Plaice caught using a blinged up rig
This month can be slow for shore anglers in some regions with the sultry, balmy weather and clear water keeping the fish well away from the shore in daylight. But in darkness and in regions of coloured water, like the major estuaries, things can be a lot different and it really is a case of a change of venue or tactics to continue catching.
One species that show at this time of year are the sole and lots of venues around the country offer the chance of this unusual flatfish. For most the sole is considered nocturnal, but the facts are that on clear water venues they do mostly feed at night, especially near dawn, whilst in muddy water they are more common in daylight.
Tactics are simply enough once you have found a venue and its worth pointing out that sole do not show everywhere and sole venues are precise in many regions – Just a matter of miles from a shoreline that produces sole will be a venue that does not. So first look for a venue that produces sole regularly, the species seems to like shell grit and muddy sea beds and catching them once on the right venue is not that difficult. Fishing light with small size 2 or 4 hooks is essential, whilst baits include lugworm and ragworm. One top tactic is to fish short because the species are not shy of the shallows or the low tide gutter on many venues. Lots of anglers use two rods for this reason with one cast short and one cast further our which covers the options.
Talking about fishing light, there is a growing trend in sea angling to fish “Continental style” with lighter rods, thinner lines and small hooks. Much of it is to do with a reduction in the average size of fish and dwindling stocks as we fight to keep our sport interesting. However, it is also the case that anglers have realised that the fish do shy away from heavy gear and that lightening down can bring more bites and action. Check out YouTube where anglers have lowered Go Pro cameras alongside the pier wall and you can see clearly fish do shy away from heavy sea fishing gear etc. The biggest plus thought of going light is that small fish are allowed to fight, especially using micro braid lines and sea fishing is no longer hit and haul or playing cranes.
UK sea anglers have used over heavy tackle for years and that is much to do with manufacturers offering a limited range based around ancient designs and techniques. Swivels and hooks for instance, a few years back most would not look out of place on a crane, or for use with the largest fish species, but modern improvements in materials like carbon steel, design and construction have increased their strength and allowed a reduction of size down from the giant weed collecting swivels or hooks that could tow a bus! It’s similar with rods, reels and line, the distance casting revolution of recent years did much to improve rod and reel design, quality, strength and performance promoting lighter tackle which is more responsive to fishing enjoyment and sport. Check out the TF Gear range for the new TF Gear Force 8 Continental model or the Delta Slik Tip and the quiver tip favourite the Delta All rounder. All great for another option – fishing light!
The toughness and knot strength of monofilaments, copolymers and fluorocarbons is also particularly improved, so much so, that you can now go to a lighter breaking strain line with less risk of failure, whilst using the modern lower diameter micro braid lines is proving a practical advantage when fishing fine.
In general sea angling around the UK has had no need to go to the lengths of finesse that coarse anglers do. Sea fish are not always returned and so do not learn about line and hooks like their freshwater relatives, mullet and a few other clear water species being the only exceptions. Meanwhile the sea is often a hostile whirlpool of deep and chocolate brown water that hides tackle anyway.
The first problem fishing light tackle in the sea is dealing with the wind, tide and the rugged seabed, that’s the reason why tackle has always been tough and strong in the first place. You need to get a bait out to a decent distance, punch it through a headwind, so that its stays put in very strong tide. After that you sometimes need to retrieve it through a maze of kelp and rocks. Then there is the safety factor of casting that involves swinging the lead in power casting styles like the pendulum, the big distances they produce comes at a price with tackle beefed up for safety’s sake. But, the need to use an 80lb shock leaders may be more to do with an angler’s casting ego than practical thought about presentation. In terms of casting safety any move to fishing light can only involve the use of the fixed spool reel and an overhead casting style. This combination is far safer than the multiplier and pendulum cast.
A big plus for sea anglers that change to the fixed spool is that the modern reels are designed for long range casting, some with a carp fishing pedigree, are far superior to the models of the past. Long profiled /coned spools, stronger gears, ball bearings all make modern reels more efficient for sea angling and casting.
Crucial to the use of lighter tackle is the line diameter and lines as low as 6lb and up to 15lb are used with the lighter rods and fixed spool reels making this possible. The major problem when lightening down tackle is that terminal rigs must also be balanced to the rod action and line strength. It is pointless using a lighter rod with heavy line as it is using ultra thin lines with standard 8oz beach casting rod. However, a move to far lighter rigs involves thinner lines and a major problem with. multi hook rigs in very light line are prone to tangle easily. On the Continent really long snoods are commonly used and there the anglers say that the longer the snoods the less they tangle, although they must NOT be able to overlap.
The big advantages of increasing rod lengths to 15ft and above is that a longer rod allows the use of a longer rig length and this allows hook snoods to be placed farther apart so that they can be fished over a wide area as well as up in the water and do not overlap or tangle.
Longer lighter snoods also allow the hook bait to react naturally in tide and this is an important consideration when fishing either up or in clear water. The addition of floating or pop up beads also enhances bait presentation and allows baits to be raised to the levels the fish are.
Lots of shore anglers fishing light in summer use small hooks, which are essential to the more delicate bait presentation for some of the smaller species. However, there is every chance that you may hook a large smoothhound or a bass and so it’s a good idea to opt for the strongest patterns.
For many this and next month are last chance saloon for catching mackerel as the large shoals move south and it’s a case of making the most of the conditions whilst the fish are around, especially if you want to keep a few for the freezer for the winter whiting. On that note don’t forget the garfish – they are a very underrated tipping bait for lots of the autumn and winter species – bag them in the freezer as well.