When my fishing addiction started as a young lad the thought of traveling to foreign shores in search of all manners of incredible species used to send me into a constant daydream, 20 years later it still does.  The problem is social media literally puts a new destination or fish in front of your face every day and personally, I now have a bucket list the size of a medieval scroll. I suppose it’s not really a bad problem to have but the options seem endless. As a fly angler, there has always been one location at the top of the list, the ultimate fly fishing destination – Alaska!  The runs of salmon are truly mind-blowing and consist of 5 separate Pacific species that all run in a relatively short period of time in their millions, along with them the rivers are full of wild rainbows, grayling, and char that give anglers another option to target and the chance of a great mixed bag.

ATA lodge

There was only ever going to be one option for Alaska, especially after hearing all about it from my good friend Wayne Mcgee who just so happens to co-own the Alaska Trophy Adventures Lodge (ATA lodge) situated on the banks of the pristine Alagnak river within the Katmai national park, every time he speaks about the place the emotions and love truly shine through, but also the millions of photo’s he has, always give’s me pure fish envy which is always is winner.  There was no way I was going to go alone tho, a big thing for me is experiencing such an incredible journey with friends, there’s something about being in the presence of others enjoying themselves, reaching their goals and catching a dream fish, this is no doubt why I love guiding people back home so much.  We eventually decided on our group and had literally put together the ultimate dream team, consisting of a great bunch of fishing fanatics from different angling backgrounds, abilities and walks of life, this is what I love about fishing so much is the people that you get to cross paths with that you would never meet in other sports and industries.

The journey

So after months of waiting September eventually arrived, and the day of our flight was upon us but unfortunately due to locality and times booked we were all on different flights, I did, however, have one of my good friends and Untamed Anglers co-presenter Ripon as company, one thing you can always rely on with Rip is entertainment, well when he’s not snoring his head off.  A few flight’s and thousands of miles later we arrived at anchorage to join up with Jonny, Marina, Russell, and Lee, we were instantly met by some of Alaska’s most iconic animals within the airport including a bear the size of King Kong, yes they were stuffed but it was the first time we’d ever seen anything of that size in person.  One short flight later and we arrived in the appropriately named King Salmon where we would wait for one final flight to the fishery, this is the closest airport to the lodge which is only accessible via a very exciting 4 seater bush plane which lands on the private airstrip.  If the flight in had anything to go by it was going to be one hell of a week and it got the old imagination running riot, all it required was some dramatic music and it would of been like entrance scene from a major blockbuster movie.

Once we were all settled in and had calmed down from the excitement of the flight, Wayne gathered all the new guest’s together for a pep talk on what to expect from the fishing but also safety, due to how remote the area is and how rich the resources of fish are there is a huge head of brown bears that absolute gorge on salmon, this is, however, is nothing to worry about as they are far more interested in the fish and if anything makes the whole experience even better, I mean who wouldn’t who wouldn’t want to see a bear?

After what seemed like a long night, mainly due to Rip snoring we woke to an incredible sunrise and our first morning of fishing, again my head was absolutely racing at the thought of what awaited us.  Due to it being early September we were predominately in prime silver salmon time but with the chance of connecting with pink’s and coho’s never to mention Arctic char, rainbows and Arctic grayling. Due to the multitude of species, this gave us an incredible chance of smashing in 2 totally separate Alaskan grand-slams, one salmon and one multi-species.  After what I can only describe as a breakfast of champions myself and a great friend/Iconic fish producer Jonny Mcgee headed upstream with camera in hand ready to get some fishy action, we were also joined by Ripon and Marina Gibson in another boat to add a little bit competitiveness and entertainment to the day.

Wayne, marina and myself ready to hit the water

Arctic Char

The first species to target was something both myself and Gibson had at the top of our list – an Arctic char, especially one of the males in his full spawning colour’s, these fish are so bright and stunning they don’t look real.  The method would be bead fishing using a standard fly rod and reel setup but with a plastic bead (replica salmon egg) placed just above the hook instead of a fly, this ensures that the hook doesn’t get taken deeply and is nearly always hooked on the outside of the mouth. This method of fishing was new to us and the only thing I can slightly compare it to is a form of Czech nymphing, the reason for using this method is the incredible volume of fish spawning at this time of the year means all the residential fish swap diet’s from feeding on invertebrates to salmon eggs and flesh.  Once we had arrived at some incredible looking water, full of seam lines dotted with deeper pockets and most importantly spawning fish I was instantly into a char, now these fish don’t half pullback due to the nature of the fast flowing water they live in and that fact they are pristine fully finned wild fish, after a few minutes of ragging me around the water I had my first ever Arctic char, not the male I was after but still a first and special fish.

Once that first fish hit the net it turned into absolute carnage for the rest of the morning with both Rip and Gibson getting amongst the action landing numerous Char, that trophy male fish was still alluding us all, so the decision was made to split up and drift fish from the boats allowing us to cover a huge amount of water, this would also allow us target grayling and rainbows at the same time.  As the day went on the action never stopped, picking fish up on every single drift, it got to the point that you were expecting a take every single cast, with both rainbows and grayling showing a constant face giving me my first but not last Alaskan grand-slam, this, however, wouldn’t be the highlight of the day, as late into the afternoon I hooked the biggest fish of the day that not only fought differently but resembled something like Jason’s technicolor dream coat, Yes you guessed it, id finally hooked the bucket list fish I’d traveled thousands of miles for and it was an absolute belter, being overly careful I played it like an absolute fanny, probably taking far to long to land it, but I eventually drew it over the net for Jacob my guide to net it.  Id literally never seen a fish like it in person, he didn’t look real, the colour’s were so bright, bold and elaborate – He was an absolute stunner and dressed to impress the ladies in his spawning colour’s.

1 of 2 male Arctic char caught all week

Marina with a stunning char

Pacific salmon

The next day we decided to switch thing up in both the boats and on the species front, this time I was partnered with one of my salmon fishing buddies Gibson and it was time to do what we do best – Chase some silver.  The jet boat’s the guys use on the river are incredibly agile, fast and the minimal depth of water they can run over is insane, let’s just say it didn’t take long to get to the fish.  When it comes to down to the tackle, the preferred choice of rod for silver’s (Coho’s) is an 8/9 weight single hander, being a hardcore salmon fishing fanatic I couldn’t resist using my switch rod matched with a short head scandi line, my thought’s were id possibly be able to target fish the others couldn’t.  At the business end stripping back streamers and intruders were the preferred choices, with pink, orange and black being the most popular colour, nothing like we target Atlantic salmon with back home.  Like the previous day we literally hooked up in seconds, this time it was insane with me, Gibson and Rip all hooking up at the same time, it was absolute madness with fish running in all directions followed by us chasing them.  Unfortunately one of us had to slip up, and guess who – yes, it was me, the fish literally threw the hook leaving me to put on a brave face and watch the others both land fish.  I wouldn’t have to worry about missing out, as over the next week’s fishing we would have numerous double hook up of silver’s, including some absolutely stunning chrome fresh fish not to mention the fish in their bright scarlet spawning colour’s, it was crazy to think that between us we could land 20 silver’s in a morning, and this was normal – absolutely mind-blowing.

Ripon and Marina with a brace of silver’s

One thing I was determined to try out was my Stokoe shrimp, it’s accounted for hundred’s of Atlantic salmon back in the Uk so surely the pacific’s could be tempted at some point, I wouldn’t have to wait long, the perfect day actually came about when it was a little bit slow, and when the normal streamers and intruders weren’t doing their job – it was time for the Stokoe show!  To my amazement and only a few casts after putting the fly on, I was straight into a silver, now these fish fight well, but due to the slack water they’re hooked in they can’t use the strong current to their advantage, but the sight of seeing a scarlet red rocket charging around the backwaters is incredible, and on light tackle doesn’t half get your heart racing.  On a day when others struggled I managed a handful of fish to my fly, now i don’t believe it was personally just the pattern but think the profile/size of the fly had a massive part to play, due to the fact the fly was on a size 8 and only about an inch long, it was at least a third of the size of the normal streamers used.  Along with the silver’s the river had good numbers of pink’s and chum’s throughout the system, although not a prime time to target them they readily hit the fly resulting in a couple sought-after salmon grand-salams for myself and other anglers.

Double hook up for myself and Ripon

Ripon with a chunky silver salmon

Rainbow’s and Arctic Grayling

Due to the salmon fishing being absolutely off the scale, you’d be wrong to think this was the main reason that people flock to the Alagnak.  The river is absolutely rammed with absolutely pristine, fin perfect, and super hard fighting rainbows, we had also had the bonus of having timed it perfect for the egg feeding bonanza, this is a time when all the residential feeding fish change their diets from everything to salmon egg’s – it is absolute carnage.  Again the most effective way of targetting both rainbows and grayling was to use bead fly’s, in other words, replica salmon egg’s, we would again be drift fishing from the boat allowing us to cover a massive expanse of water and fishing Czech nymph style.  It won’t surprise you that the action was absolutely insane, no matter where we fished we were constantly smashing into fish resulting in endless amounts of double hookup’s of both super hard fighting bow’s to 24 inches, and stunningly marked grayling bigger than I’ve ever seen.  Another interesting method was fishing flesh fly’s, now this consisted of a fly that was tied with rabbit strips that when wet resembled decaying and rotting bit of salmon flesh, this time instead of a chuck and duck style cast, we would be swinging the fly into deeper pockets and slack spots where hopefully the bigger fish would be lying in wait.  One of the highlights of the trip was on the last day’s fishing when both myself and Gibson smashed a double hook up of grayling that were literally like to peas in a pod, the strange thing was actually caught mine on a flesh fly, just incredible.

A fat rainbow caught with a flesh fly

Another double of rainbow’s

A brace of grayling to end an incredible week

On a whole, the trip was probably my favorite fishing holiday to date, a great combination of the untouched land, stunning crystal clear water, incredible fish, the best hosts and last but not least the company Iwas there with.  I will be going back to ATA in September 2020, for anyone interested in joining me please drop me an email for further details.

Over the last few seasons June has always been a ridiculously hot month with water temperatures reaching up to 23 degrees, when the water reaches these temperatures both the salmon and sea trout start to struggle due to low dissolved oxygen levels often causing multiple fatalities of fish.  We do however have one god send on our river system, kielder reservoir at the top of the north tyne, built in 1982 and spans a colossal 2000 acres making it northern Europe’s largest man made lake and dam that holds a huge volume of water.  They are very fish orientated and strategically release throughout the hotter months to help keep the fish alive and get them throughout the system as recent June’s have seen the second highest runs of fish during the year, up to a crazy 7500!

Not a rainbow over the Tyne but in it!!

Another great day guiding Simon on the south Tyne in search of silver and bronze, we caught a couple of corking brownies but the shock of the day turned out to be silver but not the right type. Fishing with sea trout tactics we hooked into a good fish on light gear and thought we’d done it, it was going to be the first sea trout from the south Tyne this season. After a good scrap and a flash of pink we couldn’t believe it, another escapee, but a bonny rainbow to say the least.

An escape rainbow trout from the Tyne

Luck of the Irish!

I’m lucky enough in my career to come across some great guests and this occasion was no exception, Andy and Stanley have travelled across the water from Belfast to fish the mighty Tyne and be guided by myself. With water conditions and weather against us it was always going to be a little harder, but as I always say low water only condenses the fish into certain areas, you just need to know where to look 😉!

After the birthday boy Andy thought he’d struck silver straight away, which unfortunately turned out to be a good chub we thought it was going to be one of those days.

The Boys fished their hearts out for the next 4 hours in bright/hot conditions and we covered at least another 6 pools up and down the beats, it was Stan the man that struck silver, and what a fish it was. After creeping to one of the deep runs and putting out a short cast a fish took literally a yard from the bank and gave him a run around he’ll never forget. 10 minutes later our prize was in the net, 15.5lb of her and an absolute stunning fish, it was not only Stanleys first salmon from the Tyne, his first in 5 years but his biggest yet.

With a combination of apocalyptic wind, sunshine and low water conditions it was always going to be a tough second day on the water for my Irish duo! But as the previous days nothing was going to stop Andy and Stanley getting on the water! Again the lads fished like troopers in horrendous conditions and eventually Andy got his long awaited prize , his first ever salmon (8lb) and I know for sure I won’t be his last. It’s been an absolute pleasure guiding these 2 lads and I’m going to be gutted when they leave on the plane tomorrow

 

Stan with his biggest salmon yet

The Dream team

World fishing day smashed!

Well this was a monumental day for not only myself but fishing in general! It was the official first live 24 hour World Fishing day which saw Anglers and celebrities from around the world participating in this incredible day live on Fishing TV! I was lucky enough to present live in the studio in the prime time slot of 7-9 with the amazing Michelle Orpe and Damon Valentine AKA the London Flyfisher, it was a surreal feeling knowing that thousands of people around the world were watching us live and taking part in this special day!

A huge congratulations to everyone involved for making it such a successful event and the next one can’t come soon enough!

Live Tv with Michelle

Bring on the silver and water next month………!

Cancer is something that will affect us all in some way in our lifetime so having the opportunity to be part of 2 separate events in the same week at both ends of the country was something I wasn’t going to miss out on!

The first week in October started with one of the highlights of my fishing career after I was announced as an ambassador for the Angling Trust, which is a huge honour as they are a representing body for all anglers around the country. Their aim is to get more people into fishing along with securing the future of angling and fish stocks so the kids of today can experience what we have done.  As an angling nation we need to come together and become one and help fight for the future of fishing.

The first charity event couldn’t have been any closer, literally it was on my doorstep and my local stretches of the north and south tyne where we would welcome anglers from all over Europe to fish our local water and experience the phenomenal fishing we have whilst raising money for some amazing charities, including The Pink Linda Fund which was set up for a Cancer Treatment centre in Thurso that provides aftercare and family support to those affected and touched by cancer and also a project called “The Next Generation”, which is a charity that provides fishing tuition and equipment to 2 X centres for children: The Grove centre in Tweedmouth, Northumberland, for children with significant physical and mental impairments, and Wilton Centre in Hawick for children requiring significant support to ensure they have the ability to thrive and grow both personally and socially due to various issues they have encountered in their lives.  The Eoin Fairgrieve of LOOP and Spey Cast Media organised this great cause and is beginning to grow the project to compliment the already successful charity called Tweedstart, aimed and securing the “next generation” to become part of our fishing community.

The 3rd charity selected by Mr Philip Straker to benefit from this event was the Great North Air Ambulance and the money raised will be a great bonus to this excellent self funding service that has saved the lives of many people.  Philip had a huge part to play in this 2 day event as he kindly donated 4 stretches from www.wardenfishing.co.uk, so it was only right that he was to choose a third charity.

The first day started with all anglers and guides meeting at the Boatside Inn where groups would be separated to fish different beats, but due to prior arrangements to film with BBC for Country File (which funnily enough is about our amazing river and the life cycle of the atlantic salmon, airing end of October) I would miss the excitement and introductions with everyone and also the first 2 fish caught! One was by my buddy Ed Ford, a great trout angler and fly tyer who fishing with a double handed salmon rod for the first time caught the first fish of the day, a 4lb Sea Trout, which was a fantastic achievement and something I’m sure he will never forget. The next fish caught just after Ed was by my good friend Jim Wennmark all the way from Sweden who landed his first Tyne salmon, a fish around 8/9lb which after a dogged fight was finally netted, photoed and released.

Ed with his first sea trout on a double handed rod

Ed with his first sea trout on a double handed rod

Jim Wennmark with his first Tyne salmon

Jim Wennmark with his first Tyne salmon

As I fish the warden stretches and know them like the back of my hand I would be guiding the guests over the 2 days, which to my joy included Emma Jackson and Jo Stephenson from my Big Fish adventure last year.  I’ve always harped on to them how good this river is and now it was time to show them.  Along with Emma and Jo on the first day I’d also have the pleasure of guiding two legends Erik Nielsen and Bjarne Laursen from Denmark, who were fantastic fun and came close on 2 occasions getting both snapped by 2 separate fish on rocks, which would turn out to be the only action we would see all day but we could all agree we had a great laugh and enjoyed every second!

A beautiful day on the Tyne with Jo and Emma

A beautiful day on the Tyne with Jo and Emma

It was day 2 and the pressure was really on to get into some fish due to the bad luck the day before, again I had 2 great salmon anglers in the form of Emma again and world famous DJ and music producer Nick Warren, who had already caught the joint biggest fish of the event the day before an absolute spanking 15.2lb bar of silver which he returned.  The day started with the bad luck from the day before as Nick hooked a huge fish, possibly 18-20lb, which hammered his tube fly and took off across the river using its sheer weight to sit in the current then decided to head back to sea, unfortunately with his fly as the leader gave way due to the power of the fish! (No not again!).  It was up to Emma to save the day, which she did in style 15 minutes later as she hooked a lively grilse which decided to throw itself around the pool trying every trick in the book to throw the hook, but this time the luck was on our side as I managed to slip the net safely under the fish. This was met with screams of joy as we had eventually done it and Emma had her first fly caught Tyne salmon, which fell to a size 14 cascade. As always a few quick pictures and the silver beauty was returned.  The rest of the day didn’t produce any more fish for us but the others fishing managed to take our over all total of 15 salmon and sea trout which were all caught on the fly, but the most important figure was the money raised which totalled over £1600. None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for the hard work and organising from Ali Hutchens and Les Routledge.

Emma with her Tyne grilse caught on a cascasde

Emma with her Tyne grilse caught on a cascade

Nick into a big Tyne salmon

Nick into a big Tyne salmon

The second charity event wasn’t quite on my door step, well to be precise it was around 350 miles and all the way down in Southampton to the famous Avington trout fishery, but that’s me I’d travel to the ends of the earth to go fishing.  The event was in aid of The Princess Alexandra Hospital Charitable Trust – Breast Trials Unit who’s work and trials not only benefit the local community but people worldwide.  It was an early start to get to the fishery to help Dave Holley and his wife Sian who are part of the organisation set things up as they were the brains behind the event.  One thing I was really looking forward to was fishing with some new faces and seeing them catching their first fish, which is always a special moment, but also fishing with my old buddies (not as in age…!) Hywel Morgan, Keith Arthur and Peter Cockwill for the first time, which is something I thought I’d never get the chance to do.  It started with me and Hywel scanning lake one for any possible takers and within seconds we spotted a big rainbow about 12lb which we both raced to cast for, and it was the Welsh wonder who hooked up instantly but unfortunately for him it was only the tree behind him – I’d love to be professional and say I didn’t laugh but I couldn’t help it, so with Hywel stuck in the tree I managed to sneak a cast in and hooked a fish which came out the blue and gave me a great scrap. Then just as it approached the net, the hook pulled and I felt like I just had a helping of instant karma for laughing minutes before!

Hywel pulling a grayling out the feeder stream

Hywel Morgan with a grayling from the feeder stream

The morning produced some great sport as a lot of the fish hadn’t seen a fly or angler yet and those who managed to find spots out the way faired best, but as always it wasn’t just about catching fish it was about enjoying the day and a lot of help and advice were given to the guys who had never fished before, which was great to see.  It was lunchtime and one of my favourite times of the day, as if you know me I never stop eating, so walking into lunch and seeing a buffet fit for a king was like heaven and something I’d never experienced at a fishery before.  At lunch Dave and Sian held an auction,  with lots including fishing on the river Itchen to a holiday to the Bahamas, from which all winning bids would go to the charity.

Big smiles at lunchtime

Big smiles at lunchtime

Recharged after a late lunch we had a couple of hours left on the lake and I was determined to add to my 3 previously caught fish, all about 4-5lb, which had fell to a mixture of olive and amber blood worms but by now the fish seemed to be bored and sick of everything that was chucked at them. The last resort was to strip a lure as fast as possible to switch their natural aggression back on and it worked as I quickly picked up a fish and lost another one, then as before it just seemed to die as it sometimes does but we carried on having a great laugh until it was time to stop for the presentation of the days prizes. This started with the biggest fish of the day that went to Harry Bristow who managed 2 double figure fish with the biggest being 13lb. Next was the most anticipated award that was for cast of the day, which was just for fun and was presented to Hywel for his first tree bound cast, which he was over the moon with as you can see below!

Hywel with his award for cast of the day

Hywel with his award for cast of the day

Harry with his winning fish

Harry with his winning fish

Overall the day was a huge success, everybody enjoyed it and 34 fish were caught in total with over £4000 raised for for the charity. What’s more, the day is set to become a yearly event and I’m already really looking forward to next year.