Catch fish with Mike Ladle.

Catch Fish with
Mike Ladle


Information Page


For anyone unfamiliar with the site always check the FRESHWATER, SALTWATER and TACK-TICS pages. The Saltwater page now extends back as a record of over several years of (mostly) sea fishing and may be a useful guide as to when to fish. The Freshwater stuff is also up to date now. I keep adding to both. These pages are effectively my diary and the latest will usually be about fishing in the previous day or two. As you see I also add the odd piece from my friends and correspondents if I've not been doing much. The Tactics pages which are chiefly 'how I do it' plus a bit of science are also updated regularly and (I think) worth a read (the earlier ones are mostly tackle and 'how to do it' stuff).

Where shall I fish?

Strictly speaking the title of this piece should be 'What sort of fishing shall I do today?' It came to mind after a little episode earlier in the week. One of my email contacts, Rob (not the Rob I usually go fishing with) was coming to Dorset for a week's holiday and I'd arranged to spend an hour on the beach with him and his fishing pal. It turned out to be a bit of a disaster.

I'd arranged to meet the lads at the beach at half-past-four in the morning so I got the gear ready for an early start. As it happened they had much further to drive than I did but that didn't seem to daunt them. When I went to bed that evening the weather didn't look too good but I was still game to give it a try. Anyway, I was woken, not by the alarm clock but by the phone ringing. It was Rob and apparently the weather had deteriorated and they could barely get the caravan door open against the driving wind and rain. We had to cancel. To be honest I wasn't too surprised and it was a bit of a relief to know that I wouldn't be standing on the cliff top in a howling gale waiting for them to arrive.

Apparently things got worse for Rob. Only a few minutes after we had spoken he had to drive all the way home for a medical emergency. The cancelled fishing trip paled into insignificance. Later in the week I had another phone call from my new friend. It seemed that the emergency had resolved itself and that Rob and his dad were going to come back down to have the last couple of days of their caravan booking. We arranged another early morning session. Now came the tricky bit - I had to decide where to go. First things first, it was a neap tide and it would be low water at dawn. Secondly, as you'll have gathered, we'd had some pretty rough weather so there was likely to be lots (and I mean LOTS) of weed on the beaches. It would be FRESH weed so no chance of Coelopa maggots in it until the spring tides a week later. I opted for a little bay that often holds fish at low water provided there is weed and Idotea in the water's edge.

Sure enough the lads arrived 'on the dot' so we introduced ourselves and we set off to hike to our mark. As I'd guessed there were many tonnes of freshly torn up kelp and red algae heaped along the shoreline. However, when we arrived at the mark - NO WEED!!!! NO FISH!!! Clearly I'd got got it wrong. The water wasn't too mucky so we decided to give it a go but it was soon apparent that neither the woodlice nor the fish were there. I stayed for an hour or so before returning home while the others fished on. I felt really disappointed that we hadn't, at least, seen a few bass (usually they are quite visible) but that, as they say is fishing.

The following day the weather deteriorated again. Torrential rain and gales of wind. I had this email from my mate Bill -


I had no plans at all to fish today but by 4pm I was going nuts (I think I have fished every Sunday since July) so I thought I'd pop down for an hour or so for a look in the pi$$ing rain and howling south easterly. The sea was pretty coloured with a fair chop and tons of fresh kelp in the water out to about 5 - 10m, TOTALLY different from yesterday. I saw a good fish in the weed and a fin about half an hour later.

I fished with a Redgill which was fairly easy as the belt of kelp was tight to the shore with none further out so I could swim the gill over the top of the worst of it. It did get snarled 50% of the time but I can live with that. I then tried a Slug-Gill with a cone weight nose from the rocks. It was pretty slippery as the kelp was all over the rocks. After a few casts wallop and my rod hooped over and a fish started taking line - lots of it. I didn't tighten the drag as I quite enjoyed it.

I started to make my way back to the kelp covered shingle to beach the fish and in the process fell over whacking my ribs on a boulder. In between falling over and getting back up a ton of weed got wrapped round my line, so I did eventually tighten the drag and got the fish into the shore by riding it up a wave only to find a bank of kelp in the way what a nightmare! I dragged the fish a further 10ft along the beach and got it on to dry land at last. By this time I was actually shaking. It was a whopper, by my standards at least, and the best so far this year by far. I measured and weighed it, 63cm & 6lb 4Oz and it was hell of a fat fish.

I put her back and fished on with my rather knackered Slug-Gill for another half hour or so and called it quits.

After SO MANY blanks I'm still on a high (3 hours later)!!!!!!

Anyway no more reports from me for a while, I'm off Wednesday, back the 13th.

See you in May I hope,

All the best,


You have to say - that was a well deserved fish! All this led me to consider how I decide where and when to go fishing. Over the years I've made it my business to try and maximise the chances of catching something worthwhile whenever I go out. I try to fish short sessions at times and places that I can predict the possibility of fish with confidence. Obviously (as in the above account) I sometimes get it wrong, but this is my approach.

Firstly I consider the time of the year. There's no point fishing for mullet or bass if they're elsewhere. Although I generally prefer sea fishing I'm not too proud to have a go for something else. It can be very pleasant to dangle a livebait for pike; to flick a lure for perch, chub or trout; to cast a line for dace, grayling or seatrout or even to wait with on tenterhooks for a carp to suck in my breadcrust.

When it comes to saltwater there are many other things to take into account. Take just one or two examples. Firstly safety. Although, over the years, I've done some stupid things I never take chances with the sea. If there's likely to be a big swell that may wash me off a ledge I simply don't go - it's not worth it. Nor do I stand under crumbling cliffs if I can avoid it - I've had a couple of rods destroyed by falling rocks and I wouldn't like it to be my head that was crushed. Secondly, there's tides. Fish have to eat, whatever the stage or state of tide so there is always likely to be something, somewhere that you can try for with confidence. For example, the top of the springs produces surface feeding bass and mullet, the bottom of the neaps (and the springs) can be good for 'wood louse' feeders. There are numerous other examples on ebbing and flowing conditions. Thirdly, I always feel that wind strength and direction are critical. Of course, on an irregular coastline you can nearly always find a bit of shelter (if you want to). Falling, coloured seas after an onshore blow consistently provide good bottom fishing with bait, flat calms can be excellent for using surface popping lures, a bit of a chop will conceal you from fish in the margins and for plugging/spinning it is best to be neither too dirty nor too clear. Lastly, the time of day is an essential consideration. Although there's always a chance of any fish any time, some species feed best in the dark (conger, dogfish, pouting, scad), some in the daylight (mackerel, mullet, wrasse, garfish, plaice), some at any time of the day (bass, cod, etc.) but some of the latter types and many others are essentially 'crepuscular' and will take best at change of light (bass, pollack, coalfish and the like). There are plenty of other things to consider and there's nothing like getting to know your own stretch of coast but combinations of these four factors are enough to be going on with (at least they are for me).

If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you!' get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to -

Weed midden.

After a storm the beaches can be well covered in weed.

More weed midden.

It will take a week or so for this mighty midden to cultivate a few trillion maggots and then it will need a big spring tide to release them to the fish.

Weed in water.

This stuff is 'woodlouse heaven' and is easily fishable with a weedless lure but you won't always catch.

What a result!

Bill's big, fat, female bass caught on his home-made Slug-Gill from the woodlouse conditions - obviously ready to spawn but in fine nick.