Richi Oliver

Richi Oliver is a Southampton-based angler known for his pioneering efforts and record setting achievements.  With over 2200 miles paddled in the past 4 years, Richi can often be found on the water in search of shark or Conger eels.  The later species bears a strong tie to Richi’s name, as he was the first kayak angler to be accepted by the Conger Club of Great Britain.  Richi is also a member of the Ocean Kayak UK Fishing Team.

What first drew you to this style of angling? When was that?

I was fishing from the shore at my usual spot, and a guy paddled past me on a sit on top kayak.  It was the first time I’d ever seen one.  I immediately thought, “I’m going to buy one and go fishing from it.”  I bought one within a few days.  That was in 2005.

Do you remember the first fish that you caught from a kayak?

Indeed I do; it was the humble mackerel.  I would only generally catch a few from the beach, and that first day I came home with a bagful, grinning from ear to ear and hooked on kayak fishing.

Your name is well associated with the pursuit of Conger eels, a species not well known in many parts of the world. Tell us a bit about this creature, and why it is that you have developed a passion for catching them.

Conger Eels can grow to over 100 lbs, and are mainly found on rocky ground or wrecks.  Powerful creatures and worthy opponents, they employ tactics such as swimming backwards and performing a crocodile-like death roll on the surface to try to avoid capture.

I had been fishing in the evening for Bass at one of my favourite spots, a rocky reef that runs parallel to the shore for over a mile. I hooked something big, and it was impossible to get it to the surface with the tackle I was using.  I did manage to get the fish moving, but shortly after that one head shake my weak Bass trace was trashed and the fish was gone.  After a bit of research, I discovered that the likely suspect was a Conger Eel and I decided to go equipped with the right tackle and target them.  I use a single heavy duty de-barbed hook with half a mackerel on a 200lb nylon trace.  After a few trips I hooked my first Conger Eel, and it was a pretty harrowing experience as I was solo and it was in the dark.  Since that first one, I have had loads of great trips targeting them.  There are not many fish that are as powerful in British waters, and the big ones are a challenge from the kayak.

What food and/or music fuels your drive to the put-in?

With me it is music that fuels my drive and only one type of music – reggae.  I even take an mp3 player afloat with me.  Most of my trips are solo adventures, and a bit of music helps me a great deal.

Who, specifically, is shaping the future of kayak angling?

The people that are pushing the boundaries, these are the guys that inspire.  Whether they are out doing big trips or catching big fish, they are inspiring the masses and shaping the future by showing that things that people never thought were feasible or possible to do from fishing kayaks certainly are.

With regard to kayak angling, what issues are important to you? What, if anything, can be done about them?

Important for me is that the knowledge and experience gained over the years is passed on to beginners in the sport.

Barring money or logistics, what is your dream kayak angling trip?

Charter a plane for Ascension Island and fill it with kayak fishing friends.

What’s in your milk crate?

Extreme kayak fishing!

You hold the record, as it pertains to fishing kayaks, for the fastest circumnavigation of the Ilse of Wight. In under 13.5 hours, you covered an astonishing distance of nearly 60 miles. Tell us about that day.

I had done the same paddle a year previous; it took 26 hours then, but I did stop to fish and meet people on the way round. A lot of lessons were learned that trip.  I was convinced that I could get the time down by a fair margin if I took it more seriously.  I started training in the New Year, building up from 10 to 30 mile training paddles.  I picked a much bigger tide than the previous year, even though it would mean setting off at 2am!

Luckily enough on the day planned for, the weather was perfect with low wind speeds, and I set off confident of making a good time.  I did the first quarter of the trip in around 3 hours, but between there and the halfway stage I was struggling to stay awake  (I always struggle to get enough rest when I’m excited about a big trip).

I eventually got to the halfway stage in around 6 1/2 hours.  This is where the numb backside and, normally with me, a sore wrist kicks in, but being halfway already the willpower comes in to play.

The hardest thing about marathon paddling has got to be pacing yourself, and there is no getting away from the fact that the 2nd 30 mile stint is harder than the first.  On the halfway to 3/4 stage, I was paddling as if on auto pilot, really feeling the aches and pains but with the goal almost in sight.  It was great to round the rocky outcrop that signified the last leg through a busy stretch of water.  My GPS battery went flat around this time, and at the end of the journey, I overshot my launch point and had to paddle back uptide about half a mile.  I was elated to complete the trip in 13 hrs 25 mins, almost halving the previous years time.

I also completed the trip a year after hoping to get the time down to 12 hours, and was on schedule right round to the 3/4 way point when I was met by a 25mph headwind.  I eventually finished in 13hrs 40mins.  You can plan everything but the weather!

Tell us about your best day on the water.

It was a night.

Big Conger Eels are one of my favourite targets.  I had decided to fish a wreck marked 3 miles offshore and 7 miles from the launch point.  You know there are those days when you sense something special is going to happen.  This day was one of those.  I’d been making rigs, planning, and getting excited about it all week.  I ended up hooking 9 and managing to get 5 to the surface, including fish of around the 50lb mark.  It was the best Congering session I’ve ever had.

What is the kayak fishing lifestyle?

Watching the weather the whole week hoping that the winds will be low enough to paddle at the weekend.

Tell us a story, any story.

It was the perfect day for shark fishing – flat calm and sunny with very little surf.  Myself and my buddy had been out for a few hours, and had a couple of sharks hit our baits but spit the bait, then my buddy managed to hook one.  We never saw this fish, but we estimate it to be in excess of 200lb.  It was towing my buddy and his kayak along at 5mph.  I got him on video for a while, then I stopped filming and paddled up to him to assist, and we were both getting towed along at over 3mph.  In the end, the shark took nearly every inch of line from my buddy’s reel before he had no option but to pull for a break.  Our hearts were pumping and neither of us will ever forget that day.

Many kayak anglers refer to you as a pioneer and a legend. These associations, when coupled with your propensity to give advice and post trip reports, place upon you a label of kayak fishing ambassador. What does this title mean to you?

It means a great deal to me.  I’m proud of my kayaking achievements and I’m not finished yet.If I can inspire people by doing what I enjoy,  and if posting a report about it can save them a bit of cash or a lot of time or just steer them on the right track with the right advice it’s all good; it must be the easiest and most enjoyable ambassador’s job in the world.

What does the future hold for you?

Principal target at the moment is to be the first kayak angler in the world to catch a Porbeagle Shark; myself and a buddy have been targeting them for a few years now, and we are confident that this year will be the year we do it…look out for us on the TV news.

8 Responses to “Richi Oliver”

  1. Mark Crame says:

    …every time I tell myself ‘never go out with Richi again, never go out with Richi again…’ You just KNOW it’s going to be a big sea, a strong wind, a long way and within ten minutes of being anchored he’s off to the horizon again! I swear he survives on Clockwork Oranges. Nice write up mate!

  2. Ian Harris says:

    Nice one Richi. Your epic journeys around the IOW are the stuff of legend. See you soon hopefully.


  3. Rob Appleby says:

    Good reading Richi… see you on the water chasing those Porgies!

  4. Dan Cooke says:

    Shame we never managed to get out last week due to it blowing a gale, loved the write up and hope to be out fishing with you soon. I can learn a good deal :) and I know we will have a laugh

  5. Andrew Parry says:

    Richi is a legend in UK kayak fishing and a thoroughly nice bloke too – he does stuff most of us can only dream about. I’ve launched with him a few times, one day I might even get far enough out to fish with him too :)

  6. Lozz Taylor says:

    If you ever stopped paddling and dropped a line over your results would eclipse us all.

  7. hungry fisherman says:

    he plays a mean game of water polo too ^^

  8. hungry fisherman says:

    he paddles a mean water polo too ^^

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