Fly Tying Gear – Hardwear Fly Tying Tool Range

With the winter months on the horizon many anglers now begin fly tying over the cold, dark months so their fly boxes are well stocked in time for the start of next season.

If you are thinking of starting, or need a budget conscious set of quality tying tools then the Hardwear range could be the answer. Here, Trout Fisherman magazine talk us through the range.

Fly-tying gear: Robbie Winram brings you news and reviews of the latest materials and tools to hit the market.

Tools to get you started

These ‘entry level’ Hardwear tools will get your fly-tying journey off to a good start without breaking the bank.

1 Rotary hackle pliers £3.49
The revolving feature of these pliers ensures the hackle doesn’t twist out of line when you wrap it around the hook shank. The sprung-metal jaws holds materials firmly and the knurled aluminium handle ensures a comfortable and reliable grip.

2 Dubbing brush £3.49
The wire brush is fairly stiff so when you are picking out dubbing and other fibres just tread carefully. It is set into a knurled aluminium handle which makes it easy to grip and comfortable to use.

3 Deluxe whip finish tool £2.99
While it is possible to create a whip finish with your fingers, if you’re not that nimble fingered or have rough skin you might find a whip finish tool an easier solution. Once you get used to how it works it is very easy to use and produces a neat and secure head (visit www.troutfisherman.co.uk and search for ‘the whip finish’ for a demonstration).

4 Hackle pliers £2.50
These traditional English-style spring-loaded hackle pliers have a set of long jaws and two finger pads to depress for opening and closing. The inside face of the jaws are not ridged or raised so I would add a little bit of silicone rubber tubing on one jaw to give extra grip on slippery materials.

5 Bobbin holder £2.99
A traditional spring-arm design with a stainless steel tube and brass feet. It will take a range of small and large bobbins. While the thread tube is very smooth it is not ceramic lined so don’t overwork your thread in one place or you could weaken it.

6 Four-inch scissors £3.99
These have 1.25-inch blades and are non-serrated, giving a clean cut on a range of
materials.

7 Arrowpoint spring scissors £4.99
These are five inches long and being spring loaded are ideal for repetitive cutting strokes. Just depress the handles between thumb and forefinger to cut, then release the pressure to open the blades. The scissors have three quarter-inch long blades with extra fine points, ideal for close in, accurate cutting.

8 Fly-tying scissors £3.99
The same size as the four-inch scissors, but these have extra-large open finger loops. They would be a good choice if you have chunky fingers, but my personal preference is for the standard loops as I find them more comfortable. The fine point blades are super sharp for an excellent close cut.

Hardwear fly tying tools are available here.

 

How To Fish For Back End Barbel

Landing a winter barbel

A winter barbel
Image courtesy of Dan Whitelock

Leaves are falling and the nights have drawn in. There’s tinsel and tat in the shops and a lot of anglers have hung up their rods for a few months. But come the first frosts, a group of dedicated anglers will be taking advantage of the fact that the weed has died back, biting insects are a faded memory and the barbel are big!

According to Dan Whitelock, this is one of the best times of year to go out and bag that special fish. Here are his tips and tricks for snagging a good sized winter barbel.

Get to know your venue

Winter barbel fishing can be hard, but it’s also be incredibly rewarding if you follow a few simple methods and invest some effort. For the most committed anglers, winter barbel fishing starts in early summer. By walking the banks, making note of gravel runs, depressions, cattle drinks and snags, you’ll greatly enhance your chances of catching once the floods have cleared the weed and coloured water has rendered the riverbed invisible.

When to go winter barbel fishing

There’s one critical factor when it comes to winter fishing and that’s the conditions. Barbel are synonymous with low pressure, mild air, warm water and steady flow. Group those together and you’re more than halfway towards finding the fish. We’ll come to location and swim choice in a moment, but let’s look first at when to go fishing in order to maximise your chances of catching.

During the summer, it’s a fair bet to say you can pick any day between June 16th and early October and, barring a massive unseasonable flood or freak cold spell, you’ll only have to worry about picking a swim and finding some fish (see our Beginner’s guide to barbel fishing for summer tips).

However, in winter, it’s vital to look at weather patterns and consider the effect on the water – notably the temperature. If the temperature suddenly falls, air pressure rises, the skies clear and a frost forms, you may be wise to seek an alternative quarry.

On the other hand, if there’s been a period of cold weather, high pressure and frosts, followed by a warm southwesterly and falling pressure – this is the time to plan your trip. The rise in temperature triggers the barbels’ metabolism and feeding instinct and they go on the search for food. Couple this with a rise in river levels to wash some food down and you’re onto a winner. There have been entire chapters written on conditions for winter barbel, but if you look at it in a simplified way and fish in the above conditions, you’ll definitely increase your odds.

Of course, barbel being barbel and habitually forgetting to read the script, they do turn up from time to time in the frost and snow. In fact the last two seasons have seen a stretch of the Upper Great Ouse produce barbel over 17 lbs to chub anglers fishing with cheese paste on crisp, clear nights! While it isn’t recommended to target barbel in these conditions, there’s always a chance.

Using a feeder

If you do choose to fish for barbel in low, clear conditions, or you don’t have the luxury of being able to fish at the drop of a hat when conditions suit, then there’s no better way to find winter barbel than with a maggot feeder. I must stress that overfeeding will guarantee a barbel blank. They don’t need much food in cold water to fill themselves up. A pint of maggots steadily fed through a feeder in a swim will suffice for a day’s fishing in really cold conditions.

Pick a swim with a nice gravel bottom, steady flow and good depth and keep hitting the same spot with the feeder. If your swim has a large feature such as an undercut bank or overhanging tree, even better. This approach may entice a lethargic barbel to feed should it be resident, and it’s a method well deployed on venues with a good head of fish such as the Trent, Wye or Middle Severn.

Best locations for winter barbel

A flood is the perfect condition for winter

A flood is the perfect condition for winter barbel fishing
Image courtesy of Dan Whitelock

A flood is one of the favourite conditions for all winter barbel anglers, but a high river is an incredibly daunting prospect and can put beginners off. I must stress that you need to be familiar with your river here. Flooded fields, steep muddy banks, undercuts, strong currents and rapidly rising levels can be very dangerous. Anglers have died in pursuit of winter barbel so please, be wise, know your river and don’t take any silly risks. It’s a hobby at the end of the day and no fish is worth a life.

When you arrive at the river, go for a walk to find some swims. It’s four or five feet up from normal summer level, the last rain was early yesterday and most of the rubbish has been flushed through. Perfect. A rising river can, and does produce fish, but it can be incredibly frustrating dealing with leaves, weed, branches and flotsam coming down and fouling your line. If you have to fish at the peak of a flood or a rising river, then choose a steady flow with good depth and gravel close in. (Remember your summer homework?) This will enable you to fish with the rod pointing downstream and as low to the water as possible in order to present a bait with minimum pressure on the line. Whilst barbel aren’t the brightest of buttons, they rely on instinct and know what isn’t natural. A bowstring tight line running through their habitat, with a load of surface junk floating seemingly out of place isn’t natural and their instincts will tell them there’s danger.

Barbel like a nice steady flow. A boiling, whirlpool of a back eddy is a waste of time. All that river junk spinning about over their heads just isn’t comfortable. What you’re looking for is the classic crease swim where fast water meets slow, at least five feet deep with a nice clean bed on the edge of the main flow. This is where the fish will be holding up, waiting for food to wash down and settle. The summer cattle drink is perfect here.

Another great swim is the back of a raft behind a fallen tree where the flow steadies and food collects. The inside of a bend will often provide a good holding spot in the highest of floods. Couple this with the gravel bed that you found while walking the banks in the summer and you’ve another good swim to fish. Any depression or depth change is a key spot to fish and again, the summer legwork with a plumbing rod or fish finder will pay off. A fast walking pace or slower is ideal.

It pays to keep mobile

Assuming you’ve got several of these swims on your venue, you’ll need to decide how to approach them. In winter, it pays to keep mobile. The fish tend to hold up so if you’ve sat for three hours and not had a bite, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re simply after a fish that isn’t there. An hour in a swim is more than enough. Ten minutes in the right spot is much better than ten hours in the wrong one.

When it comes to bait and baiting, forget the baiting part. You’ll be filling fish up and decreasing your chances of your hookbait getting taken. A big, smelly single bait will out-fish a load of free baits in flood conditions. The critical factor is where to swing out that bait. If your swim has a really long run, then it’s simply a matter of starting at the head and moving down ten or twenty yards every half hour or so. Trundling or rolling a big lump of luncheon meat is worth a go here. You could give the quiet swim behind the fallen tree an hour, but after that it’s worth a move. You can’t catch what isn’t there!

Best bait for winter barbel

Don’t overthink your bait. Barbel are incredibly stupid. Put some food in front of them and they’ll eat it until they’re full. In a flood, the latest fancy bait won’t catch any more fish than a chunk of luncheon meat or a lobworm. In coloured water, a decent chunk of meat, a paste wrapped boilie or a big old lobworm are the top three baits. Don’t get bogged down in worrying about choosing the ‘’right’’ boilie for winter barbel. Conditions and location are far more important.

One bait that isn’t so effective in winter is the pellet. The oils inside them are no good for the fish in cold conditions and they don’t break down. Leave them at home until the summer. In low or clear conditions then feeder fished maggots are hard to beat. Small boilies fished with a small stringer of half a dozen freebies are also very effective but again, don’t overfeed these as you’ll ruin the stretch of river for several days.

Should you pre-bait for winter barbel?

Pre-baiting can work to an extent, but bear in mind that if you’re fishing a popular venue, the chances are there’ll be several other anglers filling up the swims and the barbel won’t be hungry when you come to fish. Small river venues are particularly vulnerable to over-baiting.

Think about this: if an angler walks a stretch of a few hundred yards, picks out the best six classic winter swims and throws a dozen boilies in each on Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning ready for his Saturday session, he’ll be full of confidence when he turns up and puts his boots on. Quite rightly so.

If a couple of local retired anglers are fishing on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday while it’s quiet and throwing in a few freebies to ‘’get them going’’ that’s another load of food gone in. Add three or four more anglers to the mix and by the weekend that’s several kilograms of highly nutritional food that’s gone sailing right into the barbel’s homes. The two or three barbel that are resident in each swim will each eat half a dozen baits and then hold up to digest for a day.

The angler goes home Saturday night frustrated at the rubbish new bait that he paid £12 a kilo for and tries another that’s supposed to be better. The cycle continues, and the stretch gets a reputation for being hard or devoid of barbel! The odd, greedy big double gets caught, more anglers turn up to catch it from that snag swim and the process snowballs.

It’s been witnessed first hand on the Great Ouse, Ivel and Nene over the years. Please think about what you’re throwing in the river, especially during the winter. Less is more, I promise!

Tackle for winter barbel

playing a winter barbel on a centrepin

Playing a winter barbel on a centrepin
Image courtesy of Dan Whitelock

It’s important to have the right tackle for winter barbel fishing and it must be up to the job. Strong hooks, strong line and powerful rods are essential. For big rivers in high flood conditions, a stepped-up barbel rod with a test curve of around 2lbs is ideal. It’s very rare and completely unnecessary to fish with anything heavier – you’re fishing nice and close in on most occasions, especially in a flood. You need that progressive action to absorb the powerful lunges in the flow – if you start using carp rods you’ll get hook pulls.

On smaller rivers you can get away with slightly less. I prefer an 11ft rod with a 1.75lb test curve for my winter fishing. It’s light enough to present a bait close in on local rivers, but has enough power should a big barbel take the bait and move out in to the flow.

Rigs are best kept simple – a running rig with a lead to suit the conditions is all that you need. A lump of plasticine three feet behind the running ring will pin everything down nicely. It’s best to fish with the rod pointing downstream and almost parallel to the bank to minimise line pressure and bottom weight required. Bites are still unmistakeable!

Don’t spook the fish

One final point that’s often overlooked in winter barbel fishing is stealth. Maintain the same quiet manner on the bank that you use in the summer. Even in a flood, the fish are looking up into the light and can see movement and silhouettes on the skyline.

In the same vein, vibration can ruin your day before you’re within twenty yards of your swim. Next time you’re in the bath, lay back with your ears underwater and gently tap the side with your finger. It’s surprisingly loud. Sound is magnified and travels well in water. A barbel’s senses are far more advanced at detecting sounds and vibration in the water than the human ear. Bear this in mind when you dump your rucksack in the swim, unfold your chair and shout to your mate upstream.

So there we have it, winter barbel fishing in a nutshell. A river in winter is a special place to be. The birds are easier to spot without all the foliage and there’s a unique and peaceful atmosphere that you don’t get in the warmer months. The fish are much bigger than in the summer, the riverbank is a much quieter place and the rewards are great. Enjoy your fishing and tight lines!

More about the author

Dan Whitelock grew up in the North Bedfordshire countryside and learned to fish on the famous Upper Great Ouse above Bedford that ran a few miles away from his home. He started barbel fishing at the age of thirteen and has an impressive list of fish to his name from the Ouse, Ivel and Nene. He devotes a lot of spare time to his local angling club and maintains a healthy balance of fishing for all species, photography, family and work.

How to Fit Wading Boot Studs

The addition of studs to the soles of your wading boots can make a huge difference to grip and traction on slippery surfaces.

In this blog post we look at how best to fit and install wading boot studs to felt sole wade boots.

Pick your studs

There are various wading boot studs on the market, including Simms, Greys and Kold Kutters. All work in the same principal way – you screw them into your boot sole. However, this seemingly simple process needs to be done with a bit of care and consideration.

We are going to use Kold Kutter studs in this guide. Kold Kutters are a DIY stud option that are massively popular in the USA. They were originally designed for tyres of vehicles used in ice racing and they provide brilliant grip in snow and ice. They also make perfect wading boot studs, being made of hardened steel with a 3/8 inch diameter thread.

How many studs per boot?

Adding too many studs is a bad idea because you still need flat areas to make contact with the river bed – or you could end up skating precariously on the tips of the studs. 10 studs per boot sole will be about right. This allows you to spread the studs out nicely. Our preferred pattern is 4 in the heel and 6 in the toe area, with the studs near the outside of the sole for best traction.

What do I need?

A packet of 20 studs, Stormsure or Aquasure glue, permanent pen.

Everything you need to fit studs to a wading boot

Everything you need to fit studs to a wading boot

Step 1. Mark your holes

Using a permanent marker, mark the soles of your wading boot with the pattern shown below.

Mark your soles with a permanent pen

Mark your soles with a permanent pen

Step 2. Apply glue

The addition of a small dab of wader glue (such as Aquasure or Stormsure)  this helps the stud lock into place and remain secure.

Add some glue to your wader stud

Add some glue to your wader stud

Step 3. Screw the studs in

No special tools are required!! You can use a standard flat head or socket screwdriver to install the stud. Ensure the stud goes into the sole perfectly straight, not at an angle. Do not over tighten the stud.

No special tools are required to fit Kold Kutter studs

No special tools are required to fit Kold Kutter wading boot studs

Screw your studs in nice and straight

Screw your studs in nice and straight

Step 5. Ready to fish!

When wading you need to be sure footed and safe – you have gone a long way to achieving this!

Wading boot studs fitted and ready for action

Wading boot studs fitted and ready for action

Kold Kutter wading boot studs are just £3.99 for a pack of 20. Available here.

For tips and hints on better wading practice and safety, check out our ‘Wade safe’ blog here: https://blog.fishtec.co.uk/wade-safe-tips-for-better-wading

Summer Sea Fishing Safety Tips

Men fishing from rocks in Rhossili Bay, South Wales

Men fishing from rocks in Rhossili Bay, South Wales
Image source: David King Photographer

Fifty people lost their lives while sea fishing in the four years from 2011 – and most of them were shore anglers who were, to quote the RNLI, “fishing from exposed areas of shoreline.”

Not only is this staggering loss of life tragic, it’s also unacceptable. Failing to take adequate precautions to stay safe while out fishing gives the whole sea fishing community a bad name, risks the lives of the people who come to rescue you, and – worst case scenario – means you never get to go fishing again.

To make sure you don’t become a statistic, check out all the safety advice you can find online. The Angling Trust is a good place to start. And while you’re at it, here’s our guide to staying safe while you’re sea fishing from boat or shore.

Shore Anglers

Fishing from rocks can be exhilarating.

Fishing from rocks can be exhilarating.
Image source: Mogliami

You get a buzz from fishing from those hard-to-get-to secret spots using light rock tackle, but you want to enjoy your day and get back in one piece? Or perhaps you love nothing better than standing thigh deep in the surf, spinning for bass? Great. Here’s what you need to do to survive the experience:

  • Fish with a friend. If you fall, who will raise the alarm? The minimum unit of survival is two, so if you’re searching out an isolated spot from which to wet your line, always fish with a buddy, and always tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back. If you don’t have anyone waiting for you at home, a quick phone call to HM Coastguard to let them know your plans is a good idea, but do remember to tell them when you’re back or they’ll send out a search party.
  • Wear a life jacket. Today’s life jackets are comfortable to wear, inflate automatically, and don’t get in your way. If you hit the drink, a little gas canister inflates your lifejacket, and you don’t drown. Why wouldn’t you wear one?
  • Wear boots. If you’re clambering over rocks, no matter how hot it is, nothing less than a stout pair of fishing boots will do. Beach casting? Wear crocs – if you tread on a weever fish with your bare foot, you’ll know all about it – the pain is enough to make a grown man weep.
  • Wear sun protection. Wearing suncream and good quality sunglasses protects your skin and eyes from sun damage. But it’s absolutely essential to wear a hat. It does more than keep the sun off. A hat prevents you from overheating which is when the unpleasant symptoms of heat exhaustion morph into lethal heat stroke. What’s the difference?
Heat exhaustion – too much sun makes you dizzy, pale, sweaty, feverish, and nauseous. You’ll have a headache, your pulse might race a bit, and you might throw up, but a cool drink, a seat in the shade, and a lie down at home should see you right.

Heat stroke – sees your core temperature rise. You’ll stop sweating because you’ll have no more fluid left to sweat; your skin will grow rosy red, and hot and dry to the touch; your pulse becomes rapid. You’ll get confused, restless, and possibly aggressive, you may suffer seizures, but as time passes, you’ll lapse into unconsciousness, and eventually die. If your buddy starts showing signs of heat stroke, don’t mess about, cool them down NOW! Chuck a bucket of cold water over them, strip them off, wet them, fan them. Get them out of the sun. Call the emergency services. You don’t have time to hang about; heat stroke kills.

  • Be prepared. No matter how competent you are, accidents happen, so always be prepared. If you’re fishing from rocks, be aware that even when it looks calm, swells can sweep unwary anglers into deep water. Take a rescue throw rope with you – not only does it come in an easy-to-handle bag, the bag doubles as a grab handle, the rope also floats, and the bright colour makes it dead easy to see when you’re thrashing about in the water.
  • Make sure your phone is fully charged. And carry it in a waterproof case. If there’s no reception where you’re going, consider taking an inshore flare pack and a waterproof strobe light.
  • Pack a basic first aid kit. Have enough basic equipment to deal with minor incidents and injuries without spoiling an entire day’s fishing.Be sure to wear appropriate clothing to deal with a soaking, as-well-as a decent waterproof coat which should be brightly coloured because if the worst happens, you want to be found – never trust the forecast, even in summer. Coastal weather changes fast.
  • Know your tide times. The coastguard, RNLI, and lifeguard service would have a much easier life if only anglers knew their tides and didn’t get cut off by them. Buy yourself a local tide timetable and learn to read it – remember to check whether your tide table adjusts for BST or not.

Boat fishing

Conditions can change quickly when fishing out at sea.

Conditions can change quickly when fishing out at sea.
Image source: Federico Rostagno

Everything you’ve read already applies to fishing from a boat or kayak. If you’re using your own boat, you need to make sure you get your engine (plus your auxiliary) serviced regularly, especially at the start of the season, or after a long layup. The emergency services don’t call the summer the “silly season” for nothing – make sure you’re not the one they’re wrapping in a warm blanket while they carry on the search for your missing crew mates.

  • Educate yourself. The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) offer myriad power and sail boating courses run through yacht clubs, and commercial outfits right across the country and beyond. As a bare minimum you should know how to safely pilot a boat in familiar waters by day – check out the range of courses on offer in your area, and make sure you know what you’re doing before you head out onto the blue.
  • Carry safety gear. It might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised just how many people get into trouble because they don’t carry any safety gear. If you’re heading to sea, you must carry everything you need to get you out of trouble. That’s everything from spares, fuel, and tools, to oars, plenty of rope, a compass in case your GPS packs up, a comprehensive first aid kit, and an inshore flare pack. On a boat? Always wear a lifejacket.
  • VHF Radio. Your mobile phone cannot be relied on at sea, so make sure you invest in a decent VHF radio – either fixed or handheld, and do take the RYA’s radio operator course – there’s no excuse not to because you can do it online.

No matter how good the weather or how confident in your abilities you feel, never underestimate the ocean.

About the author:

As well as being a keen sea angler, Robin Falvey is an experienced surf lifeguard and has been a lifeguard instructor and assessor for the Surf Lifesaving Association of Great Britain. He has worked closely with the RNLI and Coastguard on rescues and first aid incidents at sea and ashore.

How to get kids into fishing

Fishing is a sport the entire family can share.

Fishing is a sport the entire family can share.
Image source: Bex Nelson Fishes

Bex Nelson is the inspirational angler behind Bex Nelson Fishes, a Facebook page with a rapidly increasing following. Not only a keen advocate of the sport who encourages everyone to get involved, she’s a passionate ambassador for getting kids hooked as soon as possible.

Here are some of her tips for sharing your love of fishing with children. After all, it’s our responsibility to vouchsafe the future of the sport we love by introducing it to the next generation…

Fishing is the new cool

Fishing is cool for teens!

Fishing is cool for teens!
Image source: Bex Nelson Fishes

The one regret I have in life is not going fishing when I was a child. I did a little bit of float fishing with my Uncle, a match fisherman, but that was all. Then I met my partner who has been a very keen angler since the age of 6. The first time he took me fishing we went to a lake and caught 17 fish in one day. I loved it! And this is where my passion for this incredible sport was born.

There are more people fishing now than ever before. It’s a cool sport these days. Celebrities champion it on the television – even actors like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson loves fishing so much that he had a lake built on his farm. It’s fantastic seeing more females and children on the banks as well and I love to inspire anyone and everyone to get into fishing – there’s just so much to love about it.

Getting kids involved

Sharing the joy of fishing with 11 year old Ellen.

Sharing the joy of fishing with 11 year old Ellen.
Image source: Bex Nelson Fishes

I recently enjoyed a fishing session with a young girl of 11 years old called Ellen. She managed to catch her first fish on the surface, and as I stood back and watched her play the fish, it looked as though she’d been doing it all her life. But more important than that, her passion and willingness to learn from other anglers was amazing. She was such a joy to fish with!

Now it’s the summer holidays, there’s plenty of time to get your children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces out in the open and away from the Xbox. You don’t need anything expensive – just a good value rod and reel, a few hooks, floats, net and a mat. Get youngsters to help you prepare by making the ultimate mix of bait – kids love getting their hands dirty and will happily get stuck in!

Choose your battles

Fishing at Anglers Paradise

Fishing at Anglers Paradise
Image source: Bex Nelson Fishes

Choose a lake which has plenty of fish. In the early days, the last thing you want is to have them sitting behind a couple of rods with nothing happening. Keep plenty of bait going in to make sure you get lots of quick bites. I’ve found that even when the fish aren’t biting, kids love to get the net out and try and catch a big fish that way!

Talk to youngsters about the behaviour of fish, get them involved in reading the ‘clues’ or signs on the lake, encourage them to try and think like their quarry and explain why you love the sport. It will interest them more than you might think. Watching their passion for fishing ignite is one of the best ways to remember your own. So sit back, enjoy the view, and don’t forget to capture the moment on camera for posterity! (Check out Dave Lane’s advice on taking great photos for some top tips.)

Next time you head out with your tackle, don’t leave kids at home. Make it a family event where everyone gets involved. Kids love a competition, and there’s nothing better than the feeling of a fish on the line and an ‘epic battle between two warriors’ to teach children to appreciate these ancient creatures.

More about the author:

Bex Nelson manages the Facebook page Bex Nelson Fishes. Got a query? New to fishing? She’s more than happy to answer questions about her own journey and offer tips and encouragement to anyone just starting out.

Summer holiday fishing for mackerel

fishing for mackerel

A good sized mackerel caught from a small boat.
Image source: Shutterstock

Mackerel are one of the most popular fish for UK anglers to target and for good reason. They’re relatively easy to catch, put up a great fight once hooked, and taste great.

Mackerel fishing doesn’t require a great deal of equipment or complicated fishing tackle so it’s an ideal way to get children interested or for holiday-makers who want to try their hand at sea fishing. Here, Chris Middleton shares his top tips to give you the best chance of success.

Understand your quarry

Using a light rod and a spinner is one of the most common ways to catch mackerel.

Using a light rod and a spinner is one of the most common ways to catch mackerel.
Image courtesy of Chris Middleton

Mackerel visit UK waters in the summer after spending the colder winter months in deeper offshore waters. They generally arrive around the British coastline in May and stay until late-September, although this can be later around southern England.

Mackerel are a relatively small fish – the UK shore caught record is 5lb 11oz but the average size for mackerel in the UK is only around 1lb or so. Despite this they are fast, active hunters which feed on smaller fish such as sprats and sandeels. For this reason the main method for catching mackerel is with artificial lures such as spinners, feathers and daylights.

Where to find mackerel

Piers are one of the most popular marks for mackerel anglers to fish from.

Piers are one of the most popular marks for mackerel anglers to fish from.
Image courtesy of Chris Middleton

Mackerel hunt for their prey in mid-water so fishing from places like piers, breakwaters, jetties and other artificial structures which extend out into the sea is the best way to access this deeper water. It’s also possible to catch mackerel from steeply sloping beaches. Indeed, Chesil beach in Dorset is one of the UK’s top mackerel fishing marks. However, shallow, sandy beaches are unlikely to offer water deep enough for mackerel to be present and are therefore best avoided.

Visual hunters, mackerel can be caught at any time of the day, but it’s worth noting that rough seas and choppy water can send them out of range into deeper water. Your best chance of success is usually during a steady spell of good weather and calm seas.

Best tackle for mackerel fishing

A mackerel caught with a spinner.

A mackerel caught with a spinner.
Image courtesy of Chris Middleton

Mackerel fishing doesn’t need to be complicated. Most anglers use a spinning rod of 8 – 10ft in length which can cast lures of 1 – 2oz coupled with a simple fixed spool reel. You can often buy rod, reel and line combination deals that give you the full setup for a reasonable price.

The main types of lures used in mackerel fishing are:

Spinners: These are solid metal imitation fish fitted with hooks. There’s a seemingly infinite number of spinners on the market but simple, traditional silver spinners seem to work best for mackerel. Alternatively, try this set of four of the most deadly coloured lures.

Feathers: These are hooks which have been fitted with brightly coloured feathers to make them resemble a small fish. They’re bought ready-made on rigs usually containing three to six feathers. Using feathers is an effective way to catch mackerel, and there’s always the chance of catching multiple mackerel if a shoal attacks the feathers.

Daylights: Similar to feathers, these lures are made with synthetic plastic material instead of feather. You’ll need to remember to buy weights if you’re casting feathers or daylights.

The best method for catching mackerel

Multiple mackerel caught on daylights.

Multiple mackerel caught on daylights.
Image courtesy of Chris Middleton

The great thing about fishing for mackerel is that the same method is used for spinners, feathers or daylights. Cast your lure out as far as you can and then reel it in through the water to tempt the fish to attack it and get hooked.

As mackerel are a shoaling species they can descend on an area very quickly. A spot which has produced nothing for a number of casts can suddenly become alive with mackerel, producing a fish every cast.

If you’re not having any luck, try varying the speed that you reel your lure in. Reeling in quickly will bring your lure back high in the water, while reeling slowly will retrieve it much deeper. Try various depths to give yourself the best chance of locating the feeding mackerel.

Another tip is to watch for sea birds diving into the sea (a sure sign that small fish are present and mackerel will be nearby) or bubbles appearing on the surface of the sea. This happens when mackerel chase small fish upwards through the water, causing them to panic at the surface and the sea to look as if it is bubbling. This is a clear sign that mackerel are present and a productive fishing session will follow.

Eating your catch

Hot mackerel straight from the barbecue is a real treat.

Hot mackerel straight from the barbecue is a real treat.
Image source: BravissimoS

Mackerel is a tasty fish which is full of healthy omega-3. Once gutted, it can be very simply barbecued, grilled or fried, although take care to avoid small bones which can be difficult to completely remove. There’s not much that tastes better than a fresh mackerel thrown on the barbecue on the beach within hours of being caught.

For more ambitious chefs mackerel makes excellent pate and can even be substituted for sausage meat in scotch eggs. If you have a bumper haul, gut, fillet and freeze your catch for another time. Try some of these recipes from Great British Chefs for inspiration.

More about the author…

Chris Middleton writes for British Sea Fishing where you can find find information and advice on all aspects of shore fishing around the UK with information on techniques, bait, tactics and fishing marks across the country. As well as this there are features and articles on wider issues such as commercial fishing, conservation and the sea fish species and other sea creatures found around the British Isles.

Airflo Covert Compact Fly Vest Review

Looking for a new lightweight  fly vest that is comfortable and full of storage options? We might have found something for you. In this review Fishtec blogger Stuart Smitham takes a closer look at a vest he has been using for some time, the Covert Compact from Airflo.

Having used the original Airflo Outlander vest back pack for some years, it was good to see it have a freshen up, with some innovative digital camo. Ceri Thomas at Fishtec, hinted of another new addition to the range, called the Covert Compact vest. I’ll never forget Ceri’s apt description, “It’s a fishing bra with two chest pack’s”.  In truth, it’s a lot more than that.

I’ve had mine since March this year, so I’ve had time to make an accurate assessment of it. Once you see it you’ll see why it’s attributes become easily visible.

In general the Covert Compact has a generous pouch capacity, not only on the front two, but also the back. A lightweight system in digital camouflage. The philosophy of a one size fits all, works here for sure.

The Airflo Covert Compact fly fishing vest

The Airflo Covert Compact fly fishing vest

Looking at the vest from the inner most out, the padded areas offer a great stand off from your clothing, so allowing air to circulate between the vest and your body. Wide shoulder pads, much like the vest back pack, help spread weight distribution. The mesh back is great for two reasons. (1) to help keep you cool and (2) it allows you to wear a day pack with ease. A plus plus from me, particularly if your hiking and dumping waterproofs inside.

There’s a D ring in the top of the mesh yolk which is well stitched and will stand up to the endless pulling that I do on my net magnet.

Padded areas and D rings are a nice touch!!

Padded areas and D rings are a nice touch!!

The pouches on the front are very spacious, with split storage. They differ slightly as the right pouch has a velcro with fly patch. On both of them there’s a small inner pocket on the back wall, for small items and then a larger storage area. This will easily cope with fly boxes, spare tippet and a small water bottle. On the outside are two smaller pockets for tippet, nips, floatant and so on. The front pouches clip together for a secure fit, and you can also use the side straps to tighten it all up for optimum comfort.

The front pods and the back pouch of the Covert Compact vest

The front pods and the back pouch of the Covert Compact vest

The back pouch has rod tube straps on the underside (rod tube not included) which is a neat touch. On the inner are two small pockets on the back wall, for things like spare glasses, sunscreen etc. The main storage area here is large enough for your large fly boxes, snacks, drinks and even a lightweight jacket.

The construction and build quality on the Covert Compact is something else. Good stitching and quality zips that will stand up to heavy abuse. Overall, this is a well thought out piece of kit, worthy of joining the Outlander range of fishing luggage. For more on the Outlander range, visit the Fishtec tackle website. Best regards, Stuart.

Stop press: Covert Compact Fly vests are now just £34.99 (rrp £49.99)!!

AVAILABLE HERE

FishSpy Camera Videos by Carpology Magazine

The latest FishSpy underwater camera videos by Carpology magazine!

Discover how a FishSpy marker float can drastically increase your catch rates by allowing you to explore and check underwater features.

In these two videos Dan Whitford of Carpology explains how a FishSpy camera has helped him on his syndicate carp fishing lake, as well as for bait checking and discovering feeding areas.

July 2018 FishSpy video

May 2018 FishSpy video

FishSpy camera’s are £129.95. They are available from the Fishtec Tackle store here.

Carp In The Park 2018

What is Carp In The Park?

The ultimate carp social. Two days of chilling, socialising and learning from the biggest names in carp fishing. Giant screen and slide shows from Dave Lane and Alan Blair, plus many more. Demos and displays from Avid, Chub, Nash, JRC, TF Gear, Shimano, Sonik and a host of other great brands. Live music, outside bar and a chance to bivvy up and socialise with the stars of carping. This is a carp event like no other and you’ll want to be able to say “I was there”!!

Carp in the park

Carp in the park

Dave Lane and the TF Gear team will be on hand to discuss and demonstrate selected products, Including the Airflo Inflatable bivvy, the Airbomb bait distribution device and the unique FishSpy underwater camera.

Carp In The Park: June 30th & July 1st, Billing Aquadrome, North Northamptonshire.

See you there!!!

For more information and ticketing visit www.carpinthepark.co.uk

Dave Lane on using the TF Gear Airbomb for floater fishing

As soon as I saw the very first Airbomb prototype all those long months ago, the first thing that came to my mind was floater fishing.

Apart from all the other obvious advantages of being able to present a spread of bait, regardless of the depth or range, floating bait presentation was the one I really wanted to try out.

Apart from close range catapult baiting or relying on the wind to drift floaters out into the ‘zone’ we had always had to suffer the ill effects of a huge great splash as our spod type devices crashed into the surface right where the carp were feeding. Obviously, this was always a major disadvantage, particularly if the fish were a bit cagy and it was always a gamble as to whether they would return and continue to feed afterwards.

Dave Lane casting the TF Gear Airbomb

Dave Lane casting the TF Gear Airbomb

With the Airbomb you can stop it in flight well short of the ‘feeding zone’ and the baits will continue their flight, landing with the minimum of disturbance right where you want them to.

Recently, on an impromptu trip to the Water Park for a breakfast with the family I had the perfect opportunity to try it out.

The fish were all cruising about behind the café on the main lake and I had all the floater kit in the back of the truck.

I simply fed the swim with the Airbomb before ordering my breakfast and let them get confident while I filled my own face with eggs and bacon. Once I had finished and the fish had cleared up most of the free offerings I was able to keep feeding floaters right on top of them and they just kept on eating them, which was the perfect scenario.

Using a heavy controller to cast way beyond the carp, I then teased it back into position and was soon hooked into a lively mirror of around twenty pounds.

That fish fought like crazy and it was a good five minutes before I got him anywhere near the net, during which time most of the feed had been demolished and the fish were starting to drift off, so I asked Dee, the wife, to have a go at Air-bombing some more out there for me while I was trying to net the fish.

Floater fishing success with the TF Gear Airbomb

Floater fishing success with the TF Gear Airbomb

Despite never having cast one before she had mastered it by the second cast and I just knew there would be another chance in the offing if I was quick.

With the mirror dealt with and the fish still having it out in the lake it didn’t take too long to get a second bite at the cherry and I added a lovely common carp of a similar size before heading for home.

It was every bit as effective as I knew it should be and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to give it a go.

Dave Lane