Throughout the series of Getting Hooked Up, I’ve been privileged to interview some of the finest anglers in the country. Most of those who have gone before have, by hook or by crook, built a reputation for themselves through their social media presence where their angling ability is there for all to see. But prior to social media, it was word of mouth and the occasional magazine spread that saw the best of anglers brought to light on a larger scale. One such angler is Steve Ace, or Acey, as he is known by many.
Growing up in the vicinity of the Bristol Channel it was a name I found impossible to escape during my more youthful years and even back then, his reputation for consistently catching exceptional fish from the width and breadth of the southwest and beyond certainly preceded him. He was undoubtedly an angler who I looked up to. What better candidate to fire some questions in to for an hour one Tuesday evening?
JT: So then Steve, how long have you been fishing and how did it all begin?
SA: Well, my father was from Mumbles and I fished with him to begin with, but he left when I was eleven years old. My grandfather was from Avonmouth and that’s where I grew up, fishing the tanks with him for flounders and eels. The summers were spent with my uncle fishing at Ferrybridge (Chesil Beach) and Weymouth harbour where we would target bass on live prawns, up until I was around sixteen years old. I remember on one occasion in Wales, wading out, reaching under the water for crabs and this big old crab pulled my hand in under a rock. I really thought it was going to hang on to it! Good memories.
JT: I’m guessing that both your father and grandfather were big influences on your early years then?
SA: Oh definitely my grandfather. He helped me to catch my first fish, it was a silver eel caught on a Greenheart rod that he had built for me. I remember looking on as he would set his nets at Chittening Wharf in Bristol, it was certainly an education. It’s fair to say he gave me the bug for fishing and it just went from there. I became addicted to fishing pretty soon and as a teenager I’d sneak out of my bedroom window and shimmy down the drainpipe to go and fish with the bigger boys. I’d climb back up the same way and no one even knew I’d been gone!
What a brilliant story though, it certainly made me chuckle!
JT: Who else do you have admiration for within fishing, past and present?
SA: I had the pleasure of knowing Ian Golds and he was undoubtedly the nicest gentleman in fishing. Initially I knew him from stocking his tackle range at the Veals shop, but before long we became good friends and on a few occasions I’d get away from the shop early of a Friday evening and dash off down to Chesil to fish the Friday Night League with him. He was such a knowledgable man and would readily share so much information. He also came up to fish my league (the Veals League staged at Aust and Littleton during the 1990’s) a few times too. I fished with Alan Kershaw and Kevin Legge in the 1980’s, both very knowledgable and dedicated anglers. Another name would be John May, the guy has done so much for fishing in the Bristol Channel area. For their casting advice, I’d also have to mention both Nigel Ainscough and Rodney Carter.
JT: What would you say has been your greatest angling achievement? Theres been a few!
SA: Probably the halibut I guess (Steve recently landed a halibut of 159lb 8oz from the shore in Norway, a pending world record) though the coalie was a very special fish too… I don’t know, possibly the coalie actually? I think the halibut record will fall again, but the coalfish might take some beating (Steve is referring to a coalfish of 44lb 3oz- he landed it on a spinning rod no less!) Prior to those Norway fish, my mullet of 10lb 4oz from Alderney means a lot to me because I fished so hard for it over a long period of time.
Steve has no shortage of incredible catches to his name, here’s just a few of his personal bests that I squeezed out of him-
Cod, Bristol Channel, 25lb 4oz, but also two fish at 19lb, 17’s and 18’s.
Bass, Bristol Channel, 13lb 13oz.
Plaice, Salcombe estuary, 5lb 3oz.
Conger, Alderney, 44lb.
Sole, Bristol Channel, 3lb 10oz.
Spotted ray, 6lb, Bristol Channel (part of a double shot of spotted rays)
Blonde ray, 19lb 7oz, Sully.
I had to add that blonde ray in at the end- the fish was caught just hours before this chat!
JT: What is the most unusual fish you have landed?
SA: Probably a red mullet from Littleton-upon-Severn. Funnily enough there was another caught there the same year and for anyone that knows the venue, it’s an extremely unusual catch from the Bristol Channel.
JT: What motivates you to fish as hard as you do, even after all this time?
SA: I just love it. I used to fish four or five nights a week, but now it’s three or four. I don’t mind travelling to find fish either, if there’s a fish I have a nose for I’ll go and have a go for it. Equally I still enjoy fishing locally for flounders as much as anything else, but whatever really. I just love fishing. I also enjoy my matches still, it’s good to have a bit of competition and some friendly banter along the way. I’ve worked in the tackle trade for 36 years now. It’s not work, it’s an extension of my hobby and it’s a life choice. I can’t imagine not working within fishing.
I mention to Steve that it’s contentment that everyone seeks and for those of us who are enthusiastic about our fishing and have huge love for it, that’s exactly what we get when we’re by the water with a rod in our hands.
JT: What is your favourite location to fish in the U.K. or abroad?
SA: In this country it would have to be north Devon, it’s been kind to me over the years. I’ve landed huss to 14lb 4oz, tope to 41lb and ling to 9lb 8oz there. It’s a very special place.
Norway is somewhere that I have huge love for too. When you see a pod of coalfish of 30-50lb swimming beneath your feet, it’s just something else and the potential is huge.
JT: What are your go-to rods and reels for general shore fishing work now?
SA: I’m using rods that are 26 years old and were built by Terry Carroll (Zziplex). they’re all rounders with nice glass tips and are only 12’9”. I’m not the biggest bloke and I’ve always found it far easier to move a shorter rod at speed when casting up the butt. Modern longer rods are not really my cup of tea. Having said that I have recently been in touch with Lee at Zziplex and he is going to build me a modern equivalent of what I currently use. The original rods used Powertex but the cost of that material now means it’s not viable. The new rods will be Bullet GT’s, again featuring glass tips and also slightly shorter to suit my cast. Reel wise, I still use the Shimano Speedmasters. I’ve got eight of them and I still love them to bits, but I bought the last of the spares from Felindre servicing knowing they won’t last forever. I also use Daiwa Saltist models and they’re nice too.
I found if fascinating that for someone in the trade who has access to all manner of modern rods and reels, Steve chooses to use kit that might be dated, but that he can trust to do its job. I think a lot of anglers could learn something from that. It’s also worth mentioning that Steve once collaborated with Century to create the ‘Channel Special’, a high performance all rounder developed especially for use in the Bristol Channel. All told, the Veals shop sold a quarter of a million pounds worth of them over the course of time!
JT: What are your thoughts on social media and the internet?
SA: I’ve got a Facebook account as it was created for me, but only to look in on club match results. I’d say on the whole the internet is a positive thing and it’s a great tool for new anglers looking to fast track the learning curve. I use it myself for weather forecasts, but that’s where it ends for me.
JT: What are your pet hates in fishing?
SA: Definitely littering. It always used to surprise me when I’d collect the pegs up at the end of a match or return to fish the venue the following morning just what would be left behind. We both know the culprits too, you’d be shocked. Rigs, bait wrappers and the like. I’d know exactly who it was based on the pegs.
The mind boggles, but I’ve also been shocked in the past at just who does leave litter in their wake…
JT: Have you ever had a spooky encounter whilst fishing after dark?
SA: Not really spooky as such, but I remember fishing at Lilstock some years back and saw a big pair of eyes looking at me. As daylight came I saw what they belonged to and it was a large black cat. I also remember fishing with James Madsen and we both saw a huge fire ball light up the sky.
The big cat tale sparked a memory for me and I mentioned to Steve how a mutual friend also saw what would appear to be the same creature at that location on another date.
JT: What would be one piece of advice you could offer to a new angler?
SA: Fish short, focussed sessions. Learn the best times to fish and hit it hard for a shorter period.
JT: Finally, I couldn’t let you go without mentioning the Veals shop that you were a big part of for so long. Tell me about your most amusing customer based experience?
SA: (Chuckling) There was a shop regular, Norman Barr was his name and he was a real eccentric kind of a chap, larger than life. He was always loud and enthusiastic but he was a good customer and spent a lot of money with us. There was this one time when he came in and as a fly fisherman he surprised us by wanting to see our lobworms. At the time there was another angler stood at the counter dressed in a donkey jacket who had a reputation as a bit of a hard man, locally. Jeremy (Steve’s boss at the time) asked me to serve him and I took the worms out and placed the tray on the counter, only for Norman to tip it upside down, emptying the contents including a load of earth all over the place.
It was a right mess. But Norman said they were fantastic and got pretty excited, getting his hands in there and causing more mess. he then proceeded to wipe both muddied hands down the hard man’s donkey jacket, smiling all the while. We couldn’t believe it! The guy just stood there, I don’t think he was really taking in what had happened either…
JT: Anything else you’d like to add in general?
SA: I’d like to thank my wife Becky for accepting my life style and turning a blind eye to me fishing all over the place several times a week, she’s a diamond!
JT: Thanks for taking part Steve, it’s been very interesting…
SA: My pleasure Janse.
Steve had so many fish pictures to share from over the years, so please take a look by scrolling through them below!