Daiwa Exceler 3000-HA spinning reel earlyish review (under £100)

As much as I love messing around with different bits of fishing gear and then reviewing some of it on this blog, I can't guarantee that what I like fishing with is going to work the same way for you. I am struggling for example to imagine how a lure fishing rod could get any more perfect than the 9'6'' 10-30g Major Craft Truzer, but of course what I mean is that it's perfect for me and it might well not be for you. I can't speculate on what you might or might not like yourselves, but this new Daiwa Exceler 3000-HA is quite possibly the best sub-£100 spinning reel I have come across so far...........

That last statement comes with a caveat though - I am putting this review out sooner than I should, as in I don't know for how long this reel might remain as fantastically smooth and easy to fish with as it is right now. So why do this review now then? Because I am conscious that many lure anglers are starting to almost come out of hibernation about now, and thoughts often turn to new bits of gear for the season ahead - and if you are looking at a new spinning reel but don't want to spend more than £100 (and you might be able to find this Daiwa Exceler 3000-HA for around £75 or the equivalent in euros), then it could be worth a look at this new Exceler.

I do like spinning reels of this size for a lot of my lure fishing. A Daiwa 3000 is pretty close in size to a Shimano 4000 (yes, I know - why?), and although I like spinning reels from both these brands pretty much equally, I do notice that Daiwa seem to have been upping the stakes a bit with how modern/"sexy"/appealing etc. their spinning reels look. Yes, bounce it back at me that you don't give a stuff how your reel looks, but the simple fact is that our eyes are drawn to good looking/different stuff. Doesn't mean you are going to buy it, but you will look. Budget reels of old looked decidedly budget, but these days you can get some serious looking (and performing) gear for not a huge amount of money, and if you ask me this new Daiwa Exceler 3000-HA is one smart looking bit of kit. When I first saw it on a boat, the reel was sitting with a bunch of far more expensive spinning reels, and I must admit that my eyes were drawn to this Exceler first.

Which of course counts for squat if it's no good. But it is. I don't know for how long this Exceler 3000-HA is going to remain so awesomely smooth and easy to fish with, but I bet that out of the box I could blindfold you, strap this "budget" reel to a rod and then a much higher end reel to another rod, and then ask you to tell me which the cheaper reel was - and I bet you most anglers wouldn't know, me included. Seriously, out of the box this Exceler 3000-HA is sublime, and I love the fact that it comes with a spare spool. Spin the handle and I defy you not to ooh and aah!! Sure, if the world was perfect and all reality TV was banned forever and ever amen, then this reel would have the same kind of handle that came on those rather lovely older Daiwa Luvias 3000 spinning reels (as per above, similar to the Shimano Sustain 4000FG handle etc.). Does it matter? Not a jot. It's just me loving those round handles.

Line lay is great and I haven't had a single issue with the two braids that I have used on this reel - that new Sunline Super PE8 (review here) or the consistently excellent bright green Daiwa Tournament 8-braid in the 25lb breaking strain (which in my mind should really be labelled 20lb - treat it like this, tie decent knots, and it's one awesome 8-strand). But then we expect modern spinning reels at most prices to handle modern braids of course. A few years ago I might have worried that the retrieve speed on the Exceler 3000-HA is 5.6:1 and not say 4.8:1, but without a doubt my increased use of soft plastics has helped me to slow my retrieve down if needs be, so it's not a problem. Anyway, I have used higher speed spinning reels before and caught plenty of fish without actually realising that the retrieve speed was that bit faster.

There is one thing that tells me this Daiwa Exceler 3000-HA is not a much more expensive spinning reel, and that's the drag system, albeit it feels plenty good enough for our fishing. I personally believe that there's a lot of crap talked about reel drags and fish taking line etc. here in the UK and Ireland - why so many anglers insist on giving their fish so much line is beyond me for starters, but each to their own of course. Wind the drag down fairly tight on a higher end reel and to me the line feels like it's coming off with less of a feeling of the reel being under any real strain, but we are talking about reels at very different price points here. The drag system on this Exceler I reckon is more than sufficient for the fish we are likely to hook in our waters, and at the kind of tensions we should be using, line seems to come off nice and smoothly. I can also lock it down for my wrasse fishing, as in I want no line coming off the reel. Will this end up damaging the reel? Time will tell.

Whilst I can't help but love fishing with nice gear, a spinning reel like this Daiwa Exceler 3000-HA brings me back to an argument that I often have with myself (come on, I work for myself and I sometimes have "important" meetings with myself so that I feel all grown up!!) - high end spinning reels are lovely, but would a £300 reel last three times as long as say this sub-£100 Exceler? If you lure fish a lot then you know how hard any spinning reel is working and how we want them to last forever and ever but they just don't tend to. I said at the start that I can't yet tell you how long this "budget" Daiwa Exceler 3000-HA is going to remain as awesome as it is still feeling now, and of course we all fish different amounts etc. - but at this point in time I reckon this is one mightily impressive spinning reel.

And here's a sneak peek at my Sea Angler articles that are coming out in the next issue. Have a good weekend all, thankfully there is a break in the Six Nations as we English are still bleeding about last weekend.

What the hell is it about lure fishing that's so addictive?

It's usually around this time of year when the chance of catching a few bass on lures isn't very far away that I find myself thinking about my fishing in general, and especially why on earth this whole lure fishing thing has come along relatively late in my fishing life and got me so badly. What on earth is it about heading out to the coast (or river and lake for many of you I am sure) and chucking a few lures about? If it was purely about the size of fish we might catch then we wouldn't be lure fishing, because let's face it, as much as many of us here might love bass, pollack and wrasse, at the end of the day you stand a chance of catching bigger fish if you use baits and target rays, cod, eels, huss etc. Nope, it's far more than just the fish to me, and it always has been.

Lure fishing to me just feels so "pure". I am loathe to say it because it might imply me thinking that one kind of fishing is better than the other, when I categorically don't - ok, sitting/sleeping for days and nights on end in the hunt for big carp appeals to me about as much as having to listen to that bloody Uptown Funk song that my girls keep singing, but it's fishing, and it ticks the boxes for lots of anglers. Whatever floats your boat if you ask me, and we anglers could surely do with being more open and accepting. Nope, lure fishing to me just feels so "pure", more akin to fly fishing than chucking baits out perhaps, and whilst I am a perfectly useless fly angler, I have always been drawn to it photographically as a form of fishing that is so much about motion, beauty and lines.

What do I mean by "pure" when it comes to lure fishing? Well first off I know that lure fishing does it so much for me because you are always doing something - casting, looking, twitching, walking, wading, scrambling, thinking, waiting, you name it, lure fishing in my mind keeps the brain ticking over. It forces me to think on my feet and I love that. Sure, it's that hit from a fish that is the pinnacle of this kind of fishing if you ask me, but it's what it takes to get that hit - we are having to do something, and therefore the hit is very different to reacting to a bite on a rod tip. I have tried again and again to describe that hit on a lure rod, but it's as nigh on impossible I reckon. How do you put into words something that so often comes like a bolt out of the blue? Fishing away, nothing happening, and then suddenly something grabs your lure. Even if you see a fish coming at you, nothing prepares you for the actual hit, and that jolt of electricity flooding through your body.

It's just so direct. That feeling of being so connected to the lure and thus that hit. Of course I used to love seeing my rod tip registering a bite, and even better still was touch ledgering and being that bit more connected again - but lure fishing to me is another level up. Holding the rod all the time and having to turn the reel handle to get your end gear working, the lighter tackle approach that still gives us every chance of landing the fish we might hook, carrying far less gear, and the out and out need to think on your feet and adapt to conditions and locations as things change. I love it. Lure fishing has been and continues to be the biggest fishing learning curve I can imagine being on, and trying to get better at it forces me to think about things and look at how I need to try and improve.

And of course I don't mind admitting that modern lure fishing tackle fascinates me. I picked up some of these continental style beachcasters at the show in Dublin the other day and it shocked me how alien they felt. OK, so my bait fishing tended to be with say 13' 4-6oz rods, but I haven't picked one up for a while now, and they feel as if they come from another lifetime. I have no doubt that one day I will get back into my bait fishing, but I can't help but wonder how that thrill at being so connected to my (lure) fishing could ever wear off. I worry for the future of certain fish stocks of course, but like you I am sure, that excitement is starting to build with the onset of spring. When are things going to kick off? What will the year ahead be like? Will you miss that first surface hit of the year because you strike too early out of sheer overexcitement? (Guilty as charged most years). To go fishing is about as good as it gets in the first place, but just what is it about casting bits of rubber, plastic and metal that is so infectious?

Is it time to find some other sports to follow?

If you are an English supporter who is passionate about rugby and cricket, I feel your pain. What a weekend. A weekend of dashed hopes, humiliation, reality checks and despair. A weekend that makes me worry even more for the rugby World Cup later in the year, and a weekend when one must hope that the powers that be finally accept that we are truly bloody useless at the shorter forms of cricket and start to do something about it. Rugby and cricket are my things and plain sailing it is not.........

First off, all credit to Ireland. We weren't smart enough, we weren't good enough, and you can't give away that many penalties to a team possessing perhaps the best fly half in world rugby at the moment. Experience counts for so much in professional sport, and for all the talent we have, we could not do it when it really mattered. As an English supporter of course I was confident thanks to recent results, but there was no getting away from the feeling of impending doom about the Irish kicking game especially - talk about precision. An inescapable feeling that for all our improvements, we were going to go to Dublin and get turned over by an increasingly savvy team. That Ireland coach is something else, and although it was hardly the most showy game of rugby ever played, that was a proper Six Nations test match if you ask me - and we were found wanting. Where do we go from here? Who knows, but it's a World Cup year and we still ain't ready yet if you ask me. 2019?

But at least the England rugby team came to the party. At least they are putting their bodies on the line and refusing to give up. But if you are also an English cricket supporter? Well it's just embarrassing isn't it? I must admit that it has always been Test cricket for me and I don't thrill to the shorter forms of the game like the tensions and subtleties of a five day epic - but it's the cricket World Cup and if cricket is one of your things then of course you are into it.

But I've had enough. I just can't take the way in which we persist in playing our one day cricket when much of the rest of the world has moved on and left us in their slipstream. The English mentality of burying our collective heads in the sand and hoping stuff simply goes away permeates nearly everything it seems, and I just can't take the garbage that is being trotted out after each successive abject humiliation. Holy frigging cow we invented the sodding game, but wow is our Englishness holding us back from becoming even half way decent at one day cricket. The game is changing and we sure as hell ain't changing with it. Strikes me that we've got the players yet the powers that be aren't picking some of them, and when they are, they are stifling the life out of them with their sheer Englishness.

Where's the proactive captaincy that you see with a team like New Zealand? Whilst we might have lost to Ireland in rugby and it would be easy to blame our Irish cricket skipper for our collective cricketing woes, that would be too English again - blame somebody else while ignoring the collective ills. Where's a bunch of English batsmen who can take world class bowling attacks apart with impunity? Where is our dealing in fours and sixes instead of nurdling the ball around like in one day cricket of old? Where are our savvy one day bowlers who can swing the white ball? Times have changed. One day cricket bears no relation to Test cricket if you ask me, yet we pick teams and play as if it does. Thrashed by Australia, New Zealand and now Sri Lanka at the World Cup, and a part of me hopes that we lose to Bangladesh just to get it over and done with. We live in hope because we love the sports we love, but wow can it be cruel sometimes - a weekend of sporting misery!!

The title of the blog post is of course a joke, as in rugby and cricket are my things and always will be, although after a weekend like that you can't help but wonder. I wouldn't watch football even if we got to a World Cup final I dislike it that much. Are we any good at darts? Curling perhaps? What about tenpin bowling, we must be ok at that? Hell, I have less than zero interest in any form of competitive fishing, yet with our cricketing woes especially I am giving thought to watching England fishing teams do what they do on lakes, rivers and shorelines. Are we any good at that sort of stuff? But I won't of course. I will hope eternal and I will follow England in rugby and cricket. Surely it can't get any worse?

So what's the story with this new Gliss fishing line?

I don't know how many of you here are aware that there's a "new line so thin and strong that it could replace braid" (not my words, see here for a few details on this new mainline), but it's called Gliss, and if the prices are anything to go by that I saw on the Southside Angling stand at the recent Dublin fishing show, then this is potentially some pretty interesting stuff - around 20 Euros/£15 for a 150m spool, for a line that if you believe the claims might well have plenty of applications for lure fishing especially. Got to be worth a look, surely - and it's a big thanks to Southside Angling for kindly giving me some Gliss to try out.

Very much not my photo

The most recent mainline I am aware of that tried to muscle in on braid sales was Nanofil, and whilst I never had any problems with knotting or casting it, during my relatively brief fishing with it period I could not shake off the feeling that it was (marginally) cutting my distance down in the wind (see here). It's a fairly wiry kind of mainline that I am sure works great for many anglers, but I couldn't fathom how it was going to do anything more for me than braid so I stopped using it. Don't get me wrong, if a mainline comes along that I feel does more for me than braid then I would quite happily change over to it, but I haven't seen one yet.

I'm not sure how to describe how Gliss feels - less wiry and smoother than Nanofil, not like a limp, high-end "cottony" 8-strand, but not the "slightly rough" feeling that most 4-strands have. Kinda like a braid mono perhaps? I have the 8kg/0.14mm (about 17.5lbs) and 11kg/0.18mm (about 24lbs) here, and whilst I have no way of verifying those diameter claims, the lines feel thin. I have the bright yellow colour here, and I did notice that there was no dye left behind when I spooled up (or whatever it is that gets left on your fingertips when you load braid up between your fingertips). Does this Gliss hold its colour better than braid? Perhaps, but time will tell.

On Monday morning I loaded up the 8kg Gliss onto the Daiwa Exceler 3000-HA (perfect line lay, some bit of kit), tied on a 15lb fluoro leader with that FC/GT knot which seemed to tighten down fine, strapped the reel to the Major Craft 9'6'' 10-30g lure rod (review here), clipped on an IMA Hound 125F Glide, and went for a dog walk. The wind was pumping at least a force 6 NW, gusting 7 I reckon, and where I went for a few chucks was right into the teeth of it. Bear in mind I wasn't fishing, rather I was using the excuse of a dog walk to have a quick play with this new line - there is nothing remotely scientific about any of this, but say twenty or thirty full blooded casts into and across a horrible wind and no casting related issues, in fact the line really seemed to fly out and cut through the wind well. No feeling of "hanging" if that makes sense.

Now it's highly unlikely that I would use this line without a leader of some sort, but I did try my usual connection knot (a variation on a four turn Uni knot) to tie the 8kg and 11kg Gliss to a lure clip, and it slipped very easily. I upped the turns in the Uni knot to eight I think it was, and it seemed to hold better, but still slipped with more pressure. What does this prove? Squat really, save for the fact that it's obviously a line which needs particular knots to properly secure it (perhaps twice through the eye of the link?), as indeed they give examples of inside the packaging. There is also a suggested leader knot in there as well, but with how strong I know the FC knot to be, I must say that if I run into any problems at all with Gliss and the FC knot then I will walk away from the line however good it might be - I can't be going back to other leader knots that aren't as strong or slim-profiled. Time will tell again.

So what does any of this tell you? Not much!! A few casts in horrible conditions is the only experience I have of Gliss so far, but it was interesting how well it seemed to go out. It does look as though the last few feet to the leader now want to almost twist up after my brief casting session, but all seems to be fine. I wonder what the abrasion resistance will be like with Gliss, but tight lines, decent fish and sharp rocks tend to put paid to most lines anyway. Is a single strand of line better around rocks than something with multiple strands such as braid? I can't speculate because I don't know.

That's about all I can tell you so far. If we take a 150m spool of a good quality 4-strand braid as being around the £20 mark, then the price of Gliss does seem pretty good, although with how quickly and cheaply the company claims to be able to make this stuff, I will be interested to see if they start selling at much lower prices to really try and have a decent go at these kinds of braids. Is this stuff going to become a serious braid replacement for loads of anglers? Time will tell again, but nobody that I know myself uses Nanofil over braid for their fishing, and I can't help but wonder what kind of impact Gliss might or might not make on the fishing world. I have no issues with braid and whilst this Gliss is an interesting line and of course I need to fish with it for a decent period of time, I still have to ask myself what a new line at not far off good quality 4-strand prices might actually do for me over braid. I will keep you posted as I find out more.............

And my apologies for what went on this week in the comments section of the blog, indeed for the first time ever I went and removed a blog post. You all have a good weekend, and here's to trampling the Ireland rugby team into the dust come 3pm Sunday afternoon!! Awesome country and all that, but rugby is rugby, and I think it might be a cracker of a match that of course goes the right way.

I can't help but admire them

If you don't go to Ireland but read the papers and listen to the news about how the country is in such financial strife (and how many countries aren't?), you might be forgiven for then thinking that with all those troubles, the country is beset with negativity and a general down in the dumps feeling because times have and been and continue to be very tough for a lot of people - but you couldn't be further from the truth, and over the years I have come to so admire the Irish spirit if you like, and the almost relentless good nature and happy go lucky attitude.

Take a a weekend like I have just had at the fishing show - you can't help but spend the entire time all buzzed up and excited. It was just the most fantastic show, and I just absolutely love getting the chance to spend time talking with Irish anglers about the fishing in their country. There is so much I want to do over there, so many places I want to see, so many coastlines I want to wander, and so many remote islands I want to visit. Nowhere is perfect of course, but why oh why haven't we got a fishing show like that here in the UK?

Sure, I go to Ireland because of the fishing, but my love for the country runs far deeper than merely chucking a bunch of lures around. Nope, to me that relentless positivity just gets me every time I go over, and I so admire it. I love the fact that the Irish could perhaps be within their rights to spend the entire time moaning and complaining, but go and spend some time over there and I bet you hear almost nothing about how the country is in such financial strife. I don't believe it's to do with burying heads in the sand and hoping that the bad stuff goes away, rather I think it's the way the Irish people are made - I call it the "f$%k it attitude". Sure, thing's ain't easy, but f$%k it, let's get on with living and enjoying life. Why spend your life moaning? Their attitude is infectious.

I understood from the early days of working in fishing that if you stick your head above the parapet, a small percentage of anglers are not going to like it. You grow a thick skin pretty damn fast, put it that way!! I accept that my guiding work with John Quinlan down in Kerry is going to raise a few hackles, and I accept that some local anglers don't want to see any other anglers on "their marks" (whatever that actually means). And as for somebody in Wexford blaming me for the apparent decline in their bass fishing? It still makes me laugh whenever I think about that particular angle of attack!! I can't to anything about this though, because the Irish are mostly such a welcoming and friendly bunch of people. I love fishing over there and I love fishing and spending time with Irish people. I am extremely lucky to count a number of Irish people as my friends, and spending time in Ireland to me is just an absolute joy - and I have really come to admire their attitude to life.

But as much as I have come to love spending time over there, don't for one second make the mistake of thinking that I wish the Irish any goodwill for next Sunday when we play them in the Six Nations - no bloody way!! Nope, I am English to the core and I want the England rugby team to head to Dublin and snatch the rug of confidence from underneath their feet and come away from that magnificent country with a great big win!! And how about the cricket? I can't believe that I am celebrating a win over Scotland!!!

And a big thanks to the Southside Angling people who were at the Dublin show - they have very kindly given me some of this brand new Gliss line to try out (search Gliss fishing line online). Give me a bit of time and I will get out and give it a go, but initial impressions are that it feels very interesting, it's very thin, and I can't help but love the fact that a 150m spool was just under 20 Euros at the show (about £15). The Southside Angling lot said that Gliss was flying off the shelves all weekend. My profound thanks for being so kind, but again, it changes nothing about the rugby on Sunday..........

Stormr Fusion waterproof jacket review (around £225 in the UK on a pre-order basis)

I first saw the Stormr Fusion waterproof jacket when I was at the ICAST fishing trade show over in the US last summer, and I got hold of one to try out about a month before Xmas 2014 - so it's had a load of use in all kinds of UK winter conditions, both with fishing and walking my sheepdog. It's an impressive bit of kit to look at, and a lot about this Stormr Fusion waterproof jacket is very well designed for anglers. I like how it's pretty light and folds away into not too much when I tuck it into my rucksack, but it is not an uber-light shell, and it isn't meant to be. This Fusion jacket seems to "breathe" just fine, and it behaves impeccably as a waterproof outer layer - which one would expect of course.

The zips are working perfectly via saltwater use, indeed I have deliberately not washed my Fusion jacket down in freshwater after various bouts of deep wading where a fair bit of the jacket was submerged in saltwater, plus getting regularly splashed by the sea etc. No issues that I can find on that front. I like the various pockets and I even like the hood and how it can tighten down around the face. Hoods on waterproof jackets often drive me loopy, but this one is pretty good. I love that there are zips under the armpits as well. This is not a heavy thermal jacket, in that you will need to layer up underneath in cold weather, but as a specialist waterproof fishing jacket I reckon this Stormr Fusion is pretty damn good. Bear in mind it comes from the US striped bass fishing market, and at certain times of the year that is some pretty serious fishing to say the least, both fish and weather wise.

But...........

I really like it, but I don't love it. I want to love it because it's one hell of a waterproof jacket, but there are a few issues I have come across that I know could cause problems for anglers buying one, and it revolves mainly around the sizing of the Fusion. I will tell you why - I take an XL in most things. Any waterproof jackets and waders I have tried or bought over I don't know how many years have fitted me in an XL size (save for the Greys G-Series waders), indeed I have a neoprene Stormr Strykr jacket here in an XL size that fits me absolutely perfectly. Luckily I tried on a Fusion jacket in an XL size when I was at the iCast show last year, and it was too small for me. I therefore went for the XXL size in the Stormr Fusion jacket, and although it's a much better fit, a few things about the cut of the jacket leave me a little confused.

Why for example are the sleeves too short? I am pretty sure I don't have gorilla arms, and although the rubber inner sleeve is the right length and remains up around my wrists when I'm casting, the fastener part of the sleeve that goes over this inner sleeve spends most of its life riding up my forearm. If there is a technical reason for this then I apologise, but surely that upper bit of the sleeve should be plenty long enough so that you can tighten down over the top of the rubber inner sleeve without it then riding up all the time? It's not doing any harm as such, but I wonder why on the Strykr jacket for example, the arms of the jacket are plenty long enough.

That rubber inner sleeve on the Fusion does do a good job of keeping most of the water from coming in down your wrists when you are fishing (rain and splashing waves), and you could be forgiven in thinking that it looks such a good fit around your wrist that no water is ever going to get in. Well let me save you the hassle of trying this feature out. This is not a criticism by the way, because I haven't personally come across any waterproof jacket that doesn't let at least some water in via the seal around your wrists, but because of how that rubber seal looks on this Fusion jacket, I was kinda hoping that this might be "the one" - but it isn't. I stuck both forearms underwater, pretending say to hold a bass prior to release, and almost instantly a load of cold seawater came in the sleeves and up my forearms. Great with rain and splashing waves then, but not for putting your hands and forearms under the water - is this the domain of a drysuit?

This XXL Fusion is a pretty good fit on me, and whilst I like the fact that it's around a generous kind of wading jacket length down my body, in truth I feel the jacket overall could have a tiny bit more freedom in it. It's an easy jacket to cast in and move around, and those stretchy, lightweight neoprene panels seem to be doing a really good job, but overall I just feel the jacket needs a tiny bit more room - bearing in mind here that I am already wearing one size more than what I would usually wear with garments from other manufacturers. I am hardly on the slim side, but I have to compare sizings to other stuff I have worn.

I can't say much more really. I really like this jacket, indeed I nearly love it to bits. It's a very impressive bit of kit that I see Bass Lures are now starting to offer on a pre-order basis on their website (not quite sure what that means to be honest), but if you are tempted by one of these Fusion jackets, please bear in mind that I went for one size larger than I usually take. I have every confidence that my Fusion jacket is going to last me well, but I just wish that I could alter those aspects I have mentioned to make it into a fishing jacket that was as close to perfect as I have come across. Stormr make some serious gear for us anglers and I can only hope that their gear becomes more easily available here in the UK in due course.

I am flying over to Dublin later on today for the Ireland Angling Show (Swords as I know it), so I hope to see a bunch of you over the weekend. It always feels a little bit weird heading over to Ireland and not going fishing, but it's always a huge buzz to spend time in my favourite country in the world. Have to say that I'm glad England v Ireland is next weekend, because I was at a fishing show once over there when that particular Six Nations match was on, and from memory I was the only English person in the bar, and we lost as well. Talk about copping some (very good natured) flak!!!! Have a good weekend all, catch up next week.

21.02.2015 addition - Stormr have emailed me from the US to tell me that the Fusion jacket I have is older stock, and that these older versions were indeed on the small size - they have told me that all new Fusion jackets are now "properly" sized. Stormr says that Fusion jackets are now in line with their Strykr jackets as regards sizing, so this means that an XL should fit me just fine.

Our 2015 Ireland guiding brochure is now available

Our new brochure may well be called "Fishing with Henry", but if you read this blog then you will know that this guiding work I am starting to get into over in Kerry is a collaboration between John Quinlan of Thatch Cottage Ireland and myself. The opportunity to work with John in Ireland and help people with their fishing is such a huge thrill for me, but the world being as it is, we have to market to potential customers of course!! We have put together a simple online brochure that helps highlight what John and I are doing together, and if you would like a look at it, please just check here.

And if the brochure does nothing else for us, it's at least a way for you to have a bit of a glimpse at Kerry and how John and I are trying to put across what we do. The world of "professional" bass and fishing guiding is an increasingly interesting one these days in the UK and Ireland, but you can't argue with a thoroughly decent person who has been doing it for over twelve years now. Loads of repeat business speaks volumes does it not? John and Lynn's Thatch Cottage Ireland setup is just awesome, and yes, I have to pinch myself that we are actually selling guiding trips together which then means I get to spend even more time over in Ireland.

Obviously I hope that you read the brochure and think wow, I've got to drop some cash and hotfoot my way over to Kerry to spend a few days with us. In reality though I accept completely that a lot of anglers don't want to or indeed can't spend money on guided fishing trips. All I can do is to tell you how I see these trips that John and are doing together. I passionately believe that the two of us together are offering a product as such that no other setup can, and I can't wait to get going in April. There's a lot of laughter and a huge amount of fun on these trips, and as much as catching fish and learning more about fishing are some vital components, I suppose that I myself want visitors to be able to leave us with that awesome feeling in their hearts that only fishing in Ireland can give.

Black and white and read all over

It fascinates me how we all see the world and what is in front of us in very different ways. I must hope that most anglers are at times reduced to an almost breathless state by how beautiful and dramatic the world can look when we are out there doing what we so love to do, but on the other hand I can't help but be a little surprised at how relatively few anglers are obsessed with trying to record what they see via still or moving images. We are all different of course, but so much of my love for fishing is about being out there in this big wide, stunning world when and where most other people aren't - and I want to do what I can to record all this good stuff via my limited photographic skills. I want to try and show fishing in the way that I see it, and I want other people to see this and perhaps at times think wow, fishing can actually be pretty damn awesome.............

I "see" the world in colour, and it really interests me how say one of the world's finest ever landscape photographers (Ansel Adams) must have "seen" the world in black and white in order to have been able to shoot the masterful images he did. And then a photographer (Galen Rowell) whose work I think is so inspiring it kinda leaves me breathless, well he must have "seen" the world around him colour when he looked through his viewfinder. Different times and different technologies of course, but aside from this is how differently we all see what is around us.

How do you "see" fishing? I must admit to me that it's about colour. I love the different moods and ever changing light, and I know that when I visualise a photograph in my head, I am "seeing" it in colour, and I feel that I am playing to my strengths by going through a colour workflow if that makes sense. Buf if there is one thing that this digital age of photography has given us, it's a license to play without incurring a load of extra cost. A few clicks of a mouse and you can take a colour photograph and convert it to whatever shade of black and white you deem worthwhile messing around with - and from time to time I love doing this. It usually revolves around an early morning start with bouncing brain syndrome, when I think about photographs that might or might not work in black and white, and then I simply start having a bit of a play.


Fly fishing in black and white by Henry Gilbey on Exposure

And this in part is what makes me so admire the great black and white photographers. I am more naturally drawn to colour myself, but I find it so interesting how in a colourful world there are so obviously some people who have the skill to be able to "see" this world of colour in different shades to you and I. I know that I don't have these skills myself because sometimes I think yes, this photo is really going to work in black and white - and then it doesn't at all!! But from time to time I do like messing around with it. My favourite forms of fishing photography are shore based lure fishing and fly fishing in saltwater and on rivers, and for a bit of fun I have put together a display of some of the fly fishing images I have converted to black and white that I happen to think work ok in this format. I hope you enjoy it, and please feel free to tell me what you think - do these particular photographs work in black and white for starters?

I hope to see some of you this coming weekend at the always excellent Ireland Angling Show over in Dublin. It tickles me pink that the organisers saw fit to ask me back, so please come and say hi if you see me there this Saturday and Sunday, 21st and 22nd February - but I would kindly ask that you don't then tell me about some killer bass fishing lure that I have never heard which then starts to mess with my head because I haven't got one but might now need one thanks to you catching a heap of big fish on it!! Please do feel free though to mess with my head by telling me all about those many fabulous parts of Ireland that I haven't been to yet but know that one day I am going to have to. The show is always awesome and I can't wait to head over to Dublin on Friday.........

A friend of mine who runs awesome fishing trips in the Florida Keys has just had a cancellation during prime tarpon season - the dates are 27th April - 5th May, and I understand that there is a bit of money off the usual prices which are more than good value already. Contact Rodney via email here, or via his website here. Believe me, if I wasn't already committed to guiding over in Ireland I would have snapped these dates up myself. I have fished with Rodney on numerous occasions and he is just awesome at what he does. Tarpon time for sure, but also perfect for permit and about a million other species you can catch in the Keys.

If you need maximum distance, is there an optimal size for a minnow-type hard lure?

There is of course a saying in bass fishing that most fish are caught beneath your feet, but in my view it's too simple a statement that doesn't encompass how much there is to bass fishing. Maybe the whole distance thing in fishing is a somewhat male obsession, but the fact is that it can never hurt to have various options when you are out fishing - and I want one of those options to be an ability to put a minnow-type of hard lure out a long way if needs be, or to at least better punch into a headwind and grip hard into a rougher sea. I also want options to fish in nice and close and very precisely for example. And so on.

Logic I suppose gives rise to a belief that the bigger the hard lure, the further it goes. Whilst I see the sense in this, I don't necessarily agree, and I sometimes wonder if there is indeed an optimal size (weight and length) of hard lure that you might turn to if out and out distance is required. Now obviously you need to feel confident that whatever particular lure you might turn to also turns the fish on, and I get completely that some anglers like fishing with the bigger, say 150mm hard lures - but is it always those bigger and usually heavier lures that are the distance animals? What's the longest casting minnow-type hard lure you have?

I suppose that over the last few years I have messed around with a fair number of different hard lures, and whilst I have never actually measured how far any of them might go, I am as good as 99% confident that I have never personally come across a longer casting hard lure than the IMA Hound 125F Glide (or the different Hound models in the 125mm size). I trust the lure to catch me fish whilst accepting that it's got a regular minnow type of action, and I accept that in the same situation other minnows might be catching me bass - but you can of course only catch on the particular lure you are fishing with. In my opinion the IMA Hound 125F Glide isn't perfectly normal when it comes to casting though, as in for me with the rods, reels and braids I use, this lure I am convinced outcasts any other minnow I have ever used.

Surely though it should be the longer and heavier minnows that cast further? The Hound Glide is not exactly a big bass lure, indeed at 125mm long and weighing only 20g, logic says to me that heavier minnows that I have should cast further. Sure, it's only my gut that the Hound Glide outcasts any other hard lures I have, and of course there are some fantastic casting lures out there that you and I know all about (Tide Minnows, Gatarides, Shoreline Shiners, Athletes, Sasukes, Nabarones, X140s, Halucas etc.), but it's the modest size of the lure and how ridiculously well it casts for me that gets me thinking about all this stuff. And waking up far too early most mornings with bouncing brain syndrome.............

It really gets me thinking when I get the chance to spend some time talking with say a very talented bass angler from Portugal who also happens to sell fishing tackle. On that Atlantic facing coast of Portugal they are tending to fish some pretty hectic swells and sea conditions, and this guy told me that he struggles to sell minnow-type hard lures under around 170mm long for their bass fishing, as well as essentially not selling any sub-10'+ lure rods etc. And a lot of their bass fishing seems to revolve around getting these pretty large lures out there as far as possible to get behind the worst of the swell and then retrieve through it.

Most lure rods I would use for my bass fishing these days are rated somewhere around 8-30g, and this of course means that I can move a hard lure around the 20g mark very fast in the cast if needs be. I am sure you have noticed that most lure rods feel like they are performing best somewhere above that minimum and below the maximum quoted casting weights, and conversely this might apply as you work with heavier lures and then heavier rods, although my experience with the much larger minnows is at best very limited. I have had a few casts for example with the pretty big DUO Tide Minnow 175 Slim (175mm, 27g, one of the lures this Portuguese guy was raving about for their fishing), but I wasn't using a rod that allowed me to move the lure as fast in the cast as I could the 20g Hound Glide.

Does it just happen to be the case that a lure like the Hound 125F Glide (which I believe has been designed for long casting anyway) is that "sweet spot" combination of design/shape, length and weight for optimum casting? I can think of a number of hard lures around say 125-145mm that I reckon are like frigging missiles, but do you any of you here have direct experience of larger lures on bigger rods and can then compare backwards to these "smaller" lures? And of course just because I happen to think that there might be a kind of optimum length and weight, this doesn't mean that the biggest bass agree with me. Big lures for big bass? Easy to see why this is a longheld belief, but as with the mantra that most bass are caught beneath your feet, it's too much of a generalisation in my book.

You all have a good weekend and enjoy your respective Six Nations matches if rugby is your thing. I am of course hoping that an unchanged (yes!!) England side put in a proper and complete performance against Italy tomorrow, and as much as one day cricket isn't anywhere close to Test cricket in my book, England start their World Cup campaign against Australia at 3am in the morning I think it is. I am not a violent man Mr. Fawlty, but I wouldn't mind wiping that smirk and moustache off Mitchell Johnson's face.

Do you find yourself wanting to slightly change or modify most items of fishing gear?

However long an item of fishing tackle may or indeed may have not been tested for before it comes to market (and believe me, I have come across some pretty "interesting" practises over the years), at the end of the day we all fish in slightly different ways, and as such I am sure you are no different to me - give me a decent amount of time with most items of fishing gear and I will come up with a change or two that I would love to be able to make. I don't mean to say that I know best and that my imaginary changes would make a product any better, rather that we are so invested in our fishing that we can nearly always think of something that would I suppose make the said product work that little bit better for us. Here's a few ideas of mine, and in truth I could come up with a hundred more...........

Simms Rivershed wading boots - I don't know for sure, but I have a horrible feeling that they have been discontinued. Whatever the case, they are the best wading boots for saltwater fishing that I have ever come across - so why sell them with the most perfectly useless laces in the world? If you get a couple of trips out of them before they start breaking I reckon you have done pretty well, but of course the paracord I was recommended has completely sorted this issue for me.

The new Daiwa Exceler 3000-HA spinning reel - this spinning reel is really growing on me, and the fact that you can find it for around the £75 is almost a joke. But already I would prefer the reel to have a slightly slower retrieve (although to be honest the fishing I do with soft plastics has so helped me to be able to slow my retrieve down anyway), and in a perfect world it would have the sublime handle that the older blue Luvias 3000 has, as in the photo above. As I said earlier, these are not remotely faults with the product, rather it's me as an angler wanting something just that little bit different.

Shimano Sustain 4000FG - I love this spinning reel, but to get at a couple of the bearings inside I must ask whether the designers were having a particularly sadistic day and decided to make it necessary to source and then buy one of the smallest Allen keys I have ever seen to get at them. Awesome bit of kit, but without doubt the bearings need a fairly regular dose of oil, and it drives me absolutely loopy that on this particular reel you need that one tiny little Allen key to get at some of them. Why?

Why can't all spools of leader be as easy to get line off as say the excellent YGK Nitlon Nitlon DFC spools, or those brilliant Sufix ones where the line is held in place by the two circular halves that enclose those larger size spools, and then you simply pull off what you need. I have now fished a bit with the rather nice Asso Super Fluorocarbon, but in my opinion the spool the line comes on is about as badly designed as it's possible to make it - one wrong move and a load of fluoro literally flies off the spool. Why?

Graphiteleader Argento Nuovo lure rods - Awesome bits of kit, but after a while I started to question why the handle is the way it is, and I can't help but want a handle design where the the back of your right hand is at least sitting on duplon or cork etc. I accept that in these situations there is going to be a reason for things being the way they are, but that doesn't stop the likes of you and I from sometimes wanting something to be just that little bit different.

Stormr Fusion jacket - This is one serious bit of kit, but if I was to change stuff, it would be the length of arms for starters - again, there must be a reason why they are a little short, but I would love to make the arms on the jacket a little bit longer. The actual "sealing" bit of the sleeve is the right length, albeit if you go sticking your arm in the water (cradling a fish for example) you will still end up with a soaking wet sleeve - nope, it's the "covering" bit of sleeve about this that is too short and then always rides up if that makes sense. I also think that the sizing of these Fusion jackets is not quite right either - an XL Simms wading jacket fits me perfectly for example, but I have got the XXL Stormr Fusion jacket here and I still think that it could do with a tiny bit more room in certain areas.

And then you come across those bits of kit that I have spent plenty of time with but for the life of me I can't think of anything I would change. This doesn't make them perfect, rather that I have found them to be perfect for me. I have tried and tried, but I can't find one single thing I would like to change about the 9'6'' 10-30g Major Craft Truzer for example. Every single thing about the rod seems perfectly suited to me and the way I fish, but of course we are all different. For years and years now I have used the LowePro DryZone camera rucksacks, and for a lure fishing/camera rucksack, I can't find a single thing that I don't like about the smaller Rover model. I wish it was cheaper I suppose, but that is all. The HPA lure bag is a really simple product that I can't really find anything wrong with - sure, it could have a bunch more features I suppose, but as a pretty cheap and effective way to carry a couple of lure boxes around my waist I have yet to find anything I like more. But yes, I'd love a crack at coming up with the "perfect" lure carrying waist bag thing.

And of course I can't go without mentioning England's rather momentous win on Friday evening. I happen to think that it's the most important win of Stuart Lancaster's tenure. Sure, it was bloody awesome when England turned the All Blacks over, but if you take where the England team is, the fact that it's a World Cup year, it was the first match of the Six Nations and without a doubt Wales were the favourites, and loads of players were out injured yet this might well have been a blessing in disguise with the combinations that were thus allowed to come together. That second half was something else, and as much as I reckon the Welsh team has got some incredibly talented players who have done some incredible things over the last few years, without a doubt they had no Plan B, and England were by far the fitter side. I am not getting ahead of myself, but that was one vital game of rugby I reckon. Be still my beating heart!!

The easiest to understand video I've seen yet on tying the best braid to leader knot I know of

It's thanks to a post on Steven Neely's Facebook page that I saw this knot tying video, and whilst it's hardly going to set the world of cinema on fire or reduce one to tears of emotion at the script, it is actually the easiest to understand and follow video on the GT knot (or FC knot or whatever it's bloody called) that I have come across so far. I would suggest that if you've got two working hands and a decent pair of eyes and you still can't tie this knot after watching this video, well I'd be sorely tempted to ask somebody to take a look through your earhole and tell you if they can see fresh air!!

I have done a few posts now on the GT knot and I am not about to apologise for doing so. Lure fishing in saltwater is in my mind changing the landscape of UK and Irish sport fishing - nope, it isn't as if we've all got a heap more money lying around, but the simple fact is that increasing numbers of anglers are at least understanding that some of the really good gear costs what it costs. Considering that a spool of high-end braid is going to cost you north of £30 for only about 150m of the stuff, I will never understand why anybody in their right mind would not at least try to find out if there were some better knots out there that might better suit these expensive mainlines - and then when you've found a better knot, why not learn to tie it properly?

I've heard all the arguments about the uni to uni, the Improved Albright, Slim Beauty etc., but the simple fact is that none of them are as strong as this GT knot (if you need to tie a leader knot very quickly then I'm listening, I accept that). OK, so we don't tend to catch fish that smash mainlines because they are more raging animal than fish, but why not get as much out of your mainline and indeed your leader as you possibly can? Why not give yourself every chance possible at getting a potentially expensive lure out of a snag? Why not find out how incredibly thin and strong some of these modern braids really are? I like some braids more than others, but since I started using the FG knot I can't think of a single occasion when I've had reason to think that a particular braid I have tried wasn't strong enough for its stated breaking strain.

Fishing knots aside, there's the small matter of the opening match of the Six Nations tonight. Wales might be a lovely country with plenty of good fishing, but tonight that flies right out of the window. If you're English it's a nervy time. Injuries aside, I can't help but be somewhat concerned that we're this close to the World Cup and still we don't have an established side. I have a feeling that it's going to be a cracking Six Nations and I am hoping of course that we get off to winning start and go on to take the Grand Slam. Hope eternal or golden shafts of realism? You all have a good weekend. Tomorrow I turn 42 and I still feel remarkably immature.

What's your least favourite wind direction?

Yes, I know, when the wind's in the east the fish bite least and so on, but ladies and gentlemen, I would like to put forward a north west wind as perhaps the biggest steaming pile of poo of a wind direction there is. If you are into saltwater fishing then it can't have escaped your attention that the direction and strength of the wind plays a huge part in your fishing, and of course where you live will play a big part in how the wind affects you. I get what an east wind does and how it can affect the fishing in some places, but for the life of me I can't get my head around an infernal north west wind............

It's one of those winds that you keep convincing yourself could actually do you a bit of good on the fishing front, but then it goes and let you down like it nearly always does. A north west wind howls down most of our rivers and estuaries here on the south coasts of Devon and Cornwall, and whilst I struggled to find many patterns when I used to fish Devil's Point a lot (the mouth of the River Tamar), it could be pretty bloody miserable fishing down there when it was blowing a north west gale. Smack bang in your kisser and take that sir.

I used to fish a fair bit for cod on the north coasts of Devon and Cornwall, and whilst I used to love a proper south westerly blow, I distinctly remember convincing myself on numerous occasions that a north westerly could also get things going because because it came in and from the side and would surely do lots of good with stirring up the bottom and bringing the cod in. But it rarely bloody did. OK, so this had a lot to do with just needing to get out fishing, but without doubt my meagre returns began to sow the seeds of doubt with north westerly winds - and although I can't prove it, I am 100% convinced that we get more north west winds than we ever used to.

Fishing for thornback rays up on the Bristol Channel was something I really loved doing. When you fish specific marks a fair bit, you naturally start to better work things out and come up with various theories I suppose, and on one particular, very shallow reef I became convinced that if there were any wavelets on the water then my chances of catching any thornies went down drastically. It might sound daft, but my theory was that the water was so shallow, the sound of waves tumbling over the reef quite simply put the rays off and they would stay out in deeper water. And yes, my best fishing on this reef was on light southerly winds.

But how many times did I watch the forecast and then convince myself that the forecast 5mph NW wind would mean that the water up there would still be nice and flat? I would leave Plymouth on a perfect tide and with not a breath of wind, but an hour and a half or so later I'd be parked up and getting the gear out of the van and cursing both the fresh NW wind (5mph my arse) and myself for having hoped against hope that there could actually be such a thing as a light NW up on the north coast. I'd fish of course, catch either squat or very little, and then vow to myself that I would never, ever head up to these reefs on a forecast that even whispered of a NW wind. But we are anglers and we hope eternal, and I would make the same mistake a few times more because I was just so damn keen on getting up there.

I'm not saying that I haven't had any good lure fishing on a NW wind, because I have. Same on an east, although neither wind directions exactly float my boat. The problem with a NW wind for me is that logic says to us that it could actually be a decent direction when you need things flattened off a bit of example, or you're fishing into it and need a bit of kick on the sea. But it just seems to do neither very well, and for some reason it seems to me that many fish we might fish for around our coastline just aren't big into feeding when the wind blows from the north west. It's the kind of wind that tricks you I reckon, in that you can get to a spot on a north westerly and sometimes think yes, conditions actually look pretty tasty thanks very much - but more often than not for me it then doesn't fish like you imagine it might. One of fishing's eternal mysteries?

It's not all bad though! I partly forgive you north westerlies, because you can for example get the most awesome god beamage around here when the wind comes from that direction. Head up to the old chapel on top of Rame Head and you can sometimes sit there and just marvel at the beams of light playing out across the sea. Often it's a north west that gives us that typical Brit weather of sunshine and showers, and when that sun breaks through in amongst some dark, moody skies, well that can be some pretty special light. I might mostly despise you north westerlies, but from time to time I crave the light you choose to provide - not sure the fish do though.........