On Monday morning we are heading up to the RNLI training tank in Poole to fling ourselves in and see what happens

All hail the awesome RNLI for arranging what four of us are heading up to Poole to do on Monday, and what stands out for me almost the most here is that the principal thing that the RNLI want to achieve is oh so simple. They aren’t trying to sell fishing tackle, they aren’t trying to promote fishing holidays, and they aren’t concerned with fish stocks - nope, the principal reason that the RNLI are putting on this day for us is to help prevent anglers like you and I from dying if something goes wrong when we are out fishing………….

Kinda simple if you stop and think about it, but from my initial email to the RNLI in September last year to where we are now, if you dial down into the whole angler safety thing then from a shore fishing and then lure fishing point of view especially, one of the main problems we have is that we simply don’t know enough about what does and does not happen if you end up in the water. And that water is usually cold of course.

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Go and search on Google for what happens if you fall into even a calm sea when you are wearing a pair of lightweight (breathable) waders for example - good luck. Same with what might happen if you are wearing waders, you’re dressed for fishing, and you are wearing an auto-inflate life jacket. Whatever your attitude towards increased fishing safety is, there is no getting away from how little information there is out there on what happens if something suddenly goes wrong and you end up in what might well be some cold water.

On Monday we are going to work with the RNLI at what sounds like the most incredible training tank up at Poole to try and dispel some myths and work towards some proper information - and this will revolve around the four of us repeatedly jumping into what I gather is a great big frigging cold pool/tank where they can simulate rough conditions and regularly carry out capsize drills on their inshore RIBS and other such joyful, cold water related activities. Everything we do will be filmed and photographed in order to gather media based information which we can then use to put out there via various channels - with this blog obviously being one of those media channels as such.

How many of you here wear lightweight chest waders when you go out fishing but have never actually been off your feet in cold water when you’re wearing them? Do you know what actually happens, and what’s the difference if you have a wading belt on or not? I don’t know for starters, and I really want to find out. I am wearing a lifejacket more and more these days for my shore fishing, but I want to know what it’s like when I go in and it auto-inflates for starters, and I want to know how well it helps me stay afloat the right way up and deal with the potential panic that comes with cold water shock. Thanks to the RNLI for so kindly getting right behind me and my recent interest in increased angler safet. We are going to get the chance to do a lot on Monday, and then have the opportunity to put all that information out there. I dread to think what bringing this day together is costing the RNLI (the tank for the day, camera people, editors, photographer, lighting, safety divers and so on), but as I said, their goal is to save lives and they have got right behind my initial approach to them. Thank you.

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And when it comes to the fishing that so many of us do here - shore based lure fishing that puts us very close to or often actually in the sea - I can’t help but believe that the best way to help more anglers stop for a moment and think about how they might increase their own safety is to be armed with the facts about what does actually happen if you go in. Because Monday is based primarily around shore based lure fishing and so many of us are wearing waders these days, that is how we are going to go at this testing. You can find plenty of lifejacket testing online if you go looking, but to make it properly relevant to us anglers we need to go in the (cold) water dressed as we would be when we are out fishing.

Do any of you here use one of those Japanese style lure vests to carry your lures when you are out fishing, and if so, does it have some form of floatation in it? Do you know how this vest performs if you end up in the sea? Well on Monday we are going to find out. I believe the RNLI also want us to test out wearing a lure bag underneath a lifejacket - as indeed it should be worn so that the inflating of the lifejacket is not impeded - and then jump back in with the lure bag over the lifejacket to see what happens when the inflation is actually impeded. And so on. We’re leaving early on Monday morning to head up to Poole so there won’t be a blog post, but in due course I expect to be able to come back on here and talk about increased angler safety with some proper facts and videos and photos to back it all up and hopefully help in some way to get us resistant bunch of people to stop sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring the simple fact that we can very simply and not very expensively improve our chances of being able to go fishing again and not breaking our families’ hearts if something goes wrong……………….

Does the line level on your spinning reel really affect how far you can put a lure out?

It’s interesting how many times issues with braid and wind knots comes up when I am sorting out questions to answer in that Lure Q&A section I do each month in Sea Angler, and of course when I answer something like this, my answer must contain reference to how “full” the spool on the (spinning) reel is. Surely if there is one thing that’s going to cause a decent wind knot it’s overfilling your reel with braid?

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But on the flipside I wonder how many times I have seen anglers talking about how their casting distance is cut back if their reel isn’t properly full of line - and I do wonder if this is a bit of a myth within fishing, or if indeed that casting distance is dramatically reduced. And if by deliberately underfilling a reel a bit one then ends up with a reel that behaves in any weather conditions but you might be losing a couple of yards of distance, well what’s more important? I know what I’d go for.

Underfilled or safe? This line level works great on the Penn Clash.

Underfilled or safe? This line level works great on the Penn Clash.

Has anybody ever done any tests to prove or disprove this whole losing distance thing because your reel isn’t completely full up? We can’t ignore here how some reels simply don’t behave if you go and put too much braid on them - and the Penn Clash spinning reel is a case in point here - but for all that I have used these reels I can’t recall standing there and thinking that my lures weren’t going far enough (if distance was required anyway). Sure, there has to be the argument as to why on earth Penn can’t make those Clash reels perform properly if you fill them up braid as full as you might a Shimano or Daiwa spinning reel, but hey ho, I have never been privy to how spinning reels are actually planned, designed, made and tested. One thing I do know is that the Clash is one tough reel that is nice and easy to get into if required.

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How many times have you loaded up a spinning reel with braid which you know and trust but have thought sod it, let’s get a little bit more line on there because I haven’t quite got the level right and I can’t be bothered to take it all off and start again? Come on, we’ve all done this, surely?! You then go out fishing and your mainline starts to misbehave when it never did before. You strip a bit of line off, retie your leader, and hey presto the reel’s behaving perfectly again. You and I both know that different spinning reels behave differently with different line levels - as much as it surprises me that more lure anglers aren’t using those Penn Clash reels for example, I found out pretty quickly that you simply don’t go filling them up like you would say a Shimano.

My mate's Stradic in theory is a little underfilled, but he catches plenty of bass like this, so what does it matter?

My mate's Stradic in theory is a little underfilled, but he catches plenty of bass like this, so what does it matter?

But does it matter? I used to always underfill my shore fishing multipliers because I was always wanting a safe reel that didn’t blow up on me, and I can’t ever recall being out bait fishing and thinking damn, I need some more line on my reel. Sure, some anglers would put their baits out further than me when required, but that’s because they were better casters than I was. It’s no different with lure fishing for me - I want a reel that I can fish with instead of having to sort out wind knots because I got a bit greedy and convinced myself that a bit of a higher line level was really getting my lures out a bit further. I want to be able to cover a decent amount of water if needs be, but at what cost?

I imagine that physics or whatever dictates that line coming off a larger circumference or something like that means it’s coming off faster and more freely, and I guess that somebody out who knows all about actual casting distances will be able to tell me how many yards I might gain from a reel that was filled up that much more. But I don’t really care at the end of the day. Nope, I will always go for a “safe” reel and of course a good modern braid. The spinning reels that I know and use a lot have their “safe” line levels but of course I am a bloke and at some point in the near future I will be filling a spinning reel up with braid and I won’t get the level quite right and I will think sod it, it will be fine - and I will then be cursing myself ragged as I strip some line off when I am out fishing and regretting my line filling actions!

 

No Fishing Today - this is turning out to be one of the most awesome books I have ever read……..

I always remember somebody asking me some years ago now how on earth I managed to work from home and not give into watching television all day long! I don’t know about you lot, but there is never any daytime TV in our household and wanting to watch the box during the day never comes into it - save for vital rugby and cricket matches of course. Nope, my problem has never been wanting to watch TV, but it could so easily be ignoring my work and settling down to read a good book all day long. I could so easily shut this computer down, light the stove as the rain comes down outside, and lose myself in a book - ever since I could read I have devoured books……….

And I am not going to try and pretend that I spend my reading time consuming highbrow literary masterpieces that the newspapers I might read seem to review all the time but the actual books are so rarely in the Top Ten selling book lists etc. I have read all the Jack Reacher books for example - and yes, I want to be him - and I used to scare the hell out of myself when I was a lot younger by reading all those classic earlier Stephen King books (I first read IT when I was about 13 or 14, and I last read it about five years ago - it’s fascinating how this book comes across depending how old you are). Give me a good serial killer book or a fast moving thriller and I can easily lose myself for hours on end, and yes, I have read plenty of the best Wilbur Smith books multiple times. My wife is an avid reader as well, and I am really glad that our two girls have inherited our passion for books - with a lot of credit due here to J.K. Rowling and what I imagine must be a legion of children she has helped to fall in love with reading.

Anyway, as much as daytime TV is a complete no-no in our household, I am passionate about good films and TV series, and recently I started watching that rather outstanding Netflix series “Godless”. Wow. Talk about wrapping you up in the world of the western era, and it got me thinking about how I am pretty damn sure that I have never actually read a novel set in the American West. I love a good western film or TV series but I can’t recall reading a novel from that era - so I went looking for one. I didn’t particularly want  a simple cowboys and Indians and bows and arrows as much as the kind of “involved” feeling that the TV series Godless is giving me.

As with looking for fishing gear, good old Google was how I went looking for a good book set in the American West, and pretty quickly there was one book that kept on topping most of the lists - so I got it for my Kindle, and I am now fighting the urge to stop any work that needs doing and keep on reading it. It’s that good. I don’t know if you are into reading yourself, but if you want to have a go at the most gloriously evocative, sprawling epic of a book that creeps into your conscience and places you right in the middle of every single page then I urge you to buy “Lonesome Dove” by the American author Larry McMurtry. I am finding myself going to bed that bit earlier because I want to spend as much time with this book as I can. I fell asleep reading it last night, then woke up and read some more.

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“Lonesome Dove” is a serious epic and I reckon I am about half way in - this is a big book! I read very fast and this book is so damn good it’s impossible to put down, but every time I turn a virtual page on my Kindle I am dreading this book ending. Here’s the blurb about this book from the Amazon page (you can read a sample here): “It begins in the office of The Hat Creek Cattle Company of the Rio Grande. It ends as a journey into the heart of every adventurer who ever lived. From the author of The Last Picture Show and Texasville - here is Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece. A powerful, triumphant portrayal of the American West as it really was. More than a love story, more than an adventure, Lonesome Dove is an epic: a monumental novel which embraces the spirit of the last defiant wilderness of America. Legend and fact, heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settlers - Lonesome Dove is the central, enduring American experience dramatically recreated in a magnificent story of heroism and love; of honour, loyalty and betrayal.”

I love a good book as I said, but this thing is way beyond that - it’s a true epic. It’s the sort of book that you start reading and can’t help but initially wonder a little what all the fuss is about, but a little later and you can’t put it down because it’s got you so hard. There are a few other books by the same author that are part of a Lonesome Dove series, but Larry McMurtry wrote the actual “Lonesome Dove” first, and every book based website I have come across says to read it first and then dig the other ones out afterwards if one is so inclined. Sorry for the lack of fishing today, but I am feeling so utterly consumed by this book “Lonesome Dove” that I am struggling to think of much else at the moment………...

 

How many lures do you take fishing with you? (Is it fair to even ask?!)

I have a lot of lures. There, I said it, because I bet you never for one second imagined that I might have! I am sure that if you regularly read this blog then you will have quite rightly (?) formed an impression about me that revolves around me being a mature adult who definitely doesn’t have any issues with lure fishing tackle and continuing to “collect” lures like it’s going out of fashion. You know it’s bad when with a completely straight face you can perfectly well justify the purchase of a new lure to yourself because you “need to photograph it”! Beat that I might add…………..

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Anyway, with all the lures that so many of us seem to horde away like squirrels storing their nuts, I wonder how many lures you might actually take out fishing with you? I guess that via the guiding work I do over in Ireland and where I might end up bass fishing throughout the course of a season as such I get to interact with a number of different anglers. I understand completely the desire, nay need to clip on a brand new lure and get it out there, but when you plan for a session and get yourself out there, are you taking a kitchen sink of lures with you, or do you try to cut things down to whatever a sensible level might be?

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I take precisely two lures boxes with me when I go fishing and that’s it, and more often than not I take just the one lure box for night fishing - those two or sometimes one lure boxes need to fit in my beloved HPA lure bag that sits at my side. I use a couple of those smaller size of washable lure boxes that you can usually find pretty easily (20x15cms), but of course you can’t then fit the larger hard lures in them - something like a MegaBass X140SW won’t go in there for example. A few years ago I came across the a Snowbee version of these washable lure boxes that is configured as per the photo above - the compartments for the lures run length ways. This is great for larger hard lures but is also how I carry my soft plastics as per the photo below.

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I don’t stuff extra lures in my rucksack and unless I have gone and forgotten a particular lure I can’t remember thinking that I needed to have a load more lures with me. Granted, I need to then tailor what I take to roughly where I am heading out to fish and then take into account that best laid plans don’t always work and that a move might be required etc. Around here where I live when I might often be going fishing for the one session it’s usually pretty easy to pick what I might need, but of course it’s then a little harder when I am fishing around say the Copper Coast area over in Ireland and could be out all day and/or night. We might move locations a lot, and because those moves might require a completely different fishing approach it can be a little trickier to predict what you might need. I am sure you are the same as me though and have a bunch of go-to lures that you trust implicitly for certain situations.

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Of course how many lures you can take with you then depends on how you actually carry your lures. I always have a fair amount of camera gear in my rucksack (usually this rucksack here these days), so when that goes in there together with a waterproof jacket if I am not actually wearing it plus various bits and pieces (hat, buff, leader, clips, reading glasses which I never used to need for trying knots etc., spare clothing layer, water or coffee or whatever, sunglasses and so on) I have no room left to stuff a load of lures boxes in there. A few years ago now I switched over to having my lures at my side and out of the way of me actually fishing and I haven’t looked back, so if they don’t fit in those two smaller lure boxes which sit in that HPA bag then they don’t come with me.

I could definitely fit a few more in there!

I could definitely fit a few more in there!

And oh how have I found out how to cram as many lures in those two boxes as possible though! Not always of course, but if I am out for the whole day over in Ireland then I know from experience now that certain lures can be literally squeezed into all corners and compartments of those two lure boxes. I can cover what I might need to say move from estuary to open beach to shallow reefs to quiet bays and so on, but then I guess it tends to be over time and therefore more experience that helps you to better understand which lures help you effectively deal with specific situations?

 

I wonder if or when we will get to the stage where we go into a tackle shop to buy a lifejacket along with our rods, reels, line and lures etc.?

I’ve got a big fishing safety related day with the RNLI coming up in a couple of weeks and in due course I will tell you all about it - and via various chats with my main contact there, we have naturally been speaking about all manner of fishing safety related stuff. This in turn gets me thinking where we might be with all this further down the line………….

Could you ever envisage the day when you walk into a tackle shop to buy a lifejacket, and not just rods, reels, lures, lines, bait etc.? Make no mistake here that a few months ago I was exactly the same as most other anglers I know or come across with my talking myself out of even thinking about lifejackets and/or increased safety - excuses along the lines of it’s never going to happen to me, I’ve had some close shaves but I got away with it, I’m so macho that you’ll never see me wearing a lifejacket for shore fishing, I’ve been fishing for however many years now and I’ve never needed a lifejacket yet, or you shouldn’t be looking at fishing there if you feel you need a lifejacket. And so on.

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But can we change? It wasn’t many years ago that I bet nearly all of you reading this blog had no idea what breathable waders and wading boots were. When did you change from spinning with mono lines to lure fishing with braid? It was only 1983 when seatbelts became mandatory for front seat drivers and passengers, but what’s the first thing you do now when you get into your car? I note that over in Ireland it is the law to have to wear a PFD or lifejacket on pleasure craft and fishing vessels.

I bet plenty of you are reading this and thinking nope, not me, no way I’m wearing a lifejacket for my shore fishing - and as for boat fishing? Well a good friend of mine had a boating accident a couple of years ago when he was out on his own, and he wouldn’t still be here if he hadn’t been wearing an auto inflate lifejacket, put it that way. I wonder how many shore anglers who have so tragically died doing what they love could have been saved if they had been wearing lifejackets?

And yes, one can always argue that if the conditions were that bad then so and so shouldn’t have been there in the first place - an argument which I used to find some kind of sense in, but when I really think about it is actually a load of crap. But why? Because this argument doesn’t allow for the unpredictability of the sea, and as a consequence, how quickly and unexpectedly things can go so badly wrong. I would also argue that there is a lot of difference fishing on coastlines that don’t get those big rolling swells against those that do. I don’t care how experienced you are, because swell and its sheer unpredictability can catch anybody out. Do you think for one second that those two poor brothers who went fishing last September up on the north coast of Cornwall thought that they were risking their lives by doing so?

I accept and live with the fact that fishing in, on and around the ocean comes with an inherent level of risk, but then so does getting into my epic Berlingo and driving somewhere - yet I don’t allow the car to move until I and my passengers have our seatbelts on. I am not a particularly safety conscious person as my girls will attest to(!), yet I get in my car and put a seatbelt on because it’s as normal as turning the key in the ignition. I don’t really think much about it, but putting that seatbelt on could save my life one day.

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So why don’t more of us wear a lifejacket when we go out shore fishing? I am not trying to tell any of you what to do here, but I am trying in my own little way here to at lease raise a bit of awareness and perhaps get a few of you thinking about it. I believe I’ve got it right when I say that the guy from this blog post wore a lifejacket for ten years before he ever actually needed it (and he categorically would not be here now if hadn’t been wearing one), and I am seriously hoping that I will never have any need of the ones that I am now wearing. Cross all fingers and touch lots of wood here, but I have never been in a car crash yet I always wear a seatbelt. What’s the difference with being out on the rocks especially and wearing an easy to wear, doesn’t remotely get in the way lifejacket?

So I do wonder if our collective attitudes to fishing safety and what is the norm will gradually change. I wonder if we will go from staring at the odd shore angler who is wearing a lifejacket because they stand out like a sore thumb to one day starkly standing out ourselves because we are the only mugs not wearing one? And will we one day walk into a tackle shop to try on and buy a lifejacket just as naturally as we might waggle a few rods, rattle a few lures, and talk various amounts of shite about the good old days when men were men, summers were always better, my rod is longer and therefore better than yours, vegan was a word that wasn’t invented, and the seas were so full of double figure bass that anybody could wander down to their local beach and pull a few out!

Could you damage a spinning reel when you pull for a break with a really strong mainline?

Before Xmas I was bumping a 120mm/12g Fiiish Black Minnow directly through some pretty rough and fairly shallow ground, and as you would expect to do, a couple of times during the session I snagged up good and proper and had to pull for what I expected would be a break. Now my go to mainline these days tends to be the outstanding Sufix Performance Pro 8 braid (and yes, if it helps, in my mind the market-changing Daiwa J-Braid is just as outstanding, but I have a bit of a thing for Sufix lines and I make no apologies about this), usually in the 0.12mm/18lb size, and with the size of the bass we might catch it’s obviously plenty strong enough………..

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But when was it simply about the pure size of the fish and nothing else? As much as I love fishing with a braid mainline, you and I both know that these lovely limp and smooth and uber thin 8-strands aren’t exactly the last word in abrasion resistance. I reckon they do pretty damn well to be fair, but we’re talking about some very thin and fine lines potentially rubbing up against some grown up, horrible ground - and it’s got me thinking recently. A while ago I blogged about the slightly thicker but seemingly that bit tougher Sufix 832 8-strand braid (check here), and my thinking about all this (over thinking?) has resulted in me loading up a reel with the stronger and of course slightly thicker 0.18mm/26lb Sufix 832 - for certain situations I might add.

I have fished with this particular line in this breaking strain/diameter enough now to feel entirely comfortable that when out and out distance and/or cutting so effectively through the wind isn’t as important as a bit of extra toughness around some particularly rough ground, in fact a mainline this comparatively “thick” is great to fish with. Hell, when I first got into lure fishing for bass I am pretty sure I was using 30lb PowerPro as a mainline, and whilst fishing weightless soft plastics wasn’t remotely on my radar back then, it wasn’t until I started fishing with that amazing but not cheap Varivas Avani Sea Bass Max Power PE 8-strand braid that I realised what else was out there mainlines wise. I can still remember my first ever spool of that Varivas braid sitting on a shelf for at least six months because I was so worried about bass fishing with a mainline that thin! Anyway, I digress………….

Interesting how a very good north Cornwall angler I know favours 30lb PowerPro to help deal with the ground and conditions he tends to fish

Interesting how a very good north Cornwall angler I know favours 30lb PowerPro to help deal with the ground and conditions he tends to fish

A lot of us most likely don’t snag lures up that much these days for various reasons, but as with wrasse fishing, I’d expect to lose the odd lure when I am working something directly along the bottom when the ground is rough as rats especially - and as strong as that 0.12mm/18lb Sufix Performance Pro 8 is when tied to a leader via the FG knot, it isn’t that hard to break out if needs be. I tend to wind my drag up to the max (ok, not far off my usual drag setting anyway!), clamp my hand over the spool, point the rod directly at the snag so I am not putting any pressure on it, and then gently walk backwards until something gives.

But it’s a different story trying to break out with that 0.18mm/26lb Sufix 832 - holy cow it’s like rope it’s so damn strong! Now I have no idea whether this line truly is 0.18mm thick via a micrometer or 26lb strong on a straight pull on a proper line testing machine, but it’s pretty alarming how bloody hard it is to break this braid when you are snagged up good and proper - to the point that I have started to wonder if I could actually do some damage to what are some relatively small and delicate spinning reels by pulling for a break like I usually would. I’m fishing this 0.18mm/26lb Sufix 832 to a 20lb Sufix Invisiline fluorocarbon leader, tied via the FG knot, and when I did break out a couple of times that particular session, the leader broke on the knot to my lure clip - which means I don’t have to tie on a new leader. Is there any point in using any other leader knot?

So it felt like there was that much strain on my spinning reel (the expensive but utterly sublime so far Shimano Twin Power XD C3000HG, review here), I actually stopped pulling for a break like I usually would and instead I wrapped a load of braid around my fish-grip until there was no slipping, made sure there was some slack between that and my reel, and then pulled for a break using the fish-grip as the fulcrum if you like. It worked just fine and I simply tied a new lure clip on and got back to my fishing.

So my question here is as per the title of the blog post - can you actually damage a spinning reel by pulling for a break via the “tighten the drag, clamp the hand, and pull directly for a break” method? Or am I worrying about nothing with what seems like a hell of a lot of strain going through various parts of the reel? I like the idea of tailoring my choice of mainline to where I am actually fishing to try and better cope with the abrasion problems - accepting of course that tight lines against sharp rocks etc. ain’t exactly great bedfellows - but that 0.18mm/26lb Sufix 832 is like frigging rope it’s so strong, and because I do tend to err towards the 3000 size Shimanos or the equivalent size Daiwas on the more often than not 9’ long lure rods I tend to favour, that little lure demon in my head tells me to be a bit more careful with how I break out on the stronger/thicker mainlines especially. Do I need to worry about this? Your thoughts would be most welcome in the comments section below. Thank you, have a good weekend, and may the weather abate!

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It breaks my head when you fancy there being some good fish around but any options you might have are scuppered - Happy New Year!

Now this could well be because I simply don’t have enough options up my sleeve to deal with the current weather conditions we have got around here at the moment, but it’s breaking my frigging head that the water is still relatively warm and only the other day it felt about as bassy as it has all year - but aside from playing with DoLive Sticks in the bath I can’t think of a single viable option to try and get at a few bass on lures………….

Happy New Year by the way, and I hope you all had a good Xmas with families and friends. Mark and I headed out for a bit of bass fishing on Christmas Eve morning and it looked so damn good that I told myself I was going to sell all my fishing gear if at least a bass wasn’t landed. Hell, this is exactly what I said when I posted a photo of Mark’s fish up on Facebook: “With the conditions as stunning as they were when we were walking down this morning, I had made the executive decision that if at least one bass wasn't landed then I was going to sell all my lure fishing tackle, buy an all in one lycra body suit, and take up running with (or rather, lagging miles behind) my two girls.” You know when it’s starting to kick up before a storm rolls in and the water is tumbling around and it’s all lovely and green and fizzing and every single cast you are feeling the love? Well that’s how good it looked the other day.

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OK, so the fishing wasn’t epic and to be honest it’s been strangely quiet around here in south east Cornwall for a while now - Nov and Dec are two months I look forward to all year for bass fishing, but my local waters haven’t been on fire at all. Mark saved me from selling my gear/wearing lycra and running though by landing a beautifully conditioned bass around 5lb+ on the smaller Feed Shallow (he’s bloody deadly with those lures) and we were both looking forward to a load more bass fishing over the Xmas period……….

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Mmmmmmm, perhaps not! Obviously you can’t get greedy with the time of year and the weather we can obviously get, but bloody hell are we copping it at the moment - with what we’ve got going on conditions wise, well it’s testing my (lack of?) knowledge and viable options! The rivers are full of freshwater and look like hot chocolate, the open coast around me is brown and horrible and blown out, and where I really want to be because I fancy it so much at this time of year (north Cornwall) is far too dangerous to fish because of the swells that keep on coming in - and the swell forecast on Magic Seaweed right now makes for some interesting reading indeed.

Is cabin fever a genuine thing that anglers can suffer from? It doesn’t feel so frustrating when you know that the chances of catching a bass are as good as zero because it’s say the middle of February, but give me some decent conditions and I really do fancy this time of year. I find myself checking a bunch of different weather forecasts in the hope that one of them isn’t saying the same thing as the others and therefore I can hope once more that in due course the coastline will clear up and I can get the hell out there. In the meantime, Happy New Year again and here’s to whatever 2018 may bring………………

 

Happy Xmas, see you in 2018……….

Nearly another year gone, and as ever one has to ask where on earth the time goes? Can you really believe it’s Christmas Day on Monday, and as an angler I hope you have been good boys and girls for present time! Sadly my wife has absolutely no idea what a DoLive Stick is, so you can rest assured that when I open my presents on Monday (and surely you notice how bloody small your pile of presents is compared to when you were a kid!) there will be nothing like that in there.

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I have no concrete plans to do any more blogging until the New Year, so you all have a good Xmas and I will see you in 2018. We’ve got lots of family down over the next week or so but I will be out fishing when possible with conditions etc., and I hope that many of you on here might manage to wet a line or two. As much as I tend to love this time of year for bass fishing around where I live, it does seem worryingly quiet at the moment, albeit there seem to be pockets of fish around if you can locate them.

I did want to draw your attention to a fantastic new fishing film trailer that I saw the other day, with the main man behind this project being a hugely talented South African fly fisherman and film maker who I have done a bunch of stuff with over the years. I was lucky enough to go and photograph this insane tigerfish location back in September 2010 and the experience has lived with me ever since. I have never seen a freshwater fish hit a fly as hard as a tigerfish, and the only saltwater fish I can think of that hits so hard and fast and aggressively is a GT. As you well know, I am obsessed with bass fishing and I love our magnificent fish to bits, but wow would I love to see some of the bass fishing experts out there get nailed by a 10lb plus tigerfish! Try setting a hook in that mouth! Africa, it has been far too long and I need to go back. I hope you all get some proper time away from work, looking forward to catching up soon…………….

Only in Africa.........

Only in Africa.........

No Fishing Today - what’s your favourite film of 2017?

I feel like something different this morning, and films (which I refuse to call movies) are a real passion of mine. Because I am a bloke I can’t help but formulate the things I am interested in into lists, whether it be the top five lure rods I have fished with, my top ten black metal albums of all time, etc. - and in this case I thought it might be a bit of fun to think about the best film I have seen this year, and then if you would be so inclined you could reply in the comments section below with the best film or films you have seen in 2017………..

And just so you know, I can’t stand anything Star Wars, I despise superhero films save for the outstanding and gloriously subversive sendups that are Kick Ass and Deadpool, I never really got Blade Runner, and there are a number of films that were released in 2017 which I haven’t seen yet but can’t wait to - Dunkirk, It, etc.

One of the best films I have seen in the last few years was the truly immense Sicario, and close behind that was Hell or High Water - both these were written by a guy called Taylor Sheridan, and when I saw online that he was going to be both writing and directing his first major film I was intrigued. For me the end result was the best film I have seen this year and I can’t wait to buy the BluRay so that I can watch it again - Wind River is my top film of 2017. There are any number of standout scenes in the film, the script is sublime, the cinematography is breathtaking, and there was one scene in particular that just floored me with how subtly powerful and emotional it was with the outstanding yet understated acting. What a film.

Aside from me needing to be thrashed for not having seen It and Dunkirk yet, are there any standout films from 2017 that I need to see? I do love my films and I watch what I can, but there are surely a few gems that I have gone and missed. Have you seen Get Out by the way? Another outstanding film that I bet slipped under a few radars…………...

 

Is there an “easier to get at” way to carry and properly secure a small landing net at my side other than carabiner to carabiner?

A few years ago I was carrying one of those trout style landing nets for some of my bass fishing and it worked ok, indeed the main reason I started to carry a net was because I had lost a couple of good bass right at my hand when I was deep wading specifically. And then as you do and for no specific reason I stopped carrying a landing net and I’m not quite sure why when in fact they make perfect sense for a bunch of different situations……….

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So I want to go back to carrying a small landing net sometimes and I am trying to work out the best way to carry it so that it doesn’t drive me mad - which come to think of it is perhaps why I ended up stopping carrying a net! If the net is to hand but also securely out of the way then I can fish away and not worry about it, but if the bloody thing keeps unclipping or whatever and almost trips me up then it drives me mad, as per yesterday when I gave my new landing net carrying system a go and it didn’t work at all. At least I wasn’t troubled by any bass yesterday morning which might have required netting, and I also know that the lads I was fishing with were pissing themselves as I nearly tripped over my sodding landing net about a hundred times!

The actual net is fine (Greys GS Scoop Net, medium size), but it’s how I secure it to myself that isn’t quite working. What I need is the net secured to my left hand side where my HPA lure bag sits - if I hook a bass then I need to be able to unclip (or whatever) the net with my left hand when the fish is ready to be netted. I want to be able to let go of the net if needs be and not have it disappear down the current (bungee cord or something like that), and almost most importantly I don’t want the sodding net to keep coming free when I might jump from rock to rock or wade out in waves or current. I need the net to be secured at my side but I also need to be able to get at it nice and easily. I cannot have a landing net clipped on my back by the way.

I bought that Greys net the other day only because I have used one before and I found the size to be pretty good (it’s had 10lb+ bass in it, you can kinda fold them in), but my old one needed replacing because the actual net material ended up tearing up over time. It’s not ideal having a net at my side, but for the few times I want one with me I can live with it. When I bought that Greys net recently it came with a free magnetic net holder thing that was rated to a 5kg pull, so I wanted to see if that worked - and by the way, if you were to buy this particular Greys net, you need to bear in mind that the actual net has already got a magnetic release system on it. Do yourself a favour and glue it together so that it gives you a place to secure a clip and bungee cord to - as a magnetic release thing it is utterly useless.

Anyway, where I was blanking and tripping over my net yesterday morning doesn’t actually call for a net, but I wanted to carry one to see how my new magnetic release system might work - and it doesn’t. The apparently 5kg magnet feels pretty powerful and I was quite hopeful when I was walking to the fishing spot, but the first gully I jumped and the bloody net came free. I can sort of put the net over my HPA bag but it doesn’t really sit there that well, and as much as I would secure magnet to magnet at my side, the simple fact is that the connection obviously isn’t enough for how I am moving around, and if any water surges past you then the net comes free as well. And yes, I was effing and blinding a little bit yesterday, and especially when I went to move from rock to rock and nearly fell over because my sodding net was around a rock and I hadn’t noticed. Hell, the more I think about it, the more I am realising why I stopped carrying a net with me - but there has to be a way, surely?

I've lost at least three really good bass trying to land them like this, and one in particular still haunts me..............

I've lost at least three really good bass trying to land them like this, and one in particular still haunts me..............

I reckon I’ve got two options here - either I secure the net via stainless steel carabiner to stainless steel carabiner, with a length of bungee cord between clip and clip so I can let it go if needs be (and accept that with one hand it’s going to be slightly trickier to release the net when I actually need it), or else I keep on looking and try to find some ingenious net system that might well exist for my needs. I have seen a few of those specialist Japanese nets out there that clip to the angler’s back, but they are no good for me because for various reasons I don’t want anything on my back, but are any of you here aware of any other landing net systems that I should think about?

I asked around on Facebook and kindly got a lot of information, but most of it was still based around the small trout style landing net and how to better secure it. Do I have to carry a net? Nope, but I sure would like a system that allows me to easily and efficiently carry one for a few specific situations. Any help and ideas would be gratefully received………….

 

I’d find the proposed 2018 recreational bass fishing regulations a lot easier to swallow if they’d bloody well enforce the commercial restrictions

I am sure that by now you have heard the news from earlier this week that the recreational bass fishing restrictions for 2018 are not going to be the initially proposed six month ban and instead will most likely be catch and release for the entire year, with perhaps July and August to be set aside for an angler to be able to take one bass a day. Here’s what the Angling Trust have said this week, and I will continue afterwards:

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“After two days of tough negotiations over proposals from the European Commission that could have seen bass angling banned for the first six months of the year EU Fisheries ministers have announced the final measures for 2018.

This followed strong representations from the Angling Trust and representations from angling bodies and the tackle trade across Europe, including a 18,000 signature petition, calling for no further restrictions on recreational fishing for bass.

The package of measures for 2018 have been produced in response to advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) which shows that the Northern European bass stock is crashing. It was nearly 19,000 tonnes in 2010, but the forecast for 2018 is just 6,414 tonnes, a fall of two thirds. The stock is now well below the critical level of 8,075 tonnes (Blim), which means the future regeneration of the stock is now critically endangered and the stock may remain depleted for extended periods.

Anglers have argued that ministers need to address the prime cause which is commercial overfishing with nets rather than targeting the limited impact on the fishery from angling with hook and line.

Ministers announced this morning that catch and release angling for bass all year round can continue with the prospect of a recreational bag limit in the second half of 2018 depending on a data review of the updated ICES advice in March. (This was specifically pushed for by the UK delegation in response to our representations).

There will be further limits on commercial bass fishing as follows:

Fixed nets:

1.2t provision over 10 months (Feb-March closed).

– reduction of approx. 50 percent on 2017 BUT now a provision rather than by-catch. Therefore likely to be more enforceable as the by catch allowance was being widely abused.

Demersal trawls and seines:

Bycatch down to 1 percent of catch capped at 100kg for trawls and 180kg for seines per month over 12 months.

– reduction from 5 per cent and reduction of cap on 2017

Commercial Hooks & Lines:

5t per vessel per year over 10 months (Feb-March closed)

– reduction of 50 percent on 2017.

The Angling Trust is pleased that commercial over fishing of bass numbers continues to be addressed but obviously disappointed with the extra restrictions on bass angling. However, overall the settlement looks like about the best we were going to get in the context of the ICES stock assessment of bass numbers.

David Mitchell, Head of Marine at the Angling Trust, said:

“We are pleased that the proposed six month ban recreational fishing for bass was rejected and members of the public will be able to continue to fish for bass in 2018 on a catch & release basis all year round. Charter skippers, bass angling guides and other businesses reliant on bass angling at least now have some certainty and can plan ahead for 2018.

"The UK government confirmed that the measures for recreational fishing will be reviewed in March when updated scientific advice will be issued which will take into account the impact of the restrictions on recreational fishing since 2015. We hope at this point that the impact of recreational fishing will have been reduced and there may be the leeway for a bag limit to be introduced in the second half of 2018.”

And as was expected, there’s been all manner of reaction on various social media platforms especially - I can understand a lot of the different arguments, but I can’t help but wonder if the same levels of effort that go into the reactions were actually put into trying to do the right thing and work towards more fish for everybody, then where might we be? We seem to love ranting and raving after the event, but we ain’t nearly so keen on standing together and fighting for a better world. Anyway, I digress………

A potential twelve month catch and release recreational bass fishery will most likely personally affect me very little - I don’t kill the bass I catch and I am very much in favour of the bulk of bass we as anglers might catch being returned. But of course I can see how a lot of other stakeholders in the recreational bass fishery are very worried, and I do my best to understand their point of view and what might happen. With bass stocks being how they are though, I can’t help but feel that from a purely ethical point of view we should be returning the bass we catch, and of course there must also be the question whether we should even be sport fishing for bass these days anyway - but I do see how a purely catch and release fishery might adversely affect a lot of people.

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What grates with me the most is knowing how little will be done to enforce the new measures - firstly as an angler I have never, ever been checked on when fishing here in the UK, so what’s to stop me killing every single bass I catch, and secondly what really makes the whole thing a bitter pill to swallow is the rampant disregard so many commercial fishermen seem to have for the rules and regulations because they don’t remotely fear any form of prosecution. Why have laws if they aren’t going to be enforced?

I will draw your attention here to something I read on the Mounts Bay Angling Society page on Facebook, and I hope I am not doing anything wrong here by copying and pasting what I read into this blog post. This makes for some horrible reading……….

“Based on the MMOs (Marine Management Organisation) own figures and up until the end of September 2017 there were 3513 recorded landings of bass in fixed gill nets. 497 of these landings contained only bass – no other species at all – at a time when it is illegal to target bass with fixed gill nets. 100% bass in the landing - if that is not targeting bass perhaps the MMO can tell us what is. Now comes the crunch - How many fishermen have been prosecuted by the MMO for landing avoidable catches of bass - for targeting bass – NONE. The MMO know all about these landings – these are their own figures yet they do nothing about it. Some boats are transgressing time and time again. As far as bass are concerned netters are being allowed to catch what they want with total impunity. How can this be right? What is the point of legislation if those charged with enforcing it disregard it totally.”

“Further analysis of the figures below show: One vessel in consecutive months landed 1207 kg and 1034 kg. Another vessel in consecutive months landed 472 kg, 205 kg, 285 kg, 80 kg, 972 kg and 270 kg. When the MMO are charged with enforcing a monthly catch limit of 250 kg, (of unavoidable by-catch), how can you possibly not notice this! At least 61 incidences of the 250kg cap being broken have been identified.”

Now I have good reason to believe that these facts and figures above are true, and that the information wasn’t exactly easy to come by for various reasons which I am sure make some sense. What the bloody hell is the point of laying down various rules and regulations which are actually designed to help bass stocks recover but then don’t prosecute any boats which break these rules? Surely all this does is send out the message that it’s just fine to flagrantly disregard the already daft bycatch laws because you’re not going to get into any trouble at all? Would you pay your taxes if you didn’t have to? Sod that!

And then within the recreational fishing world, what on earth is going to stop unscrupulous anglers taking as many bass as they want, whatever the laws are? If the laws aren’t enforced then what’s the bloody point? As much as there are a few people in this world who I could quite cheerfully slap, I know that if I were to do so I’m going to get into some form of trouble with the law - so where’s the equivalent law based protection for the fish? There does seem to be a slowly increasing desire and indeed need to properly protect and grow the bass stocks, but if the measures brought in are so easily bypassable, doesn’t that then simply allow for human nature and the rampant disregard we have for the natural world to prevail instead?

 

Does your lure addicted brain work like mine? The cycle of lure buying and why it will never end……...

The question here is never, ever going to be do I need a new lure. Nope, we’re way past that and have been for years now. The question as ever it seems is do I want a new lure, and how do I then justify this purchase to myself? Allow me to talk you through a recent lure purchase and then please tell me if your twisted, lure addicted brain works along the same line as mine………..

So a while back I’m in Needful Things talking to the owner Leland Gaunt - this will make no sense if you have never read any Stephen King books (and if not, why not?), but I am talking about the Cornwall based Art of Fishing tackle shop and its owner Ben Field. So we’re yapping away and of course my eyes are furtively scanning the rather good looking shop in case there’s something new which I haven’t seen yet. Does Ben notice my eyes scanning his shelves? Well as subtle as I like to think I am being, in truth I think it’s pretty bloody obvious I am yet another lure fishing addict standing in the middle of a lure fishing crack house and doing my best to act a bit nonchalant about it.

I have a kind of cotton candy colour radar - if there’s a hard lure in a cotton candy colour then I’m going to notice it for starters, and if (help!) there’s a lure I haven’t seen before in that colour then alarm bells are going to start going off between my brain and my wallet. Holy frigging cow, can you imagine how weak I would be around a cotton candy OSP DoLive Stick? Be still my beating heart!

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Anyway, while I’m talking to Leland Gaunt my eyes alight upon a rather lovely looking APIA hard lure that I have definitely never seen before, and shock horror, it just happens to be in a lovely cotton candy colour as well. Without a doubt Leland notices my sharp intake of breath, and he then turns around, scans his bastard shelves, and like a magician might pull a rabbit from a hat, said new hard lure is suddenly in his outstretched hand and being offered to me for a closer look. “Have you not seen this new APIA Dover 99F lure?” asks Leland? “No Ben, I haven’t.” And bang, there goes my addled brain, straight into lure needing/buying/justification mode. I’m breathing a little faster, my eyes are no doubt bulging, and that bastard lure demon in my head is chattering away.

As I said at the top, do I need a new hard lure? Well believe it or not, I’ve got “a few” already, and I reckon I’ve got most bases covered. But I haven’t got one of these APIA lures, and I do love having a few smaller hard lures that look like they might cast well, grip in nicely, and swim at a kind of shallowish medium sort of depth. So I don’t need one, but oh do I now want one - 14g, 99mm long, and rated to swim at 60cm, but I bet you with the rod tip up it will go shallower if needs be. And of course the one in Leland’s hand is a lovely cotton candy colour.

OK, so far I am managing to resist, but then as we carry on talking about world peace and other such important stuff, I begin thinking about a particular spot on the north coast of Cornwall that could call for a lure like that. I tend to fish there a lot with the DoLive Stick which can slay on its day, but sometimes when the conditions are somewhere between perfect and on the edge of being too much, controlling a weightless soft plastic can be tricky - hence my thinking about a few hard lures which might do the job for me. Which of course I have already. Which of course isn’t the point here. The bastard lure demon in my head is going back and forth - should I, shouldn’t I? Well it’s obviously a foregone conclusion, but I play the game with my head before handing over my debit card and relieving Needful Things of a brand new, shiny cotton candy colour APIA Dover 99F.

Which then sits in my lure box for a while because I’m fishing so much with soft plastics. It sits there looking lovely, it’s ready to go with the barbs all crushed down, but it wasn’t until last Sunday morning that I was faced with exactly the conditions at exactly the spot for which I thought this little APIA lure might work. You know damn well I’ve got other hard lures which could have done the job, and Charlie who I am fishing with does very well at this spot by fishing a 120mm Fiiish Black Minnow along the reefy bottom. But such logic is often besides the point when you’ve got a new lure you are itching to try.

Anyway, I’m struggling to properly fish a DoLive Stick, so I reel it in and pull my box of hard lures out of my HPA bag at my side. Hang on, did one of them just wink at me? I could have sworn that little cotton candy APIA lure winked at me - “Henry, over here, clip me on, now is the time you worthless addict”. So I do. I give in and gently pluck the new lure from my box, clip it on, put my lure box away, and then I cast the lure out on the “can’t stop fishing with it and should have returned it by now”, outstanding HTO Nebula 9’ 7-35g lure rod. Holy cow this little lure flies, and in a strong left to right rip current and a good bit of bounce it feels like it’s gripping and swimming really nicely. “Oh you clever boy Henry, you did so well to buy me”. Do lures really talk, or is it that lure demon still chatting away inside my head?

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Whatever it is, I think I might have yelped for joy when about five casts later I feel a hard tap and then a bang and then I’m connected to what feels like a decent bass. It didn’t actually end up scrapping that well, but when Charlie kindly went down and dragged my bass from the water, I think I might have by mistake said thank you very much to my new lure before I said so to him. All joking aside - and the life of a lure addict is no laughing matter by the way - I get such a thrill out of buying a new lure (obviously) with a specific location and set of conditions in mind and then actually catching on it. The fact that this rather lovely December bass was surely around the 6lb mark was merely the icing on the cake.

I then hooked another bass not long after which annoyingly came off, and then not long after that my lure got caught up on a rock (it’s some pretty shallow ground) and my braid obviously passed straight over something nice and sharp and broke. Forlornly I looked out at the whitewater to see if my little APIA Dover 99F could be seen waving at me, but I couldn’t see it, and as I turned around to go and tie a new leader on, I said a quiet and sad goodbye to my little cotton candy friend.

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And so the cycle of lure buying kicks in once more. I took a punt on the lure, I caught a nice fish on the new lure, and then I lost it - which means that firstly I am going to have to buy another one because I now know it works, and secondly I can’t just buy another cotton candy one. Oh no, fear not brave soul, I can’t be doing with just the one colour now. I now need a few different colours because that’s the way my twisted, lure addicted brain works. Off to Needful Things I go to continue my cycle of lure buying weakness that goes around and around while I play at being a grownup dad who is meant to be more mature than his 13 and 11 year old girls………….

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