Tackle and Tactics
Mike Ladle

Information Page.

The facts about fishing.

I think that I'm about to shoot myself in the foot. I've been fishing since I was a kid and writing about fishing for thirty odd years. However, contrary to popular belief I do have a life outside angling. When it comes to fish I ought to (but may not) know what I'm talking about I trained as a marine biologist (first class honours degree and a PhD) and worked as an ecologist (almost forty years studying the lives and behaviour of invertebrates and fish) but have now been retired for many years. Nevertheless, apart from my family (wife, four sons and lots of grandchildren) fishing has always been my main hobby (gardening and writing come a poor third and fourth). Perhaps I'm unusual in the fact that I don't normally read fishing forums. Anyway, the other day, at a bit of a loose end, I thought I'd see what the forums were saying about places where I personally know the fishing. Usually the thread would start off with someone asking about visiting the place in question and this would be followed up by a series of replies from other forum members. A proportion of these answers would say something like 'Sorry - never been there mate!' (Don't ask me why they bothered to say anything). The rest generally either rehashed 'common knowledge' or described a session in which they had been once and caught a few wrasse/ or pouting/ or rockling/ or dogfish/ or mackerel/ or other common fish on legered ragworm, feathers, mackerel strip or what have you. Often the comments were literally years out of date. In other words, although it may have been genuine, none of the stuff was very informative.

I plodded on with my surfing and began to look at what people said about catching species that are familiar to me. This time almost all of the information came from sources that were selling something - tackle, rods, reels, lures, flies, and perhaps most frequently guiding services or fishing trips. Now there's nothing wrong with any of this, it's what people do, but often there were errors that rang little alarm bells in my head. One of the commonest things (and you might think it doesn't matter) was in the pseudo-scientific stuff. There were many examples but to take just one, almost without exception, when giving the latin name of (say) bass they would write Dicentrarchus Labrax instead of Dicentrarchus labrax. Of course anyone can make trivial mistakes like this but it suggests that they were simply copying misinformation from other sources. The question is, if they do this in one case, can you trust anything else that they say!

What I'm really getting at is - how can an angler obtain sound facts about where to fish and how to do it? I'm assuming that everyone actually wants to have a decent chance of catching something worthwhile on their holiday visit. Magazine articles tend to be tainted by the same flaws as those above because most of them depend on advertising and are trying to sell you something. Books are a bit better but many of them are outdated (not necessarily wrong) or written by people (often celebrities in other fields such as sport or entertainment) with very limited experience. Also they tend to be general and broad based with not much detail. Programmes on the telly, and there are quite a few, are often heavy on scenery, on tearing about in fast boats and on heaving in huge fish but rarely show all the nitty gritty stuff on tackle and tactics that is of interest to anglers. The internet, as I've already said, is unreliable so what are we to do?

Of course there are angling writers, guides and tackle dealers with integrity and good information out there but the problem is sorting the wheat from the chaff and it's not easy. Common sense will help a bit but there's no simple answer. Experienced anglers will have their own ideas and can probably tell if someone is 'pushing' a particular range of rods, reels, lures etc. Those who are newer to the sport would be well advised to join one of the specialist clubs such as the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society or the National Mullet Club. Organisations like these often publish booklets and news letters of really sound information about their favourite species. The members of specialist societies are generally very free with good information on what's best in terms of tackle and tactics. Of course even these dedicated types will have differences of opinion and it will still be up to you to decide which advice to follow but at least you can be assured that most of what you are told will be useful. Quite a few of the members will be 'all rounders' and so may be able to offer good advice on other species. This can be invaluable because there don't seem to be specialist angling groups for lots of the more popular fish as cod, plaice, wrasse, rays, etc.

Anyway, I suggest that you should be a little picky when it comes to the sources of information about how to do it and, whatever you decide, tight lines.

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