“All work and no play…”: Paul Sharman

Our Photographer of the Month is “always on the lookout for spontaneous photo opportunities as they often help to tell a local story”.

Paul Sharman has been a freelance outdoor writer and photographer for over 20 years, starting his career in California but now back in his native UK, where he lives just outside Inverness.

His specialism is somewhat niche, covering the wealth of amazing fishing destinations around the world for specialist magazines, books, newspapers and websites. But it’s not just about the fish – while on assignment, Paul seeks to deliver a rounded story from each location that covers local wildlife, scenery and culture.

Here he shares some of his favourite destinations.

The Azores – Europe’s answer to the Hawaiian Islands

São Miguel (aka the green island), the main island of the Azores, has fast become a favourite destination of mine. I have travelled there four times now to cover their annual big game fishing tournament.

Blue marlin and tuna are the quarry of the boats that leave the main port of Ponta Delgada each day at first light and once you are hooked up to a fish weighing hundreds of pounds, it’s a real one-on-one battle between man and beast, with just some nylon line and a bent stick between you.

Being a third of the way across the Atlantic towards the Americas, these largely pristine volcanic islands are home to great produce. Of course, you’ll find fantastic fresh fish at the daily market, but São Miguel is also home to the only large tea plantations in Europe (excepting a small one in Cornwall).

Another interesting feature of the islands for plant lovers is the proliferation of hydrangeas everywhere, often used as hedging alongside roads and in fields. The mass flowering over the summer months is a real spectacle.

Belize – Jungle life at Monkey River

I am always on the lookout for spontaneous photo opportunities while on the road as they often help to tell a more interesting local story. This little trio of girls are Mayan and we met them in a small village that we stopped at en route to look for macaws up in the jungle.

The rancher and his cattle were nothing out of the ordinary initially, just an interesting side note of Belize country life blocking our way out of the village one day, until I asked about the shotgun slung over his shoulder. ‘Oh, that’s for the jaguars,’ he said casually. Yikes!

The mangroves along the coastline where the jungle meets the sea are rich fishing grounds and these strong and handsome fish are snook. They love to hide under the mangrove branches, dashing out to snatch an unwary fish or crab, before returning to their lair. Careful casting is called for if you wish to catch a specimen like this one.

Falkland Islands – A little bit of Britain at the end of the world

The chance to visit the Falkland Islands was very special, both to cover the famous sea trout fishing, but also to experience what life is like on these rugged islands way down in the Southern Hemisphere.

That icon of British engineering, the Landrover, reigns supreme in all its historic guises, and can be found rusting away in garages all over the islands where they have a tough life. There is very precious little tarmac on the Falklands once you are out of the capital, Port Stanley.

Getting anywhere in the Falklands is often an experience. My guide (left) and I bounced across many a rough field and along the rocky shoreline in his Landrover, before reaching this fishing destination. Combining work and play is the passion driving what I do.

Reminders of the infamous Falklands War are visible in many places, but the statue of Britannia just outside Port Stanley, shot silhouetted against the sun setting on this corner of the empire, was very poignant to me. I set up the shot and waited for the colour to reach its peak.

The little red Islander aircraft are used to shuttle people (and sometimes even livestock) between islands – a bit like a local bus service. What is not always obvious, though, is where the ‘runway’ is. In this case it was the greener, flatter piece of ground to the left, which was far from flat.

Whaling is an important part of the island’s history and the local museum still paints a very visual image of those days, and the brutal weapons used by man to harvest these incredible creatures.

Lake District, UK – Blue skies and brown trout

The chance to explore a corner of my native Britain for the first time was too good to miss, and I was delighted to get the opportunity to capture some of the famous scenery around the Langdale area of the Lake District.

There were plenty of points of interest set against the beautiful backdrop, including this very alpine-looking ancient stone barn and one of the famous local Herdwick sheep, a hardy breed that does well in the often-harsh conditions here.

It was the local native brown trout that had drawn me to the area and this stunning specimen had some amazing colours to it, displayed quickly against the fly angler’s ‘tools of the trade’ before being carefully returned to its river home.

Mexico – Yucatan and Ascension Bay

For saltwater fly anglers, Ascension Bay is one of the best-known fishing destinations in the world to target what is called a Flats Grand Slam – a three-species catch of bonefish, tarpon and permit in one day.

The local Mayan guides are experts at finding and spotting the fish. Hours spent out in the harsh tropical sun demands lots of skin protection for the guide and anglers alike.

But it isn’t just fish that live here. The vast sand and mud flats of Ascension Bay at the far southern end of the Yucatan peninsula are home to the Si’an Kaan Biosphere Reserve, a haven for wildlife of all types from flamingos to crocodiles and manatees. The aptly named Lizard Island did not disappoint, with black spiny-tailed iguanas spotted everywhere.

Seychelles – Alphonse Island

One of the remotest islands in the Seychelles, far-flung Alphonse Island is home to a luxury resort and fishing operation. Bicycles are provided to get around this lush paradise, making for an impromptu photo opportunity amidst all the shades of verdant green.

The call of the Seychelles for anglers are the seemingly endless sand flats and reef edges where you can wade about all day in saltwater as warm as a bath waiting for a hook-up and a bent rod like this one. Pure paradise indeed.