Mike Ladle


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Tackle and Tactics.

THINK LIKE A FISH Part 18 All worthwhile.

There is a certain satisfaction in catching a fish against the odds. Generally we measure the difficulty of our catch in terms of the fish's size or scarcity, but match anglers often judge their success, or failure, against the competition on either side of them.

Even the snottiest tiny silver eel or the poorest pouting can be a triumph if the anglers around you are water-licked. There is an element of pride in all of us and we all find it hide to suppress our feelings when our latest catch proves to be bigger than anybody else's!

Most writers feel obliged, probably with good reason, to embellish their fishing exploits with tales of big catches. The idea is, of course, that a description of a fishing method is much more convincing if the writer can demonstrate that it brings results. In contrast, an account of a blank session is unlikely to grip the reader's imagination. No matter how it is dressed up as 'educational' it is difficult to make five or six hours of futile rod waggling sound exciting.

Perhaps the only major benefit of an angling writer's chronicle of failure is that it makes the reader feel superior and renders the author human. Few authors can be more 'human' than I am, if fishless trips are the criterion. So here goes with a "soul-baring" account of my first few bass sessions in a season long, long ago.

In the past my pals and I have fished regularly all year to try and establish when it's really worthwhile spinning for bass along our coastline. Apart from schoolies of a pound or so, which hang about in estuaries throughout the twelve months, decent bass take lures consistently from May to October. Of course, a warm spring will bring a few fish in April or even March and in some years November produces one or two decent bags. In addition, most years are blessed with a simple minded specimen which commits suicide for some fortunate (=lunatic) angler in mid-winter!

Despite the fact that I know that, apart from the odd decent fish, chances are few before late May, most seasons find me desperate for a "fix" well before the beginning of March. The year in question was no exception, and by the middle of the month I could bear it no longer. A phone call to fishing mate Martin Williams (long since moved away to Cornwall) resulted in a 6am drive down to the coast where a stiff, chilly onshore wind drove a sprinkling of icy rain across the car-park as we set up the rods in the faint grey light of dawn hardly what we would have chosen.

For two hours we pitched our floating plugs in to the teeth of the wind without so much as a sniff of a bass. Bedraggled, saturated with salt water and frozen to the marrow, we trudged back to the car bemoaning our stupidity.

The following set of spring tides saw the sequence repeated down to the last detail, with the addition of a bruised backside for Martin who slipped on a nasty green rock in the dim light. In late April, undaunted by our previous experiences, Martin and I were joined by Andrew Storey (now living in Australia) for yet another early-morning session. This time the weather was kinder - no rain! Despite the improvement and extra manpower, a couple of hour's plugging failed to attract any customers.

I made my way back to a four-foot deep gully in the rocks where the waves were crashing down in a sheet of white foam. Several times I cast out and retrieved my large green-and-grey Rebel plug, to no avail. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed my two pals walking towards me across the rocks and decided to have one more cast before packing in.

As the plug hit the water it was seized and my rod curved to the pull of a reasonable fish. Once I had recovered from the surprise take, the fish was soon brought under control by the spring of my light, 12ft spinning rod, 8lb line and small fixed spool reel.

After a couple of minutes Martin braved the splash of the surf to lift a 5lb+ bass on to the rocks. Our first fish of the year and it felt as satisfying as ever. We fished on for a while with renewed enthusiasm, but of course no further bites were forthcoming.

The following week we were out on the beach again. The day dawned bright and clear and as Andrew, Martin and I tackled up there was a hint of late ground-frost on the grass. We picked our way over rocks, boulders and shingle to the chosen venue. As we began to fish, standing thigh-deep in the sparkling, foaming, crystal-clear water, our spirits were as buoyant as the floating plugs. With a light off shore wind, the lures sailed into the distance and it took as much as half-a-minute to retrieve them against the strong crosscurrent of the flooding tide.

Andrew and Martin were using small, jointed plastic plugs while I stuck to the larger lure that had produced my first fish on the previous session. An uneventful hour passed, lightened only by the huge wave, which saturated Andrew to chest height, evoking cries of mirth and amusement from the onlookers.

A shout from Martin drew our attention to the fact that he was in to a fish. Clearly it was not a big specimen and he needed no assistance from us. As he unhooked and returned the bass of just over a pound, I waded ashore to change to a smaller lure. I reasoned that if school bass were about, I might as well catch them as nothing.

I turned my head to a second shout from Martin, who was already back in action. He was well stuck in to a fish, clearly a much bigger specimen than the first. For well over five minutes his adversary thrashed, weaved and tore about in powerful runs, watched with great enjoyment by all three of us. Gradually the great fish was tired and was drawn ashore on the rushing waves. Ten-and-a-half pounds of glistening, silver bass lay beaten on the wet, grey rocks.

The session produced only one more fish, again to Martin, but as we packed up and scrambled over the rocks in the increasing heat of the morning sun, our pleasure was evident as we chatted excitedly, re-living every moment of those glorious couple of hours. All that early season effort for little result suddenly seemed worthwhile.

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.

All worthwhile.

Early (or late) season spinning.

I must be ******* mad.

Martin Williams playing the smaller of his bass.

There is a decent surf and the fish has to be eased in on the waves.

Just about beaten.

In a place like this, using light gear,  the art is to walk the fish ashore.

The jacket's off. It's a lovely morning. What a catch!

Note that this was in the days when we kept some bass and long before we wore 'chesties'.  The rubber bands round Martin's ankles are to slow down the rising water inside his over trousers.  We always finished up soaking wet.