A NEW BOOK NOW OUT. Targets set and achieved.

My third book, 'Targets set and achieved' is now complete and ready for sale. As the title suggests it reflects the past seven years of my fishing. Twenty different rivers where double figure barbel were caught, crucians and roach to near record size, perch, chub, tench and bream to make the mouth water. All will be in the pages and well illustrated with lots of colour photographs.

There is a 1000 copy print run of the hardback edition and a further 40 leather bound copies for the connoisseur.

Copies available from myself just email phlpsmith9@aol.com or ring 07980 394864 for details

Still a limited number of leathers available.

Alternatively use the web page http://www.philsmithangler.co.uk/ where you can order by Paypal or credit/debit card.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Guyana Part 3

It had taken three days to arrive at our destination but at last we were in the camp and waiting to go out onto the river for our first session.  With temperatures of 35C+ in the shade we would wait until about 2 hours before dark before we went, then fish for two hour into dark, it seemed a good session and with luck plenty of time to catch fish.

We already knew the river was not in the best of conditions since the rainy season had been weeks late and instead of the moderately low river we had hoped for it was at least two metres above normal levels.  This gave two different detrimental effects to our chances, first was that the water had gone well back into the trees in many places and some fish went with it.  The second was that many of the previous trips productive areas could not be fished since the flow was too fast at these higher levers, we should be fishing many holes that went down 70ft or more and we would not hold in the main stream over quite a number of them.  That first afternoon was enough to show that things were not going to be the same as the previous trip in Sept  2012; then numerous fish were caught, and four of the anglers caught 200lb plus fish with three of these getting yet another 200lb plus fish of a different species.  We would still get our chances and knowing that any moment a monster could pick up the bait makes for exciting fishing.
                     The main 3 bit of tackle used. tandum trace, single hook and silver spoon.

                                          The hole in the nut shows it had hatched already.

                                               Laurence holds a fine peacock bass.

My tackle comprised of a four piece travel spinning rod of 30gr-50gr power, this was added to a three piece 30-50 uptider rod.   As a back-up for extreme power there was also a 5ft 50lb boat rod that looked a real beast and could tackle anything this river could offer.   The spinning rod was primarily for bait catching on bits of fish and the grubs that we were shown.  These grubs are found inside a local nut similar to an almond nut and just as hard.  You find one without a small exit hole and cut it with a machete to give access to the centre where the grub is waiting to emerge.  Great bait but I would not like to try and get a gallon of them for a barbel fishing attack.   The peacock bass would also be targeted using the spinning rod using lures and they would give terrific sport on the light rod.  It had been coupled with a standard fixed spool reel loaded with 50lb braid and when bait catching, it was necessary to use a wire trace to beat the piranha.   It would appear that there are five different species of these notorious fish in the area and I saw three of them with the black piranha being the largest.

                                                  These were one of the best baits.

                                                                    Red belly and Black pirahna

                                                                Little fish, big teeth. 
 These were to prove to be a right pest since they will bite through 150lb braid as though it was not there.  Time and time again you would reel in and find the lower of the two hooks in use had gone along with half the fish bait you were using.   For some of the target fish it was necessary to use wire and for this we had 100lb test available although the black piranha can bite through even this.   Hooks were size 10.0 singles and about 5.0 for the trebles, both in a very strong pattern.   My line on the uptider rod was 100lb+ braid using a Shimano 6500 reel, a choice I was to regret but more of that later.  I find it extremely difficult to use the standard RH multiplier reels and the 50lb class boat rod had such a reel in place with 200lb braid loaded for bear but I rarely used it.
                                                        Andy with one of the wolfish.

                                                               Now, they are wiskers

Over the next few days we fished hard, out just after dawn, about 6.0am and we fished through to 11.00am when it began to get very hot out on the river in direct sunlight.  Back out again about 4.0pm to 8.pm and then back for the evening meal.   I had taken factor 100 sunblock and it was one of my better decisions as for the first time ever I did not burn at all.  Quite often one or more of our smaller fish would be taken back to the camp to form part of the meal, I must admit that although I’m not a lover of fish the fresh samples done in batter that were delivered up were very tender and second helpings  were often taken.  The guides had fish stew and that they can keep! 
                                                                           Our boats. 
                                                  Rain did not stop play & it rained a lot.

It was the Tuesday before we got one of the specimen fish we had come for and I was fortunate that it fell to my rod.   Andy and I had been fishing further up river with Mark as the guide and Raymond on the motor.   Mark knew the location of many deep holes and places where fish tended to stay and we had fished about half a dozen of these spots when we headed for what would have been our last chance for the morning.  Joe had gone with Laurence to a location downstream in the hope of catching a fish called a wolfish; one that needs wire to beat its formidable teeth although he was to fail on this particular trip. 
                                                    There are submerged rocks here!
 Back to our spot, we had now come into an area of rocks, lots of rocks and travelling in the boat was quite an experience, one of these obstructions could be just below the high water level and it is a credit to Raymond that in the whole holiday we only hit a rock once.  We had been fishing both holes and long glides, but this time we stopped at just a smallish eddy where the slight depression in the bank allowed comparatively still water to stay just off the main flow.  My tackle at this stage was the uptide rod; the trace was 200lb braid with a single 10.0 hook attached.  Having been fishing in strong flows I had an 8oz lead on but now I felt it ok to take the lead off and fish free line.  The bait would be the head half of a fish of about 2lb, lots of blood and hopefully just what was needed.  I cast into the slack and Andy placed his bait into the flow down from the boats position, then we sat back to wait.  It was some 45 minutes later that my line began to move and when I struck the clutch literally did begin to sing with the aluminium sound of the spool as it spun, the clutch was set quite tight but that did not matter to this fish and he was heading for the waterfall a little way down from us.  Holding the spool with my left hand I eventually stopped the fish and began to retrieve line, not quickly, but definitely he was forced to come back to the boat.  When I had made plans for this holiday one of my main hopes was for a big redtail catfish, I had already caught them to low double figures over the last few days but now I could see I had my hoped for specimen.  Once landed, the fish was made safe and we went to one of the rocks where it could be weighed and photographed.  At 64lb it met my hopes with a lot to spare and we went back to the camp with me having a big smile on my face.
                                                      Redtail near to being landed.
                                                  But sometimes it got exciting.
                                                        A prize 64lb Redtail Catfish
The following afternoon Joe put another big redtail on our list, at 62lb it was well below his best but never the less it brought a big smile and we could only hope the river was recovering as it slowly fell back from its flooded position.
                                                      Joe with his 62lb Redtail Catfish
Both Andy and I caught nice stingrays that need to be handled with care, the photo shows the smaller of the two barbed stings that can inflict a terrible wound to the unwary.   Hooked in 70ft of water they give the impression of a much larger fish since they initially will not leave the bottom, once you manage that they still give a good fight but at a far lower level of power.

                                                             This stingray had stung itself.

                                                  The smaller of the two stings of the ray.

I lost three fish over the two weeks on the river that I would have loved to have seen.  The first picked up a bait and tore off at the usual great rate of knots, it is amazing just how fast these monsters can take line off a well tighten drag that is difficult to pull line off by hand without it cutting you.  I did the usual and slowly applied pressure to stop it and it was going to plan until the hook pulled.   The same thing happen with a specimen that may well have gone over that magical 200lb mark, but hook pulls are part of the scene with these very big fish.  The last fish I lost goes back to the earlier comment on my Shimano reel and 100lb+ line, strong enough for most occasions but not this one.   We had gone into one of the many creeks and I drop a bait off the end of the boat and hooked into an absolute monster, 6ft or 7ft of angry fish and all I could do was lock up completely and pray.   I did stop it and was playing the fish if that is what it could be called on perhaps 15ft or so of line, but even then it got into woodwork below the boat and I could feel it see-sawing back and forth over the few feet it moved until finally the line broke and tears nearly came to the eyes.  In very similar circumstances Andy did hook and land a fish of 230lb plus but that is his story to tell one day, I’m just pleased I was there to see it.  Joe has caught many big fish here on his previous trips and he did his best to ensure we got the chances this time, but it was not to happen above that already related.  He did catch a new personal best wolfish of 23lb, and a medium sized Jau of 44lb amongst those he did take along with a couple of peacock bass but those other species that were about on the last trip did not appear.  I’ll include a few shots of those catches just to illustrate what we missed by the river being up throughout the stay, hopefully on my next rip it will be right and numerous monsters will be landed.

                                                Swim where I broke on a monster.

                                                We had smaller periah but none this big.

                                               Joe's pb wolfish - note the teeth again

                                          Tiger shovelnose cat - none caught this trip.

                                                           Giant Lau-Lau from previous trip

                                                     A previous capture of a big Jau.

If this story has wetted your lips and you would like to try it for yourself then you need to contact Gary Newman on 07971475818 and he will be organising trips with Navin who comes with at least my recommendation for a very good holiday.

Navin’s website is www.adventureguianas.com but it does not really show these trips since it is a new venture only now being developed over the last year.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Fishing adventrure in Guyana Part 2

Having travelled up the river and arriving at the camp that we would use for the next two weeks was quite an experience.  It is strange but there are very few places where you can land along the river as the forest cover is very dense at the water’s edge.  The growth goes from the water edge upwards to the canopy, whereas once inside this outside edge growth there is not enough light in the lower levels and all the growth is aimed at going higher to reach the overhead canopy.  Trees go up 70ft and more without a single side shoot, all the energy is going to reach up to the light.
                                                    Trudy on the left, Amy on the right.

Prior to our arrival a lot of work had already been done, fuel, food and materials for a camp had already been brought up to the camp.  A large tarpaulin canopy gave cover to form a tented area with the hammocks and cooking area contained under its protection from the rain.  We met the two ladies who would be doing the cooking, Trudy and Amy and they were to prove to be very good at their task.  I’ve already mentioned Raymond who did most of the driving for our boat though occasionally Joe would have a session in the smaller boat with Laurence as the driver.  The last of our happy band was Jonathan who helped with a lot of the labour that occurred about the camp keeping the fire going and looking after the generator, occasionally he took the ladies out for a short session, fishing local creeks, it broke the days for them and they did catch as well.
                                                   Shelter and camp for two weeks

                                         The kitchen and dinning area, bow tie not needed!

                    My bed on the small beach, the hammock pointing away from you in this veiw.

Rather than go into the fishing at this stage I thought I would run through some of the wildlife and such that we came across.  The major mammals stayed well away in the forest and we saw only a few of them though Mark did see a jaguar just a short distance away from the rocks that we were fishing off at the time.  He tried to call my attention to it, but by the time I looked it had gone back into the undergrowth.  I did manage to get photos of four different snakes, three of them alive and one of them, a coral snake and quite deadly was coughed up by a redtail catfish of about 15lb caught by Andy.  I was going to pick it out of the water for a better photo, but Mark stopped me since it would appear that even the touch of its skin acts as quite an irritant to our skin.
                                                                   The Coral Snake

                                                           The poisonous Parrot Snake.

                                                            The frog eating Rainbow Boa

                                                                        The Tree Boa.
We saw a number of iguanas and these would be resting in trees over the water and you would either hear or see as the creature dropped off its branch into the water and it would swim back to the bank.  One of these was brought back to the camp for the ladies to see and it did give the chance for better photos.  There were numerous small insects and the one photo shows a splendid fellow with what looks like feathers for a tail and an almost starry look to its wings.  The spider was the largest I saw and I placed the coke bottle near to it to give a size reference.  We saw numerous butterflies and travelling on the river you would see hundreds of the white or yellow type flying across the water from one bank to the other, but often a really colourful specimen would fly past, reds, bright greens, and all the colours of the rainbow though they did not land to give a chance for photos.  The camouflaged moth shown was very common and in the torchlight you could see dozens of moths of various sizes something like the English night sky 50 years ago, but not now.  The woodland butterfly shown looks like one of our common browns but it was perhaps four or five inches across its span, unfortunately I could not put a reference for size as they are too nervous.
                                                          A star light night insect.

                                                             One of the small caymen.

                                                           An iguana for the ladies to see.

                                                               4 inch stick insect on Joe's arm

                                                                  Spiders get big here.
                                                                  Large wood ants.

                                                       One of the big moths.

                                                              Camoflage expert

                                 They sometimes looked like leaves blowing on a windy day
The bird life was tremendous but again difficult to photograph, you would see one in the trees but by the time you tried to zoom into its resting place it would be gone.  I’ve not identified many, but there were three sizes of kingfishers, and of course we did see a number of ospreys.  The black vultures were common and we were quite amused when on a midday break the lads set up their version of a deadfall to try a get one of these birds.  For some reason they wanted the feathers.  Strange though it might be you were far better off bird spotting in Georgetown, perhaps the lack of cover was the reason.  One thing we could sort of see was the caymen, they were everywhere but all you generally saw was the eyes in the torchlight.  With the river up over two metres they had retired back into the trees and it was very difficult to get photos.  We thought we had hit the jackpot when fishing one place in a slack created by an island, there were eleven pairs of eyes staring back at us within a very short section of bank but the check showed it to be juveniles with no large one about at all.
  The black Vulture.
                                                         Lots of egrets to be seen.

                                                   Striking colours on a town bird .

                                                  The smallest of the three kingfishers.
A quite pleasing find was that of a wild mango tree on the banks of a large lake we fished.  A clearing had been made by fishermen for when they were in the area netting fish and I collect quite a large number that mostly went back to the camp, I did eat a few before we got there and they are delicious.  There was also a coconut tree but the guides advised they would not be ripe yet, maybe next time.  Last and one of the more exciting sightings was that of the giant otters which we saw of three groups on different occasions.  I did manage to get a shot of a single animal after Mark had run me quickly to the far side of the river from our camp; the noise they make could not be missed and was only equalled by the howler monkeys that were heard most mornings, a haunting and very loud call.  We also saw spider monkeys shifting quickly through the upper branches of the trees but no photos.
                                                 A giant otter has a quick look at us.

                                                          Mangos in numbers for free.

                                                       Mango ready to eat - sweet and juicy.
So that sums up the trip and wildlife, in the next blog I’ll look at the fishing.

Note all photos will enlarge if you click over them. 

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Fishing adventure in Guyana Part 1

At last the day arrived and the long awaited trip to the South American country of Guyana was about to begin.  There would be three of us fishing and I travelled down to Joe Taylor’s house in Bicester the night before in order to be ready for the 4.30am pick up by Andy Wornham.  We would then travel down to Gatwick for a 9.10am flight on Virgin Atlantic 747 to the Barbados.  On previous trips around the world with Joe we have always given plenty of extra time to cover the unforeseen and on this trip the unexpected was waiting on the doorstep.  As we went along the main road out of Bicester towards the M40 a fire engine went past and Joe remarked on that being unusual since another region would normally of dealt with problems in that direction.  Having lost sight of it by the time we reached the motorway we turned south on to the M40 and then we could clearly see it a mile or so further along the road from us.  We had travelled quite a way along the motorway before the signs of trouble appeared and before too much longer we came to a resounding stop!
Since we were quite near to the front of the queue I got out of the car and walked along to the front to speak to the yellow coated official there, he told me I was already the fourth to ask about the delay with people heading for airports.  The problem was a car smash and they needed to cut people out of the vehicles so no estimate of the delay could be given.  Thirty minutes passed, forty-five and then the hour had passed and it was getting critical to be able to meet the various deadlines that apply to airports and signing in before the gates close one hour before the flight.  Then there was a sign of movement and at last one lane on the inside was opened.  Ten minutes earlier and we could have still been stopped, but fifteen minutes later and we could have been some considerable distance back in the queue, they build up quick on motorways.  With just one lane open we got through fairly quickly considering the problem and made it in time to the airport.  Further back would definitely give us problems and probably have caused us to miss the flight.
                                             Veiw from the hotel room over the Caribbean Sea

There were no suitable direct flights England to Georgetown Guyana so it needed a stop via Barbados and some eight hours after take-off we landed in the Caribbean paradise.   We went through customs check with little delay and a short taxi ride later saw us arrive at the Ocean Spray apartments with a lot of hours to kill.  A short time ago the next flight via Liat Airways to Guyana had an evening flight that could be caught on the same day as our arrival in Barbados, that had been cancelled and now we had to wait until early afternoon the following day to make the connection, that said there are worse places to pass a few hours.
                                              Joe & Andy admire the veiw from the balcony.

                                                    Watching the turtles just off shore.

                                                        Liat planes waiting for passengers.

Yet again we allowed plenty of time for the afternoon flight on a little twin prop plane and following a couple of hours in the air we arrived in Georgetown the capital of the country.  Travelling through the town gave an impression of chaos and poverty, lots of traffic that seemed to ignore the fact the other cars, bikes, people and even several cows that did at least stay on the pavement, were within inches of being hit all the time.  We stopped off at the money exchange building and got a large pile of Guyana dollars.  Their largest note is 1000 Guyana dollars and with an exchange rate of over 300 dollars to the pound that means it is worth about £3.  There was one hell of a lot of notes in the thousands of pounds we exchanged, fortunately they used a money counting machine or else we would have been there all day!  A little time later we were in place in the hotel, the view was not as good as Barbados but the rooms were air conditioned and comfortable so again we waited.
Outside the exchange in Georgetown
                                                                                             Veiw from bacony -not quite the same.
The next stage of our journey was into the interior via the main road through Guyana to Brazil, you build up a picture of what such a road would be line, motorway class, maybe A road or even B road, maybe a few potholes but it is the main road after all so it will not be too bad.  Wrong, it is next to hell; Joe in fact calls it ‘the road to hell’.  We would be on the road for about 8 hours minimum and often if will be much longer than this due to almost regular breakdowns, more of that later.  The first two hours were not too bad being on a tarmac type surface but then that ends and the rest of the trip is done on a surface of something like compacted red shale.  This is through a rain forest and as the name suggests, it rains and in the process the road is washed into gully’s and ruts that have to be seen to be believed, don’t forget this is the main road.  One of the main lorrys on the road is an ex-army Bedford truck of about the 1970’s, exported out here in large numbers they are used to transport goods into the interior.  For us it was a dusty trip since we missed any appreciable amounts of rain, but Joe mentioned a previous trip when it had rained and everything go covered in red mud, at least we got to the destination without mishap so not too many complaints.

                                                        Our transport on the red road.

                                                      The red road in all its glory.

                                                       Transport on the red road.

                                                             One of the Bedford trucks.

We had arrived at a very small settlement of a few buildings [if you wish to call them such] by the name of Kurupukari, which is one side of the River Essequibo that we had travelled all his way to fish.  There is a village on the other side and a river ferry runs between the hours of 6am and 6pm, miss those times and you wait for the next day.  It was too late and dangerous to go on the river with a number of rapids and rocks on the way to our intended base some 1hr travel upstream so yet again we settled in for a night and I experienced my first ever night in an hammock, quite comfortable but something else got in the way of sleep.  As mentioned if you miss the ferry you wait and at about 1.30am two busloads of people arrived and started to either eat or set up hammock beds in the immediate area.  Add to this to the lorry driver who had a broken spring on his wagon, he had been there when we arrived with the lorry up on jacks and we assume he was waiting for a new spring leaf since his was obviously broken.  The leaf appeared to have arrived with the buses, so he had started to fit it straight away with heavy and loud bangs every couple of minutes, not a good night of rest as you can imagine.  Being up early both Andy and I decided to walk along to the ferry and it was a sight to behold, definitely not capable of passing even the most rudimentary of health and safety checks, a definite case of cross at your own risk!

                                             Our host and her chef in Kurupukari.

                                                      First night bedroom - no balcony?

                                           Roadside repairs - an everyday event on this road.

Ferry notices.
The guides Mark on the right, Laurence on the left.
                                     Laurence runs along side us with some of the supplies
At last everything was ready, we had a quite nice breakfast and went down to the river to load the boats and meet our two river guides, Mark and Laurence.  A big advantage here is that English is the main language and it saves no end of problems that we had on other trips to far regions with different languages to ours.  Into the boats and our 40 horsepower motor took us through the waterfall shoots and rocky regions under the expert handling of the boatman Raymond who seemed to know the river as we know the streets of our hometown.  The settlements we left behind were the last that could be reached by road and now we travelled on a big and very wild river with rain forest and 100ft trees densely packed on either bank.  In due course we arrived at our base camp and I felt the holiday had begun in earnest.

                                             In the forest with Joe for scale against the trees.