After an incredible August and September we had high hopes for October but we had no clue of what lay in sore for us.  The 1st of October couldn’t of started any better with both myself and phil getting into fish within the first 30 minutes, Phil managed a nice 8lb hen fish and i chipped in with a hard fighting 13lb hen fish caught on you guessed it, a red Stokoe shrimp.  Unfortunately i missed half the day as had to fly off to play football but i managed to get back to the water just in time to see phil land 2 fish in succession and complete his first Tyne treble.  The next day followed suit with Phil absolutely kicking my arse, not only  did he mange a fish within 5 minutes he smashed another hat-trick of fish in, including a 20lb cock salmon and a brute of a sea trout.  Day 3 seemed to come around far to quick as it always seems to do when fishing and having fun, it was our last day fishing together and i was determined to get on the score board, as the previous days within 30 minutes i had a fish in the net, not just any fish tho, an absolute monster of a cock fish tipping the scales at 23lb, my biggest of the season and second biggest i’ve ever landed.  Once the adrenaline, screaming and hugging had finished we took a a few seconds to marvel at the king of fish as he lay calmly in the water beside us, as always we got our photos and set him on his way shortly after.  That was our day made and anything else would be a bonus, we were on an incredible 8 fish between us in 3 days, it didn’t finish there tho as we both managed a fish each later that day bring us to the grand total of 10 fish in 3 days fishing, even tho phil totally cleaned up we always agree its a team effort.

 

Salmon number 1

My first fish of the 3 days

The king of fish and my second biggest salmon

Phil’s 20lb beast of a tyne salmon

Phil makes it 10 fish with this stunning 16lb hen fish

My other Big fish buddy Ripon decided to venture up north to try his luck again after successful trip last season, of course the inevitable happened again and we got far to drunk the evening before the fishing, we woke up late and only managed to fish 2 or 3 hours but when he’s on a mission theres nothing stopping Rip.   Even tho other anglers had fished the pool through with no luck i still decided to put rip straight in the hot zone, it literally took him 30 minutes and he was into a fish, even tho he was as ceased and solid as an old engine playing the fish, he got it to the net like a pro.  As always a few quick photos and he released her to carry on her journey to carry on her legacy.

Ripon with his prize

As my last blog i had the great pleasure of meeting and becoming great friends with the one and only Robson green, as all of us alike his passion and love for fishing is true and second to none, after having some great success with Neil lobban ( a spectacular fly casting instructor) not only catching fish but becoming a master caster i had the joy of taking Robson onto some of my local stretches with Phil.  Unfortunately the fish we managed to connect with managed to do a Houdini on us and throw the hook after 5 minutes, a funny thing was myself and Phil were more disappointed than Robson, although i can imagine it hit home later on and he shed a tear.  We did however mange to score a steak dinner from him on the day so not all was lost – Cheers buddy!

The dream team (part2)

IMG_1780

My next guest and great friend was Damon AKA the London fly fisher, i only met Damon this year at the London Fly Fishing Fair where we hit it off immediately and became good friends and fellow ambassadors for fishing organisations.  After his long journey up north and being washed of 2 separate rivers it was my turn to get him on the mighty Tyne, as soon as he saw the water his eyes lit up like a kid at christmas, id always told him we had incredible fly water but its always hard to believe until you see it with your own eyes.  The morning we must have seen 30/40 fish on 1 of the beats but they literally wouldn’t look at a thing, this tends to happen a lot in October as the fish have other things on their mind.  In the afternoon we rotated to the other beat we had booked, the first run through the pool he hooked a fish which had its mind set on going back to sea, he played it like an absolute boss and 10 minutes later Damon had his prize, a PB salmon safely in the net which fell as always to a red Stokoe shrimp.  After both calming down we got carefully took her from the net got our photos and returned her, this is one of the highlights for me as it helps to secure the future of this incredible species.

Damon with his PB salmon

I managed a few days myself to get out the second half of October as the beats were fully booked so i couldn’t get guests on, i did manage to get amongst some nice fish tho, it doesn’t pay the bills but it’s a great feeling to land these exceptional creatures.  One day that stands out is when we experienced horrendous wind and rain to the point that we had a severe weather warning, this was never going to stop me and phil tho, we managed to find a few spots that were sort of sheltered now when i say sort of i mean the wind was only hitting us at 40 not 80mph ha ha.  The whole day we never saw a soul well apart from the 2 stunners i managed to land, one a sea trout about 4lb and the other my last salmon of the season that we estimated around 12lb, this just shows you that no matter the conditions theres always a chance especially if you fish a Stokoe shrimp.

Sea trout caught in shocking conditions

My last salmon of an incredible season

The last few days of the season for me didn’t produce much but for Robson it proved to be the perfect ending to a great season for him, well when i say season i mean 3 months.  Not only did he manage his biggest Tyne salmon from Lambley a fish of around 16lb, the last day of the season on what he said was his last couple of casts he accomplished something most of us can only dream of, the biggest sea trout i’ve seen or heard of from the Tyne, a monster fish estimated at around 15lb.  Unfortunately i wasn’t present to witness the fish mostly to see his reaction but to be in the presence of the create (the fish) itself.

 

Robson with his biggest Tyne salmon

The fish of a lifetime

I just wanted to personally thank each and everyone of you that i’ve not only guided or fished with but who’s helped me to get to where i am today, i cant wait to see some new faces by the water next year and hopefully get some bucket list fish.  In the mean time tight lines guys!

After a great July with both myself and guests getting into some incredible fish August/September had a lot to live up to, with the runs of fish and talented anglers on the banks there was only going to be 1 answer.  August started with a familiar face in the form of BT sports presenter and England carp fishing team manager rob Hughes as he went in search of his first salmon, not only did he get his prize he ended up with a brace of fly caught fish including the smallest grilse ive ever seen, you never know we may have turned him from the dark side.

A soaking wet rob with his first ever salmon

The smallest grilse I’ve ever seen

 

Getting anyone their first salmon is always a great feeling but on their first ever day chasing silver and using a double hander is on another level.  Here’s my guest Craig with his prize that he worked so hard for, especially after loosing a fish earlier in the day, not a bad effort for his day at all and another angler hooked on salmon for life.

 

Craig and his first ever salmon from the Tyne

Its amazing the friends you get to make within fishing, even half way across the other side of the world, one of them Dave like a lot of anglers has always had his heart set on catching a salmon, so after booking 3 days with me months ago his time to chase silver finally arrived and he absolutely smashed it. Not only did his dream come true he finished the trip an absolute hero, a hat-trick hero, coming from a coarse fishing back ground i just hope he doesn’t expect this every time.

Dave’s first salmon from the Tyne

Salmon number 2

The man completes his salmon hat-trick

England International Carp angler Ryan managed to scrape in a last minute booking with me at the end of august, he took to salmon fishing like a duck to water considering his angling background. Not only did this man mountain land his first salmon on his first ever day salmon fishing, but he managed to land the biggest my guests had the whole season, something that took me 20 years to achieve, a fish weighing in at a staggering 21.5lb!  I don’t think this is the last we’ve seen of that man.

The biggest Tyne salmon caught by my guests

September started at 100 MPH with colossal runs of fish still entering the system and my first guest Larysa literally getting thrown in at the deep end being her first time.  Everyone knows salmon fishing isn’t easy and these fish can drive you to the edge of insanity but Larysa literally smashed it, even tho it was her first day ever fishing for salmon on an unknown river using new equipment she got her prize, a stunning 9.5lb hen fish which as always was quickly returned after her trophy photo.

Larysa with her prize, her first Tyne salmon

One of the biggest characters i’ve had on the river has to be Phil, he literally had me in stitches constantly through the few days a guided him.  Again things started at lightning speed hooking into 2 salmon for them both to throw the fly feet from the net, it was going to have to be third time lucky, which it was as he managed a nice double figure fly caught fish from the north tyne.  This as a lot of the fish this season was a first salmon for him which only makes the moment even better.

Phil and his prize, a lovely fly caught salmon

One of the highlights of the season was 20 year old Liam who only took up fishing 2 years ago, and this was his first ever day salmon fishing, he not only managed his first sea trout but at the end of play managed his first salmon. What made the day extra special was out of about 20 anglers he was the only one to catch anything, and looking though fish pal catches he’s stayed the only one that managed anything to the net.

Liam with his sea trout

Double trouble and Liam gets his salmon

Its always great having 2 guests fishing at a time as not only does it obviously double your chance but the banter is always great and the competitiveness even better.  Near the end of September i had 2 absolute legends Jason and Karl come in search of their first tyne fish! As i mentioned above its always great to catch fish but it’s everything that comes with it, the banter, the learning and of course a ballistic lunch time spread with the lads brought with them, ive never seen anything like it. In the end the boys finished with 2 fish lost and a stunning sea trout.

Jason with a fresh sea trout

One day that will go down in history in my fishing career for a number of reasons was a day i spent at countess park with Robson Green, not only did I manage 3 salmon on my Atomsix fly rod with one of them being a 20, all 3 were caught on a red Stokoe shrimp. Along with my incredible hat-trick I witnessed Robson catch not only his first but second ever fly caught Tyne salmon. To top it off Robson’s uncle Matheson got amongst the fish making it 6 for the day.  A day i thought would never happen and now im lucky enough to call Robson a great friend.

The dream team

Salmon number 1 after 10 minutes

A heavy hen! Salmon number 2

The salmon hat-trick complete

At the end of the month waters levels seemed to drop which put a lot of local anglers off, for me the low water only means one thing, the fish get condensed in certain areas.  My guest Dean had no trouble at all finding the fish as he managed his first Tyne salmon on a day others that were fishing struggled, he stuck at it hard and got his not so silver prize, still a stunning fish.

Dean and his bronze prize

Last but certainly not least Myself and the salmon master Phil caught some incredible Salmon and sea trout on the fly throughout August and september, to many to mention but here are a few to wet the appetite.

Phil with a 20lb beast of a salmon

A Bronze beauty i caught from the south tyne

The fly’s doing the damage were as always a red Stokoe shrimp and small cascades…….

After a fantastic start to July things just kept getting better and better including a record run of migratory fish for the month, a staggering 10,995 fish.  This would obviously go on to have a knock on effect of catches as every man and their dog would be on the river, unfortunately for me a busy month of shows, events and filming wouldn’t see me guiding or fishing much, but when the chance arose i was on the river quicker than you could say Fish-on!

 

 

Filming the Untamed Anglers

The Game Fair crew

I literally fished 3 or 4 times the whole of July but still managed to land 2 stunning sea liced fish which actually came 20 minutes apart from each other on you guessed it, a Stokoe shrimp.  As always both fish were returned after a few quick snaps to carry on their journey upstream.

My first fish of the season covered in sea lice

2 fish in 20 minutes

July also saw me guiding a familiar face, a good friend and renowned world famous DJ Nick Warren for the second year running as he went in search of more Tyne silver! Even in hard conditions he managed to hook and land an absolute stunning 15lb cock fish with the bonus of it falling to a Stokoe shrimp variant I literally tied the night before.

Nick returning his fish

As the month came to an end guests were doing us proud by getting amongst some good numbers of fish but unfortunately loosing a lot, entirely down to the fish and not the way the fish were being played, iv’e actually never known a year like it for loosing fish its been ridiculous.  Three guests i had Scott, Archie and John experienced this first hand on their first days fishing loosing 3 fish in the space of an hour, as always i never know who’s more upset myself of the angler ha ha, but as always things can change in an instant and a couple of days later they managed 3 fish in a crazy 30 minutes, obviously the fish gods were on our side that day!

John finally breaking his bad luck

Archie with the third fish in 30 minutes

Fly’s of the month up and down the river were = Calvin shrimps (especially hot head tubes) Cascades and Stokoe shrimp tubes!

The first week in July couldn’t have started any better for my guests with 4 of them catching their first migratory fish ever in the space of 4 days, as always for me this is the closest you can get to catching one yourself and sometime’s i feel like i’m more excited than them when that silver is safely in the net.  After waiting and waiting for rain and experiencing the driest April, May and most of June in a long time we eventually got some long awaited rain which brought the Tyne back to life and the huge runs of eagerly awaited salmon and sea trout into the system. Here are a few short posts from a few of my guests in the first week of July.

The Italian job!

It’s amazing the characters you get to meet through fishing and this weekend was no exception. I had one hell of a laugh guiding Vittorio, Carlo and GiGi as they searched for their first migratory fish, even tho it was a first for them they fished like absolute troopers and managed to land 2 fish from 4 hook ups. I think you can all agree that their smiles say it all! Well done guys see you for round 2 soon..

Team Italy

Carlo with his first ever Salmon

When your prize is safely in the net

Vittorio with his first ever sea trout that was caught on the Tyne

The feeling of guiding someone to their first salmon doesn’t compare to anything else in the fishing world, and doing a double is just something else!

After being rained off the river yesterday i decided to take Matt and Bex to New Mills Trout Fishing Park to try smash a few trout PB’s which they did instantly, getting amongst some cracking fish and getting them geared up for a days salmon fishing once levels had dropped today.

Even tho levels were still high today it was never going to stop us chasing that ever allusive silver.  Both Matt and Bex had never fished for salmon before and they took to it like a duck to water and both fished their hearts out and managed a spectacular double. For both partners to land their first ever salmon on their first day of trying is something i am proud of and will never ever forget. Well done guys!!!!

Bex smashing her brown trout PB

PB 2 smashed with this cracking rainbow

Fishing couple goals

In the net and kept wet

Matt with his first ever salmon and what a belter it was

Back he goes

Bex with her First ever salmon

A quick pic before release

When you mention Thailand most people think of lady boys, Muay Thai, and city’s that never sleep, however there are some incredible fish to be found in its waters and fisheries. Due to a lot of over fishing, bad water management and no economy in certain areas a lot of the natural species have suffered a great example being the mighty Mekong catfish. There are however a few very well managed fisheries which not only hold these amazing creatures but also a multitude of spectacular fish from around the world. There will always be people that argue the case that it isn’t right to catch a fish that’s not in its natural environment although there are many a species in this country not but if your like me, justifying the costs of travelling to the deepest parts of the amazon, Africa and rest of Asia just isn’t doable, so having the opportunity to catch a range of buck-list fish is a no brainier.

After speaking to my good friend lee Mcsween my arm was bent and tickets were bought, we were off to Exotic Fishing Thailand. After a long but hassle free flight we eventually arrived in Thailand at night, where we were met with the sort of temperature you associate with a sauna but was welcomed with open arms after travelling from our lovely standard February weather. The next morning I was out of bed quicker than a kid at Christmas and as I drew the curtains open I can only describe the view as resembling something from Jurassic park, it was absolutely spectacular, sheer mountain sides dropping into what looked like a hidden tropical lagoon.

With breakfast polished off before it had even hit the table I was off like a man possessed but most importantly with a fly rod in hand ready to target the fish at the top of my bucket-list – the incredible arapaima, so with the advice of Mike the owner of Exotic fishing Thailand I was fully equipped with a selection of streamers and floating pellets. Now I can hear a few of you saying “pellets” but at times of the day when the fish are less active these are used to send the small Java barb (similar to a roach) into a surface feeding frenzy which would then hopefully attract any of the predators close by. After thrashing the water for numerous hours in the melting heat it happened, I hooked something that went off the line quicker than Lewis Hamilton, the power of the fish was incredible and nothing like I’ve felt before. The fish stayed deep and instantly went for the aerator and totally snagged me up, so without even thinking myself and mike went straight in after it, for once the fish gods were on our side as after another 10 minutes of been given the run around, a stunning red tail catfish estimated at around 60lb was safely in the net. Before all fish are returned mike keeps the fish safely in the net while giving them oxygen to revive them which shows you the level of care taken at this incredible fishery. I managed another red tail Not long after during a crazy 5 minutes where both Dave and Clive also got amongst the fish to give us a hat-trick of identical red’s.

60lb red tail catfish caught on the fly

As always when fishing the days fly by far to quick and within the blink of an eye another 2 days had passed with nothing but lost fish to show for it, the lake was fishing great with my buddies Lee, Scott, Dave, Paul and Clive catching some incredible fish including a 280lb arapaima for Scott, an 60lb beast of an alligator gar for lee and a multitude of other species. I’d changed to the normal bait fishing methods but I just couldn’t keep anything on, including loosing a monster arapaima estimated around 350lb and a Mekong which couldn’t be stopped and literally melted the reel. Things had to change soon, well before I went insane, luckily the next morning it did as I was instantly into a fish which had taken a ledgered Lahm ball (flour made from rice canes) fished hard on the bottom, it was obvious from the start it wasn’t a large fish but most importantly it was on and within a few minutes was mine – EVENTUALLY! It turned out to be a hovens carp around 15lb, a new species for me and a very welcome catch indeed.

Lee’s aligator gar makes a quick escape

Huge arapaima caught by Scott

 

The day yet again flew over and we were down to the last 10 minutes just as the light was fading when 2 of my bite alarms started singing on my predator rods baited with chicken, I’m not going to lie I literally went for the nearest rod which turned out to be the right decision as the weight and power of the fish was phenomenal. As with all fish hooked in the dark everything is magnified especially your senses, could it be the fish that had eluded me so far, what ever it was it was giving me one hell of a battle constantly taking line as soon as I’d recovered some, soon the fish started tiring and now I had crowd around me anxiously waiting to see what I’d hooked, they wouldn’t have to wait long as my guide in a split second had the fish in the net. It’s wasn’t my arapaima but a phenomenal Chao Phraya catfish estimated around 70-80lb and i couldn’t of been happier.

The Chao Phraya catfish that saved the day

It was the last day and my last chance of an arapaima which seemed so close but yet so far away, as always I thought I’d missed my chance with all the days slipping by and my last day eating hours for fun. The great thing about Mike’s lake is you can target different types of species by have 3 rods out at a time, so along with my 2 predator rods baited with chicken and fish I also had a rod baited with a lahm ball the size of a small football in hope of one of the larger particle feeders, it was this rod that went and again lifting into the fish it was obvious this was another large fish – well for me anyway. This fish fought totally different using its weight to hold its ground in between short sharp powerful spurts, I battled away drawing the fish closer and closer when the rod pinged back and that horrible slack line sensation – the hook had somehow came out, but miraculously my guide had managed to net the fish, a stunning Siamese carp around 50lb which are a few quick snaps went back with a splash.

Siamese if you please

It was the end of the day and I’d excepted defeat in my search as surely it couldn’t happen now, but it would literally come down to the last 10 minutes, just like injury time, when my bite alarm wert ballistic with a fish crashing about in the darkness. My guide instantly screamed the words I’d be dying and hoping to hear – “ARAPAIMA!” As always the enjoyment turned instantly to fear of the fish throwing the hook again, but this time the fish gods were on my side and the arapaima was safely in the net! As always the fish was given plenty oxygen and time to recover before being carefully lifted and photoed, then released back into the black abyss. Not only had I conquered my bucket list fish I got to spend an incredible week with some amazing people. Until the next time!

Eventually in injury time!

As with any type of fishing the most important factor is understanding your quarry, and due to the salmon’s life cycle being very complex there is a lot to learn about these magnificent fish. In the last issue I gave a brief description of what these fish actually go through, and this time I’ll explain it in a bit more detail which will then help us to choose the correct and suitable equipment and locations to catch these silver tourists.

Once hatched from an egg high up the river system in the spawning grounds the salmon go through numerous stages of change before heading back to sea. Initially hatching as an alevin they gradually turn to a fry, then after a year into a salmon parr which resembles a small brown trout but can be identified by what looks like 4 finger prints on the side of them. After another 2-3 years of aggressively feeding a dramatic change of colour occurs turning them bright silver and into a salmon smolt, still very small fish of around 6 inches long. Something tells these smolt to go back to sea and a phenomenal migration towards the oceans and the rich feeding grounds of the Atlantic waters near Greenland begins.

After being at sea for between 1-3 years gorging on prawns, shrimps and small fish, instinct and an incredibly strong urge to return to their spawning grounds take hold and the incredible journey starts again – not only do the fish return to the same country and river of birth, but the same stream they were actually born in. It’s as if they have a built in sat nav, that allows them to actually smell their way back to water that they came from.

After migrating thousands of miles back to their river of birth they start a treacherous journey upstream avoiding seals, otters, cormorants and other threats whilst battling strong currents, rapids and weirs. During this time the salmon enter a fasted state by not feeding at all once in fresh water. The run of fish on most rivers is greater in the months ranging from June – October, and these months also see the greatest increase of anglers targeting these fish. The salmon fishing season varies thought different rivers within the UK, with some opening in January and finishing in November but the majority staring February 1st running until the October 31st. Once the season ends, the break over the winter is very important as it allows the fish to spawn in peace high up the river system, before heading back out to sea for the cycle to start all over again.

Now that we understand these fish, their lifestyle and their habits a little bit more it will hopefully help us towards our prize trophy, a stunning Atlantic salmon.

Before jumping in with two feet and buying any equipment it’s always important to do your homework and decide where you’re going to be fishing, particularly on which river as they differ so much in the size, colour and the runs of fish they see. Local knowledge is key to any river fishing and even after 20 years of salmon angling I still learn something new every time by reading the river as the water conditions and fish are never the same twice.

The equipment needed for salmon fishing can just about be covered by 2 set ups, first (and my favourite) a double handed salmon rod ranging from 13’-15’ depending on the river you’re looking to fish. A 14’ foot would cover most situations and my preference for this would be Grey’s, any of the GR models because you get fantastic build quality with a great action for reasonable money anywhere from £250 – £400 for a good quality rod. Second, you may think the reel is the most important part of the set up but it’s actually the line, and this is a mistake made by many as Spey casting involves no weights or heavy lures just the weight of the head of the fly line, so matching the weight of the line (#8,#9,#10 etc) is critical. For lines I personally use either a Cortland Spey or Rio outbound which vary between £50-£100, and for Spring time and back end fishing I also add a Rio sinking poly tip to help me get down to the fish, and this also saves on buying a whole new line. As for reels, as long as they have a good smooth drag and enough room for a few hundred yards of backing line you’re sorted and you definitely won’t break the bank with one. Lure fishing is also a very popular way of targeting these fish, especially when the water is high or fishing deep slow-running water, and for that I personally use a Rovex lure pro with a 22-50g casting rating matched with a medium sized fixed spool reel and 30lb braid. Again you don’t need to break the bank with spinning gear, I think mine totals £100 for the lot, light or medium pike rods would suffice.

One of the biggest decisions a salmon angler has to make by the river is what to put on at the business end, and the biggest problem we face is the characteristics of these fish, as they don’t feed in fresh water we have to get a reaction from them in some other way. I personally think there are a few reasons why the fish take a fly or lure, the first being that when you’re using an imitation shrimp/prawn fly or fish lure it reminds them of what they were feeding on at sea, and as their instinct takes over for a split second and they grab it. Another is annoyance and agitation – imagine travelling all those thousands of miles then finding a nice lye (resting spot) and all of a sudden your personal space is being invaded, they may even see it as competition and their natural aggression is triggered and in a instant they snatch at the fly. Last is that they are just inquisitive and being that they don’t have hands they use their mouth, which happens a lot of the time. Sometimes the slightest of tweaks, literally the lightest of pulls on a fly is salmon just mouthing it, how they don’t get hooked I will never know.

My preference for flies are always shrimp imitations, it’s advisable to have a good range of patterns and colours as like trout fishing one day it could be orange the next red and so on. Certain colours do fish better at different times of the year with greens and yellows working in Spring, oranges throughout most the year and red is a must in the back end as studies suggest that salmon can actually see red easier when it’s close to their spawning time. As for lures I love to use Rapalas, mainly floating ones ranging from 7cm – 11cm in bright colours as it’s only when the waters high and coloured, and age old favourites like Flying C’s and Toby’s still have their place and can be deadly.

Now that we are ready and set to target these fish we need to find them, and to do so it’s important to search out and find characteristics in the river like rapids, obstructions, rocks, pools and water seems. Fish will always have their favourite lies, holding pools and runs and in different heights of water these will change – in the Summer when oxygen and water is low they will sit high up in pools near the white water, and in higher water they will sit just off the fast water looking for the easiest route possible up stream. Always remember that local knowledge is key, you could spend hours and even days trying to find these fish so always get as much info as possible when fishing new water and always take advantage of a guide, it’s these guys’ jobs to know the water like the back of their hands and put you on silver.

Lastly. be patient and enjoy your fishing, it will happen and when it does you will never look back.

Tight lines.

After my amazing experience on BBC’s The Big Fish last year it was inevitable that I’d catch the travelling bug, especially having never fished abroad previously. The decision was made and a new adventure was on the cards, and after no deliberation at all the destination could only be one place – Costa Rica and the phenomenal fishing resort of Crocodile Bay, to settle an old score with a sailfish among other dream catches!  Of course I couldn’t go alone, so my girlfriend Vic and my fishing partner in crime and Big Fish buddy Phil would be joining me on this adventure.

After what felt like a life time the big day finally arrived and we were on our way to foreign shores and the fish of our dreams.  After a strangely enjoyable 6 hours on the plane, filled mostly with fishing talk and the usual movies & tiny uniform meals, the pilot began talking over the tannoy and by the tone of voice we should’ve known it was going to bad. Low and behold he made the announcement none of us wanted to hear – we’d made a U turn and were on our way back to London Gatwick. 6 hours in to the flight! We were more than half way across the Atlantic & the excitement of landing on Costa Rican shores was very real.  An apparent ash cloud has closed the international airport in San Jose and the decision had been made by British Airways to turn back, as we were told there was no possibility of diverting to any of San Jose’s neighbouring airports.  And so the soul destroying 6 hour journey back to sunny England began – the most heartbreaking part of it was, as I learned from my good mates on the ground in the Costa Rican capital, that had we continued on our journey we’d have been able to land at our scheduled arrival time without a problem.

What unfolded after that was the most extreme string of pure bad luck any of had ever encountered – a painful 3 days of searching & searching for redirection flights, endless queues, missed planes, frantic taxi sprints across London that wiped us right of pocket, unapproved visas, lost baggage & missing passports and a lot of stress & tears, we finally managed to grab a late night flight to Mexico and finally on to Puerto Jiminez where we were met, a dishevelled 72 hours later, by bright blue skies & stunning scenery. 

No sooner had we walked through the doors and met Todd Stanley, the fisheries manager who was also one of our judges from the show, the conversation as always turned immediately to fishing – how’s it been? What’s been caught? And most importantly, when do we start fishing?!

Finally here

The hardest choice on our first day would be between heading offshore to target big game or stay inshore and go in search of roosters and jacks, but we eventually decided on the latter as we were desperate to start fishing (typical anglers!), and we’d leave heading offshore til later.  We hadn’t been fishing 10 minutes when myself and Phil were straight into a double hook up of rooster fish which are an incredibly hard fighting and spectacular looking fish, with vivid black strips and a huge feather like dorsal fin, which they can fold down to make them more stream line or stand up to show their emotions.  As the day went on we encountered some incredible hard fighting fish including jack crevalle, Spanish mackerel, moray eel and the biggest surprise of the day from Phil when he hooked into something colossal which we all thought was a cubera snapper but after an epic battle we were proved wrong as a familiar looking shape appeared from the depths – it was a nurse shark around 6 feet which wasn’t happy at all! We somehow managed to calm it down enough at the side of the boat to release it safely. 

Rooster time

Shark surprise

Our next day started with dark skies and a bad chop on the water but today had to be offshore and in search of Costa Rican big game, which is something I’d already experienced last year with no luck but was something new for Phil, so it would be his go in the hot seat first.  After trolling around for about an hour we spotted the biggest pod of dolphins I’ve ever seen, there had to be hundreds of them and where there’s dolphins there’s usually yellowfin tuna, so we set our sights and headed over. We wouldn’t have to wait long before Phil’s reel lit up with a yellowfin smashing a lure and heading out to sea but after a short but hectic fight he managed to bring it back in & boat our first tuna.  We carried on following the pod of dolphins picking up another 4 yellowfin up to around 20b which was fantastic, but as always the sport fisherman in me wanted to get the light gear out and try some popping, which thinking about it now was a bit risky due to some of the 100lb lumps we saw smashing the surface.  By now the skies had opened and the rain was torrential but we still had time for one more fish, and my popper was hammered right off the surface instantly tearing 100s of yards of line in a split second which I thought was never going to end and thoughts of how the hell I was going to stop it came to mind –  fortunately the fish turned out to be small and only around 6-7lb so i managed to get it in, but what an adrenaline packed 5 minutes it gave me.

Phil getting amongst the Tuna

Our biggest Yellowfin of the trip

As the days passed the weather deteriorated with unusual strong winds and the heaviest rain I’ve ever experienced, resulting in over 2’6” of water falling in 4 days.  After missing 2 days of fishing due to the weather we were down to our last resort and last day so again the decision would be hard to make.  After observing birds hammering the water further out to sea it was like a sign from God so the skipper put the motors into overdrive to get us to the action, but after a while trolling back and forwards we had nothing to show for our efforts.   All was not lost though as in our mad dash we spotted a huge scum line absolutely littered with debris and just on the edge where the water colour changed, as any saltwater angler knows, is not only a perfect ambush location but also sanctuary for bait fish so always a good place to catch.  The heavy gear got put aside and the light spinning gear came out with poppers, and minutes later Phil’s reel went ballistic as a huge bull dorado well over 20lb cart wheeled across the surface like a golden jewel being skimmed across the water, the fight seemed to last for ages with the fish constantly taking line in seconds that had taken Phil minutes to retrieve, but we wouldn’t have to wait long as in the blink of an eye the fish was in the boat showing off his stunning electric colours. This was the first time I’d seen one of these fish up close and they are truly amazing.  The sport carried on totalling another 4 dorado, including another large bull for me around 16lb, with all fish falling to poppers with the subsurface lures having no luck at all.  It was time to head back inshore but not without having an hour fishing around the rocks for a trophy rooster, Phil (the jammy sod) again hooked up first and instantly knew it was a big rooster – they fight totally different to the jacks that inhabit the same waters and when you think they’re beat they go ballistic, but it didn’t take to long for Phil to bully the fish to the boat and again the deckhand did an amazing job bringing the fish onboard. And what a fish it was, the biggest rooster of the trip estimated around 20lb.  No sooner had Phil’s fish been returned my reel started screaming with another big rooster heading for the reef, trying every trick in the book to shake the hook but when a circle hook get’s a good hold they don’t come out.  Minutes later my big finned friend was our’s, not as big as Phil’s but a good 15lb and sadly our last fish of the trip as it was time to wave goodbye to the rich waters of Costa Rica. It was good timing as it turned out, as hurricane Otto was starting to take hold of the country and bring even stronger winds and some how even more rain! This ended up causing absolute havoc, flooding all the roads and closing the local airport so without going into much detail it took us another 2 horrendous days of travelling to get home…

Phil with his prize rooster

Phils big bull dorado (this one ended up on the menu)

This was definitely a dorado day

Although we’d faced the most ridiculous bad luck with the travelling and weather, the fishing in Costa Rica was absolutely off the scale and we literally just scratched the surface with it.  I’d advise anyone looking for a world class fishing experience and a stunning Costa Rican adventure to look no further than Crocodile Bay. 

After an incredible 2015 being part of and winning The Big Fish this year had a lot to live up to, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Over the years the Tyne has changed as a lot of rivers do, most noticeably after the record floods last year which left devastation all along the Tyne river system, with people’s houses being flooded along with cars, businesses and livestock lost.  No one knew what effect this would have on our fish species and due to the complex cycle of our salmon and sea trout we won’t have a true answer for another 4 or 5 years, although I did manage to catch an awful lot of fat salmon parr and smolts this year while fishing for wild brownies, which themselves didn’t seem to be there in great numbers. As well as this there has been bad reports from course anglers that this was one of the worst years on record.

So after going down to the river on the opening day of the season and being asked the raise a toast to the river, whilst asking it to be forgiving and generous to all anglers in 2016, it would be a few months before I ventured out myself in search of the incredible Atlantic salmon. I have an absolute fascination with this fish and the upmost respect for it and for what it goes through in it’s life cycle, which is the reason I return all my catches (my trophy is a picture and a memory rather than a dead fish on the bank) – but this is my personal choice and I do not hold it against anyone for keeping fish to eat.

It was apparent early on in the season that the floods had totally changed a large percentage of the pools and runs, mainly by shifting gravel, which isn’t always a bad thing. Yes we lost some good pools but with time and experimenting I managed to find some amazing productive spots away from the most popular areas, which I happily shared with others.  Due to the fact I only really fish further up the Tyne system it wouldn’t be until April that I started fishing for salmon properly, and I would actually have to wait until the second last day in May before I connected with what was both my first of the year and also the first salmon caught on the South Tyne, which I would have never caught if it wasn’t for my neighbour Jim telling me where the fish was!  So a last minute change from chasing brownies to silver resulted in an absolutely beautiful fresh fish of around 12lb, which was quickly returned amidst the shouting and jumping about like a lunatic – I’m sure any angler can relate to this as once your off the mark for the season the pressure seems to ease and you can hopefully relax and enjoy it all.

My first fish of the season

After getting off the mark things just got better and better, including a memorable catch on the the 1st June where not only did I catch the first sea trout on the South Tyne, but it was caught on an 8 foot 5 weight, 4lb leader and size 14 gold head hares ear whilst fishing for brownies, which 10 minutes and 2 pools later with no net I managed to lift from the water and marvel at it’s bright silver flanks.

A shock sea trout on my 5 weight

As the months passed we were blessed with good rises of water throughout the summer which is something we missed in 2015. Not only does this motivate the salmon and sea trout to enter the river system and keep them moving up stream, it also keeps the water well oxygenated and more likely to take the fly or lure. I managed some incredible sport through out June to August, personally landing a good mix of salmon and sea trout and finally breaking the what seemed impossible 20lb mark, which after 20 years of searching was starting to feel like it was never going to happen! It’s amazing how things can change in an instant – while guiding my good friend Ripon for the day, who was needing a break after catching his first ever sea trout (especially after the late night boozing the night before), he was worn out and made the mistake of telling me to have a few casts, and 4 casts later there I was attached to a brute of a salmon! After a hectic battle it was ours and what a fish it was (sorry Rip).

My first ever 20lb plus Tyne Salmon

Guiding people on the Tyne is something I turned my hand to this year and I absolutely love it. There’s something very special about introducing new anglers to the joys of salmon fishing and for me guiding them to their first Tyne salmon is the closest feeling you can get to landing one yourself. One of my favourite occasions was having 2 young Angling Trust ambassadors and avid film makers Carl and Alex, who are carp fishing fanatics, come in search of their first Atlantic salmon with the added pressure of everything being filmed. The lads were absolutely fantastic and took to it like a duck to water, having an unbelievable first 3 hours both landing one each, including a belter of a cock fish around 15lb which gave Carl an epic fight, and a beautiful grilse for Alex. The day seemed to fly by as it always does and just before we called it a day the lads incredibly managed another salmon each to finish on an absolute high and give them and myself a day to remember (the video can be viewed at the bottom of the page).

My guest Mark with his first salmon! He then went on to complete a hat-trick of fish in the same day

One thing I always look forward to is my Big Fish buddy Phil coming up to fish, as there’s always a little bit friendly competition between us but most importantly we have great laugh along the way, which is how it should be. This season we had some incredible days down the river with Phil landing a total of 10 fish in only 13 days, which is a phenomenal catch ratio and included a beast of a 22lb fish that he hooked when I was fighting with a bush on the far side trying to get my fly back! (Typical of Phil’s luck!).

Phil with his 22lb salmon

I’m sure you’ve all heard stories about the one that got away, I personally have a few but while fishing with Phil this year I experienced something that wipes the floor with the rest. Fishing the same pool that Phil had caught his monster cock fish in the day before I got a take that felt different to any other salmon I’d hooked before, with it’s weight and power feeling something similar to the sturgeon we were catching in British Columbia last year.  In all my years fishing for these magnificent fish I’ve never had a salmon bully me up and down the river so much, using short powerful runs while unfortunately taking me into 2 different snags which I somehow managed to free the line from.  By now the rain was torrential and I was stood 250 yards down stream from Phil up to my chest in water, wearing leaking waders feeling like I’d been fighting the fish for hours, and it turned out I had been – it was well over an hour and there was still no sight of the leviathan on the end of my line but I knew eventually that something had to give, and eventually I started gaining ground inch by inch, slowly walking the fish 100 yards back towards Phil and the net but still not managing to get it’s head up to the surface.  Another 30 minutes passed and the fish was about 5 yards away from both of us, and most importantly the net, when disaster struck – the heartbreaking moment when the line goes slack and the rod pings up. The leader (25lb) had snapped, not at the knot or lure but right in the middle where at some point must have rubbed against one of the snags. The most soul destroying feeling wasn’t just the fact that after 90 minutes the fish came off, but that I never got to see the fish and will never know it’s true size.

Before I knew it the season was drawing to an end but unlike a few weeks before and the one that got away it finished on a massive high, as after guiding a couple of guests to their separate unbelievable hat-tricks of fish, I landed my biggest fly caught salmon to date – an absolute beast of around 22-23lb, which as always after a few quick photos was released to carry on his journey.  The last few days literally went by as if they were hours and it was time to say an emotional goodbye and thank this amazing river for such a sensational season, which personally totalled 28 fish. With the next season just around the corner who knows what 2017 and the mighty Tyne holds for us.

An October monster

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

With a load of rain forecast before the weekend I had a telepathic feeling that my partner in crime & fishing buddy Phil would be on the phone soon to organise a few days fishing on the Tyne, and low an behold when my phone rang later that day it was him. I don’t get to fish much with Phil due to the fact we live at different ends of the country but he is one of the most enjoyable people to fish with and such a great laugh, and we always seem to have it off when he visits!  So after a short call and no persuading needed at all it was sorted, a solid 4 days fishing from first light until dark which is always our plan of attack – no rest,  just fishing.

After a day of horrendous weather further up the river system as forecast on Friday the river was on the rise and peaked at just over 2 foot, which by Saturday morning and Phil’s arrival would drop to around 1’8, which is still a little high but keeps the fish entering the river and moving upstream to where we would hopefully intercept them.  So after standing at the window like a lost puppy waiting for Phil’s car to turn up he eventually gets here and as normal the conversation diverts straight to fishing and the plan of attack for our first day. We ended up deciding just to take the day as it comes as the water can be very busy this time of the year, which is sometimes the best option.  To our surprise there wasn’t another soul in sight on the lower south Tyne around the Warden area, we couldn’t believe our luck but all became apparent when we got down to the water as it was very dark and full of silt, whereas usually it would be a deep tea colour even up to 2 foot. What had happened was that repair work had been carried out further upstream after the floods from last year and had loosened a lot of silt, which not only colours the water but the fish hate it, but as long as you have a hook in the water you always have a chance.

Northumberland Sunrise

Northumberland Sunrise

Our first weapons of choice would be a range of Rapala’s, flying c’s and other lures as due to river and weather conditions it would be hard work with the fly. We hadn’t even been fishing an hour when I connected with a huge fish in slacker water in the tail end of one of the pools, which instantly went airborne showing her dark red flanks with a countdown right in the scissors.  She was a good 15lb but unfortunately seconds later the line went slack and she was away, it was gutting but still always good to have some form of interest rather than none!  After a couple more runs through the pool we decided to change location and have a walk half a mile further upstream to a few high water holding spots.  We fished for a good few hours but unfortunately didn’t connect with any fish, but as we were walking back to the car Phil the hawk eye he is spotted a fish moving and quickly had a cast – bang he caught the bottom! I shouldn’t of laughed but I did… only to regret it seconds later as no quicker had he freed his lure from the bottom had he hooked the very fish he spotted, it was crazy but again after a few minutes and a few short runs the fish came off! It just wasn’t our day, but thats fishing you – win some you loose some and tomorrow is always a new day.

The second day started with Phil going down the river early doors and myself heading to my second love – Sunday league football, which was a hard choice to make as the river had dropped to 8 inches which is an amazing height to fish most pools on the South Tyne, just enough to keep fresh fish creeping through but also hold them up in certain areas! However, I’m a team player so stuck to my guns and went to play, I’m not going to lie I did think about how Phil was doing on numerous occasions but I knew it wouldn’t be long before we would be reunited and he could hopefully fill me in with some good news.  So after a successful win in football I was off to meet Phil quicker than a Bone fish hooked on the flats and on my arrival was met with both good and bad news, he had landed a small bar of silver sea trout at around a pound which was returned, but he had unfortunately also lost another double figure fish which only added to the hurt from the day before.  It was time for a move but a more substantial one, heading another 10 miles upstream towards Haltwhistle, where there would be less chance of a silver fish but as I return everything I catch I just as much enjoy catching a salmon in their full mating colours as I do a bar of silver.  As soon as we got to the water we spotted fish moving straight away, but the only thing they had on their mind was to head upstream and wouldn’t even flinch at the fly. It’s always great seeing fish move but you can spend too much time chasing the visual fish rather than fishing the pools as you normally would, which I’m guilty of myself on many occasions.  Hours pass without any interest so we decided to walk some of the water not fished very often due to the over grown and high banks, but with really fishy looking pools, so as always I told Phil to fish the water through first as there wasn’t enough room to swing a cat.  After fighting his way through the undergrowth he positioned himself in the only place possible, cast and no sooner had his Rapala hit the water and the line tight I seriously thought he hooked the gravel shelf in front of us but no it was a fish, and it would turn out to be an absolute nightmare to net as a steep 4 foot drop in front of us, coloured water and a fish determined to go back to sea was a recipe for disaster! Unlike every other fish we had hooked so far this one stuck all the way to the net which was met by euphoric screams by both myself and Phil, eventually we had landed one (well Phil had!), it wasn’t the biggest or freshest of fish possibly around 7lb but we were off the mark woohoo!

Phil with the first Tyne Salmon of our weekend

Phil with the first Tyne Salmon of our weekend

It was day 3 and a 6am start to try and get to one of our favourite pools before anyone else but just as we arrived a good friend of mine Dave was already tackling up, and even tho we were ready to roll with rods set up we decided to revert to plan B and head slightly down river just to above Hexham. It would turn out to be the best thing that could of happened as within 5 minutes I was straight into a fish that smashed the fly (Stokoe shrimp) just as it came onto the dangle at the head of the run. It was a fresh fish that went ballistic charging around like a bull in a china shop, which ended up taking me with it down stream but luckily to a more suitable landing spot with slacker deeper water, where Phil as always netted the fish like a pro!  After a few quick snaps the fish, which was around 8lb was safely returned to fight another day.

An early morning Tyne Salmon

An early morning Tyne Salmon

Since the fish had taken me down the pool and probably stirred everything up in it we decided to move down to the next run where Phil would fish the pool through first and again no sooner had he started his Stokoe shrimp was taken by a fish almost instantly (“fish on!”).  His fish acted totally different to the one I had just landed and decided to park itself behind a huge rock, and was adamant it wasn’t going to move! However with a little persuasion and slight change of angle it made the fatal mistake of moving into the current and quickly tired itself out, minutes later it was nestling in the bottom of my net, another small coloured salmon around 6lb which was returned.  What a morning we were having and it wasn’t even 8.30am, and to think this was our plan B! We couldn’t do anything but laugh as we would never of fished that water if the other stretch had been empty. It was time for another move further up the south Tyne back to where we had success the day before and on arrival we were shocked to find no one around, this day was getting better by the hour.  As Phil caught the last fish it was me to fish through first and without sounding too repetitive I hooked a fish on my third cast, but this time something was different this fish felt like a ton weight and literally wouldn’t move! Then all of a sudden, realising it was hooked, the fish went crazy giving phenomenal head shakes and runs as if it thought it was a marlin gliding across the ocean, it was away down stream with me and Phil close behind.  This was a big fish, and a well rested one with incredible power which tested my Grey’s 13′ to the max.  I literally couldn’t control where he wanted to go but knew with time he would start to tire, and after a few attempts of trying to get his head up 20 minutes later Phil spotted an opportunity and some how netted the fish first time, I don’t know who was more relieved me that I’d landed it or Phil since it would put an end to my moaning that I couldn’t do anything with it! Either way we had him, and he was an absolute monster in his full tartan colours with a huge kype big enough to put your hand through. Weighing 17lb on the scales this was the third fish of the day falling to my Stokoe shrimp fly, which has been a phenomenal fly this year.  Even tho I wanted to sit and marvel at this magnificent creature all day it was time for him to go back and finish off his journey up stream and it was also time to let Phil get some fishing done after standing with the net for 20 minutes or so.

Phil with a Tyne Salmon caught on a Stokoe Shrimp

Phil with a Tyne Salmon caught on a Stokoe Shrimp

My 17lb Salmon that gave me a fight to remember also on the Stokoe shrimp

My 17lb Salmon that gave me a fight to remember, also on the Stokoe shrimp

The morning turned to afternoon then to evening with no interest to show so it was time for another move but this time down river to the main tyne at Corbridge, where on our arrival it was absolutely boiling with fish all over.  I can’t remember the last time I saw so many fish in such a short space of time, up to 70-80 salmon and sea trout putting on a show in the space of an hour with one of them being the biggest fish I’ve ever seen, possibly in the 40’s it resembled a seal – it was mind blowing!  It was Phil’s time to fish first and with the way the day had gone so far expectations were high for a quick hook up, especially with the volume of fish, but this time it would be a longer wait and just before the sun was setting Phil managed a small clean grilse on a Rapala at about 3lb, which put up a respectable fight for its size but was in the net within minutes and safely returned.  We decided to call it a day, but what a day, especially after the disappointment of getting to the river first thing and being beaten to where we had planned to go then reverting to plan B.  We joked that maybe it was meant to be and all things happen for a reason, but as we all know in fishing sometimes we just need a bit of luck.

Phil with a small but beautiful Grilse

Phil with a small but beautiful Grilse

It was our last day fishing together which is always full of mixed emotions as I get on with Phil so well, even though we are generations apart we have an absolute blast and I feel like I’ve known him all my life, and with the bonus that there’s always fish caught.  The day turned out to be one of the hottest days recorded for September and a day that any sun worshiper would die for, but the fishing was terrible and the fish were only interested in dancing around the water as if to let us know that they were there but were never going to fall for our lures and flies!  We persevered moving from pool to pool, and eventually from the south to the main Tyne to where Phil had a small grilse the day before.  Again the fish were going crazy jumping, splashing and moving all over the river, one of them surely had to make a mistake sooner or later – well we wouldn’t have to wait long as I hooked a fish that had the power and strength of an olympic sprinter, which tore up to 100 yards of line off in seconds! I somehow managed to eventually stop it and gradually draw back towards us and after a dogged 10 minute fight with the fish, which Phil estimated being a good 20.  Then the line literally went slack… and both myself and the fish slipped away to sulk.  I was just contemplating packing up and watching Phil fish when he hooked a fish which followed suit to the one I’d just lost and immediately headed down stream in the current, but this time stayed there right in amongst snags and some colossal boulders and it would be just a matter of time before the line went absolutely solid and the inevitable happened – the fish managed to wedge itself behind one of the rocks and wasn’t coming out, so it was up to me to go in & free it up.  Luckily the water level was back down to 0 on the gauge and would only come up to my stomach, and as I got down to the fish I could see it just sitting there. It did cross my mind to try and net it but with it being in amongst loads of weed I didn’t want to risk it, so I went for it’s tail and it suddenly woke up and shot off, but not for long as Phil managed to get the fishes head up and just as I netted it in a split second his leader broke, but it didn’t matter we had the fish (phew)!!  A careful walk back up stream to where he could see his prize, a lovely silver hen fish around 9-10lb which as always was returned, and like her initial run shot off upstream. After that fish we decided to wrap things up and call it a day.

The last Salmon of the trip

The last Salmon of the trip

What an amazing four days we had experienced, totalling 7 fish landed and 6 lost, all caught on a mixture of fly and Rapala with the Stokoe shrimp doing the most damage, and all fish being returned which to me is the most important thing.  The highlight for both of us had to be the day we landed 4 fish between us, most importantly 2 a piece especially after we had to resort to plan B, but that’s the thing with fishing you just never know what lies ahead!  Except that I do know Phil will be on the phone soon. Hurry up Phil I’m waiting…….