Catch fish with Mike Ladle.

Catch Fish with
Mike Ladle

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SEA FISHING

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).

What a fish!

I have quite a few 'epals' that I've accumulated over the many years I've been posting web pages. At least we're all socially distanced and quite often we swap useful information about fishing. In early July I had an email about bass fishing from a new contact - Richard Barlow. I think that our subsequent exchange of emails (slightly edited) might be of interest. I've used italics to try and show where emails begin or end. I'll start with Richard's first 'e-letter' -

Hi Mike,

Iím really enjoying the wealth of information on your site- thank you. I moved to Wales three years ago, and the change in my fishing has been somewhat humbling. I spent forty years fishing the midland reservoirs, and caught more than my fair share of fish. Now I have a real challenge with wild fish. Iíve caught salmon and sewin, but was already fairly proficient in that field, thanks to fishing holidays to Scotland. The bass are proving far more elusive.

I mainly fish the estuary, and have had success with fish in the 2-4lb, on lure and fly, but have only had follows from the better fish. I wear polaroids, and usually can see the fish Iím covering, and it seems the better fish are on their own. This lack of competition seems to be my demise. When trout fishing we would drift open water, looking for pods of quality, over-wintered fish. These fish have seen it all, and it was not uncommon to find more than one fly in their mouths. However, if you could land your flies in the pod (6-10 fish), they would pull your arm off, whatever the fly, even if it was falling apart. As you say, fish and birds must both know our imitations arenít the real thing, and Iíve seen thousands of terns and gulls turn away from my dries at the last minute, not one has picked it up. Fortunately the fish are only seeing it from below.

I wish I had read what you think about braid v mono earlier. In my determination to track down, and catch better fish Iím targeting rocky beaches that need a walk and a climb to get to. Great looking spots, but I started getting concerned about my precious braid, which was being damaged by barnacles etc. Iíve been using my salmon spinning gear, and I rely on a well filled spool to cast the tiny floating Raps that I like using. So, I changed the spool to 10lb maxima mono, and over two trips failed to hook decent fish on three occasions. Twice I spotted them in the wave as they took, and they were decent, if not big, fish. My hooks were sharp so I can only blame the mono, all three pulled the rod right round. Damn!

Anyhow, Iíve bought a bulk spool of 'J braid x8' to keep the cost down, and I will use a longer fluoro leader to reduce line damage. I have bought (but yet to receive) a (used) SureSpin MkII on ebay (which is how I came upon your site), and a Stradic, so I can retire my salmon gear before it is wrecked by the salt. The estuary is a much kinder environment than the rocky beaches, where I seem to get everything soaked. Iím really looking forward to having a longer rod, the extra 2ft will make it so much easier to keep my line above the waves. I may even try a little float fishing, which I enjoy tremendously, though lure fishing suits my temperament the best.

Anyhow, like most fishermen, Iím waffling. Just wanted to say thanks, and that I like your no-nonsense approach to fishing.

All the best,

Richard

.... and my reply -

Hi Richard,

Thanks for the email.

A couple of things seem to stand out from your account and I'll come to them in a moment. However, no one catches big bass all the time (whatever they may say). There are definite seasons, times, places and conditions that give a better chance of decent fish. As a rule of thumb - early and late in the season (April-June, September - November): first and last light: rocky-weedy ground: plenty of water movement and a bit of colour would be first choice. Despite this it is rarely hopeless, and I've had big fish in flat calm, gin clear, shallow water in mid-summer.

I have a small group of pals who fish this area and we exchange information on every trip. As a rule, by using standard 'bass spinning' tactics with typical (10cm to 15cm) lures, we catch fish of the same size range as yours. Sometimes we will catch the odd bigger fish and on rare occasions we make a bag of good ones - usually at times when the fish are on migration (spring and autumn). What I have found is that there are frequently bigger fish present but for some reason(?) they don't often take the lures. The best way to improve the chance of bigger bass (say 2-5kg) is to fish live fish, big dead fish/crab/squid or possibly larger plugs, poppers or soft-baits. Natural baits consistently produce the biggest fish.

To come to your description - it seems that you are generally: 1. Fishing clear water as you can often see the fish. 2. You are normally using small (salmon/trout-size) plugs. Both of these facts will tend to produce smaller bass. These days I only use braided lines with a metre or so of clear nylon trace (about 6kg for spinning and 8kg for bait fishing). My son Richard (a good angler) ties lures direct to his braid and says there's no need for a spinning trace, but old habits die hard with me. These days I generally spin with weedless soft plastics of 20cm or so in length, unless I know that the fish are preoccupied with small baitfish or maggots or Idotea etc. Even then I sometimes stick to the larger lures in the hope of selecting for a big fish (It doesn't always work).

Anyway, keep in touch and let me know how you get on. Just remember that bass are at least as easy to scare as trout or salmon and that they often feed within metres (or centimetres) of the water's edge. If I've got the wrong end of the stick or if you have any questions feel free to ask.

All the best,

Mike

.... and then -

Hi Mike

Thanks for the reassurances Mike. I take your point about big bait for big bass. I'll certainly have a go float fishing any blennies etc I can find at low tide on the rocky beaches that I've started fishing. Yes, the water is generally clear in the estuary when I fish as I don't have much success with anything other than tiny schoolies when its coloured with lots of river water. You're spot on saying the bass like movement, I've found if the sand is washing out from under my feet the fish will appear, unfortunately they don't hang around, so it's one or two only. On the rocky beaches I fish you do need a chop to stir it up a bit, and if there's no weed on your line none of us catch. My trout fishing has taught me to stay low, and I credit the bass with more wariness than trout.

Unfortunately most of 'my' estuary marks are well fished, which probably accounts for the follows I've got from better fish. I know not to wade, and let the fish come right in when they're on the fry, though often it is spoilt by someone who does- on two occasions fishing guides and their clients! You don't even need your fly line in the water, I kneel down about 5m from the water. Great fun but no big fish, though I've seen an eight pounder taken on one of my flies. (you never know whether to feel pleased or just envious when that happens!)

I do have some bigger plugs- jap copies, but I find the DoLive sticks more relaxing to fish than continually casting, and as I used to say when trout fishing - "you can't catch them in the air". If your flies are in the water 30% more you will catch 30% more fish. Well, nearly. I will probably do more of low light, or night, fishing. Previously I've looked for the 'right' tide coinciding with pre-dawn, but they don't come along as often as you think. Evenings are out for me because I'm naturally an early riser.

Hopefully I'll be able to report back in the autumn, meantime I'll check out your books, thanks again.

P.S Just got your rod, and now I know why there were 33 people watching the auction, which is what drew it to my attention. A proper fishing rod! I paid (with postage) about the same price new (and the rod is nearly as-new), when it was last on sale. Surely an indication of the regard in which it is held. Shame, because it will soon become tatty in my hands, and I usually give new rods a wire-wooling. Although all my reservoir rods are very fast blanks (distance is everything sometimes on the bank) I love to fish with something more forgiving, and which bends with my kind of fish!

Richard

.... I replied -

Hi Richard,

Hope I didn't seem too 'knowitall' about the bass fishing. It is simply that a lot of people I see here in Dorset (sometimes ones who should know better) will simply plunge in, wave their arms about and shine headlamps on the water - often they go fishless. I've had decent bass on the fly but I expect the best flies would be something like the 'budgies' they often use for pike. I sometimes use little plastic Deltas on the fly rod when the bass are fry feeding but my fly gear is usually kept for surface feeding mullet.

My favourite live-baits are mackerel - any size. I just nick a big circle hook through the top lip and let them swim free but it can be a waiting game as you would imagine.

Have you tried weedless soft plastics? They really are the best solution to weed (either growing or loose in the water). I fish them leadless myself but my pal Bill generally adds a cone lead and he catches a lot of bass. The only trouble is that the ones you can buy are often too small. The EvoStix Redgills are very effective. They will tempt fish of all sizes and with a Texposer hook they seem to be good hookers and pretty durable. Fiiish Black Minnows are popular and with the lightweight resin head they are good bass catchers. However, they are expensive, a bit fiddly to use and rather fragile.

Hope the rod does what you want. I'm still using the prototype after all these years, it has a couple of new rings (I broke them in falls) but I'm still happy with it. I used to use a 12ft, 1.75lb T.C. carp rod for spinning (I loved it) but that was thought to be too extreme for the market of the day by Veal's Mail Order, so they compromised a little.

Mike

Here's the latest email from Richard. Clearly there ARE some very good fish where he is fishing -

Hi Mike

I promised you I'd report back on how I was faring in my quest for bass. The couple of marks I've found are just what you describe, and they are also a decent 30 minute walk, which has to be good. I've fished them both in daylight and dark, with daylight only giving tiny schoolies. The schoolies get respectable around sunset, and with luck I get a fish or two around the 50cm mark, though three weeks back I was spurred on by a 64cm fish, my biggest by far up to then. I had that on a Spittin Wire surface popper/slider lure (95mm = less than 4" long), fished static, or rather not static. I was listening to the ongoing rain of rock falling down the cliffs when a big lump came crashing down, and as I turned round to look I was on! I've caught most fish on dolive sticks just twitched back, or a 6" bass stick in white. I was told to just wind them back very slowly, just so I can feel the action on the rod tip, and that seems to work well. The night before last I had the attached fish on one, which was a smidgeon short of 80cm. Just like you say,stars out, knee deep water, boulders,weed- and fish! Before I left I looked at the now exposed spot where I hooked my fish, and realised how lucky I was to land it. After a couple of runs I decided enough was enough and bent right into it, and fortunately got it in on the first wave.I was so excited after catching it I couldn't really concentrate properly, and only fished for another hour before the climb out. I felt like I was walking on air, a big change from the trudge back, soaking wet, I endured after my waders failed last month.

I've still had plenty of blanks, or worse- wasted walks, when weed etc makes things impossible. I've become more philosophical about blanking, trying to tell myself I've learned something. That's true in as much as I'm still learning how to fish efficiently, and use my lures well, but often the only thing I learn is the fish weren't there that day! The tides here are around 5m, but apart from the headlands and estuary it's only the biggest tides that gives my marks much movement, but they're usually lively. For now I'll continue to go when the fancy takes me, but I'm compelled to get back to my mark tonight, the tide's even bigger! Thanks again for all your good advice, which my mates are now enjoying too.

Richard

Well, there you have it. Richard has obviously switched from trout to bass with barely a hitch. I expect that he will catch plenty more big fish as it is apparent that there are not just schoolies on his stretch of shoreline. I look forward to hearing from him again before the year is out.

Almost 80cm. Richard's biggest bass so far, with the lure still in its mouth - not bad by anyone's standards.

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 - docladle@hotmail.com

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