The team at What Fish UK have been fortunate to have interviewed some fantastic anglers from around Great Britain.
This time I managed to catch up with Damion Fryer, a long-time angling enthusiast and What Fish UK gallery contributor.
Let’s see what Damion had to say.
Damion, thank you for taking this interview. I have been looking forward to this a great deal.
Q - So, to get us off the mark, when did you start angling and how did you get involved in fishing?
A - I started angling at the age of eight. My father and grandfather were both keen fishermen, so I suppose it’s something that I was always going to do, you can almost say that it was in my genes.
To tell you how my angling passion started though I will need to wind the clock back to 1979.
I always remember my grandfather had a good collection of fishing books, written by famous anglers of days gone by such as Richard Walker, Fred J Taylor, and Peter Tombelson. I’d spend hours flicking through the pages of these books, reading with interest Peter Tombelson’s ‘How To Start Coarse Fishing’ and Richard Walkers ‘Still Water Angling’, where he talked about catching the then British record carp ‘Clarissa’ from Redmire Pool in September 1952.
|Peter Tombleson 'How To Start Coarse Fishing'.|
I didn’t take long before I asked my grandfather if we could go fishing sometime, my interest in this hobby was ever growing. It was then that my grandfather emerged from the loft with a fishing rod and a canvass bag, complete with its own layer of dust.
Inside this bag was a box which held an assortment of porcupine quills, a mixture of split shot, a few packets of hooks to nylon, a pair of scissors and a disgorger. Next to the box was a black reel, with a plate on the side that said ‘K.P Morritt’s Intrepid Deluxe’ and was loaded with a green coloured nylon line.
I took the rod out of the bag and was surprised at how heavy it was. It was a three-piece split cane match rod with the old brass ferrules, cork handle with rubber bung at the end and two brass rings on the handle that held the reel in place. I now had my own fishing tackle and this is how it all began.
Q - What is your first memory of going fishing?
A - We lived on the Cheshire / Staffordshire border and in the centre of the village was a four and a half acre private mere, one half surrounded by shops in the village and the other half surrounded by houses with gardens backing onto the water. So, unless you lived on the mere or knew someone who did, you couldn’t gain access to it. Fortunately for me, my Auntie and cousins lived in a house which backed onto the mere, only a few hundred yards away from my grandparents, so it gave me unlimited access.
I remember eagerly setting up the rod with my grandfather one Saturday morning, grabbing an old margarine tub out of the garage, punching a few small holes in the lid and filling it with worms that I’d dug up from the garden.
I’ll never forget peering over the garden wall at my Auntie’s and looking into the clear water. It was around three feet deep, pretty weedy and I could clearly see several small fish swimming in and out of the weed. My grandfather put a worm on the hook for me and I watched it wriggling as it slowly dropped through the water. I vividly remember a perch grabbing that worm and from that moment on, it wasn’t just that perch that got hooked.....
Q - Where are you currently located and what parts of this area do you fish?
A - I currently live just outside St Austell in Cornwall and I consider myself very fortunate to live in this part of the country. Well known areas such as Mevagissey, Charlestown and Fowey are right on my doorstep on the south coast and a short drive will see me on the north coast at places such as Newquay, Padstow or St Ives.
My favourite place to fish is Mevagissey. For those people that don’t know, Mevagissey is a very old fishing village on the outskirts of St Austell. It was once the centre of Cornwall’s pilchard industry and still has a working harbour to this day, with numerous fishing and pleasure boats working from it. It has an inner and outer harbour which enables you to fish for a wide range of species.
The inner harbour is great for targeting the mini species with the LRF gear such as blenny, goby, small wrasse and scorpion fish to name a few, whereas the outer part of the harbour holds some big balllan wrasse and pollock which reside over the rock and kelp, as well as shoals of mackerel and garfish.
Charlestown is another of my favourite spots. A good variety of species can be caught from here at the harbour entrance, with flatfish and gurnard regular catches with lures on the drop shot rig.
A great low tide mark is Porthpean, where loads of large rock-pools are exposed when the tide is out. If you’ve never fished in a rock pool before, get yourself an LRF rod, a few small lures, ignore the funny looks from people and have some fun. You can’t beat watching a goby appear from under a rock and grab your lure.
If the conditions are right another place that I enjoy fishing is Portholland, which is around a twenty-minute drive for me. Portholland offers safe fishing from the rocks around two hours each side of low water, where some big ballan wrasse can be caught from over the rough ground on Texas rigged soft plastics.
There are literally hundreds of different marks all around the county, but these are my favourites and I’ve spent many happy hours fishing these areas.
Q - Have you always been into lure fishing or like most did you start out with ledgering bait?
A - Like most anglers, I started out either float fishing or ledgering with bait, happy to catch whatever came along. Lure fishing sort of came about by chance. I was winding a small fish in one day when my rod suddenly pulled round. I was a little unsure about what had happened, when suddenly a pike of around twelve inches surfaced. The small size 16 hook was nicked in the scissors of his mouth, the small fish that I’d hooked had come off. Luckily he didn’t bite through my line and I landed my first pike.
It was after this event that I took an interest in pike fishing. Although I would quite often put a dead bait out, I’ve always been an active angler, not really wanting to sit there for hours waiting for a bite and doing nothing. This meant fishing a second rod with a lure, which I not only found exciting, but it also gave me something to do whilst waiting for the dead bait rod to spring into life.
This would have been around the mid-1980s and I’ve been fishing with lures ever since.
Q – Have you ever competed in fishing tournaments, or is that a side of fishing you are not keen on?
A - Although there are some popular tournaments that are run every year, one that springs to mind is the Cornish Lure Festival, I’ve never had any interest in competing and never will.
Fishing to me is my way of relaxing, getting away from it and generally just enjoying myself. Believe it or not, I’m not bothered if I blank, I’m happy to just go fishing. If I was to enter a competition, I’d be constantly wondering what other anglers had caught or maybe panicking because I hadn’t caught for a while so the fun element of fishing for me wouldn’t be there.
I know the majority of anglers love this style of competition, but I don’t. I don’t care what people think, this is just the way I look at it and I’ll never change.
Q – Over your angling career what countries have you fished in and what sort of methods/fish have you seen?
A - Over the last few years I’ve spent quite a bit of time fishing in Central Florida, Tenerife and the Caribbean.
Method wise, there’s nothing different really in the way I fish abroad or here in the UK.
I’ll fish LRF style in the Caribbean and Tenerife with jig heads, the split shot rig and the drop shot method and target largemouth bass in a similar way that I’ll target wrasse over here with soft plastics such as creature baits, senkos and swim baits.
Probably my favourite location would have to be Central Florida fishing for largemouth bass. If you’ve never had the opportunity to fish for bass in the States, I urge you to go for it if the opportunity arises. They’re aggressive, fight hard and are very acrobatic, often leaping clear of the water with severe head shakes trying to shake the hook, which they often succeed in doing.
In recent years I’ve also fished in Mexico, Aruba and Antigua. There’s something magical about standing in the Caribbean Sea at sunrise and watching pelicans diving into the water as you’re feeling for bites. You never quite know what you’ll catch either. As you sweep the rod back to set the hook it could be a bonefish, mojarra, permit, drum, snapper, jack, pufferfish, who knows. You never quite know if you’ll land the fish either as quite often I’ve had barracuda and snook chase small fish in and relieve me of them off the hook at my feet.
Another destination that’s good for fishing is Tenerife. There’s a vast array of colourful species to be had there on the LRF gear. Goby, blenny, bream, puffers, wrasse, damsels, rockfish and mullet are just a few of species that are likely to grab your lure.
|Puffer Fish - Tenerife|
The one thing I have noticed though is that whatever you catch abroad they seem to fight a lot harder than here in the UK.
Q - What is your most unusual / surprising catch in the UK?
A - I’ve caught a couple of fish that I wasn’t expecting to catch which came as a surprise. Probably the most surprising catch though was when I was fishing with an Ecogear 2” Power Shirasu whilst targeting flounder in Charlestown harbour.
The inner harbour at Charlestown holds the tall ships and has a lock which is kept shut until the boats are taken out on a high tide whenever they need them for filming etc. This lock could be shut for months at a time and the water eventually becomes brackish. The reason for this is that a freshwater stream empties into this part of the harbour, so obviously over time the water turns brackish.
This inner harbour holds a good head of flounder and is a great spot to fish when conditions are poor out to sea. It’s pretty sheltered from the elements, it’s not tidal so you can fish it whenever you want, it’s almost like fishing a pond. I like fishing the drop shot method or jig head here with small 2”-2.5” lures and simply bounce them about the bottom. This particular morning I’d caught three or four flounder on a jig head when the next bite just felt different.
As fishermen, you can quite often tell what you’ve hooked by experience at how the fish fights. I just knew this wasn’t a flounder. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when a rudd surfaced, the Power Shirasu had been taken with greed. I’ve since found out that there’s a pond not far away that overflows into the stream when it floods and empties into the harbour. Somebody somewhere is missing a rudd.
Q – Which species are on your target species list for the future?
A - To be honest, I never set myself any targets at all. I know a lot of LRF anglers want to catch a certain species such as a topknot or giant goby etc and some anglers even try to catch a certain amount of species in a season. That’s great if it’s what you want to do, but for me fishing is simply about enjoying myself, irrelevant of what I catch and if I catch. I just try simply to catch what’s in front of me. If I’m walking along the harbour and see a fish on the bottom amongst some rocks I’ll drop a lure in and try to catch it. I’m also equally happy fishing with 2” lures out to sea on a jig-head and catching mackerel, pollock and garfish on really light tackle, it’s great fun.
So basically, really for me fishing isn’t about setting targets, it’s simply getting out there and having some fun on really light tackle.
Q - You’re predominately an LRF angler, but do you ever get out the heavier tackle and go after bigger fish?
A - Yes. Although my favourite form of fishing is LRF, I also enjoy stepping up the gear and working lures around the kelp for ballan wrasse. If I’m planning on going to an area and only fishing rock pools, I’ll just take my Rockfish 1-7g rod. But say I’m heading to Mevagissey, I’ll quite often not only take the 1-7g rod but also the Rockfish 5g-20g rod too.
I do enjoy working lures around the kelp, never quite knowing when a wrasse will hit my lure and try to crash dive back down into the rough stuff. It can be heart stopping stuff.
Q - What got you into mini species fishing in the beginning?
A - Probably because I’ve always been good at catching small fish lol.
Like a lot of things in modern day life, the invention of the internet and social media has had a massive say in the majority of people’s everyday life. Without name dropping, a few years ago some well-known anglers started fishing with
flimsy rods, tiny hooks and gossamer lines and we’re catching all sorts of mini species, including a lot of fish that you generally never saw. This coincided with the arrival of scented baits from Ecogear / Marukyu.
|LRF Shanny - Isome|
It wasn’t long before you could buy everything you needed for this new mini fishing craze, from specialist rods and reels right down to jig heads and lures. I decided to give it a go, really enjoyed it and still enjoy it to this day.
Q - Have you ever gotten into any angling magazines or publication?
A - I first started doing a bit of writing for Total Sea Fishing Magazine for the blog on their website which consisted of doing tackle reviews and articles. When I first started doing this it would have been around 2016 and I did this for a couple of years until the magazine finished trading. This also consisted of doing video reviews for their YouTube channel too.
The first time I got into actual print was with Pike and Predator magazine in June 2017 with an article that I wrote on fishing in Florida for largemouth bass.
The first article I wrote for Sea Angler Magazine was a special feature on fishing LRF style in Tenerife which was published in July 2019. I followed that article up with another feature article for them on fishing around Charlestown harbour LRF style in January 2020 and I also have another article in with them about fishing in Aruba that has yet to be used, so keep your eyes out for that one.
There’s also a free on-line magazine called Reel Fisherman Magazine which I’ve contributed to twice now and I plan on doing a bit more for them in the future too.
Q - What plans do you have for the future?
A - My grandson Noah has just turned 6 and is starting to show an interest in fishing, so hopefully I’ll be able to take him with me soon. He’s actually just got his first little set-up so it’ll be great to get into the rock pools and teach him the basics including what I consider the most important thing of all which is fish care.
I’ve also recently joined the team at Prime Angling who are based in Worthing, West Sussex. The actual shop has been open for several years now but they’ve just got a new shop website up and running so I’m helping with promoting that and am really looking forward to seeing things grow.
I’ve also got a few more articles in the pipeline plus what I consider the most important thing of all and that is to keep enjoying my fishing.
And finally, I know you have a fantastic Facebook page but other than this, do you contribute/run to any other websites or online pages that ours readers could check you out on?
Yes, I’ve got my own LRF website. It’s still a work in progress, I’ve got a lot of things to add plus some things that need changing and swapping around but it’s slowly getting there. If you’re interested in taking a look you can find it here: https://lrfadventures.co.uk/
You can also take a look at the Prime Angling website too where you’ll find a great range of fresh and saltwater tackle: https://www.primeangling.co.uk/?ref=3
Damion, thank you so much for agreeing to be part of this interview. As you know we are releasing version 2 of the What Fish UK smartphone App in a couple of months’ time and I just wanted to say thank you from me and the entire team for all of the images that you have donated to the fish recognition gallery. Thanks to your quality images thousands of anglers will be able to work out what they have caught and then add those species to their Species Checklist.
Once again thank you for your time and keep up the angling!