Tackle and Tactics
I was stimulated to write this piece after watching a give-away DVD that came with a popular magazine. The anglers were using unbelievably heavy and complex gear to catch tiny fish from the shore (almost too small for baits in my book) and seemed to think that it was great fun. It may well be and if it wasn't for all the emails I get from anglers who fish in a similar manner to me I'd think I was way out of step (I might be anyway). While every one else's fishing tackle seems to be getting more complicated with rigs like helicopters, wishbones, flappers, bait clips, breakaway leads, plugs with three trebles, plastics of every shape and colour in creation, a specialist rod for every type of lure, etc. etc. My gear just gets simpler.
Take bait fishing for example. I know that there are circumstances where you may need very long casts but many of my fish are caught within fifty metres of where I stand and most often they are within ten metres. I rarely need any additional weight to carry my bait or lure to the fish. This is partly because most of the things I fish for - carp, chub, perch, pike, bass, mackerel, mullet, pollack, garfish, scad and what have you often swim within poking distance of my rod tip. It is also partly because I almost always wear chest waders so I can stand at or in the water's edge without getting soaked. Another aspect is the vast improvement in lines. My standard line is thirty pound braid (or lighter) which casts as easily as the old six or eight pound nylon and allows me to pull the gear or the hooked fish through unbelievably dense weed and snags. I could never have done this in the past. Of course braid is expensive but it is very durable and lasts much longer than nylon. Mostly, when I'm using bait the line is simply equipped with a single hook, either barbless or with the barb flattened, tied direct or on a short nylon or wire trace (depending on whether the fish I'm after has sharp teeth). I suppose my logic is that if I have the right bait in the right place several hooks, or cocktail baits or two or three rods won't help me to catch more fish. Trying to allow for all eventualities by doing everything at once is no substitute for knowing the best way to fish and it's certainly less satisfying.
Using artificial lures is also tending in the same direction. My fly fishing, for example, has always been fairly basic and I use the same rod, reel, floating line and half-a-dozen simple imitations (of fish, crustaceans and insects) for everything from trout to tarpon ('Mean bloody Yorkshireman' I hear people mutter). In this case I know that there are refinements that could improve things at times. Most 'good' fly anglers will have a range of rods, lines of different weights, densities and tapers and often several boxes full of flies meant to represent almost anything that flies or swims (I think they enjoy making and collectig them and what's wrong with that - nothing!). However, I catch enough fish of sufficient species and often of satisfyingly large size on my little white plastic eels, polyethylene maggots and the like to keep me happy.
Spinning tackle and tactics are the same. I have one or two rods casting lures in the range of 10-70g. When spinning, for the last two years I have used less and less treble-hooked plugs, spoons and poppers and more and more lures armed with single hooks. Even the wedges that I use for catching mackerel as baits now have a single hook with a flattened barb. Many of my salt and freshwater lures are plastics with single hooks. Some of them are set up to be weedless and some of them have integral weights but often the plastic is heavy enough for the casts I want to make. None ever need uptrace leads. They hook and catch fish just as well as more elaborate devices and they are certainly easier and safer to remove and less damaging to any fish that I want to return.
What am I getting at? Of course I wouldn't suggest that other anglers should do the same as me. Everyone ought to fish in the manner that they enjoy most. However, in these days of tight budgets and declining fish stocks I think there's a lot to be said for keeping it simple and effective. Of course I occasionally use small weights and/or floats and there are many good lures other than the ones I have pictured - baited spinners, plugs, poppers, sliders and the like but even these are, as a rule, the only thing on the end of the line.
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