Lure fishing for bluefin tuna off the coast of Italy - this is my kind of boat fishing by Henry Gilbey

I can’t believe that I knew so little about this rather awesome sport fishery, and the fact that it’s so relatively close to home just amazes me. I must admit that I had my doubts that we would actually see any bluefin tuna, let alone go and catch some, but holy cow if this isn’t some of the most impressive fishing I have come across in Europe - and my flight from London was a shade under two hours. If you like the kind of boat fishing that is all about spotting feeding fish and then casting lures at the boiling tuna that have driven shoals of baitfish close to the surface, then this might well be for you - and when you hook one of these tuna, well let’s just say that pound for pound they fight so hard it’s almost a joke, although it’s not that much of a joke when these tuna work you over and your back’s starting to creak………

The main aim of this short trip was for Matt from Fiiish to test out some ways of rigging their Crazy Sandeel especially with larger and stronger hooks for fish like these tuna. Fiiish’s thoroughly nice Italian distributor Giuseppe Castiglioni set this whole jaunt up together with a skipper he works with in Ancona, Diego Bedetti of Hot Spot Fishing Adventure. For a while now they have been smashing these bluefin tuna on the 220 size Crazy Sandeel in the pink colour especially, but because these soft lures have of course been designed mainly for species such as bass and pollack, the hooks are not really up to the savagery of a bluefin tuna - hence some customised rigging that these Italians have been doing. Matt brought a bunch of different prototype jig heads etc. down, and of course it’s a great way to test stuff out by actually catching the target species, as indeed we did. The prototype jig heads work!!

My first time in Italy, my first time chasing bluefin tuna with my cameras, and what an incredible experience. As I said, I had my doubts that fishing like this really did exist out here in Italy, but when we got out to the tuna grounds as such, Matt and I could not believe just how many tuna we were seeing. All over the place are the telltale signs of birds dropping in on the sardine shoals that have been driven up to the surface by feeding bluefin tuna below them, and when you see the fish themselves boiling, it’s just incredible. I think we released four or five tuna the first day and three the second, with a few fish lost, and I even managed to catch a few myself - in between taking photos of course!!

You see a stack of tuna, but they are no pushover to hook up - they are moving so fast, and almost as you are casting at feeding fish they are on the move and away from your lure. You’re watching and waiting and almost trying to predict where they are heading for, and then you try to put the Crazy Sandeel in front of them and fish it shallow with a fast kind of jerk-style retrieve. Most hits are out as far as you can cast, but I did see a couple of tuna slashing at my lure on one retrieve, and then I cast at a single fish at one point, and the tuna hooked up and just snorted away just under the surface and went on a long run. As I always say, I love the fishing we’ve got at home, but we don’t have any fish that fight anywhere close to as hard as these tuna do, indeed I like the fact these bluefin out here in Italy aren’t too ridiculously big - they’ve landed them to about 120lbs, and most fish we had were around the 40-70lb mark. Whilst they pull serious string and put you through a proper workout, they are manageable at this size, and unless you fight them very lightly you won’t be there for hours and hours like you might be on those monster bluefin that I am not sure I ever want to actually hook!! Nope, these bluefin out here do me just fine, and their power to weight ratio is just insane.

I reckon this is some world class fishing, and as much as say chucking poppers at big GTs etc. is of course on a lot of lure anglers’ bucket lists, to get at that stuff doesn’t come remotely cheap. How about this tuna fishing then? I love the fact that I can get on a short flight from London to Ancona and take only some fishing clothing, sun cream, my camera gear of course, then there are plenty of hotels and good restaurants, and you can jump on the boat in the morning and there’s Smith Japan (boat) lure casting rods, Quantum Cabo spinning reels and all the necessary lures for you to use. OK, so you’re going to have to pay for lost lures and smashed soft plastics (hard lures are rarely lost, but tuna do go through soft plastics - speak to the guys at Hot Spot Fishing Adventure and they can advise you on soft lures to take, with the 220 size Fiiish Crazy Sandeel being at the top of the list, and then pack a bottle of Mend-It to repair torn lures). Autumn is when the tuna really switch on to poppers, and the overall season is a long one. I will be back!! I get back home this evening and then on Tuesday I am heading over to Kerry in Ireland for my first co-guiding trip with John Quinlan (check here). Very, very excited.

Out in Italy to photograph lure fishing for bluefin tuna by Henry Gilbey

I have no idea if we are going to see any bluefin tuna, but from the reports this is some pretty insane fishing when it fires, and with what I am told are some pretty strict regulations in place, the fishing for them out here off the coast of Ancona (Italy, Adriatic Sea) is apparently getting better each year and the average size of fish is on the up as well. I flew out of Heathrow early on Tuesday morning, then a thoroughly nice guy by the name of Giuseppe picked me up from Bologna (he is the Italian distributor for Fiiish), and we drove on down to Ancona to pick Matt from Fiiish up. I have travelled a fair bit for my work over the years, but this is my first time in Italy.

By the time you read this blog post we will be out at sea and on the hunt for these bluefin tuna. Matt is the designer of the Fiiish Black Minnow and Crazy Sandeel, and he’s got a bunch of prototype lures that he wants to try out on the tuna and see how they do - so I am out here as the photographer for a couple of days. The weather was stunning yesterday, so here’s to hoping that we get calm seas, good light, and a bunch of bluefin tuna coming up on the surface and smashing bait - this is the time of year for these scary-powerful fish to behave like that out there, so let’s see what happens.

I found a video on YouTube that shows a bit of this tuna fishing from last year. Holy frigging cow what little I have seen and know of tuna fishing is that they are horribly powerful, with stamina levels that simply aren’t normal, and if we see these fish busting on bait I think I might just pass straight out on the boat deck!! And of course I am looking forward to seeing these Fiiish prototypes, as well as finding out more about all the other ideas that Matt is working on as regards new lures for the kind of fishing that many of us here tend to do. I will do my best to report back to you on Friday morning before I head for home, hopefully with a few photos of the fish and fishing out here in Italy……

Major Craft X-Ride XRS-962ML 9'6'' 10-30g lure rod review - around £250.00 by Henry Gilbey

If you read my fishing tackle reviews on this blog then you have most likely figured out that I am head over heels in love with what for me is just about the most perfect lure fishing rod I have ever had the pleasure of using - the Major Craft Truzer 9’6’’ 10-30g (review here). I am sure that in due course I will come across a lure rod that freaks me out even more, but in the meantime this thing continues to amaze me how awesome it is, whilst at the same time leaving me wondering how a lure rod could actually suit me any better. However good I think the 9’6’’ Truzer is though, there’s the small matter of it costing a little north of £350, and whilst I happen to think that at £500+ it would still represent value for money, £350+ is not exactly small change….....

What if I told you though that there is another Major Craft rod out there that to me feels essentially identical to cast and fish with as the 9’6’’ Truzer, yet it costs over £100 less to buy? I accept that around the £250 mark is also not exactly small change either, but for this amount of money you are getting what I feel is just about the perfect sort of lure rod for how so many of us go about our bass fishing - the Major Craft X-Ride XRS-962ML 9'6'' 10-30g. There’s not much point me writing about how this 9’6’’ 10-30g X-Ride performs all over again when to me it seems to fish the same as the Truzer, so I would urge you to read my review of the 9’6’’ 10-30g Truzer here, and below I will detail a few of the (mainly fixtures and fittings) differences between the rods.

I must admit I had no idea that Fuji Torzite rod guides were quite so expensive when the 9’ Truzer first turned up here last year (review here). I had heard a bit about these new guides and I was interested to fish with them on a lure rod, but I got one hell of a shock when I went looking at the prices of these newish guides - they ain’t remotely cheap, indeed there may well be an argument that the difference in price between the X-Ride and the Truzer is mostly due to Major Craft’s use of these Fuji Torzite rod guides on the Truzers and the more regular Fuji K-Guides on the X-Rides. There’s a bunch of info about Torzite guides here.

Am I seeing a massive advantage from having Torzite guides on a lure rods? Well I really like the guides, they are working just fine, and they do seem to be both light and tough, but I can’t tell you that by having them on a rod it’s suddenly performing that much better. Same with those Daiwa AGS guides on their 9’3’’ Morethan rod that I reviewed here - lovely rod, those carbon fibre AGS guides seem to be great, but are there a load of performance benefits to be had? There may well be and I am simply not good enough to pick up on them, but what I am getting at here is that the Major Craft X-Ride is over £100 cheaper than the Truzer, and as much as I am in love with the Truzer, it would be remiss of me to say to you that I am noticing a performance jump via the Torzite guides.

The X-Ride has Fuji K-guides on the rod, with some very small guides towards the tip, and whilst I know this might worry a few of you out who are more used to seeing slightly larger guides on a rod, I still have yet to catch a single FC/GT leader knot (see here) in any single ring on any single rod that I have fished with - and that’s a fair few rods now since I first started using this particular leader knot only, including a rod such as the Skyroad Wind (review here) that has some truly tiny tip section guides on it. I see no point in worrying about small rod guides when lures go out there so well and knots don’t catch, and my basic understanding is that smaller guides affect the action less. This X-Ride is one hell of a lure rod, indeed it’s the sort of rod that I pick up and waggle and it just “speaks” to me - please, please take me out fishing.

The other main difference between the two rods is the handles. The length from butt to reel foot on the 9’6’’ Truzer is as perfect as it can be for me (30cms), and I love the cork grips. The handle is a little bit longer on the X-Ride (38cms from butt to reel-foot) and the grips are regular duplon which of course are great to fish with. In a perfect world I would prefer a slightly shorter handle on the X-Ride, but I also know how quickly I got used to fishing with it and I am not remotely bothered.

So which one would I go for, the Truzer or the X-Ride? I am working on the assumption here that both rods are built on either the same or at least remarkably similar blanks, so I guess it comes down to how much the angler wants to spend, and how much those Torzite guides and handle characteristics mean to you. Either way this Major Craft X-Ride XRS-962ML 9'6'' 10-30g lure rod is one serious bit of kit, indeed I can’t believe that such a high-performance rod can be had for around the £250 mark here in the UK. I am going to sit on the fence and say to you that I’d be more than happy owning either rod, because I truly would.

I haven’t given up on trying to find an alternative to (fly fishing) wading boots by Henry Gilbey

I really wish it wasn’t the case, but the only two pairs of wading boots that have lasted what I believe to be a decent amount of time for me are the (now discontinued) Simms Rivershed and the previous version of the Simms Guide boots. Both are/were outstanding wading boots for the kind of grief that a number of us put these things through, but it has always niggled me firstly how much they cost when compared say to a good pair of hiking boots, and secondly how comparatively heavy they are. As good as Simms can be though, their newish and lighter weight Vapor wading boots failed on me within three weeks and they were also really uncomfortable to stand around and fish in for longer periods. Not one of my better buys……..

You might be aware that around spring last year I gave a pair of the Five Ten Canyoneer SAR boots a proper go - see here and here. They were comfortable and light to wear as wading boots, I was gutted when they started to come apart on me after a few months of heavy use (see here), and I had to put it down as an experiment that nearly worked. Five Ten UK did some digging around and came back to me with their findings that over time it was saltwater rotting away at the construction of those SAR boots and there was nothing I could have done differently.

It's not easy taking photos of your own feet!!

It's not easy taking photos of your own feet!!

Well I now have a pair of their brand new, next generation Canyoneer 3 boots to try out, and yes, they are colourful!! I have been wearing my battered but still going strong pair of Simms Rivershed boots recently and these Five Ten Canyoneer 3 boots are just so much lighter. They aren’t giving a load of ankle support like a true pair of heavier duty wading/hiking boots, but having worn them out once now at a spot that involves a fairly steep walk down and then fishing over all manner of rocks and sand, these new Canyoneer 3 things feel really comfortable and really easy to wear. I got used to those clips on the previous Five Ten SAR boots I used, but I am liking the fact that there are laces on these new ones, and they are very easy to tighten up. There’s a bunch of info here, and below is a video I found on YouTube that gives you a good overall sense of the boots.

The only way I can find out if these Canyoneer 3 boots might be a viable alternative to wading boots is to do what I did last time around - wear them for my fishing, see how they go, and then keep you lot posted. I have seen them online for around £110, and from the info I have been sent about these new Five Ten boots, they are made somewhat differently to that previous generation SAR boots I tried - hence me hoping that these new Canyoneer 3 ones might last the course for me in saltwater. I like my Simms wading boots, but I would far rather walk and scramble long distances in these Five Ten ones - and even if they are a little more colourful than fly fishing wading boots……..

I have done one thing differently this time around with these Five Ten Canyoneer 3 boots - with all their talk about the soles on these things offering such good grip in and around water, rock etc., I have decided not to put any studs in them for the time being. Most boots offer a decent grip once you put metal studs in the soles anyway, so I want to see how these new boots perform without any studs in there at all. As I said above, I have been out fishing once with these new boots on and I must admit that I was rather amazed at just how good the grip is on them. I am very used to studs, but I made sure to not hold back and walked across the rocks as I would normally would, and within a short while I was building up a lot of confidence in these Five Ten soles. I don’t know how they work, but holy cow they grip to the rocks.

OK, so I did not walk across any meaningful weed, and I didn’t find any of those horrible shiny, glassy boulders to see if I could try and break my neck on one, but is there anything that grips onto racks of weed and rocks like that? All I can say so far is that these Five Ten Canyoneer 3 boots seem to have one hell of a sole on them. I will keep them studless and see how I get on. And as with the original SAR boots that I tried out last year, I am a UK size 11 shoe and I went for a UK size 13 with these new Canyoneer 3 boots to allow for a sock and then the neoprene sock on the waders, and they fit perfectly. I would imagine that sand will quite easily get into the tops of the boots, and especially bearing in mind that many gravel guards at the bottom of breathable waders are at best perfunctory - I will most likely wrap some lightweight neoprene gravel guards that I have for flats fishing around the tops of the boots and then bring the ones on the waders down over that and see how I get on.

I am stubborn by nature and I don’t like giving up. Aside from manning the hell up and going wet wading all year (no thanks), I haven’t found what for me is a viable alternative to wearing breathable waders from the fly fishing market (although the new Vision Heavy Havu waders might just be the best non-Simms waders I have ever come across, I need to see how they last, but so far, so very, very good indeed, some info here). But there do seem to be some options out there for replacing the need to wear what are often some pretty badly made and overpriced wading boots that simply don’t last for us, and these Five Ten Canyoneer 3 boots certainly are interesting so far. Time will tell and I will report back, but for now, have a good weekend and may plenty of fish come crawling up your lines.