Tackle and Tactics
Mike Ladle


Information Page.

A bit out of the ordinary.

They say that no listener ever hears any good of himself, and I am sure that is a fact. Some years ago I heard (or heard of) two conversations of which I was the subject and I suppose that either of them could have offended me. In fact, looking back on the occasions, there was more to be amused than upset about. Taken together there was a lot to be learned.

In the first case I was doing a spot of spinning on a lovely summer’s evening. I passed two anglers who were “bottom fishing” and soon afterwards decided to double back and try a spot that I had fished over earlier. As I walked past the other blokes they were talking loudly and it was impossible not to overhear (I did slow down a bit to listen!). The conversation went something like this;

“Did you see that *******’s tackle? He must be after whales.”

“Yes, I reckon anyone who has to use that sort of gear can’t get much sport from the fish, even if he manages to catch any.”

In fact I had already had a decent session with a best fish of over 12lb and a couple of others in the 4lb to 5lb category. The smaller ones in particular fought all the way to my feet, and each provided several minutes of excitement before surrendering to the folds of my net. My detractors had certainly caught many more fish than I did, perhaps 30 between them, and had no doubt had excellent sport on their light tackle, with specimens averaging from 4oz to 6oz and a best fish of perhaps 1.5lb.

The second incident was relayed to me by a friend who had encountered three people legering from a local beach. He stopped to have a chat about the prospects and was shown the ‘catch’, which consisted of wrasse from 8oz to 3.5lb (sadly all dead). The discussion turned to spinning and my name was mentioned more or less as follows;

“There’s a silly ******* called Ladle who fishes around here and writes in ‘Sea Angler’ (I used to). He reckons to catch big fish on a ******* carp rod and light tackle but I thing he’s just a ****** liar.”

“He must be,” said one of the others “because he writes about ******* stupid things like catching wrasse on floating plugs and mullet on dry flies and spinners.”

“I’d like to see the ******* catch fish like these (pointing to the catch) on his fairy rods and lines from ground like this (pointing to the wrack and boulders visible just beneath the surface)." retorted the third member of the group.

In fact they were unaware that on a couple of trips in the previous week I had, by chance, done exactly that, taking a nice ballan wrasse as big as their largest on a plug, and on the following evening a good sized thick-lip mullet on a fly from the stretch where they were fishing.

Of course the point of these little tales is not whether I caught more than the other blokes nor indeed which of us had the most pleasure from our rod fishing but the fact that my rod, reel and line (apart from the fly gear) was the same on both occasions. In other words in the first case my eight-pound line and carp rod was thought ridiculously heavy (by two coarse anglers on the river) and in the second it was believed to be ludicrously light (by three beach fishermen).

Without trying to belittle our sea angling as a sport it seems that 99.9% of the fish we catch are smaller than a fair sized chub (a fish noted [wrongly] for its ability to find snags but often landed on lines of 2lb to 4lb BS). The vast majority of our catches are nowhere near as big as most carp, pike or salmon, all of which under most circumstances can easily be landed on thin pliant rods, smallish fixed-spool reels and relatively light lines. Why are we so reluctant to use similar tackle to catch marine fish? Since, in most cases, we have vast areas of water in which we can play our catch and we can assume (presumably) that we are no less skilful than our freshwater counterparts, we must seek the reasons for heavy gear in the fishing conditions.

Firstly it is necessary at times to reach distant fish and in some cases this can mean long casting. For safety’s sake this requires main lines (or shock leaders) of quite high breaking strain. Secondly the seabed is often rocky, or clothed with wrack or kelp having very tough stems. If excessive tackle loss is to be avoided, again heavy lines would seem to be called for. Finally strong tidal flows and/or surf often dictate the use of heavy weights or grip leads, and once more line needs to be strong to support or cast them. So there we are sea angling DEMANDS heavy tackle – OR DOES IT?

From time to time I have mentioned how success can be measured as a number of fish caught per man-hour of fishing. Over a number of years traditional bottom fishing by my pals and me produced a decent fish about once in every three or four trips (we would probably do better now because we would pick our times and places more effectively).

Tactics involving lighter tackle (spinning rods and reels, fly fishing, etc.) have been and are much more productive. Some of these approaches are positively boring in their effectiveness. For example the use of baited spoons for thinlipped mullet has provided me with some of my most consistent fishing ever. Fish of between 1.5lb and 4lb have fallen to the method at an average rate of one per man-hour (often much faster for short spells), with one notable session producing 43 fish plus a couple of little bass and a small sea trout in only 3.5hrs, for me and a couple of mates (a rate of three or four fish per man hour). In this case I was using my carp rod and 8lb line, but the others had more sport (and no fewer fish) on even lighter spinning rods and fixed-spools loaded with 5lb line.

Of course these days it is no longer regarded as ‘stupid’ to carry a spinning rod or a fly rod to the beach and along certain stretches of coastline it is ‘normal’ to see several anglers wielding this type of tackle. There is plenty of room for all the different approaches to fishing. The main thing is to enjoy your sport and perhaps to be open minded next time you see some silly ****** doing something a bit out of the ordinary.

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


Update on spinning gear.


Still an excuse widely used for employing heavy gear but easily fished with a fly or a plug on appropriate tackle..

A thinlip.

Grey mullets are the ultimate 'light tackle' fish.  Despite their reputation for 'uncatchability' they fight like hell and can be caught in large numbers given the right approach.

A thinlip ready for the net.

I love spinning for these fish with small baited 'spinners'.


Scad provide fantastic fly sport but you have to be a bit of a nightbird to catch them in numbers.