It’s always hard to justify fishing another river when you have in my eyes the best and most prolific river literally on your door step (well 300 yards away to be precise), but when there’s the chance of a Big Fish reunion with the smiling assassin Emma, the coarse king Ripon and a weeks salmon fishing the river Lochy there was only ever going to be one answer…….Road Trip!

As Ripon has never cast a line for salmon before we though it would be wise to get him on the Tyne a day before our Lochy adventure just to give him a taster and a good bit of practice, as using a double handed fly rod was totally alien to him. Along with Rip coming up my fishing partner in crime Phil decided to come up for the weekend to try his luck with us. The next day didn’t quite start as planned after a very heavy night in Newcastle, I was woken up by Phil at 7.30 am coming in the front door at my surprise, I had left the keys in the front door after crawling out the taxi!  So after a few more hours sleep myself and Rip managed to pull ourselves together and go down to the South Tyne to meet Phil, it was all going fine until I had a relapse and the hangover got hold of me harder than an angler grasping his prize catch, so a few hours sleep on the bench at the Bend pool was in order.  Going home for a few hours made me feel half human again so back down the river it was to see the lads who unfortunately hadn’t had a touch but was good a good bit of practice for Rip.  I decided it was a good time for a move further down river which when we arrived was totally empty and not another angler in sight, things were looking up.

Phil kindly let Rip fish the pool through first as we were determined for him to get his first salmon, we headed to the boat and baddox stretch where there’s always a good chance of a fish when the waters up. The weapon of choice was my 7’6 Rovex Ceratec FLX light spinning rod as always with a blue and silver flat rap at the business end, which after only 3 casts got nailed by a strong fish which sent Ripon into hysterics – the fish went ballistic dancing across the water surface and trying to throw the hook, I still don’t know who was more nervous me with the net or him playing the fish but thankfully a few minutes later we had the fish in the net, his first ever sea trout a cracker around 6lb. We all went crazy! Luckily know one was there to notice.  Once we had calmed down the fish was unhooked in the water then photographed then returned, which I was proud of him for doing.  After pulling himself together he went back in to finish of fishing the pool through and only 5 minutes later we heard those magical words FISH ONNN, the jammy sod was in again! This time the fight and fish was totally different, the fish kept deep making some fantastic runs and some huge head shakes, this had to be a salmon… but we were never to find out as the hook pulled and the fish disappeared, which was absolutely devastating! Ripon didn’t seem as gutted as we were but as salmon anglers we know that chances don’t come that often!

Ripons first sea trout from the South Tyne

Ripon’s first sea trout from the South Tyne

As I was watching the guys fish the pool through Rip gave me the rod and told me to have a few cast’s while he had a stretch, he would totally regret this seconds later as on my forth cast I connected with a fish which had power I hadn’t felt for a long time – I instantly knew I was into a huge fish that would give me a fight to remember.  Part of me was absolutely gutted for Rip but the other half was full of adrenaline playing this huge beast thinking I may have ended my 20 year search for a 20lb plus salmon. With Phil at the net I guided the enormous fish deeper than anything I’ve seen with my own eyes towards him and with his first and only attempt lifted the net perfectly with the fish safe inside, it looked colossal and is by far the biggest salmon I’ve ever caught! I had finally done it, this fish was over 20lb easily but we didn’t have any scales to get a genuine weight but we all decided it was over 20.  After calming down and getting the fish to some well oxygenated water I got my trophy which are always photos then watched him swim alongside Phil like a well trained dog as he slipped off into the depths, what a sight and what a fish…..!

My first ever 20lb plus Tyne Salmon

My first ever 20lb plus Tyne Salmon

The next morning was the day of the journey but I wanted to give Rip a few more casting lessons which he picked up no bother at all, so good that he some how managed to hook a salmon which put up one hell of a fight and that he played like a pro but devastatingly came off just at the net, not again, he was gutted but a quick reminder of the week ahead pulled him round and made us come back to the house to get ready for our road trip.

The car was packed and we were ready to roll.  A quick goodbye to my girlfriend Vic and so long to Phil who was heading home and we were on our way with heads full of fishy thoughts and hearts full of hope and after what felt like a lifetime constantly stopping for food (if you know me and Rip we don’t stop eating) and to admire the amazing views and also getting lost (we blamed the Sat Nav) we eventually arrived to Ivy Cottage where Emma (from the Big Fish) and Harry her son welcomed us with open arms.  The cottage actually overlooks the river and what a river, absolutely spectacular and even tho it was 3 foot up it was as clear as a fortune teller’s crystal ball, everything was looking great and falling into place and the morning couldn’t come soon enough.

Our home base Ivy cottage on the river Lochy

Our home base Ivy cottage on the river Lochy

Day one we woke to clear skies and a forecast of bright sunshine and high temperatures but this didn’t phase us one bit as we were as excited as kids at christmas, theres something about the build up to fishing new and unchartered waters the mystery and expectations run riot in your head especially when the river produced 25 fish the week before.  It was time to head down to the water to our first beat, now the way the river Lochy beat system works is that due the the length of the river being just 10 miles long it is split into 4 beats which have 4 available rods to fish per beat and they rotate as each day passes which is great as you get the opportunity to fish each beat during the week.  We were to start on beat 4 which is closest to the tidal stretch so we decided to split up so myself and Ripon on the bottom half and Emma and Harry on the top and with the height of water would give us a great chance but after a few hours fishing for some reason it all seemed void of fish and with no fish showing and us being new to the water it all seemed rather intimidating so we decided to do a little exploring and it didn’t take us long to find so amazing pools and runs with truly spectacular scenery but yet again we had no luck, hopefully Emma would have some news she did but unfortunately it was bad in the sense she lost a fish at the bank it was coloured and around 12-14lb but Emma had managed a small sea trout around 2lb on a black and orange tube fly which was great news and a good start to our trip.  We finished the first day overlooking one of the pools with the sun setting in the background and sausages sizzling away on the barbecue thoughts moved to tomorrow a new day and chance of our prize.

Beat 4 on the river Lochy with Ben Nevis in the background

Beat 4 on the river Lochy with Ben Nevis in the background

Day Two saw us move to beat 1 which is the top beat and luckily about 100 yards from the cottage and an endless supply of food, the conditions were again against us with bright sunshine and temperatures of around 24 degrees which after a mornings fishing saw the others retreat back to the cottage i was determined to stick it out and resorted to trout reservoir tactics using my cortland 7 weight with a di 5 line and sunray shadow which was allowed to sink right to the depths which some of the pools can be over 20 feet deep then stripped back at a hefty old pace to try and get a reaction out of a fish as nothing again was showing at all, it didn’t take long to work but unfortunately the wild brownies of the river took a liking to it but i did however get a reaction off something more substantial as the line got ripped from my hands but unfortunately didn’t hook up this would turn out to be the closest i would get to a salmon or sea trout the whole trip.

Day Three Couldn’t of started any better with a phone call from Jason who had just arrived the day before with his son Will saying he had just landed and returned a coloured fish of around 8lb (early bird gets the worm) from beat 2 which was fantastic and gave us all hope but again the conditions were against us with scorching temperatures and constantly dropping water we decided to stick to early morning fishing from 5 to around 11 then 6 until dark when the sun and temperatures drop.  We literally tried all manner of fly’s, lines and retrieves but nothing wanted to play game and Jason’s fish turned out to be the only of the day.

Day Four had us on probably the most spectacular beat being beat Three which has pools and falls that look like something you’d see on a painting or a blockbuster movie.  Again we fished the morning waiting and dreaming of the solid take as the fly swings across the pool, it never came not for any of us which was mind blowing as the pool’s looked and fished perfect but again the weather conditions were against us so morning then turned to afternoon so a plan of scoping the pools out while the sun was at its highest planning the attack the evening.  Myself and Rip decided to fish totally different tactics id fish deep with a mix of tube patterns and he would fish closer to the surface with cascades and bright patterns to try an entice some grilse that surprisingly hadn’t been spotted yet, the bites were instant but from the insect type those horrendous like cretins midges that were unbearable and persistent but we battled through them and managed a few sizeable brownies to half a pound but our silver friends were being illusive as always. Tomorrow would be our last chance and things would have to change or we would be traveling back empty handed.

Ripon casting into a spectacular pool on beat 3 of the river Lochy

Ripon casting into a spectacular pool on beat 3 of the river Lochy

Our last day began with an early start and clear focused heads ready and armed to take on beat Four with the advantage of already fishing the beat and its spectacular pools on the first day with the added bonus of clouds and rain forecast at some point was going to be our best chance.  Between 4 of us we went through every option fishing the pools through quickly and thoroughly so that we covered the whole beat and didn’t miss any fish but again the river was unwilling to give up its secrets and was very quiet and stayed that way until an hour before we had to leave from home.  The conditions seemed to change in an instant with solid cloud cover and heavy rain, the fish obviously sensed this and just like someone turning a tap on started running harder than Usain bolt.  I would say we saw more fish in that last hour than we did the whole week but thats fishing for you and even tho its frustrating thats a reason why we love it so much as a blank day or in this case week spurs you on harder for the next time and it makes that next catch so much more rewarding.  It was time to leave and say bye to Emma and Harry, it was so nice seeing her again she is an amazing women and so very kind to invite us to such an amazing and spectacular river which on its day can be phenomenal but it just wasn’t our week but we will meet again!

 

After getting back to Hexham late on Friday night we decided to have a well deserved lie in well until 9am as i was determined to get Rip his first salmon on the fly so it would be back to my local stretches on the South Tyne where i new there would be fish but it would be hard in summer low conditions and clearing waters but the sight of your home river is hard to beat.  I gave Rip the choice of picking what fly he wanted to use which he opted for one of my Stokoe shrimps which i thought was probably a bit on the large side but he was adamant that he wanted to use it which i eventually gave into which 10 minutes later turned out to be the right decision as those words id waited to hear all week came shrieking from his mouth Fishhhh Onnnnn,  I couldn’t believe it he’d done it he was into a fish and again the runs and head shakes it had to be a salmon it had only taken a week and a 600 mile round trip but the fight was on.  The fish was really going for it and giving head shakes even a punk rocker would be proud of  which is a horrible but great feeling, the minutes were passing and the thoughts of the fish coming off were increasing by the second and as the fish kept coming close but not revealing its flank ready for the net, Rip starting pleading me to hurry up and net it but stabbing at a fish that isn’t ready with a treble in the corner of its jaw is a disaster waiting to happen but in an instant the fish turned within reaching distance and bang it was in the net, Rip went crazy dancing and singing like lunatic which i cant deny that i joined in with as for me seeing someone catch their first salmon (around 10-12lb) is as close to catching one myself.  Again Rip played the fish like an absolute pro and the only time it left the water was for a few quick photos before being released.

Ripon with his First ever South Tyne Atlantic Salmon on the fly

Ripon with his First ever South Tyne Atlantic Salmon on the fly

Even tho 3 of us had a fish-less week on the Lochy it truly is a spectacular place with pool’s and runs that miranda through the most breath taking countryside in the shadow of the one and only Ben Nevis and i can promise that i will be back to fish its waters in the future if i’m lucky enough……..!

Sometimes in fishing we come across a fly or a lure which totally changes our season and the way we fish, or even think.  It may be by mistake or even by our own hard work, but either way when it happens it’s life changing.

Personally I’m the type of angler who tries to make things happen and I’m always on the hunt for new fly patterns, materials and ideas to test but it’s not always just the future we need to look at, it also pays to look back.  So one evening sitting at the vice and looking for inspiration I decided to look through some old knackered fly boxes that were laying about under the stairs, where the lasting remains of previously used flies live, and while I unfortunately found nothing but bare hooks it got me thinking about a monstrosity of a fly I used to tie when I first started my life sentence of salmon fishing, and some how it used to catch fish.

The idea behind the fly is in some eyes pretty simple and revolves around the different materials used, and more specifically the colour change between them which, when in the water, looks mesmerising.  Well to me it does but you might say I’m easily pleased!

It all starts with using hot orange thread down to the bend of the treble, then you’re ready to tie in the tail section which, and to some people this may sound strange, is the centre section of an orange buck tail.  This centre section isn’t orange due to it naturally being the dark part of the tail but when dyed it actually goes a really dark brown/maroon colour.  Now the reason for using buck tail is that it’s really rigid and holds it’s shape, and that allows it to replicate a shrimp/prawn’s feelers or antenna and I actually like the colour, it works really well with the others on the finished product.

I then tie in a strip of holographic copper tinsel with a strand of silver wire – I always varnish the hook before laying the copper tinsel just to give that extra bit of security.  Then once tied off I rib the body with the silver wire (from AMC Fly Tying), then secure at the eye.

Stokoe Shrimp

The third part is to get a section of ginger shadow fox tail (from Foxy Tails), that I measure so that it matches the length of the tip of the tail, and tie in just behind the eye.  Now this material acts totally different in and out the water compared to the buck tail, as it actually pulsates and moves freely in the water and has a mind of it’s own which works really well when you move and work the fly.

The last section and the finishing touch is to use the tip of a feather from an orange cock cape, to use as a hackle which after about 3 turns should be enough obviously depending on the size of the fly.  I personally like to make them stand out and be prominent, so tie it off then slightly brush it back and hold with a few turns of thread just to allow more movement when worked through the water, so it pulsates.  Building the head up with more turns of hot orange thread gives the front of the fly a bit more bulk, which seems to balance the fly out well.

Stokoe Shrimp

I am by far no where near the best at tying flies and can happily say I’m still at a novice level, but sometimes the fly catches the fisherman and not the fish and I feel like what I’ve put together – the materials which individually work differently but also as one, and the merging colours that are subtle and also bright – is doing me proud! It’s catching me more fish than ever before, even when following people through a run or pool using all manner of flies it still seems to come out top, and I’m happy to share it with you as the next best thing for me is seeing others catch fish….!

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Tight lines guys.

After taking part and winning BBC’S ‘Earth’s Wildest Waters – The Big Fish’ last year it’s been a really hectic few months being involved in a lot of events, shows and competitions but one I was both nervous and excited by was The Game Fair at Ragley Hall.  I was very kindly asked to be the official Fishing Ambassador for the whole show, which was the reason for the mixed emotions as I had never been an ambassador for anything before, I mean what does an ambassador do?! My idea of an ambassador was someone who walks around with tray covered with a pyramid of Ferrero Rocher, which I could happily polish off myself, but seriously it was an honour to be asked, especially due to the size and nature of the fair and the fact that I had been given such a role in something I am so passionate about.  So after a journey that felt like a lifetime I eventually arrived at Ragley Hall, and was immediately blown away by the beauty and size of the place.  I’ve been to outdoor shows and events before but never anything on this scale, and after meeting some of the staff which were extremely friendly I then met Tony Wall, the Director of the event, who kindly escorted me to the fishing village where I would be helping over the next three days.

My first impressions were that the fishing area was a little sparse of marquees, which was really surprising and a shame due to the thousands of people that attend the Fair every year, but the stores & organisations that were there ended up doing a fantastic job taking advantage of the space.  I decided to base myself down by the water with the ‘Get Hooked On Fishing’ team (Sarah, Sam and John), and the Angling Trust guys, both of who were doing an amazing job giving the hundreds of kids & young aspiring anglers at the Fair an invite into fishing and the chance to catch their very first fish.  Both are organisations that I happily support & have become very good friends.

Over the first day I was involved in numerous activities including doing a Q and A about my ‘Big Fish’ adventure last year, which always brings fond memories, and also participating in a few small competitions which were great fun. One of the highlights on my first day and of the whole show as always was meeting new people and making good friends, one of which is the most talented artist I’ve ever spent time with, a guy known as Dusto – and when I say artist I mean of the most incredible graffiti.  Adam’s (Dusto) work is phenomenal and he has a real passion like myself and all anglers for fishing which totally comes across in his artwork, and for everything he does trying getting more people into our beloved sport.

Me and the main man Dusto

Me and the main man Dusto

Another name I have to mention, well try and mention is Hywel Morgan (or as I call him, Howard), who has represented his country as Captain on countless occasions, won numerous casting competitions around the world and also still somehow can’t pronounce my bloody name right! (You’ll get there eventually pal!).  It’s amazing how anglers in general can get on so well even as strangers, we had endless banter and laughs throughout the whole weekend (mostly at my expense), probably due to the threat to him of my casting… well you never know!  His passion and enthusiasm, like Adam’s above, are exactly what our sport needs and I’m proud that I can call these guys my friends.

Howard Doing what he does best! No not commentating, sitting down

Howard (Hywel) Doing what he does best! No not commentating, sitting down

Over the next two days of the Game Fair there was loads going on, from competitions to time challenges & casting demos. I did manage to get my hands on the big competition prizes, but unfortunately it was only to present them! A big shout out to all the Brit Flycast contenders who all put in an outstanding performance over the weekend, and the very worthy winners from both days Jonathan Tomlinson & Steve Parkes for the Men’s #7 distance event; Jonathan once again & James Evans for the ST27 event; Debbie Morgan, Yasmin Morgan & Tracy Thomas for the Women’s #7; and Tanya Morgan & Toby Bennett for the Junior #7.  Also a very special mention to George Clarke, awarded for a magnificent 19 metre cast at the age of only 8 years.  Congratulations once again guys!

Some of the amazing distance casters from the weekend

Some of the amazing distance casters from the weekend

On the final day I got to meet up with my good mate Rob Hughes, 2x World Champion carp angler & current England carp fishing team manager, who decided it was the right time for me to move over to the dark side & catch my first carp.  Nervously, in front of the watching crowds, and next to two extremely talented England International women’s carp anglers Tania Williams & Theresa Biggs, I accepted the challenge!  After a few occasions of me having to nip away for presentations & missing a few carp caught, I finally had my chance and after a few close calls & thinking the fish had come off, I finally landed my first ever common carp of around 5-6lbs.  After a few quick photos the fish was safely returned, and will hopefully be the first of many!

The three amigo's

The three amigo’s

Overall, the Game Fair experience was a massive success for me, leaving with so many new friends & experiences, my first carp & most encouragingly of all, seeing the massive volume of kids & their families getting into fishing for the first time.  This is something which I feel very passionate about & which spells a really bright future for our sport.  I’m already looking forward to next year’s Game Fair event – keep an eye out & be sure to get this unmissable date in your diary!

There’s that telephone call we all love getting, you know the one from your fishing buddy to organise a trip – in my case it’s my partner in crime and salmon fishing fanatic Phil Plant, who I was fortunate to meet on my Big Fish adventure last year and become very close friends with. He is literally is one of the best fisherman I know and has a great wealth of knowledge which I’m slowly trying to prize from him (its working so far).

2 weeks later the first of our 3 day fishing marathon chasing silver had finally arrived. When I say ‘chasing silver’ I refer to fishing for what is in my eyes the greatest fish on the planet, the Atlantic Salmon. What this fish actually goes through in it’s life cycle is phenomenal – swimming thousands of miles back and forth to its river and even stream of birth, sometimes on numerous occasions, they fight like nothing else and have a heart of steel. I have so much respect for these fish, which is the main reason for my choice of catch and release.

No sooner had Phil walked through the door we were back out in the car heading to the South Tyne with our rods at the ready and heads brimming full of hope – especially as he had timed his visit to perfection with the Tyne seeing its biggest runs of fish for this time of year in a long while. Two days in June recorded a crazy 1351 and 1498 fish through the fish pass at Riding Mill, and a total of 7113 were recorded for the month, which has smashed a June records as pictured below. Also with the river falling from a recent flood to a foot above Summer level, all we needed now were the fish to play game.

We decided the best place to start would be the South Tyne around the Warden area and we knew with conditions being nearly perfect there would be a good chance of the banks being busy with other anglers. Although we are very lucky with the choice of waters throughout the Tyne system, within our club if your not on the banks by sunrise your often not the first to have fished it. Well it turned out to be one of those days where everyone and their dog were out trying their luck, which was a first for me for this season as I’d never seen a soul due to all the low water, which had been great so far. The plan was to fly fish the pools through then, if need be, lure fishing with a rapala to hopefully stir them up then back through with the fly. Due to the pools and runs being small (some around 50 yards long) this is something that can be done in a short space of time and is something that has been really effective for me so far this season. My weapons of choice would be my Grey’s 13ft matched with Cortland precision fly line with a Stokoe shrimp (pattern to follow), and the back up as always my 7’6 Rovex Ceratec FLX drop shot/light spinning rod and Revenge reel fitted with 10lb braid and a selection of small rapalas. After a good few hours of hard fishing through some perfect looking runs, pools and secret stretches, seeing no fish and having no interest it’s important to know when to leave so it was time for a change of scenery and further up the south Tyne where there would be less fish, less water but also less people. We unfortunately ended up being right especially about the lack of fish! The water looked perfect and it was nice not having a a pair of eyes giving you the death stare for being through the pools before them, but it was back to the car and back down river to our original plan. It was no surprise that it was like a cattle mart with cars and people everywhere but no one had even had a hook up yet which was crazy, were we going to be the lucky ones and could we really tempt a fish from water that had been hammered all day? This is where local knowledge of the water is priceless, as I noticed a small stretch where people hadn’t fished which holds fish and knew this would be our best chance. Being a gentleman for once in my life I let Phil fish the stretch first, and with no luck it was time for me to resort to the back up plan and put a 9cm blue/silver flat rap on my drop shot rod – this would literally be our last chance of the day, and low and behold second cast a fish nailed it and that amazing sensation of the initial take ran right through me. As that adrenaline which fills your body kicked in I screamed to Phil “fish onnnnnnnn!” (our code word for when we hook up) and the fight began! With glimpses of silver flanks and not willing to show itself it had salmon written all over it, but after 5 minutes and a great fight on ultra light gear Phil netted the fish perfectly and to our surprise it was a sea trout and what a corker around 6lb! It may not have been the salmon we were after but these fish are just as special and are a pleasure to catch. So after a few quick snaps with the sun setting in the distance, I placed him back into the water to finish off his journey and we finished our day on a high.

A south tyne Sea Trout caught as the sun sets

A south tyne Sea Trout caught on our last run through the pool

Day 2 and a 5am start had us down by first light to Warden on the South Tyne to one of my all time favourite pools. To our surprise there was not another soul in sight, and with the river at 6 inches above summer level it would hopefully give us a great chance of a silver tourist. Phil had the pleasure of fishing through first and quickly connected with a good fish which turned out to be a large wild brownie, around 2lb, which was a welcome catch but not what we wanted. It was now my turn to follow him down using my newly created Stokoe shrimp – the flow was great and the fly was working fantastic as it got hit so hard even Mike Tyson would be jealous, yes “fish onnnnnn” the fish instantly showed itself to be a salmon & a cracking double at around 12-15lb! The fish had phenomenal power which for around 5 minutes it used to stay out in the current, taking line yard by yard until that dreaded moment when the line goes slack – it’s enough to make a grown man cry!

Into a good Tyne Salmon at the bend pool which unfortunately didn't stick

Into a good Tyne Salmon at the bend pool which unfortunately didn’t stick

It was time to move again and within 10 minutes we were at our next stretch further down stream where the thoughts of the lost fish were starting to feel less painful, especially as the fly was coming onto the dangle and a quick figure of eight resulted in another hook up – yesssss round 2, but it was only to be a quick hello and goodbye (or as some would say ‘handshake’) and the fish was off followed by a few choice words which I’d better not repeat! The skies turned black and the heavens opened so a trek back to My favourite pool was suggested by Phil, which brought back thoughts of the one that got away but again they were quickly forgotten as the I managed to connect with another fish in the tail end of the pool. This was it third time lucky it surely couldn’t happen again… and it didn’t as Phil slipped the net under a small but perfectly formed sea trout around 2-3lb! With fly perfectly wedged in the scissors, a few photos as always then the fish was safely returned and on that note it was time to head home.

A small but perfectly formed South Tyne Sea Trout on the fly

A small but perfectly formed South Tyne Sea Trout on the fly

After a lot of rain throughout the day and evening we decided to wait until the morning to plan our third day as if it was too high Phil would head home, but to our amazement after we checked our phones for river levels it had only came up what I thought was 3 inches – turned out I had totally misread the height and it had actually risen 2 foot, which isn’t unfishable but would put even the best of anglers off! We however decided to to have a few casts, due to the conditions it would all be lures and spinners on light gear. No sooner had I set up Phil was screaming “fish onnnnnn!” – I honestly thought he was pulling my leg the joker he is but by the bend in his rod I could see it was definitely a fish! After a short struggle I netted it and we had a crazy moment celebrating, he had done it we had our salmon! What a stunning little fish it was, around 5lb an absolute bar of silver – with Phil’s red clown rapala quickly removed the fish was returned and shot off back to the depths to sulk!

Phil and his Salmon caught on his 5th cast in high water

Phil and his Salmon caught on his 5th cast in high water

What a way to start a morning which looked as if it was going to be a disaster, it just shows that when there’s a hook in the water you have a chance. Due to the height of the water we had limited areas to fish so headed on to the main Tyne to Corbridge, where we knew would still fish even up to 2’6, it is a totally different landscape and water being very open and flat, but with being lower down stream you have a good chance of both the North and South Tyne fish. No sooner had we set up we spotted fish but they had more interest in moving upstream than looking at anything we had to offer, which is often the case when there’s a good water running. We went right through our lure boxes and between us tried everything from Flying c’s, yo zuris, Toby’s to rapalas, Devons and A T lures from my good friend Giles Alcock, but still couldn’t get any interest. We soon realised that the South Tyne had dropped nearly a foot from first light so it was back on the road again and off to our most productive stretch, but not until stopping off at a few tasty looking spots first where Phil would lose one of his favourite rapalas which he had owned for years. I tried to console him by saying he’d had his money’s worth from it but if looks could kill I’d be 6 foot under! We eventually arrived at our last stretch and by this time it was 9.30pm, we were tired and hungry but still hopeful for one more fish and as always having a last few casts right at the tail end of the pool my countdown rapala was smashed by a fish! I couldn’t believe it “fish onnnnn!”, I’d just about given up hope but here I was playing a very lively fish which was a fantastic fight on light gear, I turned to see Phil sprinting quicker than Ussain Bolt with the net and he was just in time with the line snapping just as he went to net it! It was a bit of luck we needed after the lost fish the day before. Keeping the fish in the water, we got our photos, returned the fish which was around 4lb and decided that was enough.

Sea Trout Caught on one of my last casts form the bend pool

Sea Trout Caught on one of my last casts form the bend pool

After 3 days of solid fishing which totalled 3 Sea Trout, 1 salmon, 2 good fish lost and numerous takes, on the whole we’d had a great experience and success, and it has me itching for our next fishing adventure together! Phil hurry up and come back…

Wales is somewhere I’d always wanted to visit and fish, with its spectacular scenery and rivers that meander through its landscape full of silver sewin. It’s rugged coast line and seas full of so many species of fish that make your imagination run wild.

So when I got the call and was asked to host and possibly fish the Pembrokeshire Lure Fishing festival there was only ever going to be one answer – yes or as everybody thinks we say up north – wey aye!

With an itinerary for the weekend like a medieval scroll and me being too excited to read it as always, the car was packed to the brim with enough fishing gear to open a shop with & I was off on my 350 mile journey to uncharted waters (well for me).

7 hours and numerous food stops later I arrived at my good friend from last year’s BBC’s ‘The Big Fish’ adventure Dan Rodgers’ house, who kindly put me up for a few days. No sooner had I walked through the door and he was taking me down to his local river the Teifi, where he would totally change my mind and thoughts on net fisherman. Dan is a coracle fisherman through and through and its a huge part of his life, although I think he may be starting to turn from what us fisherman call ‘the dark side’, but behold what I saw was totally different to what I expected! The nets, coracle and method was amazing to watch as they drifted silently and delicately with the current, not even taking up a quarter of the river and their very sporting net only a meter or so deep with nothing but an old branch to show at the end of it. I now realise these guys aren’t just netsmen, they are so similar to us but use different equipment. I did get the offer to try it out but had to decline due to my new white Nike Air Max (the only excuse I could think of!).

Anyway back to the fishing (well the proper fishing!), the next day we woke to weather condition like something from the Perfect Storm which we knew would effect the day badly, but we proceeded to travel to Fishguard to take part in the first day’s lure fishing challenge after popping into the local fishing shop for a few extra supplies. After meeting Jimmy the organiser and a few of the other guys it was decided that it was too dangerous to fish the open side of the wall, so we would have to make do with the inner section where Drop Shot and light spinning rods would be the choice of weapon for the day. It turned out to be one of those days where everything but the kitchen sink was thrown at the fish, from big yo zuri lures, rapalas, mepps and jig heads to tiny pin fry and plastic imitations on size 18 hooks. For me and Dan and most others it was a total blank but one of the other guys managed a small 10 inch pollock and small goby to win the day. It may have been a fish-less day but I learned more that day about drop shotting than I had done all my life.

Our first day fishing at fishguard

Our first day fishing at Fishguard

After a late night sampling the local delicacies we headed towards Dale where we would be targeting Bass and Pollock from Jimmy Lemon’s Boat ‘Bang Tidy’- today would be fishing for fun and not part of the competition but as always the competitive streak was there. The fishing started on the slow side with Dan picking up a pollock around 2lb from a deep pinnacle using a jig head on light spinning gear just off the rocky shore line. He kindly rubbed it in as always (he wouldn’t be Dan if he didn’t!), but I wasn’t far behind him with a small codling. A change of plan was needed, we changed to rapalas and diving lures fishing in around 25ft of clear water, casting towards the cliffs and rocks. The action was to be relentless with some insane sport catching 30 plus pollock which on 15-20g light gear was fantastic, in amongst the pollock onslaught I managed to land my first ever Bass which I maybe over reacted to catching but hey it was a first and in the excitement I totally forgot about how spiny the little critters are and I quickly learnt my lesson! Jimmy was to have the last laugh as literally his last cast he hooked something which sent his reel screaming,we all looked at each other and thought Bass but it turned out to be another pollock but a cracker of around 8/9lb which was safely returned along with all the other fish caught that day. I personally could have stayed out all day but tides being tides we had to head in.

Jimmy's Pollock with a face full of Eddy Stone eel

Jimmy’s Pollock with a face full of Eddy Stone eel

The last day was a total change and a chance for us to meet all the other hard core anglers who may I say were skilled beyond belief and an absolute great bunch of lads and lasses, and it was also nice to see the juniors getting involved. I was honoured to present the winners of the different categories their prizes and trophies and to reveal a total of 23 species were caught that weekend between all competitors, all on lures which is a huge achievement and something I hope to be involved with in the coming years. It was also great to see the RNLI guys turn up with there boat to collect the money raised through the raffle, these guys do an amazing job and dont get anywhere near enough credit for the work they do and lives they save.

The worst thing about any adventure is always the end but for me in a way this time it’s just the start with my new found knowledge and I can’t wait to get back there soon.