Summer Coarse Fishing Tips: How To Beat The Heat

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A beautiful, baking hot day; but is it still worth going fishing?
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

While blue skies and sunny waters bring out fair weather anglers in droves, high summer can be a tough time to fish. Dom Garnett has some timely advice to help you stay cool, keep catching and be kind to the fish…

The weather forecasters are grinning; the mercury is rising and the shops are making a killing on barbeques and beer. “What a lovely time of year to go fishing” says just about everyone who doesn’t know much about angling!

Ask most regular anglers, and you’ll get a lukewarm response: high summer can be a challenging time of low returns. Fish, after all, are not always comfortable in the heat. Like us, they find their energy and appetite dulled.

With clear skies and low water levels, the fish also feel quite vulnerable and will either hang around motionless or go missing in the brightest hours of the day. Unlike you or I, they have no eyelids, let alone a pair of shades to lessen the blinding glare!

Should I still go fishing in a heatwave?

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Drought conditions can follow a heatwave. It can be a time of stress and difficulty for nature- and fish become more vulnerable. Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

When it’s extremely hot, fishing can be a tricky business. That’s not to say you won’t catch, but you might need to switch times, locations or species. Early mornings or evenings are going to be better than the middle of the day, for one thing.

As for species of fish, some respond to heat better than others. Fragile, coldwater species like pike and grayling should be avoided altogether, such is the risk. Carp are perhaps the most notable exception; tough as old boots, they might slow down but can still be caught on the surface or in the margins. Tench and crucian carp are also tough cookies that can tolerate higher temperatures and lower oxygen levels.

Is it worth the risk?

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Carp are hardy fish that can still be tempted on bright days. However, on’t expect them to be on the bottom. Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

With other species, it’s a case of discretion. After all, just because you can legally target them, it doesn’t mean you should. Barbel are a point in case presently, because as tough as they look, these fish can easily die following a hard fight and a less than careful release. It can take up to 20 minutes of supporting a fish on release, if it is to recover properly.

Is it worth the risk in the first place? Only you can make that call, but when it’s silly hot remember that we have the whole year to fish. If you must go, there are some common sense rules, too. These include using strong tackle to play fish quickly, not to mention supporting them with patience to recover fully before swimming off. Our Beginner’s Guide to Fish Care has lots of great advice to help if you’re unsure.

Summer fishing and catch and release tips in hot weather

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This barbel perished after capture in hot weather. River fish demand extra care and patience on release. Image courtesy of Alfie Naylor.

  • It’s your call if the weather is scorching hot. But if the river is extremely low or you think the fish are vulnerable, why not wait a bit or try something else, like carp fishing or sea fishing?
  • Early or late sessions are often better than the middle of the afternoon, so set that alarm clock or see if you can sneak out after work! Remember though, that even when the air temperature cools, the water will still be hot right around the clock and fish can be vulnerable.
  • Pick shady spots and faster flows for the best chance of action. Fish like shade as much as we do, while shallow, faster flowing water is cooler and more oxygenated than the slacks. Hot weather can change the rulebook, so don’t always expect your quarry to be in the usual spots.
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Make the most of natural shade where you can – fish appreciate some protection from the sun. Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

  • Try fishing up in the water when it’s warm. Whether it’s a floating bait for carp, or trickling in casters for roach, summer fish often like their food well off the bottom.
  • Take extra care of the fish if it’s hot. Exhausted fish are particularly at risk, so use strong tackle and play them quickly. Keep them in the water as much as possible and support them patiently while they recover.
  • Avoid keep nets. Keep nets should be avoided, or used only very sparingly for short periods, in mid-summer.
  • Don’t fish for fragile species. Some types of fish, like pike, deserve a complete break; they are extra fragile in the summer and even if you know your craft, you could easily kill one. If it’s crazy hot, you might also avoid species such as grayling and barbel. Again, this might depend on the venue, but for the longer term it’s best that we put the needs of the fish before our own.
  • Target tougher fish. Carp, tench and crucians are all species that don’t mind hot weather and can tolerate lower oxygen levels than their stream cousins. A switch from river to lake might be more productive, not to mention kinder, if the weather is hotter than a vat of vindaloo. Of course, you should still be extra careful with your catch on the bank, because even these fish will be less resilient than usual.
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Fish such as carp, tench (above) and crucians are more comfortable in warm water than the likes of barbel and grayling. Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

  • Pack sun block and extra water! Yes, we’ve all done it. Remembered kilos of bait but not taken care of ourselves. The result is a splitting headache or sunburn. Oh, and do treat yourself to a decent fishing hat! A broad-rimmed hat could literally “save your neck”!
  • Try night fishing for carp. If it’s a big carp you’re after, this is a wonderful time of year to go night fishing. Balmy recent conditions have seen temperatures in the high teens, even in the wee small hours! Very comfortable for sleeping out- and the fish will be a lot less wary after dark.

Read more from Dom Garnett

Regular Fishtec blogger Dom Garnett can also be caught every week in the Angling Times, while you can also find more on his site www.dgfishing.co.uk and the Angling Trust’s Lines on the Water blog.

Big Flies – Big Trout by Rene’ Harrop

Monthly escapism to the land of the free, where the fishing is fantastic and the fly life just as good. Here Airflo fly line consultant Rene’ Harrop talks about the extraordinary fly hatches of his local Henry’s Fork.

Nature provides numerous ways to measure seasonal progress in the mountains. For a fly fisherman, however, no indicator is more reliable than the size of aquatic insects that emerge only in response to actual climatic conditions rather than a calendar date.

Green Drake Brown

Green Drake Brown

It is common to find freezing conditions and even snow as late as June and into July when the elevation exceeds five thousand feet. This level also describes habitat suitable for the biggest insect events when individual size of stoneflies and mayflies is considered.

On the Henry’s Fork, the giant salmon flies and golden stones are measured in inches and their appearance can ignite the interest of the largest trout in the river.  But like the big mayflies known as drakes, emergence at the wrong time will cause the hatch to wither if the temperature is too cold. For this reason, we know that summer has arrived when the smallest fly we tie on is likely to be size ten or larger.

Green Drake And A Beer

Green Drake And A Beer

While salmon flies have run their course for another year and the golden stones are only recently beginning to show, we are currently in the heart of drake season. Though notably smaller than the size four and six stoneflies, Green, Brown, and Gray Drakes will dwarf any of the other mayflies we will see in the entire year.

Gray Drake Spinner

Gray Drake Spinner

Whether wading or floating, the big flies create a level of excitement that has the ability to cancel the discipline of even the most responsible adult. Succumbing to this annual temptation will almost always put me a week or two behind on most obligations and I will spend the rest of the summer trying to catch up.

The pace of drake time can be exhausting when a spinner fall of Gray Drakes can appear before eight A.M., and that is only the beginning. Green Drake spinners usually arrive a bit later in the morning and emergence can stretch well into the afternoon. Brown Drakes usually favor the last two hours of daylight and that can mean staying on the water beyond ten P.M. at this time of year. A break in the heat of the day can mean missing out on golden stone action, and when all possibilities are included, fourteen hours on the water become almost the norm.

A Net Full Of Rainbow

A Net Full Of Rainbow

To make matters even more interesting, a half dozen or more minor insect happenings can be added to the big flies on any given day, and this is on the Henry’s Fork alone.

With other great waters close by and all holding their own respective magic, a fly fisher could be driven to madness by all the choices, but what a way to go.

 

A Beginner’s Guide To Float Fishing

Float fishing is one of the most popular methods of angling. Sheringham’s comment that the float is “pleasing in appearance, and even more pleasing in disappearance”, still rings true today, whether you cast a delicate stick float or a pike bung.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in float fishing is making the right tackle choices. But with such a bewildering variety of floats and tackle, where do you start? Dom Garnett steers you in the right direction and shares some of the joy that comes from successful float fishing.

Why use a float?

Chub caught with waggler float

A simple waggler float and slow sinking bait fooled this chub.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Apart from the obvious pleasure of seeing the thing dip, why opt for a float in the first place? The broadest answer is that the float achieves things other presentations don’t. If the fish you want to catch prefer bait in the current, or mid water as it falls, a float is the answer. But for bottom fishing too, the float will often provide greater sensitivity than rod tips or bobbins.

Basic float types 

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The main types of float. Image source: Fishtec

Waggler

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A straight waggler, insert waggler and loaded float.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Attached bottom end only, this is a great all-rounder, especially on stillwaters such as lakes and canals. For more information, see our Beginner’s Guide to Waggler Fishing.

Stick float

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A traditional stick float, modern metal stemmed float and a chubber, for big baits and boiling currents.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Attached by three “float rubbers” this is first choice for running water. The size and design of float will depend on the depth and strength of the current.

Pole float

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A slim pole float, plumper pole float and small “dibber”
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

With no need to cast far, pole floats are delicate and highly sensitive. They are held on the line with tiny rubber sleeves, like stick floats. Above, we have a slimmer pole float for slow falling baits (top), followed by a plumper bodied float for bottom fishing and last, a small “dibber” ideal for shallow margins. For close range fishing these floats also work a treat with rod and reel setups!

Sliding float

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Sliding floats
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Some species of fish demand a bigger, meatier float to support larger baits and cast further out. Pike and sea fish are good examples – ideal for casting into a wind or perhaps suspending a whole fish as bait.

What tackle do you need for float fishing?

There are many rods marketed for various float fishing tasks these days, but what should you use? Start by thinking about what you’d like to catch.

For general float fishing on rivers, canals and smaller stillwaters, a 12 or 13ft match rod will do nicely. A small reel, loaded with 3-6lb line should match this perfectly (lighter line for roach, dace and bits, or heavier for chub, tench or small carp).

For regular tench and carp fishing, a “power” float rod that will handle reel lines of 6-8lbs is better still. Again, at least 12 foot is preferable.

If you’re wondering why such long rods, the extra length helps in several ways. Most of all, it gives you better control, whether this means reaching out across the current or picking up all the slack line when striking into a fish at distance.

Here’s the thing though – you don’t always need to use a dedicated float or match rod to float fish. For young anglers, or those who find themselves in cramped swims, a shorter rod is often more practical. A light to medium lure of 9-10ft will work fine for a little float fishing.

For a spot of sea or pike fishing, a slightly heavier lure rod, or perhaps a stalking or carp rod is ideal. I like slightly lighter tackle than the big ugly blanks and heavy reels generally shoved onto rod rests, which are a bit bulky to hold for hours. A sensible sized reel loaded with heavy mono or 20-30lb braid will stop most sea fish and pike.

Typical Float Rigs 

There are many, many ways to float fish, but these three basic rigs will stand you in good stead for most situations. As a good general rule, the deeper the water and the more powerful the wind and currents, the larger the float you will require.

Stick float rig with “shirt button” shotting

Stick float rig with “shirt button” shotting

Image source: Fishtec

This is a typical rig for trotting a river. The evenly spaced shot give a gradual, even fall of the hookbait. The same principle often works with stillwater rigs – with a string of evenly spaced shot allowing a slow, natural fall of the bait that looks very convincing to the fish.

Bulk shot rig

Bulk shot rig

Image source: Fishtec

If you want to get down to the bottom quicker – because it’s deep, or you want to prevent tiddlers from pinching your bait on the way down – a bulk of shot is the answer. Notice how most of the weights are bunched together, just 18” from the hook. This is a pole rig, but the same is true of all float rigs – and if you begin with a string of evenly spaced shot (as in example one), you can always slide them down the line to form a bulk weight if conditions change on the day.

Sliding float rig

Sliding float rig

Image source: Fishtec

For deeper waters and bigger fish, a sliding float is a great idea. As the name suggests, this setup allows the float to slide up the line (unlike a “fixed” float). This means you can fish depths longer than the rod much more easily without casting problems.

We’ve shown a large float for sea fishing here, but the same principle works for very deep venues where you want to catch roach, tench, bream and other fish. You simply use a bulk of split shot rather than the bullet – and a giant waggler float rather than a bung.

Finer points of float fishing 

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A pike on the sliding float. Don’t assume that float fishing is just for the small stuff!
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

When float fishing, it always pays to pay attention to the little details! Here are three key things you can do to instantly improve your float fishing:

1. Dip that tip!

Fish are not always prepared to pull inches of float underwater. In fact, many will let go if they detect too much resistance. Dot your tip down as low as is practically possible (as little as 2-3mm!) for best performance.

2. Include a tell tale shot

The “tell tale” shot is a tiny weight, usually positioned six inches or less from the hook. This tiny shot is crucial because when a fish takes the bait, the weight also moves and gives you immediate bite indication. Keep your ‘tell tale’ tiny (size 8-12) and close to the hook!

3. Avoid losing weight

Shot can easily ping off while you’re fishing and will need replacing. Cylindrical weights called “styls”, often sold as “Stotz” come off the line less easily and can be a better choice than traditional shot.

Further float fishing tips

  • Float fishing is an excellent way to test the depth. This is a vital skill to suss out where to fish on any water. Doing this properly makes a huge difference – you want your float set so that the bait is just touching the bottom at first, or just off if you’re trotting a river.
  • It’s usually cheaper to buy floats in bulk when you’re starting out. Mine tend to be bought in twos or threes so I always have spares, but bulk deals are often the best value. Fishtec sells sets of Middy Wagglers for under a tenner.
  • Use a float adapter (above) when waggler fishing and you can change floats in an instant should conditions change.
  • Always hold the rod when float fishing for faster biting fish. If you put the rod down, you’re not in a position to react instantly.
  • Bites don’t always mean the float sinking out of sight. If the float lifts, or “takes a walk” sideways, you may well have a bite too, so strike! You will sometimes get line bites from fish like carp though – where the float behaves peculiarly – and you’ll need to wait for a “proper” bite.
  • As a general rule, it’s often best to use a float that is slightly heavier than needed. This way, you needn’t strain to cast far enough. Rather than casting onto the heads of the fish, it’s often better to cast a bit “too far” and bring the float back carefully.
  • Always stay alert and fish positively. Feed bait and cast often to get more bites and explore your swim fully. An Airbomb mid-air baiting device won’t spook the fish.

A beginner’s guide to float fishing infographic

Read more from Dom Garnett

You can catch more from our blogger every week in the Angling Times, or at his site www.dgfishing.co.uk where you’ll find his blog and various books, including Canal Fishing: A Practical Guide and his cracking collection of fishing tales Crooked Lines.

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.

Return to Still Water By Rene’ Harrop

For a trout fisherman, it would be difficult to picture a region with more choices of water than Yellowstone country. Flowing from its hub, which is the National park, are the Yellowstone, Snake, and Madison, and the Henry’s Fork lies just outside its boundaries. Smaller but no less attractive are the Fire Hole, Gallatin, and a host of diminutive spring creeks.

Hauling On Henry's

Hauling On Henry’s lake

Through the decades I have left boot prints on some of the world’s finest trout streams and my professional identity has been shaped mostly by moving water. But in recent years a different type of fishing has begun to challenge a dedication to the rivers and streams that have historically dominated my attention.

Because of elevation that rises well over a mile above sea level, the lakes and reservoirs that lie within convenient distance can remain ice-covered well into May. With most rivers open and spring hatches well underway, I do not suffer for lack of fishing opportunity but I confess to a sense of anticipation as the time draws near for a return to still water.

Sheridan Kamloops

Sheridan lake Kamloops trout

I’m not sure if the influence of my friend, Gareth Jones is a curse or a blessing, but it is certain that he is largely responsible for the distraction represented by Henry’s, Hebgen, and Sheridan Lakes. From this point forward, at least thirty percent of my fishing days will be occupied by the mysteries of still water, and this will end only when the lakes are again frozen over in late fall.

Following a master’s lead to considerable extent, a sizable portion of the flies tied in winter for my personal use are still water patterns, and I am excited to test the new ideas that come during the season of contemplation.

Why Still Water?

Why Still Water?

Though the mind state of fishing still water is in contrast to the more familiar mental requirement of fishing a river, it is no less satisfying or rewarding. I view my time on the lakes as a companion rather than competition to my loyalty to moving water and my life as a fisherman is made richer by having such a wide diversity of choice. How lucky can a man be?

Coarse Fishing Tips For The New River Season – 16 June

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Sunny weather and hungry fish; what’s not to love about early season river fishing?
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

After a three-month break, river coarse anglers will be raring to get out and fish from 16 June. But what’s the best way to get in on the action in the early part of the season? Dom Garnett shares some handy tips to get you off on the right foot…

When is the start of open season for river coarse fishing?

16 June 2018 marks the start of the open season for coarse fishing on rivers. When was the last time you fished a river for coarse fish? Although there are plenty of stillwaters open all year round, there is still a certain magic about returning to running water. For the keen angler, it brings a real tingle of anticipation, to put it mildly!

When the new season opens, will you return to a favourite haunt or try somewhere completely new? Will you simply fish for bites, or go for a net-filler? After a long break and the rigours of spawning, the fish are likely to be hungry, too, and sport can be excellent. Here are my top tips and four ideal species to kick off your river campaign.

Roach

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Roach are a fantastic species to give plenty of bites.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

These days they are not the most fashionable species, but for bite-a-chuck fishing the humble roach is a great way to return to the rivers. You’ll find these fish in steadily running water. Look for flows of walking pace and pay special attention to any “crease” where faster and slower water meets.

Tackle and tactics: Try trotting with a light stick float set up, with 3lb line and hook sizes from 14-18. Keep feeding for best results. Maggots are excellent, but if you can get them, casters are superb for picking out the better fish. Failing that, or where longer casts are needed, try an open-end feeder and bread.

Chub

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Chub can be caught on all kinds of methods, but float fishing is especially good fun.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

These fish reach a good size even on quite small rivers and are active and hungry right now. They love spots with cover, such as weed rafts and overhanging trees. That said, when it’s scorching hot you’ll also find them in shallow, well-oxygenated water. They can be spooky, so approach with care.

Tackle and tactics: Perhaps the best thing about chub is that they respond to so many methods. Trotting or legering with bigger baits is a good tactic. Loose feed regularly and they will come well off the bottom, too. Waggler fished maggot is excellent, but they also love the splash of the pellets you might usually use for carp fishing! Lines of 4-8lbs are typical, with hooks from 12-18 depending on the method, size of fish and snags present.

Last but not least, if you can get close to them, a free-lined piece of bread or a worm is fun – or you could try my favourite method – fly fishing. Amazing fun in clear water!

Barbel

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Barbel are among the most exciting fish to battle on running water.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

For those after a real net-filler, these powerful fish are what summer fishing is all about. Some anglers automatically look for deep holes and slacks, but this is often a mistake as they are very tolerant of even quite strong currents, especially early in the season. Look for water with a decent flow and depth, preferably with with cover not too far away. Rather than guessing, don a pair of polarised glasses and take a walk – you may see them rolling and flashing as they graze the bottom if the water is clear.

Tackle and tactics: For many anglers, legering gear is easiest. Try a heavy swim feeder and a hair rigged bait on a hooklength of just 10-12” for a bolt rig effect. Meat, double 10mm boilie and pre-drilled pellets all make great hook baits. They are not desperately line shy, so tackle up tough with at least 10lb breaking strain.

However, the most fun way to catch them early on is trotting. In the early season they are active and more inclined to be in shallow to mid depth swims, too. Fish as you would for chub and roach, throwing in bait regularly, but step up to stronger line and hooks!

Bream

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A river bream from an urban weirpool. Find the shoal and you’ll have a busy session.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

It’s a shame more of us don’t target these fish. Many larger rivers have a healthy population and those you find in running water fight a lot harder than their stillwater cousins. Look for them in deep, slow areas, such as wide river bends and the less turbulent parts of weirpools.

Tackle and tactics: It has to be the quiver tip, with a large feeder and baits such as corn, caster and bread. Lines tend to be 4-6lbs and obviously lighter gear will give you better sport than specimen tackle. Take plenty of bait and feed generously too, because these fish can eat for fun when you find them in large numbers.

Top tips for coarse fishing in the early river season

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Check your licence.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

    • Check your gear if it has been a while since you fished. You might want to respool with fresh line, in particular. The time to ponder if you needed a refresh is definitely not when you’re playing a big fish!
    • Renew your licence! If you haven’t fished for a few months, be sure to buy your new licence. These days, they run for a year from the day you buy them, offering better value for returning anglers.
    • Get up early if you can. You’re more likely to get your favourite spot and if it’s hot, you may well find that the best fishing is before the sun gets too high in the sky.
    • Prebait if you live close to the water to get the fish lined up for you. They won’t have seen bait for many weeks, so it’s good to get them used to your chosen offerings again.
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Get the fish used to your bait.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

  • Go with the flow in the early season and try trotted, moving baits, even for the likes of barbel. The fish are sure to be active now and they like steady flows because these areas have more oxygen on a hot day. Maggots are hard to beat, or try something bigger if minnows are a pest.
  • Handle your catch with care on hot days. In warm water fish fight harder and get stressed quicker. Always handle with wet hands and keep them in the water as much as possible. Use that keep net for shorter periods only, or better still leave it at home.
  • Wade in! I’m often surprised at how few coarse anglers own waders. These are brilliant for summer fishing, allowing you better access to the water. They’re also good for your catch, as you won’t even need to take it onto the bank to unhook and release it.

Find further inspiration for the new river season…

Last but not least, do also keep an eye on the Angling Trust’s “Lines on the Water” blog, where I will be asking star anglers from John Bailey to Sam Edmonds for their favourite rivers and tactics to try in June. In the meantime, tight lines to you all and here’s to a glorious June 16th!

Read more from Dom Garnett every week in the Angling Times and at www.dgfishing.co.uk

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

 

The Great Salmon Fishing Debate: Should Angling Be 100% Catch And Release?

A River Wye silver salmon

A silver fresh run salmon. Image: Tim Hughes

Wild salmon are precious creatures these days. Indeed, new legislation in Wales and much of England is set to make catch and release compulsory. But is it still ok to take them where rules permit? And when releasing salmon, how can we do so correctly to ensure each fish the best chance of full recovery? This month, the Fishtec team takes a look at the ins and outs of the current salmon debate.

An emotive debate…

It used to be the most normal thing in the world for the successful game angler to take a salmon home. Indeed, as crazy as it sounds, these fish were once so plentiful they were staple food for the poor. How times change!

Whether you lay the blame on climate change, environmental mismanagement, commercial salmon farming or a toxic mixture of these and other factors, salmon numbers are well down. But is it fair to ask anglers to release every fish, as new rules could dictate in Wales and most of England? And regardless of our reason for releasing salmon, how can we give each fish the best chance of survival?

Regarded by many as the king of freshwater fish for many anglers, it’s not surprising that salmon conservation is an emotive subject. Indeed, you will seldom find anyone indifferent to this iconic species.

Whilst we all have strong and differing opinions, we’re likely to agree on one thing: more needs to be done to ensure that our children and grandchildren still have salmon to fish for in the future. So will new laws help? Are they fair? Or could they cause more harm than good?

Fishtec-Atlantic-Salmon-debate

An Atlantic salmon jumping over a weir on the River Severn in Shropshire.
Image source: Kevin Wells Photography

Can I keep salmon?

Firstly, we should point out that there are no consistent rules that apply to all of England and Wales at the present time (late May 2018). The list of regional byelaws on the Environment Agency site is the first place to check if you’re in any doubt about your local fishing. With stocks continuing to decline, many fishing clubs and areas already insist on catch and release fishing. Never assume you can keep salmon and do always check before you fish.

New rules proposed by the Environment Agency for 2019 could well take the decision out of anglers’ hands entirely. As of next year, it could potentially become a crime to take a salmon from any Welsh river and many of those in England.

Indeed, while anglers have welcomed new restrictions on commercial practices such as drift netting, many are angry that their traditional right to keep fish will be taken away. To put it mildly, this is a complex debate.

Different opinions within the angling community

The whole catch and release debate has polarised the angling community. Different regions and generations of anglers have very different opinions. The Angling Trust’s response to the proposed regulations was highly critical of the Welsh proposals, following a major survey that revealed 83% of respondents were against a complete ban on catch and keep angling.

In particular, it was felt that the new laws could represent a dangerous breakdown in trust between authorities and the anglers who are so often the “eyes and ears” of the waterways concerning illegal fishing.

The knock-on effects for the sport, and rural businesses in general, could also be stark. Plenty of life-long anglers feel it is their right to take a salmon or two every season. Many of these regulars could easily hang up their rods if we’re not careful; a scenario that could reduce precious resources even further. After all, anglers’ money goes towards costs such as habitat improvement, fisheries enforcement and other vital work.

However, anglers who already practise catch and release regardless of the law point out that we now live in a different era. Their argument is that salmon only enter freshwater to spawn and are too precious to kill. While it’s easy to say “just one or two” won’t matter, the removal of even one large female salmon from a threatened river could mean a lot fewer juvenile fish further down the line.

Sense and sustainability

Surely, whatever our personal views, the watchword for all salmon fishing needs to be sustainability. In this respect, it’s very difficult to dictate laws that could apply to all waters. After all, a smaller river with a steep decline in population is a very different prospect to a major waterway with prolific fish stocks.

So is it too much to ask that anglers make a decision using their own discretion? It should be pointed out that most anglers do this anyway. Even where catch and kill is allowed, statistics show that the majority of fish are released. The days of “keep everything” are long gone.

Perhaps the best system would be one of compromise and sensitivity that takes into account the nature of each individual river. Some clubs across Britain have already adopted such an approach. For example, some clubs allow season ticket anglers to keep one or two salmon, where runs are still healthy.

How to help salmon survive capture

Fishtec_Salmon_Catch_&_Release - 1

It’s sensible to keep salmon in the water as much as possible to reduce stress.
Image: Fishtec

How to release salmon is a separate question that requires care and thought. The good news is that virtually all salmon will survive capture and go on to spawn; provided the angler takes care and uses the best catch and release practice!

Here are just some of the things you can do to make sure every salmon you catch swims off and spawns successfully in the future:

  • Use strong tackle to help play and land fish quickly. A fish played to complete exhaustion is less likely to survive.
  • Always crush barbs on your hooks to reduce damage on removal. A “bumped” hook is an ideal compromise, in other words a hook where the profile of the barb has been reduced.
  • Use single hooks only to further reduce damage. Lures can easily be converted by swapping the trebles.
  • Avoid bait fishing. Statistics show that survival rates are much lower for bait fishing, as worms and other offerings are often swallowed. If you must use bait, try a circle hook.
  • Be prepared and have all your tools, camera and essentials to hand. Faffing about looking for these things means extra stress for fish.
  • Keep your fish wet. You don’t need to take salmon onto the bank. Keeping the fish in the water and handling with wet hands reduces stress. In fact, even short periods out of the water are proven to reduce survival rates, so if you need to retain the fish for a short period, do so by keeping it submerged in a generous-sized landing net.
  • Avoid crude nets. Talking of nets, stringy, harsh models have no place in angling these days. Modern, soft mesh is much kinder.
  • Measure, don’t weigh. The best way to record that special fish is to measure. This can be done while the fish is still in the water. There are various length to weight charts if you want to estimate the poundage.
  • Be quick and handle with care if you want a picture. If you want a snap, do so quickly and hold the fish in the water. Support it with wet hands and cradle, don’t squeeze!
  • Assist recovery by keeping the fish upright, facing into the flow. If it has fought hard, it may need a few moments to get its breath back. You’ll know it’s ready when you feel it try to swim away.

Another great resource is “The Gift”, a YouTube video made by the Atlantic Salmon Trust to illustrate correct tackle and good practice.

Think of the bigger picture

Last but not least, in any discussion of the battle to save salmon, we should also mention those working hard for the future of the species. Organisations like the Angling Trust and Salmon and Trout Conservation fight tirelessly to protect rivers, prevent illegal fishing and force key decision makers to protect salmon. Joining either of these groups is inexpensive and a great way to offer your support.

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