Monthly Archives: March 2020

The humble hook- explained.

Following on from our basic guide to rig making (see previous blog post) a few of you have contacted us to ask if we could explain hooks a little better. If you have anything you would like us to explain in greater detail, please also get in touch and we’ll do our best to blog about it.

There are literally hundreds of different kinds of fishing hooks, all designed to do a specific job and referred to as ‘patterns’. Hooks for sea fishing purposes usually range in size from #6 up to 12/0, with #6 being the smallest and 12/0 being the largest. The forward slash often confuses new anglers but to put this in to perspective, from smallest to largest, the scale is represented like this- 

SMALL #6, #4, #2, #1, 1/0, 2/0, 3/0, 4/0, 5/0, 6/0, 7/0, 8/0, 10/0, 12/0 LARGE

It is worth noting that those sizes do not conform to any set dimensions and so one manufacturer’s pattern may differ in size to that of another. 

So now we have sizing out of the way, let’s look at some typical hook styles and discuss just what they are used for.

Aberdeen

A classic pattern designed for use with worm baits. in the smaller sizes they are an excellent choice for flatfish, though the Aberdeen is also popular with those fishing for a multitude of different smaller species. Larger size Aberdeen hooks have a long shank (the part of the hook between the eye and the start of the bend) and so are suitable for use with sandeel baits.

Aberdeen

Wide Gape

The gape of a hook is the distance between the point and the shank. A wide gape ensures that even when bulky baits are used, the point still stands proud and should ensure a positive hook up.Not only does the wide gape pattern present big baits well, it also stands more chance of taking hold in the cavernous mouths of fish such as cod and bass. 

Wide Gape

Circle 

Originally used exclusively by commercial longliners, the circle hook is now well recognised by sea anglers. The shape of the hook means that when a fish takes it in, it will roll in the fish’s mouth, taking hold in the lip and avoiding deep hooking. This design is popular with anglers using live fish baits for larger predatory species of fish such as bass.

Circle

Chinu

Possibly the most recent hook to become part of the anglers regular armoury here in the UK. The Chinu is an aggressive fish specie native to Japan and gave this pattern its name. The hook is short in both shank and gape, more akin to a carp anglers hook, but is heavy in the gauge and incredibly sharp. Popular in smaller sizes for species such as bream and trigger fish, but the larger sizes make an excellent smooth hound hook when using crabs for bait. 

Chinu

There are a huge number of other patterns, but these are the ones most widely used in the UK for the species we encounter here. There are also variants of the above patterns, take a look at a comprehensive range of high quality Japanese made hooks here.

Modern hooks are chemically treated to create the point, making them insanely sharp, so great care should be taken when handling them. 

Thankfully, they remain one of the cheapest items of tackle available, so to re-use a hook after a session is bad practice. If a hook has been used in saltwater and stored away wet, it may no longer be as strong as it once was and so its strength could be compromised. It’s really not worth saving a few pence if it leads to the loss of what would have been a great fish capture. 

A diamond file or small sharpening stone can be used to breathe a little life back in to a dulled hook point during a session, but replacing the exhausted hook with a new one is probably a better option. 

‘If in doubt, don’t cast back out’ is a good motto to fish by. 

A thumping bite followed by a slack line is not the sort of bite you want to be missing, so when a fish picks up your bait you really do need that hookpoint to penetrate when it matters. 

It is good practise to store hooks in bits boxes that segregate each size. Being organised in this way will mean that tying rigs becomes faster too. Label up each section so there is never any doubt as to what you are tying to your trace line. 

   

A basic guide to rig making

Rig making can be a therapeutic and enjoyable way to spend some time. On top of that, it should be your number one consideration ahead of a planned trip to the beach. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail and if you arrive at the beach badly prepared, chances are that you’re not going to have a great days fishing. So what should we consider before we even tie that first knot?

The primary concern should be the species of fish you are hoping to target. Are they big or small and so will you need to upscale or downsize your choice of hook? Do they have teeth and so could they potentially bite through monofilament? What bait will you be using? Will the ground you’re fishing over be rough and so will you need to factor in some kind of weak link system to reduce tackle losses?

Once you have run over this basic check list, you’ll have some idea as to just which of the many rig types would suit your fishing. 

Get organised! 

Before you begin tying your rig of choice, it is essential to be sure that you have all of the components and tools to hand that you will need. Small ‘bits boxes’ or lure boxes that segregate tiny components are invaluable and will ensure that you can see exactly what you have there. 

A place for everything and everything in its place

Ten rigs is a good number to aim for, so make sure you haven’t run out of any particular clip, swivel or bead that will leave you frustratingly unable to complete the set. Useful tools include a small, sharp pair of scissors, round nose crimping pliers, a knot pulling tool and a lead to attach to the finished article so it can be given the once over before it is stowed away.  

The tools of the trade

Lay out all of the components you will need so that they are within easy reach.

Where to begin?

It’s always best to start any rig by tying the chosen type of lead link to the rig body. Decide, based on the design of the rig whether or not this should feature a bait clip and/or a rotten bottom clip.

Slide on the other components and once all are in place, tie an appropriate sized swivel to the opposite end. This is what would then be referred to as a ‘complete body’. Follow exactly the same procedure for consecutive rigs until you have your batch of ten. Hooks and snoods can then be added later. Having a big batch of bodies in storage is good practice and ensures that based on the species of fish you choose to target at any one time, the hook size and snood diameter/breaking strain can be decided closer to your session. If you tie hooks on to every single rig, the one size you choose will mean that your rig’s potential is limited. That is of course unless you like to fish at the same place for the same type of fish, week in, week out. 

Other tips for successful rig making

Ensure that you have a clear work space available such as a desk in the spare room or a garage work bench. A bit of peace and quiet helps you to focus, though a radio is always welcome.

Have everything to hand and make a note of the time when you start. Once you get in to the swing of making a rig you’ll get faster at it. If something goes wrong and a rig won’t clip down properly or a knot looks suspect, reject the rig. It’s not worth arriving at the beach and not having 100% confidence in what you’re using. 

To start with, keep things simple and opt for a tried and tested rig design that has been around for years such as the two hook clipped down or the pulley rig. There are dozens of variations out there but most are derived from these simple designs that have caught a lot of fish in their time.

A couple of hours well spent

Once you have a few of these under your belt, you can then begin to experiment with more exotic designs which adds an element of fun to things. Store your finished rigs in polygrip bags within a trace wallet or on foam winders within a storage box. 

If you’re in any doubt about what to tie, take a look at the diagrams of our Premium Rigs or use a purchased one as a template. 

Top tip

Knot pulling tools are fantastic, but chances are you will still need to be pulling monofilament with the other hand which can start cutting in to you fingers when the rigs pile up. A couple of wraps of insulation tape wrapped around your fingers will assist you in pulling knots tight and prevent line from cutting you. 

Chesil Beach 2020 – Early summer prospects

Ben Stockley guests on todays blog and gives us a detailed insight in to just what we can expect from Dorset’s, if not the UK’s, most popular sea angling destination this summer. Ben’s portfolio of fish landed from the shingle is second to none, so we thoroughly recommend digesting every last word….

Chesil Prospects For June 2020

With fishing currently on the back burner, let’s look forward to some early Summer sport when hopefully we will all be back out enjoying ourselves once again! For anybody new to fishing Chesil, it can be a daunting place with over 18 miles to choose from before you even consider weather conditions, tides, etc. Below I have attempted to give some basic information which might just help you to catch a few more fish.

June Species

June will see many of the Summer species starting to show with Smoothound to low double figures the most popular target. Although Chesil fish generally tend to average 3-8lb, June represents a great chance to secure one of the larger specimens.

A typical smoothhound for Ben

For the big fish angler, the other main target will be Rays and apart from a Stinger, all of the main species can be caught this month to beyond specimen size. 

From the top- Small eyed, spotted and thornback rays

For those preferring a mixed bag, Plaice will show in reasonable numbers, Red and Tub Gurnard should be present, and the odd Black Bream will start to figure in catches. Mackerel anglers should have fun during early mornings/evenings and a few Bass, Conger and Mullet can also be found. Chesil being Chesil means that even aside from these reliable regulars, pretty much anything can turn up on its day! 

A stunning plaice captured under idyllic skies

As a general rule of thumb, Abbotsbury Westwards will produce mainly Plaice, Hounds, Tub Gurnard, Mackerel, Mullet and Rays whilst marks to the East offer all of the above plus Red Gurnard, more Conger, a few Bream but less Plaice.

Tides

The great beauty of Chesil is that it can be fished on any size of tide. For visiting anglers pick a medium sized one of 1.7-2.0 metres on the Portland scale. The very largest tides often send fish off the feed for long periods due to excessive flow. Similarly, much below 1.7 metres and you will be sitting through long spells with no flow and no fish. Choose an evening or early morning session, 4 hours before high and 3 back or shorten that to 3 either side if fishing west of Abbotsbury. This will mean a continuous run of right to left flow and hopefully plenty of bites! Expect that final hour as the flow eases off a touch to be the hot period but once slack water arrives, it’s time to go!   

Weather

Long hot days in June with clear flat seas can be quite difficult for fishing. However, set the alarm clock early and fish from first light until the sun gets too intense or again in the evening and the results can be spectacular if you match it to a decent period in the tide. 

If we do get a short onshore blow to churn the sea up a bit, it can be fantastic as it doesn’t seem to produce the hordes of Dogfish and Pout that the same conditions would do in the Autumn. It also seems to really encourage the Rays, Hounds and Bass to feed like crazy!

Weather to avoid for me is a stiff onshore wind combined with gin clear water. Sometimes this can be ok for Hounds but usually most fish will still be sat out at range and the loss of 20-30 yards can have a really negative impact. These conditions on a bright sunny day are an absolute kiss of death. 

Baits & Rigs

The rig – and baits – of choice for a mixed bag

Fresh Peeler, Ragworm and fresh Mackerel would be my top baits for a mixed bag on Chesil during June with a pack of quality frozen eels also useful if targeting Rays on some marks. Some small gutted and rolled blow lug or blacks can also work well if fishing west of Abbotsbury for Plaice.

My preference at a lot of marks on Chesil in June is a multi-hook rig of some description carrying small baits such as half a crab or a small section of ragworm tipped with Mackerel on the top 2 snoods with a slightly bigger crab or fish bait on the bottom tucked in tight behind the an Impact lead.

Every angler has their own preference, but it is not uncommon to pick up a Plaice or Gurnard on the small baits and a big ray or hound on the bottom snood at the same time. The all-out big bait, big fish approach means that you can sometimes miss out on some quality smaller species that might also be present unless you employ this tactic on a 2nd rod.

A colourful combination!

In the clear summer water, smaller well-presented baits even for the bigger fish will often out catch a bigger offering due to the extra casting distance and finesse particularly in daylight. I would never go bigger than a size 2/0 for the Rays/Hounds in the summer, and a size 2 is perfect for the other general species.

 Stay safe everyone and see you on the beach soon!

Ben

 

Cod galore- A Bristol Channel season to remember!

The Bristol Channel once held a reputation as one of the best cod fisheries in the UK and until recently, many were convinced that that we’d had the best of it. Perhaps we have, but then the 2019-2020 season is not one to be sniffed at as, for whatever reason, numbers of codling have once again returned to the inshore waters of the channel. The majority of fish have been in the 2-4lb bracket, but occasional cod nudging double figures in weight have kept things interesting. 

Many anglers believe that a four year cycle plays a part in the cod fishing here and with the last season of note occurring in 2015-2016, this makes perfect sense. 

As codling return to the Bristol Channel year on year, growing in size but reducing in number owing to commercial pressure in the channel approaches during the summer, it’s great to see fish of this stamp figuring in catches having successfully run the netters gauntlet.

As usual, it was those tackling the upper reaches of the channel who were first in to the season’s fish, with boats such as Channel Explorer operating out of Portishead and skippered by Chris Buxton, making some bumper catches. Uptide tactics, as ever, account for the lion’s share of the fish here.

A fine early season cod landed aboard Channel Explorer

Shore anglers also got in on the action early on, again from the upper channel marks around Clevedon and Portishead. 

Venues such as Battery Point, Walton Bay and Ladye Bay produced some excellent codling sport and together with plenty of thornbacks and conger there was no reason for the rod tips not to be knocking.

The pulley rig has long been a favourite rig here, having been brought to the channel by visiting East coast anglers in the 1980’s, it was soon recognised as the perfect set up for tackling the reefs and associated broken ground found within casting range on many of the marks here, it’s very concept ensuring a hooked fish trails behind the lead that travels up in the water and away from potential snags. 

Pulley rigs work great on cleaner venues too!

Other productive venues that generally begin to produce the goods by December include Sandpoint and Brean Down and both have been on good form . The beauty of these marks is that there are cleaner options, with both sand and mud within easy casting range. 

Local angler John Drury with a typical Sandpoint codling

This season has been no exception and typically anglers have gone away from these marks with bags of six fish or more this winter. 

The recent storms and excessive rain fall have undoubtedly slowed things down a little, not so much because of the freshwater in the estuary, but more than likely the level of chemicals and other deposits that make their way in to the many tributaries that feed the channel. 

But with March now underway, it’s highly likely that we are in for a treat with a spring run on the cards any time soon. 

Any of the marks listed above will produce the goods, but the main focus should be on bait.

Peeler crab is not cheap, but it is a highly effective bait at this time of year and will out fish the worm baits associated with pre-Christmas cod fishing more often than not. Presented on a wide gape hook, such as the Varivas Big Mouth, a 4/0 is perfect for both the size of bait and a codling’s accommodating mouth.

Look for neap tides which open up many venues that are unfishable when the tidal pull is at its strongest. Mild, overcast weather is often a winner with a southerly wind a particularly fishy one. 

East winds can cause the fishing to slow up. Avoid shallow venues, particularly first thing in the morning if the weather has been especially cold as most fish, with perhaps the exception of flounder, being reluctant to feed. The weather really is critical for successful fishing, take a look at XC Weather for a detailed forecast that will help you plan your next trip.

The deeper marks with rough ground at close range can often fish as well at 40 yards as they can at 100, so if fishing two rods, it often pays to drop a bait in close. You’d be surprised just how productive it can be when fishing practically under the rod tips.