last few posts on his own blog right here, and take serious heed of what can so easily go wrong when you go fishing. Thankfully the guys are all ok, but they were horribly close to a serious disaster. Push your fishing hard, but please play it as safe as you can.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Winter rainbow trout

  • Nick Hart and I did a feature yesterday at the pristine Blakewell trout fishery close to Barnstaple in North Devon - it is a fantastically well maintained place to go and fish, and even with all the rain we had on Monday, Nick still managed to nail a couple of stunning looking rainbow trout for my cameras. We even got big blue skies for the first couple of hours as well. Check the photo above for proof !! These skies look awesome in the winter.
  • Conditions were fantastically tough for the actual fishing, so I take my hat off to Nick for getting a decent fish so quickly, almost to order in fact. The water had gone really murky with all that rain, yet I'm still there hoping that a fish was going to get caught quickly so that I could make full use of those blue skies - and come to order it did. Nice one Nick.
  • I just saw a good friend of mine who happens to run a charter boat out of my home port of Plymouth - you could not hope to fish with a nicer or better skipper than Malcolm Jones, and it always gives me a real boost when I know the guy running the boat is also a mad keen angler. Malcolm has just got his boat Sea Angler II back in the water after its yearly dry-dock visit, and he nipped over to the mouth of the River Tamar for a quick session over the weekend. Five thornback ray to around 12lbs were caught, all on prawn baits, and Malc said he had one on before he had even managed to set up his second rod. Class fishing. If you want an awesome day at sea, book Malcolm up as soon as you can.

Monday, 9 February 2009

It's getting very hard.......

  • keep watching England play rugby. James and I got back into Heathrow on time on Saturday morning, and I made it back to Plymouth in plenty of time to watch England take on Italy in the opening match of the Six Nations. My wife and two daughters had made me a birthday cake, so I did the decent thing and Sky +ed the second half of the rugby......

  • How bad can a game of rugby get ? I am a fanatical England rugby supporter, but I am finding it increasingly tough to keep watching the turgid rubbish that they keep playing. OK, so we essentially thrashed a very weak Italian side, and a win is a win, but it's just such boring, depressing stuff to watch. I am not one of those people who demands that England play expansive rugby all the time, but the stuff they are churning out at the moment would test the most hardy of souls. What on earth is going on ? England's greatest ever skipper (Martin Johnson is GOD) is in charge of the team, yet even he can't seem to get the team playing with any intelligence or "think on your feet" attitude. I am dreading the Wales game next weekend, and how often do you say that ? November 2003 seems like a lifetime ago.
  • One bit of good news is the release of the first great metal album of the year - the mighty Kreator keep on churning out the classics, and their latest CD is a ferocious thrash metal assault that will make any morose rugby fan smile. I keep reading about the "rebirth of thrash metal", but as far as I can tell it has never gone away - how about The Haunted, Death Angel, Slayer, Kreator etc ? The new bands I have heard are not remotely fit to even polish the shoes of classic bands like these who are still releasing monstrous albums. Listen to a few tracks of Kreator's latest release "Hordes of Chaos" right here. The sweet sounds of anger pouring forth from my speakers have put a smile back on my face, and that takes some doing after the grim rugby and the even grimmer weather that has greeted me on my return from Belize. I have taken Jess for a walk twice today, and both times I have been dressed in full waterproofs - nice !! Thoughts of fishing are not in the forefront of my mind at the moment....

  • If the weather lets us, Nick Hart and I will be out tomorrow to photograph a feature for Trout Fisherman magazine. A little different from photographing out in Belize, but considering the up and down weather we had out there I'll gladly get into my waders and photograph the entire day under a big golfing umbrella if I have to. I do not like being beaten by the conditions.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

The jacks have saved us

  • The fact that the jacks have been obligingly hitting the flies have saved us big time - there is nothing you can do when you get the kind of weather we have been getting out here in Belize, but you might as well go and nail a few hard fighting jacks when the tarpon and permit are keeping their heads down. It has been that (comparatively) cold here today that any self-respecting flats fish has long run for deeper water.
  • The weather we have been getting out here sounds like nothing when compared to all the snow and cold I keep reading about back home, but for a place like this it has been pretty extreme. Wednesday was really bright, perfect for photography, but the wind was literally hurtling down the coast and causing the flats to go all milky and cold. Tarpon, bones and permit hate this !! We tried really hard but could not find the fish, so on the way back to the lodge we stopped to smash a few jacks - they were somewhat obliging. Nothing huge, but a blast. I even picked up a fly rod and (very badly) cast a Clouser Minnow out and nailed a few fish. James and I had a competition to see who could give the least amount of line to a hooked fish, and I am proud to say that I won - not one jack took a single millimetre of line off me. Very silly, but great fun.

  • The wind was pumping even harder this morning, so our guide elected to run us miles south to try and find clearer water and the fish, but by the time we got there the rain was lashing down in a huge way - not great for flats fishing !! In fact I have never felt so cold in the tropics, and although that might be hard to believe, put a howling wind and lashing rain together and it was feeling more like fishing back at home. Granted, there was no snow, but with our luck I would not have been that surprised if James and I had got a dumping of the first ever snow they have had here !! This place chucks up some seriously good fish, but we have just been dealt a bum hand with the weather. In the bar there is a photo of a 197lb tarpon taken on the fly in 2002 - that is how good it can be here, and when the weather behaves, anglers get multiple shots at tarpon, permit and bonefish. I will be coming back to nail this stuff properly on camera......

  • James and I are flying back to the UK tomorrow and if all goes to plan we should be landing at Heathrow just after 9am on Saturday morning. I am really hoping that the adverse weather at home does not prevent me getting back home to see my girls and of course make the 3pm kick-off for England v Italy in the opening match of the Six Nations rugby. With Saturday being my birthday, surely a good result might be on the cards ?

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Tough day yesterday

  • It feels a bit stupid to be talking about problems with the weather out here in Belize when back home in the UK they are having the worst snow for ages - but yesterday morning especially out here were some of the toughest flats fishing conditions that I have seen for a while. Howling winds and scudding grey skies make it really difficult, so the big jack you can see above was even more of an accomplishment by James. Targeting either permit or tarpon yesterday was never going to happen. We saw a few nice snook lying very close to some mangroves, and James landed a small one, but the bigger ones don't get big by being stupid. We were told of some snook landed on the fly the other day out here to over 20lbs.
  • Above you can see James's jack being landed by our guide - this place is an awesome location. El Pescador lodge where we are staying is simply fantastic, and when the weather is kinder they have some outstanding fishing here for serious numbers of tarpon (some truly huge fish as well) and permit, plus stacks of mainly small to medium sized bonefish. Some fly anglers never look twice at big jack crevalle, but there are lots out here -anybody who ignores the chance to fish for them needs their heads examined. Belize is a country that is really growing on me, and the more you speak to the locals, the more you realise just what an incredible fishery there is out here. There are big numbers of resident tarpon around all year that do not migrate, but during July, August and September there are a scary amount of migrating tarpon moving through here, and it is not uncommon to land numbers of them every day. All we need is some half-tidy weather and we have got a decent chance........and the forecast is giving it to be a lot better for today.
  • The moment James and I got back in off the boat yesterday, we jumped straight in the kayaks and paddled out into the backcountry behind the lodge. We found some shelter from the wind and James smashed a few bones on a deserted flat, including this one above. Nothing very big, but proper fun - I saw one shoal of decent bonefish moving around, but they were not in a feeding mode. We did see a few tailing fish, and James also saw a spooky permit.

  • Messing around on the kayaks is a blast, even though we got lost for a bit and could not work out where to go in the maze of mangrove channels out here !! With the sun rapidly going down, I did not fancy getting stuck out in the backcountry when the mozzies came out to play. It's before first light as I am typing this and we have two full days left to get this properly nailed - if the weather plays ball then I hope we can show just how good it can be out here.

  • As regards some fishing that is more in keeping with all the snow I keep hearing about back home, check out this mad Norwegian ice fishing at this link right here. Scroll down the page a bit and you will see my mate Cato and a friend of his with some proper pollack and coalfish that they nailed through a tiny hole in the ice - check out the size of the fishing rod !! This looks like class fishing, and Cato tells me they had pollack to 12lbs through the ice, mainly on various soft plastics fished on jigs.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Tricky fishing conditions

  • OK, so it's not snowing out here in Belize like it is back home, but at first light this morning the wind was really pumping the clouds through - if there is one thing you need for flats fishing, it's decent light to help spot the fish. James nailed this nice mutton snapper early on, but it was tough fishing for most of the day. We saw a few nice permit tailing, plus some spooky tarpon and bonefish, but it was not easy to see fish moving.
  • The weather gradually improved all day though, and this allowed me to start nailing some proper photos - I do really love photographing flats based fishing when the sun gets high in the sky and starts lighting the sand up. There is hardly a breath of wind at the moment, so we are hoping that it stays like this for tomorrow, and then we are in with a proper chance of nailing tarpon and possibly permit. It's lovely and warm out here, but a part of me wished I could see all that snow that is falling in the UK - we see it so rarely and it is a bit of a shame to be away when it is all happening.
  • Isn't fly fishing awesome ? Isn't fishing in general just plain awesome ? I love photographing fly fishing virtually anywhere, but it really works well for casting shots when the light allows me to frame the angler against big blue skies and try for something that little bit different. James happens to be a seriously good fly angler, and he can chuck a proper line.

  • We finished the day off by drifting a channel that lay between a couple of small islands, and James smashed the jacks in a big way. We could see hundreds and hundreds of jacks of all sizes swimming around below the boat, and a fair few were taken on fast sinking lines and a Clouser Minnow. Both James and I are big fans of the jacks, and they never cease to amaze me at just how insanely hard they fight. Pound for pound I reckon they are one of the hardest fighting fish there is. Anyway, time to hit the sack and recharge the batteries for another day tomorrow.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Out here in Belize

  • James and I arrived at El Pescador Lodge out here in Belize around lunchtime local time, and within half an hour we on a couple of kayaks and paddling out to some pristine mangrove flats. The serious fishing starts early tomorrow morning. but even so, James hooked a nice bonefish this afternoon, and we saw a fair few tailing and feeding happily. Just seeing those tails glinting in the sunshine gets the heart going every time,and it's great to be back on the flats. "Skinny water" is just so special.

  • This place is seriously cool, and I am writing this blog as we are sitting outside having a drink and talking about fishing - obviously !! If the weather remains good then we are going to have a proper go at nailing some tarpon and possibly permit on the fly tomorrow, and then when we come in off the boat, James and I will head straight back out on the kayaks to fish and photograph until dark. Might as well use all available hours while we are out here. We are here via Aardvark McLeod and I have a feeling that Belize is going to make a real impact on me - already I have heard about more and more areas out here opening up, with some outstanding fishing..........
  • These photos are hardly going to win any awards, but it is always good to get out on the water and check that all is working fine. Hopefully I will able to get some decent shots up during the week.