Tackle and Tactics
Mike Ladle


Information Page

Lead-free fishing.

One of the main items in most sea angler's tackle boxes is lead. Watch leads, grip leads, pyramid leds, ball leads, bomb leads, etc., etc., - you name it we use it. Over the years I've employed most of these and there is no doubt at all that, in some circumstances it is essential to have the right size and type of lead on your line. However, constantly in the back of my mind is a comment made by the late Richard Walker to the effect that you should tie a hook on the end of the line and add NOTHING else unless you have to. No swivels, no leads, no floats NOTHING! The idea, of course, is to present a minimum of resistance to taking fish (in Richard's case carp). I think that this is a good starting point for ANY type of angling. No doubt Richard is turning in his grave at the plethora of booms, beads and bolt rigs in todays carping magazines.

In practice there are several branches of sea fishing that don't need gadgets of any sort on the line. Notably fly fishing - where the weight is all in the fly line and the lure is more or less weightless and also spinning - where modern rods, reels and lines have largely if not entirely done away with the need for uptrace weights, swivels, clips and so on. It is in bait fishing that paraphernalia are most often used. If you are boat fishing in deep water and strong tides or casting long distances from the beach then you must use weights to get the gear to where it is needed. However, years ago I was struck by the large numbers of fish which took my lures and baits close to the water's edge when I was fishing from the shore. One of my favourite methods was to cast out leger gear and very slowly retrieve until I had a bite. frequently the bite came within a few metres of the edge. Conger, huss, pouting, whiting, pollack, flounder, plaice and bass (some of the commonest catches along the south coast) were all taking the bait as it reached the breaking surf. Many of the fish were large.

It seemed that there was often no need to cast long distances and I was fired with enthusiasm to try free-lining. In the late 1970's I spent most of one summer free lining baits near the waters edge - mostly after dark - with a fair amount of success. However, this was the period when my pals and me were experimenting with plugs and flies so the free-lining took a back seat and was more or less forgotten. Last week, when the weather deteriorated, I decided to try free lining again (see the current 'catch fish' page). I had a nice wrasse on a whole squid and then a decent bass while casting very short with a tiny lead. Excellent! Last night I decided to try a local shingle beach with free lined bait. I took a small pack of frozen mackerel fillets from the freezer, picked up the rod and set off.

When I got to the chosen beach I found a match in progress. with anglers spread along the shingle. I'm never keen on crowds so I moved to the next cove (only about a hundred metres east of where they were fishing). It was very rocky and kelpy and my only option was float fishing. I slid a small cork on the line, hooked on a whole fillet and let it drift round the rocks. After three-quarters-of-an-hour the tide was rising and the waves began to splash my position. It was just beginning to get dark and I had not had a bite so I decided to go back to the shingle beach. The match anglers were just lighting up their lamps. At the near end of the beach there was a fifty metre stretch with no rod rest on it so I opted to fish there. I simply took off the cork and flicked the mackerel fillet (a good big one) about five metres out. On my right were a couple of big boulders and on my left a forest of japweed so the space was limited. The bait was lightly hooked through the narrow (tail) end on a circle hook (again see the 'catch fish' page and the diagram). I held the rod and felt for bites. To cut a long story short, within five minutes I felt a strong tug that developed into a good run. I let the fish take several metres of line and then tightened (this time I resisted the urge to strike) and after a spirited battle with fish and jap weed landed an eight-pound bass, which I photographed and returned.

Just a couple of comments relating to this close-in, free-line, circle-hook fishing. Firstly, I am using 15lb nylon straight through to the hook. Secondly, I am simply progging the hook through the thin end of the bait (squid or mackerel) two or three times. So far, touch wood, I haven't missed a fish (no doubt I will) and more important the large baits have not 'folded back' over the hook point (I'm hoping that this is a good feature of circle hooks). Anyway, the experiments continue. Oh! I forgot to mention that this form of fishing is cheap (the most I can lose is a hook and a piece of bait) and environmentally friendly (no lost leads). Lastly, because the fish are 'lip hooked' you should hardly ever have to kill one unless you want it to eat.

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


Lead free fishing.

The 'Rig'.

Simplicity itself.  The sketch shows how the bait is hooked.

Not a bad fish.

Too much contrast - the flash was aimed at the belly side of the fish.

Worth a second look.

A better picture with the flash facing the fish's back (dark side).

Next night.

At the same spot the following evening - a smaller bass - again well hooked in the scissors on my circle hook.