Mike Ladle

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THINK LIKE A FISH Part 19 Hard 'How to do it.

Lets face it! we all fall in to the angling rut from time to time. You know, same old methods, same old baits, same old fishing spots what a bore! To try and inject some new life in to my fishing I have tried to set myself targets or projects over the years. In my youth I set out to catch new and different species each year, which resulted in my fishing becoming something of a species hunt.

Later on my attention was focused on bigger fish, and within the limits of time, accessibility and skill, my aim would be to catch bigger and better specimens. Today, both these approaches have merged in to what is a simple desire to improve my catches and develop fishing methods.

Angling writers often pay lip service to the fact that "you never stop learning", although there is little evidence of any real improvement in terms of skills or general level of catches. Why should this be? I suspect that the main problem lies in our almost universal obsession with tackle. High tech. rods and reels, lines, sinkers of all shapes and sizes, booms which lift, separate and swivel in every conceivable direction, fancy hooks and lures which rattle and gyrate seem to fill the pages of angling books and catalogues.

If you think of your own angling experience you will possibly realise that the great improvements (what you might call quantum leaps) in catches were rarely the result of tackle changes. A new venue, a previously-untried combination of tide and conditions or a quite new approach involving a totally different form of presentation, are much more likely to result in the big pay-off.

Just consider, for a moment, the shore fishing tactics used by sea anglers. I would guess that 99 percent of rock and beach devotees still spend their time tethered to a lump of lead. Whether the weight slides on the line or is fixed, whether it is a bomb, a pyramid, a grip or a Breakaway the result is much the same, a bait 'nailed' to the seabed. If you can believe everything that's written (and of course you can't) there are an almost infinite number of subtleties which can be introduced to bait presentation by different combinations of weight, trace, boom and bead. But hang onů what about the other 1 percent of shore fishing? Most of the other remaining angling activity involves the use of float tackle. Despite the lip service which is paid to the use of "sensible floats, no bigger than necessary"; the strand line on my local beaches is still decorated almost exclusively with crude cylinders of polystyrene big enough to support several ounces of lead.

All other tactics have to share the remaining, tiny proportion of fishing time and effort. It follows from this analysis that most fish will be brought by bottom fishing and most of the 'improvements' will come in this field simply because of the number of people doing it and the amount of time spent on it. Like everyone else I am a slave of tradition and I know that I shall catch fish by sticking to the tried and trusted tactics that worked last year and the year before and the year before that. However, I am still not too old to learn (nearly but not quite).

Each year, usually in late winter when thinking is likely to be more profitable than fishing, I try to crystallise the ideas which germinated in the previous twelve months into a plan of action for the coming year. If only one of my ideas works I am well pleased and even if none is effective I shall surely have learnt a lot.

High on my list of priorities is trying to effectively control the depth at which I fish a moving artificial or natural bait in mid-water. This isn't the easiest of tasks. Even for the experienced angler it is difficult to know whether the attractor is five, ten or even twenty feet down below the waves. A paternoster with a lead bumping the bottom will work if you want to fish near the seabed and a float will suspend your tackle a fixed distance beneath the waves, until the retrieve begins. The stronger the current or the faster the retrieve or trolling speed then the more awkward it is to keep the bait down where you want it.

When using artificial lures the problem is even more acute but these days, by careful selection, it is possible to keep your lure more or less precisely at the depth you want.

The easiest thing to do is to fish at or on the surface of the sea. Buoyant lures such as popping flies and plugs or floating stick baits - with no diving vane - will pop, slide or crawl along the surface. Most of the action is imparted by moving the rod or by reeling in.

It is more difficult to keep the lure at a fixed distance beneath the waves but the range of floating/diving plugs is now so great that there is probably one for most situations down to twenty feet or even more.

If the water is very deep and you want to get down to feeding fish it is probably best to simply use a sinking lure and count down as it sinks after splashdown. The range of lures here is endless with every thing from heavy 'wedges ' of metal to lead-headed jigs and from countdown plugs to spinning buzzers.

If the seabed is clean and there is no risk of snagging the lure can be tied direct to the end of the line and allowed to bounce along the bottom. Perhaps the most difficult situation is trying to fish just above a snaggy, rocky, uneven bottom in deep water. Despite the complication introduced by an uptrace lead he best answer to this is probably a paternoster with the weight on a 'rotten bottom' and a buoyant lure on the dropper above it. The weight can be a piece of soft lead strip that will simply bend and pull free from snags.

Of course there have been a few massive improvements in tackle - braided lines for example and there are lots of other approaches that can be tried and stacks of scope for innovation. The main difficulty is not in thinking up methods or gadgets but in trying to "stick to your guns" when your mates are pulling out bass on all sides using the tried and trusted tactics!

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

INFORMATION SPOT

Think like a fish.

Hard how to do it.

Lure depth made easy.

From surface skimmers to sinkers plugs make their own depth selection.

A bass taken on a popper.

This lure never leaves the water surface (until a fish takes it).

A shallow diver.

It is almost impossible to make these plugs dive deeper than a couple of feet.

Some count downs have a good action, despite their density.

These plugs can be fished shallow or deep but will sink to the bottom if not retrieved.

depth matters!

It certainly matters to fish and fishfood animals.  Cuttlefish 'bones' are the buoyancy regulators of these relatives of the squid.

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