Mike Ladle


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Tackle and Tactics.

THINK LIKE A FISH Part 13 Keep It Simple.

Spinning for sea fish is still widely regarded as a 'Mickey mouse' method by many died-in-the-wool sea anglers. The use of fly tackle is looked on with even greater scorn and few would consider fly gear as a means of making worthwhile catches. Things are changing - slowly - but a glance at the popular angling magazines shows that sea anglers (and magazine editors) are reluctant to accept new ideas. "Operation Sea Angler" was written twenty years ago and still it seems that its message has not yet trickled down to the grass roots of the sport, so here's another attempt to convince the unbelievers.

As many anglers will be aware, I am interested in catching big fish and, as any of my pals will confirm, I am never afraid to fish a big bait and am always prepare to wait for a decent specimen even if it means missing out on bites from smaller fish.

The point of all this is to emphasise that if I, or my mates, are seen struggling along the beach with a 13ft coarse fishing rod, a pound-and-a-half test curve carp rod or, indeed, a trout fly rod, it is neither because we wish to admire the sunset while remaining undisturbed by fish, nor is it to catch sand-smelts, sticklebacks or school bass. You can be assured that whether the business end of my gear is 4lb line tied to a size 14-hook or 18lb nylon attached to a 6/0 Viking, the intention is to put the largest fish around well and truly on the beach.

Just to ram home the point, I can recall my early angling years (from age four onwards). I was always dead keen, but the traditional tiddler snatching was beginning to wear a bit thin when suddenly I saw the light. To be precise I was 13 when I read a new book called "Still Water Angling" written by a young engineer called Richard Walker. The first chapter of this angling bible was entitled "On catching big fish". Almost everything written in that chapter about freshwater fish applies with equal force to sea fishing, which was, and still is, my favourite branch of the sport.

The ten commandments of angling, as far as I am concerned are: - (1) have confidence in what you are doing; (2) there are very many more big fish about than most anglers think; (3) big fish are not caught by luck; (4) the most important thing is to find the fish; (5) avoid frightening the fish; (6) use the right tackle; (7) choose the right time to fish; (8) use the right bait; (9) your bait is more likely to be too small than too large; and (10) ask yourself 'what is the simplest tackle with which I can catch these fish?

The last point is perhaps the one most sea anglers tend to forget, so much so that our methods are looked on with derision and amusement by many coarse anglers (although the plethora of rigs in carp mags. suggest that they have no need to laugh) . The whole thing is summed up in a letter written to me by Dick Walker shortly before he died. He had just read "Operation Sea Angler", the book in which I described the application of his Ten Commandments to sea angling by myself and a few pals.

To get down to brass tacks, although no one can deny that heavy leads (I call heavy more than an ounce or so), hefty lines, massive hooks, rods with mighty test curves and possibly even booms, beads, three way swivels and sundry ironmongery have a part to play in some situations. Many more decent fish would be caught if more attention were paid to the 'Tenth Commandment'.

Using light (but not stupid) lines and carp rods, with no paraphernalia other than a tiny link and a buoyant plug, my pals and I have landed many big bass and vast numbers of smaller ones. Although it has been slow to catch on, the use of these lightweight lures has now become common place and when I go to the beach it is normal to find one or two people armed with tackle which would not look out of place on the local rivers or lakes.

Since anglers are very resistant to change it is clear that some at least are now realising that they will increase catches by being versatile. After all, more fish is the real incentive to change!

In conclusion, I shall quote a couple of examples from other anglers to show what I am saying is not the ravings of a crank (me). The first example is taken from a letter written by Dave Bourne, of deal, Kent (- now the bass record holder) a couple of years after the publication of "Operation Sea Angler".

Dear Mike,

"I'm pleased to inform you that I've had two good bass seasons (1985 and 1986)… after my visit to your patch in early '85 I used Rapalas for the rest of the season, accounting for 36 fish, plus another 18 to bottom-fished baits. As for '86, it must go down as one of my best seasons to date with over 50 fish to lures and another 20 or so to fish baits.



The second example came from a 'phone conversation with Dave Heelis.

At that time Dave lived in Yeovil. I am sure that he would not mind me saying that, at the time, he was not the most experienced sea angler in the world. In fact, Dave reckoned that when he first spoke to me he had never landed a fish over 1.5lb using conventional sea tackle and methods. Early in 1987 Dave and his son Paul had attended a talk given by myself and Dave Cooling at the Weymouth headquarters. Fired with enthusiasm, they had brought carp rod, fixed-spool reel, 9lb Maxima and J13 Rapalas. To cut a long story short, a brief session on a shallow, rugged rock mark at Weymouth resulted in a nine-and-three-quarter-pound bass. Needless to say, Dave was pleased with his catch.

Surely the message to us all must be to break down the artificial barriers between coarse, game and sea angling; to use the tackle and methods which are most appropriate rather than those which are traditional and, above all… keep it simple!

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


Think like a fish.

Big bass.

Dick Walker's letter.

It is a pity that he was not twenty years younger or sea fishing might have been even better than it is.

Fly anglers at dawn'.

These three fly fishermen were on a Dorset coast at dawn a couple of weeks back.  How things have changed! .


Things are still changing.  When the book was written we had no idea that popping lures were effective for bass.