Shimano reels… why no spare spool?

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So, I recently had a birthday and with a bit of gentle guidance the wife came up trumps again as I gleefully unwrapped a parcel that looked suspiciously like it might house a much required new reel inside….. and what do you know – therein lay a brand spanking new Shimano Stradic Ci4+ 4000XG. A fine bit of kit it looks too which will replace one of my aging but superb Shimano Rareniums….. what a workhorse of a reel they are, and have been. If the Stradic is anywhere near as good I will be chuffed to bits… could be perfect for bass lure fishing in the UK.

However, I have a gripe….it bugs the hell out of me that these days with most new Shimano reels there is a distinct absence of a spare spool. This seems to be an across the board policy by Shimano with this type of spinning reel that a lot of lure anglers will use… certainly those in the £100+ bracket I have looked at. I obviously can’t speak for everyone out there on this but I’d hazard a guess that a fairly large percentage of lure anglers would want to carry a spare spool with them for their fishing either in case of malfunction or simply because conditions might determine you need to fish lighter or heavier than you are with the existing spool. The crazy thing is pretty much the first thing I did once I  took this new reel out of the box was to note the part number for the spool,  to then go and trawl the internet to source an additional one…. it’s frustrating beyond belief as actually finding the spare in itself can be a consummate head banging exercise.

Personally, I’d like to see one or both of these two things happen:

  1. Please, please Shimano ship a spare spool as standard to save us the frustration highlighted above… I would gladly pay the extra cost for the reel to have the added value of that spare spool included.
  2. Alternatively, make the spare spools much more readily available to retailers as an optional extra at the point of sale so we can add this to our shopping baskets when we purchase the reel itself.

It surely can’t be any more difficult than that can it? I can’t think why this would not make sense from a customer service and subsequently a sales perspective? Am I missing something?

It’s such a shame as the quality of Shimano reels on the whole are outstanding and it feels like they are taking it for granted a bit that us consumers will always come back for more because of that quality. Are they resting on their laurels a bit here I wonder? I’m not sure whether the other big player in this market Daiwa have the same policy but if they do then it does feel like  they’ve both left the door ajar for one or more of the other manufacturers out there to come up with a corker of a reel, or range of reels, that actually does include a spare spool from the outset. After all, it might only take a decent volume of  favourable reviews for the masses to quickly switch allegiance and the big boys market share would be hit. Am I the only one who feels like this? Maybe I am!!

Anyhow, rant over…. hopefully will get fishing with the new Stradic  soon…. and I’m sure I’ll love it!

Until next time…

Maxpedition bags & saltwater lure fishing

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As anyone in this lure fishing game will testify the very nature of saltwater means it can be extremely harsh on our gear whether that be rods, reels, lures, waders, wading boots, and let’s be honest pretty much everything it comes into contact with. I’ve had my fair share of failures in all these departments with some of the more costly acquisitions being no more dependable than cheaper similar options on the market. The same cannot be said of the two Maxpedition bags I have been using for my lure fishing… I profess they weren’t cheap but with good reason – these things are pretty much bomb proof and are right up there with the best and most durable pieces of kit I have bought, and importantly, regularly use when I’m fishing. The two I own are both sling/shoulder bags, the Sitka which is now in it’s fourth season and the Jumbo Versipack which is in it’s third season.

Being that bit larger, the Sitka I will tend to use for longer trips or when I feel the need to carry more gear with the smaller Jumbo Versipack being the bag I use when I’m going for shorter sessions or I’m confident I don’t need that extra kit…. increasingly it’s this option I tend to take as it generally means I’m travelling lighter. In truth though, both these bags have been superb for me with the type of fishing I do. To my knowledge neither of these bags, or indeed any others out there from Maxpedition, have been made with a fishing market specifically in mind so it’s even more telling how well I think they work out for lure fishing.

Close up of the Jumbo Versipack…

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I won’t go into detail here with the specifications of both bags other than to say they can be found on the Maxpedition website by clicking here for the Sitka and here for the Jumbo Versipack. However, one thing I will make clear is that they are not, nor do they claim to be, fully waterproof. Splash proof yes, drain holes where required yes, but totally waterproof no. Realistically, unless you are sub-merged in the surf that really isn’t a problem and to be honest I have worn the Versipack in the surf a fair few times now, including last year in Ireland, gave it a rinse off when back to base and there is not one bit of it that is suffering from saltwater damage – zippers included. They’ve been thrown down on the sand and shingle, beaten against rocks and suffered some serious fishing abuse… aside from the odd abrasion mark you could be fooled they’ve only had four weeks of use as opposed to four years. There are no tears at all, the zippers work like they did from new and the stitching is rock solid. Put simply, when I get back from a fishing session they just sit there looking at me saying “is that really as hard as you can hit?”…. trust me, these bags have attitude and really are hard as nails!

So what kit do I carry in each of them?

In the Jumbo Versipack main compartment I can comfortably stow two of the small Snowbee ten-lure boxes and still have room for a few small loose bits in the inside pocket. In the top compartment I’ll usually store sunglasses in their case, and in the front pocket a small box with clips, scissors, super glue plus there’s usually a bit of room for a chocolate bar or such like. I have a spool of leader in the zipped pocket that folds over and buckles down the main compartment, with a spare reel spool and tape measure in the main side pocket. There is a generous bottle holder that fastens down tightly with a nice and secure Velcro fastening. A side pocket houses a fish grip just in case I need it and on the reverse of the bag a bigger zipped pouch pocket that rests against your body can hold additional kit – for me that’s a rag and a bit of first aid kit but it I’m sure it could be put to better use! The only additions/changes I’ve made to it is to add a pouch for my pliers and I’ve made my own zip pulls to keep it tidier.

Typical kit that I take in the Jumbo Versipack (excluding snacks!)…

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Two small Snowbee lure boxes fit comfortably in the Versipack’ s main compartment…

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The Sitka will take all of the above gear plus a further two more of the small Snowbee lure boxes (or two of the bigger Snowbee fourteen-lure boxes as an alternate to the four smaller ones) plus have room for more provisions you might need for a longer trip.  You will see I have added an additional removable pouch (the ‘Janus’) to mine just because I got all excited and thought I might need even more room….. in reality I didn’t and the ‘Tac Tie’ system Maxpedition use means it could be easily removed. In addition to the fishing I find I use this bag in particular for other outdoor activities so of the two this one has a definite multi-purpose string to it’s bow.

Sitka kit this time with four small Snowbee boxes – plenty of room for other kit as well…

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The four lure boxes sit comfortably in the Sitka…

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Access for both bags while fishing is excellent… simply unclip and swing the bag around to the front where zips, clips and buckles can be easily unfastened quickly and safely without fear of dropping anything. The other thing is they are well padded and extremely comfortable for an extended session on the water… other bags I have used have not been anywhere near as agreeable or reliable to carry for long periods. All-in-all, in my opinion, these Maxpedition bags are functionally mighty impressive for lure fishing.

Obviously, there are a whole lot of cheaper bags out there that would equally suit purpose and which could be every bit as reliable… but I can only draw on my experiences to date and I’d say if you’re prepared to pay a little bit extra for a bag that will last and last you really will not regret the investment in a Maxpedition bag…  I certainly have every confidence that both mine will  go on serving me well for many, many years to come.

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Until next time…

Damn you cabin fever!

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A bit like ‘man flu’ the cursed illness of ‘cabin fever’ can strike the unwary fisherman at any time but particularly I have found at this time of year. Last week it got me good and proper! The symptoms are simple – you go on your regular fishing forums and blogs, people start talking about the new season and things they’ve bought or need, you watch a few YouTube clips of people trying new lures/techniques and then to top it off one of your best mates starts sowing different fishing seeds again in my head… well, that was the final straw and cabin fever hit me big time opening up a whole can of worms that I’m already thinking is going to be a disaster for my long term sanity and finances…. and yes, the photo above says it all.

The idea of fly fishing for bass is something I’ve long pondered but apart from cursory conversations about it, it’s not something I’ve acted on…. until now! Obviously fly fishing for bass is not anything new – far from it – but I don’t mind admitting it is pretty alien to me and the thought of the challenge finally got the better of me and I decided in my feverish state “Why not?”. The result….to get me going a bargain Shakespeare Agility 4-piece 8wt rod (£30) and a large arbor Sea Wolf reel (with spare spool) that I picked up off a well known auction site…… and yes I know this will be just the tip of the iceberg. There’s different lines to think about, leaders, clousers, deceivers and all manner of other flies, plus a bunch of accessories I’ve been reading up on and no doubt just as many that I haven’t even discovered yet! Oh and casting lessons, I’ll need those….. jeeeeeez what have I done!

Seriously though, the thought of catching bass on the fly for me has got to be the ultimate deception. I love lure fishing and there’s no way I can conceive (at the moment anyway!) that fly would replace it quite aside from the fact conditions would often prevent it as a tactic and I might turn out to be a useless at it! However, for me there is just something about the fact you can deceive a fish with a simple fly, fry or nymph pattern that commands an awful lot of respect for the skill of the angler not just in presentation but all round watercraft…. and I want a piece of that!

I can see instances where fly will actually be the best bass tactic anyway and don’t get me started on maybe giving it ago for some of those pollack in Ireland or huge mullet that cruise our South coast waters. There’s a lot to think about but it’s going to be good to learn and an interesting journey just getting there with it… but hey, that’s part of the buzz I get out of fishing and I will be reporting back on this one over the year.

But before you think I’m going completely off the wall with this ‘cabin fever’ induced fly fishing malarkey I need to bring it back that I’ve also been affected on the lure fishing front too…. there just might be a few small lure type parcels landing on the door mat over the coming days and maybe, just maybe, a slightly more ‘Entice-ing’ one in the next few weeks… those ‘in-the-know’ know!!?!

Until next time…

A new season dawns…

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With the New Year over my thoughts are slowly turning to the fishing in 2017. Aside from ten days in Ireland in 2016 I really didn’t get out as much as I would have liked on ‘home’ waters so I will certainly be hoping to rectify that this year. Mind you an Ireland trip is already booked ….. the draw of the fishing over there was too much to contemplate missing out on and I also want to get down to Cornwall again this year having been remiss and failed to get down in 2016.

In particular, I guess it’s about now I start to think about what new kit might be required either as replacement for older kit, or just because it’s new and I want to try it out. One major failure I had last year was my Patagonia River Salt wading jacket with the main zip teeth on the jacket breaking – disappointing as it’s only a 2-3 years old. Yes, I can be hard on my gear but it wasn’t cheap and I haven’t over used it so would like to have thought it would have withstood a bit more than it actually has done. It’s not totally unusable and quite possibly can be repaired but it’s still a bit frustrating. That said I have just taken a punt on the Scierra C & R jacket which has had good reviews and first impression is it looks a decent looking replacement at considerably less cost than the Patagonia River Salt. Time will tell but looking forward to giving it a go this year.

The replacement Scierra C & R jacket…

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The perennial problem of wading boots is also again starting to rear it’s ugly head. I forked out a couple of years ago on some Korkers Devil’s Canyon wading boots which in fairness have been pretty good – the BOA system I have found to work fine as have the Omnitrax soles but my biggest problem with them is the lack of ankle support – for me, they just don’t feel supportive or stable when you’re rock hopping and that has been nagging away  in my mind for some time. Don’t get me wrong they have been by far the best wading boots I have had to date but still I believe they are far from perfect and I can see the merits, as the likes of Henry Gilbey are advocating, the idea of going for a cheap workman’s boot with studs added afterwards….. pounds per wear they have to be better value for money surely? I’ll keep with the Korkers for now but may also take a punt on the Scruff’s ‘Game’ work boot for circa £50 as the next option with studs added afterwards of course… sometimes you have to take the plunge with these things!

A new reel could be the other item on the agenda this year as well… I’ve had two Shimano Rareniums over the past seven or eight years but the pre-2014 model has now started to seize up so I might treat myself to something new and comparable with the newer Rarenium moving to ‘back-up’ reel status! Both Rareniums have, in my opinion, been up there as the best value bits of kit I’ve bought… been abused while fishing, rinsed thoroughly after each session but then they have always come back for more! Plenty of options out there now as replacements including the Shimano Exsence which looks tidy with a very decent set of specifications… will be interesting to read a few reviews that’s for sure.

New reel for 2017?

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The one thing I’m trying desperately to avoid is my magpie like temptation to buy more lures…. Last year I probably used about 10% of the lures I own!! There may be the odd purchase here or there but really I do not need any more of the lures I know that work for me!!! Must resist, must resist, must resist!

No more of these required… I think??!!!

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Roll on April when I’ll probably make my first trip of 2017… Bring it on!

Until next time…

After the storms…

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Long time no blogging and to be honest there has been little to say since well before the end of last year. I don’t need to remind anyone just how bad the weather has been of late but I do think it will be interesting to see  how it has reshaped  the coastline and whether it has had any lasting effect on our inshore waters. I’ve seen, heard and read stories of beaches being washed away, rock marks being obliterated, etc. and  I suspect a lot of previously accessible places may  now be out of bounds… but maybe some new marks will have been born? Who knows what it has done to the inshore ecosystems and how that will in turn affect the fishing? We can only speculate at the moment I think.

Two possible good things spring to mind about the weather being as bad as it has been…. one, it has been generally mild and nowhere near as cold as it was last winter so hopefully the water temperature will recover quicker and the bass will be around, in numbers, earlier than they were last year. Secondly, the conditions in the English Channel and approaches can hardly have been good for the commercial boats to get out in so just maybe the bass stocks have been spared a little for future years. Time will tell on that front too.

In other news, I have recently arrived back from a work trip to the US and whilst there managed to pick up a Patagonia River Salt jacket which I had been eyeing up for a while. It’s a little better price-wise in the US  than it is available in the UK which made the cost a bit more palatable so to speak.

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Granted, it’s still not cheap but I’ve never been completely satisfied with jackets I’ve used in the past for fishing so hopefully this one will prove to be a sounder investment. First impressions look encouraging as clearly it has been very well constructed with some nice features throughout… of course I will reserve my final judgement until I have been able to give it a proper test. Looks good for throwing on for wet dog walks too so hopefully I will get my money’s worth!

Other than this I haven’t had the chance to get myself back in full fishing mode for the season ahead but no doubt that will slowly kick in over the next few weeks when I’ll start thinking about what bits, if any, I might need/desire this year. Hopefully, Winter won’t have a sting in it’s tail and Spring will soon be in full swing!

Until next time…

Slow start continues…

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Second trip of the Spring down to Dorset yesterday – more, as it turned out, for a recce and refresh of what this particular area was looking like after the Winter break. It was a solo trip with my pal Nobby deciding against it after looking at the benign weather and in fairness, in that respect, he was 100% right! Still, I had the opportunity so wasn’t going to waste the chance of having a go and at the very  least having a stroll along the coast checking things out.

The first thing to get back used to was the alarm going off early and dragging myself out of my pit at 2:45 am! Once I’m up I’m OK it’s just that initial step of pulling the covers back that’s the hard part – madly I do love being up this time of day and it’s great for getting anywhere quickly with no one else on the road.

Arrived, kitted up and set off just as the light was beginning to change. Unfortunately, the short cut to the place where I would normally have made my way down to the coast had the gate closed off due to land slippage…. luckily I was aware of this before I set off so had already resigned myself to taking the tougher shoreline route round. Only a minor inconvenience  and it wasn’t long before I was fishing though the conditions were not encouraging – as forecast it was fairly flat and water was almost aquarium-like in clarity.

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Nothing was happening early doors with little sign of life in the water if I’m perfectly honest but nevertheless I continued to walk and fish. What was noticeable was the amount of land slippage and cliff fall there has been over the Winter in this area of Dorset – parts of the cliff do look a lot more precarious in places than I’ve seen before so something I’ll be aware of when fishing here over the rest of the year.

There were some decent, fairly fresh clumps of kelp washed up underneath the cliffs but there were no flies present  so no maggots either….

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Moved on further round the coast with not a sniff on either the hard or soft plastics I tried ranging from Feed Shallows, Gunfish, Komonos to Sluggos, Wave worms, Flash J Shads or the Black Minnows. One good thing about the clear water on these early season sessions is it gives you an opportunity to see the action of the lures underwater which was great for me with some of the new soft plastics I’ve acquired recently. In particular I like the colour and action of the Flash J Shads – hopefully they’ll be fish catchers – they look like they should be…

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I’d almost given up on the fact there were any fish in the sea when I had a knock on the Black Minnow which had the tell tale signs of a wrasse. Next cast out confirmed it with this small fish…

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It saved a blank I guess but whilst I always respect them they just don’t give me the buzz that catching a bass does! Returned safely I moved on and cast out again and immediately got hit again by a wrasse…this one could have been the twin brother of the one I’d just caught…

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At this point I decided to turn and fish my way back. The tide was turning and the wind had swung around a bit creating a nice chop on the surface but it was still very clear water. This did look slightly better though and encouragingly I started to notice the odd mullet or two cruising around so no doubt there would be a few bass in amongst them I suspect. Alas,  there was no further fish action to report though and by lunchtime I was back at the car ready to head home.

We could do with a run of south westerly winds now in this part of the world just to create a bit of swell and fizz the water up a bit… might get those bass moving inshore? Hopefully, after the next set of spring tides they will be there!

Finally, this was a second outing for the Maxpedition Sitka sling bag which you’ll notice I’ve ‘pimped’ with a pouch and Hampshire badge!! I’m liking this bit of kit a lot – plenty of storage, comfortable, doesn’t feel bulky with easy, quick access to everything I need when fishing. Thumbs up so far!

Until next time…

A head banging experience…

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Well, the first session of the season did not turn out quite as planned though it had it’s moments even if there were no fish to report… and yes, first session equals first blank!

Nobby and myself had been in a bit of a quandary where to fish but the temptation of Dorset was strong and so we decided to head that way despite not hearing of any bass being taken from the shore there to lures so far this season. It was a lovely morning and  place to be come what may so a useful early season recce at the very least was to be had.

Arrived, got our clobber together and marched off to the coastal path which had changed somewhat since the last time we visited this venue with one of the infamous Dorset landslips taking account of an area of the path down. Slight detour required but no other dramas on the way down… what we could see was gin clear water with very little movement which was not ideal. At the shore, after a few minutes deciding which direction to head, we decided on due east towards a prominent headland.

Up close water clarity was as clear as I have ever seen it down here and several shoals of mullet could be seen cruising around…. shame there weren’t any bass amongst them though. Started with the old faithful lure’s like Feed Shallow’s and  Zonk’s but not a sniff for either of us… it had the feeling of being an unproductive day so I decided to switch to soft plastics and in particular some new one’s for me. First up was the Wave Bamboo Stick Worm rigged on a hitch hiker hook – this is a weedless and weightless  set up so ideal for shallow ground rigged like this – it bounces along nicely in and out of the rocky gullies – liked it and it casts superbly for a soft plastic worm with no weight… think this will be a winner (famous last words!). Next up was The Arrow Flash J shad which again I rigged with the hitchhiker hook and that too had a superb action in the water… I see no reason why that won’t catch over the course of the year either.

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All said and done though we were not getting any interest from bass, wrasse or even small pollack whatsoever and a quick dunk of the hand in the sea told you all you need to know about reasons why the fish aren’t that active yet…. water temperature is still damn cold!

So, we marched on round the coast and then the main event of the day occurred. Nobby was probably 50 yards ahead of me so I was walking to catch him up when climbing over the rocks I lost my footing and I was over… stupidly using my head to cushion my landing! Yes, there was claret and I’m nursing a nice bruise as I write this for my efforts. Thankfully, I always carry a first aid kit with me so we were able to deal with it easily…. a valuable lesson though and a reminder that it’s probably the most important bit of kit you can take with you. Here’s the cleaned up head this morning – doesn’t look much but the bruise is smarting a bit today… excuse the greying hair!

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More disastrously, once we’d sorted the head wound I thought I’d snapped the tip ring off my rod but on closer inspection it had just popped off. Luckily we were able to slide it back on 90% of the way and it was a good snug fit meaning I could carry on fishing – was lucky there! Repair required but nowhere near as bad as it could of been and a quick text conversation with Richard at Dorset Fishing Rods has since pointed me in the right direction.

We carried on fruitlessly along the shore but it was beautiful out there so I wasn’t complaining…. it was just nice to be out and trying out some new lures and other kit.

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On that note a quick word on the Maxpedition Sitka sling bag… this was it’s first fishing outing and early impressions are terrific. Was exceptionally comfortable to have on all day and was great not having to take a bag off my shoulder every time I wanted to change lure or such like. It’s spacious and rugged too and all in all I think I may well have found my ideal solution for a fishing lure bag. We’ll see…

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That pretty much was it it for the day apart from a steep hike back up the cliff face and a trudge back to the car in the sun. All in all valuable lessons learnt once more and nice to get back in the swing of things after the long Winter lay off….. just need the bass to show up now!

Until next time…