Catching a “Grand Slam” has to be one of the most perfect way of ending a day out on the skiff or flats… A milestone which most fly fishermen want to achieve in their fishing career. Tarpon, Bonefish, Permit and Snook or the four target species, a Gland Slam consists of three of the four to be landed, or the more difficult, Super Slam, when the angler lands all four species! These angling milestones are unforgettable in the life of an angler.
Check out Mikael Frödin (video above), Guideline tackle tester when he manages to land this amazing Grand Slam using a range of Airflo Ridge Fly Lines along with the Guideline RS Haze fly rod!
I’m just back from a fortnight in Gambia fishing the West African Beach Championships organised by Bernard Westgarth and his wife Barbara. I finished fourth with a last day draw finishing my hopes of winning, although my son, Richard took the Championship’s first place with three zone wins and a third which would have been virtually impossible to beat anyway. Second place went to Nick Westgarth, another youngster with a consistent performance included an end peg on the final day, which he used to perfection. Third was Sheerness pensioner and great friend, Roger Weeks who landed a 9lb butterfish on the last day to also win that days biggest fish prize.
During the trip I landed a number of big fish with a 13lb cassava and a 15lb sand shark amongst my best, not in the matches though, whilst Richard topped the 20lb mark in the match with a 23lb captain fish and then added a near thirty sand shark from a freelance mark close to the border of Senegal. Some say the fishing is not as good in Gambia as it once was, which may be true to an extent, but going on what I saw there are plenty of speedy giants to catch, especial at this time of year (April).
What was particularly pleasing for me was to see Richard catch his best two fish using a 15ft Force Eight beachcaster. He was a fan of the old Fox Matrix I designed way back, but I persuaded him to try the TF Gear version and it was a hit straight away, especially in terms of the distances he achieved with it. Like everywhere around the world long range is the get out of jail card when the going is tough, especially in match fishing conditions with those vital extra yards the bonus that so often win. One of the great things about a hot country like Gambia is that casting distances are dramatically increased by the hot air and the warmer oil in your reels – The skies the limit and there is nothing more pleasing to a shore angler than to see the lead and bait vanish over the distant surf line.
For details of Gambian fishing contact Bernard Westgarth at: www.fishthegambia.com E Mail: Bernard@fishthegambia.com
After from the Gambia the foreign currency is now directed at Portugal where I have the World Club champs at Granola in a matter of days. I am fishing for the Dover Sea Angling team and hopes are high despite two pensioners being in our team. After that there is the small matter of the Magrini Championships in Sardinia – Italians know how to put on an angling event and its hard to really get into the fishing because the organisation, HQ, food, banter and wine is so enjoyable. The three hour weigh in after midnight is a feature most fear if they blank because it’s read out load!
In both events I will use the TFGear Delta All Rounder with fixed spools and light mono line. Species are small with small hooks required and a delicate hook length (5lb), which has to be protected by a softer actioned rod. I also use a very light continental quiver tip because most of the fishing is at medium range. Yes the advert is true the Delta is my favourite sea rod, but I would add that I don’t use just one fishing rod all the time. The Delta is for match and snatching, the Force 8 for long range and doggie hauling and that apart there is spinning, LRF, mullet and boat fishing which all require a different action, length and rating.
Between the two Continental matches I have a DVD to make at my home venues in Kent for Sea Angler Magazine and TF Gear. It’s an instructional video – all you need to know about sea angling from the shore. Something of a challenge in an hour, but I am sure we can manage with the help of Sea Angler, feature writer Paul Fenech.
Here at home it looks like the winter has finally ending with some blossom on the cherries and the first peeler crabs likely to appear as I write. Spring codling, thornback rays and plaice are amongst the species turning up on the Kent shores, although most anglers will now be looking towards the smoothhounds arriving. Their presence on a host of summer venues really do make the summer the best time to fish for big fish nowadays. Forget about winter cod that are almost impossible to catch from the shore and head for a smoothhound venue in June. They are now all around the British Isles. Here are a few to try. The Lincs. Coast is a smoothhound boom area with Chapel St Leonards and Ingoldmells amongst the many hot spots. Into Suffolk and Orford Ness is the venue to head for there, whilst on the Kent coast there is Sheppey, Reculver, Sandown and the Dover piers. In Hants the Solent is smoothhound central with Selsey, Pagham, Bracklesham red hot. Into Dorset there is Chesil beach, whilst the Bristol Channel on both the England and Welsh side boasts a host of venue from Minehead to Barry. Over the Irish Sea check out Rosslare Point and Courtown in Wexford. Next on the Welsh side is Anglesey, whilst the species are now commonly found in Lancs (Gynn Wall). and Cumbria and they are staring to show north of the Solway too. Good luck and remember not to leave your rod unattended and to loosen the drag!
You can catch me on Facebook from time to time – I am afraid I am a bit of a wind up merchant and like to see if I can get a “bite” with my posts. Indeed if you need to contact me for a question or something important its best to e mail me direct on: firstname.lastname@example.org rather than use Facebook because I only check it when the mood takes me, whilst I work all the time on the computer.
A busy month of competitions at a time of year I really enjoy shore fishing – Its scratchy with bites at a premium and to do well you need to scale down both your tackle and your angling ego. Lots of anglers fish through March still in their November cod goggles, but the bigger fish are no longer around in a majority of regions and its time for the dabs, flounders and those damn rockling.
OK the match anglers actually enjoy this time of year, as I said, I do especially when it’s calm and cold. Most beaches slow to walking pace in terms of bites in the frostiest weather and it’s a case of dropping the hook size, the bait size, the line size and fishing closer in. The low tide gutter often being the only hot spot on the beach. It’s a time when the casting ego has to be put in its place, although keep it handy because the first rays of spring are no far off.
My latest competition was the Ten Worm Challenge – A sea fishing competition with a difference with competitors allowed to use just ten lugworms as bait – Nothing else! The event received lots of publicity despite which the entry was small, I suspect novelty events are not for many serious matchmen, although it is the case that event organisers are continually looking for competitions which offer more of a level playing field for all anglers in an attempt to attract more to competitions.
The Ten Worm Challenge was a rover, fish where you like and you could use ten rods with one worm if you preferred. I opted to get out my Continental sea fishing rods and use the event as a practice for the forthcoming World Clubs Champs in Portugal where I am representing Dover Sea Angling Association. Size 4 hooks, 8lb hook snoods, 16-foot quiver tip and fixed spools reel loaded with 0.24mm line.
I chose to fish at Dungeness and to cut a long story short I finished with 32 fish and half a worm left after five hours, the clear winner with the next place catching by Mark Howard fishing next to me at Dungeness landing 11 fish. My secret was to fish small baits each tied on the hook with elastic cotton – That way the bait lasted ages. I think I will claim a Guinness book of record place with the catch, but only so as to create more interest in the idea, which was the brainchild of Seabrook sea angler, Tim Raymond.
Another event that attracts a huge entry because anglers see the event as giving anyone a chance of winning is the European Championships fished at Bridlington. It also coincided with the worst of the month’s weather and just three codling were landed despite a huge entry of 2095 anglers, with the winner Karl Wiepcke, Goxhill winning the overall which included a car with a single 3lb codling he caught at Aldbrough. Big fish matches are the way to go if you want a larger entry, whilst pegged, catch and release will only attract the most dedicated match anglers.
The other event I fished recently, also a biggest fish event, was the Pollack Challenge out of Brighton, which is an annual event for me aboard Paul Dyer’s, Brighton Diver, which also carries Keith Arthur and the Sky Camera crew. With the BBC Shipping forecast giving gales it was touch and go whether the event took place, but fish we did although heading out to a wreck at thirty miles was a bit lumpy to say the least. However, the day calmed and some nice fish where landed by the 100 anglers taking part, including a 17lb 9oz specimen for Brighton Schoolboy, Connor Bonwick fishing on Terry Lee’s Brighton based Sea Breeze 3.
Keith and myself ended with three pollack a piece caught on a mix of jellies and Sidewinders with Keith’s best of 11lb and the best on our boat was third overall for Alan Milford who landed a 14lb 14oz lunker first drop. If you not tried lure fishing for pollack over a wreck it’s worth doing although the two-hour steam there and back does tax the brain.
With snow on my lawn at the time of writing this blog its difficult to get involved in the spring prospects but there already seems to be plenty of plaice around in the English Channel and it wont be long before the rays push inshore. Rumblings about smoothhound on Facebook seem a bit premature when Britain shivers in its worst spring weather for years. But all can change overnight, hopefully and it’s the hounds that most are looking forward to. Last year it was noticeable that the species has moved into the North Sea big time with Skegness region on the Lincs coast one of the best hound venues, Selsey and the Solent kept their end up as did South Wales and even Kent got in on the act at Sandown. But first the crabs need to peel, fingers crossed for some warm sunshine.
Staying with the changing format of competitions this one just had to happen and is possibly the way more events are going to go in the future. The Gerry’s Fishing Open in the Morecambe Bay area on the 7th of September, fishing 10am until 4pm involves all anglers owning a Camera with time date function and removable SD card. Your catch is snapped with the days bag label and returned. Check in from 9am Gerry’s Fishing or contact Sam or Chris 01524 422146. Email – email@example.com or facebook event – http://www.facebook.com/events/607757792585921/
Another catch and release event worth a look is the Rutherfords Conoflex 2 day open. On the 29th and 30th of June fishing two zones at Copthorne Hotel and British Airways Business Park on the river Tyne. All fish to count but there is a maximum hook size of 4. Entry is £30 for the two days, to book or for more info ring Andy Rutherford on 0191 5654183
The recent weather (blocking) pattern of low pressure locking in a high pressure area over the UK is prolonging the cold easterly winds – and these as most anglers know – are simply not good for fishing. The saying goes “When the wind blows from the East the fish bite least” and looking at the recent results that fact is proven. I was at Dungeness the other day and the huge flocks of cormorants inshore point to the large quantities of tiny species, whilst the bigger fish are long gone to deeper water. Amongst the rockling and tiny dabs and whiting there are an increasing number of plaice, flounder and on some days dogfish. But otherwise cod is now a forgotten word in the fishing tackle shops. Although saying that, anglers fishing Sandgate this week reported a number of undersized codling, best 34cm (the minimum size is 35cm) which were returned – it’s a long time since Kent experienced a spring codling run. The good news on the weather is that it will only take the jet stream and a stronger westerly airflow to dislodge the Scandinavian influence to our weather and then watch out for some sunshine, fingers crossed!
Nice to see a few plaice coming up on my local beaches at Seabrook, Kent and from what I hear the species continues to be making a comeback around many other parts of the UK. Good news, although plaice are so slow growing it will take years for numbers to return to what they were thirty years ago when a 3lb plus was a fairly common summer bonus, especially along the English Channel. I used to fish Hastings pier in those days and a dustbin lid sized plaice often featured in the Hastings Pier Festival winners bag. Some hefty specimens came on board from the pier end lower deck with a 4lber just about managing to raise eyebrows in those days. I see that lottery money is posed to rebuild Hastings pier and wonder if there is any hope for the return of anglers to the structure.
I have a couple of trips for European competitions in the coming months. One for the World Club team Championships at Grandola in Portugal and then to the Magrini Championships in Sardinia. Both are Continental fishing for tiddlers and I have a cunning technique which includes using some very light sea fishing tackle, a TF Gear all round quiver tip rod and a big pit bait runner. Last year in Sardinia I won my section catching weavers by using the fixed spool bait runner. Using just 3lb hook snoods, the bait runner prevented the weavers (up to 1lb) from breaking the snood line when they ran off. Trouble was over 3lb snood and you didn’t get a bite. It’s so often like coarse fishing in the clearer water overseas with the fish seeing the line. Going down to 0.10m for hook snoods is a challenge, the fishing brain says NO, but I have managed to avoid thinking about it and it has paid off. Bait in Sardinia is a variety of type of marine worms, which require a baiting needle to transfer on the small hook, these are available from most tackle shops throughout the Med, Portugal and Spain and well worth using if you are on holiday fishing.
Last month I mentioned how some of the Countries fishing in the World Club Championships fielded a national team and called it a club team. It seems from the British Isles perspective this is no longer the case and rightly so. Amongst the GB teams competing in the event are for Wales, the Skua SAC squad, which includes, World Champion Alan Price, Peter Corker, Shane Shane Russell, Alan Blythin and manager Gordon Thorns. For England the ISAC team from Hants includes; Steve Deathe, Rob Marshall, John Brown, Ian Dancey and Ally Harvey, The Dover Sea Angling Association team is Richard Yates, Saul Page, John Wells, Martyn Reid and myself. The Portuguese are going to be very difficult to beat, but let’s hope one of the Homes nations brings home a medal.
Travelling overseas by plane for events like the World Clubs etc rods are no longer a problem, you simply put them in a Ski tube. World Airlines accepts ski tubes as standard. They can weigh as much as 12kg and cost around £30/50, not exactly breaking the bank for such valuable fishing rods.
COMPETITIONS local angler in my neck of the woods has introduced an interesting new competition format –The ten-lugworm challenge on Sunday 17th March is based at the Fountain Inn, Seabrook in Kent. It’s a go absolutely anywhere rover with competitors out to catch as many fish as they can in five hours using as many rods and hooks as they can, but with only ten lugworms as bait. If you are interested give Tim Raymond a ring on 01303 265680 E Mail TIM.RAYMONMD@sky.com
Two open sea fishing competitions were fished from my local Kent shoreline recently and they illustrated the differences in the types of shore fishing contests available to sea anglers. At Dungeness the World Dab Championships attracted 216 anglers to compete in aid of the Dungeness RNLI, whilst at Seabrook 42 anglers fished in the Anyfish Anywhere sponsored South East Open series. The Dungeness even with its tongue in cheek “World” title was a go anywhere rover with all the entry fees going to the RNLI, whilst the more dedicated match anglers went for the pegged, cash prize South East Series event. It could be said that the two required a different level of skill to win with the bigger element of luck required at Dungeness because of a 25cm dab minimum size limit, which is a great leveller in terms of angling skill.
However, no one had factored in the force seven westerly winds, which turned the dab event into a battle against, wind, sea and weed with more than half the entry catching nothing and the more skilled (The matchmen in fact), who could handle the conditions catching the most sizeable flatfish. Meanwhile, at Seabrook the dogfish turned up in numbers at the eastern end of Princes Parade and those anglers with a low number draw enjoyed a fish feast with 176 dogfish recorded.
The results of both competitions reflect the influence of both luck and skill in angling and prove that neither can really be manipulated and that there is no real substitute for skill on a majority of occasions. Winner of the World Dab Championship title was Ian Harnett of the Isle of Sheppey who landed eleven dabs over the 25cm minimum size limit for a weight of 4lb 11oz, incidentally just 1.5oz more than I weighed in.
Winner of the Anyfish Anywhere event at Seabrook was Martin Jenkins of Dover with 13 dogfish for 8.900kg. Staying with big entry shore competitions it was the case in the past that a single big fish could often win. I re member a 2000 entry European and All England championships fished in the last century at Folkestone and Hythe, were I also came second and was beaten by a giant conger eel. The species were fairly common back in the seventies, but nowadays are unheard of from the Kent shore, Yes, the demise of the bigger species has had a big effect on competition entries because match anglers have concentrated their skills on catching the tiddlers to the extent that the average angler cannot compete unless the event carries giant minimum size limits, or is for the biggest fish! Events are nearly always about who can catch the most tiddlers like, dabs, rockling, flounders, whiting and in more recent times, dogfish. That species is having a dramatic influence on competitions around Kent with a move to specialist doggie bashing. The good news about dogs is that at least you can see them bite and they do pull the string. But lots of anglers hate them and because they are unwanted they promote catch and return, which is again not that popular amongst the average ability competition angler. Should dogfish be returned or culled, that’s a hot topic amongst lots of clubs and sea anglers. I pioneered a system in the Isle of Man, which involved keeping three fish, and returning the rest for a set score (500 grams is commonly used) other conservation systems involve retaining just one dogfish, the biggest.
The irony of the subject is that anglers return the one species that there are plenty of and kill those that are rarest. It’s all down to the plate at the end of the day. I have just had a meeting with others in the Dover Sea Angling Association team about fishing the World Club Championships in Portugal – The event in May is supposed to be club teams from all over the World, but as is usual in competition of all kind, there are always those that seek to bend the rules. In the case of the World Clubs its countries that pick an international team and then call it a club. Disgraceful really, but it goes on and that includes one of the British Isle teams. My team has a couple of international in it, but also a 76 year old and all members have been members of Dover SAA for over ten years. Species of the month is plaice – They are showing already from Brighton so I hear. The complete opposite to the dogfish, plaice are rarer than rocking horse dung in my neck of the woods. That was not always the case, but because they are slow growing and easily caught by trawlers their numbers have declined in recent year.
I am told that the reduction in plaice quotas for the commercials has lead to a small population explosion of the species in some inshore regions. I hope that’s the case because there is nothing like a plump red spot surfacing on the end of a trace. Tips to catch them include the customary bling, sequins, and beads, don’t forget the pop up beads and any manner of glitter, because it does attract the species. So get your sea fishing tackle out, add a worm bait, lug is best in my opinion and more the better occasionally, and that’s all there is to catching dabs. Why do I think lugworm is the best bait for plaice? Because lugworm tastes like plaice, don’t ask how I know that!
…….How much is your life worth?
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I am back home from the Irish Winter Beach Championships fished from the Wexford shoreline after a dismal weeks results and weather. Team mate Chris Clark won his section every day to win by a large margin – well done Chris, you should spend the money on some decent waterproof gear! Second was Scotsman, Kevin Lewis who piped Dublin’s Dave Roe on count back so it was the story of the Englishman, Scotsman and Irishman with Chris Clark taking home the 1000 Euros!
I must have upset the draw gods judging from my dismal finish in the pack of the pack, although I did win the second biggest round fish on day one, but that probably sums up my event, it was a 21cm whiting! Yes the Irish fishing on the Wexford to Wicklow shoreline has become tiddlers only and I blame catch and release with tiny hooks for doing the damage, plus of course lots of commercial fishermen.
Well done the organisers for keeping the event going, because the weather was atrocious with venues having to be selected for comfort more than the fishing. It rained all day on the second day and when I say rain, I mean stair rods continuously for five hours so when I drew a peg next to a stream that turned into a river on the third day I knew exactly what was in store. My advice to shore anglers in winter has always been to avoid areas where snow melt and rain enter the sea and avoid shallow beaches where the frosts has got at the sand. Well I didn’t want to fish where I drew, but such is pegged match fishing! The plus was that I wore a pair of Hardwear chest waders and a Delta Marine smock and stayed dry unlike many who ended the day like drowned rats.
Back home it is the season to be scratching with the shore fishing notoriously hard in February. The major species for many anglers are rockling, dabs, pin whiting and flounders – Not exactly awe inspiring and I can’t blame lots of anglers for shelving their rods until the daylight and sunshine returns. Time to top up the fishing tackle box etc and a trip to the tackle dealer or a web site, both will reveal lots of new tackle around. Check out some of my gear on: www.tfgear.co.uk or www.fishtec.co.uk
If you do carry on fishing and lots of freelance, club and match anglers do, then there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of catching something. First pay extra attention to your bait. A few white ragworm or maddies added to the hook can increase your bite ratio, whilst stale lugworm and sometimes shellfish, really comes into its own in and after stormy weather.
Perhaps the biggest tip I can give anglers at this time is not to cast too far. Most of the species around just love hugging the breakers and that lip or gully created by the low tide waves. A lob of 30 to 70 yards can often be all you need to reach those rockling, dabs, flounders, etc, although you also need to be aware that spring will kick start the fishing again as the light evenings extend and a ray, a spring codling or a bonus match winning dogfish could be the result of a longer cast.
February competitions include a few flounder events where a couple of fish can win some big money prizes. Events worth a look include:
3: Aberdeen thistle SAC open. Boundaries: Aberdeen south breakwater to Stonehaven harbour excluding piers. Fishing 9am until 3pm. Penn event. Registration Nigg car park from 8.30am. £10 entry 100% payout, 50% for heaviest fish, then 1st, 2nd and 3rd heaviest bag .after heaviest fish removed. Bob Blocksidge 07836646678 / 01358723198 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org
3: Pleasure Anglers and Kayakers Association Open Cod competition. Swansea breakwater. Fishing 9am until 1pm. Penn event. Meeting at Macdonalds, Fabian way 6.30am. 0792389088 also check web site email@example.com
10: Double Dragon RNLI Open. Amroth. Fishing 10am until 2pm. Penn event. 1st Prize £250. Book in from 8am Amroth Arms. Roger Harris, Amroth Arms 01834 812480
17: The Fountain Open. Seabrook and Hythe. Fishing 1pm until 6pm. £1000 1st. 200 peg limit. Penn event. Booking in from 9am at the Fountain Seabrook. Brian Barnes on 01303 260875
24: Hornsea SAC Mark Loudon Memorial Open. Penn event. Mark 07768342169 or John 01964 534245
Canterbury angler, Leigh Chapman with a coalfish from Courtown beach, Wicklow during practice for the Irish Winter beach festival.
10 year old Ryan Rogers from Whitfield in Kent with a 4lb 3oz codling he landed from the Admiralty pier at Dover his first and biggest!
I am still on a roll fishing competitions with a string of club and open results.
In recent weeks and its mainly due to the fact that I am good at catching lots of small fish fast. Most match anglers fish like robots and this works well at times of year when there are a few fish about, but when there are lots of dabs and whiting, etc each casts timing becomes more crucial. The problem is that most beach casters nowadays have a fairly soft tip section and this soaks up the tide by bending, add the stretch of mono line and they but cancels out bite indication from the smallest fish. So the angler is not aware of what bites and attention the bait has had. Most anglers’ fish robotic ten minute, fifteen minute casts as a solution. The problem is that this wastes lots of time and a way to speed things up is to add five minutes to the cast if you blank and take five minutes off if you catch a full string (3). The complete solution is to use a rod that shows bites, even the smallest rockling or dab nibbles. Not easy if you are looking for a rod that will also blast three hooks to the horizon. I first solved the problem with a 15ft three-piece slim line rod with low rider rings. Being extra slim line the rod sits still in the wind and the slightly more rigid end of tip shows bites well. (It’s a fact that stiff tips are best for small bite registration because they rattle rather than bow which soaks up the movement) An alternative solution is a quiver tip but these do not cast heavy leads very well. Currently I am involved in designing a new TF Gear version of the low rider ringed beach caster and hope it will be available soon.
The difference when you can see every bites is amazing in terms of fish landed with 50 fish in a four hour match well possible and this is when fishing at long range. Lots of fish can also be caught at very close range with normal beach casters simple because there is less tide and bites can be seen more easily – A tip there, if you can catch the fish closer in do so because you will catch more!
The boats are the place to head in the New Year for a lunker cod. The biggest I have seen so far is a 40lb 14oz specimen bucket mouth for Dymchurch dinghy angler, Davis Simes. He landed his monster at the Dungeness end of Hythe Bay and it wasn’t a fluke either because his club mates landed fish of 34lb and 33lb in the same session. My tip for those of you after a monster cod is to get aboard a charter boat in the coming weeks. My list of ports likely to produce the largest fish includes: Eastbourne, Brighton, Ramsgate and Whitby with cuttlefish fished on an 8/0 plus Pennel the suggested bait and rig. Good luck – give me a mail with the picture when you catch it: firstname.lastname@example.org
Most anglers talk about line in terms of breaking strain, but this can lead you up the garden if you are not careful because lots of the same BS lines available are different diameters and to the sea angler, especially those using multipliers, the diameter of the line is crucial. I have to laugh when I hear anglers say “ So and so line is really the best because its so strong” Little do they realise is so strong because its much thicker! Do you even measure your line diameter, I do? The fact is that some line makes are much thicker than others of the same strain and if you buy by breaking strain you may be being conned. At sea 0.35mm line is usually around 15lb line, but in the carp world 0.38mm is often 15lb and that’s because carp anglers want a tough, durable line. The cross over between lines for coarse, game and sea and the influence of co polymer variations mean that buying by breaking strain as well as believing quoted diameters is a minefield – So get yourself a micrometer!
What lines do I use? Nantec Red Mist mainline 0.35mm and Daiwa Sensor 0.35mm.
The next major match for me is the Gambian Beach Championships on the 11th to 14th April 2013. The event and the days fishing around it are my chance of a catching a bigger fish with captain fish and cassava the two species that are most likely to show. Last chance entries to: Bernard Westgarth on Tel 01325 720113 or E Mail: Bernard@fishthegambia.com
Looking further forward the World clubs Champs is on the 4th May in Portugal for a week and I hope to be included in the Dover Sea Angling Association team if they are selected and then later in the month I will fly to Sardinia for the Magrini Championships on the 24th May. I have been trying a new tactic when fishing light line hook snoods in the Mediterranean etc and that’s to fish with a bait runner – Bites can pull line off the spool and not break the lightest hook snoods (5lb) And the lighter hook snoods the more bites you get in the clear continental seas.
PIC: David Simes 40lb 14oz Dymchurch cod. Amazing!!!
The New Year is a great time to start match fishing, not only because most angling clubs restart their evening club match series, but because lots of anglers try their hand at the opens and entry numbers soar for the first couple of months of the year. OK, if you are not interested in competitive fishing and prefer to concentrate your efforts on catching bigger fish, then move down the page, if you are then here is some advice for those starting out.
Match fishing has become more and more competitive over the years, especially at open match level. Fishing Tackle, techniques and anglers have improved enormously and just as in most sports, winning is not quite as easy as in years past. This means that the novice or beginner starting out in competitions should really avoid the open events, especially the smaller open matches organised by matchmen for matchmen. If you want to fish opens then try the giant biggest fish contests where a greater element of luck is involved. For the beginner it is far better to start out at club level because with the thousands of angling clubs around the British Isles there is a lot of choice and many of the smaller clubs offer entry level angling. By that I mean competitions that contain anglers of an equal ability. Club fishing is more of a social occasions at many local angling clubs, competitive yes, but anglers are more likely to share knowledge or their fishing spot, a great place to learn the ropes.
Perhaps most important of all the skills required to be successful in competitions is knowing the venue and really only experience can teach you what is around at a given tide, time of year etc. Joining a club and concentrating your efforts on one venue will open your eyes to what is involved in solving the problems of fishing just one venue, let alone different ones. Undoubtedly learning to be successful will cost you money and its wiser to spend the smaller entry fees to club events to learn that spending a fortune on the more expensive opens. There will come a time when you think you are ready to compete in an open, especially one on a venue you have fished regularly.
FAVOURITE TERMINAL RIG
Staying with competition fishing this month’s favourite terminal rig has to be scratching booms. I am a big fan of the very fine wire Continental style booms that allow the angler to use light line snoods and small baits without them tangling. It’s a case of horses for courses and fishing for what’s around rather than a whole Calamari on a 4/0 Pennel rig. Booms allow the delicate presentation of small baits for small-mouthed species and that’s the key. Flatties and the many of the other species have a greater liking for small wriggly worms etc and these can be fished more efficiently on a small hook and light line so they appear as natural as possible to entice the smaller fish. Of course the element of strength has to be retained in rigs and gear so that should a bigger fish come along you can land it, but overall finesse is a vital tactic to catch the smaller fish at this time of year.
For those that soldier on regardless of season in the hunt for the bigger, better quality fish and don’t want to turn to match fishing then the alternative is to travel. Access to better fishing is far easier nowadays and it really is possible if you are willing to travel to find better fishing, even around the UK.
Most years one or two regions will offer bigger codling for the first few months of the year. These are where the year class of the codling is second, third or fourth year fish. This year Cumbria has a good head of bigger codling at the time of writing and that may be the place to head. Last year it was South Wales and the Bristol Channel, although there the codling have reached breeding size and moved away completely. Alternatively take to the boats because some of the far off wrecks around the UK will produce some giant fish in late winter, through February – My tip for a real lunker are the wrecks in the English Channel with the charter boats out of Eastbourne, Brighton and Newhaven the ports to head for.
A TIP FOR WOULD BE COD CATCHERS: The fast track to catching a giant cod is to take a trip to Norway this spring or summer to catch that lunker. North Norway offers the chance of a 40lb plus cod, plus giant coalfish, haddock and more to even the greenest novice, simply because they are there to catch. Contact Ian Peacock who organises fishing in Norway with Dintur
E Mail: Ianpeaock@dintur.co.uk
Tel: 0191 4472363
My annual trip to Gambia is looming. I am fishing the Gambian Beach Championships on the 11th to 14th April 2013. Unfortunately if you have not already booked a place you may be unlucky. Contact Bernard Westgarth on Tel 01325 720113 or E Mail: Bernard@fishthegambia.com
The event and the days fishing around it are my chance of a catching a bigger fish with captain fish and cassava the two species that are most likely to show. But my chances are not done after that because I have some big English and French carp to fish for later in the year and if that fails there is always a large lake rainbow or a bass later in the summer.
Yes I hedge my bets with the bigger fish during the year and don’t pin my hopes on cod alone. If you are struggling to land a biggy you should try it!
Wishing you all a Happy New Year.
Alan with a 3lb codling, typical New Year size. He caught it to win the Folkestone SAA pier Christmas competition.
A great weeks fishing with three match wins and a second place in two opens and two club events. One of the features of this time of year is the increase in the number of dabs around and I am good at catching dabs. It’s the years of practice I suppose and my liking for lugworm management. You see, lugworm is not just lugworm and the fish are so well aware that when a storm devastates the inshore sand bars there will be lots of worm and shellfish casualties. Indeed after a storm they invade the shoreline for a feast. BUT and here is the rub. Several tides later and its all calmed down and the marine life that was missed by those first fish is buried etc. It’s in a state of decay and then when a small gale of wind sets up a surf the decaying worm is exposed to the fish. They are totally honed in on decaying rotten worm and have tunnel vision towards it – Fish with fresh then and you will catch fish, but fish with last week’s lugworm and you will catch a shed full, especially dabs.
I always have a supply of frozen worm and shells knocking around for such occasions and recently sticky blacks tipped butterfish and clam came into its own for the flatties. I won the Army Benevolent event fished on Hythe Ranges with 44 fish, mostly dabs, then won my club Christmas match fished at Seabrook with 47 fish in four hours and then topped the week off with a second place in the Grand Parade Open fished at Seabrook with 49 fish. Winner just a few grams in from was Karl Nangle of Grimsby with 37 fish – he found some bigger whiting. Anyway, all in all I am feeling proud of myself because both of the open matches had a very strong field of match-men.
TOP TIP: One of the problems when using sticky lugworm is keeping it on the hook. Well the best method is to sew the hook through the soft worm by twisting the worm around the hook as you pass the point in and out of the worm. This locks the bait around the hook eye and line and prevents it sagging too much. Of course you can always use a light bait elastic as well.
On the cod front the season promised much and if you look at the highlights it looks much better than it was. Lots of the best anglers failed to catch other than codling and a few average anglers caught lunkers, but on the whole most regions were dire for proper cod from the shore. The boats have done slightly better and it does seem that the bigger fish are just offshore and not coming in unless there is a gale to attract them. Many blame the masses of whiting on which the cod are feeding, they have no need to come inshore. There are calls for the whiting minimum size to be lowered back to 25cm. Whatever, time is running out because most southern regions won’t produce cod after mid January – then its dab, pin whiting and rockling time and only the matchmen are happy. In the North the cod can hang on until February but there too reports for bigger fish are not that good. Cumbria though is alive with codling.
If you read Sea Angler magazine you will have seen my feature on Cramlington matchman, Bob Gascoigne – It makes interesting reading I think, although I would say that wouldn’t I? But Bob raises and interesting subject of clipped versus flapper rigs. Flappers have been my first choice rig for many years and in the past won me lots of competitions and I will explain why. Clipped rigs entail having a bait stop on the snoods to prevent the cast from blowing the worm bait up the snood away from and off the hook point. Thus on occasions, whilst its ok for the big mouthed species who snaffle hook and worm, for those small flatties like dabs it means they can easily take the bait off the LINE without getting hooked. Conversely when you use a flapper rig the bait is forced down the hook and around the point when you cast and the hook is always in the bait. It’s as simple as that, so think twice before using a clipped rig and remember what “Sir” Bob Says – “Clipped rigs for casting show, flappers for match doe!”
The TF Gear S Mag multiplier increasingly impresses me – The thicker diameter main drive spindle prevents distortion and the spool doesn’t lock up even with three dogfish on! During a recent session I fished the S Mag with 18lb mono, filled it to the gunnels and the beauty of the thicker line is that it is impossible to birdnest with the magnetic brakes half on! Increasingly the beaches I fish are snaggy and 18lb mono and a Bimini twist leader knot enable me to get free from a lot of snags and this save tackle. The trick is using no bigger hooks that size 1 Kamasan B940 which the line and knot can bend out of a snag. OK so I am not fishing for cod, rather whiting, dabs etc with multi hook rigs, but a size1 can handle a bigger fish if required. Thereby lies the seceret to fishing snaggy beaches – If you are after big cod use a single 6/0 rather than a Pennel and fish it on a Pulley rig. For multi hooks, small fish and codling little beats a Loop rig.
Few modern sea anglers would disagree that the biggest improvement in rod construction concerns lighter materials allowing longer lengths. Longer rods are longer levers and they are easier to cast further. Don’t believe the twaddle spouted by some that all you need is a 12ft beachcaster. Longer rods give the lesser skilled and older caster a much better return for their limited power because they bend. That’s not to say you cannot overpower yourself with too much length, but that there are plenty of 15ft models that are light enough for the ladies and pensioners to cast with that will raise their game by a considerable margin with a simple overhead style and fixed spool reel.
Wishing you all a Happy Christmas and New Year. – May the cod be with you.