Thursday, November 27, 2014

Johan Attby Interview

My latest interview is a little bit different, on the back of my recent review of the FishBrain app I managed to secure a chat with the CEO of FishBrain, Johan Attby.

Hi Johan, many thanks for agreeing to answer my questions as I realise you must be an extremely busy man,

Against Men and Fish - For the readers who aren’t familiar with FishBrain, can you tell them a little bit about it?
Johan Attby - FishBrain is an app and a social network for anglers worldwide.

And why they should download it?
To find new places to fish, get information that help you catch that dream catch, and share your fishing experiences with other anglers worldwide.
As the CEO of FishBrain how did you get involved with the app? Were you there right from the start or did you get on board later?
I came up with the idea of FishBrain when I lived in the US and after having successfully sold my previous software company to a US company. When I did my research on the space I found out that two guys in Sweden had been working on this as a hobby project, so I joined forces with them and moved back to Sweden to pursue FishBrain.

Can you give my readers an insight into how an app is developed, what sort of timeframe is involved and how many people, for example, FishBrain employs?
There are currently 12 people working at FishBrain and most are developers. We constantly add new features and update FishBrain, so it is important that we have knowledgable and skilled app developers.

The number of users has reached over 600,000 since the app was founded in 2010, are these the kind of figures youd envisaged four years ago? Are you ahead of or behind your predictions?
We are beating our predictions, which is wonderful. Our app was released in April 2013, so in one and a half years we’ve attracted more than 600,000 users worldwide which makes us the world’s fastest growing angling app. That’s pretty amazing!

That is amazing!, where do you see FishBrain in, say a years time?
We have millions of users, we dominate the US market and we’ve started to expand aggressively into new markets, so hopefully more worldwide users.

Apps are big business and theres a bewildering array of apps to choose from so what makes a successful app?
You need to make an app that a select group of people love so much that they tell their friends about it. It is not enough to make something that users simply like, because then they won’t continue to use it or spread the word. I am grateful that our App Store rating is 4.5 (average) which is very high so I think that’s part of the reason we grow so fast.

And conversely at what point do developers decide to cut their losses? For every success story, many more must fall by the wayside?
Oh yes, the vast majority of apps go south because the competition is super fierce. We measure everything in FishBrain to optimise the user experience and usage. If a new feature doesn’t perform well we scrap it or re-work it.

Youre in the UK for a couple of days, are you here for business or pleasure or both?
Business. I rarely have time for pleasure. The little time I have left outside FishBrain I want to spend with my family and friends.

Are you involved with any other apps or projects or is FishBrain your main focus right now?
FishBrain is definitely my main focus and where I spend all my time but I also do a little bit of angel investing in other startups.

Okay, enough app talk, are you an angler yourself?
I am! I was born and raised on a farm and I’ve been hunting and fishing since I was a little kid.
Johan with a nice zander
Whats the fishing like in Sweden and do you fish rivers and lakes or saltwater or both?
Fishing in Sweden is pretty good and you can fish rivers, lakes and saltwater. The water quality is improving in many lakes and in the Baltic Sea which makes fish population recovering.

And whats your favourite style of angling?
I’m not picky, I’m just happy to get out fishing but one of my favourite is fly-fishing for trout.

Well thank you so much for giving up your time but before I let you go, heres a few quick-fire questions,

Whats the biggest fish youve caught in Sweden?
I’ve caught a few big pike but I was even more happy when I caught a 2.9 kg sea trout flyfishing a couple of weeks ago close to where I live. I’ve spent many hours trying to catch that fish…

Have you fished in any other countries? And if so whats your best catch?
I’ve fished some in other countries. My best fishing trip was at the Langara Island (west side of Canada, close to the border of Alaska) where the salmon fishing was unbelievably good. One of the most epic moments though was when I was fishing for rock- and lingcod outside San Francisco and a great white shark came to snatch the cod a guy next to me had on.

Whats your favourite drink?
I love beer!

Favourite meal?
Few things beat a real steak

Favourite film?
Short Cuts by Robert Altman is fantastic

TV show?
House of cards

What music do you listen to?
I listen to a lot of local Swedish bands but I’ve recently started taking up country and folk…

Do you have any other hobbies?
I’ve been a competitive cyclist for many years but now I only go out to feel well and keep weight off.

And finally, what top tip would you give to my readers to make them better anglers?
Get out more and find the hot places and strike periods using FishBrain!

Many thanks again Johan, from Against Men and Fish

Well I hope you found that interesting, please stay with me as I've got loads more lined up, my next fishery focus is imminent, I've got more interviews lined up and stay tuned for more tackle reviews and hopefully I'll be able to fit in a few fishing trips too!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Dillington Pond - V.E.S. Precision League 4 - 23rd November 2014

We had quite a bit of rain overnight but I was still hopeful we'd be on the river, I got to the Oak for the draw and was informed we'd be on the pond today. I wasn't too upset as it's been fishing well and we should get plenty of bites. Baz was fishing again today even though there wasn't much in the golden peg fund yet! Rob did the draw out the pond in case there were any pleasure anglers fishing. I really fancied drawing on the road side and got my wish when I pulled out peg 18, Baz was on 16 and Steve Parker was on peg 20 and as I had side bets with them both, I would be able to keep an eye on them. The other two pegs in my section were Fieldy on peg 23 and a still poorly Stu Alford on peg 14.
I was more than happy with peg 18
My other side bet was Hurf who was on peg 4 in the other section, Rob had drawn peg 2 which was the golden peg. The pond looked nice with lots of fish topping but I was really surprised how clear it was given the rain we'd had. A few people were saying it would fish hard but I still fancied you'd need double figures to frame. After getting my box level, the first job, as always, was to mix my groundbait which was some Bait Tech Pro Natural which is my number one choice for this kind of fishing. I set up a 0.5 gram Drennan Roach float with 0.10mm bottom and size 18 Kamasan B611 to fish on the deck at 10 metres also a Preston Chianti with the same hook and hooklength to fish shallow.

Rob blew for the all in at 10:15 and we were off, I cupped in two balls at 10 metres and started on the depth rig with a single red maggot on the hook. I fully expected to catch straight away but hadn't had a bite after ten minutes! In fact, looking around the pond everybody seemed to be in the same boat, just when I thought it might be a real struggle, the float slid away and my first roach was soon swung in. I slipped double red maggot on and had another roach about an ounce so in a bid to increase the stamp of fish I put a caster on. It was still fairly slow and although I had a couple of 4oz roach that I netted, most of them were about 1oz apiece.

I wasn't too worried at this early stage as nobody was bagging and even the whip boys (Fieldy, Justin, Martin and Bruce) only seemed to be catching small fish. After an hour I had 17 roach for probably a pound and I was hoping my swim would get stronger as the match progressed. Baz had shouted up that he just couldn't string any fish together but early in the second hour he netted a hybrid around the pound mark which was a nice bonus. I was still getting odd roach and also added a 3oz perch, I've then hooked what felt like a slightly better roach only to swing in a 2oz golden orfe which took me a little by surprise, as I didn't have a goldfish bowl I popped it in my keepnet.

After an hour and three quarters my bites slowed right up so I reached for the shallow rig, first put in the float buried and a decent amount of elastic streamed out before I netted a cracking 8oz roach, this was more like it. Next chuck I had one of 6oz and I thought I'd cracked it but then I suffered a run of missed bites. I did manage some smaller roach but it was obvious the roach were shying away from the pole in the clear water as quite often when I shipped out I'd get a bite straight away before the bites went 'iffy' again.

A switch back to the deeper rig saw a run of smaller roach, with quite a few coming on the drop and this pretty much set the scene for the rest of the match, with a couple of better fish shallow before getting some smaller ones on the deeper rig. I was hoping the better roach might show in numbers in the last hour or so but if anything my swim got worse and I ended with 76 fish which I hoped would give me between 7-8lb if they averaged 1.5oz apiece. Fieldy packed up in record time and after loading the car, asked how I'd got on, I said it had been a struggle and he said he reckoned he had 5lb if he was lucky. Now we all know he can't lie straight in bed so I asked how many fish he had and when he said 128, I said at an ounce each that gives you 8lb but he said he had a lot of tiny fish - yeah right!

We didn't have long to wait to find out and after I loaded my car I caught up with Rob and the scales at Steve P's peg, Fieldy had weighed 8lb 7oz which confirmed he's even worse at estimating than me, Steve had struggled for 2lb 13oz and then my fish went 6lb 13oz which I was a little disappointed with. Baz weighed 5lb 9oz and had suffered a bit of a nightmare on his first visit here which meant I got my pound back from the other week and when Stu had 1lb 6oz, I needed Fieldy to frame to win the section by default.

When the rest got back from the other side, Heardy had won with 11lb 10oz and as is often the way, I thought he'd struggled, Bruce was second with 9lb 9oz and Fieldy was third which meant I picked up a tenner for the section. Justin had the same weight as me to win the other section by double default. Hurf had 3lb 9oz so I got another pound back and levelled up our side bet score to 2-2 for the series so far. I'd actually quite enjoyed the day and worked hard for my fish but the pond needs some colour for those big roach to show in numbers.

So after four matches and dropping the worst result, Heardy has a perfect three point score and is in danger of running away with it yet again. Fieldy is second with five and despite not fishing today Big Frank is lying in third place with six points.

1 - Martin Heard (Tiverton) - 11lb 10oz
2 - Bruce Hunt (Tiverton) - 9lb 9oz
3 - Graham Field (Taunton) - 8lb 7oz

A - Justin Charles (Ilminster) - 6lb 13oz
B - Jamie Rich (Against Men and Fish/Burt Baits) - 6lb 13oz

Next up - The Xmas Fayre

What's new - Loads of page updates

Check Out - My FishBrain app review (below)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

FishBrain App Review

Everyone has a smart phone these days and apps are big business and with supposedly millions of anglers in the UK alone, more and more apps are being developed that are aimed at anglers. I first became aware of Fishbrain some time ago, it started life in Sweden and I seem to recall it being touted as the fastest growing fishing app (don't quote me on that!). Fast forward a year or so and I was contacted by Fishbrain asking if I would be interested in the app, as it happens I'd already downloaded it (and it's free!) but had never really done much with it so I said I would take a look and review it on my blog.
To be honest I'm not really big on apps, I know there are some amazing ones out there and you can get an app for almost anything but I've always dismissed most of the fishing apps as a bit gimmicky and couldn't really see how they could improve my angling results. I can see how they can be useful as a directory of venues and fisheries with contact details etc but I can also see limitations with this kind of app as they have to be kept up to date and with thousands and thousands of venues out there, it's a mammoth task.

When they e-mailed me they also provided a bit about the background of FishBrain which I think you might find interesting,

'The free-to-use FishBrain app is the fastest, easiest way to log fishing activity and share it with anglers worldwide, as well as helping users to catch more (and bigger) fish. Since launching in 2013, the app's user base has grown rapidly with anglers in countries such as it's native Sweden, the US and the UK. It has now reached half a million users, which only proves further the popularity of fishing as a sport and leisure activity. The Stockholm-based company has proved extremely popular in the US market, where fishing contributes $48 billion to the economy annually - 74% of the FishBrain users are based in America (370,000 users), making it the fastest growing market for the app. The second biggest market after the US is Australia, followed by Sweden, the UK and then Canada. With 4 million active anglers in the UK and 550,000+ FishBrain users worldwide I thought our app and this news may be of interest to you'

There are some huge numbers there but maybe not as large as you might expect given the numbers of anglers in the UK let alone the US. Mind you, what would I give to have half a million readers! Anyway lets have a look at the app, on opening, the first page is a newsfeed where you will see the latest photos from anglers you follow and you can like and comment, so sort of a fishy Facebook! On the bottom of the screen there are five menus, Feed, Explore, +, Activity and More (see photo below).
The Feed page and you can see the five menu options at the bottom
After 'Feed' I looked at 'Explore' and if you have location enabled on your phone the map will zoom to your location and you will notice in the photo below that nearby are a number of little grey or blue fishy icons. Tapping on these brings up the location of a fishery, in this case the River Isle, if you click on the info button, further information is brought up and you can add comments or a catch (nobody had so far!) and the number of followers is also displayed. I also looked at the River Tone which had a couple of catches (both by the same angler) which made him 'King' of both species for that river and then there was quite a bit of info for each catch like Fishing Method, Weather, Wind Direction etc. I can imagine this creating quite a bit of competition between friends in a bid to become 'King' of their favourite venue but I also think it's open to abuse with regards to fish weights. I'm also not sure on where the data for air temp, pressure and humidity come from, maybe this will become obvious as I become more familiar with things.
The Explore screen
And after zooming to your location (you can see where I've tapped on a nearby fishery and the info tab)
The 'plus' button in the centre allows you to upload your catch photos or add a 'Moment' when you are out on the bank, this could be a catch photo or a wildlife shot, anything really and you can add a description and your location. 'Activity' is basically anything your friends have been up to such as commenting on photos, that type of thing. Lastly is the 'More' menu and there are loads of sub-menus here.
Loads of sub-menus
'Catches' is the first option and unsurprisingly all the latest catches are displayed here, you can change the display by date, weight, length and all catches or just the ones with photos. The default display is with photos and the most recent catches which makes sense. You can also filter by Details, Conditions, Fish Species, Baits or Anglers and I tried filtering using tench as an example and it worked really well. The 'Analyzer' section allows you to get deeper insights into the database but as you needed to pay for this service (£3.99 for a month or £27.99 for a year) and I'm a tightwad, I can't really give you anymore info apart from it looks like you can get allsorts of stats on things like Moon Phase, Water Visability plus Personal Stats. It goes on to say you can work out the best tactics on your favourite lake and when is the best time to go fishing, if only fishing were that predictable!!! Saying that, wouldn't it be boring if it was! With the Personal Stats, apparently you can become a better angler with detailed statistics on your own fishing, now I'm not so sure about that but it would be interesting over time as you entered more data to see if any patterns emerged with your fishing.

The 'Anglers' section shows Featured Anglers, Nearby and Most Active although bizarrely it listed anglers in Sweden and Norway as being near to me when there were quite a few anglers based in the UK! Here you can also follow anglers and see what they've been catching and on what bait etc. Then we come to 'Fish Species' where you click on the species you are interested in and it gives you some basic info and two options Analyze (which is a Premium service you have to pay to use) and Catches which is very similar to the option described in the previous paragraph but obviously relates just to the species you are interested in.
Then we come to 'Premium' which as far as I can see is exactly the same as Analyzer! Obviously they want you to become a paying customer but to keep pushing the big sell is a bit irritating and does annoy me somewhat. 'Real Time Logging' lists a number of fisheries close to your proximity but judging by the list of venues displayed near me is by no means exhaustive. Basically it's a timer which you start at the beginning of your fishing trip and you fill out which fish you are targeting and with what method and bait. You can add photos and comments and your trip is then available for people to see in their feed (I guess they have to be following you). Its a nice idea and you can log when you change baits or which species you are targeting but if I'm honest I can't see me ever using this feature.

'My Profile' is pretty self explanatory and it displays your profile pic and lists your followers and who you are following. Your catches, fishing trips, records and tackle box can also be found here and of course there is the obligatory statistics option which you have to pay for (surprise, surprise!). The last two options here are an invite button where you can find friends via Facebook, your address book or you can e-mail them and a button so you can log out.
No followers yet!
'My Tackle Box' just lists items you have used on your fishing trips and 'Find Friends' is self explanatory. The 'Settings' page is where you can find your details (user name etc) and upload or change a profile pic. You can also set your unit settings here (weight, length, temp etc). Lastly there is a 'Support' page where you can e-mail FishBrain and the terms and conditions and privacy policy can also be found on this page.

I've had a bit of time to play around with the app and I have to say I think it's got potential, it's one of those apps that will get better the more people start using it and entering information. I do have a few issues with it, firstly it was developed in Sweden and by their own admission they are aiming it at the US (and why wouldn't you with the figures mentioned earlier!) but with both of these countries they do a lot of lure fishing for game fish and of course bass fishing is huge in the States and this is reflected in a lot of the menu choices when you go to enter catches etc. As you can see from the photo below, there are only a few methods that would be relevant to the fishing I do, although some would say 'Jerk fishing' is quite apt!
The Fishing Methods are a bit generic
More options aimed primarily at lure and sea anglers but at least I've found the menu where the weather details come from!
Similarly when you go to enter the bait you caught your fish on, you can choose from 'Flies' or 'Natural baits'  but when I clicked on the latter there were some odd choices like earplugs and frogs, I couldn't find casters or maggots! although there was a larva option. There is also an alphabetical list with a vast array of bait and tackle firms, many of them I didn't recognise and clicking on a random selection, the majority listed lures of every type imaginable. Scrolling through I did find quite a few of the big UK firms like Bait Tech, Dynamite Baits, Marukyu and Mainline but if you caught on a generic pellet like a fisheries own brand for example, I can't seem to find an option for that.
I can't see many choices on the 'Natural Baits' menu getting a lot of use in the UK!
Loads of choices for the lure and bass anglers!
I think, if anything, this app is trying to do too much when they could almost customise it for a particular country or discipline (i.e. coarse fishing, sea fishing, lure fishing etc). I can see lots of pleasure anglers using it as there's loads to do and lots of info on venues but as I'm primarily a match angler there isn't much aimed at me with this app and I think they're missing a trick there. I'm sure they could easily add a section on the venues pages where the latest match results were published showing which were the best pegs, what species were caught and on which method. I'm sure match anglers would be interested to get the latest info on the venue they are fishing that weekend. Contact details for each fishery could also be included and what facilities are on site (toilets, tackle shop etc).

At the moment they are trying to cover every country, venue, species and method which is a mammoth task and they are only touching the surface in a lot of cases. Take the fishing methods for example, float and feeder fishing are both missing which probably account for the majority of fishing done in the UK! Similarly some of the most commonly used baits are missing from the 'Natural baits' section but then in the baits index there are loads of options that will never be used.

I'm trying not to be too negative as I think it has potential and I love the idea of anglers all over the world connecting via a kind of 'Fishy Facebook' I'm just not sure it's possible and I think they may need to look at a FishBrain edition for the UK, US etc. I realise they are primarily targeting the US market which is fine but they will need to tweak it if it's to become a major success here.

I do think it's evolving all the time as anglers input more and more data so I will keep dipping into it and I'll keep this review updated when there are any major changes.

Quick update - FishBrain have already been in contact (see the comment below) and have been pro-active in making some changes and also let me know that maggots and casters are in the bait menu under larva (along with some other options). They also seem really keen and open to taking suggestions on board and it looks like FishBrain might be becoming more match angler friendly, exciting times ahead I think! I will try and bring you updates as and when they happen.

*FishBrain gave me access to this product for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions contained in this post are my own.

Monday, November 10, 2014

River Isle - V.E.S. Precision League 3 - 9th November 2014

My day didn't get off to the best of starts when I overslept and then had to rush around and only just got to the draw in time. The usual suspects were at the draw minus a poorly Stu Alford (get well soon mate) and Baz who was waiting for the golden peg fund to build up before he paid us another visit! (only joking he's actually on holiday). After loads of rain yesterday I honestly thought we'd be on the pond but Rob had pegged us at Redbridge and Isle Brewers and said it was up and coloured and looking good. After a quick coffee it was time to draw and I went into the hat with only two pegs left, I was hoping to avoid Redbridge and when I opened my fingers I had only gone and drawn peg 128, the big bend at Isle Brewers and one of the best pegs on the river. The last two times it's been pegged, Bruce has won off it and the last time I drew it I had nearly 20lb of roach, hopefully I'd be in for a good day today.

I got to the river and parked up, Heardy had drawn peg 125 and was already moaning it was unfishable, Steve P was in peg 126 and Rob had drawn peg 129, both good pegs and they wanted a side bet with me. I walked down to have a look at my peg and it looked gorgeous, the river was up and pushing through but as my peg is on a bend I had a lovely big slack. I just had time to make myself comfy and set up a single rig, a one gram Drennan Trio with 0.10mm bottom and a Kamasan B511 size 20. The start time arrived and I shipped out to 6 metres with a single caster on the hook and held back, after a couple of minutes a positive bite saw me swing in a 3oz roach and when I had it's twin next chuck all the early signs were looking good.
Peg 128 looked gorgeous
It's a big peg and with the extra water on the river, the flow in the slacker water was all over the place and if I'm honest I wasn't too sure how to best feed the peg. I was feeding to my left and also dripping some casters in on my right where the main flow comes into the bend. There were quite a few roach topping all over the peg and it certainly felt like there were a lot of fish in the swim. My next fish was a tiny gudgeon but then I couldn't get a bite at 6 metres, I tried double maggot but that just resulted in another little gobie. I added a couple of sections and went out to 11.5 metres and I had a couple of roach quite quickly before I was left scratching my head again. After an hour I only had about eight fish and some of them were tiny, this wasn't going to plan!

When I'd caught well last time I had nearly all my fish on three sections to hand, I kept trying this line but apart from the odd roach all I could catch was tiny gudgeon, there seem to be loads of them about which is a great sign for the future but it wasn't helping me much now! The second hour was slower than the first and I was going nowhere fast. I stuck at it hoping perhaps the river was fishing hard but nobody was walking which was a tad worrying. There were still quite a few roach topping so why wasn't I catching?

A couple of bank walkers turned up and while they were behind me I had a nice roach from the 6 metre line which I netted to be on the safe side and next chuck I had a smaller one and they said I was doing well and they'd only seen the odd gudgeon caught as they'd walked down from Redbridge. My purple patch didn't last long and after they left I went back to struggling. I found I could catch a couple of fish from one area before I had to try somewhere else but it was hard going. I tried 11.5 and 13 metres but only had odd fish with the most productive lines being 6 metres and three sections to hand.

Going into the last hour the river had fined down a bit and I had a run of fish on the short line including a decent dace before having a couple of better roach at 6 metres, with the light starting to fade I really thought the fish had arrived but in the next twenty minutes I never added another fish! Then with five minutes to go I had three roach and missed a bite, what a frustrating day! I finished up with 44 fish and hoped I had between 4-5lb although I did have quite a few tiny gudgeon.

I had the scales again so packed my kit up and walked back to the car to get them, Heardy said he'd really struggled and had 82 fish but they were all tiny, Rob turned up and said he'd only had 22 fish and Steve said he reckoned he'd had about 3.5lb. As we walked down to weigh Rob he admitted he'd caught a chub and lost one as well, the needle settled on 4lb 13oz and I thought I might be close to that. I was next to weigh and a bit disappointed when my weight was called at 3lb 12oz. They went to weigh Steve in while I took the rest of my kit to the car, he weighed 3lb 8oz which was bang on his estimate.
Rob's 4lb 13oz included a nice chub
Heardy had weighed 5lb 8oz and Bruce had 4lb 6oz from peg 124 which meant I had finished well down in my section which had been tight again today but I couldn't help but feel I'd wasted a great peg today. As Rob had beaten me and I'd beaten Steve P, it was 1-1 on the side bet front so I phoned Hurf to see how he'd done. He'd caught a good chub and along with some smaller fish, he'd weighed 7lb 4oz which was top weight in that section meaning he'd won the match and taken another pound off me. Neil Dring and Big Frank both weighed 4lb 7oz up there to jointly win the section and Neil lost a big chub which would have seen him push Hurf's weight.
Hurf won his first match, well done mate
Back at the results and it was confirmed Hurf was top on the day and he said that's the first match he's ever won, so a massive well done mate and I'm sure it'll be the first of many. Heardy had 'struggled' his way to second and Rob was third. I'm really surprised the weights were so low today as the river looked really good but it's really fair fishing at the moment and the weights are really close.

1 - Steve Hurford (Ilminster) - 7lb 4oz
2 - Martin Heard (Tiverton) - 5lb 8oz
3 - Rob Cox (Ilminster) - 4lb 13oz

A - Neil Dring (Ilminster) and Frank Woodard (Ilminster) - 4lb 7oz
B - Bruce Hunt (Tiverton) - 4lb 6oz

It's early days in the league but after three matches and dropping the worst result, Heardy leads with two points followed by Big Frank, Fieldy and Rob all on four. I'm just behind on five but can't afford any more slip ups if I'm going to stand any chance in the league.

One last thing, Fieldy had a ruffe from peg 120 a couple of weeks ago and Hurf had one from the same peg today, in all my 35 years of fishing the Isle I've never seen or heard of one being caught before, where have they come from?

Next up - Round four of the V.E.S. league

What's new - New additions to the rogues gallery

Check Out - My latest review and the next fishery focus coming very soon