Opening Day

Though I’m writing this even before my first review on this aptly named website of mine, it’s difficult for me to deny the possibility that I might actually have been born for this. It may sound ridiculous, but if you can stay with me a while I’ll try to join the dots between the many seemingly unrelated periods of my life that have all ended up pointing towards the same thing.

Born in 1980 I was lucky enough to spend my teens admiring the likes of the Shakespeare and Daiwa catalogues of that classic era. Naturally I was desperate to own almost every item of tackle that graced each page. Sea fishing off Newquay headland from very early age, by 1992 I’d discovered coarse fishing at a couple of local lakes. By 1995, not only was I match fishing, but spending every other waking minute of my days creating imaginary shopping lists (with prices) from the aforementioned brands. Today that’s basically my job. Affording it is still another matter, but my appreciation of a good looking fishing rod has never wavered in more than 30 years of dreaming.

At university I made extra pocket-change by writing and submitting online product reviews. Not about fishing tackle but pretty much anything from music to kitchen utensils. I couldn’t help turning each in to a long-winded excuse for procrastination, but long before my job in retail – which came much later – I had an urge to provide information about the discoveries I had made in life.

Eventually I realised that University wasn’t really the place for my hyper-focused fishing tackle brain, so instead took a job opportunity outside of Cornwall (passport at the ready!) and trained as a website developer. However, within two years I’d sensibly made my way back to Cornwall to continue this apprenticeship.

In 2006 I moved to Trevone, on the north Cornish coast. By this point I was self-employed (still making websites) and “working” from home, but the draw of the beautiful beach and rocky reef 200m from the front door was often too much. Multiple fishing trips per week (sometimes per day!) ensued. This was the start of my lure fishing adventure as the convenience and speed at which I could pick up a rod and go made it the perfect choice. And so it began. A new fishing tackle obsession.

Spurred on initially by online communities like World Sea Fishing, in 2008 I began work on my new business plan. I say “business plan”, it was more a distraction from my real work as I had no idea how it was going to make any money. But the concept was simple. Lure fishing reviews. There was zero information available in those days. Only the legend that is Mick Ward (Mr Fish, Jersey) sold anything like a Japanese lure in the UK and everything else had to be imported. But the products did exist. Out there. In the world. With every purchase being a risky experiment in to the unknown world of (mostly) Japanese lures, my self-appointed job was simple…

Buy them, use them, write about them.

In to 2009 and my obsession had me spending every penny I had (and more) importing, fishing and understanding how the many different design features affected the way a lure swims or casts. All in the name of research, of course. Getting to spend time on the coast – right outside my front door – and catching hundreds of bass a year was merely a happy consequence of my lure fishing review mission. Although admittedly, had I needed to jump in the car to go fishing in the first place, I may never have started down this path. It wasn’t entirely selfless as I’m clearly risk-averse and just love buying fishing tackle, but if I could save somebody some hassle or suggest a new lure they’d like – and have fun doing it – it made me feel good.

The real world of work always managed to delay the review website launch date. By 2010 it was still not complete despite months or rather, years of dedication. But there was also a new, unexpected opportunity about to arise that would put an end to those plans entirely – while still making good use of the things I’d learned during the creation of it.

The Art of Fishing

Opening Day
Opening Day 2010. A younger version of myself with our first customer, John.

I’ll save the full story of AOF itself for another day, but on the August bank holiday of 2010 we opened the doors of The Art of Fishing in St Merryn. A lure fishing tackle shop that just six months earlier wouldn’t have even been a glimmer of half an idea.

A lot has happened in the twelve years since. Lure fishing in the UK has grown and changed, but to this day AOF and I remain. One and the same. Love rods. Must buy.

Surprisingly, after those twelve long years there is still at times, very little information available online about some of the greatest lure fishing products available today. I say it all the time in the shop, but I find that quite often, the most popular products are not always the best products. So, for what my opinion is worth, I’m using these pages to try and differentiate between fact, fiction and personal preferences. As a tackle shop owner, I never want our customers to regret their purchases. While I’ll always guide as genuinely and helpfully as I can in the shop, online sales can be difficult as you won’t necessarily have all of the most trustworthy information in front of you – whether it’s rod specs that aren’t entirely accurate, or the awful advertorials you’ll find in the magazines. So hopefully some of my posts here might be read by the right people and ultimately achieve the targets I’d set for myself back in 2008 with the original review site.

Yes, I sell tackle for a living, but I don’t want to sell you anything that you’re not going to enjoy using – so the reviews here will be written with no bias or exaggeration. It may also surprise you that links from this website will also not all point to my own shop. In fact, my personal blog is an entirely separate entity to AOF. What little income it does provide me personally will be from the affiliate links that you may see dusted throughout. These are merely to enable you to purchase the items that you’ll find me talking about (if they suit your needs) and are not there to influence the positivity of a review. While there are only so many brands or products that we can ever provide with our limited space at AOF headquarters (Wadebridge), this way of separating my interests means you might find me mentioning literally any brand, product or supplier within these pages. I have many friends in the trade and am often in the position to guide you towards the best place to buy almost any product. I’m especially happy to do so if the product I know is right for you is not one I can provide myself. So if you’re struggling for ideas or wanting a little help, please feel free to get in touch.