Monthly Archives: September 2012

Why Not Fly?

Fly fishing in salt water has, to some extent, carried over the rather snobby
associations gained from centuries of elitism in freshwater fishing.  The distinction between ‘game fishing’ for the upper classes and ‘coarse fishing’ for the working man has never really been shaken off. Of course it’s ridiculous because there is nothing more ‘artistic’ or ‘clever’ or ‘difficult’ about flicking out a fly than there is in winging a lead to the horizon (I’m not very skilled at either).  However, it would be a great pity if generations of sea anglers were deterred from trying a spot of fly fishing in salt water because they thought it was ‘not for them’.  Not only is it great fun but it can be amazingly productive and, for some species, in certain conditions, it is by far the best way to catch them.

This was brought home to me this week when I went to the coast with my pal Nigel to try and catch a mullet.  It was the top of a big spring tide, there was loads of maggoty weed washing into the sea, and but for one thing it would have been perfect.  There was a stiff, south-westerly wind and a big swell.  Sure enough the mullet turned up in force but casting a maggot fly to them was not going to be easy.
Quite apart from the problem of pushing a fly against the wind and controlling the line in the waves there was the difficulty of getting near enough to the sea.  In order to cast a fly to the mullet (which we could see) and to keep the fly line out of the weed and waves (essential) we had to perch on boulders washed by the waves.  Within minutes our ankles would be wrapped in kelp resulting in a serious risk of being dragged off our feet.

 6lb Mullet on the fly

6lb Mullet on the fly

Anyway, for an hour or more we flogged away – fishless.  I was using my 8wt fly rod with a few feet of six pound nylon as a cast and a little white plastic ‘fly’ on a size 10 hook.  It was getting dark and just as we were about to ‘give them best’. The line twitched, I struck and I was in.  Playing the fish wasn’t a major problem until it came to landing it.  By now my pal was standing beside me ready to lend a hand.  Three or four times, with the slender rod hooped round almost into a circle, I had the fish sliding ashore on a breaking wave and every time it was dragged back by the undertow before Nigel could lift it out.  Eventually, after much slipping, sliding cursing and dealing with masses of weed on the line, the fish was ours.  After a couple of pictures the six-pounder was returned to the sea to fight another day.  Totally different from the bass and pollack I caught on the fly last week but just another breathtaking aspect of the best sport in the world.  Give it a try!

Kayak fishing tackle

Although kayak fishing is quite a specialist form of angling, tackle does not need to be specialised. There are plenty of existing rods and reels around which can be pressed into service and make great tools for kayak fishing.

There are a few areas where things are a bit different for obvious reasons. Any tackle is going to get alot of abuse. When fishing froma kayak, sooner or later the rods and reels are going to get a proper dunking, and even if they don’t, they will continually get splashed with saltwater. Similarly with rods – 7 or 8 feet is about the right length, with a short butt – anything shorter or longer just becomes a chore, even small touches like a hook keeper can make a big difference when fishing on the kayak.

There are several schools of thought – one says – buy the cheapest gear you can get, as when it fails, its cheaper to replace. The other approach says buy the most expensive gear you can afford, in the hope that it will last a really long time. Well, whilst I can associate with both of those approaches, I think there are flaws in both – the bargain basement gear is not going to last, full-stop, and even worse, it could lose you the fish of a lifetime. And at the other end of the scale, I am not sure I would be wanting to use my Shimano Trinidad’s on the yak (great reels though they are) – its just asking for trouble.

Luckily, I believe there is a “third way” – with a bit of knowledge and investigation, it is possible these days to get hold of some really decent gear at great prices. Gear that is well built and will last well, without a hefty price tag.

For rods, this was highlighted to me recently with the introduction of the BlackRock Hellboy – this is a cracking bit of kit costing only £32 !!!!!! I have just finished testing it out and it exceeded my expectations…

Similarly, the Sonik SKS 12-20lb rod is another piece of sub £40 kit which did well…

As for reels, the old Pen 525GS reels (sadly no longer available) made great kayak fishing reels – and there are plenty of others. From a multiplier perspective, the Akios range of multipliers are well built and tough, the Akios 656CS is a cracking little reel for kayak fishing…

As for fixed spools, avoid expensive rear drag models for saltwater kayak fishing – once the salt gets into the drag, it destroys them. There are a couple of models which are good value for money on the kayak. They include the Rovex Ceretec CT4000…

And the ABU Cardinbal 174SWi is another good real at a competetive price…

So hopefully, you can see something which suits your kayak and your budget. Of course, like any form of fishing, when you get more and more into the sport, you will start to turn int a tackle tart/magpie…. no need to worry, there are some really amazing bits of kit out there which are a joy to use – two of my current favourites have to be the British made Cono-flex Kayak QT rod…

And the Okuma RAWII fixed spool reel…

Both amazing bits of kit (if a little more expensive) – there’s a bit of a tackle magpie in all of us if we are honest !

Kayak Fishing – The Inbetweeners

People (even non fishing muggles) seem to be fascinated by kayak fishing. It is very rare to launch these days without being molested by interested passers-by. A lot of serious fishermen are getting interested in the sport too, and we have reached the stage in the UK, where kayak fishing is much more than a passing fad. It’s here to stay.

But why go kayak fishing ? Well, I fished from the shore for more years than I care to remember, and did alright, but I was finding that even my remote marks were becoming more and more busy, and the fishing was starting to suffer. I wanted to fish the parts that other anglers couldn’t get to, and kayak fishing has given me that opportunity. I catch bigger fish, and more of them, I can fish much lighter tackle and actually enjoy the fight of a fish.

Kayak fishermen are the ‘inbetweeners’ of the fishing world – no, I don’t mean we are knee deep in clunge… Ever since I started shore fishing, there was always an obsession with casting distance – cast further out, and you would catch more fish. By the same token, small boats seemed to be obsessed with getting in as close as possible to the shore. Well, kayak fishermen occupy the middle ground. We can fish in close, or further out, but most importantly, we can fish the areas that neither the shore fishermen or the boats can get to. And these areas, having little or no fishing pressure, by their very nature, produce more fish.

What about the concerns that most people have ?

Well some of them are unfounded – the biggest one usually concerns ‘stability’. I get asked all the time – “Don’t you tip over ?”. Well my background is fishing – I am not a kayaker/canoeist who has got into fishing, I am a fisherman who has got into kayaking. Fishing kayaks (or Sit-On-Top kayaks) are built specifically to fish from. This means that they are much more stable than traditional sea kayaks. They are also designed to be comfortable to sit on (we have comfy padded seats) and easy to get back on to, should you be unlucky enough to fall off.

The other concern, is one of safety – and for me – safety is at the top of the list when it comes to kayak fishing. Having all the gear, is no safeguard against the sea. Training, equipment and common sense are all needed to minimise the risks associated with kayak fishing. We always wear PFD’s (Personal Floatation Devices). I never go to sea without my VHF radio, GPS set and flares – but most importantly, I don’t go out to sea in conditions which might cause problems. Weather and tides are two things which we have no control over. We have lots of sayings in kayak fishing, but the most important is “If in doubt, Don’t go out”.

Kayak fishing is a very exciting way of catching fish, if this has whetted your appetite to find out more about the sport, then stay tuned, as I will be adding more articles on this blog. You can also check out my kayak fishing website, which has loads of resources, including kayak fishing videos and reviews of kayak fishing tackle, all of which is available from Veals Mail Order. You can also download a free beginner’s guide to kayak fishing, which I have produced.

Bass on Varivas Circle Hook

Livebait time!

It takes a bit of will power to give up on a tactic which has been producing lots of action and try something different.  Anyway, one morning this week I actually managed to summon up enough guts to give it a go.  For three mornings on the trot I’d been hammering out good bass, pollack and mackerel on the fly and I have to say the sport was wonderful.  When my pal Rob emailed and asked whether I could cope with a fourth early morning I said I wasn’t sure.

I set the alarm and when it went off at 04:15 I almost turned over and went back to sleep but deep in my subconscious was a picture of Rob hauling out fish, so up I got.  Then came the bold bit.  I left the fly rod at home and only took a spinning rod armed with a small silver Toby (I’d replaced the treble with a single hook so as not to damage the anticipated mackerel). I also took my 12ft pike rod and a reel loaded with 30lb Whiplash, a size 6/0 Varivas circle hook snelled onto three feet of 20lb Memorex nylon.  This was for the livebait – if I caught one.

I met Rob in the car park on the dot of 05:00 and we made our way to the shore.  On the strength of our recent results Rob was armed with his fly gear.  The sea was even calmer than it had been the previous three days so I was optimistic – at least about the fly fishing.  I would have been quite happy watching my pal catch fish.  As expected we were a little early for the fish and it was not until about 05:30 that we began to get bites.  I missed the first two or three taps on the Toby but eventually I was in and landed a nice fat mackerel.  I laid down the spinning rod, put the circle hook through the upper lip of the mackerel and lowered it into the sea.  Away it swam out to sea with me paying out line through my fingers.

For some time I stood as my bait paraded itself around the ocean in search of bass.  Rob had a mackerel on the fly and then a couple of nice pollack but, to be honest, the fly fishing was quiet, so I did not feel too bad about my biteless wait.  It was perhaps ten-past-six and quite bright when the throbbing of the mackerel on my line changed to a stronger, steadier pull.  I called to Rob that I had a take and felt the line streaming out faster and faster. Knock over the bale arem and wait for the line to tighten, the rod began to bend

Varivas Circle Hooks in action

‘It’s on!’ I called.  Then after a couple of seconds the tension reduced and my fish was gone.  I muttered a few curses and wound in the mackerel, now stiff and dead, and lifted it up for inspection.  The circle hook had slipped round and the point was digging into the skin of the bait’s head.  What a downer.

Once more I picked up the spinning rod and winged the Toby out to sea. Almost before I could wind I was into another mackerel.  Excellent!  Once more I carefully unhooked the mackerel and impaled its upper lip on the circle hook.  Away it went, just as lively as the first one. This time it was not more than ten minutes before the bait was taken.  I let the fish go for a little while and then tightened.  This time the fish was on. The rod bowed and the clutch buzzed as line was dragged from the reel.  Clearly it was a decent bass.  Five minutes later I was able to slide the fish ashore on a suitable wave and Rob jumped down to pick it up for me.  One or two pictures and back it went, fit and well.  We didn’t weigh it but it was certainly over six pounds.  By now my watch said that it was after 06:30 and time for us to pack in.  We trudged back to the cars well pleased with the morning.  I wonder why the fly wasn’t more productive?  That’s fishing!

Minehead Summer

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Summer in the Bristol Channel

The summer sport has again been ballistic for the boat angler. Inshore reefs have been producing good numbers of bream to around 3lb along with some pretty good wrasse and pollack. As yet there have been no trigger sightings but there is plenty of time for these fish. Rays have continued to provide sport throughout the summer with some fantastic catches of small-eyeds from the offshore bank systems. Blondes to over twenty pounds have been frequent. Thornbacks and spotteds always making an appearance on the broken grounds. Smoothounds just seem to get better and better. Any patch of broken reef that is likely to hold crabs will undoubtedly provide you with some cracking sport with these racy dogs. For ultimate light tackle sport use a 12lb class braid rod armed with a good multiplier, the lads from Veals MO will be more than happy to advise. Bait can be any form of crab or even a dollop of calamari squid will prove too much to resist. Expect fish to well into double figures on the right day!

With mackerel plentiful, the tope made an appearance to the west and especially around Lundy Island. Fish to 40lb commonplace, in fact on one charter, we actually moved away from the packs of these sporty little sharks.

Talking of sharks, “AlyKat” made her first sortie in search of blue sharks in August. The long trip to the west of Lundy proved to be a fantastic success. A total of 9 runs made for unrivalled excitement among our party. Although we only managed to land 5 of the blues, the day was unforgettable. Best blue fell to Minehead angler James Wigglesworth and tipped the formulae calculated balance at 104lb! The rest were 97lb, 90lb, 70lb and a “blue dog” of around 40lb! Whilst the shark rods did their thing, bottom rods were employed. With strings of baited feathers the chosen plan, our crew took plenty of haddock to 4lb, whiting to 3lb and endless gurnards, garfish and of course, mackerel. Malcolm Bayldon from Weston S Mare took a cracking gar of over 3lb on his feathers before being rudely interrupted by his 97lb blue shark! I must thank Dave at Veals MO for supplying all our end gear for this fantastic trip.

Fly Update 7th Sept

Pollock on Fly gear

Bass on Redgill with Fly Tackle

7th September

The weather (and the sea) have, at long last, settled down a bit. I’ve just had three early morning fly-fishing sessions on the trot. I used the 8wt Surefly, a floating line and either silver Clousers or little white Deltas or Redgills.

Each trip lasted roughly an hour from 05:15 to 06:15. On the first morning I had a fair few pollack up to three pounds or so, on the second I had more good pollack plus a bass and a mackerel. This morning the fish went crackers. The first two days I was alone but this morning my pal Nigel and I fished for an-hour-and-a-quarter and landed about (we lost count) 16 mackerel, 6 bass and 8 pollack – nearly all mine were on the Clouser fly. The best fish were 2.5 to 3.0lb. Together with the fish we missed and lost it was wonderful sport. The fish started to bite at about 05:30 when the light was appearing in the sky and we packed in at 06:30. Not so many pollack as the previous couple of mornings but the mackerel and bass made up for it.

I could have used lighter fly gear but with hectic action from plunging pollack, thrashing mackerel and lively bass plus rocks, kelp and quite a bit of lifting involved, my old 8wt, still in good nick, is about as light as I’d like to go.

All the best,