Posted 06:47, 15 October 2014
- Bear in mind here that it wasn’t very long ago when most saltwater anglers didn’t know about lightweight or “breathable” waders from the fly fishing world, yet here we are now when for many of us they are quite simply another bit of accepted fishing tackle (clothing) that we take out fishing with us - and it’s not just lure anglers using them in the saltwater world.
- So what you have is this slightly strange situation - many of us are using an item of fishing clothing that we can’t really do without, yet on the flipside we are using a product in an environment that it was categorically not intended for. Argue all you like that waders should be doing this and that, but now find me references to fly fishing waders having been designed for what is often some pretty brutal saltwater use. I have worn breathable waders for years now, well before I ever got big time into lure fishing in fact, and as invaluable as I find them for my fishing and indeed work, the saltwater environment just tends to kills them in the end - and in my mind it’s combination of the actual saltwater itself doing harm to seams and materials, and then of course rocks, thorns, hooks etc. putting holes in the material.
- But, for all that in some respects we don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to our freshwater waders failing on us with saltwater use, I am with any of you here who have had their waders fail on them - obviously it drives me mad. In essence we have no right to complain, but on the other hand it annoys me that in this day and age some waders don’t do a better job of standing up to the saltwater environment. A decent pair of breathable or lightweight waders are not cheap, and of course there are some out there that do far better than others. I also have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of so called “unexplained leaks” are no more than angler error at either not realising they have gone and put a hole in their waders, or via just not looking after their waders by not washing them down and drying them off after use. Saltwater is a killer, end of.
- So what can we do about it? Are there any magical solutions out there that will solve all our wader issues? Well there might well be, but none that I have come across. You can spend a heap of cash on top of the range Simms waders, but take it from me, an angler who has done just that - as awesome as they are to wear and move around in, and without doubt their levels of breathability are a step up from any other waders I have used over the years, they are still going to get trashed with heavy saltwater use. Although my Simms G4 waders are still going, they were essentially condemned by Simms after just over a year of heavy use.
- I have been wearing their new G3 waders for much of this year, and again they are so good to fish in - but I don’t remember using a leakier pair of waders for a long time. I haven’t been aware of putting any holes in them via slipping etc., yet I can’t recall having to patch up a pair of waders as much as these ones. I was deep-wading with them in Ireland the other day and I ended up with a wet crotch area (and no, I hadn’t wet myself with excitement) - it hadn’t happened before, so why was it suddenly happening now? I really look after my waders as well. Are top of the range breathable waders worth the cash for what we put them through? The jury’s out for me.
- Another solution of course is these non-breathable Bass Boots chest waders. They are a good product that I think would suit many anglers really well, although I simply can’t wear mine in anything approaching warm weather - the build up of sweat is quite something, and it then cools down and stays damp against your legs and you end up bloody freezing!! Outside of warm weather and if you’re not walking long distances then they are seriously worth checking out.
- Their new off the shelf versions are cut pretty well, but not as well as a pair of Simms (but then neither are most other waders to be fair), and it niggles me that the shoulder straps are not done with some kind of stretchy material as we tend to find on breathable waders. Kneel down to do something and the shoulder straps on these new Bass Boots dig into your shoulders instead of stretching with you. Personally I will always prefer a neoprene sock that means I can wear really thin liner-type socks over my feet and not have to worry about a lack of cushioning that you get with the very thin (but very tough to be fair) Bass Boots tech sock things. Easily sorted I am sure, but it’s an oversight if you ask me when targeting the lure fishing market.
- There is one solution to these problems I suppose - don’t wear waders. Go wet wading or wear a wetsuit (or don’t get in the water, ever), which to be honest I will not be doing save for a bit of wet wading during our warmer months. Do I want to be over-chest deep in cold saltwater for say three hours without a pair of chest waders on? Not on your life thank you very much, but then you might well be a lot tougher than I am. Nope, I need lightweight chest waders, but for the life of me I can’t find the perfect solution, and mainly because I don’t think it exists.
- I see no other way around this for the time being than getting the best quality waders you feel that you can get for the money - and then looking after them as best you can whilst accepting that you’re going to have to learn to mend leaks (rubbing alcohol spray and Aquasure), regularly wash them down in freshwater and dry them out, and of course get friendly with a wader repair service such as Diver Dave - check here. Some waders I see and hear about in my opinion do fail too quickly, and I can’t get away from believing that for the the same kind of money there are in fact good (or at least better) and not so good chest waders. But together with this statement I also come back to angler error and not looking after gear properly.
- So, I hear you ask, why isn’t there a company out there making serious, saltwater proof (if there can be such a thing), lightweight and breathable waders for us at a price that we are happy to pay? Well first off, how big is the market in reality, how much are we prepared to pay for a product like this, if indeed a product like that can actually be made, and as a fishing tackle company would you actually want to be making this kind of thing anyway? Well I’d sure love it if a tackle company did actually do all this, but I know that if I was a fishing tackle company and I knew how hard gear like this was actually used, I’d be staying well away from it!! In the meantime, use, abuse, wash, mend, and be thankful if your waders do last well for you. And as for wading boots? Another time.
- Waders aside, I was rather chuffed to get the front cover of Mel Russ’ last issue in charge of Sea Angler magazine - it’s Steve Richardson with a 9lb bass he caught on a trip to the south coast of Ireland we did earlier this year. I have to say that I am over the moon with how they have used my photo and made it work with all the other stuff that has to go on a front cover. I have no say in what is picked as a cover shot, but I can’t help but hope that some of the shots of Steve’s 11lb bass that he caught the other day over in Ireland might make a Sea Angler cover someday. You haven’t seen these shots yet, but there are a few there that I am seriously happy with - we shall see………..
Posted 06:07, 13 October 2014
- My Shimano Sustain 4000 is one of the best spinning reels I have ever had the pleasure to lure fish with - I love it (review here). Smooth, plenty powerful enough, just the right size for most of the lure rods I tend to use and play with, the drag system seems great albeit I don’t like giving bass line if I don’t need to, and that handle just does it for me - or at least it did do it for me until it went and snapped clean off when I was out fishing early on Saturday morning…………….
- I would love to be able to say it was a monster of a bass that hit me and that’s the reason the handle snapped off, but nope, it wasn’t a very large bass and I wasn’t giving it too much grief either - or at least I didn’t get a chance to because the sodding handle came off the reel as I started to wind the bass in. I got the fish in by manually turning the bale arm around the spool, and my mate Andy kindly grabbed and unhooked the fish for me. Check out the photo above of my lonely reel handle now separated from my Sustain 4000.
- Now to be honest this bugs the hell out of me - I look after my gear, and I am going to assume that my handle snapping clean off like that is a one-off. I have not heard of this before, although thinking about it I’m not a big fan of those folding type handles that leave parts of it exposed to potential saltwater damage. What really did me in was that the conditions were fantastic and we were catching a few bass as well. But what can you do? Except for raging at a bit of fishing tackle failing on you completely out of the blue. I think I might have uttered a swear word or two………..
- OK, so the bass weren’t monsters, but they were on the feed and the three of us were having a blast. My saving grace if you like is that the light went loopy for a while as thunder and lightning swept by us to the south, so whilst I couldn’t fish anymore save for my kind friends demanding that I had some chucks with their gear, as per always I had my camera gear with me and I could at least make something of the photographic opportunities, and to be honest I would have had to take photos for a while anyway - I can’t not get my camera gear out when you see light like we had on Saturday morning. It’s the way I’m made and I can’t help it.
- What really frustrates me is that I trust the Sustain completely, or at least I did. I love lure fishing with this reel, but when a major part of your setup lets you down you can’t help but worry - I always carry a spare spool loaded up with braid, just in case (and yes, it annoys me when you don’t get a spare spool included with a spinning reel), but I don’t personally carry a spare spinning reel with me. Do you? Am I mistaken to not be carrying a spare reel? I don’t carry a spare rod and reel and as such I accept that if I fall over say and snap my rod then my fishing session is over, but I must admit that I have never really thoughts about carrying a spare spinning reel with me. Can you imagine if it had been double figure bass hitting our lures? I think I might have had a little strop!!
- Obviously I will be on the phone to Felindre to try and track down a new Sustain 4000 handle, and I am hoping big time that this incident really was a one-off - because it’s a fantastic spinning reel and I don’t exactly want to stop fishing with it. Yes, my trust in it is has been dented, but I bet my handle never snaps off again, and I am not about to start carrying a spare reel with me (or a spare handle for that matter) - but of course a spinning reel that to me was just about perfect has now come down a peg or two. And please, don’t go giving me suggestions along the lines of I should be using a Van Staal etc. - I have owned two of them and I hated lure fishing with them. I get what these reels are about, but using a Van Staal after fishing with Daiwa and Shimano reels? No thank you, and I had issues with my first Van Staal anyway.
Posted 06:30, 10 October 2014
- Wow has this been playing on my mind since I got back from Ireland the other day - and nope, it’s not the fact that on one particular session we all blanked. No, I can accept that, indeed I would imagine that blanking must happen occasionally to even the best anglers out there - what has been frying my brain big time is the fact that we all blanked yet there were a heap of bass in front of us, and I can’t help but wonder how many times this actually happens. You blank, but there were in fact a few fish around.
- But how do I know that there were in fact a stack of bass in front of us, and why on earth didn’t we catch some of them? We watched as a sport fishing boat drifted up and down almost where we were casting, and I think on every drift at least one of the anglers on that boat hooked into a bass - while we stood there like a bunch of lemons, up to our tits in water and wrenching arms from sockets as we cast again and again but to no sodding avail. If there had been no boat there then we’d have taken the blank on the chin with something along the lines of “weird how we have been catching bass there for much of the week but on this particular day they did a disappearing act” - but you can’t do that when you seeing all those bass being caught right in front of you, and holy frigging cow has this rammed a number of things home to me. It’s made me really think about what we might have done differently.
- First off I think we had all fallen into the trap of having caught a bunch of bass there by bumping Fiiish Black Minnows in the current that week (and we often do catch on these kinds of lures at that spot), and therefore we were all carrying Black Minnows and little else with us. I know I did this. I’ve hammered fish there by casting out, letting the Black Minnow hit the bottom, and then fishing it with a controlled sink and draw, but not on that day - and we found out later that the lads on the boat had been freelining small live mackerel. I am surmising from this that the bass were pretty much preoccupied with the plague proportions of mackerel, as indeed you would expect with all that food around, and as much as we have killed by fishing on the bottom there before, it is my understanding that bass chasing mackerel are not doing so on the bottom.
- Match the hatch - which we didn’t do, indeed it was one of those cases that when you’ve finished fishing (blanking), you then think of about a hundred things you might have done differently. In the grand scheme of things it matters not that we blanked, but it’s the fact that we didn’t even hook one single fish when there were in fact so many of them around, that’s what does me in. I know that after my next blank session (who, me?), it’s going to linger with me that either there were actually some potentially interested fish around and I simply wasn’t good enough to catch them, or was the particular place I was fishing truly devoid of any fish? At times there are of course fish around that simply aren’t interested in feeding, but at some time they’re going to switch on, or move on and feed elsewhere. Right place right time as per usual.
- In some respects this is fishing through and through, but with lure fishing especially we can carry a fair amount of options pretty easily. I think back to that blank session in Ireland and what I know now about how the bass were feeding, and I think about dead-drifting big senko type soft plastics in the current - letting them drop through the water column with the odd twitch etc. How about a pure mackerel imitation like that MegaBass Zonk colour which came out recently? How about the blue-back Black Minnow with a Shallow head on that means the lure’s going to drop slower through the water column? How about slowly working a surface lure across the current? Live baiting would of course be an option, but for where we were, I think that’s best left to the boat angler.
- Sure, it fries my brain that we blanked while there were so many fish in front of us, and it makes me look at myself as an angler and how I might be better prepared next time with at least a small selection of lures other than the ones that have historically worked so well for me there. It might be the case that next time I fish there, bumping Black Minnows slays once more because the mackerel are no longer around, but it’s my fault for not carrying extra lures when to be honest I usually do - and as I said the other day, if it doesn’t fit in this contraption here then it doesn’t come with me.
- There will always be a part of me though that can’t help but sit back and smile about what happened to us, because for all that we think we know or learn, for all the wonderful fishing tackle we can get our hands on, and for all the good information that is so freely available to us, fishing is still about trying to get one up on Mother Nature - and at the end of the day we’re going to fail sometimes. On the one hand it bugs me that we could possibly have caught a heap of bass - or were they only going to hit live mackerel regardless? - but on the other hand I can’t help but feel that we need that kicking from time to time to keep us grounded and striving to get better at fishing. Surely that’s a good thing? Have a good weekend and may you be in a position to catch the fish that might actually be there in front of you……….