Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Ask the expert?

I've been exchanging emails recently with an angler from Fife called Dan who had been reading my blog and decided to get in touch. Feeling fed up of fishing in the sea in his local area using traditional methods and reeling in relatively small fish using fairly heavy tackle he has been exploring light rock fishing or LRF. For the avoidance of doubt this is the presentation of ultra light lures using a variety of methods and balanced ultra light tackle to target various species in saltwater. I was flattered when he said he wanted to ask an expert some questions but an expert in LRF I am not, by any stretch of the imagination. I was however happy to try and help him out and increase my circle of fishing friends in the process so I arranged to meet up with Dan last week and taking advantage in a drop in the wind we headed down to Dunbar Harbour for low water.

First off we started off drop shotting Gulp! and Isome in the old harbour for flounders but this didn't produce any bites. At this point I should say that both these products are examples of a hybrid of lure and bait because whilst they both take the form of an artificial soft plastic they both also contain active ingredients that fish can identify as belonging to something edible. This makes them incredibly effective and really they require little skill to achieve immediate results. Elitist, lure only anglers who use these hybrid products please take note, you might as well be using ragworm! Personally, being an angler who enjoys fishing with bait, lures and everything in between this doesn't bother me at all and I've caught lots of fish using both. On reflection though using these hybrid products does become the easy option when "lure" fishing and perhaps to the detriment of exploring other methods using wholly artificial lures.

As the flounders weren't around I suggested we headed over the back of the harbour to try and catch a few mini species in the rockpools. After explaining to Dan the types of features to look for in a rockpool that might hold some aggressive little fish we set about exploring to find some. The first thing I caught was a small hermit crab, one of several that stirred from their static positions and scurried across to attack my piece of Gulp!. Dan was quite surprised by the way everything in the rockpools, including the hermit crabs, reacted as soon as my chunk of Gulp! was dropped in even if I just let it sit on the bottom motionless.

The rockpools I searched soon produced a few gung-ho long spined sea scorpions.They charge out of their hiding places and attack with lots of aggression.
Dan was soon happily exploring on his own catching a few small spiky fish too.

After an hour or so, catching about ten long spined sea scorpions between us, we then headed further down the coast to St Abbs to try and catch some coalfish after dark using on the drop (OTD) methods. We probably could have stayed at Dunbar but usually down at St Abbs the fish are more numerous, occasionally bigger and there are usually far less seals too. Both armed with solid tipped rods we had a chat about the benefits of using them for fishing OTD. I started of with a mini Savage Gear Sandeel paddletail, casting it out and flicking the bail arm over as soon as it hit the water. I kept tension in the line, simply allowing it to fall back towards me in an arc. Fishing like this as well as feeling for positive bites you also have to watch your rod tip and line because some takes are not so obvious. If a fish takes your lure and swims upward or towards you the only sign might be a release in tension, the line going slack or even a subtle change in the slight bend in your rod tip as it straightens a little. Basically when fishing this particular OTD style I find that less is more and usually select a lure whose action works even at slow retrieve rates. Metals are also a great choice of lure for OTD fishing as again they have a nice action as they fall through the water attracting fish to investigate and strike. On this particular occasion however I found them to be not as effective as the paddletails. Again it didn't take long for Dan to try a few lures, make a few adjustments and start catching coalfish too. Over the next few hours we carried on messing about and must have caught about a hundred small coalfish between us by the time the wind picked up and our wet hands started to become unbearably cold.

These ravenous little buggers provide a good opportunity to practice fishing on the drop with both small soft plastics on jigheads and small metals too.

I really enjoyed the session and Dan said he felt he had learned from it too. It was nice to have helped another angler to get more from their fishing. I've lost count of the number of times in the past I've benefited from the advice of other anglers so it was good to share some of what I've learned for a change. It also made me realise that whilst Gulp! and Isome are highly effective fish catchers, other choices of lure when fished with the right technique can also produce fish if you are willing to put in some effort and on that front perhaps I am a bit of a lazy bugger. Anyway, going forward I think Dan and I will be meeting up again as his genuine interest in learning about the different approaches that LRF encompasses has kind of rekindled my own desire to try different methods within that particular subset of lure fishing. Gulp! and Isome are very effective weapons to have in your fish catching armoury but hopefully when we head out again we can both ditch them most of time, do some fishing with proper lures and broaden our LRF horizons a little further in the process.

Tight lines, Scott.

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