Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

Guest blog post - Keith White - Learning to sew, part 3 of a needlefish series

In this section I’d like to look more at choices, the way too many choices hamper your fishing, the way that simple looking fishing might fly in the face of ‘knowledge’ and the reasons why we might do something, buy a certain reel, rod, line or lure.

Should you use a reel of size 2500, 3000, a 4000, something else? Who cares, use what you know and like ...

However... Know your reel.

Most certainly do not or perhaps, a kinder way is to suggest they do not consider reel size outside of potential balance, weight and line capacity.

Retrieve ratio, line per turn all matter but, only in like for like comparisons with other reels and your mates.

Reels are, like I said, important but not to the point where you need to play both the brand name and money game in competition with your peers. Instead, just find a suitable one and stick with it.

Fishing needle’s is simple, easy, a no brainer. Most needlefish skills involve learning to leave the lure alone, trusting in it and having tackle that doesn’t interfere with it in that context. As regards reels and line, especially at night and throwing lightweight soft needlefish, nothing kills a session faster than a braid knot.

How easy is it, to simply cast and retrieve a lure, or cast and swing?

OK, go and find a fly fisherman's guide to presenting a dry fly. Why is presenting a needlefish any different? Well, it isn’t. You can go on a river and strip a lure back just like you might on a stocked small still water. However...

Go and watch the specialists, the dry fly men, the wet fly men, the salmon men who are still fly fishing yet, it’s all not always so subtlety different. Go and read some stuff on night time sea trout fishing for example and you’ll start to see a picture building. In fact, one book I always recommend to any potential night lure angler around currents and flows is ‘Sea Trout Fishing’ by Hugh Falkus.

Look at how a river coarse angler is asking the float to deliver a small bait in-line with the flow of the river or a stillwater waggler setup delivers a bait hopefully falling at the same rate as free offerings. This float fishing also works with lures, in rivers regards float jigging for the mighty steelhead and yes, even hanging a plastic crab or a shrimp under a float for wrasse, maybe even redfish in the Carolina’s USA.

Many top anglers from these branches of the sport have developed methods and skills aimed at reducing drag, getting baits to move in-line with currents and flows and they recognise, some area’s in any given water course are ‘better’ for X, Y, or Z reasons.

Sea lure anglers seem oblivious to much of this and many don’t even realise, or care to learn that the seas actually flow, and tide doesn’t come IN and go OUT, they know nothing of the rule of 12th’s, how water temperature affects lures and lines, how land affects winds, how waves move, how features and which features determine how bass or target species behave so ask yourself, WHY would such a person care, even remotely, about how and why a lure, representing x,y,or z bait, behave in a,b, or c water?

Turn your reels handle ONCE and how much line gets moved? Do you know? If not, why not. Do you realise that in a cross wind AND current, a lure may be acting like a car driving the wrong way up or down the motorway, do you know, that in faster flows, bass generally run deeper.

In the case of the latter, yes, it’s a fact, bass might indeed be deeper in strong flows because the water at the bottom moves slower. You have to THINK. I believe everyone has the ability to process data like this at incredible rates. Look, I don’t carry a science book around with me, you just do stuff, like I do stuff but my stuff is clearly influenced by what knowledge I carry inside. Imagine I am fishing a gutter running left to right. To the right is west. There is a strong F5 westerly blowing and this gully is say, 10ft deep along it’s centre. It’s flowing at 3mph. The bottom is rough and strewn with mixed sized boulders.

I’ll guarantee, there will be at least 3 layers of water speeds. The surface 2ft might be moving 20% faster, if not more. The middle depths might stabilise before friction slows the lower foot or so. In the case of some boulders, they might create layered eddy currents in which water may in fact, for a period, be flowing (from your perspective), backwards or the ‘wrong way’. Not the wrong way of course because it’s completely natural but your lure, simply retrieved, will of course, not take ANY of these flow nuances into consideration.

Lures with bibs are of course, affected more. Soft lures with a paddle tail are also, affected, far more than a simple, symmetrical lure like a needlefish. In the case of tails and water/retrieve speed, you can almost shake the tail off if you retrieve such a lure too fast, or against currents. In the further case of a bibbed, plastic style minnow lure, there is a point at which the lure becomes useless and ‘rolls out’. Literally, it gives up, rolls on it’s side and comes back skipping the surface with all the grace of a wet carrier bag. Not good you might say. Consider the ratio of involvement regards speed : lure type: sink rate: water depth: temp : etc.

Your reel might say, retrieve 80cm of line, per turn of the handle. Someone else’s, 90cm, another, 105cm. You might have 20lb braid, your friend 15lb and someone else, something different. The point is though, turning that handle at 1 turn per second, it’s rare you’ll exceed a lure speed that would challenge a brisk walking pace. YET...

Paddle tail lures kick like mules and many minnow style lures ‘will’ roll out as described. And this is in normal waters. You add moving water and stuff simply stops working as you may imagine. Needlefish and lures without extravagant actions and intention, are in many ways, immune to overwork unless YOU apply it. If you know how to swing the lure, where to cast into strong flows and how to maintain contact, the needefish will look natural in water conditions where many other lure types are simply the clown at the party. They stand out, too much.

Know your colours... or NOT

Imagine now, in the midst of trying to fathom a million ways to present a lure in as natural a way as possible, you start adding 25 colour variations and 3 size variations into the mix. You could forget it and learn from the dry fly angler who instead, chooses to match the hatch or offer something that ‘looks and behaves’ in a natural manner and concentrate instead upon presentation. You could choose to restrain yourself and have reasons, any reasons for using X or Y coloured lure or, like me, you could simply use whatever takes your fancy at the time as long as previously considered criteria like size, contrast, weight, action and profile are met first.

In fact, to prove a point rather than guessing, I threw together a small yet functional python3 script to work out a much smaller set of possible combo's using just 2 needefish types, 6 colours, 4 lengths, 4 weights and 5 sink rates. I cannot print here the results as in just that amount of choice,

you are left with 15360 permutations. Crazy right? It's incredulous to imagine 15360 permutations of lure before you even start fishing and then of course, you still need to be on fish.

You see, I’m not trying to be smart here but I myself would NEVER confuse the issue with such an amount of permutations. Just keep stuff simple and as I have written and proven elsewhere, colours in the main mean little to the fish, more to the anglers and more still to those selling lures to the anglers. At night, most mid range saturations of colours resolve to the same grey shade so as far as the fish are concerned, mid green, mid pink, mid blue, mid anything really will desaturate to 'almost' the same mid grey shade as 'green', so, if we need a representation of all of those mid colours, green is it. Add contrast into the affray and why not simply carry white/yellow for 'light', green for mid and maybe a dark blue/purple or black for high contrast? How much simpler that is BUT, it still leaves 3 colours or contrasts and 7680 possible permutations. Still clearly no good.

This is why when we go needlefishing, at night, (soft or hard), we choose the BEST POSSIBLE choice. For me, and for the people I generally fish with, that seems to be, in the waters we fish, 'GREEN', '1oz', ' 6" ', 'Centre Weighted' and go from there. If this was now daylight I might change green to white, I might not. If this was a dark new moon, overcast, I might change that to black. If I needed to cast miles I might choose a tail weighted 1oz before I chose to up the weight. So there is, and has to be logical choice made from a selection of lures you may need. Just carry the lures that sit within the boundary parameters of the water you are likely to fish. Done!

To be continued.........