Catch fish with Mike Ladle.

Catch Fish with
Mike Ladle


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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).

Tricky bassing.

My friend Bill Fagg had done a recce of the shoreline on the previous day. I'll quote his emailed comments - "Fished 1300 - 1500. No fish seen apart from very small mullet in the shallows, water fairly clear." In short, it wasn't great. Anyway, despite the lack of fish, the tides were building and we knew that there was maggoty weed in one or two spots so Bill and I decided to give it another go. We opted to go along the shore in the opposite direction to Bill's previous trip. He picked me up on his way to the coast so we were on the shore well before high water - which is usually critical for maggot feeding mullet and/or bass. As usual Bill had his spinning rod armed with his trusty Slug-Gill and I was carrying both my spinning gear with a large soft plastic and the fly rod, floating line and maggot fly. In the pocket of my waders was a small tub of maggots to decorate my flies.

It was a sunny evening with an offshore wind so we were pretty hot and sweaty by the time we arrived at our selected spot. There was a decent midden of rotting weed but no sign of any fish so we walked another half-mile or so to see if there were any more likely places. there weren't, so we had a few casts with the lures and neither of us had a bite. The only sign of fish was three big mullet which swam past me heading in the direction that we had come from. Taking the mullet as a hint we decided to tramp all the way back to the big weed midden. We were almost there when Bill pointed out some bass swirling at maggots in the small breaking waves only a foot or two out from the edge. he stopped to try and catch one while I pressed on back to the prospective 'hot spot'.

Sure enough when I got there (a further 100 yards or so) I found a few mullet feeding close in so I picked up the fly rod, baited my fly with a few maggots and began to cast to them. It quickly became apparent that this was not going to be easy. There was no problem putting a fly into the mullet shoals but as soon as it landed the line, cast and fly became plastered with slivers of slimy green, white and brown weed. Nightmare! Of course with the fish showing and egging me on I couldn't resist flogging away for a while but it was frustrating to say the least. I had only a single tiny pluck in the space of perhaps half-an-hour. By now it was about high water and looking back along the shore I could see Bill assiduously spinning. Every so often he fiddled about in his bag and I presumed that he was having the same weed problems that I was and changing lures to try and overcome them.

As the tide began to ebb I noticed a flock of black headed gulls on the water some distance away. I was still having no joy so I decided to go towards them and see whether the gulls had found a better spot than me. I picked up the bag and the two rods and set off towards the flock of birds. About half way there I noticed fish swirling in a real carpet of maggots and weed fragments. I stopped to watch and as I stood a big, prickly fin and a humped grey back broke the water - they were bass and good ones. I found a rock to perch on and out went the fly line but it was just as before. In an instant the maggot fly was covered in bits of weed, it was awful. Time for a rethink. If these were bass perhaps they'd take a 'fry fly'. I left my rocky perch and returned to the bag for a root about. On top of my flies was a small, white, Delta eel which has caught me lots of fish in the past. I tied it on to the five-pound nylon that I use for maggot fly fishing more in hope than in expectation, knowing that it would probably pick up crappy weed even more quickly than the poly-fly had done.

I glanced up and noticed that Bill was still spinning further back along the shore but I hadn't seen him catch anything so I wasn't tempted to return. I mounted the big rock and began to cast - weed, weed, weed and more weed. After every chuck I had to haul in the line and clean up the 'fly' and the line before making another cast. The fact that the bass were still rolling and guzzling maggots kept me at it even though I felt it was hopeless. Time for another back cast. Whooaaaa! Everything had gone solid. My brain said that the Delta must have caught on a rock or a mass of weed. I bent the rod to see if it would come free and then I noticed that the line was slowly moving to my left. It was a fish!

I was stunned but I hung on with the rod well bent to see what would happen. The line looked like a string of signal flags, it was draped with weedy pennants but the fly reel was turning and the fish was making its way out to sea. I shouted loudly (I can do that) for Bill to let him know that I was 'in' and he waved a hand to show that he'd heard me but he didn't come. I wasn't too bothered as it looked as though I was in for the long haul with my fish. Once or twice it lifted its big spiny dorsal fin just to show me who was boss but I knew that I simply had to be patient. After a few minutes I shouted for Bill again and looked round to see that he was just returning a silvery fish to the water. This time he went back to his bag, grabbed the camera and began to trot and stumble towards me along the shore. My fish was not in the mood to give in. Between periods of wallowing close in it set off out to sea, stripping the entire fly line down to the backing with a run towards the horizon. Each time I managed to ease it back towards me. On its third outward run it almost reached a big patch of wrack which was now sticking above the water but thankfully it stopped just short and I managed once again to bring it back in. This was the final long swim and it was then a matter of keeping the line taut as the fish cruised back and forth along the shore. Bill was snapping away with the camera and I was muttering curses about ******* fish and aching shoulders. Now I was thankful that I had someone to give me a hand. I applied as much pressure as I dared and drew the bass into shallow water. Bill plunged in and grabbed it. He dropped it, went white as a sheet, picked it up again and heaved it onto the weedmidden. We had it!

Bill brought his ruler to measure the bass - 68cm - so no monster but, in good nick, about eight pounds and a really good fish on the fly gear with the five pound tippet. Bill took one or two more pictures as I put the fish back and I could see his hands shaking with the excitement as I'm sure I was too. All in all a very interesting evening even though we only landed two fish between us.

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Surface skimming mullet - the bass roll and swirl as they take maggots.

I'm in, with the #8wt fly rod well bent.

Still in - note another fish is swirling close in just behind my left leg.

The fish makes one of its runs - it was hair raising stuff.

Nice bass!

Back she goes - now you can see the weedy stuff we had to contend with.

Maggot city, this is what the fish love.