Tackle and Tactics
Mike Ladle


Information Page

The secret of success!

I was asked the other day why some anglers succeed while others fishing alongside fail. Of course it's a "well known fact" that ten percent of anglers catch ninety percent of the fish. This figure is obviously just plucked out of the air by angling journalists but there is no doubt that there is an element of truth in it. Leave out, for the moment, the 'booze and music' anglers who obviously just want to get away from the wife and family for a few hours with a crate of Carlsberg and a radio. Also ignore those who spend weeks on end in a bivvy with a three rod set up. This leaves us with a group of people who are keen to catch fish and reasonably well equipped for the job. It goes without saying that the latter group includes people with all levels of expertise, from novices to 'long-in-the-tooth' experienced anglers.

Fishing side by side you would probably expect those who have been fishing for longer to do better and as a rule they do. Why? Assume that you have taken a youngster to show them the ropes. Immediately you begin to see the problems. It will take a little time for them to manipulate the gear effectvely. They time their casts poorly so that the gear splashes in at their feet or flies off at an angle to land on the rocks or in a kelp bed. They don't recognise bites so the drag of the current, a bump of the tackle on the sea bed or a bit of rubbish tapping the line result in a violent strike. When they do get a bite they strike too soon, too late, too softly or too hard so nothing is hooked. And so on and so on.

Having conquered all the above problems there may still be a large gap between the results of someone who spends a lot of time fishing for a particular species and their pal who, although competent with the gear, has done less fishing or has not come across the particular species before. If I think back to my days in the Newcastle University Angling Club one week we would fish lakes on the Whin Sill for pike and perch, the next we might be after coalfish, codling or flounders from piers and skeers and the following weekend it would be dace or roach from the River Tyne or trout from a hill stream. It was always apparent on these trips who had 'done it before'. I remember quite distinctly how difficult some of my pals found it to 'feel' when a coalfish actually had the bait in its mouth when we were handlining from the piers at Seahouses or Craster. Those who knew the ropes would, at first, catch ten times the number of fish. It was simply a matter of practice.

Perhaps one of the most telling examples of all is fly fishing for mullet. Even the most experienced fly anglers often struggle at first when they are introduced to the species. Their technique may be wonderful, the line sails out thirty metres and the fly lands delicately on the water 'on a sixpence' so to speak but the frustration grows as the mullet fail to oblige. It is soon clear that there is a 'knack' to this sort of fishing and it is the ones who can conquer their urge to cast a 'nice long line' that succeed first. In this case the art is simply to look for the the best concentrations of feeding fish (this may mean scuttling back and forwards along the shore). Then you must make sure that the polyethylene 'maggot fly' is baited (no room for purist dry-fly tactics here). Lastly, the line must be cast GENTLY to ensure that the bait is still on the hook when it lands. Of course there are other details such as how to detect a bite, when to strike and finally how to play and land the fish in a turmoil of weed and waves but you get the message. Like any skill, to perfect it needs plenty of practice under every set of conditions.

The above is just an outline of the complexities of using a single method for one species. Multiply this by all the species, all the possible methods and the constantly changing tides, seasons and weather conditions and you will have some idea of why experience counts. Bass can be caught on live and dead baits, plugs, spoons, spinners, poppers, flies, etc., etc., and each approach can sometimes be appropriate (=best). In addition every one of these tactics involves dozens of details of how to cast, fish, strike, play and land the fish. However, all this counts for nothing unless you are in the right place at the right time - this is a big chunk of the battle in any form of fishing and in the first instance learning these times and places is the most effective way for ANYONE to improve results. Within limits it is possible to pick up the basics from books, magazines and films but there is nothing quite as good as going fishing.

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


The secret of success.

Twaite shad.

These little predators come into rivers in early spring and you MUST use the right tactics in the right place at the right time.

Thin lipped grey mullet.

These fish, virtually uncatchable on most normal tactics, are suckers for a rag-baited spoon.

Three rods.

It can be a pain to carry more than one rod at a time but if I'm uncertain what I'm likely to find I will take three.


Steve is trying to approach some feeding mullet in calm conditions.

When a plan comes together!.

Even a single fish can be extremely satisfying - the product of years of fishing experience.