Saturday, 15 October 2016

A Weird Fishing Weekend

Life is full of tough decisions. Trump vs Hilary (Lord help all of us). Canal vs river. Pike fishing vs trout fishing. Some are tricky because all the options are tempting. Others are tougher still because none of the options fill you with much joy. My life is full of these tricky calls because, paid fishing hack or not, my time is limited. My whole summer seemed like an example of this. Yes, I did some cool things, like kayak fishing and a lot of LRF. But it's the things I have to drop that kill me. I didn't get round to fishing the canal for carp. I hardly fished the pole, a method which I love. At least autumn makes for easier choices, because I would sooner saw my legs off than not fish for pike once the colder months arrive.

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But this blog is yet another tough decision. What exactly do I publish and what do I leave out? I would love to share the lot with you, but simply have to keep hold of enough juicy bits and detail for my articles in the non-virtual world. Indeed, the digital age can be a curse as much as a blessing for anyone who writes for a living. Even with major news sites and media sources, it seems totally normal for many contributors to get on the ladder by working for nothing, essentially. Great you might think- until you realise that the massive increase in quantity comes at a heavy cost in terms of quality. But I digress. We're all going to have to get smarter- but also stand our ground.

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One thing I cannot help but share this week are an action shot or two, some strange events and a particularly handy recent tip from a frenetic weekend. One of the perks of mixing with many different anglers is that I end up combining things that wouldn't usually come together. And recent detours have led me to a rather different and novel way of converting predator flies to deadly jigs with one simple adjustment:

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I've found that by using the typical ball weights, with detachable loops (above) used by jig anglers, it is a piece of cake to add a pike fly rather than the usual hook and rubber lure. Very simple, but works a treat! Could be a cracking way to fish for my lure angling pals who want some of the benefits of fly fishing without investing in all the kit and casting lessons. Also good for the allrounder though, in swims and fisheries with limited casting space.

I also have a decision about what I should tell you about one or two discoveries sure to split opinion. Such as seeing a seal on the River Tone! I kid you not. It was on a piking session with John Deprieelle (who takes a mean picture- like the opener for this post). At first light we thought it was an otter, before we got a better look and it was way too big. The local club are extremely worried to say the least. It can get through a fair weight of fish per day, and is already leaving bits of chewed up pike and chub strewn about. What do you do?

In my case I kick up a right fuss, contacting the EA, local media and even wildlife groups. To little avail so far sadly- frustrating, although I do understand that the Agency can prove legally powerless. To compound matters, the general public are also making the situation worse by interfering. Not content to give it a name, they have been feeding the seal mackerel! It doesn't take a detective to work out the risk with the pike fishing season about to kick off...

Given the scare, it's probably little surprise we found bites a bit hard to come by for much of the day. That said, we did respectably well, sharing seven pike once things settled down a bit and we had travelled a good distance from the rampaging seal. Probably as well to make a little hay before more fish disappear down the gullet of old blubber guts. It almost makes you jealous of fisheries that only have otters to deal with!

In spite of the seal though, it was a brilliant day out and a long overdue session with John, who is one of those anglers who you sense is extremely capable but lacks that deadly serious ego that sometimes afflicts the specimen hunter. Perhaps the best moment of the day was hopping little side drains though. I thought John had lost the plot when he suggested we cross one of these channels via a dodgy old pipe. However, not only did he walk along it, but paused half way to do some jigging. My laughter quickly turned to amazement as he extracted a perch from about twelve inches of mucky water!

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Naturally, there were no seals in the sea when I met up with Andy Mytton a little later (because what on earth would they be doing there?). But I did have a very fascinating Sunday fishing trip in Dorset, hopping between spots and species in quick succession. Suffice to say I'll be doing more with Andy in future because what he does is fascinating. Some of it is genuinely new ground, even in the brave new world of LRF. But what I like best about it is that this evolving style of lure fishing is both quite grown up and technical, but also brilliantly trigger happy and almost childish. Like tackling harbour walls and rocks with split shot rigs and tiny hooks, while watching what I can only describe as miniature scale violence kicking off.

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Seriously, if this was a Channel Five series, it would be called "GOBY WARS" or "BRITAIN'S MOST BRUTAL BLENNIES". And I'd probably watch it. Even more eye-opening though was a whole stack of garfish turning up around the coast; bearing in mind this is October and not a balmy summer evening in July. We ripped little soft lures in, receiving chases and hits galore, but nothing stuck. We must have had sixty plucks each, it was getting dark and we still hadn't had a fish.

Lure fishing for garfish must be one of the most frustrating things ever, but so compelling. There were oohs and aaahhs galore. More than at a firework display, thought Andy. I'd liken it more to watching a football team with great build up but the world's shittest striker up front. So many damned chances, but still zero on the score sheet. We were hopping up and down with frustration- but I can't remember the last time I laughed so much at a daft fish. "If I catch one I'm going to slap it" were my exact words.

So what was the answer? Well, the tactic of cast, cast, cast, cast, cast, cast didn't seem to be working. At some point there was a scratching of heads and a sort of desperate concocting of plans B, C and D. We tried scaling down to tiny little lures and jig heads, which landed a fish for Andy. For me, I managed a couple of late gar by adding a little stinger hook, literally a size 14 match hook, flying loose behind my soft bait and tied directly to the bend of the jig head (a 2g, size 8 model).

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We added further species after dark too, and Andy revealed some tactics and species which fairly frazzled my mind. But you'll have to watch this space for more on these and other scores. Sorry.

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The only other recent fishing of note, in fact, was a fly fishing trip to Devon's Bellbrook Fishery with both Ben and John Garnett in tow, which proved a bit of a tough nut on this occasion. We really had to chop and change the flies to keep the takes coming to say the least. Both mini lures and spiders got a look from me, without ever really cleaning up. How's this for a perfect, full-tailed autumn rainbow trout though?

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Still, the fishing is bound to improve as things get cooler. As always I'll also be updating the Turrall Flies blog with more content and fly fishing news each month. If you haven't checked recently, Chris Ogborne has just provided some great tips on fly fishing for grayling. Just click here to read it.

Now what are we going to do with that seal? A blunt object and some heavy lifting gear? Or shall we call it Elvis and feed it mackerel?

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Trials of a Fishing Guide

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It’s one of the great pleasures of writing and hacking away a living through fishing that I meet so many fellow anglers. At times in the summer holidays, it can feel as if I spend as many days teaching others to fish as doing it myself. But in six years of running guided fishing trips in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset I’ve yet to find a guest I didn't enjoying meeting.

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There are tangles along the way and always a surprise or two. And just as with fishing, no two days are exactly the same. You might be teaching kids to fish on the canal one day, taking someone fly fishing for a seventieth birthday present the next.

It’s not always easy being a guide, but I still think it’s probably the best way to go for anyone who would like to earn some income from fishing. But when your focus is someone else’s success you have to be really well prepared; often far better prepared than for your own fishing!

Even with the best preparation in the world though, there are things that can trip you up. You trust the weather, or the facilities, at your peril in fishing. Nor can you magically make fish bite, although you will spend plenty of time smiling pleasantly to your guests, while on the inside desperately willing the fish to stop playing silly buggers and cooperate.

Neil Fletcher was my guest for a session on Hawkridge Reservoir last week, celebrating his birthday. A good choice of venues this, because while it has plenty of water to go at, it is not one of those gigantic reservoirs where fish location can completely bamboozle you.

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And we saw signs of life pretty early. There is a band of weed from the shallows of the lodge side bank, beyond which is an inviting corridor of water- although I always fancy the fish here will be eating natural food and not the daftest or easiest to catch.

Aside from teaching Neil the basics of the double haul cast, I wanted to show him how to fish longer leaders and more than one fly with confidence. He was quickly picking up a few pointers, but the fish were not willing to take- and after a fruitless start he went onto an intermediate line and had an instant charge.

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Fairly well-sunk blobs and small lures seemed to be the way to win odd bites for the time being, at least until the afternoon when the rise forms and leaping fish became more and more common.

Back on the floating line and long leader, I encouraged Neil to try a duo (UV Buzzer on point, along with a Black Diawl Bach on the dropper). He had used a rod’s length of level fluorocarbon for most of his fishing. So I set him up with my own simple two fly set up consisting of a 9ft tapered leader, along with an extra 6ft or so of 6lb fluorocarbon.

Besides a better presentation, I’m convinced it is the greater depths your flies reach that account for the success of long leaders. The bites can be subtler- and you don’t get the savage pulls and sudden lock-ups of lure fishing. But there is something lovely about seeing the end of the fly line slide covertly away.

It was a hard won victory in the end, but a very sweet finish with the last two of his four fish coming to the buzzer. The final catch was right on last cast and a fitting reward for taking just a few extra minutes casting practise at the end

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An equally enjoyable and more testing day was lined up next at Litton Reservoirs, Somerset. Run by Bristol Water, these are two lakes that can be privately booked. As such they are ideal for group fly fishing sessions, hence the choice by a stag party who wanted to give the groom a decent send off with some trout.

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It is a bitch of a fishery to find, I must say, with no signs whatsoever. I guess this is to keep it safe. No fear, I was very early. But the next not so nice surprise was discovering from the neighbours that you have to drive to Woodford Lodge on Chew Lake to get the keys! Here’s a hint, Bristol Water Fisheries- this would be nice to know when you book, as might an email or anything at all to explain the set up!

That said, Litton Lakes themselves are pretty, especially the first of the two you come to. Everything is a little like Fort Knox, so it was as well the stag group were a little late so I could get set up. The boys were a little worse for wear on arrival (Bristol vs Exeter rugby match and a late one the night before), but got the basics of casting valiantly in a fairly stiff breeze by the dam- the best open space I could find to get them throwing loops and bark some directions and encouragement.

The next stumbling block was the equipment. Locks on everything- and even once in, we only found four life jackets for six, or seven with the guide (it is mostly boat fishing, with three available). So While two slightly more experienced heads go to check out the top lake, we set out on the lower in two boats and I go without a jacket. I also discover a missing rowlock as I steer out- a sodding great big that won’t stay in place is always a great way to pick up some bruises, I find.

There weren’t many fish showing, but watching the group get into the swing of casting out and letting the flies sink well before twitching them in, I felt that somebody had to break the deadlock before long. A decent sized fish was hooked and lost on our boat, but it was the stag, Jack, who hit the net first with a nicely conditioned two-pound rainbow. Should make him popular with the wife-to-be...

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The first fish always takes the pressure off a little. So does a hair of the dog, a few laughs and some lunch by the fishing shelter on a warm afternoon. The group were getting a few bites, and the most reliable patterns seemed to be small lures in either yellow or black with a bit of sparkle,but so only two fish had stuck. Perhaps the colours that stood out best in the slightly greenish water. My favourite fly for newcomers tends to be the Kennick Killer these days- not only is it well weighted and with plenty of movement, but the weight is partly concealed in the dressing, set back a little from the eye. This not only gives it a tidy profile, but prevents the gold bead smashing into the fly rod at high speed.

The flash of a kingfisher seemed a good omen as we finished lunch and switched boats. We also received a bit of a lifejacket lecture from the bank from Bristol Water- and I’m not ashamed to say I gave them a real earful about the state of their set up and lack of any welcome or guidance. But there were way more important things than regulations to deal with. We had but a few afternoon hours to improve our tally.

Bites continued to tease us but remain sporadic. The one spot that continued to show signs of life was the fountain of water at the end of the first lake. A brown of three quarters of a pound was a welcome surprise, while the edge of the pool also yielded the best of the day to Ben, who had a really epic fight with a fish that seemed intent on either snapping him off or going for the anchor rope.

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The really satisfying thing was how well he learned from earlier in the day, when he’d played a fish for over a minute, before it snapped him on a hard run. This time, he gave it an extra yard of line and didn’t force the fight. A very well earned fish.

Back in my own world, I've been doing more with Turrall Flies, including a visit to their new base in Okehampton. How brilliant it is that the office is now just a short distance from the River Okement too, a lovely trout stream with some decent fly fishing.

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I found a healthy push of autumn water and tried both classic spiders and larger dry flies, after seeing hatching caddis. Challenging water and some testing wading, but I managed to get amongst a handful, including a nice one of around 9-10". Pretty fish too, with large heads and dark gold colours. And as always, what a shame the trout season is so nearly over.

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It has been an exciting time for me, actively helping the company to develop their fly range and add my words and photography. Do take a look at the Turrall Flies Blog and Facebook Page for current content.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Strange Waters Photography Competition Winners

The aim was to find the best and most unusual and adventurous pictures of your fishing. We had a whole raft of great fishing images, but in the end I had to boil it down, completely subjectively, to five pictures. Really grateful for all your entries, but here are the final entries that really stood out:

1. Jason Coggins: Fishtec Exclusive Fishing Luggage Winner!

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For anyone who loves wilderness fishing, Jason’s image and report summed up the charm of the islands of Western Scotland, such as Islay. Wild trout lochs are a real feature on some islands, but his shot was from the rugged coastline (love the rusted old wreck!). And if that wasn’t intoxicating enough, you're just a few yards from the local whisky distillery.

Jason wins an Airflo Flydri-150lt Cargo Wheelie Bag, a bomb-proof fishing bag fit for any fishing journey.
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2. Thomas Finney: Turrall Fly Pod Winner
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Close behind in second place was James’s picture of the coast at Stebley Point. An image that really captures the drama of shore fishing.

Thomas wins a Turrall Fly-Pod of his choice. These feature a tough, double-sided box and selections of proven fly patterns, from reservoir flies to grayling specials.
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Our three final entries receive a copy of Crooked Lines, my collection of twenty-four fishing tales, with exclusive artwork from Lord Bunn, available at DG Fishing for £9.99 or as an Amazon Kindle Edition for just £4.99

3. Christopher Kirkham - Book Winner
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Chris Kirkham’s Victorian moat is definitely a memorable place to fish, and just one of various striking water defences that can be fished in the UK. Several castles offer lakes or even moats to fish, while pillbox shelters from WW2 are a classic on some of our canals.

4. Nicholas Lawrence – Book Winner
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When things get really cramped on a river, you have to improvise a little. Or in this case climb a tree to get your fly to the waiting salmon!

5. Sam Wadman – Book Winner
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Some of you really do get around the planet for your fishing! A beautiful shot here, taken on Sam Wadman’s trip to the mountain lakes of Iran.

A huge thanks to all our other entrants, because every shot told a story and we loved all of them. Thanks also to Fishtec and Turrall for the prizes.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Fishing Roads and Fishing Reads

So much has happened in the past few weeks I am unsure where to start. Having got married in England, I had a second celebration in Poland last week. The weather was baking hot, and we had a wild time, going into the early hours with beer and vodka and songs.

Hung over and a little jet-lagged returning to England, the travels have continued too. I’ve been up into Somerset and into the midlands for the Pike Angler’s Club Convention, with semi urban places both closer to home and more obscure.

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The chub have been the real late season revelation. I’ve had lots on the River Tone, but if anything the Taunton to Bridgwater Canal has the bigger stamp of fish. This one went a little over four pounds and accepted a drowned terrestrial fly.

Meanwhile, the rudd and trout have not disappointed either. I also ran into one of those brilliant, weird souls you chance upon now and again. Chris “Hawk” is a curious old eco warrior, with more than a few tales to tell.

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We had a good chuckle at the state of the world on the riverbank, where he distracted me fairly successfully from the task of catching trout.

Chris has a hat full of badges, the world over his shoulder and a jacket weathered with the cause, the beginnings and endings of countless pub debates hanging like smoke. And the twang of Devon and the road.

There are fishing conspiracies too, stories of skate and sea trout and bass. He is an actual druid, a church verger and a protester of several decades, once listed as a criminal for his uncompromising position on the environment. He speaks of current projects, the good and the bad old days. But none of this is helping me catch trout.

I nod and miss another take in tumbling water, yards from where the river ceases to be a wild stream and becomes a world of dogs and children and bored townsfolk. Perhaps this is why I love the nutters. We’re also distracted by the dippers, talk of kingfishers and even an old woodpecker’s nest in a fallen tree.

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Of course, he knows where there are some bigger trout too. They always do. Upstream the river weaves and tightens. Little fish skitter away in thin, sandy water. But by the next bridge is a deeper pool with better push of water, where a tree casts shadows and a small weir starts.

A Deer Hair Caddis flicked into the corner has the desired effect almost immediately as a shoulder turns and the fly disappears at a gulp. It fights hard in the deep water too, sailing right under the bridge, a fit bright fish.

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Back in Somerset, some of the smaller drains have been well worth a look too, before the temperatures cool and the fish go down. The roach, rudd and huybrids have been hungry and willing takers, and knowing where the big rudd are likely to be, I’ve been scaling up my flies to a size 12 or even a 10 with my favoured soft hackled flies. Because while my general advice to simply catch fish is to try nymphs in the size 16-18 bracket, it’s easy to pull a tiny fly straight out of a tiny mouth on the strike. Wide gaped hooks are good for the job.

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I also step up tackle slightly with these bigger flies. A chub is always a possibility, or a hybrid (above, caught on a Black Spider) while a big rudd can easily break a fine tippet if he weeds you up. Modern copylmer lines are brilliant for giving a fine presentation without compromising on strength. I like a 4lb tippet, but will go up to 6lbs if it’s snaggy and there is the chance of a good chub or perch. My ten foot four weight rod handles them all, although it’s not the best for casting heavier streamers for perch fishing.

It was addictive, infuriating fishing in the end. The water clarity was just a little too dirty to sight fish effectively. At some periods I could see shoals of good rudd but they were keeping low and it was difficult to track the fly. I dug out some beaded spiders in the end, but it was still a game of anticipation, casting the nymph well ahead of the shoal and watching each passing rudd to turn or rise and gobble.

They are such game fighters on light tackle. Not outrageously fast, but broad sided and energetic fish. I just cannot quite break the two-pound barrier, but caught three fish all of over the pound and a half mark, to 1lb 11oz.

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Otherwise, I’ve also been on the road at the Pike Anglers Club Convention, as a guest speaker and with my usual table of books, flies and other things. One fellow bookworm I meet at several of these events is Chris Quinn. He’s a real magpie when it comes to fishing books and owns well over two thousand, collecting them incessantly. He has all of my books, signed and, well, in beautiful condition. He doesn’t read all of the books, because they must be kept in excellent condition, so I should take it as a compliment that he has read Crooked Lines.

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And if the truth be told, I am a bit of a bookworm too. I just don’t always get the time, but have been happy to see Merlin Unwin Books again lately. A month ago they were celebrating their 25th Anniversary and so I’ve been only too happy to meet old friends like Theo Pike, and new alike, such as Laurence Catlow.

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The Healing Stream is Catlow’s homage to the Rivers Wharfe and Eden, and a life spent both finding and failing to find contentment. It has a rare confessional quality to it, delving into many of the places fishing writers don't usually tread. Indeed, beyond well-rendered days from Catlow’s best loved rivers, there is a darker narrative of breakdown. It's about a man's loss and recovery, spanning decades along running water. And it's both bleak and beautiful.

The anecdotes from many years fishing are keenly set down and highly entertaining. There are also some interesting thoughts and terse wisdom on flies and techniques. It ranges from lyrical to gut-wrenchingly frank, and sometimes argumentative in the best possible sense . Indeed, I didn't agree with all of Catlow's viewpoints. For example, I get the distinct feeling he considers fishing with streamers and gold beaded flies, both methods I use, as heathen as it gets. But he is not a traditional stick-in-the-mud and also goes into rich detail on traditional worming methods, which I found fascinating and quite unexpected. His discussions on catch and release ethics and other topics similarly lively and although I get the feeling we could have quite a long pub debate, I continued to find the author not only eloquent, but likable.

Suffice to say then, The Healing Stream has plenty to both satisfy and challenge any reflective fly fisher. However, it is the darker and more personal side that really sets the book aside. It’s about the river’s permanence alongside the short, fallible span of human life. It is a forthright account of Catlow’s struggles with the bottle, faith and the flow of his whole life. Sometimes uncomfortable but often revealing, I found no shortage of interesting counterpoints, some beautiful prose and plenty to ponder.

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Nymphing the New Way: French Leader Fishing for Trout (Jonathan White)
is the other current fly fishing release from Merlin Unwin Books and could not be a more different proposition. This is a detailed, excellently illustrated guide to French Leader techniques- or in plain English, the art of fishing with super long leaders. I'm not sure Mr Catlow would approve, but for so many of us interested to see how these methods are used to catch some huge trout and grayling in difficult rivers, this looks a fine book.

It is technically thorough, but lifted from being a very dry topic by beautiful photography, some interesting chapters in fly fishing history and the direct input from several very talented anglers from around the globe, including young England International Oscar Boatfield and others from America to Eastern Europe. Indeed, the little chapters with tips, flies and thoughts from a handful of different anglers at the end are pithy, inspiring and my favourite part of the book.

Will it alter my own fishing? Time will tell. My own local streams are often very small and suited to short leaders, but I will devour the tactics for waters such as the Wye, Lower Exe and Usk. In fact, it is a good shot in the arm for anyone who fishes larger rivers, especially where sport is tough.

Strange really, that I often swear by a long leader on stillwaters, but am considerably less brave on running waters. The French Leader technique is something I intend to try more often after reading this book. The information is incredibly thorough but there are also some inspiring fishing stories and useful bits, from leader construction diagrams to tips on fly fishing for grayling, large trout and even carp. Refreshingly varied and well worth a look for any fly angler I'd say.

Both titles are available from

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Strange Waters competition: Best fishing pictures so far...

What a great summer it has been so far for discovering new fishing destinations. The new "Strange Waters" contest aims to bring together some of the most strikingly different, whether wild or man made environments. Thanks to all those who have entered so far, thought I'd share the best of them with you below.

Still plenty of time to enter, until September 25th. Just post your pictures on the Facebook thread or email me:

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A beautiful spot on the Isle of Islay for Jason Coggins. Ideal for a spot of fly fishing or LRF, with whisky distilleries a further temptation nearby.

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Wild tides at Stebley point. Thanks to Thomas Finney

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A beautifully composed shot of fishing the Fenlands, from Lee Saunders

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Fishing nutter Dan Sales courts calamity and a large bream. Don't try this at home kids!

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Welcome to the fairground: A holiday cast in Portugal for Paul Sharman.

Thanks everyone- and keep those entries coming! You can read the previous blog for all the competition rules and prizes on offer, which include travel kit, fly collections and signed books from yours truly!

Thursday, 25 August 2016


Have you fished anywhere wild, different or downright weird lately? Regular readers of the blog and my Angling Times "Far Bank" column might already know of my love of bizarre and off-the-beaten-trail places to fish.

I also know that many of you will be returning from travels in some pretty weird and wonderful places. Hence I wanted to celebrate the beautiful and bizarre places you go fishing with an exclusive competition, open from now until Sept 15th 2016

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The rules are pretty simple. All you have to do is share your fishing venue pictures, along with a sentence or two describing the place, why you were drawn to it and what's so special or unusual about it. It needn't be exotic or far flung either; travel destinations would be great, but you could just as easily capture somewhere distinctly urban right on your doorstep. Just to start the ball rolling, I've described five of my favourites below, from the streets of Amsterdam to Arctic Norway!

PRIZES: Just to give you an extra incentive, I've wangled several neat prizes courtesy of Fishtec and Turrall Flies to reward the best, funniest and strangest entries. These are as follows:

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Fancy winning the smartest, toughest solution for travelling with your fishing kit? Look no further than the Airflo Flydri 150lt Cargo Wheelie Bag (RRP: £169.99). With a big capacity and bullet proof construction, this is just the ticket to get your rods, reels and tackle safely to your chosen fishing destination. Even if it happens to be on the other side of the planet, or the luggage handlers do their job with all the finesse of a group of axe-murderers (sorry to all the careful luggage handlers, but some of you seem to love smashing up our fishing tackle. It's a bloody good job you don't work in childcare).

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Fancy winning a brilliant boxed fly selection or a collectible 1st edition of my latest book? Four highly-commended entries will be rewarded handsomely with one of these great fishing gifts. The Flypod is a brilliant concept for the travelling angler, featuring a whole collection of proven deadly flies in a durable, double sided box at less than £25. Meanwhile, Crooked Lines features two-dozen of my finest, funniest and strangest fishing stories and some truly eye-opening fishing destinations (Described as "an absolute treat" and "like what might happen if Gierach, John Cooper Clark and Half Man Half Biscuit got together and wrote about fishing", if you believe the recent reviews...).

HOW TO ENTER: Just share your pictures on the DG FISHING FACEBOOK PAGE or simply email them to me ( Do provide some info about the location, what you might catch and what makes it unique. You have ONE MONTH from now to get your pictures in (deadline: 25th September), and I'll be sharing and commenting on the images I like the best as we go (you have been warned!).

So without further ado, here are five of my most memorable destinations from both the UK and abroad to get your brain ticking over:

1. Arctic Norway
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It’s one thing to still want to fish when the mercury hits silly temperatures, but quite another to pack a drill and get fishing! In Northern Norway, this is a reality for anglers who must find a way or take an unbearably long break. On my trip to Skaidi, we used foot-long rods and fished through holes no wider than a dinner plate to catch Arctic Char. A reindeer skin protects your backside from freezing, while snacks include dried halibut and whisky. By night it got down to -20C, but we carried on fishing actually inside the tent!

2. Pant-y-Llyn, Wales
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Some of the most uncannily beautiful waters of all are those little altered by man. Pant-y-llyn is one of those places you simply have to fish at least once in your life, especially if you are a bit of an old school carp fishing romantic. You won't find bloated, boilie-fed forty pounders here. But you might just tangle with some of Britian's most classic looking fish, as it is one of the only remaining fisheries with true wild carp. It's also one of the tales featured in Crooked Lines, while you can also book a days fishing there yourself with the Wye and Usk Foundation.

3. River Wandle, London
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Urban fisheries produce some of the most surprising sport in the UK. Among the most fascinating is London’s River Wandle, where I fished with conservationist Theo Pike. In spite of a history of severe pollution, the river is now bouncing back and has everything from wild trout to roach, chub and even the odd barbel. Even so, it’s an odd feeling casting a fly or trotting a float while double decker buses and police cars pass.

4. Caerphilly Castle
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Since the age of about seven, I think most of us can admit to having a secret fantasy about being a feudal baron with ultimate power, medieval weaponry and a stinking great big castle, right? Well, it's never going to happen. But for a day at least, you can enjoy not only one of the oldest castles in Britain, but fish in its 25 or so acre moat! How cool is that? There are roach, bream, carp and even a few pike here. If you can find a castle type venue to top this, make sure you send us a picture!

5. Amsterdam
A haven for tourists and travelling hedonists, you might assume the waters of Amsterdam were too dirty to hold much life. And you’d be wrong! Countless canals and other waters contain perch, pike, carp and some excellent zander fishing. My good friend Dutch fishing guide Pim Pos has even cast a line in the city’s notorious Red Light District! The city is also famous for its art museums, fantastic food and drink, and strange smelling tobacco, which I am told can make one somewhat dizzy. Not that you probably need it with swims like the one below, complete with pair of dismembered plastic legs:
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Ok, over to you! All you have to do is post your pictures HERE... good luck.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Late Summer Fishing Highs and Lowlives

In another interesting week of summer fishing I've been cramming in the short sessions wherever possible once again. A bit of a scattergun approach perhaps, but as we head into the end of August you do get that feeling that there is only so much summer left, with time so precious and limited.

Some regular followers will no doubt relate to the plight of the multiple job man. In the eyes of the tax system at least, I have no fewer than four different jobs. And although much of my time is to do with the things I love, it is sill work- and it can be tricky to free a few hours just to sneak off down the river, or spend a bit of time with the wife and no technology in sight. Chance would be a fine thing... quite often I want to bung my phone into the sea.

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One benefit of my hours writing blogs and other copy for Clockwork (a marketing company near Newton Abbot) is that I finish my office hours only a short distance from the sea. And with Darren Sieminski, one of our ace website designers, a keen sea angler himself, another post work trip to the coast was overdue.

We parked by Living Coasts (slightly cheaper than the 24 hour robbery of the marina carpark) grabbed some tea straight from the outdoor market in Torquay before fishing the left hand wall of the outer harbour. Caught in about ten different minds, I had bundled four different rods in the car, along with LRF lures and some bait. Darren could have been forgiven for looking a bit confused.

Not that it took long to get bites. I had two small wrasse right from the off on small plastic worms fished dropshot style. Meanwhile, Darren had a small pollack on float tackle. He had released it carefully, but just as it looked as if it might recover, a seagull nabbed it. After that we had little for an hour, aside from a brief altercation with a guy on the other side of the wall, who insisted on wanging his rigs right round our side of the barrier, and then throwing a a strop when the lines got caught.

Seriously, I do worry about anyone who would hurl abuse at a complete stranger over something as petty as who has the right to cast where. As someone who worked for years with junkies, alcoholics and violent offenders, I'm fairly well versed in keeping calm and not lighting any fuses. Our friend here could have done with a similar lesson- because on a sea wall, threatening behaviour could lead to someone getting injured or killed. But hey ho, this is public fishing I guess. We also saw an inflatable boat fishing and moving right in feathering range of the pier- perhaps a southwest contender for the Darwin Awards on the cards?

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Our bad tempered friend then promptly left just as the tide was climbing and the light went dimpsy. So much for picking your moment, because the fishing improved greatly as night approached. I had a lure caught pouting (above) on a weedless rigged Isome section, before giving Darren a crack with the lure rod and baiting up a bottom rig with a prawn. Not so long ago I wouldn't have given supermarket prawns a second look, but they seem to make pretty decent baits for flatties and smaller species.

Just about able to pick out the rod tip by the lights of the fairground in the distance, I had a really rod rattling bite. It wasn't the four-pound bass I had imagined, but nevertheless a very welcome rockling. My first, as it happens. I'm no expert on the different types of rockling, so perhaps someone could enlighten me? I gather they will also occasionally take lures.

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It was a lovely evening, in fact, totally forgetting about phones and deadlines and just feeling for bites by the lights of Torquay. Sea fishing here is so much more varied than you realise, because 90% of visitors only seem to have eyes for mackerel. I strongly suspect that night fishing is the answer though, whether with lures or bait. To cement this hunch, Darren then hooked into the best fish of the trip; a hard-fighting pollack quite a bit bigger than the earlier samples.

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Just for the record, Clockwork Marketing are well worth a look for anyone involved in the hospitality trade or trying to build a business in any leisure or tourism activity! We make fantastic websites- and already do a great job for one or two fishing hotels. So much of the fishing world is blighted by dated and inadequate online presence I cannot help but feel there are more matches to be made in future. After all, how many dedicated marketing and website building agencies have actual anglers on the team?

I digress anyway, but if you are traveling to Devon soon, or if sea fishing is your thing, do also be sure to take a look at the recent Channel Kayaks Blog HERE, which features several recent kayak fishing marks and trips in Devon, from Sidmouth to Salcombe. Meanwhile, tackling the craggier parts of the South Hams in the company of happy-go-lucky maniac Norbert Darby is also my focus for the new edition of Fallon's Angler, just out.

So what else of note can I report from the past week or two? I jumped at the chance to dash back onto the local canals and River Tone for some surface sport, if done in a bit of a hurry. On the cut, I must have spent about 80% of a 2-3 hour session just walking and looking and not fishing, seeking out larger rudd and roach. And I found one or two, albeit in very different spots to previous seasons. I lost what looked like a 2lbs+ hybrid (bream/rudd?) basking in the top foot of water, before netting two nice rudd to one pound nine ounces. As is so often the case, it was a simple capture- the only key was casting in a bushy swim and getting a simple hackled wet fly (one of my Turrall Spiders) close to the fish.

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I also had a quick blast on the River Tone with Norbert joining me for the ride. We must be freak magnets, because we had uniformed staff out looking for some crook on the run.... who we think we spotted later. One of those guys you take one look at and think "oh God, what happens now... ". First it was "can I use your phone, I'll pay you a tenner" (because I always willingly lend my phone to guys who look like crack addicts) before the question "has there been any police or guys down here looking for me?" Christ on a unicycle, I bet the landed gentry fly fishing on the Test and Itchen don't have to deal with this sort of shit. One scary lunatic, and that's coming from me and Norbert, who seem to draw these undesirables like perch to a wriggling worm.

Still, the chub were feeding, albeit very spooky. So often in the low, clear water they would come right up to the fly, before sulking away again. The only takes were by taking your life in your hands and dropping a big terrestrial right under the branches in their sanctuary. I missed two nice fish, but hooked one of the best in a group of eight or so fish, which took a Chopper (my big, leggy deer hair winged fly designed for the species).

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Otherwise, the only fishy business I have to report is of a very pleasant short session on Creedy Lakes. Yes, I Know, I'm not always a fan of the big main lake. It's all a bit bivvy-tastic. But I had a lovely evening on the top pond and also made a new friend. In the same way you know instantly that some folks are surly buggers (like our friend in Torquay, Mr High Blood Pressure/ No Manners), others you just instantly know are on your wave length.

Such was the case with Mick Latham, who fished the next swim and was such great company- as we filled out tickets it appeared we had exactly the same plan, to fish simply on the less fashionable top lake, where it's pretty and weedy, even if the fish aren't quite as big.

Rather than race for the best spots though, we played it civilised, sharing pegs and anecdotes. It does make you think- surely this is the way it should always be, rather than competing with each other like kids? Sometimes I dislike busy specimen fisheries because regulars can get so serious they won't even say "hello" or "how's it fishing?". But it costs so little to be friendly to other anglers; and you could get a useful tip off or make a new pal.

I stuck it out on the floaters in the end, using nothing more complicated than a 50p bubble float (often just as good and less obtrusive than the huge £5 odd things I always see in the tackle shops) and a few dog biscuits. This was the best of my brace (and no, I didn't weigh it):

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In between a perfect lazy evening, watching the kingfishers, picking out the hoot of an owl, laughing and discussing life, the universe and everything, Mick went one better and caught three. We shared netting and photography roles too, perhaps confirming that angling etiquette isn't dead after all. Nice fish too in this top pond- they tend to be wily and strong:

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The only other recent journey was to Merlin Unwin Books, publishers of "Flyfishing For Coarse Fish", to attend their 25th anniversary bash and meet some fellow authors. I'll be reviewing some new fishing books shortly from their range, so do watch this space.

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The plan was then to fish at Caerphilly Castle on the way home, but the weather was too filthy to stick around long. Those keeping up with my weekly Angling Times column or who bought Crooked Lineswill know of my love of unusual angling destinations. This will also be the topic of a new photographic competition on the way very soon.

Until our lines cross again, let's all keep our heads and keep smiling. Happy fishing and my best to you all.