Monthly Archives: June 2016

Go big – or go home!

If your mind can take it…

On Saturday we made brief mention of tope and how the pursuit of this large and powerful fish can drive an angler to distraction. Not knowing if the fish are even present, let alone the contemplation of a battle that can all too easily end in tears, can be enough to deter anyone from even bothering. Yes, you do have to be of a certain kind of mind-set to even contemplate a serious crack at a shore caught tope as if the fishing itself doesn’t drive you totally bonkers, your mates questioning your umpteenth blank on the bounce might well do.

Dean Booker is very familiar with all of the above. From his home in Barry, south Wales, he has made the regular journey to the west coast over and again to try and locate this fish of almost mythical status; the one that is likely to lead to sleepless nights, cold sweats and panic attacks. Dean has actually enjoyed greater success than many who try, having accounted for 4 tope since he has began his pursuit of the species. But what happened only yesterday is likely to stay with him for some time to come.

Dean had travelled to a favourite mark with regular fishing partner Wayne McKeown and had endured a pretty mediocre session. Spider crabs proved troublesome, dogfish hung themselves on the huge baits and only a respectable huss of 9lb had offered some light relief.

Whole mackerel bait, rigged and ready

Whole mackerel bait, rigged and ready

When this is happening, all you can do is keep the bait going out and your fingers crossed, because in a matter of minutes your fortune can change. Realising that their bait supply was rapidly diminishing, Dean clipped on a set of feathers and began to haul up some fresh mackerel. Concentrating on the job in hand, he almost jumped out of his skin as the ratchet of his tope reel suddenly burst into life, the tip pulled over and line spewed from the distressed reel.

Throwing the feathering rod at Wayne, Dean grabbed the tope rod and could do little but hang on as the fish trundled off into the distance, finally slowing up after stripping over a hundred yards of line. Realising it was now or never, he began to make on the fish, slowly filling the reel back up but always conscious that it could take off again at any moment. As it neared the shoreline, it must have sensed danger as with a shake of its head it turned around and shot off again. This time, Dean gave it minimal line and keeping the clutch tightly set was able to turn it around. Guiding it into the shallows, Wayne was able to grab the fish by the tail and with Deans assistance, haul it from the water. The guy’s could see that this was a serious fish- thick and broad across the shoulders with some serious aggression.

41lb 2oz of fighting fit tope

41lb 2oz of fighting fit tope

The tope was placed in a sling and registered on the scales at 41lb 2oz- an incredible shore caught fish by any standard. Dean was totally elated and having spoke with him just now, it was clear that he has little sleep last night, no doubt playing it over and over in his mind!

Almost as stocky as the captor!

Almost as stocky as the captor!

The big tope fell for a whole mackerel bait on a 3ft long pulley rig armed with 150lb wire and Varivas Big Mouth Xtra 8/0 hooks. Dean used a Daiwa Saltist 30BG reel loaded with 25lb Varivas Yellow Sport on an Anyfish Anywhere Grand Prix rod.

Massive congratulations, Dean, from all at VMO!

#thelonggame #screamingreels #Varivas #dreamfish

 

White Light is alright!

A great result from an easy option…

Gareth Griffiths fished from the popular White Light mark in south Wales yesterday and enjoyed a real mixed bag of fish. Gareth, who fishes for the White Waters shore team, opted for an easy session after spending many hours travelling to far flung venues in search of his favourite species, tope. As anyone who has been on the tope trail will tell you, tope fishing is a long game with many hours spent standing by a rod with minimal action, so it is always good to take a break every once in a while and wet a line on a mark where the bites are easier to come by. After a slow start, Gareth noticed a small tug on the rod tip. As he stood and watched, it suddenly pulled over hard and he was forced to grab the rod before it took off over the side of the railings. What ever was on the other end gave a good account of itself and Garth tells us that his first instinct was that it was a stray smoothhound but only when pal Daniel Crump climbed down to land the fish did they realised it was a pristine bass!

Gareth Griffiths- new PB bass

Gareth Griffiths- new PB bass

After some near misses with the boulders below, Daniel expertly landed the bass and duly presented Gareth with his bass which  weighed in at 8lb 4oz- a new PB for Gareth.

This beautiful bass is out there swimming again.

This beautiful bass is out there swimming again.

The fish took took a strip of Ammo launce on a Varivas Saltwater Super Match hook and was released, in accordance with current legislation, as soon as these wonderful pictures were taken. Gareth went on to add a couple of respectable thornback rays to his bag before the trip was out- not bad for a few hours on an easy mark in the sunshine.

A ray to end the day

A ray to end the day

#VMO #garethgriffths #whitewatershoreteam #teamvarivas #bassfishing #catchandrelease #catchitanotherday

Undulate ray road trip

Success on the shingle

Jon Patten has travelled the world, quite literally, looking for species of fish in all shapes and sizes. He has been lucky enough to accomplish some international records along the way but he is also a very competent angler here at home in the UK. Despite living in north Barnstaple, Jon regularly heads off on a road trip in pursuit of something a little bit different and on this particular occasion fancied a crack at an undulate ray. A species that is all but non existent in north Devon yet prevalent on the south coast, the undulate probably holds the crown for the most attractive ray and it’s easy to see why anglers are willing to make the effort and travel many miles in an attempt to catch them. This particular evening Jon made the journey to an English Channel mark with his fishing pal Richard Kift. The weather was warm and humid with occasional showers that threatened to put a dampener on things. Setting up on a quiet shingle beach, the plan was to fish at a range of different distances using a plethora of fish baits. Jon’s rig of choice was the tried and tested pulley, but Richard opted for a drop down variation of the same. Both anglers used Varivas Big Mouth Xtra hooks in sizes of between 4/0 and 6/0 depending on the size of the bait to be used.

Jon Pattten, double figure undulate ray

Jon Pattten, double figure undulate ray

The two anglers managed to land three undulate rays, the best into double figures, and somehow managed to dodge the showers that loomed near by for most of the evening. Top fishing guy’s- nice one!

jon-patten2

Richard Krift with a stunning ray

 

Brisk hound sport on the Bristol Channel

They are there- but where is there?

Over the last two weeks, anglers on the shore of the Bristol Channel have enjoyed some reasonable sport with smoothhounds that have moved inshore. The best fish reported have been in excess of 17lb and for those fortunate to find the fish, catches of up to half a dozen fish in a single session are possible.

It is very noticeable that the fish are extremely localised though, as a successful angler may only be a fishing a few hundred yards from one who is blanking.

Joe McMahon and dad Martin recently enjoyed a late night session on one of the Somerset reef marks where they they were fortunate to land a fish a piece, both into double figures. Joe landed the heaviest fish at over 12lb in weight but also missed a screamer of a run as a fish took line from the reel and failed to make a positive hook up.

Joe McMahon, 12lb 7oz smoothhound

Joe McMahon, 12lb 2oz smoothhound

Although it is common practice to fish for the species on an open clutch with the ratchet set, it is worth considering whether the prospect of potentially losing your rod out-weighs the chance of missing a bite. If you are within a few feet of the rod, setting the clutch and ratchet is perhaps unnecessary, but if you are away from your rod at any stage it does make good sense and saves your rod going for a swim if a fish should take your bait when you don’t expect it!

It is likely that the smoothhounds will continue to show along the coast of the Bristol Channel throughout the summer, but being a fish that is constantly on the move, their exact location may only be revealed after some trial and error tackling different marks at different stages of the tide. Ideal conditions are undoubtedly still, thundery weather with a light southerly air flow, with strong sea breezes seemingly deterring the the fish from moving within casting distance in some area’s.

Martin McMahon, double figure smoothhound

Martin McMahon, double figure smoothhound

 

Are the mackerel in?

Are The Mackerel In?

It’s a question we hear every year around this time. The mackerel is probably the easiest fish to catch in the sea if you know how, but as with any species of fish, they have to be there to start with. But there is more to the humble mackerel than just a small fish that makes for an easy catch, a tasty meal or a versatile bait for more predatory species and the clue is in that very word- predator.

The Mackerel is a vital link in the food chain that dictates the movement of other species and without it, our results as anglers will suffer. Early indications show that on the south coast, venues such as Chesil beach are almost devoid of mackerel. This in turn will have a knock on effect as without their arrival inshore, the species of fish that predate on them will in turn have no reason to move inshore.

The flip side of this is that the lower Bristol Channel has seen a huge influx of mackerel over the last ten days, meaning that those species that feed on them will not be too far behind. It is no coincidence that the bass and tope fishing over the past few years has been very poor and it is likely that this can directly associated with the lack of mackerel in recent seasons.

Boat caught mackerel, Porlock Bay June 2016

Steve Parsons with a string of mackerel, Porlock Bay June 2016

With a little luck though, the coming weeks will see an improvement to the tope fishing out of Minehead and Porlock, especially if efforts are concentrated west of Porlock where the bulk of the mackerel appear to be located at this moment in time. How the south coast will fare this summer is yet to be seen, but unless the mackerel turn up here any time soon, it could have dire consequences for summer sport.

 

Anyfish Anywhere Six&Bait- A review from a real angler

 

Today we have a few words of wisdom from our resident all-rounder, Andrew Evans. Having used rod’s from all of the big name manufacturers over the years, Andrew gives us his thought’s on this modestly priced rod from the Anyfish Anywhere stable……

Anyfish Anywhere Six&Bait

Due to an unfortunate accident involving a garage door and the tip of one of my trusted old Penn Copperhead rods I unexpectedly found myself looking for a new beachcaster. I was unsure what to get but ideally the new rod would be something I could happily pair up with my other Copperhead which somehow had managed to survive my clumsiness!

Given the characteristics of the Copperhead this gave me a starting point which was- 14’ multiplier rod capable of comfortably casting 5oz or 6oz sinkers plus reasonable sized baits. Price wasn’t a huge issue but experience has taught me that my casting is not as fantastic as it used to be and over powerful tournament style rods and me do not get on as I just cannot compress the damn things properly. Despite knowing this it did not stop me from accepting a friends kind offer of borrowing a couple of very sexy but powerful rods to try. They certainly looked the part and could have seriously boosted my beach credibility but sadly I just could not match the rods capabilities. Gentle casts were OK but you do not spend £400+ on a rod to lob 80 yards and once I tried putting in a bit more power things did not feel as good. My casting style is not perfect and every time I tried to put more in the rod took over and overpowered me. Instead of the lead hitting the horizon cast I was dreaming of what I encountered was that ‘hitting a wall’ feeling mid cast which sapped the power and saw casting distances less than those I can easily achieve with the old Penn rod. This was enough to tell me that despite my heart loving the look and kudos of the ‘dream’ rods I just couldn’t use them properly and to obtain improved fishing performance I would be better off looking elsewhere.

Now where did I go from here? It was then I realised that all the time there had been a rod quietly sat in the rack which whilst not grabbing the headlines could potentially be just the rod to fit the bill. This rod in question was the 14’ Anyfish Anywhere six&bait multiplier. With a price tag of just over £200 it looked to be good value compared to the twice as expensive models I had struggled to use but could such a reasonably priced rod cut the mustard? It certainly felt the part being neither too still or too soft. When bent in the showroom the tip took on a very pleasing curve with a very nice action. Pushing the butt against the floor gave a couple of inches of flex before it started to lock so it should be possible to load without it biting back. The rod is attractively finished with Fuji BNOG guides tastefully whipped in black with blue tipping The handle has black cross wrap shrink, an adjustable reel seat and rubber button. The graphics add to the looks and make the Six&Bait an attractive rod.

The Anyfish Anywhere Six&Bait

The Anyfish Anywhere Six&Bait

Could the Six&Bait be the rod? Things were certainly looking promising but the only real test would come on the beach when I could see if it fitted the bill.

The chance to test it came when I heard that a few smoothhounds had started to show off the shore. Being two equal sections the rod easily fitted into the Golf, once I had folded the back seat, and after a short drive I was soon setting up on a pebble bank. The mark offers the chance of a hound or two over high tide but it requires a fair cast to clear the rocks and get your crab bait out to where the hounds feed. The reel seat took a Penn 525MAG no problem and held it securely in the ‘low’ position which I prefer.

Anyfish Anywhere Six&Bait reel seat

Anyfish Anywhere Six&Bait reel seat

To start I clipped on a plain 5oz lead and went for a gentle fishing pendulum. This was fine and just felt right being smooth, controlled and saw the lead fly straight and at a nice trajectory. Next cast I put in a bit more power with the final punch pull and rather than the overpowering ‘brick wall’ the Six&Bait came round smooth and controlled and once again the lead went straight but the line level was noticeably lower when the lead hit the surface than on the previous cast. Next it was on with a baited trace and once again no drama as the bait landed in what looked to be the right sort of area.

The tip sits well in the tide...

The tip sits well in the tide…

Once in the rest the tip took on a pleasant bend as the tide pulled against the nylon and it wasn’t long before a slight pull and gentle lift of the tip signalled the familiar but not particularly welcome attentions of a dogfish. Winding down and lifting the tip bent over against the typical twisting resistance of a doggie but the mid and butt sections held firm allowing me to keep the fish clear of the cobbles and bring it to the shore. Next cast the tide flow had picked up but the tip still sat nicely until it was pulled over as a hound made off with the bait. The rod transmitted the pulls and lunges as I played the fish and although only about 7lb it gave a good account of itself with the rod making the fight a very pleasant fishing experience. A couple more hounds followed in quick succession and were landed without issue and with the rod just doing its job and taking it in its stride.

As the tide turned the wind also increased and swung so that it was now blowing straight in off the sea. To try and counteract this I moved up to a 6oz sinker slowed the cast slightly and aimed lower. Given the rods name a 6oz impact lead and a whole peeler shouldn’t be a problem and indeed it wasn’t. The heavier sinker cut through the wind and got the bait safely out to the take zone. Sadly, the turn of tide also heralded a change in fortune and the hounds had gone to be replaced by dogfish. The Six&Bait coped fine with the increased ebb tide run and rougher conditions and the dog bites showed up well but the fascination of feeding £1 a cast peeler crabs to doggies soon wore thin and I packed up to drive home pondering on Anyfish Anywhere’s entry level rod.

In conclusion was I impressed, yes. Is there now a Six&bait in my rod holdall, definitely! Would I recommend it, yes. If like me you are an average caster with a half tidy OTG or fishing pendulum cast then the Six&Bait is a rod you can bend and get to work for you allowing you to comfortably hit your maximum casting range. The fitting’ are also excellent with a secure adjustable winch fitting and Fuji guides as standard.

Quality Fuji guides feature throughout

Quality Fuji guides feature throughout

However, if you can cast an honest 250m+ then you may push the Six&bait to its limit.

But be true to yourself, as if your casting prowess is that of a mere mortal, then the Six&Bait will work with you rather than against you and could ultimately help you put several yards on your cast and more fish on the beach.

With 13’, 14’ and 15’ models available in either multiplier or fixed spool builds there are models to suit most anglers and if medium to large species such as cod, bass, hounds and rays are what you like to target the Six&Bait will suit you well.

Mike Ladle- Big Fish On The Fly

Today, we welcome Dr.Mike Ladle back to the VMO blog. Even if you’re a purist saltwater angler, this makes for a very informative read…

Thanks for your contribution, Mike.

Fly tackle for big fish

Fly gear is designed simply to present almost weightless lures to fish without the encumbrance of floats, weights and other paraphernalia.  Most of the ‘flies’ used are consequently smallish and the
General rule of small lure-small fish means that many of the fish caught on fly tackle are not monsters.  Of course there are exceptions to this and some predatory fish such as salmon, seatrout and nowadays pike are regularly caught on relatively light fly rods.

A couple of weeks ago I took my #8 weight fly rod to my local river in search of a salmon and was lucky enough to hook a near twenty pounder.    Since I was hoping for a decent fish I was using 15lb clear Amnesia as a tippet on the end of my fly line.  Even so the fish took some time to land on the light, flexible rod and without the help of my pal Nigel it would have taken even longer.  My point is that the fly rod and reel are more than capable of dealing with large fish.

A Big Fish Bending A Fly Rod!

A Big Fish Bending A Fly Rod!

A Prize Worth Battling For!

A Prize Worth Battling For!

Released To Fight Another Day...

Released To Fight Another Day…

The sequel to this little tale came last week.  This time I was at the coast with my pal Bill.  I was using the same fly tackle but this time armed with a five pound nylon tippet to present a floating ’maggot-fly’ to surface feeding mullet.  As it turned out it was hopeless.  The maggots were there and the mullet were eating them but there was so much weed in the water that it was virtually unfishable.

In fact we were on the verge of packing in after a hot, fishless session.  I picked up my bag and the two rods and set off towards the distant car park.  I hadn’t gone far when I noticed some large fish swirling in a dense carpet of maggots and weed fragments.  I stopped to watch and as I stood a big, prickly fin and a humped grey back broke the water.  Of course I couldn’t resist.  I found a rock to perch on and out went the tiny maggot fly.  In an instant line, cast and fly were covered in bits of weed, it was awful.  Time for a rethink.  If these were bass perhaps they’d take a ‘fry fly’.  I left my rocky perch and returned to the bag for a root about.  On top of my flies was a small, white, Delta eel which has caught me lots of fish in the past.  I (stupidly) tied it on to the five-pound nylon that I use for maggot fly fishing more in hope than in expectation, knowing that it would probably pick up crappy weed even more quickly than the poly-fly had done.

A change of fortune

I glanced up and noticed that Bill was still spinning further back along the shore but I hadn’t seen him catch anything.  I remounted the big rock and began to cast – weed, weed, weed and more weed.  After every chuck I had to haul in the line and clean up the ‘fly’ and the line before making another cast.  The fact that the bass were still rolling and guzzling maggots kept me at it even though I felt it was hopeless.  Time for another back cast.  Whooaaaa!  Everything had gone solid.  My brain said that the Delta must have caught on a rock or a mass of weed.  I bent the rod to see if it would come free and then I noticed that the line was slowly moving to my left.  It was a fish!

I was stunned but I hung on with the rod well bent to see what would happen.  The fly reel was turning and the fish was making its way out to sea.  I shouted loudly for Bill to let him know that I was ‘in’ and he waved a hand to show that he’d heard me but he didn’t come.  I wasn’t too bothered as it looked as though I was in for the long haul with my fish.  Once or twice it lifted its big spiny dorsal fin just to show me who was boss but I knew that I simply had to be patient.  After a few minutes I shouted for Bill again and looked round to see that he was just returning a silvery fish to the water.  This time he went back to his bag, grabbed his camera and began to trot and stumble towards me along the shore.

My fish was not in the mood to give in.  Between periods of wallowing close in it set off out to sea, stripping the entire fly line down to the backing with a run towards the horizon.  Each time I managed to ease it back towards me.  On its third outward run it almost reached a big patch of wrack which was now sticking above the water but thankfully it stopped just short and I managed once again to bring it back in.

Battle Stations!

Battle Stations!

This was the final long swim and it was then a matter of keeping the line taut as the fish cruised back and forth along the shore.  Bill was snapping away with the camera and I was muttering curses about ******* fish and aching shoulders.  Again I was thankful that I had someone to give me a hand.  I applied as much pressure as I dared and drew the bass into shallow water.  Bill plunged in and grabbed it.  He dropped it, picked it up again and heaved it onto the weed midden.  We had it!

Mike's Reward- A Quality Bass!

Mike’s Reward- A Quality Bass!

The bass was 68cm and eight pounds – so not a monster but considering the amount of weed and the silly five pound tippet a really good catch.  I put the fish back and as it swam away I thanked Bill for his help.  All in all a very interesting evening even though we only landed two fish between us.

Catch, Admire And Return... Job Done!

Catch, Admire And Return…
Job Done!

 

A Quick Guide To Cardiff Barrage- by Zak Lia

We felt it was time to invite a guest blogger, so this week we welcome 16 year old Zak Lia from south Wales. Zak is an incredibly keen young angler who lives and breathes fishing, a rare thing in this day and age of smart phones and X Boxes! Enjoy…

Cardiff Barrage

Cardiff barrage is a very underrated sea fishing mark, but if you know where and how to fish it, it can produce some excellent sport. The thing I love so much about the barrage is that  you can catch such a wide range of species right under your feet. The ground is completely clean so tackle losses are minimal. This is the perfect ground for species such as bass and thornback rays that come in over the mud to feed on shrimps and crabs. Sometimes scratching close in will produce bigger fish but occasionally they will be at distance in the shipping gully and are usually caught during the biggest tides of the year. Along the barrage there are various marks that tend to produce a variety of different species.
 
The barrage is best fished 3 hours down to low water and for 3 hours of the flood, but fishing closer to the fish pass will allow you to fish another hour on the flood and ebb. 


The most famous bass mark is the fish pass, which is renowned for producing bass up to 7lb. The bass tend to feed there because there is a constant supply of food that is being pumped into the sea water. Casting is not an issue as even the inexperienced angler will be able to reach the pass with a modest cast.
 
Another productive mark is the pink hut. This produces bigger fish but in smaller numbers and conger eels, bass and rays are common captures along this stretch. Large baits at range prove deadly for conger eels where as bass are caught closer in on either crab or worm baits. During settled conditions, flatfish are caught all along the barrage with flounder and Dover sole the most likely captures.
A wishbone rig loaded with ragworm is a popular approach.
 
I recently took part in the SWSA rover competition and enjoyed a productive days fishing. 
After bagging a few codling at another local mark I decided to make my way to Cardiff Barrage. I knew indefinably that it would produce fish but whether they would be in size or not was the gamble I had to take. After setting up base camp i proceeded to clip on a 2 hook flapper loaded with ragworm. After being in the water for less than 2 minutes, the rods tip went crazy and I picked it up from the stand. The rod indicated a classic bass bite and began to pull away. I lifted the tip and made a good connection with the fish and lifting the tip I felt a few head shakes. The bass put up a bit of a scarp but was soon subdued and on the deck, just before the hook pulled free. Close one! After carefully weighing and measuring her, she was returned it to live another day and at close to 6lb this was a very pleasing fish for the venue! 
Zak's Plump Bass

Zak’s Plump Bass