“For many years I was a big-fish hunter, travelling Europe in search of huge catfish and carp. Eventually, though, I got bored of being sat behind rods and wanted to do something more active, so 12 years ago I started fly fishing.
“I began with trout, but the big-fish mindset remained. Before long, I found myself going for carp on the fly, then pike, and at the start of this year I set myself a real challenge – to catch a catfish on this tactic.
“Members of my local syndicate thought I was mad, but I was determined to catch one. I started with pike flies, but the hooks weren’t penetrating the cats’ hard mouths.
“So, I contacted David Lindsey – a genius fly-tyer who runs McFluffchucker Predator Flies in Scotland. After weeks of development, we came up with a pattern now known as a ‘Woody Red Devil’ (named after me!), imitating a roach but in my favourite red colour, and featuring circle hooks that have transformed my results.
“I figured that by feeding a few mixers I’d get the lake’s silverfish competing, and in turn, this would draw the cats in. It wasn’t long before I caught my first one – a ‘kitten’ of around 10lb – but after that the bug set in. The way they hit the fly... there’s nothing like it! It’s as if you’ve been slammed into by a boulder.
“Even the small cats give you a thrill, and although you spend a lot of time casting, your heart is pounding with every strip of the fly line.
“I worked my way through the cats in my lake, with them steadily getting bigger and bigger, but I knew one monster remained. They all fight incredibly hard, and to begin with you really have no idea how big a fish you’re attached to. So when I finally connected with the beast, it took a while to dawn on me that it could be the one.
“A common misconception with fly fishing for catfish is that it’s unethical, as you spend hours playing the fish on wispy rods. However, I landed the biggest fish in the lake, weighing 58lb, in 16 minutes. Proper gear is key, and I use a 9wt rod, a powerful reel with the drag cranked right down, and a dedicated leader for catfish.
“There’s nothing quite like the thrill when one of these things hits. The problem is.... now I want a bigger one!”