Sea angling expert Alan Yates loves to help his fellow fisherman.
So he’s answered your most frequently asked questions in his distinctive style below:
Q: Are bait pumps any good and how do they work?
A: Bait pumps are very effective and a larger proportion of black lugworm is now pumped and no longer dug. HOWEVER, there are bait pumps and there are bait pumps and the larger bore models are nowhere near as effective for the marine worms as the slimmer bores. Lots of the professional pumpers make their own or have them made from 1inch (25mm) bore and this seems to work better throughout the UK. This raises another issue, pumps work for black and yellowtail lugworm almost everywhere, but not for common or blow lugworm although these can be pumped in a few locations. Pumping is every bit as difficult as digging although it may be less physically demanding.
Q: Is there a way of removing a barbed hook with minimum damage to fish?
A: Being positive is the first step to hook removal. You need your one first try to be successful. If not the fish will be seriously damaged on most occasions. The species are harder to unhook than others. Some of the smaller pout, whiting, flatfish, etc are more delicate and more difficult to unhook than say bass or dogfish. Barbless hooks are not the solution at sea, although more hook firms are producing hooks with a smaller micro and whisker style barb. A disgorger is a handy aid to hook removal and the Gemini type is very effective BUT how it works has to be understood and the knack of using it is not easy.
Q: I have purchased an old solid fibreglass beachcaster from my local second hand shop, but it is in need of a new ring. Where can I get a replacement?
A: I am sorry to be blunt but the rod would be best hung on the wall and you buy a modern sea fishing rod. Rods of thirty plus years ago are far removed from the modern gear. I have used this comparison before but would you drive a Morris Traveller, no then why fish with a rod of the same era? If you are really passionate about the rod then seek out an old established tackle dealer, in the cobweb strewn shelves of an old tackle shop you may just find a replacement rod ring.
Q: Despite using 6 /7oz 175grm /210grm breakaways I can’t hold bottom on my local beach, others around me with same leads do, what is the answer?
A: Holding bottom in strong tide is not just about grip leads. The line resists the tide and the thicker the line the more strain it places on the grip of the lead and that’s why most beach anglers use 12lb to 15lb mainline. If you are using 30lb mainline then it’s thicker diameter will rip a 6oz grip lead out in strong tide. The difference is alarming once you increase line strain above 15lb.
Q: When fishing rough ground I often snag and snap line at the leader knot. Is there a way around this and is it safe to cast using a stronger line all through?
A: A strong leader knot like the Bimini Twist may save you some tackle loss but in really rocky or snaggy situations a 30lb line all through is the complete answer. You will require a larger capacity model reel, and one with a faster retrieve will also help get you gear up and out of the snags quicker. Lifting the rod and reeling fast is essential when fishing amongst snags. Using a single hook, a lead lift and the Pulley style rig are all ways to help retrieve gear, but essentially it’s the way and speed you retrieve that matters most. Obviously there are restrictions with casting style and not using a casting shock leader does limit casting to a basic and safer overhead thump style.
Q: Why is it that I catch little when the sea is calm and clear and the sun is out?
A: Lots of species of fish will not venture into shallow water when the sun penetrates to the sea bed. On some venues moonlight has the same effect. Fishing in the sea in clear water, limits the species you are likely to catch. In general the hours of darkness are more productive when the sea is calm and clear.
Q: What should I look for when fishing a venue for the first time?
A: Perhaps the term reading the beach is a little fanciful. But local knowledge on a venue is important and because every venue is different the skills involved in catching fish from it are too. The first step is to visit the venue at low water, pick a low spring tide because this will expose the maximum sea bed. You can note any features that may attract fish or cause them to swim around, like a groyne end. Rocks, gullies and sandbars are all potential fish holding features, some are snags to avoid. Next you will need to fish the venue to discover the hot times when the fish feed and these are often consistent. Such local knowledge, plus lots of experience, helps you to eventually develop an idea of how venues are likely to fish.
Q: How do I set the magnetic brakes and the centrifugal brake on my new multiplier?
A: Most of the magnetic multipliers reels (Force 8, Abu, Akios, Penn, Daiwa, etc) are well balanced and well made and in all cases the magnetic controls are brilliant. Straight from the tackle box it’s best to turn the magnets full on for the first cast. They have a knob or slide to do this and it simply moves the magnets closer to the spool when turned to high, slow, on, etc. Once the reel line is wet and the reel has been cast a couple of times you can loosen off the magnets so they allow the spool to run faster. Some casters remove the odd magnet to lessen their effect, but this is not really necessary for fishing and with some reels this is not a job for the inexperienced! Some of the Mag reels also have a centrifugal brake system which is two small brake blocks that sit on two spindles on the end of the spool. They run to the end of the spindles when the spool is at maximum speed slowing the spool (Centrifugal force). Unlike magnets their influence is not continuous during the complete cast. Remember that these reels have very efficient magnetic brakes anyway. Centrifugal brakes are regarded as an efficient way to balance and control the fiercest spool spin. They are essential on non Mag reels and worth keeping in place in the Mag reels that have them. Most work a treat with one brake block in place.
A degree of spool control is also available from the spool end plate caps, some reels have one, some two. Their primary function is to centre and balance the spool. However when screwed down they press against the end spindles and cut down the amount of spool float/rattle. Clamped down tight they do have an influence on the spool’s rotation speed. The best setting for the end caps and spool float on most reels is to turn the end caps until the spool float is just eliminated, and then release the float cap by one turn.
Q: Do carbon fibre rods go soft and will using heavy leads increase the chances of this happening?
A: It is a well known fact that carbon fibres within the matrix of fishing rods do fracture and stress with use and over time. One or two models are actually said to improve with age because of this. Most anglers do not notice during the lifetimes of their rods but find a new rod really different. This has less to do with the improvements in modern rod design and materials than some anglers think. It’s also a good reason not to buy a really old rod model that has seen a lifetime of use. Having said that a rod is a rod and few anglers have the same opinion on what the best rod tip make, let alone how stiff or soft each individual rod blank should be. The short answer to this question is ‘yes’ although you would be hard pushed to notice the change inside several years of use.
Q: What is the difference between monofilament and braid lines and what are the advantages and disadvantages?
• Advantages of braid over mono first. Braid being a lower diameter per strength and lacking any stretch does not oppose the tide as much as the equivalent breaking strain. Therefore allowing the use of lighter leads to hold bottom. Casting distance is obviously increased with a lower diameter line which cuts the wind better. The less rapid decrease of spool diameter also improves the lines flow. Braid lines lack of stretch means that every movement of the end tackle and hook is transferred to the rod tip and striking actual moves the hook, whereas with mono the line stretch soaks up movement of the rod tip or the hook. Braid lines do not coil like monofilament, they are more supple and less springy. Braid lines are extremely tough and hard wearing, and their lifetime is as much as twenty times more than that of mono.
• Disadvantages: braid line performs best on a fixed spool reel. Used on a multiplier, braid line under pressure embeds into the coils on the spool, causing the line to lock and jam up on the next cast. The lack of stretch on braid line is a major problem as it transfers line movement to the rod tip. Many anglers also feel that braid line at distance disturbs the rig, moving the baits and deterring the fish from taking them. Mono’s stretch is a safety valve when fishing at long range. Bites using braid are magnified and this can prompt the angler to strike too often and too soon.
Q: Can you tell me more about the differences between mono and braid lines?
A: Non stretch braided line (Dacron) has been around for years, whilst super strong Kevlar was introduced in 1965 by DuPont. In recent times the man made polyethylene fibres have been blended and improved with braid lines now specifically produced for angling. The basic difference between monofilament and braid is that braid has zero stretch. Therefore braid has a more direct contact with the fish which improves bite detection, presentation and general fishing feel. Braid is also far tougher and wear resistant. However braid is not the total solution to all fishing situations and monofilament still holds sways in many branches of angling.
Monofilament means single strand. Mono line is made by melting Polyamide (Nylon in pellet form) which is stretched to form a long continuous strand. Further stretching results in the range of diameters and other treatments include the addition of colour or abrasion resistant coatings. The polyamides have undergone changes in recent times and modern mono line is superior to that of several decades ago. It still stretches but is generally tougher and lacks the coil memory of the original nylon lines.
Braid lines are made by twisting together polyethylene fibres and this produces a stronger, lower diameter per breaking strain line that has very little stretch. A 0.06mm diameter monofilament line has a breaking strain of approx 1lb, braid of that diameter is upwards of 8lb. This is perhaps the factor that makes the most impact for anglers with a far stronger, lower diameter line bringing many advantages.
European and Japanese braids are mainly constructed of Dyneema whilst most of the American braids are made from Spectra fibres which are more expensive. Both are similar although Spectra claims to be 10 times stronger than steel, as opposed to Dyneema’s 5 times. Both fibres are used in other applications, notably surgical stitching, industrial rope and bullet proof vests.
The early braid fishing lines were flat because they were produced for the construction of things other than for fishing line. This caused them to float making them mostly only suitable for spinning etc, but now round profiled braids specifically for angling, including sinking’ braids are widely available.
Some of the braid lines (Fireline) include a thin outer coating or are slightly heated to fuse the fibres together to give the line a softer feel and better line flow.
Q: How can I stop my braid line slipping around the reel spool?
A: A major problem with braid is that if it is not firmly anchored on the spool the complete line mass can slip around the spool, that’s all the line on the spool! A short length of mono wound on the spool before the braid, gives the braid more grip on the spool and prevents it slipping. Another method is to tape over the knot that ties the braid to the spool to give it more purchase.
Q: Do I need a different rod for braid line?
A: Rods chosen for use with braid line are usually softer with a through action. The longer Continental f/s beachcasters are ideal for shore fishing as they cushion braid’s lack of stretch which can put a lot of pressure on the hook hold. An alternative is a short monofilament shock leader to act as a cushion. Although more and more rods are being produced for braid line, including models for the beach, boat and shore spinning.
Q: Do I need specialist rings for my rod if I change to braid line?
A: No, The modern braids have been made more ring friendly with the addition of polyester making the line less abrasive as well as helping it sink.
Q: I am worried braid line will be difficult to break if I snag the bottom?
A: It can be in the large diameter sizes, but generally you can scale the breaking strain of your tackle (hook and snood) to allow your main line to break free. The stronger braids of 30lb plus are ideal for medium range rough ground fishing. because of shore angling’s “weak spot” the shock leader can be dispensed with.
Q: How do I cut braid line?
A: Cutting braid closely to a knot is difficult because most scissors or line clippers cannot cut the fibres cleanly. There are a number of special braids scissors available which feature serrated edges for a clean cut, essential for trimming braid knots.
Q: Are some of the claims for braids diameter to be believed?
A: Braid is easily flattened under pressure and the diameter measurement is effected. Braid’s diameter is far below that of mono in any case, so breaking strain is the better guide.
Q: Is it worth using the heavier, but thinner high strain braid lines so to do away with the potential weak link of the shock leader. I have heard anglers say that braid should be banned why is this?
A: Braid’s lack of stretch makes it very abrupt to use without a softer mono shock leader and even boat anglers find that a short length of mono makes braid more practical and forgiving to use in many situations. This is also very much the case with shore angling with a mono shock leader and a softish rod required to cushion the lines lack of stretch. Braid is growing in popularity though, especially for short range scratchy match fishing. Braid is best used on a fixed spool, for short to medium range and is best behaved when the sea is calm. It does not work well on a multiplier, because the coils dig into themselves and can lock up on the spool during casting with horrendous consequences.
Braid is considered an unsocial line by many shore anglers. It is not a line to use from a crowded pier or beach without care. In crossed line situations braid wins every time, cutting through mono and making the user very unpopular. Some shore competitions ban the use braid.