Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary – End of September 2014

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Alan with a bass and sole. Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary   End of September 2014

Here at home it’s nice to be getting back in the swing of fishing after my bout of Rheumatoid Arthritis that laid me low for several; months. I can’t say I am totally mobile yet, but having walked two miles to a rock venue whilst making the new TF Gear/Sea Angler DVD I think I am over the worst.

I have been out on the local beaches at Folkestone swinging the Continental beach caster around. It’s the best rod I have ever used and I am not saying that because it was my idea. I’m saying that because it has come along at a time when fishing lighter is more successful and fun from the shore and the boat. In terms of Continental rods the TF Gear Force 8 Continental rods will surprise a lot of anglers who have not given it a second thought. Indeed I was fishing the Thames at the weekend and a couple of nearby anglers actually approached besotted with the rod and its action. I am fishing the rods with 15/20lb braid line on fixed spool reels and the combination has brought me more bites in recent weeks and its certainly kept me busy – never had so many bites and I am seeing everything. Two things I have discovered when using braid. DONT be too keen to strike because if a fish breathes on the bait the tip moves and you can strike prematurely if you hang on every tip movement. The other thing is that just like in coarse fishing, the abruptness of braid can snap off light lines snoods, so not only DONT strike but don’t go too light. The strike is just a lift of the rod tip.

The next reality of sea anglers is the arrival of real winter – This autumn has been glorious so far with high air and water temperatures keeping the summer species around and allowing T shirt fishing. Things will change suddenly and you will need those thermals and a shelter very soon. It’s a great time of year on the beach with the holiday makers long gone with their yapping dogs and screaming kids. Just the howl of the wind and the hum of the creeping surf remain, bring on those frosty nights when the whiting are climbing the rod tip with all the bait needed a strip of frozen mackerel or squid.

Of course its cod that most sea anglers think about most of the time and a few lunkers will be landed around the UK. You could get lucky because it is a bit of a lottery to catch a giant. One thing some of the really big fish are loners inshore to die or simply lost, many are diseased specimens which have sores or internal problems with a giant head and a skinny body. All they same a giant cod, is a giant cod and we will all be jealous of the angler who catches it, but that does bring me to the important part. be careful what you eat, examine you cod and any other fish for that matter, carefully before you fry it up! Of course there will be some beautiful conditions monsters caught, especially from the boats – Beet gut, dustbin sized mouth and in pristine condition!!

One of the problems anglers face as the winter weather arrives is a shortage of worm baits. The annual hike in the price of lugworm is undoubtedly due to the professional bait digger’s greed, BUT if you want the worms you will have to pay up or dig/pump your own and that is not an easy proposition when the wind is force six and the horizontal stair rods of rain are blitzing your eyes. Frozen fingers, a runny nose and frost bitten toes could be the consequences of digging your own!

Some winter tips regarding bait – Buy your squid in seven pound boxes from the supermarket, slightly thaw it so you can split them up and then refreeze in threes or fours, that will save you a fortune because it’s what the tackle dealers do?

Black lugworm over from a trip, or when they are plentiful, are well worth freezing, wrap then in plastic and then paper and use bait cotton to secure them when you fish, they are especially effective for winter dabs and whiting. Some anglers even load their hooks with worms and then freeze. Take the baited hooks to the beach in a food flask.

Keep your fresh bait out of the wind, rain and snow – Sea or freshwater can ruin lugworms and ragworm in minutes, whilst frozen worms can end up as a useless mush to keep them in a cool bag inside your shelter.

I had a debate recently over the worth of re-sharpening hooks and it’s my opinion that it’s best to tie on a new one. Carp anglers are into the sharpening process big time, but I say that sharpening does more damage than good unless you really know what you are doing and with the right tools because it reduces the angle of the hook point and you cannot put back the steel you take off – so tie on a new one!

Finally, I have said it before but will say it again. Take extra care of yourself in the weeks to come, warm clothing a shelter, a flask, a warm lamp and plenty of sleep before you venture out all night or in a blizzard. All add to the comfort of winter angling, especially after dark and a comfortable angler is more alert and will be more successful than a shivering wreck – those early hours before dawn can be extremely cold when the body is tired.

Tight Lines

Alan Yates

Britain’s strangest catches

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Salmon, trout, cod, mackerel – tasty, yes – exotic, no.

But just because the UK isn’t normally known for its strange catches doesn’t mean nothing unusual ever turns up on our shores, or in our rivers and lakes. But what are some of the oddest fish ever caught in the UK?

We thought we’d find out.

Electric Ray

Electric Ray Britain’s strangest catches

Image source: Wikimedia
Zing! Imagine catching one of these off the coast of Cornwall.

Capable of delivering an electric pulse of 220 volts, an encounter with an electric ray could literally knock you off your feet. But while the fish does exist in deep water off the coast of the UK, it’s very rare for one to be caught by a shore angler. In fact, the electric ray is normally a resident of the Med and the waters off Africa, and South America.

But imagine his surprise when in 1980, a Mr Wills caught a 52lb 11oz whopper off Porthallow on the Cornish coast. A truly stunning catch, we hope he realised what it was before he touched it!

Puffer Fish

Puffer fish Britain’s strangest catches

Image source: Wikimedia
You wouldn’t want to accidentally step on one of these!

Japanese sushi chefs train for at least two years to prepare and serve fugu, or puffer fish. That’s because the skin and internal organs of this native of tropical and subtropical waters contain tetrodotoxin, a nerve agent for which there is no known antidote. Puffer fish can grow up to two feet in length and when threatened or attacked, pump their stomachs full of air or water to make themselves impossible to swallow.

It must have come as quite a shock to one Mr S. Atkinson, when in 1985, while fishing from Chesil Beach in Dorset, he hooked a 6lb 9oz specimen. We assume he didn’t untangle it from his fishing equipment and take it home for tea!

Pilot Fish

Pilot fish Britain’s strangest catches

Image source: Wikipedia
The pilot fish keeps risky company.

It’s covered in black and white stripes, and normally feeds on the parasites that live on the skin and gill slits of sharks. We’re talking about the pilot fish – the one creature that can swim into the mouths of sharks, pick the rotting flesh from between its razor sharp teeth and live to tell the tale. But the pilot is normally found cruising with its lethal ally in the warm seas of the equator – not in chilly UK waters.

So it must have come as a bit of a surprise to say the least, when in 1997, Mr J. Richards caught a 10 oz pilot fish in the Towy Estuary in Carmarthenshire. How it managed to get so lost is a mystery.

Carp or Goldfish?

Carp goldfish Britain’s strangest catches

Image source: Platform 13
A very strange hybrid fish.

Is it a goldfish, a carp, a roach or a bream? Perhaps it’s all of the above. When Angling Times tackle editor, Mark Sawyer caught this strange specimen at Magpie Lake, Cambridge in 2012, he really didn’t know what to make of it.

His first thought was that he’d hooked a brown goldfish, but when he looked more closely, he realised he’d caught something altogether stranger. The hybrid fish looked to be the product of at least three species, if not more. It had, Mr Sawyer said, the head of a roach, the body of a bog standard goldfish, a fantail’s tail and the anal fin of a Bream.

Mystery Fish

Mystery fish Britain’s strangest catches

Image source: UTAOT
A walking fish?!

“Caught” on film, “walking”, the seabed beneath a North Sea oil rig, if it’s genuine footage, this strange specimen has us truly baffled. It looks like some sort of Handfish – but that’s a species native to the coasts of Australia and Tasmania. Using adapted pectoral fins to travel the ocean floor, this slow moving fish, pictured above, does look very similar to the one featured in the video.

What do you think it is? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Alan Yates Filming the TF Gear/Sea Angler DVD

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DSC2972 Alan Yates Filming the TF Gear/Sea Angler DVD

Alan Yates with a Pollack from the TF Gear DVD

I‘m just back from making a DVD for TF Gear and Sea Angler magazine with Chris Ogborne, Paul Fenech, Tim Hughes and on the camera Lloyd Rogers. We spent three days in the Camel estuary in Cornwall both boat and shore fishing. Sad to say that the shore fishing was not that good, although having selected the tides for the boat, it’s a case of not having your fish and eating them. Anyway the boat more than made up for the lack of shore bites with 13 species taken on a range of lures and bait from Optimus Prime, skippered by Rodney Keatley out of Rock.

We used a mix of light sea fishing tackle including virtual LRF and a decent pollack on the Blue Strike spinning outfit and 15lb braid tested the clutch finger during a drift close to Puffin Island. I persevered with live lance and joey mackerel, whilst the others used a mix of lures and bait with some surprising results – look out for the DVD on the front cover of a future issue of SA because it has loads of boat and shore tips and is free!

Tight lines,

Alan Yates

 

World’s creepiest fish

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A fish that sucks its prey to death, a cannibal fish and a fish with four eyes.

Nature certainly creates some weird and wonderful creatures and some of the strangest of all live under the sea.  

Here’s a selection of the world’s creepiest fish.

Serrated throat

Wolf fish1 World’s creepiest fish

Image source: Spass Maske
The wolf fish has a serrated throat and anti-freeze blood – very hardcode.

It looks like an extra from the muppet show, but this denizen of the deep is no cuddly toy. It lives in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic where the antifreeze in its blood keeps it alive as it rests in its underwater burrow. Behind the wolf fish’s fangs lie three rows of crushing teeth and even its throat is serrated.

A big wolf fish could weigh as much as 40 lbs and reach 5ft in length, but despite its fearsome looks, it’s only a danger to humans when caught and brought to the surface by their fishing equipment. The scary teeth aren’t even for use on other fish as its diet consists solely of shellfish and crustaceans.  

Seeing double

Four eyed fish World’s creepiest fish

Image source: The Quantum Biologist
The South African mudskipper can see in air and water at the same time.

It’s just a humble South American mudskipper, but what makes this fish freaky is its bifocal vision. Because the four eyed fish feeds on both terrestrial insects and water born larvae, it has evolved to be able to see in both air and water. It has in fact two rather than four eyes, but each is divided in two by a strip of tissue. The upper and lower eyes filter light through a single lens whose thickness changes from top to bottom to cope with the different refractive qualities of air and water.

And just incase you think that isn’t weird enough, a right “handed” four eyed fish will only mate with a left “handed” female, and vice versa. Hows that for “un-natural selection”?

Sucked to death

Sea Lamprey World’s creepiest fish

Image source: Noordzeeloket
The sea lamprey sucks its prey to death. Ouch.

Remember the film “Tremors”? Kevin Bacon and friends terrorised by giant carnivorous worms? The sea lamprey only grows to 90cm long, but in its own way, it’s just as scary.

Sucked to death – it must be a horrible way to go, but that’s exactly what the sea lamprey does to its hapless prey. It latches on with its sucker like mouth, then rows of sharp teeth scour through flesh and bone. An anticoagulant in the fish’s salival keeps the blood flowing, until it’s all gone and the prey dies. Then, the meal over, it’s time for the lamprey to lie in wait for a new host.

Killer cannibals

Cannibal Lancet fish World’s creepiest fish

Image source: Boxden
Nobody is safe from the lancet fish, not even it’s own family!

With its sail-like dorsal fin, gigantic spines and razor sharp teeth, the lancet fish looks like an extra from a dinosaur movie. And in reality, this ambush specialist is quite a piece of work. Its long thin body is difficult to spot in the water, and with its sail stored flat in a groove along its back, the lancet fish is almost invisible to its prey.

But when it pounces, the massive dorsal fin gives the fish powerful acceleration and once it sinks its sharp fangs into its prey, there’s no escape. A danger to each other as well as other fish, lancet fish are known to be cannibals.

Forehead Genitalia

Rhinochimaeridae World’s creepiest fish

Image source: Prima Zoom
The ghost fish has got something funny going on in it’s head.

It’s not a pretty sight, but the ghost fish is one of the oldest species of fish on the planet. Most closely related to sharks, in evolutionary terms, it diverged from that family over 400m million years ago. The fossil record shows they were once plentiful but these days, the ghost fish swims alone at depths between 200m and 2600m, making it a rare find.

The distinctive nose is actually used for detecting prey, but what makes the ghost fish truly creepy is that its sexual appendages are retractable and stored in its forehead.

Mirror image

Brownsnout spookfish World’s creepiest fish

Image source: Biology Biozine
The brownsnout spookfish can look up and down simultaneously.

It’s just a weird looking fish that swims at 1000m deep right? Wrong. The brownsnout spookfish is so rare that only one has ever been captured alive. And when one is caught, dead or not, it’s a cause of great excitement in the scientific community.

That’s because this fish is the only known creature on earth whose eyes use mirrors to capture light. The spook fish is able to look up and down at the same time. Upward facing apertures on the top of its head look for creatures silhouetted against the dim light of the distant surface while its downward facing eyes capture sparks and flashes from phosphorescing sea creatures beneath its vulnerable belly. This second pair of eyes reflects the specks of light onto the retina using mirrors made of crystal. Ingenious.

Airflo Pro Priests and Marrow Spoons

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accessories Airflo Pro Priests and Marrow SpoonsAirflo have increased their range of brightly coloured fishing accessories to include the Pro priest and marrow spoon, two invaluable tools for the fly fisher.

The Airflo Pro priest measures 10 inches long, and is shaped like a mini baseball bat. Made from alloy it has an EVA foam grip and black cord wrist lanyard. For me the most important feature of a priest is that it has enough weight to humanly despatch a trout with just a couple if strikes. This one weighs 155gr (5.5oz) and has more than enough clout to do the job efficiently. It is comfortable and easy to grip, even when your hands are wet, cold and slimy.

The matching Airflo marrow spoon weighs just 68g (2.4oz) and is beautifully tooled froma solid but lightweight alloy – there are no sharp edges and it is very tactile. The ridged handle is inset with five silicone rubber rings to help with grip.

The spoon is a full  9inches long, just the right length for the task in hand, and three inches of that holds the trout’s stomach contents so you can easily see what it has been feeding on. There is also a cord lanyard so you can attach the spoon to your wrist or a D-ring on your waistcoat or jacket.

Both the Airflo priest and marrow spoon come in three colours: Aluminium, Blue and Red. (see pictures above)

The review can be found in issue 462 of Trout Fisherman.

Filming the new Airflo Fly Fishing DVD

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camera Filming the new Airflo Fly Fishing DVD

When it comes to fishing, there’s nothing better than breaking out your rods and reels, stringing your desired fly line through the eyes of your favourite rod and casting out into the unknown… But, for many anglers that are stuck for time, they turn to the Internet, or in our case, fly fishing DVDs.

For those of you who struggle to get out on a regular basis we’ve been filming the new Airflo/Trout Fisherman DVD on the prestigious Bristol Water fisheries, Blagdon and Chew Water – The birth place of fly fishing some would say.

Iain Barr, Chris Ogborne and Airflo’s director Gareth Jones get together to film the new Airflo fly fishing DVD which will be available Spring 2015 FREE with Trout Fisherman. With Chris’s knowledge, Iain’s competition pedigree and Gareth’s enthusiasm for fly fishing, this DVD will be one to look out for.

Gar fish Filming the new Airflo Fly Fishing DVD

Both Gareth and Chris go through the ins and outs of bank fishing while Iain gives you the lowdown on reservoir fishing from the boat.

All three anglers talk about their experiences when bank fishing, giving you confidence in their ability and showing you exactly how they would approach the bank:

– Where to start at the lake
– What fly lines and fly fishing tackle to use for best presentation and distance
– Technical fishing clothing and luggage

Iain and Gareth are both extremely good, confident lake anglers, both competing at World level with Iain a previous World Champion, and Gareth lucky enough to get 3rd. Boat fishing is their THING:

– Where to start when boat fishing
– What fly lines to use for covering fish quickly and methods
– Technical fishing clothing and accessories

iain fish Filming the new Airflo Fly Fishing DVD

This new Airflo DVD is packed full of great techniques which you could put into practice on any lake in the country… and be successful.

Iain, Gareth and Chris give their top 10 lake fishing tips, with tips ranging from what colour flies to use when the fish go off to what knot to use to get the best movement and gain attraction.

The DVD isn’t just about fishing either, it features a whole selection of the new Airflo fly fishing tackle, featuring the new FlyDri luggage range, a new range of fly rods and a massive selection of accessories – More about that when the DVD comes out.

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary – September 2014

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2lb codling Kent shore Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary   September 2014

2lb codling Kent shore

I had a surprise this week when a photo session with Sea Angler photographer, Lloyd Rogers resulted in me catching my biggest ever wrasse from the Kent shore. You will have to wait until the feature appears before you get to see the pics.

Catching wrasse from the Kent shore is nothing new, I first recorded Ballans in the 1980s, although they were generally small fish in the ounces and an occasional high summer catch. But after Samphire Hoe was constructed they started to appear in numbers and it was predicted that they would increase in size. Samphire Hoe, near Dover is a 2km long sea wall that was constructed out of the spoil that came out of the Channel Tunnel and it is extremely rocky and weedy, ideal habitat for wrasse which have colonised it big time.
I suppose the reason for the increase in the wrasse population generally has got to be global warming and it’s in the sea that anglers have noted a drastic influx of species and changes in the migration patterns of some of our most common fishes. The wrasse though is not a commercial catch, indeed the fact it tastes like cardboard will mean it will survive the nets and because anglers generally put them back. Both facts may have contributed to their increase, plus they are exploiting the habitat left after the demise of the other species.

Big Ballan wrasse have become what I call the poor man’s big fish with populations around the UK expanding and it’s a fact that large wrasse feature in many sea angling magazine pages when in the past they were considered less meritorious. Pound for pound of course they are a powerful sea fish, whilst their colours and handsome looks add to their popularity as a catch. They are also not easy to drag from their rocky haunts and can be caught on bait or lures. Nowadays they are there to be caught when other prime species are not and like the dogfish, wrasse have become an accepted part of the sea angling scene.

Between the wrasse I have managed to catch a few codling, although they have been mainly small with a mix of fish between 20 and 40cm from the Kent shore. Listening to the Facebook grapevine it looks like most of the English Channel and lower North Sea have the same populations of 1lb to 2lb codling. Trouble is so many anglers exaggerate the size and around my neck of the woods fish of 5lb are being reported, its odd that not one of the Kent competition results and there are hundreds, has produced a codling of more than 2lb 8oz. However, having said that its been nice to sit on the beach and see the rod tip buckle over because even a 2lb codling can give you a great pull down or slack line bite.
Best bait has been black lugworm for me with a two hook Loop rig the ideal terminal set up for long range when the weather is rough and distance crucial. At other times I have stuck to a two hook flapper with size one Kamasan B940s. In the coming weeks a change in the weather will produce more codling with an onshore sea the best conditions, south west in Kent and along the Channel coast is best whilst up the North Sea a North East is usually considered ideal. Also look to fish after the gales have subsided, don’t leave it a couple of day, go when the wind drops.

Between the codling have been a few big bass and it’s the time of year when bass and cod are caught together or in consecutive casts on some southern venues. I love nothing than a really calm night to fish a small live whiting in the margins of a steep shingle beach. Some big bass are there to be caught from now up until Christmas and like others the bass season has been extended again thanks to global warming.

Alan with a cod and bass Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary   September 2014

How it once was – A bass and a cod for a young Alan Yates……

I am currently using my two Force 8 continental beach rods. They are 15ft and rated 5oz, although I am using 12lb line and 4oz leads with one rod on micro braid and one on mono. The comparison between the two lines is tremendous with the braid especially effective over rough ground – I used it to catch those wrasse and its lack of stretch and immediate pick up means tremendous bites, but fish can be bullied away from the rocks quicker than with mono., One word of warning with braid main line all through, you will find that it will snap light mono hook lengths so don’t go too light, not below 15lb for rough ground anyway.

The Continental sea fishing rods have been an eye opener for me and using 4oz on the strongest tide with micro braid has generally lightened up my sea angling without a big loss in casting distance or increase in tackle movement because of the tide. Four ounces holds in most tides with the finer line, only heavy weed offers a problem.

I’m off this week to make a new DVD for TF Gear and Sea Angler magazine with Chris Ogborne. We are going to Cornwall and fishing aboard Optimus Prime skippered by Rodney Kennedy. The main subject of the DVD is fishing light and hopefully that will include a shore trip so I can show you the new Force 8 Continentals in action. Look out for the DVD in the coming months it will be free with Sea Angler magazine and to all TF Gear customers etc.

Alan Yates Sturgeon from Chequertree Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary   September 2014

I did a bit of coarse fishing recently and landed this cracking sturgeon on a pole from Chequertree fishery at Bethersden in Kent.

Shark Whisperers

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People who want to catch big game fish use big game fishing rods, sharp hooks and wire leader, right?

Not if you happen to be one of a select group of so called, ‘shark whisperers’; people who love to rub noses with sharp fanged predators.

Why do they do it? We thought we’d look into it.

Great White Hitcher

With a name like Ocean Ramsey, it’s no surprise to discover that the girl enjoys snorkelling, but she takes ‘swimming with the fishes’ to whole new depths. The Hawaiian often dives to photograph sharks, but while for most of us the prospect of coming nose to fin with the scariest shark of all would fill us with fear, she describes the experience of meeting a great white like this:

“It’s difficult to express the incredible joy and breathtaking emotion experienced locking eyes with a Great White.”

Hmmm, if you say so, Ocean. As it happens, there is method to Ocean Ramsey’s madness. Just like Sara Benes, she is passionate about spreading awareness of the destruction of this vital component of the marine ecosystem. All the same, we think you’ll agree, this footage of Ocean catching a lift with a Great White, is frankly terrifying!

Hooked on Sharks

Would you willingly put your entire arm into a shark’s mouth? We wouldn’t either but here’s another ‘shark whisperer’ who not only would, but has actually done just that! Cristina Zenato is a shark woman of some renown, and here she is delving into the jaws of well…jaws, to remove a hook buried there. Despite a wriggle of irritation, the shark lets Cristina pull the hook free without even attempting to bite her.

Think there’s something a little fishy about this? Well you might just be right because the Italian-born diver is not quite the risk taker she appears to be.

Zenato first rubs the shark’s snout lulling it into a trance like state by over-stimulating the “ampullae of Lorenzini”, jelly filled pores – electroreceptors – the fish uses to detect its prey. Only when lulled does the diver actually put her hand into the shark’s mouth, and even then, we must point out, she’s wearing an armoured wetsuit. Sensible lady.

14-year-old Shark Whisperer

bigstock Two Caribbean Reef Sharks 49788356 Shark Whisperers

Image source: Shane Gross
Sara Brenes has set up a charity to protect sharks in the wild.

Sara Brenes was just 14 years old when she first dived with sharks. And she so fell in love with them, she said she felt, “like they were my babies, like puppies almost.” It’s an interesting take on what is after all an apex predator with teeth designed for shredding flesh, but nevertheless, with the help of her family, Sara was inspired to set up, Shark Whisperer, a charity that helps spread awareness of the plight of sharks in the wild.

Regardless of whether it’s wise to trust a shark not to turn you from a ‘whisperer’ into ‘lunch’, Miss Brenes does have a valid point. Sharks are persecuted the world over and they’re being killed in frightening numbers, mainly for their fins which fetch big bucks in Asian markets where they’re the prized ingredient in shark fin soup.

Real life mermaids

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As a sea angler, we know you love the sea, but as much as you love to spend your free time at the water’s edge, it’s unlikely you’d want to be in or on the ocean all the time.

But there are people for whom the sea is more than a hobby, an occupation or a passion; the sea is  their life.

We’re talking real lift mermaids and men, and incredible stories of their oceanic lives. Be prepared to be amazed!

Haenyeo Sea Women of Korea

Korean mermaid Real life mermaids

Image source: Superdefstar
A Korean ‘sea woman’ diving for fish.

You thought a mermaid was a sea siren whose job was to lure unsuspecting mariners to a watery grave. But while myth and legend make for a colourful tale to tell, real life is stranger than fiction.

On the island of Jeju off the tip of South Korea, early morning sees a sight strange to behold – at the end of a pier, a group of old women in thick wetsuits warm themselves by a fire built from orange boxes. They are “haenyeo”, or “sea women” and they spend their lives skin diving for shellfish and octopus, a hazardous occupation, but one that some of them have pursued for 60 years or more.

Nicknamed the “Amazons of Asia”, the haenyeo are heads of a matriarchal society that dates back at least as far as the 17th century, when punitive taxes on male incomes forced women into the role of bread winner. At their peak, there were tens of thousands of “mermaids” diving the waters of the Korean Strait, but since the 1960s, their numbers have dwindled as young women have opted for safer, warmer jobs. Now only a few thousand mostly elderly haenyeo remain to dive the frigid waters – mermaids soon to pass into history.

Ama of Japan

Japanese mermaids Real life mermaids

Image source: MessyNessyChic
An old school Japanese mermaid.

Able to hold their breath for two minutes or more, the Ama of Japan were women and young girls who dived for Oysters and Abalone. Armed with just a mask and flippers, these mermaids of the Pacific would dive over 60 times per session, surfacing for just a few seconds after each foray into the deep.

Diving has existed in Japan as a mainly female occupation for over two thousand years. Unlike us shore fishermen and women with our waterproofs and waders, these women used to dive naked apart from a loincloth – unrestricted movement was seen as a must in the dangerous deep. But after the war, with the development of tourism came pressure to cover up. Later, the women adopted wetsuits to enable to them to spend even more time in the water.

These days, as in Korea, most of the Ama are elderly – some continuing to dive well into their nineties. The lack of women coming into the profession mean the Ama will almost certainly die out within a few years.  

Moken Sea Gypsies

The Andaman Sea off Myanmar is home to the Moken people, otherwise known as the sea gypsies. These water dwelling folk so seldom set foot on land that when they do, they suffer landsickness as a result. The Moken are as close to mermaids and men as it’s possible to get! Sailing throughout the 800 islands of the  Mergui archipelago in their handbuilt wooden houseboats, they only spend significant time ashore during the wild and windy monsoon season.

As you’d expect, the sea gypsies are expert sea fishermen, usually harvesting fish, molluscs and sandworms for their own nourishment, and shells, sea snails and oysters to barter for the fuel and equipment they need. In fact, Moken spend so much time freediving that like the “mermaid” featured in this video, their eyes are adapted to focus underwater!

Sadly the wandering ways of the Moken are under threat as commercial fishing, increased militarisation, oil drilling and pressure to settle impact on their unique way of life. Thankfully there are organisations doing their best to stand up for one of the most incredible peoples on earth – like Project Moken – so do check them out and do what you can to help before it’s too late.

Barbel success, with the new Fishing Rod!

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Cliff Barbel Barbel success, with the new Fishing Rod!

At the beginning of this year I wrote of my enthusiasm for the TF Gear Classic Nan-Tec Barbel rods I’d bought for the coming season, would I “…christen them with a double?” I asked. Well, as it happened, I was unable to get out in June and July as much as I’d have liked but early August saw me doing regular after-work sessions on my local stretch of river. As a rule I use the finer, very sensitive top section for my barbel fishing despite the disconcerting bend it adopts on hurling 4oz of bait-packed feeder to the far bank; but I’ve taken to using the standard tops which are sufficiently tactile to show me when a fish is interested.

And so it was a couple of Mondays ago. Fishing alongside His Wyeness, Geoffrey Maynard of Hay, and sharing a recently acquired Korum Rod River Tripod, my unblinking attention to my rod-tip was rewarded by two or three slow pulls; there was nothing rhythmic about them so I discarded any suspicion that my rig had merely rolled in the current or had picked up a twig or something. My right talon poised for action, I watched the rod-tip bow a fourth time and on this occasion it went over just a fraction further and stayed there! The classic barbel fishing rod was swept back with some enthusiasm, (I assure you!) taking on a pleasing bend just past the perpendicular. At this stage the fish might have been of any size but only a few seconds passed before I was able to state – and I did – that “This is a good fish, Geoff – a big one”

His Wyeness – it must be said – was a little nonchalant and reluctant to look up from his PVA activities. “Tell me if you need the net” he said; his head down in concentration, apparently uninterested in my increasingly lively barbel-battle.

“Well…I’m pretty sure this is a double” I replied as the fish yanked-down the rod and tore ten yards of 8lb mono off the Shimano, but Geoff had seen too many five and six pound ‘doubles’ to stir his complacency.

“Ok…give us a moment”

Normally I would net the fish myself but the bank at this point necessitated the assistance of an extra pair of hands. Not before time, His Wyeness stood and took in the scene: 2lb test curve barbel fishing rod arced and repeatedly stabbing at the water, Shimano issuing short, staccato bursts of complaint, great patches of flattened water and one very excited angler…the penny dropped and he was soon in serious mode, net poised for the job.

Before long, a bulging, glistening net was placed on the grass and parted to reveal what was clearly the best fish of the season from this stretch. On the scales the needle settled at just 2oz short of 12lb – a fine fish indeed.