This month, it was a huge pleasure to grab ten minutes with Ross Johnson, arguably one of the most consistent species hunters in modern fishing. He’s also extremely well travelled and accounted for some tremendous catches in both tropical and sub-zero settings, enduring some exciting yet somewhat sticky situations along the way.

JT: Thanks for joining me today, Ross. So, how did it all start for you?

RJ: My first experience as an angler was as a six year old, fishing the Macclesfield canal with my dad. It was only a five minute walk from where I grew up in Higher Poynton, so it was easy for us to nip up in the evening’s to fish the float for Roach, bream, gudgeon and ruffe. I have great memories of those early days. 

The early days! Cameras, as well as the haul of fish Ross has accounted for, have come a long way!

JT: So how did you transition from canal fishing to predominantly being a Saltwater angler?

RJ: Well, as my passion for angling developed, as did my sense of exploration. After working my way up through the larger freshwater species such as carp, tench and pike, I was soon venturing into saltwater. 

It started out with trolling for plaice, flounder and bass with my grandad in the Kingsbridge / Salcombe estuary, but soon it was anywhere I could wet a line. I didn’t really properly get into it though until I attended university in Bangor, North Wales. That really opened my eyes to what was possible in Saltwater and resulted in many skipped lectures so that I could fish the tides I wanted to. From then, I haven’t looked back.

JT: Who inspired you to start sea angling and who do you look up to within the sea angling fraternity?

RJ: My inspirations early on were definitely my dad and grandad. I don’t know what I’d be doing now if they hadn’t Introduced me to it. It’s scary to think how different my life could have been.  As for who I look up to in angling, apart from the above, I have great admiration for some of the original species hunters, the likes of Mike Ladle, Mike Thrussell, Phill Williams etc. I also have great respect for the out and out specimen guys of the modern era. The likes of Rob Wheaton, Ryan Wingfield, Gareth Griffiths, Steve Ace, Rob Yorke, Steve Perry, Martin Larkin just to name a few. These guys put the hours in and their results speak volumes.

Ross is now frequently inspiring others into catching specimen fish with his guiding in the U.K. and further afield

JT: I think most people will know you for your species hunting exploits over the years. Just how many have you had now?

RJ: I’ve managed to rack up 126 UK species now, with 96 of those being saltwater. My worldwide tally currently stands at 473. Im hoping to increase that in 2022 though, should travel allow.

473 different species of fish- now that is incredible!

JT: Do you have a favourite and if so, why?

RJ: Of all the fish Ive caught, I still find the humble Ballan wrasse very hard to beat. I just love their colours with no two fish ever being the same. They can also be targeted in many different ways, which I find particularly enjoyable. Float, ledger and lure fishing are just a few of the methods I’ve caught them on.

JT: You’re based in north Wales aren’t you? Tell me a bit about the fishing up there, I’ve only visited the area once, but I’ve heard it can be sensational.

RJ: Yes, you’re not wrong there. We are so lucky here in north Wales to have such a diverse fishery. In winter, we get good numbers of whiting, rays, conger and huss. Then in the warmer months, good runs of bass, hounds, tope and an abundance of species keep us busy. It really is an angler’s dream.

JT: You also do a lot in Norway these days. How did that come about?

RJ: It all started with a call from Paul Stevens at Sportquest Holidays. They were looking for a shore guide to start a new camp in the Lofoten Islands and asked if I’d be interested in going out on a research trip. At the time being single and relatively tie free, it was a no brainer. So in march 2019, off I went with Matt Crowe, who was working with SQ at the time and we started to pioneer the area as a shore destination. 3 years on and we’re now almost fully booked for our spring and autumn seasons two years in advance, so it’s safe to say the project was a huge success.

Lofoten has been producing some quality fish for Ross and his guests

JT: What continues to motivate you in angling?

RJ: I would love to hit 100 UK saltwater species. That has been a goal of mine since 2012, so that’s definitely top of my list. That aside though, I find helping others these days motivates me more than my own fishing. Seeing someone else land a fish of their dreams as a result of my guidance is a special feeling. The buzz is very addictive.

I can certainly relate to that. Realising that someone else ‘gets’ what fishing is about the moment they make that catch and knowing they will now be hooked….Priceless.

JT: I know you’ve also done a lot of travelling outside of Europe over the years. Out of all the places you’ve visited, are there any particular countries that stood out to you or that you’d recommend to others?

RJ: Too many to name, but I guess my favourites so far would be Australia, New Zealand, Panama and the US, particularly the Florida Keys. The reason I love these places is because of the species diversity. The warm weather helps too. Everything seems to fight harder when in warmer climates, I love it. 

Helping others fulfil their dreams

JT: What is your current choice of tackle?

RJ: For most of my fishing, I still love my Conoflex Highlanders, but recently I have switched to a pair of Century Kompressor SS’s. They suit me very well. I tend to match them with a pair of Daiwa Saltist BG 30s. For me, that’s a great all round set up. If I’m on the beaches though, I’ll go with my continental gear which consists of a Shimano Surf Leader and Shimano Ultegra XSD reel. 

JT: What are your thoughts on social media in regards to the angling community?

RJ: I have a love hate relationship with social media. It’s fantastic for sharing catch reports when I’m guiding and for making new connections, but there’s always a down side and that is that too many people make judgements these days without any logical reason.

I have learnt now though that the opinions of those I have never met mean absolutely nothing, so I tend to ignore those individuals.

JT: What is your number one pet hate in angling?

RJ: Jealousy. It’s always going to be about in social media, but it doesn’t make it any better. I’m sick of seeing snide remarks on people’s post. If you’ve got nothing nice to say, keep it to yourself. As a recent Mike Tyson meme states, ‘Social media made y’all way too comfortable with disrespecting people and not getting punched in the face for it’.

A huss is a typical specimen fish when Ross still finds the time to fish locally

JT: Finally, what’s your most memorable fishing moment?

RJ: Probably catching a fish called a Saratoga in Australia. The fish itself is very cool, but the story behind it is way better. Just to reach the river I caught it in, I had to drive 400km down a dirt road, crossing small brooks and losing the bumper of my hire car in the process. Finally, I reached a small and empty camp-site, from which I then walked an hour through woodland to find the river. Then I endured a further hour of walking up the river, passing numerous snakes that were sunning themselves on the river bank just to find some fishable water. It was here that I first saw my target sitting tight behind a snag in the middle of the river. Casting a small popper up river with my UL gear, I drifted it over the fish only to get smashed and bust up in seconds. I was gutted, but then the fish returned to its spot behind the snag, my lure still in its gob. A quick shake of the head though and out it came, first drifting back to the surface and then going downstream where I could sneakily go and collect it.

It wouldn’t look at that lure again, so I put a softy on instead and tied a heavier leader on. When it nailed me for a second time, I made sure to keep it away from the snag, eventually landing it some 50m downstream after a truly epic battle that saw the fish go airborne at least a dozen times. Definitely a fish I’ll never forget.

I think we all find the adventures that go in to some fishing trips just as exciting as the fishing itself!

JT: Thanks for sharing your story with us today, Ross. We’ve all got our fingers crossed for you in bagging the species that will take you to the ton in 2022!

RJ: Thanks, who knows what’s around the corner next year!

Ross has no shortage of memorable fish to choose from!