Tackle and Tactics
Tales of success and failure.
These days I get lots of really helpful emails from anglers who know more than I do about certain types of fishing. I also get some really satisfying ones from people who I've tried to help with tips or advice on particular methods or tactics. I've put a couple of interesting bits of correspondence together this week (slightly edited). It's wonderful when a suggestion results in a successful outcome.
A week or two back I had a note from my epal Stuart Hooper who fishes down in the Southwest.
"Not been in touch for a while. I've not been catching much on the plugs which is a shame. There were some good bass on The reef that I fish some weeks ago before the netters got there! I had my personal best of 7lb and I went back last weekend & had no bass but an 11lb 4oz pollack. I thought I was snagged on the bottom! I was using 15lb line & an 8-20lb class rod. It was a bit of a struggle & I was lucky as the circle hook was just in it's lip (Just how it should be Stuart? Mike). Anyhow I had two live mackerel killed and they had similar injuries to the one caused by your squid. It was more or less the same as yours - a heavy weight on the line then nothing, but once I managed to get the culprit to the surface …… cuttlefish"!
"Weather looks good will be back out to again this weekend".
I replied as follows
"Good to hear from you. Hell of a pollack that! Do you have a picture? Nice bass too. Was that on a livebait? Obviously the cuttlefish are just as bad as squid - it was futile putting my bait in the water. Would it be OK to mention your experience on the site"?
"All the best",
"No problem. I only have a snap on my phone - it's not brilliant. The bass was on a livebait",
"Wonderful even on a phone pic. Thanks, it all adds to the big picture. Do you freeline the mackerel? I expect it's only a matter of time before a tope or porbeagle takes one of our baits".
"I have texted the pic. to a friend with a phone that he can connect to his PC & email. I will mail it on".
"I have free lined live baits in the past but when I caught the bass & pollack I used 3-4oz of lead as there was a fair bit of tide running. I'm not sure my light boat rod & 15lb line would withstand bigger takers"!
"This is it, not brilliant but you get the gist".
"Was a bit rough @ the weekend with an E wind, we fished sheltered bays, my mate had a bass just under 2lb so he was happy. Tried freelined live baits but no good".
My next piece is three emails from Tim Laws who is currently living in France.
"Just stumbled across your website and really enjoying reading the articles. It's even got me enthused to try fishing with plugs despite not having sea fished much for 10 years and never having caught anything on an artificial lure ever... Unfortunately this evenings session didn't produce anything but I intend to keep at it".
"The article on oil rigs was interesting - I work out on a survey vessel in the North Sea in summer and the Med in winter and it is very much the case that the rigs act as protected areas. On the last trip - up on the Forties field there were immense numbers of pollack/coalies around the base of each platform. Often it just looked like a solid wall of fish below and all around the cameras and at times the survey had to be stopped and all the lights on the remote operated sub turned off to try and discourage them from churning up the bottom wherever the spotlights were shone. Apparently porbeagles make a regular showing too, while big ling and coalies turn up around the deep rigs off Norway".
"The meat of our survey work is in laying new pipelines - the speed of colonisation of a pipeline by the local sealife is very fast. Inside 12 hours starfish will have attached themselves to pipe and the local crab population is usually climbing all over it or testing it for possible edibility. Codling - never common at the best of times unfortunately - turn up very quickly, hiding out of the tide behind it and sometimes sitting on the bottom while leaning against the pipe apparently asleep. Most pipelines get trenched and covered over (which also attracts a lot of pollack/coalies as all burrowing creatures are turfed out into the open) but wherever they're left on the surface (usual with some of the trans-meditterranean pipelines) they go on being colonised until they're barely recognisible as pipelines anymore".
"Anyway, enough rambling, hope its of interest".
In my reply I asked Tim where he fished, What the ground/water depth was like and what sort of kit/lures he was using, in the hope that I might make a few suggestions about improving his plugging results. I continued - "When you get your first fish you will be chuffed - it's so different to using heavy beach casting gear. I indulge in all sorts of fishing but I think that lure fishing is probably the most exciting".
"Your email was a breath of fresh air. I find it really interesting to get information about fish behaviour 'straight from the horse's mouth' as it were. It's rare to hear solid facts about fish even though I get thousands of emails every year. I used to fish for coalfish a lot (in Northumberland) when I was younger but I bet the oil rigs could produce some fabulous fishing to jigs and pirks. Perhaps they ought to make more tyre reefs and FADs for the benefit of anglers in other parts of the country. Would you mind if I used your letter on the site sometime if it seems appropriate?"
"Anyway glad you enjoy the website. Keep in touch and let me know when that first fish strikes at your lure".
"All the best",
Tim's reply was again full and interesting.
"I live out in western France - La Rochelle - at present. The venue I was trying was a big spit that heads out into the Gironde estuary. It's about 6km long and halfway down is a very definite 'knuckle' where it changes direction. Around this area of the spit there are a series of offshore sandbanks (maybe 100yds out) with occasional breaks of deeper water between them. I'd been out walking on the beach the week before, on an afternoon, just as the tide was starting to flood. The final sandbank on the corner narrows the inside channel down to about 40yds and the tide races through at several knots over a depth of 1-2 metres. Just downstream of the strongest tide there were hundreds of 1-2inch fish in the shallows (not sandeels but not sure what species) which were obviously being chased as they were frequently jumping en-masse in a very panicked way".
"I went back the other night - unfortunately on neaps and near the very bottom of the tide. Initially the tide was too low to come over the banks and cause any flow through the inside channel and it was a bit after sunset before it started to run. I fished on until dark but withot success and the small fish were still there but not showing any signs of predator activity".
"With regards to kit I was using a shallow diving plug 0-1m (though it was touching bottom at times), about 5in long with a silver and yellow/brown sort of sandeel colouring to it, on 20lb braid".
"The other interesting area is the coast close (i.e. 150yds!) to where I live, though there's generally not much tidal flow. It's on a point, one side is open to the bay and is a series of limestone terraces backed by small cliffs devoid of weed but otherwise a huge larder with tons of shellfish, lots of crabs and many rockpools full of shrimps and fish. I've never seen anyone fish this area - probably due to the huge amounts of oysters and the fact its very shallow which means 3 casts without losing the terminal tackle to the very sharp oyster shells is doing well. While I've never seen any fish moving (but I probably haven't been looking very closely) on this stretch I did see some guys spinning from a boat about 100yds out earlier in the summer who seemed to be catching smallish fish (but they could have been mackerel?). Going on round the headland the terraces become flatter and the water shallower but then deepen off again and then there's a short section (50yds) of boulders before an artificial sand beach of 100yds and then a very large marina. So quite a lot of different options but the only place I've seen others fish is off of the marina walls where they do catch schoolies - I also saw a bass (maybe 4lb) in the marina (cunningly in the no fishing areas) scavenging the cuttlefish carcasses that washed up in large numbers in July and hooked something while ledgering mackerel for whiting that took off for the open atlantic at high speed before snapping off among some rocks. So the fish could/should(??) be there but I've never spotted any other than that one in the marina deepsite walking the coast on many evenings...".
Stupidly, I failed to keep my reply but I expect that I suggested poppers for fishing over the snaggy ground and oysters. Once more Tim replied in detail.
"It worked! I went out today really just to practice with the various plugs on the marina wall. I wasn't expecting any fish as it was midday and the whole bay was virtually a mirror. After a hour or two of that I wandered round onto the ledges and started to fish with a small popper I bought yesterday. There was a bit of swell rolling in and a local I met on the way round told me that bass turn up on the point when there are a few waves".
"However, I fished on with no sign of any fish and was still rather sceptical about the popper. Then having moved along a bit further and having been pushed back onto the boulders at the top of the shore, there was suddenly a big swirl, then a tug and then the rod went right over. The bass went parallel to the shore for a while then started thrashing on the surface and after 5 minutes or so it was at the base of the rocks. Not good at guessing weights but I'd say lengthwise it was 45-50cm. I was very pleased but rather nervous. Having not been expecting much I hadn't taken the net and I couldn't get hold of the fish firmly. It started washing in between the rocks and there was that horrible moment where the line goes slack and fish plus lure slid back into the deep".
"So not the happy ending I was hoping for and not pleased with myself ending up leaving hooks in the fish through poor preparation. But now I know its possible and right on my doorstep too. Roll on next weeks evening spring tides"!
What a result! I remember telling Tim about how I lost a decent bass in similar fashion. I was gutted at the time but these things happen and we try never to do it again. However, I'm sure that everyone must agree that Tim's emails are an absolute mine of good information, I can't wait for the next instalment.
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 - firstname.lastname@example.org