Does fishing get any more ridiculously exciting than in this video?

I guess we are all made slightly differently, and some anglers and indeed people live for dreaming about and doing their utmost to experience a bit of something more out there - and some people don’t. I reckon I’d happily lure fish for bass until the day I can’t do it anymore - or until there are none of these fine fish left in the sea - but within me is the need to see different places, meet different people, and fish for or at least see different species of fish from time to time.

Via my working in fishing I have been lucky enough to see and also catch many different species of fish, and some I’d describe as about as good as a purely fishing experience is going to get - tarpon have to be up there as just about the most perfect sporting quarry a human being could target with on bait, lure or fly for example, just as say bonefish surely have to be the most perfect skinny water species going. Closer to home of course we have our bass, but I’d put a decent pollack from an out of the way place right up there as well as something that more anglers need to experience. Not just for the fish, but also for the places and people you meet whilst chasing down these dreams - the overall experience. Hell, if it was only about the actual fish I don’t think I’d still be fishing.

GTs are insane fish, pure and simple!

What do I mean by that? When everything comes together in a kind of sensory overload, when at that moment in time fishing means absolutely every single thing and you want to bottle it all up and stay right there for ever. It’s not as if bass are the biggest fish in our seas for example, but for me it’s always going to be a combination of so much cool stuff that comes together which makes me obsess about fishing for them. But the world’s a big place and there are some fish out there which to me are kinda not entirely normal.

We’re talking about fish that are so ridiculously powerful and dirty and almost scary to go and hook that when you see or connect to these things your mental guidelines for what true fish power really means are instantly and forever realigned. Carp obviously get big, but would anybody be almost scared by their power and aggression? Same with catfish etc. Me thinks not. Nope, some fish punch way, way above their actual weight and sit there as a kind of ultimate warrior that demands total dedication, skill, serious tackle, time, effort, money, luck and any number of other factors in order for the angler to come away with occasionally getting one over on them - and note the word occasionally!

Watch the video above from those gloriously mad Morning Tide anglers and I defy you not to go weak at the knees at how insane that fishing is, indeed if it doesn’t freak you out when I would suggest you need go and see somebody. Chucking lures at GTs from the boat may for the most part produce the absolute biggest fish, but having done a little bit of it - and of course loved every second of it - for me it doesn’t reach the extra level of buzz at catching these insane fish from either the rocks, or what I have seen the most which is fly fishing for them on shallow sand flats. I did land a GT from the rocks a few years ago on a lure very much like a GT Ice Cream, and whilst the fish from memory was “only”  about 40-50lbs, I do remember the frigging thing nearly pulling the rod out of my hands while the waves were also knocking us clean off our feet at the same time. It’s not remotely everyday fishing, but thanks to pretty damn cool videos like this we can get a taste of what else is out there in the waters of this amazing planet.

Vision Kust waterproof jacket review - around £200

I have worn this Vision Kust waterproof jacket for a few months now, including through some of the heaviest and most persistent rain I can remember being out and about in. Now of course you’d expect what is not a cheap waterproof jacket to be properly waterproof, but I have worn a few different jackets over the years and some have offered, let’s say, “variable degrees of resistance” to heavy and persistent rain - well this rather smart Vision Kust jacket (means coast in English) is one of the really good ones……..

I was wearing the rather good Scierra C&R jacket before this one, but as good as that Scierra one is, I do think that this Vision Kust jacket seems as if it was almost purposefully designed for lure anglers. With a name like Kust it has been designed for fishing around saltwater (lure and fly?) and it’s very well cut so that absolutely no part of the jacket gets in the way and annoys me while I am casting/fishing or walking. To be fair though, nothing about that Scierra jacket annoyed me either and I think it’s a great bit of kit. I tend to wear XL clothes and the Kust jacket in an XL is the perfect fit for me, and when it gets cold I can easily layer up underneath it without ever feeling restricted. I like this. There are a few pockets if needs be, but to be honest I don’t tend to use them save for stuffing a hat into one of them or something like that, and there aren’t loads of pockets sticking out all over the place like they can do on some fly fishing jackets (and bug the proverbial out of me).

As with the Scierra C&R jacket, there’s not a hint of any saltwater damage on any of the (nylon?) zips, which to be fair I would expect considering that it’s a jacket designed for use on the coast, or kust! It’s a good length to wear with waders and I just like lure fishing in the thing, or rather it’s a good jacket to wear when I need one albeit I’d rather we could spend our lives fishing in shorts and t-shirts. But we can’t, and a decent waterproof jacket is in my view as important as rods and reels in our fishing.

I still haven’t found a waterproof jacket which lets zero water in through the sleeve area while you’re fishing in heavy rain, and this Kust jacket is no different. The actual sleeve design is a little fiddly to tighten down after you have put the jacket on, but it’s perfectly comfortable in use - as clever as Vision are trying to be though, when you’re casting and retrieving all the time in heavy rain, you’re going to get some water coming in however tightly you secure the elastic sort of velcro strap design thing. The actual cuffs on the jacket extend out slightly over the top of your hand in what I assume is an attempt to try and keep as much water from getting in as possible, but in reality it makes no difference - fish in heavy rain and you’re going to get wet sleeves. It’s the way it is. This isn’t a complaint by the way, because it’s no worse than many jackets I have fished in and I expect this to happen, albeit I’d love it if it didn’t!

What more can I say? I love this Vision Kust jacket for my lure fishing. It packs down pretty compactly and fits into the rucksack I carry most often, it dries out pretty quickly when you’ve been out in a downpour, it’s nice and light to wear, and as I said, it doesn’t annoy me in any way when I am actually fishing. Wear a baseball cap in heavy rain and the hood works well, and as with the overall jacket design, it’s a hood design that doesn’t remotely bug me when in use. Nice one Vision I reckon.

Can fishing look much better than this spectacular short film?

Holy cow when it’s done right, fishing looks frigging awesome. Check out this short film on one of the most special places in the world that I have ever been lucky enough to visit a few times as a photographer, the ultra remote Cosmoledo atoll in the wilds of the Indian Ocean. Made by the US company Yeti (coolers) and involving a few of the lads I have worked with in this saltwater fly fishing paradise, I don’t see how any angler into any kind of fishing can’t get something out of this short film that causes the heart to race. Surely dreaming is an important part of fishing? And yes, I will always wonder how good bass fishing in somewhere as stunning as say Kerry could be made to look with this kind of time, budget, skill and energy……..

 The first time I glimpsed the mighty Cosmoledo atoll. 

The first time I glimpsed the mighty Cosmoledo atoll. 

I’d so love to see (ok, own) a “proper” travel style bass lure rod

It has wound me up for years when I am travelling with fly anglers how all their multi-section fly rods are nicely packed away in their hold luggage. No sodding rod tubes that you have to cart through airports and get charged excess baggage for, and whilst airlines can of course lose any sort of bag almost at will, rod tubes seem to have a special habit of ending up broken. And yes, I speak from bitter experience. Don’t let anybody tell you that those Bazuka Pro rod tubes are unbreakable for example - bye-bye four prototype Conoflex beachcasters on a trip to Namibia many moons ago……….

Do I actually need a travel style bass lure rod? Come in, it’s fishing tackle isn’t it? Want and need are one and the same are they not? For the most part I drive over to Ireland, so the need to break rods down into multiple sections matters not for that, but there is still a part of me that has always wanted a “serious” travel style bass lure rod. I’d love it if we could easily source various kinds of lure rods in multi sections (stripers?), and I just can’t understand why most if not all fly rods break down into a length that can easily be transported in a hold bag yet trying to find a serious lure rod like this is not remotely easy. Is it because we as consumers don’t ask for them? High-end fly rods seem to work just fine not being two pieces, so I refuse to believe that lure rods could not be made to perform just as well when made in multi sections. Perhaps the market for them just isn’t there in any major way?

I’d still like one though because I know that I’d find a use for it. How about being able to leave a rod in the back of the car with a reel and a few lures, just in case? A few years ago I was kindly lent the roughly £400 5-piece Graphiteleader Argento Compatto 8'6" 6-28g (Sea Bass) Travel Rod. It was so handy at only 57cm long when broken down, and it’s a “proper” lure rod through and through, but for me it was just too soft in the tip to contemplate buying, and I think that when compared to other rods I have tried you are paying over the odds for it being multi-piece. I have also seen a couple of the older version Major Craft Crostage travel rods, but they didn’t do it for me and as a purely airline based travel rod were a no-go for me because they didn’t fit in the sort of hold bag I take with me - and into which fly rods fit just fine. I don’t know if this is still the case, but it didn’t make much sense to me at the time.

I have had a thing for APIA lure rods ever since I was first introduced to the awesome but discontinued APIA+IMA Foojin’AD Energy Flow 92ML (review here and the APIA rods I have fished with are here). Whilst it frustrates me that such a good brand of lure rods that work so well for how we lure fish here in the UK and Ireland is not more readily available to buy, I have used a bunch of their rods now and APIA is up there with Major Craft for me. Two rods brands that I like massively, for slightly different reasons though, and I have a couple more of the entry-level APIA Foojin’R rods here that are so good I can’t really believe it - reviews to come. I just saw on the APIA website the other day that they are launching a new range of “Foojin’XX” lure rods, and contained within that range is a 4-piece rod called the “Sea Farer 94MLX Portable” (9’4’’, 7-35g). I don’t even know if a 4-piece 9’4’’ rod would fit in a standard hold bag, but just the idea of such an awesome lure rod company making what could well be a “proper” travel style lure rod has got me excited.

I know squat about these new APIA rods and I am not about to go and buy a rod completely blind like that, but I wonder what other “proper” travel style bass lure rods might be out there? Have any of you here gone looking and had any success? Do you even hanker after a multi-section bass lure rod, or is it just me? I would seriously love to see that new APIA travel style bass rod, indeed there are a couple of regular 2-piece rods in that new range that I reckon could be worth a shout - and yes, I have issues with lure rods like you would not believe. I wrote a blog post many moons ago about travel rods and I see in my stats that it still gets looked at quite a bit, and this leads me to believe that there are people out there who are looking for decent travel rods. Fishing is so much about travel to me, whether it be bass, GTs, tarpon, stripers or whatever, and it does me in how few “proper” travel rods there are out there. Please, please enlighten me to stuff I should be thinking about……….

My favourite photograph of 2015

If photography wasn’t such an important part of my life then I wonder if I would still be massively into bait fishing, indeed I am pretty sure that my pulling away from mainly static fishing rods and moving over so much to lure fishing has a lot to do with my starting to lose interest in more static based fishing photography. Lure fishing gives me what I need, with me wanting to be doing something all the time, and then with turning my cameras on it and so often having some kind of motion to include in my photos. And of course fly fishing falls into this category as well. Whilst I am perfectly useless at rolling a fly line out myself, there is no getting away from how creatively buzzy it can be to be around good fly anglers in good looking conditions.

Nikon D3, 16-35mm f4 lens at 20mm, f8, 1/500th, -0.5 exposure compensation, circular polarising filter turned to the max

The fact that I shot this particular photograph on an ultra-remote atoll that sits in the middle of the Indian Ocean and is accessible only to anglers who happen to have enough money is in my mind by the by. If I had the money myself you can rest assured that I would go fishing on these remote Seychelles atolls as much as I could, but I can’t afford to. Not even close in fact!! On the other hand I am of course extremely fortunate enough to be able to travel to locations like this for my work and get to see the places and the fishing. OK, so I’m not fishing myself, but it bothers me not. Nope, wandering such quiet and lonely places like Astove atoll with cameras around my neck and no fishing rods in hand are the sort of experiences that I have to pinch myself that I get to do, and sometimes every single little thing seems to come together at just the right time to bring about the creation of a photograph like this.

Now by no means am I saying that this photograph is some massive technological achievement, because it isn’t. There was absolutely no planning involved with getting the shot, as in it’s fishing, and how on earth can I possibly plan for everything coming together, when everything coming together must revolve around so much coming together that is completely out of my hands. Sky, waves, clouds, angle of the sun, awesome fly angler who happens to be casting at a fish he can see, good clothing colours, a range of water colours because of the different depths, indeed the only thing that niggles me slightly about this photo is the other angler in the background to the right of Keith here casting a 12 weight fly rod. Bear in mind though that the angler in the background is a paying client, and as the photographer on this trip, I am there to work around clients - this guy in the yellow shirt is looking for fish to cast at, and it’s not my place to shout over and ask that he gets out of the way for me. My kind of fishing photography is what it is - mostly working around what happens naturally.

I suppose the skill element is knowing firstly how to capture the images you can see unfolding in your head, and then having the ability to recognise when good things are coming together and being absolutely ready to fire away. Knowing your way around your camera gear just as you know your way around your rods, reels and lures (or flies). Knowing how, where and when to shoot just as you know where to cast. In no way at all do I mean to blow my own trumpet about this photography thing, because you can rest completely assured that there are plenty of far better technical photographers than me out there - but I do pride myself on “seeing” photos and being able to nail them. Sure, part of being a photographer is the ability to “find” images when not much good stuff is coming together, but as an angler naturally reacts to certain situations, I do believe that me being an angler first and foremost then lends itself to my photography of it - and then of course this highlights my limitations as a photographer because I specialise so much in fishing photography.

Which let’s be honest isn’t exactly taking the path towards a pot of gold!! It matters not though when my work can take me to a place like Astove atoll. When I get to see things that so few other people are ever going to see. Getting charged by sharks in shallow water and having to stand your ground and then stamp your feet when they get close, hoping beyond hope that they do actually turn away. Seeing baby turtles which have wandered into camp after hatching out on the beach the night before. Watching the most aggressive fish in the sea charge flies down. Seeing some of the most awesome fishing on this magical earth. Walking warm waters that are just so unspoilt and untouched. Getting to snorkel over The Wall, and hang there motionless with perhaps a thousand of metres of water right beneath you, not two hundred yards from the shoreline - with fish, turtles and sharks everywhere. Getting to meet all kinds of people from all over the world. Getting to get the hell away from a northern hemisphere winter for a few days. Etc. And of course getting the chance to shoot a photograph like this. I love how saltwater flats photography flies against the perceived “rules” of photography, as in the flats look their best when they are lit up by a sun that is high and bright and harsh.

When bass fishing comes together in a special place with special light, I’ll put that up against anything in the world as regards fishing photography, but it just so happens that this Seychelles fly fishing photo “speaks” to me the most this year. I can’t tell you exactly why, indeed it wasn’t until I was on the flight back home when I was doing a secondary edit of my photographs that this particular photo started to really resonate - and I was wedged into cattle class I might add, whilst the clients from the trip who were on the same flight as me to Dubai were in business or first and most likely not wedged in very much at all. One can dream I suppose!! Happy New Year and here’s to 2016.

RIP Lemmy. People like that ain't meant to die.

Some new bits and pieces on the site

Whilst I have cut the number and size of photo galleries right down from my last website, I will try to keep adding different bits of content as time goes on. I note with interest how I am increasingly asked about taking photos of fishing, and although I have no training at all in photography, I suppose that I have been shooting fishing for long enough to build up a bit of knowledge - or at least I hope so!! I am passionate about trying to make fishing look awesome, hence this new website of course, and I can but hope that a bit of fishing photography based content might prove of interest to some of you.

One of the best places I have ever been to for shooting fishing photos was Mongolia. Every single thing about it seemed to be perfect for my needs - location, light, type of fishing, remoteness etc. Check here and above, and I hope that this might give a bit of insight into how somebody like me comes away from a place like that with the images I did. By no means do I mean to brag about what I shot, rather it’s a case of me loving writing about fishing and photography and of course the two combined, and if it helps a few people to perhaps make their own fishing look that bit better via the photos they shoot of it, then so much the better. I have had such a cool idea for a somewhat different fishing and photography based book bouncing around my brain for some years now, and if I can’t get it published one day it might break me……

I remember when I first really started getting into photography, and of course I gravitated towards the bigger, more powerful lenses because they looked pretty impressive - but over time I almost regressed to loving the smaller (and lighter), wide-angle lenses the most. Tie me down and give me but one lens to shoot fishing with and I’ll go for something in the 16-35mm range, together with some decent light of course. Here and above are a few thoughts on shooting fishing wide.

And of course I had to put up a Recent Trip photo gallery from my latest jaunt down to the Indian Ocean - check here and of course above. I still don’t really believe that somebody like me gets to jump in a plane and shoot photos in such a special place as Astove atoll and can call it work, but somehow it is, and I never take something this awesome remotely for granted. I can’t afford to go there fishing, but I consider seeing (and photographing) some of the best saltwater fishing that exists a serious privilege.

Did any of you get out and catch any fish this weekend on lures and in saltwater? In between some serious gardening and taking my barbecuing to another level (holy cow it’s frigging awesome, more to come), I managed to nip out to a particular wrasse mark that I have never blanked on. Came pretty close this time though, but I managed to nab a couple of small wrasse on those killer Z-Man Punch CrawZ soft plastics - I am convinced that the fact they float when fished on a Texas rig and thus all those flappy bits on the lure must look so enticing is a reason for them being so good. I can’t remember seeing the water around here as clear as I saw it on Saturday afternoon, and yes, a part of me was imagining a big GT suddenly charging in and nailing my wrasse gear!! Those remote Indian Ocean atolls get to you in a big way.


It’s an outrageous privilege to spend time in such a pristine, unspoilt environment

The fact that I get to call this trip work is way beyond where I imagined that working in fishing might sometimes take me, and as I drove back to Cornwall from Heathrow yesterday afternoon, I started to almost mentally pick apart the last couple of weeks and file the experience in my head. To spend that time in such a pristine and unspoilt environment is on the one hand an incredible experience and privilege that will stay with me forever, but on the flipside it’s also like a mental snapshot of how things can be when we aren’t around in numbers to mess things up……….

 

This was my fifth trip to the Seychelles to shoot fishing photos, and this time around we got pretty unlucky with the weather. We had everything from massive blue sky days when the sun beats down relentlessly (perfect), to the heaviest rain I have ever seen, with thunder and lightning in between - plus a wind that for most of the week was on the pretty damn fresh side. Sight fishing of course is based around seeing fish, and whilst there are a lot of fish on Astove, you need decent light to be able to see them - overcast skies make life very hard, but overall we got enough good weather for the clients to smash a heap of fish, and also for me to get what I needed.

 

I don’t really see how anything in fishing is ever going to get madder than seeing an angry GT chasing a fly down in crystal clear water. We have what we have here in the UK and we love it, but we have nothing even remotely close to giant trevally coming at you with their backs out of the water at such a ridiculous speed it leaves me utterly in awe every single time I see it. At times it’s almost scary how aggressively these insane fish come at your fly, and as much as the world’s largest GTs are generally taken via popping and jigging techniques, to me I can’t help but love how somewhere like Astove offers the angler the opportunity to sight fish to them. That’s where GT fishing is at for me.

Photo courtesy Alphonse Fishing Company

 

The biggest GT of the week was landed on the first morning, a 124cm forklength fish as you can see above - we spilt up into groups each day and I did not get to see this particular GT (good guiding Jako, his guys landed eight 1m plus GTs on that day), but on one of the days I did witness the largest GT I have ever seen hooked in the Seychelles smash into a fly so hard and so fast it was downright freaky, and this thing was not stopping. The angler’s drag was done up as tight as it would go yet this fish just kept on motoring out to sea at a horrible speed until the braided loop broke open. When you see a good angler standing there and holding on for dear life to a 12-weight fly rod that has completely flattened out and there isn’t a damn thing he can do about it, that there is some serious stuff in my book. We all saw the fish, and without any shadow of a doubt it was over 100lbs. It might be fly fishing, but the gentle art it ain’t.

 

If you know a bit about saltwater fly fishing, you will know that permit are one of the holy grails, and I saw a double hookup of Indo-Pacific permit one afternoon with both fish landed - the light wasn’t great, but that aside I must imagine this is a pretty rare occurrence. Two very happy anglers and a seriously over the moon guide!! There are almost a silly number of bonefish in the lagoon at Astove, with some seriously big bones moving around the surf zone on the outside as the tide strips away and they feel safe moving into the shallow water to feed - and yes, there are a lot of sharks out there, and yes, I had a couple come at me properly. You have to stand there, let them come pretty close, and then stamp your feet and hope they turn away. Fear and excitement in equal measures, and I love it.

 

All the incredible fishing and numbers of fish aside though, Astove feels like a place that time forgot. You see hawksbill and green turtles  almost everywhere you look, and sometimes you get really close to them before they see you and scarper. Astove is a very important nesting site for these turtles, indeed one morning guys were picking up baby turtles that had got confused and wandered into camp and let them go in the sea. Stingrays are abundant, and they often have a GT or a bunch of bluefin trevally swimming with them. Wandering around on the atoll are a bunch of Aldabra giant tortoises that look really mellow until you walk past and they often hiss at you and retreat into their huge shells.

 

And then you have The Wall as it is known. Maybe a couple of hundred metres from where you have breakfast and supper is one of the most awesome things I have ever been lucky enough to have seen - on the last morning a few of us snorkelled out over the shallow reef to where The Wall drops away, and it’s awesome. From being able to stand up and touch the bottom, there is suddenly this inky blackness right there, and it drops away like a wall. No gently sloping from shallow to deep - you’re on a shallow reef, and then you are looking down into an abyss, just like that, and it’s one eerie feeling to snorkel over it. Apparently in some places The Wall drops away vertically to over 1000m deep (yes, a thousand). You hang there in the water, looking at shallow reef in one eye, and in the other is the abyss (with fish, turtles, sharks etc. everywhere) - the line of black you can see just behind the anglers in the photo above is that dropoff. It’s so good to be back home, but wow was that some experience.

 

If you know a bit about saltwater fly fishing, you will know that permit are one of the holy grails, and I saw a double hookup of Indo-Pacific permit one afternoon with both fish landed - the light wasn’t great, but that aside I must imagine this is a pretty rare occurrence. Two very happy anglers and a seriously over the moon guide!! There are almost a silly number of bonefish in the lagoon at Astove, with some seriously big bones moving around the surf zone on the outside as the tide strips away and they feel safe moving into the shallow water to feed - and yes, there are a lot of sharks out there, and yes, I had a couple come at me properly. You have to stand there, let them come pretty close, and then stamp your feet and hope they turn away. Fear and excitement in equal measures, and I love it.

 

All the incredible fishing and numbers of fish aside though, Astove feels like a place that time forgot. You see hawksbill and green turtles  almost everywhere you look, and sometimes you get really close to them before they see you and scarper. Astove is a very important nesting site for these turtles, indeed one morning guys were picking up baby turtles that had got confused and wandered into camp and let them go in the sea. Stingrays are abundant, and they often have a GT or a bunch of bluefin trevally swimming with them. Wandering around on the atoll are a bunch of Aldabra giant tortoises that look really mellow until you walk past and they often hiss at you and retreat into their huge shells.

 

And then you have The Wall as it is known. Maybe a couple of hundred metres from where you have breakfast and supper is one of the most awesome things I have ever been lucky enough to have seen - on the last morning a few of us snorkelled out over the shallow reef to where The Wall drops away, and it’s awesome. From being able to stand up and touch the bottom, there is suddenly this inky blackness right there, and it drops away like a wall. No gently sloping from shallow to deep - you’re on a shallow reef, and then you are looking down into an abyss, just like that, and it’s one eerie feeling to snorkel over it. Apparently in some places The Wall drops away vertically to over 1000m deep (yes, a thousand). You hang there in the water, looking at shallow reef in one eye, and in the other is the abyss (with fish, turtles, sharks etc. everywhere) - the line of black you can see just behind the anglers in the photo above is that dropoff. It’s so good to be back home, but wow was that some experience.