Category Archives: Sea Fishing Tackle

Here you will find all things sea fishing tackle related, including hot new products and tried and tested items.

Fish selfie pictures- getting it right

Taking a good picture of that dream catch is something that we’re all keen to do. Modern technology built in to the phones that a lot of you are likely reading this on means that the majority of us have access to a pretty swanky camera. But if you’re alone, just how do you capture that moment in a way that truly brings it to life? Simon Lancastle teaches us how to master the fish based selfie in today’s blog entry…

Capturing a dream- the humble selfie. We have all been there, out fishing alone and catch something special. Now what do you do? Taking a picture of your fish on the ground is one option, but for me, it’s the selfie every time. Once you’ve practised a bit, this really is something anyone can do with a modern camera phone.  Here, I shall run through how I take mine, and what little is needed to get a pleasing end result. The first thing I’ll say is that there is nothing complicated about this and you don’t need any fancy or expensive equipment. In fact, I’ve not owned a proper camera for years, instead all of my pictures are taken with a smart phone and not a new one at that. I always buy something a couple of years old to keep costs down. The pictures you see here have all been taken on a phone when I’ve been fishing by myself. 

A stunning catch perfectly captured

Fishing alone in the dark? No problem

The one thing you will need to purchase is a small tripod to hold your phone that you should be able to pick up relatively inexpensively. This will hold the camera steady (camera shake can ruin photos) which is essential for crisp, clear photos, especially in low light conditions or at night. Next, access your phone’s camera settings and make sure that the picture resolution is set as high as possible. When it comes to taking the picture itself, you have three options. 

  1. Activate voice control, if your phone has this feature. This is what I use and I can tell the camera when to take the picture.
  2. Use the self timer on the camera. Ten seconds should give you enough time get in to that predetermined position.
  3. There are various Bluetooth remotes that you can use to take the picture once paired with your smartphone.

A typical smartphone camera tripod. A worthwhile investment!

Being set up and ahead of the game means that it’s just so much easier and you’re not rushing. So, consider what you’re trying to achieve as the end result. Framing yourself and the fish without cutting your head or the fish’s tail off is what you should have in mind. 

Secure the camera to your tripod and take a couple of dummy shots so you know where to stand/kneel in relation to the camera.

All set to go- say cheese!

When taking your picture, you should be facing in the general direction of the sun. This will keep things simple. Later on, you can experiment with a setting sun behind you, which often makes for an attractive shot. Consider also if you might be giving away your location, if this is something that concerns you. 

Once you’re happy with the dummy run, you’ll know that if and when you catch that special fish, everything is ready to go. Not only does this mean you’ll have a great chance of capturing a good picture, but also that your fish can spend as little time out of the water as possible.

A rare cushion carp ready to go back in the pond

It really is that simple and a quick practise at home to sort out any potential issues with the voice commands and where to stand relative to the phone etc will speed all of this up.

It’s then a matter of trying the different auto modes available on your phone to see what gives the best picture. At night things can be a bit more tricky, and sometimes I find it best to use a spare flood headlight to light up the fish, rather than use the flash.

I take a shot and look at the result, and work from there as quickly as possible.

If you’re fishing on mud or sand, it’s well worth giving the fish a quick rinse in the shallows before hand to clean it. Shiny, clean fish are so much more appealing in a photo. 

Once you have a few shots, hopefully one or two will show promise and the fish can go back. The main thing to remember is to get the fish back as soon as possible and not spend too long with it out the water. Unless you’re keeping your fish, its welfare should be your main concern. Unhooking mats/slings  provide somewhere to place your catch prior to snapping away.

All modern phones have a basic photo editing app and it’s worth getting familiar with it. Once you’re back home after your session, you can apply some basic edits that are really easy to learn, such as straightening the horizon or brightening up a dark picture.

This is all pretty simple stuff and with a little practice you’ll be taking some great shots.

If up until now your pictures consist of your prize catch sat on the lid of your seat box, hopefully this advise will give you the confidence to take a nice clear shot of you actually holding that fish. All that remains to do is catch something to take a picture of!

Fishing line- When to change it and why

Fishing line is something that many anglers take for granted. It goes on the reel, it’s used and abused and after a short while, little thought is given to its condition. This is a mindset that we need to avoid, as when so much effort goes in to tying effective rigs and ensuring hooks are as sharp as possible, that all becomes lost when our primary connection- the mainline -fails. So just how often should we be changing our mainline and why?

An example of the massive force that fishing line is subjected to

When monofilament fishing line is new, it should be smooth so that it flows off of the spool (be it a fixed spool or multiplier reel) of the reel on the cast. It should be resilient to abrasion and it goes without saying, break at the stated breaking strain. If any of the above are compromised, the line will soon become ineffective and likely cost you not just several sets of end tackle, but possibly a fish too.

If you’re fishing a sandy beach venue, chances are that your line will last longer than those casting in to rougher terrain. That said, it should still be inspected regularly as sand will act as a fine grade sandpaper over time and gradually take away the smooth surface that allows for trouble free casting. Coloured lines will begin to lose their colour -which ultimately weakens them- together with their shine. If you notice this happening, it’s time to change. We would recommend changing your 12-18lb (0.28mm-0.37mm) mainline on such venues at least every five trips. 

A quality Japanese monofilament

If you’re fishing over rough ground, the signs are far less subtle and it will likely become obvious when you need to change your line. If you’re getting snagged and pulling for a break, your leader knot should hold out pretty well, but if it begins snapping too easily, it’s probably time to change your mainline (presuming your leader knot is up to the job to start with). Likewise, if when you attempt to tie a fresh leader the mainline snaps as you pull the knot tight, you should also change it. If you’re a multiplier user, rough and damaged line will be noticeable as it runs beneath your thumb. 

Stepped up line for heavier ground fishing

Shockleaders themselves are no different and the same principals should be applied. As the job of the shockleader is to take the full  force of the cast, a compromised leader is potentially dangerous and MUST be changed as soon as possible. If you have any doubts in your mind, change it. Tapered shockleaders are obviously more vulnerable and the lower diameter end tied to the main line should be inspected often. Again, if in doubt, don’t cast out.

The three enemies of monofilament fishing line are generally considered as the following-

• Sunlight (UV rays)

• Saltwater

• Physical abrasion

 But what about braid?

Braid has some tremendous properties. Many anglers use it from the shore and used over clean ground together with a conventional mono shock leader, it will last for a long, long time. 

Two years is not out of the way, so the seemingly high initial price is actually a good investment. 

Thicker braids are favoured over rough ground, but a mono leader that will be in contact with the sea bed and take the wrath of a gnarly terrain should still be used. Braid used in this environment should be inspected more regularly and again, if it shows signs of deterioration, change it.

The above observations and advise should be applied to both boat and shore fishing reels.

Changing line

The first thing you’ll need to do is remove the damaged line from the reel. There are many inexpensive electronic line strippers now available that make this a doddle, but be sure to dispose of discarded line in a responsible way. 

A line stripper is invaluable for removing old line

Once you have removed the old line, you may notice salt residue on the reel’s spool and it’s worthwhile cleaning this off to prevent possible corrosion setting in.

Next, tie your new line to the spool of the reel by going twice around it and securing with a grinner knot. Whether you are loading a fixed spool or multiplier reel, consistent tension should be applied by firm finger tip pressure. A line spooler is invaluable for this job and will take the majority of the memory out of the line which in turn should lead to trouble fee casting. Don’t overfill the spool and in the case of shore fishing or uptide casting reels, always allow room for a shock leader. 

Gone are the days of pushing a pencil through the new line spool!

Changing braid

The same principles apply to filling a reel with braid, with a couple of extra pointers that should also be adhered to. Firstly, add a small amount (say 50 meters or so) of monofilament backing line to the spool. We would recommend a budget line of around 20-30lb breaking strain that will cushion the braid and prevent it from potentially tightening down on the spool to the point that it might slip, giving the impression that the clutch is lose even when it is locked up tight. Tie the braid to the backing mono and wind it on wet as tightly as you possibly can. 

A good way to do this is to place your spool in a sink of water and grip the braid with a soaked tea towel. This will assist the braid in settling and prevent any loose coils that could cause problems on a fixed spool reel when casting. Although some experienced anglers use braid on shore casting multiplier reels, it can have its problems and if you’re new to fishing it is is probably best avoided. 

Every retrieve relies on the line itself

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. 

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. 

New year, new mark, new record.

Dean Booker guests on our first blog post of 2020. His year has certainly got off to a flying start!

Back in August myself and Gareth Israel grabbed only the feather rods with a handful of leads and packs of feathers in search of possible new tope/spurdog venues for the winter. After some time spent on Google and Navionics 3 venues were chosen that we weren’t aware of anglers fishing before. Not to say they hadn’t been, but if they had then we had yet to see any mention on Facebook etc.

That day after miles of walking and checking out potential marks with dozens of casts, we found out that one of the venues was a real tackle grave yard, one was lightly mixed and one was really clean- no matter where you dragged the feathers along the bottom they weren’t getting stuck and with good depth and good tide plus reasonable access to the water if need be, we were confident we had found some good locations to fish from.

The more popular venues are rapidly filling up with lost tackle making them unfishable and we were excited to have found somewhere new to try when time allowed. 

You will never know unless you try these new things, so off we set one morning at 1am with a view to having our baits out by 3am. We both prayed that the early start would be worth it, not to mention all of the leg work we had previously applied. The mark was empty with no signs of other anglers having fished there. It was coming up to low water

The rods are out, but will the fish show?

when I managed to get both rods out before Gareth even had a reel on his rod, he was about to cast his first bait when my line suddenly dropped to the floor, shortly resulting in a spur of around 10lb. I was well happy with this fish as first cast on a whole new venue for us. Next, Gareth was in on the action but as a large huss broke the surface it decided to open its most and spit the hooks. We were both annoyed but at least we knew that the new mark also held huss. A steady stream of dogfish and bull huss followed before it went a bit quieter, but then out of nowhere Gareth’s ratchet screamed away and shortly afterwards I was netting a fat spur dog for him that weighed in at 14lb 14oz. He was made up and we were both chuffed that this new place seemed to have a lot offer. 

The next hour resulted in plenty of dogfish and as the light started to appear in the western sky, we wondered if we had seen the best of the action. I prefer darkness for Spurdogs and bullhuss, though we have caught plenty of tope in daylight. We missed a few bites and made a few short hook ups, but our baits were dropped by the fish soon after picking them up. I made my baits a little smaller and after another finicky bite made a positive connection with what felt like a reasonable fish. At first I thought it was a small tope but from the rocks below, Gareth shouted up to me- “It’s a big spur!” He scooped it up in the net and clambered back up the rocks to our platform. It definitely did look big. 

A big spur for Dean- at 15lb 11oz, a potential Welsh shore record

We placed the fish in the weigh sling and after deducting the the sling, we settled on a weight of 15lb 11oz. Not only was this fish a PB, but also a potential Welsh shore record!

We were both totally made up with our catch, but as it turned out, we weren’t done just yet…Gareth went on to land another spur of exactly 10lb in weight and as I cradled her up the rocks, I caught a glimpse of my T1000 doubled over in the tripod, line racing off of the spool. There was no mistaking the powerful runs of a tope and shortly after she came in to view, Gareth did the business with the net. 

She went 32lb 6oz and to me, this really was the icing on the cake. 

Over 32lb of prime Welsh tope- from a new venue!

As I broke my rods down, Gareth called over and he was in to yet another good fish. This turned out to be a PB but huss of 13lb 6oz, beating his previous best by over a pound in weight. We left the mark feeling pretty excited about our short but very productive session, knowing that it held some quality fishing. More importantly, we left it spotless in exactly the same way that we found it. All of our fish were taken on 4/0 Varivas catfish Hooks baited with either herring or mackerel at various casting distances. It’s great when a plan comes together!

Sea fishing rigs – the best there is?

For a long time now, we have not been one hundred percent happy with the range of ready tied sea fishing rigs currently on the market. Trusting a sea fishing rig that you have paid good money for only for it to break when you rely on it the most is pretty soul destroying and poor knots, inferior components and generally ill though out designs are all to blame.

Clip down rigs that don’t clip down and pulley rigs with pointless stops added that prevent them from functioning were another bug-bear when we had a closer look at what is available to buy.

Basically, we felt that we could do better and went about designing our own range that we ourselves would be happy to use. Rig making takes time and not one of us at VMO enjoy making rigs. Time spent timing rigs is time that could be spent actually fishing and that’s one heck of a good reason to actually buy rather than tie. At best, rig making is okay-ish if you are in the right frame of mind, but unless you have time to burn and fingers or iron, it’s a laborious task. 

So where did we start? Well, we all go fishing ourselves and are more than familiar with what is required when it comes to sending out a baited trace in the hope of a good catch. We decided that the components had to be the starting point. Cheap sub-standard clips and swivels are sourced with ease, but their inefficiency makes them a false economy. Luckily for us, we are the exclusive UK stockist of Seadra tackle. Seadra swivels alone are exceptionally strong, robust and small, so these were to form the back bone of our all new range of Premium Shore Fishing Rigs.

Seadra swivels- small, incredibly strong and resilient to saltwater.

Established favourites such as Gemini and Breakaway were also called upon, not to mention our long standing legendary Varivas hooks from Japan.

Next, it was a case of deciding exactly what to design and with so many different variations of rig out there, this in itself was a minefield. We decided to keep it simple and eventually whittled it down to 16 variations-

2/0 Pulley Pennel (Choice of Breakaway Imp or Gemini Splashdown Solo)

4/0 Pulley Pennel (Choice of Breakaway Imp or Gemini Splashdown Solo)

6/0 Pulley Pennel (Choice of Breakaway Imp or Gemini Splashdown Solo)

3/0 Single Hook Pulley with Gemini Splashdown Solo Large

5/0 Single Hook Pulley with Gemini Splashdown Solo Large

4/0 Drop Down Pulley with Gemini Splashdown Solo Large

1/0 Two Hook Flapper (1 up – 1 down)

1/0 Three Hook Flapper (2 up – 1 down)

#1 One Hook Up & Over Long Range Plaice Trace with Gemini Splashdown Solo Large

#1 Two Hook Long Loop Plaice Rig with Gemini Splashdown Solo Large

#1 Two Hook Clip Down (Choice of Breakaway Imp or Gemini Splashdown Solo)

#1 Three Hook Clip Down (Choice of Breakaway Imp or Gemini Splashdown Solo)

Drop Down Pulley Rig- quality components throughout (click to view)

 

The ever popular 4/0 pulley pennel. Tied correctly and ready to go.

When we inspected the knots on a selection of ready made rigs, we did actually cringe a bit. On some examples, it was possible to actually pull the hooks off of the snoods with very little effort. Not good- and you don’t want to imagine the fish of your dreams sliding off down the shingle and back in to the water!

So now the rigs were planned out to the finest detail, it was case of finding a reputable tier who could make them for us. Our contacts in the far east were keen to help and the prices were ridiculously cheap, but it did concern us that them having to learn knots would be part of that equation and could potentially compromise the rigs integrity. We need someone who understood the basic fundamentals of a shore fishing rig.

After a few brief phone calls with half a dozen or so UK rig makers, we asked each to send us a sample of their rigs and it’s fair to say that most, if not all, of them are clearly very talented with their handy work.

But the one that stood out for us was Somerset based Graham Hobden. Each rig had been meticulously tied to a set specification and clipped down exactly as it should do. Knots were snug, perfect and tied with attention, which is important when assembling rigs in such huge quantities. 

Hand tied in the UK – click to view the full range

Graham has been rig making for over twenty years and it was clear to see in his work. 

Three of us took a selection of the rigs Graham tried and over the next fortnight fished with them hard. What can we say? They did everything we asked of them. With ninety years shore fishing experience between us, we probably know a thing or two about good rigs and what they should and should not do. These ticked all of the boxes and for the first time in forever, we actually felt like we were fishing with something as good as we could tie up ourselves!

Graham now ties all of our Premium Shore Fishing Rig range and we’ve already joked that we will no longer have to tie rigs ourselves when we can ‘borrow’ them from stock. Prices represent the quality and reliability of the range and although possibly not the cheapest, they wont let you down like some.  

A selection of rigs built to perform. Click image for full range.

We are 100% happy with the range but would love to hear your feedback over the coming months. If you feel that there is a design that we simply must look at stocking, please let us know, but in the meantime, we hope you enjoy fishing with these rigs as much as we enjoyed designing them and putting them through their paces on the rugged shoreline of the Bristol Channel. 

VMO autumn adventure aboard Aly Kat

On Sunday 9th September, the VMO team stepped aboard Minehead based charter boat Aly Kat, skippered by Dave Roberts. After a hearty breakfast, the plan was to target the smaller species that are in abundance here at this time of year and often found extremely close to the shoreline amongst the rugged terrain. The order of the day was small hooks and small baits fished on an assortment of light rods armed with compact reels filled with zero stretch braid. 

It was just as well that this was the plan from the off, as had the team wanted to fish offshore in the hope of larger species, it would have been a little uncomfortable to say the least and there was more than just a small chance that someone would be seeing their breakfast again!

The steam down against the heavy swell that had been kicked up not only by the spring tides but also the ever stiffening south westerly wind, gave everyone the chance to prepare their end tackle and talk tactics. With skipper Dave full of talk of good catches in the days leading up to the trip, the guys were particularly excited, especially at the prospect of connecting with the feisty shoals of bream that are often in residence during September. 

Simon and Jeremy talk tactics

In no time at all, Aly Kat had reached its destination, well beyond Porlock Bay and somewhere close to the border of Devon and Somerset. The high sea cliffs of Exmoor offered some sanctuary from the wind and with the anchor set in the ebbing tide, it was time to go to work. 

Carefully presented baits were lowered in to the depths and Harry, Andrew, Simon and Jeremy waited with keen anticipation. 

It wasn’t very long at all before a sharp rattle on Harry’s rod tip indicated the first bite of the day. The bite soon developed into a full on rod-wrencher and Harry was soon enjoying a tussle from a feisty black bream that took a shining to his ragworm and squid-strip offering. 

First blood to Harry

It was a promising start and one that was to set the tone for the rest of the day. 

Harry’s bream was typical of the fish that seem to be in residence at the moment at around a pound or so in weight, but it gave a pleasing account of itself on light tackle. 

As time went by, all four anglers started to haul bream to the surface with the fish steadily increasing in size. Andrew and Jeremy even enjoyed a double hook up. It was clear that this was going to be a stand out trip as the guys enjoyed some relentless action with more and more bream coming aboard. The majority of the fish showed a clear preference for traces armed with  floating beads.

 

Double delight!

Simon’s popped up ragworm bait gets hoovered up!

Minutes soon turned in to hours (time flies when you’re having fun) and skipper Dave decided that a change of spot was in order. The anchor was pulled and soon Aly Kat was repositioned a few hundred yards down coast, nose facing into the now flooding tide. 

This time, the frantic bream action experienced earlier had been replaced by a little more variety in the form of gurnards, scad, bullhuss, mackerel and conger with a colourful array of species hitting the deck of Aly Kat within the first half hour of arriving at the new location.

 

 

Simon with a stunning blue tipped Tub Guranrd

 

A baby tope for Jeremy

A surprise octopus for Andrew

A Bristol Channel mackerel for Jeremy – a rare beast!

It was amidst the constant action provided by the smaller species that Simon suddenly latched in to what was clearly a better fish as his rod hooped over without warning and tested his nerve. Dave appeared alongside Simon with the net, his suspicions pointing towards a bass and as the anglers looked on, they weren’t to be disappointed. Simons reward was a stunning bass, clearly a PB and only lightly hooked on the tiny Chinu hook he was using. 

A PB bass for Simon

A comparatively quiet spell followed, before Andrew added to the variety with a small blonde ray that took a shining to a  small strip of mackerel intended for gurnards.

 

It had certainly been a productive day so far, but the one species that had remained elusive throughout was the sub tropical trigger fish. All aboard were keen to latch into one of these special fish that have only been occasional visitors to the channel in recent times, but try as they might they failed to locate a single fish throughout the remainder of the trip. 

As Aly Kat headed for port and left the sanctuary of the headland that had provided shelter from the buffeting westerly wind, it became clear just how large a sea had developed. Crossing Porlock Bay, Hurlestone point loomed and and a particularly lumpy section of water made for a rough ride. 

Andrew decided this was a good time to take a tumble and fell on his back like a turtle, much to the amusement of his colleagues. Thankfully he lived to tell the tale, with just a slight bruise to his back and a dent in his ego!

It had been a brilliant days fishing and was rounded off in style with a pint back at the pub and a recollection of the fish that were landed. The team had landed over 30 bream, the largest bag of the species Dave could ever recall and with the majority of these returned to fight another day, it bodes well for the future. 

VMO would like to thanks Dave Roberts for a great day’s sport. 

South Wales small eyed ray fishing

The south Wales coast has a long standing reputation for producing small eyed rays, but a lot of these fish are caught by just a few anglers. Dean Booker has certainly found his share over the years and tells us how, where and when on todays blog…

Small Eyed rays are a prime target species along the south wales coast and are present in good numbers for most of the year if you know where to look. Marks such as Sand Spit at Sully, Monk Nash Beach and Hutchins in Portcawl have a track record for producing the goods. These venues offer a realistic chance of catching a ray with the average size of the fish around 6 or 7lb, but you may well encounter other species along the way.

Dean Booker with a respectable small eyed ray

Dean Booker with a respectable small eyed ray

Numbers of blonde rays have increased dramatically over the last few years which is great to see and they are obviously a welcome catch, but because of this it makes things harder when going all out for a small eyed.

Blonde rays used to be thin on the ground and it was once possible to catch half a dozen small eyed rays in a session, but it is now the blonde that is more likely to take your bait meaning that the small eyed is a greater challenge that needs thinking about. Dogfish and conger are amongst the other species that may find you bait when wetting a line here.

There are three venues in my opinion that really stand out if it is a small eyed ray you are particularly interested in catching. Witches Point, Ogmore Deeps and Porthcawl Pier.

Although other species are encountered here, 99% of the rays caught are small eyeds.

Anglers tackling the Sand Spit

Anglers tackling the Sand Spit

Ray season

The small eyed ray season usually starts in March towards the tail end of the cod season on the first set of spring (big) tides and they will then be present right through to Christmas time. Day or nights seems to make little difference to the catch rate and it’s more a case of catching it right. Both settled and rough seas can be productive so don’t be put off if the weather is a bit nasty.

Tackle

When it comes to tackle, my current choice of rod is the Anyfish Anywhere Tournament Grand Prix. I fish with a pair of these and although many people may think they are over gunned for tackling rays on the sand, I really love the through action and the rods seems to suit my style of cast. When conditions are more favourable, I’ll occasionally switch to some lighter Century  models, just for a change. Casting distance can often pay off on many of the marks and it’s important that your rod can handle 7oz of lead to ensure the lead and bait is nailed to the bottom in what may be a racing tide. Make sure you cast up tide and let out a bow of line. Smaller leads may struggle to take hold on the sand and if your tackle is not on the bottom, you will not catch a ray… end of story. I’m a huge Daiwa fan and all of my reels are Saltist BG30 multiplier reels. They are great for casting and if maintained will last for years. I own several and they are all running at different speeds to suit different conditions on the day.

A fleet of well maintained reels

A fleet of well maintained reels

Rigs are simple and my preference is for a long pulley rig (five foot). 5/0 Varivas Big Mouth Xtra hooks baited with sandeel and squid are the only way to go. Step up the body and trace to 100lb. This extra thickness will not put fish off but it could help you to land a bonus fish if it finds your bait.

Sandeel wrapped in squid is all you need

Sandeel wrapped in squid is all you need

Over the years I have been lucky to land some good sized small eyed rays from the areas mentioned including a best of dead on 13lb as well as a number of hight 12’s. These fish have been the result of a lot of rod hours so like with any species, it’s a case of getting out what you put in.

Safety

Safety should never be an after thought no matter where you are fishing but I’d like to mention a few things regarding some of the venues mentioned in this piece-

Sand Spit

Do not try and access the sandpit before it fully uncovers if you have not fished here before. If you cross at the wrong point, you may become stuck in deep mud.

If in doubt, wait for it to expose fully. The flooding tide can backfill without you realising here so you really should visit for the first time with an experienced angler.

Witches Point & Ogmore Deeps

These venues are very exposed and if there is a swell running, never turn your back on the sea. This is one venue where a flotation jacket or life vest may be worth considering.

Dean's son.... gets in on the action

Dean’s son, Connor, gets in on the action

February – An alternative approach for a quiet fishing month

We all know how slow the fishing can be in February. But have you ever considered what fish may be feeding under your feet? A huge number of mini species remain at the base of rocks, harbour walls and jetties throughout the year and can provide some great fun with the right tackle. Bruce Hough gives us an insight in to how he approaches LRF (light Rock Fishing) in todays blog.

Generally, as sea anglers we spend much of our time in pursuit of that dream fish, and I’m no exception, but for myself it’s not all about the “bigguns” and during those sometimes long periods of inactivity when the big baits sit awaiting attention, I enjoy nothing more than dabbling in a bit of LRF (Light Rock Fishing).

By fining down your tackle and dropping very small baits down the edge it’s surprising the amount of smaller species that can be found below our feet.

The mini species, as they’re known, come in a massive variety of shapes, colours and forms, and with tackle to suit, can give great sport and endless fun for not just adults but also juniors, the elderly and disabled alike, especially during the warmer months.

Thumbnail sized slithers of fish, ragworm, a squid tentacle or a leg of a peeler crab matched to fine wire hooks of size 6 to as low as size 22 on a light paternoster style rig will account for the various Gobies, Blennies and Rockling.

A colourful array of gobies and blennies

A colourful array of gobies and blennies

as well as many colourful Wrasse such as the Ballan, Goldsinney, Rock Cook, Corkwing or Cuckoo.

How to catch wrasse

 

With perseverance and a little luck, more exotic species such as Dragonet or even Tadpole fish can be tempted.

sea fishing for cod

Despite its name, LRF doesn’t have to be solely from the rocks, in fact any structure such as piers, marinas, harbour walls, breakwaters and even some promenades will have a resident population of fish to target.

Another effective method is to add small baits to Sabiki Rigs, fished on the bottom these will tempt all the usual critters but when “twitched” will also appeal to the voracious Sea Scorpion, Poor Cod and Pouting.

fishing with lures

 

Try them off the bottom with small fish strips and they can be deadly for Sand Smelt, small Coalfish and Pollack.

Lure fishing for bass

Tackle for this type of fishing need not be expensive at all and a simple light spinning rod rated up to 28g coupled with a 2000 sized fixed spool reel will suffice nicely and handle any surprise bigger fish should they come along.

Mono from 5 -10lb will do the job but I personally prefer braid (Power Pro is highly recommended) for the low diameter and superior bite detection, which I tie direct to the chosen rig.

I also keep my lead weight/sinker as light as I can get away with to present everything as naturally as I can.
My choice of hooks come from leading manufacturers such as Trabucco, Yuki, Sasame or Sabpolo and are widely available, but for the majority of my fishing, I find that most coarse fishing hooks are also well up to the job and will handle any larger fish.
Sinkers can also come in a variety of styles including non-toxic, drop shot and slim line and shiny which can be used for added attraction. Among the accessories I carry are very small lures, jigs and artificial baits such as Isome which can be flicked out and slowly dragged and twitched along the bottom for various flatfish and even predators such as Bass or bumped over rocks and up through the water levels for Ballan Wrasse and bigger Pollack. There really is no end to the amount of experimenting that can be done.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that these little guys aren’t worth the effort or bait, match them with fine tipped rods and very light tackle and they’ll certainly “pull your string” and get the adrenalin going in their own little way.

So next time the going gets tough, get searching for those forgotten species that live in the crooks and crannies amongst the weed and rocks where you don’t need to be a tournament caster.