Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary June

Recent trips after smoothhound have seen me more often behind the camera than with rod in hand, the results will appear in Sea Angler magazine at a later date. The hounds have increased in size and numbers everywhere and it’s a nice change to be able to go after species other than dogfish and one that pulls, at this time of year. Currently the Kent coast, like many other regions, is fishing well and I cant help thinking that the fishing in spring and early summer is so much better than the traditional sea angling time of Autumn. Being as I am involved in match fishing via the National League I look at the fixture lists crammed with events in October and November and think, why don’t some of those matches, that to be honest have some pretty poor fishing nowadays, switch to May and June? In my region of Kent the British Championships fished at Deal on Sunday 7th October (2012 date) is typical of the large opens that suffer at the hands of a calm, clear sea with few fish around. OK if the date collides with a gale the dogfish and whiting turn up but most years you are lucky to see a bite and its tradition that now picks the date rather than the fishing. Meanwhile Deal in May and June is stuffed full of fish even when the sea is calm and clear with rays, dogfish and smoothhound and all you need is a Pulley rig, crab is the best bait but the fish also take ragworm, sandeel and fish baits. What’s more they are the bigger species that are needed to get the average angler back out match fishing. He cannot compete with the whiting snatchers in winter, but a big ray or hound can put him in the frame. Only one problem with the idea and that’s convincing anglers to get their beach gear out in May and June, the tradition of putting sea fishing tackle away for the summer months is difficult to break and so many anglers who ignore this time of year simply don’t know what they are missing!!!

Coming up I am making a new TF Gear/Sea Angler DVD and that includes fishing aboard Silver Spray out of Poole and a trip to the Perbeck rocks with my old mate Chris Clarke for a spot of bobber bashing, all weather permitting of course, so lets hope July is better that June!!!

Another great thing about summer is that I can get the float out, there is no more addictive angling than float fishing especially in a calm clear sea when the bottom species are awol. Mackerel, garfish, bream, pollack, scad and mullet are all float fishing targets although my personal favourite are the garfish because they lend themselves to a whole new sea angling technique. You can use ground bait or chum to attract them and on light float gear they can be fun to fish for even despite the frustration of being hard to hook because of their long beaks. The answer is to fish light with small hooks, mind you beware of going too light or too small because more than one bass has grabbed a sandeel section aimed at a gar and then there are mullet, pollack and even conger to encounter on some of the South Western Atlantic venues like the Channel Isles.

I have always been something of a specialist on garfish in matches – I even caused float fishing to be banned by one major organisation when I kept winning with gars. The big secret to catching them is movement, don’t just let your float drift back in the tide, lift the rod and cause the bait to flutter in the current, tweak it retrieve it, keep it moving and the gars cant resist. After that it’s being patient enough to resist striking the bites, keep the line tight and wait for the gar to hook itself. Best bait for garfish is garfish strip, cut from the belly in a fish tapered shape!

A great tip when fishing for gars is to use a fixed spool reel with a bait runner, I use one in conjunction with a 16ft quiver tip. This enables you to use ultra light snoods and small hooks, which can be deadly. Finally, fishing too shallow for gars is more effective than fishing too deep so keep it on the shallow side 4ft to 6ft.

Competitions coming up include the European Federation of Sea Anglers  England Shore Championships taking place at Samphire Hoe in Kent on the 7th and 8th of July. It’s a member’s event although you can join and fish for the first time this year. The Hoe is the venue because Dover Breakwater remains closed because a ferry boat has not yet been found to replace the one that has operated for years. Dover Sea Angling Association are trying to get a replacement and its fingers crossed. Meanwhile Samphire Hoe is host in several major events because the breakwater is closed and these include the Penn League Final, the Home international as well as several opens. For EFSA event details and an entry form:  E mail: paullcurtice@hotmail.co.uk

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary

WHAT HAVE I BEEN DOING

The annual Brighton Pollack Challenge saw me aboard Paul Dyer’s charter boat, Brighton Diver as part of the Sky TV crew at Brighton Marina in Sussex. I had a very enjoyable day with a best pollack of nearly 12lb although I didn’t get amongst the trophies. The fish caught were generally big and a 17lb 3oz specimen for, Dave Dudson aboard Brighton’s, Osprey won the day with three others over 16lb proving how good Brighton is for pollack currently. Read all about the competition in the next sea Angler magazine or watch it on Sky’s Tight lines in the coming weeks. It was noticeable at the event that the usually productive red and yellow Sidewinder lure, the Rhubarb and Custard was not quiet as deadly as it has been with silver, glitter, white and yellow amongst the best lure colours.

The plaice continue to show from the beaches throughout the English Channel and the general consensus of opinion is that it’s the reduced quotas for plaice imposed on the commercial fleets that is the reason. It’s certainly a change to see plaice, but I do despair of anglers showing pictures of ten or more dead fish on Facebook. Are we as bad as the commercials – YES I think some of us are!

I have not landed a ray yet, not even tried, although several have been reported in my region of Kent. With the current weather they should show from the shore any minute and it won’t be long before I try a frozen sandeel and Bluey fillet wrap. A good tip is to buy your frozen Blueys now because if you leave it until the rays show the shops will have run out, they did last year here in Kent.

COMPETITIONS, ETC

By the time you read this I shall be in the Gambia for a weeks deserved break, I am fishing a match for three days of the holiday but it’s the break from work I am looking forward too most. Lots of anglers think my life is one long fishing trip, but I spend hours working on a PC and getting out of the office is heaven sometimes. For last minute info on the Gambian three-day beach event contact Bernard Westgarth on: bernardwestgarth@yahoo.co.uk.

Or check out his web site:  www.fishthegambia.com

I am also off to fish the Magrini in Sardinia soon. This International competition in the middle of May is real continental light line fishing, last year my 10lb bs snoods proved too heavy in daylight so this year I am down to 5lb after those mini weavers and breams. However, I must admit I look forward to the company and craic at the event more than the fishing which is considerably different from here at home, makes you appreciate dogfish fishing in the Med!!!!!!!!

My next task is to arrange the Penn Final and it’s on the weekend of the 23rd/24th June at Dover. I have qualified for the final myself although as main organiser I shall not fish. One problem regarding the final which is scheduled to fish Dover Breakwater and Samphire Hoe over the two days is that the motorboat which ferries anglers to the breakwater has ceased. In fact its been sold. Dover Sea Angling Association are in the process of solving the problem with another boat, so its fingers crossed. All enquiries about the Penn final to me on: alankyates@aol.com

TACKLE AND TIPS

It’s time to return the summer tackle to your tackle box. A set of feathers for mackerel is standard summer gear, but also add a set of mini feathers with the shrimp and tiny Sabiki designs great for catching sandeel, herrings etc that can be used as bait.

A couple of floats can also help you get out of jail when the sea goes flat and clear and only mackerel and GARFISH are around. Slide a float down your main line after casting fishing metres deep and catch a few gars – great fun as they leap out of the water when hooked and another bait for the freezer or the hook.

At this time of year anglers fish a lot with a single large bait and the Pulley Pennel rig which is without doubt the most efficient terminal rig to use for the larger species, especially when you want a big bait put at long range, however, there is much debate about using two hooks or one for species that are going to be returned. My solution is to stay with a two hook Pennel rig for the larges baits, but to choose smaller barbed hooks. There are a few of the modern hook patterns that are sold with micro barbs and these are perfect for catch and release especially when you are using the large sizes for bigger species. It’s a shame Fox discontinued their Uptide Power Point FA pattern because they are a superb catch and release hook with their micro barb.

Of course an easy answer to this problem is to crush the barb on your hook so that it can be removed more easily.

Several additions to the TF Gear fishing tackle range including two new three-piece beach casters. I am particularly pleased with the quiver tip version, the all rounder. See them both plus a whole range of new tackle in the latest TF Gear 2012 catalogue.

Get a copy from your local tackle shop or contact us at: TF Gear Sea Fishing, Unit 5 & 6, Ffrwdgrech Industrial Estate, Brecon, Powys. LD3 8LA

Tel, 0871 911 7045

Web: www.tfgear.co.uk.

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary March 2012

WHAT HAVE I BEEN DOING
It’s that time of year when spring continually threatens to arrive, but drags its feet daily and March is going to be a long month. I remain busy with club matches and have enjoyed some success with dabs, dogs and whiting from the Kent beaches and piers and a few plaice turned up at a recent pier match and they are the first sizeable for a few years in the region. The whiting too have enjoyed a good winter and there is a certain irony that they are now making the size limit now that the match season is over. Whiting are though no longer a winter species and are in such large numbers they appear almost year around?

Now thoughts turn to thornback ray with the species experiencing a big spring revival in many regions, including Kent, in recent years. The rumours of “skate” have started with the Isle of Sheppey in North Kent always the first to produce. The rays are a shot in the arm for the shore anglers simply because they are something “big” to catch. They may have a poor reputation for the fight, but their sheer size means the rod bends when they bite and when you pull them in. Great fun after a winter with few cod.
Top tip for catching rays is to try a large chunk of Bluey on the hook. This oily mini garfish species is a great bait for lots of the summer’s bigger fish and catches straight from the freezer. Cut a section in a wedge shape and carefully wrap and lash it around a frozen sandeel with bait cotton (Skin out or flesh out is a personal choice). A bluey sausage is favourite ray bait from many early summer venues. In some regions peeler crab catches more thornback rays and its not long before the crabs moult in mass making them an essential bait for the rays in many estuary regions, whilst they are the go to bait for smoothhound everywhere.

There is much debate at this time of year on whether its best to use a two hook Pennell rig for large baits and large fish like the rays and smoothhound, or to stick with a single hooks for conservation reasons? Obviously the Pennell does increase the chance of a hook up, but it also increases the risk of damaging the fish – It’s a personal thing although I still prefer a Pennell for the largest hook baits.

COMPETITIONS, ETC
I am all booked up for The Gambia in April and the week long shore competition I am fishing has an interesting twist – Its one hook only. Organiser, Bernard Westgarth who has a house in the Gambia is convinced that one hook will provide a more level playing field for competitors of all abilities. In other words it will take away all the advantages the matchmen have. But has he forgotten that it will also take away most of the fish with one hook definitely lowering the odds of a catch? Whatever, I am off for a deserved winter break with the family and with a single hook out I shall have more time to soak up the rays.
For last minute info on the event contact Bernard on: bernardwestgarth@yahoo.co.uk.
Or check out his web site: www.fishthegambia.com

The Sea Angler Magazine Clubman series has finished and as the main organiser I am awaiting the final results before deciding the winners. There is now a couple of months rest for Club anglers with the Clubman restarting on May 1st. The event is in its fifth year and is open to all angling clubs and anglers, it includes sponsored prizes from Penn for the top five individuals and the top team (four). There is also the prestigious final where the winning team and top five individuals get to fish against a select team from Sea Angler magazine.
The event is organised by e mail only and you can enter your club via myself: alankyartes@aol.com or via the entry form in the magazine.

TACKLE AND SPRING TIPS
The new TF Gear rigs are now available and apart from a couple of manufacturing glitches they should be perfect by the time they reach you – if not take em back! A few words about the clipped rigs, they are made with stops so that hooks can be replaced and snoods changed. All the snoods are adjustable and this may confuse a few novices. The stops used for all the rigs can be moved, not too easily, but with the flappers they allow the angler to convert a rig from three up to two up one down something you cannot do with crimped rigs. The winders each rig comes on too is far easier to store dry, thus increasing the working life of each rig – Contrary to popular belief I am using the rigs myself.

A new quiver tip rod model is now available it’s a 16ft three piece aimed at the match summer angler who want to fish light and see bites. Great for garfish, mackerel, bream, pout, flounder, etc and from the pier scad, pollack, bass and mullet. Look out for the Delta 16AM – 16ft All Rounder. (On offer at £134.99) If you buy one remember it has three tips with the other two stored in the butt!

Whilst feathering for mackerel carries a certain stigma with some anglers it’s a legitimate technique for many and who can blame anglers for taking advantage of such a stupid fish as the mackerel. Indeed they grab anything that glitters and a sack can be filled in no time. However, it’s a great idea at this time to year to add a couple of mini feathered rigs to your kit because lots of other species are just as gullible when it comes to mini lures and lots of these make great bait. Check out the wonderful range of mini lures now available because they catch herrings, scad, sandeel, mackerel, pollack, coalfish, bass and more. Look out especially for the tiniest Shrimper, mini hokkai and Sabiki patterns

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary Feb 2012

WHAT HAVE I BEEN DOING

A trip to Sky TV for the first episode of Tight Lines in February and I found myself in HD – What a shock although Keith Arthur looked wrinklier than me. Tell you what the  sea fishing tackle and gear demos we did on screen came out crystal clear and I predict Tight Lines will become even more adventurous with tackle demos in future weeks.

I had a disagreement with the local South Kent fishermen over the lack of cod in the English Channel – I have only caught one small codling from the shore this year and compared with results of the past when I once record 100 cod over 10lb in a season 2011/12 has been a disaster. I tell you another thing its not down to my lack of angling skill or effort. There simply are very few cod in the English Channel currently and that’s despite the boats producing a few lunkers in recent weeks. A whopping 39lber came out of Eastbourne aboard Deep Blue skippered by Steve Bradshaw.

Hard at work for Sea Angler Magazine I have been finalising the 2011 Penn league results, a tedious job getting all those hundreds of points and surnames in numerical and alphabetical order. Anyway the task is nearly complete and next comes the Final. Whilst I qualified for the final myself this year because its at my Dover home town I am not fishing, I cant have people saying I fixed it to be at Dover when I qualified. Anyway this year it’s a two-day final and as way of a challenge its one day on Dover breakwater and one day on Samphire Hoe, weather willing.

A well know match angler has been caught with fish in his possession before a big southern event and the repercussions around the match scene are still reverberating along the beaches and on Face book. My only hope is the Angling Trust does the right thing and takes action. Lots of sea anglers will not join the AT because they feel they are not represented. This will show what the Angling Trust are made of – Will they wimp out, or if the allegations are proven ban the angler concerned! As far as many are concerned it’s a test case and my membership is in an envelope on the desk awaiting the result.

COMPETITIONS, ETC
Back home from the Irish winter beach championships with more euros than I took, I had a pool or match pick up on all three days. Although no silverware, actually some great crystal vases are to be won at the event. The three day match was won by the Irish with a clean sweep over the top three, well done to David Roe of Dublin for winning two years on the trot. Second was Joe Byrne and third Rod Stewart look alike, Ian Knight. My only disappointment with the event was that it has now become a flounder contest with all three days fishing the shallower flounder beaches – Could it be the Irish have found a way to beat the English – steer clear of venues with lots of whiting, dabs and rockling where the snatchers excel?

Here the winter finally arrived on the eve of the Kent dab Champs which I organise each year from Folkestone pier. The snow hit the entry big time and only 15 managed to get to Folkestone pier on match day despite the pier being sold out. But, whilst the dabs were absent a number of codling, which didn’t count in the event, showed – Is it not always the way. Match winner was Lloyd Page of Sheerness with 4 dabs for 2lb 14oz from peg 40 on the piers inside stretch.

Fancy a trip to Gambia for a one-hook beach match? – I didn’t at first, but the idea has grown on me. Organised by Brit, Bernard Westgarth it’s on the 11th until 9th April – Bait supplied, entry for the three days is £200, flights and accommodation can be arranged. Contact Bernard: bernardwestgarth@yahoo.co.uk. www.fishthegambia.com

TACKLE AND WINTER TIPS
Frozen lugworm is great bait during late winter – the dabs and rockling love it – But here is a tip from Kent angler, Leigh Chapman. He partly thaws his frozen blacks and then pops” them in the microwave oven. They literally “pop” when they are ready for the hook, firm and just like the live fresh thing – Amazing. Only problem I have found is a 13Amp socket on the beach to plug the Microwave into?

I have found the answer to those infuriating pyramid leads which hold bottom great, but retrieve like a sack of monkeys as they bury and bundle in the sand. A Sardinian designed lead with a pyramid at top and bottom which holds well and retrieves smooth. Great when accompanied by a Delta quiver tip outfit loaded with braid or mono.

Alan Yates – The New Year Scratch

THE NEW YEAR SCRATCH

This month the cod season is well and truly underway and it’s the time when the bigger fish venture close to shore, especially after a big sea. Its time to make the most of the few spring tides left with a live bait rig the way to go for the biggest cod on many venues. However within four weeks and the arrival of February the bigger fish will thin out drastically in many regions and it’s then that the fishing and the weather sorts the men from the boys.

If you want to continue sea fishing into February the biggest problem is that you will encounter some really extreme fishing weather, whilst at the same time the fishing will deteriorate. Both boat and shore anglers need to heed mum’s advice and wrap up warm and that means long socks, thermals suits and that all important hat. Of course venturing out when the weather is severe is difficult because it always looks much worse than it is! But, usually once you have made the decision to go and fish the weather doesn’t seem so bad and providing you have good waterproofs and a shelter even the worst Mother Nature can throw down can be bearable!

The decreasing temperatures have a dramatic effect on the next few months fishing, watch out for cold shallower water and frozen sand at low water which deters fish from venturing close. Fresh water, rain or snow melt coming out of drains,  rivers, stream etc is also the enemy of the shore angler because it will push the fish out away from the shore line. I have a golden rule about beach fishing at this time of year and that is not to fish anywhere where my cast lands on ground that has been uncovered or exposed to low temperatures at low water. Even better I ONLY fish from the deepest water beaches, rock marks and the piers.

Mention February and lots of shore anglers pull faces at the thought of an invasion of slugs (rockling). Make no mistake the New Year heralds the departure of all the adult fish of most species to spawn around the greater part of the UK and that’s why it’s considered tiddler time. All amount of bravado and using a 4/0 Pennell rig loaded with whole Calamari squid will fail miserably because there simple are no big fish inshore in a majority of regions. At best in a few places is the chance of a 5lb codling, although I have to say that the rays now start to appear earlier every year and they can turn up as early as February and so its wide to keep an eye on catch reports.

I for one carry on fishing through the early part of the year, lots of anglers don’t and put their gear away until spring. Much depends where you live and fish and what floats your boat! It’s a far different approach that is needed to carry on fishing when its tiddlers only. Instead of large hooks and giant baits it’s more delicate tackle and catch measure and return match fishing that is required. It’s a time for the more delicate and fish attractive baits like white ragworm or maddies, a more refined approach to tackle with lighter hook snoods, wire booms, size 4 match hooks and the softer actioned quiver tip rod. Lots of match anglers have discovered the fun of switching to a sea quiver tip rod and fixed spool reel to exaggerate bites and braid is fast becoming the line to use for short range tiddler snatching.

Although its small fish time in many regions the bigger codling are still possible and they often muscle in on feeding dabs and other tiddlers so it’s wise if you go for small hooks to use a strong pattern.

Dab fishing may not appear very exciting but for many anglers it’s the challenge of catching fish under difficult conditions that is the thrill rather than the size of the fish. When the frost is nibbling the ears a few dabs can be a great reward for some scratchy plus they make great eating.

Some tips to help you catch more dabs include adding a few sequins to your hook snoods when fishing in clear water. A small tip of fish, shellfish or squid can also be a deadly lugworm cocktail of dabs but keep the tip bait small finger nail size. For flounders little beats a bunch of wriggly maddies tipped with a small strip of mackerel plus a buoyant bead (it works for dabs too) to give the bait a little lift and movement in the current. Dabs and those slug like rockling love sticky decaying lugworm with four day old black lugworm a prime bait for February match fishing. So don’t throw your lugworm bait away after a trip, keep it until next week and you will find it deadly for the tiddlers especially dabs

Finally, one of the most crucial tactical decisions when fishing in the New Year concerns casting distance – The whack it as far as you can early winter tactic which works for the codling and whiting found in the deepest water no longer catches in February, it fact its nearly always out to far, way past the feeding fish. More effective is an accurate cast to the gutter between low and high tide line, or the back or front of a sand bank or gulley. Other hot spots include the ends of wooden groynes or rock ledges which the fish hugging the shoreline have to go around. Consistent casting to the same spot also pays dividends.

The biggest bonus of this time of year in match fishing terms is that catch and release events mean fewer fish killed. Place them in a bucket of water before you measure register and return – Of course you can retain the bigger fish to eat, but many go back and can be caught again in the future.

DETAILS OF THE TF GEAR DELTA QUIVER TIP BEACHCASTER

Delta Allrounder is a 16ft multi tip rod designed for competition fishing and continental style fishing. Casting 2-5oz leads, It also comes complete with 3 interchangable quiver tips  ranging from 200g upto 600g making it perfect for scratching around for flatties and smaller species. It come with a sliding reel seat and  is suitable for both fixed & multiplier reels.

 

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary Dec 11

WHAT HAVE I BEEN DOING

I hope you all liked the new TF Gear DVD on shore and boat fishing in South Wales. Boy did we have some weather to contend with, it rained and blew all week. But we caught fish thanks to the help of Clive Vedmore of Barry Angling Centre who sorted the bait, Roy Tapper our guide and Steve Jones on his charter boat, Indiana out of Cardiff who put is on the fish.

If you don’t have a copy of the DVD it is available from TF Gear dealers. For a list etc contact. TF Gear unit 5&6 Industrial Estate, Brecon, Powys. LD3 8LA Tel. 08719117045 Web: www.tfgear.co.uk

I bit off more than I could chew whilst fishing the Clubman Final at Kelling against the Holt SAC – Making a film for Tight Lines I was miked up all day and at the beck and call of the producer and camera man – It played havoc with my cast timing and time by the rod and I finished a dismal eighth out of ten, that’s my excuse anyway. The Sea Angler team who fished against the Clubman champions included: myself, Chris Clark, Joc Goudie, John Wells and the SA editor, Mel Russ. The Holt SAC team was Tony Thomas, Paul Fenech, Dean Conway, Peter Loke and Peter Morse. They pipped the Sea Angler squad by a couple of biggest round fish which was a significant margin because they had the only round fish caught worth 10 and 9 points respectfully. Otherwise it was a tight match – Star of the show was Tony Thomas of Sheringham who pegged next to me, ignored the dabs at short range and landed three codling at range for some mega points. A bit of local knowledge and some white ragworm did the trick, whilst the Sea Angler team had failed to spot the importance of the round fish in the complicated points system. A great days friendly club fishing, mind you one of the Holt Team did go a bit overboard with the victory celebrations and the best consolation was to see him posing as he reeled in for the TV cameras only to have three bare hooks! The film on Sky tight lines shows sea match fishing catch and release style and is bound to raise more interest in the Club fishing and the Clubman championships which is growing in popularity – If you want details or want to enter your club team e mail me on ; alankyates@aol.com

COMPETITIONS, ETC
The round of Christmas matches is upon us – A fun way to win a turkey dinner if you get lucky. It’s great to see match anglers spend a fortune on bait and entry fees and go home with a turkey when they could have brought six with the money it cost them. This sums up what I have known for years and that that just going fishing is more important to most than winning a prize, although a consolation prize is better than being a none mentioned also run. A lesson for clubs is that the Christmas match is always the best attended of the year because of the prize structure. Anyone thought of a similar prize structure for the normal club matches?

Some New Year matches worth a visit  include;

The Skua SAC Winter Open at Talacre on January 7th and 8th. Saturday fishing is from  1.30pm until 5.30pm and Sunday from 2.15pm until 6.15pm. Register at the Smugglers Inn. The event is three hooks but no crab. Contact Pete Corker on 07711622015 or Gordon Thornes on 01244 813003

On January 18th Mainwarings Angling Centre celebrate their 8Oth Anniversary with an open competition on Swansea Breakwater. (No juniors) Fishing is from8.30am until12.30pm. Its catch measure and return with a top prize of £1000. Meet at Fabian Way Park and ride for dock entry pass and peg etc. 200 entry limit. For tickets or more details contact Mainwarings Angling Centre Tel. 01792 202245

Nearer home I am organising the Kent Dab Championships on Folkestone pier on February 5th. Fishing is from10am until 4pm. Entry £10 plus pool but its pre book because pegs are limited. Alan Yates 01303 250017.

The largest Kentmatch in February is on the 12th and that’s the popular Fountain SAC Open event pegged along the beaches of Seabrook and Hythe. Fishing is from 11am until 4pm and the event carries a top prize of 1st £1000. The entry is £15 plus pool.  Brian Barnes 01303 260875

TACKLE AND WINTER TIPS

With proper winter looming its time to make the most of the mildest weather – Once the shingle and sands starts to freeze then shore fishing will be just the tiddlers. Lots of the mature fish move offshore to spawn at this time of year and it’s a time for tiddlers around much of the Country. Scratchy fishing indeed unless you are in one of the regions blessed with plenty of codling. It’s that time of year.

Coming up soon is the New Year and for me it’s a time for real scratchy fishing – I like fishing delicate for flatties etc and out comes the quiver tip rod. Can’t wait to get my hands on the new 16 footer – only tested the prototype so far. Arm that with three wire whisker booms, size four hooks and some stale lug and maddies and away you go. Even the tiddlers can give you a good bite and fishing with braid on a fixed spool reel magnifies bites even more and allows the smaller fish to pull back as well.

Weed in the water can be a real pain in the winter clogging and jamming the rod tip ring. One way to eliminate its influence is to switch to a tapered shock leader so that the leader joint knot is smaller. Check out the TF Gear Aftershock tapered leaders. They are 13 metres long and with five on a spool they are available in hi Viz orange or clear.

Alan Yates – Striking

Striking is one of the most exciting tactics involved in sea angling, its like pulling the trigger of a gun, it’s a crucial part of the hunt to many anglers. But is it essential to success and what’s involved?

It’s a fact that most species of sea fish will hook themselves eventually if you don’t strike simply because they are intent on eating the bait and oblivious to fishing tackle. A deliberate strike makes little difference to the catch rate in many situations although it does please the ego of the captor to think so, whilst more important to many anglers is that a premature strike helps prevent deep hooking!

The way the particular species feeds, what it eats, the mouth structure and its mobility have an influence its ease of hooking. Most of the speedy tropical mid water predators are more difficult to hook than the bottom grubbers such as the flatfish which once the hook has entered the mouth cannot escape, others with large hard bony mouths are difficult to hook because the hook cannot find a place to lodge!

Overall for fishing around the UK a less enthusiastic approach to striking will result in more fish being hooked. The decision when to strike depends upon what the angler wants from his sport, what he is fishing for, the type of bait being used and conservation. If the rod is lurching seawards and is in danger of being lost then a strike is essential, if the rod tip is nodding continuously its likely that the fish is already hooked.

The actually strike can vary from a full blooded sweep of the rod to just tightening the line. Line stretch at distance of course reduces the amount of movement at the hook end of your tackle and some sea anglers even run backwards during the process to increase that movement. Reeling as you strike can also prove more effective, but beware of striking too hard, especially at short range when it may test your tackle and knots.

Let’s look at the best striking technique used when some of the most common UK species.

COD: A relatively slow bottom dweller with a large mouth, invariable swallows the hook when a bait is left on the sea bed. Powerful rod pulling bites are generally after the fish has hooked itself. Slack liners from codling can be most difficult to hook and the answer to them is patience. Take up the line and only strike when the fish pulls the rod tip down.

WHITING: Difficult to hook on occasion, this small predator attacks baits in numbers with some tremendous rod pulling bites that are easily missed, especially in slack tide. More fish are hooked when fishing in strong tide because the fish have to swim to stay still to eat the bait, when it is engulfed they relax and the tide drives them back on to the hook. Short snoods and neat (small) bait presentation and a wired grip lead definitely improve the hooking rate.

BASS: A fast feeding predator that rarely swallows the hook because the bites are so positive. Be near your rod when it takes off. A bony mouth, so a large, sharp hook is essential.

DAB, SOLE, PLAICE AND FLOUNDER: Often flatfish nibble and pluck at the bait, but invariably once they take the bait they are hooked because their mouth is far smaller closed than open. There is in fact no way to prevent flatties swallowing the hook. With hook removal often fatal even with soft wire hooks. For the conservation minded tiny hooks (8s- and less) can be removed more easily with a disgorger and with less damage than large sizes of 2 and above.

TOPE AND SMOOTHHOUND: Positive bites give the angler every opportunity to pull the trigger on this species which is why they are so popular and fun to catch. The tope is one of UK sea species that circle hooks are practical for , but there is a definite technique for striking with circle hooks and it involves a steady tightening of the line and not a full blooded strike!.

RAY: Invariably this species cloaks the bait causing the rod tip to tremble, later the fish moves off having taken the bait pulling the tip down, slacking the line or sometimes pulling your fishing rod over, Because of the way they feed ray are sometimes foul hooked outside of the mouth by a premature strike.

BLACK BREAM: One of the most difficult sea fish to hook because of their bait pecking and small mouths, use light tackle and line, small hooks, bait small and neat and be patient.

GREY MULLET: Mullet like the coarse fish have learned about hooks and line through being caught and returned, their more acute instincts in clear water also makes them shyer. A rule when fishing for mullet is never to strike by sight when you see a fish take the bait, always wait until the float disappears or the tip goes round!

DOGFISH: Infuriating to hook if you react to the bites, ignore them and they are more likely to be hooked, but not every time. Don’t move the rod or bait once a bite is spotted!

CONGER: The old school reckon a conger should be given time to take the bait, but this may allow it to swallow the hook and so striking early is recommended to avoid deep hooking.

STRIKING TIPS

Holding your rod with the line between the fingers you will be able to feel the tugs from the small species and it’s a fun way to fish. Experiment with striking and you will find that in a majority of cases catch rates are greatly improved by letting the fish bite for a few seconds before hitting it. Of course when using multi hook rigs to catch fish for the pot letting the fish hook themselves is far superior to striking every rod tip rattle!

Using braid line that does not stretch is a practical way to improve your bite indication but remember the lack of stretch amplifies the smallest nibble, so be patient and wait for a positive movement.

Alan Yates