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…

Stocking up…

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Until recently I’d only given cursory thought to fishing this year what with the inclement cold weather and other commitments, but gradually things are starting to tick again. At this time of year, for me, that usually means checking over my kit from the end of last year and then thinking about what I might need to kick off the new season and beyond.

I’m pretty good at looking after my kit and all the major things were sound such as rods, reels, waders, etc. along with all the hard plugs which all seem in good shape.  I did need to replenish the soft plastics though – I used them more last year and anticipate that trend to continue this season… there’s certainly a lot of variety and methods of rigging them to try out so something I will be endeavouring to do more of for sure.  Purchased are some old favourites like Lunker City Sluggo’s, Megabass Xlayers, Savage Gear Sandeels and Fiiish Black Minnows but I’ve also gone for some I’ve yet to try like the reputable Do Live Sticks (below) and the Savage Gear Real Eels which look promising.

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Braid is also something I like to replace each year so that has been on my shopping list as well. In the past I’ve been a fan of Stren Sonic just because it casts well into the wind and is pretty good abrasion wise but unfortunately it looks like it is being discontinued which is a shame although, luckily, I have managed to get hold of 300m at a decent price. To compliment it this year I’ve decided to give Sunline Super PE Braid a go on one spool in addition to the Stren Sonic on the other spool. Will be interesting to see how they compare. Aside from that it’s been mainly hooks, clips and a few single lure holders.

So, there you have it, there will be a few new bits of end tackle to try out along with the more major items I have acquired over the Winter months…namely the new 9’ 6” DFR rod and the Maxpedition Sitka bag.

The important  thing  is that going through the process of preparing for the new season has really whet my appetite to get out there again….. just need the weather and the water to warm up a bit.  Really can’t wait though I suspect, until that water temperature does rise, there will be a few early season blanks to report on… but you never know!!

Until next time…

Looking back over 2012…

Thought it would be interesting to choose three good and three bad things I found with fishing last year… all in my own opinion and simply things that have stuck most in my mind. There are always other plus and minus points but these are my choices… I think?!

The three bad first…

In first place… the weather!

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(Above) Chesil Beach on a stormy day…

I just can’t remember such a bad year for fishing weather-wise in recent times. Whether it was gales with deluges of rain resulting in coloured water to make lure fishing near on hopeless or northerly and easterly winds putting the fish off completely, it just didn’t seem to click in 2012. There were very few decent summer days where conditions came together  with autumn not much better. It has to get better in 2013 surely?

Second has to be – hard lure quality.

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(Above) Bass on a poorly finished Tackle House Feed Shallow

Others have said it in the past and I have noticed it a lot this year. There are an awful lot of lures out there priced in the UK at circa. £20 a go which are really shabbily put together in my opinion. My biggest problem is the finish on the lures – it’s just not durable enough. A prime example is the Tackle House Feed Shallow which to it’s credit is a proven bass catcher but the finish on them is poor and deteriorates quickly unless you take to slapping a coat of clear nail varnish on them for added protection. The trebles for such a pricey lure are not the best either so all in all it would be nice to see some better quality for the price tag some of these lures command in the UK.

Third – not lure fishing the Isle of Wight.

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(Above) the Isle of Wight – missed opportunity in 2012?

It was one of the things I promised myself I would do last year but didn’t get round to doing which I’m a bit disappointed with myself about. It will be on my 2013 ‘to do’ list again probably in the form of  at least one long weekend – I am confident there are some decent bass to be had on lures from the coast there. It’s on my doorstep – I must do it!

… and the three good are…

No. 1 – the Cornwall trip!

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(Above) The Cornish coast – fishing in some stunning scenery

Second year in succession my pal Nobby and I have ventured down to the deepest depths of Cornwall and although we’ve not hit the bigger bass we have had plenty of smaller fish with decent pollack and mackerel to throw into the mix. I just love the place and with stunning backdrops to our fishing, plenty of walking, and great Cornish hospitality what’s not too love?! A real highlight of the fishing year for me.

Second – the Fiiish Black Minnow

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(Above) The excellent Fiiish Black Minnow

Been much lauded elsewhere in the lure fishing world over the past twelve months and with good reason in my book. Had my best bass of the year of 6lb+ on one and several other fish on them using the 90, 120 and 160 sizes.  Definitely one to stock up on over the winter.

In third place -the Shimano Rarenium 4000

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(Above) The Shimano Rarenium 4000 – the middle reel of these three

For a couple of years now I’ve played around with a few spinning reels in the sub £200 bracket and finally in 2012 I got my hands on the Rarenium. I’d been trying to find something a bit different but have now realised why the Rarenium is so popular for lure fishing. For sub £200 in my opinion it is the best lure fishing reel out there. I’ve tried a Daiwa Fuego spinning reel from the US which runs it close but it is just not as smooth on the retrieve, the line lay is not as good  and it does not cast quite so well. The Rarenium is a safe bet if you’re in the market for a new spinning reel in this price bracket.

So, there you have it – all a bit of fun but maybe some of you concur or disagree totally?! Will be interesting to look back on 2013 and see what was good and bad…. hopefully not the same things – roll on Summer!!

Until next time…

What Santa brought…

Well, I’ll start by wishing everyone a very happy New Year and let’s pray that the weather Gods are a bit more benevolent in the UK than they were last year. Frustration with the weather was felt by many anglers if articles on the web and across the angling press are anything to go by! Surely, 2013 will be better?

On a more positive note I was lucky enough to get a few bits of kit for Christmas that I’m looking forward to getting out and using this year. Not least was this Maxpedition Sitka sling bag I’d been looking at for a while, largely with fishing in mind.

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Last year I was tempted by a 30 litre Overboard rucksack which is great for a long day, when you need to carry more kit and are fishing in rougher conditions – it really is pretty bomb proof and does keep your kit nice and dry. The downside I have found with any rucksacks for fishing is if you are on the move and need to get into it quickly it generally means having to put your rod down and take the rucksack off to get access. A smaller sling bag looked like a good option for fishing on the move where you can move the bag round to your front without having to take the bag off your shoulders.

The Maxpedition Sitka is not the cheapest I grant you but reading reviews it seems to be tough as old boots and could just be an ideal multi-purpose fishing/outdoor bag. It doesn’t have the waterproof qualities of the Overboard rucksack and it does have more zips and strapping to think about but a bit of messing around with it at home suggests it will be a decent addition. For starters, at a squeeze, you can fit two of the large Snowbee lure boxes in the main compartment  along with one of the smaller Snowbee boxes in the larger of the front compartments…. though that means little room for anything else! I suspect, to be honest, I’ll be using this bag when I’m taking circa twenty lures with me which should in most cases be enough anyway….. I always take far more than I use! That should leave me plenty of room for other kit. There is also a drink holder and space for a hydration pack which should be useful.

There are a lot of reviews of the Sitka on the web but not many I’ve seen specific to lure fishing so as soon as I get chance to use it a bit I’ll provide a more in depth review.

As for when I can actually get out fishing well I fear it might be a couple of quiet months ahead for any serious bass fishing but it might not stop me trying especially as I need to work off some of that excess festive ballast I seem to have accumulated!

Until next time…

Keeping track…

It’s been a bit of a frustrating start to the year on the fishing front – what with a few recent blanks, the inclement weather and to top it all off the end of last week I put my back out… especially frustrating as I had plans to get out on the kayak this weekend but there is no way I can lift it on and off the car at the moment let alone paddle any distance.

I did try a spot of lure fishing locally on Saturday morning but the water was more or less yellow, it started to rain heavily and for the start of May it was bloody freezing! I lasted about an hour before heading home for breakfast with my back griping even more – in retrospect a pointless trip but I was desperate to wet a line!

Anyway, I’ve rested up the last couple of days and with tomorrow being an extra day off work for me I have a plan – if the back plays ball – to try again with the lures…  but with the dogs in tow it will be a tad harder to concentrate on the fishing! With this in mind I’m planning to head to unchartered territory for me which is Chesil beach. Not sure exactly where along Chesil yet as it’s a big old beach but I will use tomorrow to give a small part of it a recce and of course take the dogs for a healthy long walk.

This brings me nicely to the point of this post. There is probably no more  a renowned fishing mark on the south coast than Chesil but for someone who has never fished it where do you start? Yes, you can do your research, if you’re lucky get some information from people that know, but there is really no substitute for getting out there and finding it out for yourself – there really aren’t many shortcuts and personally working something out for yourself is a lot more satisfying when things then do come off. That doesn’t mean I will go unprepared – I always try to give myself the best possible chance of catching… and there’s one piece of kit I’ve found I am using more and more frequently with my lure fishing and that’s my GPS unit loaded with BlueChart maps.

 

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Originally, I’d bought the unit to use with my kayak fishing not only as a safety aid to track positioning on the water but also to mark spots where I’ve taken fish, interesting features in the water, etc. Not rocket science but it made sense to take it on my lure fishing jaunts and begin to mark fishing spots even down to individual rocks, places I’ve taken fish, routes to marks… you catch my drift! Over time hopefully it will give me a decent picture of where I’ve caught and where I haven’t – obviously to be considered bearing in mind other factors such as the conditions and tides.

My particular unit is the Garmin 60Csx and has been loaded with MapSource BlueChart software which links to the unit via your computer. You can transfer maps, tracks, waypoints, etc. between the two as you would expect. BlueChart  itself maps things like wrecks, significant rocks, and no end of other nautical information but the biggest plus in my book is it charts water depth. This means you can see where drop offs in the sea bed might occur and it follows that these are the sort of places you might find fish waiting for their next meal? Here are a few screenshots to show you what I mean…

This screenshot from BlueChart shows the changes in water depth at a particular spot…

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The blue flags in the picture below are waypoints I have marked that I wanted to try out…

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The yellow dotted track in this screenshot is the route I had taken along the coast with the blue flags marking prominent rocks I’d fished from…

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Finally in terms of screenshots, the blue flags below show the spots I have marked offshore when fishing from the kayak…

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So, as the rain continues to pour down outside, this afternoon I will probably spend a good block of time looking at Chesil on BlueCharts to see if I can pick some likely spots along the beach where there might be drop offs or features to give me a bit of help in my fishing reconnaissance mission tomorrow! You never know I may even be able to put a waypoint or two in with ‘Bass caught here’ marked against it?!! I hope to report back as such!

Until next time…

Early Dorset foray…

It’s been a while but I finally managed to get my first lure session of the year in today. Plan was to head down to Dorset and blow a few fishing cobwebs away along with trying some new bits of kit I’ve accumulated over the winter… if there was an early bass around, or anything else biting come to that, well, that would be a bonus.

Arrived just as dawn was thinking about making an appearance…

It was fairly chilly with a noticeable breeze coming off the cliffs but only a small swell coming into the bay. The walk round to my favoured starting point soon had me warmed up though. There was already two or three anglers dotted along the shore but it seemed eerily quiet with hardly any movement in the water. As it got light you could see the water was crystal clear  which did little for my hopes of getting an early season bass especially as it was neap tides so little tidal range either to stir things up. I did kick into  a few lumps of washed up seaweed and there were a few pockets of maggots which it’s well reported the fish will come in for if the weed get’s washed back into the water.

I started with shallow running plugs such as the Komomo II, Feed Shallow and Sasuke over the ledges but all was quiet so I gradually moved round the shoreline to find deeper water where I stopped for breakfast and a coffee – not a bad spot…

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Over my coffee I decided to give some soft plastics on jig heads a go using a sink and retrieve method and within a couple of casts I had a fish on… not a bass though but a plump wrasse which was no real surprise I guess on the soft plastics…

It put up a scrap for all of about fifteen seconds but at least it meant I hadn’t blanked! The soft plastic was an orange Grass  Minnow on a 5g jig head

I kept moving on along the coast and alternated between some deeper diving plugs and trying out a range of jig heads with different types and colours of soft plastics but it was very slow in the clear water. It was a beautiful day though and I used the time to explore further along this stretch of coast than I’ve hiked before…

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The further you walked along the shore line the deeper the water became and with the visibility good you could see way down into the rocky depths – ideal for diving I would have thought!

I fished a couple of accessible marks but nothing was yielding until on the way back I managed a second wrasse again on the same variety orange Grass Minnow. This seemed to be the colour to use for the wrasse in this rocky location – I’d tried a couple of other colours without a sniff. This wrasse was equally as plump as the first, put up a better scrap and was a bit more colourful…

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That was the end of my fish catching exploits for the day despite more plugs and plastics being cast out. I did spook a couple of bass in the shallower ground as I headed back to the car so they are there but just didn’t appear to be interested today. It is early season for them in this neck of the woods and probably need to wait until they’ve finished their spawning and water temperature creeps up a bit before they show in any numbers.

Before I finish, a couple of footnotes on new kit I tried out for the first time on this jaunt. Firstly, the new Greys Platinum breathable waders gave good first impressions though I probably need a few more outings in them to really test their durability. What I am disappointed in though are the Greys Platinum wading boots I bought last season – already they are showing signs of wear and tear and I’m not particularly hard on kit plus wash it down religiously after use – looks like I will be looking again at boot options in the not too distant future. Interested in what other’s opinions are on what a decent pair of wading boots might be?!

However, what I was really impressed with was the Overboard rucksack I got over Christmas and I mentioned in a previous article. I know it’s only a first outing but it feels strong, it’s cavernous inside, importantly it’s very comfortable for a long day hiking, and does exactly what it says on the tin in respect of it’s waterproof qualities – keeping all my kit bone dry despite me taking a two or three rogue waves. It would be an excellent bag to take out on the kayak as well – something I will try out and report back.

So, nice to get back in the swing of things fishing-wise, a good trek along beautiful coastline, pleased with new kit and already looking forward to the next opportunity to get out!

Until next time…

Wading in…

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An option for this season?

About this time last year I was thinking about getting myself a set of breathable chest waders and there was certainly a fair few offerings out there. Trouble was that most were, and still are, aimed at the freshwater salmon and trout market and not specifically designed for the rougher treatment the saltwater environment serves up. Some are very pricey as well and I just couldn’t justify spending money on kit that might not necessarily stand up to the rigours of lure fishing while rock hopping around the Dorset coast. In the end I went for the cheap option and found some Bison chest waders on a well known auction site and to be honest last year they served there purpose extremely well. After one season they’re well worn but for the sub-£100 I paid for them that was money well spent and I would certainly go for them again over some of the more expensive chest waders on the market.

However, the question I’ve been asking myself is whilst there is no doubt I need waders do they need to be chest one’s?  I rarely wade over thigh level so waist waders are starting to make more sense for this season. The main advantages I can see are:

  • More freedom of movement for the top half of my body
  • Generally more comfortable to wear
  • They’re on the whole cheaper to buy
  • They makes things easier when nature calls!

If I need waterproof protection for my upper body I can just throw on my Palm kayak cag which I’ve done in the past very effectively. There are a couple of options I’ve found out there from Scierra and Snowbee but it’s something I’ll be researching further in the next couple of months to see what other choices are available.

Would be interested to know what others’ opinions are on the subject!?!

Until next time…