All posts by Robin Falvey

Britain’s strangest catches

Salmon, trout, cod, mackerel – tasty, yes – exotic, no.

But just because the UK isn’t normally known for its strange catches doesn’t mean nothing unusual ever turns up on our shores, or in our rivers and lakes. But what are some of the oddest fish ever caught in the UK?

We thought we’d find out.

Electric Ray

Electric Ray Britain’s strangest catches

Image source: Wikimedia
Zing! Imagine catching one of these off the coast of Cornwall.

Capable of delivering an electric pulse of 220 volts, an encounter with an electric ray could literally knock you off your feet. But while the fish does exist in deep water off the coast of the UK, it’s very rare for one to be caught by a shore angler. In fact, the electric ray is normally a resident of the Med and the waters off Africa, and South America.

But imagine his surprise when in 1980, a Mr Wills caught a 52lb 11oz whopper off Porthallow on the Cornish coast. A truly stunning catch, we hope he realised what it was before he touched it!

Puffer Fish

Puffer fish Britain’s strangest catches

Image source: Wikimedia
You wouldn’t want to accidentally step on one of these!

Japanese sushi chefs train for at least two years to prepare and serve fugu, or puffer fish. That’s because the skin and internal organs of this native of tropical and subtropical waters contain tetrodotoxin, a nerve agent for which there is no known antidote. Puffer fish can grow up to two feet in length and when threatened or attacked, pump their stomachs full of air or water to make themselves impossible to swallow.

It must have come as quite a shock to one Mr S. Atkinson, when in 1985, while fishing from Chesil Beach in Dorset, he hooked a 6lb 9oz specimen. We assume he didn’t untangle it from his fishing equipment and take it home for tea!

Pilot Fish

Pilot fish Britain’s strangest catches

Image source: Wikipedia
The pilot fish keeps risky company.

It’s covered in black and white stripes, and normally feeds on the parasites that live on the skin and gill slits of sharks. We’re talking about the pilot fish – the one creature that can swim into the mouths of sharks, pick the rotting flesh from between its razor sharp teeth and live to tell the tale. But the pilot is normally found cruising with its lethal ally in the warm seas of the equator – not in chilly UK waters.

So it must have come as a bit of a surprise to say the least, when in 1997, Mr J. Richards caught a 10 oz pilot fish in the Towy Estuary in Carmarthenshire. How it managed to get so lost is a mystery.

Carp or Goldfish?

Carp goldfish Britain’s strangest catches

Image source: Platform 13
A very strange hybrid fish.

Is it a goldfish, a carp, a roach or a bream? Perhaps it’s all of the above. When Angling Times tackle editor, Mark Sawyer caught this strange specimen at Magpie Lake, Cambridge in 2012, he really didn’t know what to make of it.

His first thought was that he’d hooked a brown goldfish, but when he looked more closely, he realised he’d caught something altogether stranger. The hybrid fish looked to be the product of at least three species, if not more. It had, Mr Sawyer said, the head of a roach, the body of a bog standard goldfish, a fantail’s tail and the anal fin of a Bream.

Mystery Fish

Mystery fish Britain’s strangest catches

Image source: UTAOT
A walking fish?!

“Caught” on film, “walking”, the seabed beneath a North Sea oil rig, if it’s genuine footage, this strange specimen has us truly baffled. It looks like some sort of Handfish – but that’s a species native to the coasts of Australia and Tasmania. Using adapted pectoral fins to travel the ocean floor, this slow moving fish, pictured above, does look very similar to the one featured in the video.

What do you think it is? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

World’s creepiest fish

A fish that sucks its prey to death, a cannibal fish and a fish with four eyes.

Nature certainly creates some weird and wonderful creatures and some of the strangest of all live under the sea.  

Here’s a selection of the world’s creepiest fish.

Serrated throat

Wolf fish1 World’s creepiest fish

Image source: Spass Maske
The wolf fish has a serrated throat and anti-freeze blood – very hardcode.

It looks like an extra from the muppet show, but this denizen of the deep is no cuddly toy. It lives in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic where the antifreeze in its blood keeps it alive as it rests in its underwater burrow. Behind the wolf fish’s fangs lie three rows of crushing teeth and even its throat is serrated.

A big wolf fish could weigh as much as 40 lbs and reach 5ft in length, but despite its fearsome looks, it’s only a danger to humans when caught and brought to the surface by their fishing equipment. The scary teeth aren’t even for use on other fish as its diet consists solely of shellfish and crustaceans.  

Seeing double

Four eyed fish World’s creepiest fish

Image source: The Quantum Biologist
The South African mudskipper can see in air and water at the same time.

It’s just a humble South American mudskipper, but what makes this fish freaky is its bifocal vision. Because the four eyed fish feeds on both terrestrial insects and water born larvae, it has evolved to be able to see in both air and water. It has in fact two rather than four eyes, but each is divided in two by a strip of tissue. The upper and lower eyes filter light through a single lens whose thickness changes from top to bottom to cope with the different refractive qualities of air and water.

And just incase you think that isn’t weird enough, a right “handed” four eyed fish will only mate with a left “handed” female, and vice versa. Hows that for “un-natural selection”?

Sucked to death

Sea Lamprey World’s creepiest fish

Image source: Noordzeeloket
The sea lamprey sucks its prey to death. Ouch.

Remember the film “Tremors”? Kevin Bacon and friends terrorised by giant carnivorous worms? The sea lamprey only grows to 90cm long, but in its own way, it’s just as scary.

Sucked to death – it must be a horrible way to go, but that’s exactly what the sea lamprey does to its hapless prey. It latches on with its sucker like mouth, then rows of sharp teeth scour through flesh and bone. An anticoagulant in the fish’s salival keeps the blood flowing, until it’s all gone and the prey dies. Then, the meal over, it’s time for the lamprey to lie in wait for a new host.

Killer cannibals

Cannibal Lancet fish World’s creepiest fish

Image source: Boxden
Nobody is safe from the lancet fish, not even it’s own family!

With its sail-like dorsal fin, gigantic spines and razor sharp teeth, the lancet fish looks like an extra from a dinosaur movie. And in reality, this ambush specialist is quite a piece of work. Its long thin body is difficult to spot in the water, and with its sail stored flat in a groove along its back, the lancet fish is almost invisible to its prey.

But when it pounces, the massive dorsal fin gives the fish powerful acceleration and once it sinks its sharp fangs into its prey, there’s no escape. A danger to each other as well as other fish, lancet fish are known to be cannibals.

Forehead Genitalia

Rhinochimaeridae World’s creepiest fish

Image source: Prima Zoom
The ghost fish has got something funny going on in it’s head.

It’s not a pretty sight, but the ghost fish is one of the oldest species of fish on the planet. Most closely related to sharks, in evolutionary terms, it diverged from that family over 400m million years ago. The fossil record shows they were once plentiful but these days, the ghost fish swims alone at depths between 200m and 2600m, making it a rare find.

The distinctive nose is actually used for detecting prey, but what makes the ghost fish truly creepy is that its sexual appendages are retractable and stored in its forehead.

Mirror image

Brownsnout spookfish World’s creepiest fish

Image source: Biology Biozine
The brownsnout spookfish can look up and down simultaneously.

It’s just a weird looking fish that swims at 1000m deep right? Wrong. The brownsnout spookfish is so rare that only one has ever been captured alive. And when one is caught, dead or not, it’s a cause of great excitement in the scientific community.

That’s because this fish is the only known creature on earth whose eyes use mirrors to capture light. The spook fish is able to look up and down at the same time. Upward facing apertures on the top of its head look for creatures silhouetted against the dim light of the distant surface while its downward facing eyes capture sparks and flashes from phosphorescing sea creatures beneath its vulnerable belly. This second pair of eyes reflects the specks of light onto the retina using mirrors made of crystal. Ingenious.

Shark Whisperers

People who want to catch big game fish use big game fishing rods, sharp hooks and wire leader, right?

Not if you happen to be one of a select group of so called, ‘shark whisperers’; people who love to rub noses with sharp fanged predators.

Why do they do it? We thought we’d look into it.

Great White Hitcher

With a name like Ocean Ramsey, it’s no surprise to discover that the girl enjoys snorkelling, but she takes ‘swimming with the fishes’ to whole new depths. The Hawaiian often dives to photograph sharks, but while for most of us the prospect of coming nose to fin with the scariest shark of all would fill us with fear, she describes the experience of meeting a great white like this:

“It’s difficult to express the incredible joy and breathtaking emotion experienced locking eyes with a Great White.”

Hmmm, if you say so, Ocean. As it happens, there is method to Ocean Ramsey’s madness. Just like Sara Benes, she is passionate about spreading awareness of the destruction of this vital component of the marine ecosystem. All the same, we think you’ll agree, this footage of Ocean catching a lift with a Great White, is frankly terrifying!

Hooked on Sharks

Would you willingly put your entire arm into a shark’s mouth? We wouldn’t either but here’s another ‘shark whisperer’ who not only would, but has actually done just that! Cristina Zenato is a shark woman of some renown, and here she is delving into the jaws of well…jaws, to remove a hook buried there. Despite a wriggle of irritation, the shark lets Cristina pull the hook free without even attempting to bite her.

Think there’s something a little fishy about this? Well you might just be right because the Italian-born diver is not quite the risk taker she appears to be.

Zenato first rubs the shark’s snout lulling it into a trance like state by over-stimulating the “ampullae of Lorenzini”, jelly filled pores – electroreceptors – the fish uses to detect its prey. Only when lulled does the diver actually put her hand into the shark’s mouth, and even then, we must point out, she’s wearing an armoured wetsuit. Sensible lady.

14-year-old Shark Whisperer

bigstock Two Caribbean Reef Sharks 49788356 Shark Whisperers

Image source: Shane Gross
Sara Brenes has set up a charity to protect sharks in the wild.

Sara Brenes was just 14 years old when she first dived with sharks. And she so fell in love with them, she said she felt, “like they were my babies, like puppies almost.” It’s an interesting take on what is after all an apex predator with teeth designed for shredding flesh, but nevertheless, with the help of her family, Sara was inspired to set up, Shark Whisperer, a charity that helps spread awareness of the plight of sharks in the wild.

Regardless of whether it’s wise to trust a shark not to turn you from a ‘whisperer’ into ‘lunch’, Miss Brenes does have a valid point. Sharks are persecuted the world over and they’re being killed in frightening numbers, mainly for their fins which fetch big bucks in Asian markets where they’re the prized ingredient in shark fin soup.

Real life mermaids

As a sea angler, we know you love the sea, but as much as you love to spend your free time at the water’s edge, it’s unlikely you’d want to be in or on the ocean all the time.

But there are people for whom the sea is more than a hobby, an occupation or a passion; the sea is  their life.

We’re talking real lift mermaids and men, and incredible stories of their oceanic lives. Be prepared to be amazed!

Haenyeo Sea Women of Korea

Korean mermaid Real life mermaids

Image source: Superdefstar
A Korean ‘sea woman’ diving for fish.

You thought a mermaid was a sea siren whose job was to lure unsuspecting mariners to a watery grave. But while myth and legend make for a colourful tale to tell, real life is stranger than fiction.

On the island of Jeju off the tip of South Korea, early morning sees a sight strange to behold – at the end of a pier, a group of old women in thick wetsuits warm themselves by a fire built from orange boxes. They are “haenyeo”, or “sea women” and they spend their lives skin diving for shellfish and octopus, a hazardous occupation, but one that some of them have pursued for 60 years or more.

Nicknamed the “Amazons of Asia”, the haenyeo are heads of a matriarchal society that dates back at least as far as the 17th century, when punitive taxes on male incomes forced women into the role of bread winner. At their peak, there were tens of thousands of “mermaids” diving the waters of the Korean Strait, but since the 1960s, their numbers have dwindled as young women have opted for safer, warmer jobs. Now only a few thousand mostly elderly haenyeo remain to dive the frigid waters – mermaids soon to pass into history.

Ama of Japan

Japanese mermaids Real life mermaids

Image source: MessyNessyChic
An old school Japanese mermaid.

Able to hold their breath for two minutes or more, the Ama of Japan were women and young girls who dived for Oysters and Abalone. Armed with just a mask and flippers, these mermaids of the Pacific would dive over 60 times per session, surfacing for just a few seconds after each foray into the deep.

Diving has existed in Japan as a mainly female occupation for over two thousand years. Unlike us shore fishermen and women with our waterproofs and waders, these women used to dive naked apart from a loincloth – unrestricted movement was seen as a must in the dangerous deep. But after the war, with the development of tourism came pressure to cover up. Later, the women adopted wetsuits to enable to them to spend even more time in the water.

These days, as in Korea, most of the Ama are elderly – some continuing to dive well into their nineties. The lack of women coming into the profession mean the Ama will almost certainly die out within a few years.  

Moken Sea Gypsies

The Andaman Sea off Myanmar is home to the Moken people, otherwise known as the sea gypsies. These water dwelling folk so seldom set foot on land that when they do, they suffer landsickness as a result. The Moken are as close to mermaids and men as it’s possible to get! Sailing throughout the 800 islands of the  Mergui archipelago in their handbuilt wooden houseboats, they only spend significant time ashore during the wild and windy monsoon season.

As you’d expect, the sea gypsies are expert sea fishermen, usually harvesting fish, molluscs and sandworms for their own nourishment, and shells, sea snails and oysters to barter for the fuel and equipment they need. In fact, Moken spend so much time freediving that like the “mermaid” featured in this video, their eyes are adapted to focus underwater!

Sadly the wandering ways of the Moken are under threat as commercial fishing, increased militarisation, oil drilling and pressure to settle impact on their unique way of life. Thankfully there are organisations doing their best to stand up for one of the most incredible peoples on earth – like Project Moken – so do check them out and do what you can to help before it’s too late.

6 steps to get your kids hooked on fishing

Do you remember the first time your dad took you fishing?

Chances are it was one of those special occasions for father, son bonding, and the moment of magic when your enthusiasm for all things angling was kindled.

And now you find yourself in the position of introducing a son, daughter, niece or nephew to the delights of fishing? Feel daunted? Don’t be. It’s certainly a hefty responsibility and because there’s only one first time, you’ll only get one shot at it, but to help you pass on your fervor for fishing, here’s our six step guide to introducing children to fishing.

1. Don’t push it

Game distractions 6 steps to get your kids hooked on fishing

Image source: Messiah College
Modern distractions!

Unlike twenty or thirty years ago, fishing has to compete with a multitude of distractions for your child’s attention. Not only are today’s kids hooked into the internet 24/7, they’re also more likely to be involved in a host of extra curricular activities. Given the time an average child spends on music lessons, karate class, footy club, Facebooking, Instagramming, Spotifying and yes, playing computer games, genuine downtime is at a premium.

With this in mind, introduce the concept of fishing gradually, and if your son or daughter rejects the idea first time around, don’t push it. Keep your powder dry – the perfect time will come!

2. Comfort

Comfort bivvy 6 steps to get your kids hooked on fishing

Image source: Fishtec
Kids get cold, so pack a bivvy.

You’ve generated the enthusiasm necessary to coax your kids to the riverbank – great. But just because you relish the prospect of feeling the howling wind tear through what remains of your hair, doesn’t mean your offspring and their friends will delight in the same level of physical discomfort. And remember, kids get cold quicker than adults. With this in mind, do remember to pack your bivvy, chairs, hot drinks and plenty of snacks.

And if you’re little princess is fishing for the first time, make sure there are adequate facilities close by for when she needs to spend a penny.

3. Safety

Safety 6 steps to get your kids hooked on fishing

Image source: Pohlman
Pick a safe spot to fish.

Don’t overstate the dangers of fishing but do make sure young ones understand the hazards and know what to do if they fall in the water. Younger children in particular need close supervision and buoyancy aids. Do make sure you choose to fish a spot that’s well away from deep, fast flowing water, and that offers an easy exit from the water should someone take a tumble.

For a first foray to the riverbank, choose somewhere that’s quick and easy to get to. Your favourite spot might take an hour’s hacking through vegetation to reach – but how will smaller people tackle the challenge? Always work to the weakest member of the party.

4. Simplicity

SimpleJPG 6 steps to get your kids hooked on fishing

Image source: The Lure of Angling
Start with a simple set-up.

Stick with a simple rig to begin with. Not only will you have (in theory) less tangles to sort out, but children will soon pick up how to set up their own tackle, leaving your hands free to get your own line wet.

Do talk your child through the different tackle items and show them how everything works, but keep the information short and to the point. Teach a simple knot like the blood knot and help your child set up their own rig – remember – learning by doing is much more fun than watching you do it for them. Protect young fingers from hooks by burying sharp points in cork!

5. Patience

Patience 6 steps to get your kids hooked on fishing

Image source: Friendship Circle
Demonstrate and let them practise.

Demonstrate the cast, guide your child through it, practise it – but don’t expect it to go right first time. If every cast your child makes lands in the bushes, keep your sense of humour. At least they’re trying.

Tangles – they will happen – lots of them – so get used to the idea!

Be prepared for short attention spans. Whiling away the hours on the riverbank is an adult pleasure; kids like to be occupied. So when your youngsters get bored and want to play, then as long as it’s safe for them to do so, and they’re not irritating other anglers, let them. And when kids have had enough, pack up and go home. Better a trip that’s short but sweet than the memory of a marathon they’d rather wash the dishes than repeat!

6. Praise

Praise 6 steps to get your kids hooked on fishing

Image source: Occasional Fisher
It’s a catch!

When your boy or girl gets that first tug on the line, resist the temptation to take over. Instead, whenever possible, let your offspring play the fish themselves. Be ready with the net, and camera, and when they land that all important first catch, be generous with your praise as you show your kid how to handle their catch without hurting it.

And when with fish in hand, your son or daughter’s eyes gleam with excitement pride and pleasure, give yourself a pat on the back – you’ve just passed on the joy of fishing.

DIY carp fishing bait

What gets the fish biting at your local water? Chances are, you’ll have developed your own particular carp fishing tackle set-up – a unique combination that works for you.

But what about baits? From boilies to groundbaits, from floating, to sinking, there’s a plethora of commercial bait options out there. But nothing satisfies like making a great catch on a bait you’ve concocted yourself.  

Something of a dark art, making your own baits is fun and can save you money, and most, if not all the ingredients are available at your local supermarket. All you need to do is experiment until you hit the jackpot!

What carp want

Carp DIY carp fishing bait

Image source: The Session
Appeal to carp cravings for best results.

Think like a fish – appeal to its appetites and you’ll hook a beauty. The best baits attract because they’re tasty and nutritious; we’re talking bait ingredients that are energy rich and protein packed:

• Proteins
• Carbohydrates and starch
• Fats and oils
• Milk constituents
• White sugar
• Malt sugars and grains

Add colour and flavour and mix to a consistency that’ll either hold together well enough to hook, or that’ll disintegrate, providing a nutrient-rich soup to fish over.

Supermarket goodies

Cat food DIY carp fishing bait

Image source: Cats&Co
Cats and carp must have similar tastebuds!

For a floating feed that works wonders, use your catapult to ping dog biscuits into a small area of water; little and often is best as it provides a concentrated source of food the fish will congregate to compete over.

From the confectionary aisle, a marshmallow makes a great floating hook bait. Bobbing amongst the dog food, although a slightly different colour, the sweet, carb-loaded temptation is approximately the same shape and size, so it’s more likely to be wolfed down by an unsuspecting carp.

Alternatively, supermarket bread lasts well and it’s super cheap. Try a smear of marmite – just like humans, the fish will either love it or hate it!

A not so secret, secret weapon, cat food works a treat. Simply mash it up and pop it in the water before you drop in your meat bait. The soupy cloud of meaty mush is likely to prove irresistible to carp. Your hookbait could be a single hunk of cat food, a cube of luncheon meat or for added punch, why not try a piece of pepperoni?

Health food haven

Health food shop DIY carp fishing bait

Image source: Food Navigator
For health conscious carp!

Beans and pulses are the staple diet of students, hippies and new age travellers, but did you know carp love them too? For a homemade particle bait, soak chickpeas, kidney beans, maize, wheat, black eyed beans – whatever you like – in water for a day or two. Add a birdseed mix from your local pet shop and soak some more.

Cook for 30mins to make sure your mixture is nice and soft – and to ensure any kidney beans are safe for fish to eat – then blend half the mixture into a sticky paste. Mix it all together and you have a killer bait you can make in bulk and that won’t cost a fortune.

DIY boilies

DIY boilies DIY carp fishing bait

Image source: French Carp and Cats
Boil up your own tempting treats.

Flour, semolina and eggs are the bedrock from which to make your own unique boilies. Sports supplements like whey protein powder and casein will make your boilie mix super nutritious, help ingredients to bind, and add attractive smells to the water. When you’ve mixed all your ingredients into a stiff paste, simple roll into balls and boil!

To make your boilies a taste sensation irresistible to the biggest, wiliest carp in the lake, you need an attractant that’s different to the run of the mill flavours out there. How you decide on your final concoction is up to you, but while you’re stirring your carp equivalent of ‘love potion number nine’, consider adding any or all of the following ingredients:

• Liver powder, paste, or pate
• Anchovies
• Beef or yeast extract
• Garlic
• Cheese
• Fruit juice
• Honey or sugar

We’d love to hear what you add to your homemade baits, so if you’ve got a recipe you’d like to share, do get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter!

Best beach fishing holiday spots

Planning a summer holiday? The family are certain to want some quality beach time – but at the back of your mind is the need for some serious beach fishing time!

But how do you tick all the boxes?  How can you spend time with the husband or wife and kids, and get to fish some of the best coastal waters in the world?

It’s time to pack your shorts, suntan cream and beachcaster. Here’s our guide to just a few of the world’s top beach fishing destinations – fun in the sun that keeps everyone happy!

France

France fishing holiday Best beach fishing holiday spots

Image source: French Bass
Anyone for garlic sea bass?

It’s close, boasts fantastic beaches, great campsites and whether you’re eating out or self catering, the food is to die for. France offers some superb beach fishing opportunities. From the craggy cliffs and rocks of Brittany, to the ruler straight sands of La Cote d’Argent, and on to the Basque country and the Med, there’s ample opportunity to build sand castles and wet a line.

Family friendly and with plenty of picturesque vineyards and villages to visit, you’ll also have chance to hook bass, sole, and skate. And who knows, if you get time off for good behaviour – a boat fishing trip in the Med or Atlantic South West might even see you get into some tuna.

New Zealand

New Zealand fishing holiday Best beach fishing holiday spots

Image source: Surf Caster
Head down under and catch some beauts.

About as far away as it’s possible to get from the gloom of the British winter, New Zealand offers superb coastal fishing. In the North Island, you’re talking snapper, tarakihi, kingfish and kahawai. Head south for blue cod, trumpeter and grouper.

With so much to see and do in New Zealand, you won’t want to spend all your time at the beach, but the joy of Aotearoa, the ‘land of the long white cloud’, is that wherever you go you’re never too far from the sea. In fact, Cromwell at 119 km from the coast is almost the same distance from sea fishing as Church Flatts Farm in Derbyshire which lies 113 miles from the brine. Can you see our thinking?

If you’ve been on a beach holiday that doubled as a fishing adventure, do let us know. We’d love to share your story.

Spain and Portugal

Spain and Portgular fishing holiday Best beach fishing holiday spots

Image source: Luz Info
Easy to get to with plenty of top spots.

Get yourself organised and a beach holiday to Spain or Portugal could yield some fine sea fishing opportunities. But you will need to plan ahead. That’s because in either country, to cast a line into the blue, you need a fishing license. A quick internet search could hook you up with a fishing guide who can organise the necessary paperwork for you and guide you to the best spots.

Perch atop some of Portugal’s most dramatic cliffs to fish for bass in the boiling sea hundreds of feet below. As for Spain – much of the Mediterranean has been ravaged by overfishing, so unless you fancy scuba and snorkeling at a marine reserve, it’s perhaps best to keep to the Atlantic, where you can bang a line out from any of the dozens golden sand beaches.

Cuba

Cuba fishing holiday Best beach fishing holiday spots

Image source: Cfye
Follow the locals for the best spots.

For fishing, music and cigars, there’s nowhere better in the world than Cuba. With bonefish, cowfish, snook, tarpon, mangrove snapper & cuda, all on the target list, you might have to get up early to avoid the tourists but the rewards make it well worth the effort.

Unless you’re on a specialist guided fishing holiday, it’s probably a good idea to pack a telescopic rod and a cheap reel in your holiday luggage. Speak to staff at your hotel – or to the hotel chef – who could perhaps provide you with some bait and point you in the right direction. Fish where the locals fish – and when you’re done, make a discrete gift of your fishing equipment to someone who has helped you.

South Africa

South african fishing holiday Best beach fishing holiday spots

Image source: Gane and Marshall
Fish the surf in South Africa

Big waves, big rods, big baits – the coasts of South Africa boast serious beachcasting for serious fish. A winter sun holiday to the cool waters of the Atlantic off Cape Town, or to the surf beaches of the Indian Ocean will be a definite hit with the family – and a fishing paradise for you.

You’ll need a powerful 13 or 14 foot beachcaster to deliver your bait beyond the surfline – but the rewards are well worth the effort. Rock cod, grunter, and kingfish are just three of a host of saltwater species that swim in the seas off South Africa. And who knows, if the gods are smiling on you, perhaps you’ll hook a giant trevally. Now wouldn’t that make a good holiday snap!

Film review: Kiss the water

A “strange little film”, a “gemlike documentary”, and “hypnotic” – just some of the words used by reviewers of “Kiss the water”, the extraordinary film from American director Eric Steel.

Released last year, the documentary charts the extraordinary life and times of the legendary fly tier, Megan Boyd who died in 2001 at the age of 86.

Reflective interviews from the people who knew her, footage of the stunning Sutherland scenery, and impressionistic animation mingle to create a lyrical masterpiece that flows as cool and mysterious as the river Brora itself.

Enigma

Megan Boyd Film review: Kiss the water

Image source: Heather MacLeod
Megan Boyd tying flies with her dog, Patch.

Loner, eccentric and master of the art of the fly, Megan Boyd was an enigmatic character who lived a life of almost monastic frugality and simplicity. Born in England in 1918, she was just a child when her father took a job as a gamekeeper on a private estate, and brought her to the wild hills and rivers of Sutherland in the Scottish highlands.

Another gamekeeper, Bob Trussler taught Megan to tie flies by getting her to disassemble and reassemble his own creations on smaller and smaller hooks, until she had mastered the patterns. She never looked back.

At the age of 20, Megan moved to a tiny cottage perched on a hillside above the village of Kintradwell. In a tiny tin roofed studio, she spent the next 50 years tying flies for fly fishermen on both sides of the Atlantic. In time her creations became recognised as some of the best flies ever tied, famed for their uncanny knack for catching salmon.

Royal connections

Prince Charles Fishing Film review: Kiss the water

Image source: Doar Pescuit
Prince Charles was a big fan of Megan’s craftsmanship.

Among her customers was Prince Charles who became a lifelong friend – though when aides turned up at her cottage asking her to whip a couple of masterpieces together for their master, Megan refused, saying she was just off to a local dance. When awarded the British Empire Medal, she informed the Queen that she couldn’t attend to receive the honour because she had nobody to look after her dog that day.

Just like the salmon caught by fly fishermen using her flies, Megan is hard to fathom. And just as the life of the king of the rivers is shrouded in mystery, Megan Boyd remains a complex and esoteric figure.

She could have been famous but she shunned the limelight, she tied flies that were legendary, but she herself never fished. In fact, Megan Boyd claimed she could never have brought herself to use her flies and fly fishing rod to actually catch a salmon. And though her life story is woven through the film, Megan herself appears only fleetingly, towards the end.

A woman of unusual dress and curious ways, reading between the lines you begin to glimpse a strange life that defies definition, instead pouring like water through the fingers of those who attempt to tell her story. Mysterious, enchanting and luminous, Kiss the water is like one of Megan Boyd’s flies: beautiful yet mysterious.

Get hooked

Watch this video to find out more about ‘Kiss the water’.

Sea pollution solution

The amount of plastic litter strewn across UK beaches has increased by 140% since 1994.

That’s the stark figure released by the Marine Conservation Society.

Polluted Environment

Pollution underwater Sea pollution solution

Image source: Project Aware
A polluted environment leads to poisoned fish.

The frightening reality is that much of that plastic will never disappear; instead those unsightly pieces of brightly coloured junk break down into smaller and smaller crumbs until they’re small enough to be ingested by fish and filter feeders.   

If plastic in the food chain isn’t enough cause for concern, even more worrying is the plastic that does break down. Scientists reporting in National Geographic have discovered that in warm tropical seas, plastic decomposes, leaching highly toxic chemicals into the water – poisoning fish and perhaps even causing cancer in humans who eat polluted seafood.

So where is the problem at its worst? And crucially, what can we as sea fishermen and women do about it?

Ocean Gyres

Great pacific garbage Sea pollution solution

Image source: Cookie Sound
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

They’re gigantic eddies found in the world’s oceans, slowly rotating currents that drive rubbish towards the centre where it stays forever. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch was the first predicted by American scientists in 1988, and in the years since, other similar rubbish dumps have been discovered in the South Pacific, North and South Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

In the most badly affected areas, there are six times as many minute pieces of plastic as there are plankton – and the area we’re talking about? It’s thought the Great Pacific Patch covers somewhere between 700,000 and 15,000,000 square kilometres – the wide disparity between the upper and lower limits being accounted for by differences in the definition of what constitutes an elevated concentration of plastic particles.

Hard To Spot

underwater Sea pollution solution

Image source: Wikimedia
Pollution can be hard to spot.

It’s thought around a million sea birds die each year from ingesting pieces of plastic mistaken for food, with a hundred thousand marine mammals succumbing to the same fate. But these huge oceanic garbage dumps are all but invisible to the naked eye. In fact you could sail right across one and not notice it’s there. That’s because they’re mostly made up of those billions of small pieces of plastic mentioned in the introduction to this piece.

Plastic dumped in the sea off the Pacific coast of the USA takes six years to reach the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a similar item dropped in the brine off Eastern Asia takes about a year. But once there, there it stays – the trash heaps of the sea are growing bigger by the day.

Do Your Bit

Beach clean up Sea pollution solution

Image source: S1 Prestwick
Get involved in a beach clean up.

As a sea angler, leaving no litter and disposing of sea fishing tackle carefully is the least you can do to protect the health of the marine environment. There are also local beach cleanups and national campaigns for the marine environment – groups like Surfers Against Sewage and the Marine Conservation Society have details of what you can do to help.

But if it all seems like too little too late, and if the thought of the poisoning of fish and marine life on a global scale makes you despair for the future, take heart. There might just be a solution.

Ocean Cleanup

Ever since the plastic pollution problem first became big news at the beginning of this century, efforts to come up with a cleanup solution have focused on boats hauling fine mesh nets. But carbon emissions, coupled with huge costs and destruction of bycatch made a resolution of the problem seem all but impossible, until, that is, a 17-year-old Dutch student Boyan Slat came up with a whole new approach – passive cleanup.

Huge inflatable booms would funnel debris into a processing unit powered by solar panels. The young inventor estimated half the Pacific Garbage Patch could be cleared within 10 years – and even better, the collected plastic could be sold for recycling.

Critics poured scorn on his idea, but with youthful determination, Slat managed to secure crowdfunding, and with the money assembled a 100 strong team of scientists and volunteers to undertake an in depth feasibility study – the results have just been announced.

The concept works.

If you’d like to find out more about how the oceans could clean themselves, check out the Boyan Slats talk on the feasibility study. The Ocean Cleanup – we can make it happen.

Five fish everyone wants to hook

You’re in the perfect fishing spot, in pursuit of your dream fish. Conditions are ideal. You sense today might be the day you bag your ultimate prize.

Then your rod tip quivers, your pulse quickens and you strike. The fight of your life begins…and then you wake up!

We all have a fish we dream of catching. Some of us have several dream fish we’d love to land. What gets your heart pounding and your fishing reel in a tangle? Here are our top five…

1. Salmon

Salmon Five fish everyone wants to hook

Image source: Wallpaper 77
The original king of the river.

It’s not the biggest or the fastest fish you can catch, but the unique combination of technical skill and watermanship, as well as cunning and guile required to bring to bank a specimen salmon makes this our favourite game fish, and definitely one for any angling must catch list.

And fly fishing for Atlantic salmon is about a lot more than just catching a fish – superb though that may be. Fishing the waters of one of the great salmon fishing estates of Scotland or Ireland is a true adventure of the old school. The majestic highland scenery is the backdrop for the practice of an art steeped in tradition. To take part is a joy and a privilege – and afterwards, it’s back to the bothie for a wee dram!

2. Bone fish

Bone Fish Five fish everyone wants to hook

Image source: Where Wise Men Fish
Super speedy and easily spooked.

For fly fishermen, or anyone who loves the thrill of a hard fighting fish on light tackle, few pleasures surpass the experience of fishing for bonefish in the shallow coastal flats of the Caribbean. Think stunning blue waters, tropical sunshine and one of the best sport fish on the planet. Florida, Cuba, the Bahamas – all are top holiday destinations with bonefishing to die for. But why all the fuss about a little silver fish?

Bonefishing is all about the hunt – finesse, stealth and a good guide are the prerequisites. Bonefish are tricksters – hunted by barracuda, they’re adapted to be super fast and easily spooked. Unlike big game fishing, there’s no gin palace under you, no thick spool of line, no cooler full of tinnies by your feet. It’s just you, your fly, or lure and the great outdoors. Bonefishing is wild game angling at its very best.

3. Giant trevally

Giant Trevally Five fish everyone wants to hook

Image source: Stuff Point
They weigh up to 80 kg!

If you like them big, they don’t come much bigger than this! Giant Trevally can grow up to 80 kg and 170 cm in length – but though it’s pretty rare to catch a specimen in this size range, any fish over 15 kgs will give you a fight to remember. Trevally occupy a range of habitats, from tropical flats to coral reefs throughout the Pacific. An apex predator, they’re very fast, extremely strong and super aggressive.

The most fun you can have fishing for giant trevally is probably with a topwater lure. Make sure all your gear is in perfect nick though, because any weakness and you might as well not bother trying. Trevally will bend a hook, snap a line and if the fish gets into the reef, you’re done.   

4. Nile Perch

Nile Perch Five fish everyone wants to hook

Image source: This River Is Wild
You’d need some serious kit to reel this one in!

The tranquil waters of Egypt’s  Aswan dam offer treasures for the bucket list angler – tiger fish, Vundu and Bagras catfish to name but three of its inhabitants. But the Nile Perch is the real prize and what could be the biggest freshwater catch you’ll ever make.

Nile Perch can weigh in at over 400 lbs and grow to be a whopping 6ft in length. Silver flanked and with a bluish tinge, the fish is a beauty that’s renowned for hard fighting. To catch one, you’ll need a rod of at least a 4.5lb test curve and a reel capable of holding 250 metres of braid. You can hook a Nile Perch on live bait, but lures are favorite – try a depth raider or shad. Oh how nice it is to dream!

5. Tarpon

Tarpon Five fish everyone wants to hook

Image source: Sea Reed Charters
This is what you’re after!

Think of the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico, or in the Pacific – Tahiti maybe? The shining shimmer of silver scales and a battle you’ll never forget. We’re talking tarpon, that prized saltwater game fish. A big one could come in at over 200 lbs – it’s not a catch you’re likely to forget in a hurry.

In July last year, dreams did come true for one lucky group of anglers. At the end of a successful day’s Fishing off the Florida coast, the captain gave the order to reel in. But one of the party didn’t hear and a few minutes later, when he finally began to wind in, he got the surprise of his life – he’d hooked a monster. An hour and a half later, fisherman, Jan Toubl brought his quarry alongside to be unhooked and released. The gargantuan tarpon measured in excess of 3m in length – which would put its weight easily in the 300 lb plus league!