What exactly is fishing for you? I bet most of you can remember the first fish you ever caught, but what kind of angler are you there days? Do you chase "big" fish almost exclusively, are you hugely into competitive fishing, or is the simple act of just being out there on a waterway with fishing rod in hand (or on stand/pod etc.) what it's all about?
Maybe I'm lucky because via work I have managed to see and sometimes catch fish which many years ago were no more than a distant dream to an angler like me, but unlike say my uni days when the size of the fish meant almost everything, these days I have to say that for me the visual side of fishing these days arguably means far more to me than simply "big" fish - and especially considering that as much as we might love our fishing here in the UK and Ireland, we are not exactly overburdened with properly big fish when compared to some parts of the world.
I used to obsess, and I mean seriously obsess about wreck fishing from charter boats. Hell, I nearly flunked my first year at uni because I did one of those Guernsey trips and completely forgot about an exam I had. I think that over time my love for shore fishing took over from this kind of fishing, and those long steams to and from wrecks eventually killed that particular obsession - but I also know deep down that as my love of photographing fishing became more and more ingrained in me, the visual side of something like long-distance wreck fishing was not floating my boat. I can't help it and in no way am I saying that one kind of fishing is better than the other, it's just me and how I am wired I suppose.
Perhaps if I was not so obsessed with photographing fishing then I might still be spending a lot of time watching rod tips for bites, but I can't help but think this falling for lure fishing was a natural progression as regards my interest levels and my need to be turned on visually. Although I am a terrible fly fisherman, I can't help but love being around this kind of fishing with cameras in hand. OK, so a small stock-pond on a windswept moor with no background and atrocious light hardly does it for me, but more often than not the kinds of fly fishing I have been lucky to spend time around take place in some pretty cool locations which of course work for me and cameras, and it's the continual movement of angler and rod that gives one so many options.
And I see such parallels with lure fishing. Not only do increasing numbers of fly anglers find their way into chucking lures, but for me as a fishing photographer it's the lure fishing side of saltwater fishing that gives me those options for my photography. Sure, a guy casting a big beachcaster in light like you see above is about as good as it gets for me, but that evening on Chesil literally every single thing came together to shoot good stuff. From the visual side of things, it's the simple fact that a lure or indeed a fly angler tends to be moving around and of course casting a lot - and there's no getting away from how lots of casting and moving combined with multiple backdrops gives me the photographer so many options to fill my memory cards with images that turn me on. Yes, I need to sell photographs to help make a living, but it's always been way more than that for me, indeed if I was a half-decent business man I am sure I'd be making a far better living from this stuff!! Nope, I need to do it. I can't help but indulge my passion for the visual side of fishing and I suppose hope that enough clients like my stuff and enable me to keep indulging my two obsessions - fishing and photography of course.
It's essentially one and the same to me. I never go out fishing without at least one DSLR, lens and a couple of filters, just as (obviously!!) I never go fishing without a rod and reel. It would do me in to miss the capture of a serious fish with my camera(s), but more so I think it would finish me off if I missed an awesome looking location bathed with awesome light. I am often asked to fish away on these big overseas trips I do, but on my shoulder sits this little demon who would never let me forgive myself if I missed something with my cameras. None of this is remotely my fault - it's the way I am made, and as much as I used to love my boat fishing and of course still love those opportunities I get to do it, for the most part I simply need more of an interaction between angler (doing things like casting) and location, plus of course I love the walking and scrambling around.
I am not so enamoured with myself to ever believe that for one second the giant world of fishing would miss my "contributions" to it, but holy cow would I miss my lifelong obsession with trying to make this great sport of ours look as downright impressive and as appealing as I try to. Look around you and love the simple interactions between anglers, locations and light, because sometimes these innocuous combinations can take your breath away. And then a big fish jumps on the end of someone's line and it's all you can do to avoid complete heart failure!!