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 four 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. 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).

12 August 2005

Mackerel etc.

Calm, hot, summer weather is normally associated with an abundance of mackerel. By far the majority of these wonderful little fish are caught by 'feathering'. If you drop on a big shoal, every cast or lowering of the string of lures will result in half a dozen fish. It seems to me that the only time this approach to fishing can be justified is if you need bait for other species. At times (usually when you need bait most urgently) the fish will be hard to come by but on other occasions you will catch sufficient for your needs within minutes. Then you should stop! Even though a 'string full' of one pound fish may bend your beach caster nicely, there seems to be no justification in killing hundreds of fantastic fish simply to say that you'd "had a good day!"

On the other hand mackerel can provide excellent sport if you catch them one at a time on reasonable gear. Light weight fly, spinning or float tackle will all provide a fair bit of excitement when the mackerel are around. Even fishing like this can become a bit of a slaughterhouse unless you set out to release the fish you catch. Mackerel are very sensitive little creatures and the mere action of handling them to unhook them can cause immense damage to their skin and scales. Ideally you should resort to barbless hooks and simply shake the fish off, without touching them, in order to let them go.

Anyway, with the weather warm and settled I decided to have another 'first light' session with the fly rod. Last time Richard totally outfished me using a plug while I was fly fishing so I wanted to see whether I could do a bit better on the fly. As usual I took both rods (fly and spinning) just in case! It was perfect, - low water, flat calm and first light just appearing in the eastern sky. The first half-a-dozen casts produced nothing so I shifted a little way along the ledge and flicked the fly out again. As I raised the rod it was pulled over and a fish dived for the bottom, making the reel zuzz (to be honest my new reel, although excellent, does not 'zuzz' as excitingly as the old one but never mind). Of course it was a pollack. I returned it and cast again.

As I lifted the rod the fly zipped along under the surface and in the dim light I could see boils in its wake as chasing mackerel tried to grab it. I hooked and landed fish one after another for about quarter-of-an-hour. Even on my seven weight fly rod I could 'swing them in' if I just kept lifting. However, it was much more fun if I let them get their heads down first, then they really showed their mettle. Mackerel are astonishingly powerful fish with that solid muscular body and super streamlining.

Eventually I felt that I would like to try and catch a bass (there are often a few mixed in with the mackerel) so I picked up the plugging gear and hurled my shallow diving, 12cm Maria plug fifty yards out. Two turns of the handle and wallop - I was into a mackerel. Next cast the same. Then there was a more solid take and less frenetic vibration on the rod tip - surely a bass! I played the silver shape into the rocks and as I was about to land it - it shook free. I cast again to the same spot and had a really firm bite but failed to hook it, almost certainly another bass. After a few more casts (and mackerel) I went back to fly fishing. In the next twenty minutes I had lots more mackerel and then four small pollack on the trot. I killed and kept the next two mackerel packed in and started on the half-mile walk back to the car. The sun was just coming up, the scent of honeysuckle was in the air and all was right with the world.

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 -


These fine little fish are totally 'outgunned' on my bass gear - but they avidly take the big plugs and become a bit of a nuisance.

The early fish.

Pollack are usually the first fish to take my fly in the poor light.

Sheer power!

Look at the vortices created by the wagging body of the little fish - no wonder they pull so hard!.


I'm still gobsmacked by the wonderful patterns on the backs of mackerel - presumably every one is different, like fingerprints?.


Two fish are plenty to keep for me.