The Fishipedia Q&A: Henry Gilbey (Part 2)

September 11th, 2011| No Comments

The Fishipedia Q&A: Henry Gilbey

In part one of our interview with Henry Gilbey (click here if you haven’t already seen it), the standout fishing photojournalist revealed his favorite work and all-time top destinations. This time round, we talk ultimate sport fish and ‘the one that got away’…

You’ve usually got more than one iron in the fishing fire. Any new projects in the pipeline right now?

I am right in the middle of working on a new fishing book that is all about some of the world’s best fishing locations. I enjoy doing this kind of thing, but my dream is to be able to indulge myself by working on a big coffee-table style fishing photography book. That would do it for me! Not remotely easy to get a publisher to commission it though. There always seems to be stuff going on here. Some things come off, and some don’t…

You’ve got an online shop where people can buy your prints – what are your best-sellers?

To be completely honest with you, it’s a non-starter. I put the facility on my website to see if there might be any interest in it, but in essence there is not. I personally believe that if people are going to buy prints etc. then they are going to want to see them first – such as in a gallery, or on a stand say at the CLA Game Fair. I had a hunch that it was not going to work for me on my website, and so far I have been proved right! Wish it was the other way around though.

If you could take the best attributes of a selection of fish and use them to construct the perfect gamefish, what would you choose?

Crumbs, now you’ve got me. Teeth – could only be the tigerfish. Aggression – has to be the GT. Insane fish. Cunningness – permit on the flats. A fish to drive anybody mad. Speed – a big bonefish in very skinny water, or perhaps a milkfish on the flats. Stamina – tarpon. Everything they say about them is true, and then some. Colour – golden dorado. Why more people outside of South America don’t rave about these things I will never know. Beauty – a perfectly formed wild brown trout. Perfection on fins. Pain potential – big amberjack in deep water. Scary stuff. Or perhaps a big honeycomb ray off the beach in South Africa. People have told me it just hurts, plain and simple. Either you break them or they are going to break you. Nice.

We’ve all got a story about ‘the one that got away’. What’s yours?

Not very exciting really, but for years I was obsessed with trying to catch a big conger eel from the shore here in the UK. Sure, I have been nearly emptied by a shark off the beach in Namibia for example, and I have been done by plenty of big tarpon under those bridges in the Florida Keys, but conger eels used to haunt my sleep! We were filming a programme some years ago now for my first TV series, and we were (perhaps stupidly) trying to nail a good conger eel from the shore out in Alderney, one of the Channel Islands. Things were not going great, and I quickly learnt on that shoot that trying to make the bulk of a programme at night is not a very good idea. The crew were back at the hotel charging up the batteries for the lights, but me and my friend of course carried on fishing. I hooked a big eel and got it nearly all the way in off the back of the huge breakwater out there. OK, so the crew were not there, but we could have landed it and tried holding on to it in the water until they got back so at least we could have shown it before releasing it. But it went and threw the hooks just as we were planning a way to try and land it, and I remember nearly being sick I was so heartbroken. You would not believe the amount of time I used to spend fishing for these things. The eel was without a doubt over the 50lb mark, and my friend fishing with me was the guy who currently holds the shore record for the biggest conger eel. Even he remarked on how big the thing was. Everything came crashing down around me when that fish got off, and it gave me nightmares for months afterwards! Told you I used to be obsessed by them. When the crew got back my director asked if I would like to “discuss” my feelings about it on camera, but in the politest way possible I told him I was off to bed to cry myself to sleep. And break my rods into little pieces.

Most of us fishermen have a ‘happy place’. For example, when I can’t sleep at night, I imagine wading a Bahamian flat, casting to tailing bonefish. What’s your go-to spot?

A couple of spots along the Copper Coast in southern Ireland. The weather is a south westerly force 3 to 4. Good clarity to the water, and there is just the perfect amount of lift on the surface. It’s about half tide up and the bass are just committing suicide on my lures. Perfection if you ask me. Oh, and the light is just sensational for the photography side of things. Not too much to ask is it?

You’ve got one day left to go fishing – where would you go and what would you fish for?

I would head to the remote Cosmoledo atoll many hundreds of miles away from the Seychelles. An assistant is carrying all my camera gear for me (dream on!) and I am carrying two fly fishing outfits – a 9 and a 12 weight. For a bit of a warm-up I smash a load of tailing 10lb plus bonefish over the low tide, and then as the flat begins to fill up I can spot loads of massive GTs beginning to come up and hunt the poor bonefish I have just been fishing for. I hand the 9 weight to my photography assistant (aren’t dreams great?) and begin abusing the local GT population with the 12 weight. Or I might go bass fishing in southern Ireland. Not an easy decision. Can I do both?

.>> For more information about
Henry and to see some of his work,
check out his website and blog


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