Mike Ladle


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Tackle and Tactics.

THINK LIKE A FISH Part 21 Twelve years ago!

Sometimes it does me good to look back in my diary and see whether things have changed and to remind myself of things I had forgotten. The following account relates to a week's fishing at about this time of year.

In 1989 most of my summer was devoted to the pursuit of thin-lipped mullet in the local river.

I had to think very hard about the habits of the fish, and the methods needed to catch them because, despite having caught a great many of their thick-lipped cousins, my experience of thin lips (at that time) was meagre. The whole experience proved to be a challenge and occupied most of my fishing time. In fact it was only in the following season that I turned my thoughts back to real salt water and, after a few exploratory trips, decided to make a real effort to catch one or two decent fish before the winter set in.

Although Autumn was well on the way the seas had been (and still were) unseasonably calm and clear. Local reports suggested that a few fish were being caught on bottom-fished baits, but since many of these catches were small fish there seemed little point in copying such tactics before the weather broke. I opted for the spinning methods which had served me well in former years and which would give me the chance to explore a wide range of venues in a fairly short space of time. The idea was that, even if I caught little, I might gain a few ideas about where to fish my baits when the autumnal storms finally arrived.

The following account is taken from my diary and should give a reasonable ides of what can be expected in September/October by anyone with the confidence to employ similar methods in the sort of situations to be found along many stretches of south and west coasts (in fact anywhere that the same species of fish which I caught are to be found). The report covers one calendar week, during which I had to fit my fishing in around work and family commitments.

DAY 1. Spent two hours walking the shore line with my spinning gear (11ft carp rod, fixed-spool reel and 8lb nylon) and fly tackle (9ft 6in trout rod and number 7 floating line) in search of bass or mullet activity. Passed several other anglers fishing the same stretch of rocks, mostly with legered rag, fish or squid.

No one was catching much apart from a few moderate wrasse on the worms, although conditions looked good, high water spring tides just before dusk and a little colour in the water. Half-a-mile from my starting point I found a decent sized shoal of mullet feeding on the top, but 20 minutes of frantic casting with the 'maggot-fly' produced only one pull which I missed on the strike. The sunset was fantastic, casting an orange glow over the calm sea and tall cliffs.

DAY 2. Rose at 05.45 and fished for two hours before returning for breakfast and then work. Arrived on the shore at 06.15 and walked in the opposite direction to the previous evening again carrying both fly and spinning rods.

After a ten minute hike came across my pal Paul Taylor who clearly had similar ideas to me. Paul was already casting a J11 Rapala plug in the hope of bass but had so far seen nothing. He said that on the previous evening he had caught a decent mullet on the fly at the spot where we met.

After a chat I walked on round the headland into the next bay. It was almost high water and although there was a good-sized heap of weed laced with maggots there was no sign of mullet so I decided to copy Paul and spin a J11. Soon after starting I hooked and landed a pollack smaller than my lure. In the next hour-and-a-half, ten wrasse took the plug with the biggest perhaps 2lb. Between the sixth and seventh wrasse two bass of roughly the same size were landed and returned. A bigger bass had a look at the lure but found it wanting.

I returned to find that Paul was just packing in, having landed another good mullet on the fly.

In the evening, just before sunset, I returned to the spot fished the previous day with Ken Ayres who was hoping to photograph both sunset and fish; only the sunset materialised! On the way home I dropped in on another bay for a 'quick look' only to find that it was full of mullet. Returned home fishless, but wiser.

DAY 3. No sunset this evening (cloudy) but Dave Cooling and I both fished for mullet where I had seen them the day before. I missed a couple on the fly but Dave landed a four-pounder on light float gear and maggots. Ken took a few pictures. Fishing time about two hours.

DAY 4. Six' o clock in the morning. Went along to the place where I had met Paul Taylor and fished a J11 Rapala for one-and-a-half hours. Landed two ballan wrasse of about four-pounds each. No other bites. The wrasse really fought hard (at first) but I was sure, because of their characteristic plucking bites, that they were not bass, even before they showed themselves.

Changed lures to a tiny floating Rebel crawfish before returning to the car and, on the way back, could not resist a few chucks in a little rocky cove. Was astounded to hook the tiniest bass I have ever caught no more than two and a half inches long!

In the evening I went with Dave and Peter James (on holiday for a week) to show Peter how we spin the floating plugs. Peter had a small pollack and we landed a couple of mini-wrasse. Saw a school of fish zipping along the surface at dusk but could not catch them. Probably scad?

DAY 5. Down on my own again at 06.30. Only able to fish for 30 minutes or so because I needed to be at work early. Low water, so decided to fish a little stretch of gritty beach by the car park. After about 20 minutes casting the Rebel plug was seized by a good fish, which made a huge boil as it took in about two feet of water, five yards or so from the water's edge. Thought for a second or two that it might be another big wrasse, but after it had dragged about ten yards of line from the reel under maximum pressure I knew it was a bass.

As the fish battled towards a wrack-covered ledge I applied side strain and backed away along the beach to try and turn it - success! After three or four more surging runs interspersed with bouts of heavy surface thrashing, I saw the deep silver flank and brassy gill cover of the fish as it wallowed in the shallow water. I bent the rod and slid the head of the fish on to the fine shingle before picking it up and carrying it up the shore.

I laid the bass on the pebbles and killed it before removing the hooks. It weighed 8lb 7oz and was the only one I kept that year.

DAY 6. Dave picked me up at 05.30 and we went to collect Peter for his last fishing session before he had to catch the train home. He told us that he had lost a decent bass on legered mackerel head the previous evening. We drove down to the sea and met Steve Pitts in the car park (by chance). The four of us walked along to the spot where I had caught the big wrasse just after it became light and as the sun came up Steve also had a good wrasse.

By now Dave had wandered off to fresh fields but the three of us continued spinning and I was next to score with another fair sized wrasse, then a small one, followed last of all by another big one. We packed in and returned well pleased with the session.

SO! that was my week's intensive spinning a total of 11.5 fishing hours (by me) which produced a small pollack, 16 wrasse including three of around 4lb each, and four bass ranging from less than 1oz to just under 8.5lb.

Perhaps I could have caught more or bigger fish by choosing my spots and by fishing bait, but I certainly covered a fair bit of ground and learned a few things that stood me in good stead before the summer fish left for their winter-quarters. To be honest the fishing this Autumn was probably as good as it was in '89 with, if anything, more (if mostly smaller) bass and less wrasse. The methods have changed a bit - braid instead of nylon, poppers as well as plugs and woodlouse flies for the bass and mullet when conditions are right - but that's progress.

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.

Twelve years ago!

Fishing for thinlips.

Much of the 1989 season was spent spinning for thinlips.

A nice sized thinlip.

The baited spoon method is still much underrated.

A good ballan wrasse caught on a J11.

When the water is calm and clear and the sun is shining these fish provide fantastic sport on plugs.

A cracking bass caught on a Rebel.

Even big fish can easily be slid ashore on a sloping beach.