Gone Over-board this Christmas…

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One thing that I find a pain in the proverbial when fishing is the inevitable need to wash kit down at the end of any session… but if you want to keep things in good nick and ultimately to last you longer then it has to be done. That doesn’t just mean the obvious kit like rod, reel, lures, etc but literally anything that is exposed to salt water. From some of the shore lure marks I fish, and without question from the kayak, I can take a serious soaking and that means all my kit get’s it as well.

From the kayak I’ve taken reasonable cautions already with dry boxes and kit stored in hatches but even that does not safeguard everything. From the shore though until now I’ve been using a cheap rucksack which often get’s soaked and is just not watertight enough meaning everything has to get cleaned up afterwards. I first felt the need to look for an alternative option when I was on the fishing trip down in Cornwall late August time (allegedly it was summer then). After a couple of days fishing in the rain with some serious surf and waves to deal with the saltwater exposure was taking it’s toll with zips starting to seize up on my pack, etc. and the kit inside more often or not was wet through.

It was then I started to look at waterproof rucksack options that were on the market with a view to getting one for 2012. There were some decent options from the likes of Ortleib but they weren’t cheap and I just didn’t want to spend that much on a back pack which is by nature going to take a bit of a beating. In the end though I found what I considered to be a decent option and bookmarked it for a future date. It was the Overboard Pro Sports Waterproof backpack (30 litres) which was priced at just shy of £60.

To cut a long story short guess what turned up on Christmas Day? Yep, the ruck sack! The wife did good again and looking at it out of the box the pack gives good first impressions. All the technical details can be seen by following the link already given but here are few things that initially struck me about it:

  • It is not heavy at all – in fact nice and light
  • Construction looks excellent with all internal seams nicely sealed
  • Access is excellent with cavernous space inside and a useful internal plastic zipped compartment
  • Several useful D-rings on the outside to clip bits to and a carabineer fitting as well
  • Loaded it up it sits very comfortably on my back with good weight distribution

So, out of the box impressions, as I have already said, are initially good and I can’t wait to test it out on or near the water soon. If it means spending less time washing down kit at the end of a session then I will be an extremely pleased with it! When I’ve had a chance to use it in anger I’ll try and remember to give a more in depth review!

Happy New Year and tight lines for 2012!

Until next time…

Custom built…..from Dorset Fishing Rods

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This year I’ve certainly done a lot more lure fishing from the shore than maybe I have done in the two or three previous years. Partly this has been down to things not coming together very favourably to get out on the kayak… usually one, or a combination of, weather, work, and family commitments have conspired against me but I’d be lying if I said that was the sole reason. Unlike kayak fishing sometimes it’s nice just to grab a rod and a few lures and simply fish without the hassle of having a truck load of kit to take with you which you then have to scrub down when your finished at the end of the day!

With this in mind I decided to treat myself to a new rod specifically for my lure angling. Unlike fishing from the kayak, where I wasn’t bothered as much with the quality of the rod because they take such a battering, I wanted the lure rod to be of decent quality. The reason being there’d be much less risk of me losing it to Davy Jones’ Locker fishing from the shore, I’d probably be using it a lot more frequently, and with a bit of common sense I should be able to keep it in better nick than any of my kayak rods. It goes with the territory… kayak sea fishing equals lots of salt water exposure – lure fishing from the shore equals a fair bit less…. that’s the theory anyway!

So I began the search for a good quality lure rod that ticked as many boxes as possible in terms of what I needed it to do and how I fished. The main criteria being that it should be as light as possible for those long days fishing, ideally be capable of casting lures in the 10 – 40g bracket, have a fast action, a length which would pack a punch on the beach but short enough to fish rockier marks, and above all be fitted and finished with quality components that are going to stand the test of time… if I look after them. To find a rod that can tick all these boxes is no easy task and was always going to mean paying a premium price for an off the shelf option which unfortunately in my opinion are often over-hyped and over priced. That said I did look at a range of rods including some of the Tenryu red rods and Century offerings and whilst they all had their good points I was never completely sold on any of them. Increasingly, I was being drawn to the idea of a custom built rod but if I was spending a decent whack on it, which I thought I might have to for the quality of the blank, fittings, etc., I wanted to be sure of what I was getting.

As luck would have it a few months back I was introduced to Richard Cake of Dorset Fishing Rods based near Dorchester. Richard’s rod building is a small operation but encompasses all manner of rods for different angling disciplines. The thing that drew me to Richard above anything else, aside from the good things I was hearing and reading about his rods, was the fact that first and foremost he is a lure fisherman who could very likely relate to what I wanted from a custom built lure rod… was this too good to be true?

Now, let me set the scene, I travelled down to Richard’s one Sunday morning in June simply to have a chat about what he does, how he does it, and to have a look at examples of his work. I had no plans to commit to anything with him and always had at the back of my mind the off the shelf rods I had previously seen, which although I had misgivings about, were still options nonetheless. After initial introductions Richard was immediately very upfront and pointed out clearly before we started looking at anything that he had no problem whatsoever if, after we’d looked at some of the options he could provide, I was not interested and simply wanted to walk away. In fact he went further than that and actively discouraged me from making any commitment without going away and reflecting on what I may or may not have decided on – this was no hard sell, quite the opposite in fact. What it did do was give me confidence that I was dealing with someone who was keen to provide the best quality product he could, that matched what I was looking to get from a custom built rod, with the budget I had at my disposal.

Before looking at examples of his work or any components he uses Richard simply sat me down with a cup of coffee and went through how I fished… was I mainly fishing from open beaches? Was I fishing rocky areas? What type of lures was I predominantly using? How and where does my hand grip the rod and reel? What type of reel? Braid or mono? What sort of length sessions do I put in? My preferred speed of the rod? The list goes on but it was clear it was all designed for Richard to narrow down possible configurations that might appeal to me.

The initial part of this process involved Richard showing me examples of rods he has built and one’s currently being built – the standard was impressive and above all attention to detail was first class. These were of varying lengths anywhere between 8’ and 10” 6’ with different configurations on each. Already my mind was buzzing with possibilities but I was being drawn to a rod that was 8’ 6” in length simply because a lot of my lure fishing is in rocky areas where accessibility with a longer rod might be more challenging… it was still open to debate though. To confuse me even more Richard then brought out blanks he had in the 8’ 6” range and the first thing that struck me was the featherweight lightness of them against the recommended casting and line weights – it was difficult to comprehend how blanks so light could cope with the specified casting and line weights to be honest! These Japanese blanks were T-Russell one’s with a casting weight of 8 – 28g… pretty spot on for most lures I use to be honest but if I was going to spend the money on a custom build was there anything else that could tick the box of retaining the lightness but able to cope with the 10g – 40g casting weight? It was at this point Richard introduced me to the St Croix blanks he had recently acquired from the USA. These were something else and with a casting weight of 10 – 50g they pretty much nailed the casting weight I was looking for with a line rating of 10 – 25lb… all this from a fast action blank and still retaining the lightness I was after. If I was going to go the custom built root this was the blank that ticked the right boxes… sometimes something just feels right and this was one of those occasions.

Choosing the blank turned out to be the easy part as from there on for the next 3 hours, over more coffee, we went through in detail each part of the process of configuring the rod with the right guides – with the right spacing for the blank, the reel seat position, the type of grips including the positioning, the weight of these fittings , the weaves to be used, trim items including the script to be embedded on the rod and so many other small details I can not now recall! At this point I had still not committed to anything and as I’ve said previously nor would Richard allow me to commit. He promised to put every detail down in an e-mail for me to digest at a later date when my mind had stopped racing with all the options he had just put before me! To be perfectly honest I was already sold – I had 100% confidence that Richard would deliver exactly what I wanted come what may and importantly give me an after sales service you just can’t buy off the shelf. True to his word the email duly arrived with the agreed configuration and a price which was extremely reasonable given the quality of the components.

My chosen configuration was as follows:

  • Blank 8ft 6′ St Croix fast action 10-50g / 12-25lb line class
  • EVA grips – split grip formation
  • Fuji IPS reel seat with silver colour metal decal band on edge of EVA to seat.
  • All metal work to be silver coloured components.
  • Thread colours black & metallic steel blue.
  • Pacific Bay Minima 4 TiCH/TiCH, titanium carbide coated, single leg guides.
  • Personalised scripting on rod.

I knew there would be a bit of a wait from the moment I paid my deposit, something Richard had spelled out to me, because he had other rods to finish plus had a hand operation to deal with. So, it was with baited breath I waited over the rest of the summer but it really was worth the wait when mid-September Richard gave me the call to say it was ready.

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The result is stunning… even down to the cloth bag it was presented in! The first thing that struck me was the weight – or lack of weight I should really say – just 150g… barely 6oz. I knew the blank was light but when you consider all the components and layers of resins added the lightness of it is incredible. The finish is equally impressive with the scripting, weaves and resin application faultless and the guides lined up to perfection with the Fuji reel seat. It really is a classy piece of work by any standards… and all this before you even give the rod a wiggle!

When you do give it a flex the first thing you notice is just how fast it really is – it is exceptionally quick to recover and whilst it has a stiffness to it the profile of the blank means it has just the right flexibility in it in my opinion.

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So how has it performed? Well, so far in four outings I haven’t blanked so it can’t be bad! I’ve been using it mainly with a Daiwa Fuego reel and it has felt nicely balanced. Casting is effortless with a mere flick of the wrists pinging an average 18g lure fizzing into the distance. The rod comes into it’s own though when working the lure – though light it can be worked really hard to get the optimum action out of the lure without wearing your shoulder, arm, or wrist out in the process! I’ve largely used with shallow diving and surface lures and it twitches and retrieves superbly but the biggest plus is, because of the lightness, you can really feel your lure working in the water. Then there is the moment you connect with a fish – again because of the lightness of it you feel every hit, every run, and break for freedom the fish make… the biggest I’ve taken on it so far was a 5lb fish and it felt double that… yet there was never the feeling you were stretching the rod to anything like it’s outer limits – it just seems to effortlessly take everything in it’s stride.

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That’s pretty much all I can think of to say on it based on my first impressions and as you will have gathered they have been exceptionally good. Negatives? Only that I’m now sold on custom built rods and that could have serious consequences for my pockets in the future! I really can’t find any negatives so hence my review may seem a bit ‘gushing’…but I make no apology for that as Richard’s approach and workmanship are first class. I could very easily have spent a similar amount of hard earned cash for an off the shelf option which no doubt would have performed admirably but the thing is about the custom built route is that everything about the rod has been tailored to my needs, with my input, then built superbly… and that just makes it feel a bit special.

Until next time…

Handy line?

So, I recently had a whole 11 days off work and do you know how many times I went out on the kayak or managed to wet a line at all? Yep, not once! I spent 5 days literally decking out the back of the house and then we had family from the San Francisco staying with us for a few days so it wasn’t to be but it was an enjoyable time nonetheless.

It’s extremely useful having relatives in the US and they are very understanding with me ordering kit for them to bring every time they are over! It can be a lot cheaper Stateside than it is here in the UK plus I would say, in general, the US is ahead of the game than we are here in the UK when it comes to kayak fishing kit so there’s quite often new and interesting kit to tempt you.

I’d ordered a couple of bits for them to bring over on this latest trip one of which was a Waaycool hand line. It was ordered on a bit of a whim during the Winter months on the basis I’d caught a fair few mackerel last Summer on a cheap hand line. It’s a relatively small piece of kit that you can store easily and if you’re just out for a paddle without the rest of your fishing kit you can easily deploy if the opportunity presents itself to catch mackerel or such like.

I was keen to give it a whirl again this year but with plans to be a bit more adventurous with a better piece of kit. Potentially could be used for trolling a lure when paddling, vertical jigging and maybe live baiting. Here is the Waaycool hand line I purchased…

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As you can see, I went for one of the cord plus mono leader options – the mono leader might be a bit heavy for UK waters but that can easily be changed.  The advantage as I see it with a cord rather than an all mono hand line is it shouldn’t give so much grief to your hands where mono could cause cuts to your hands – especially if you have a fish to pull up! I would suggest gloves might be required either way though just as a precaution.

The cord is 3mm but as suggested earlier the mono is a bit over kill for UK waters so I will probably change that to a lighter leader. The construction of the hand line itself is purely plastic with a couple of notches which act as a cleat for tying off the cord and also as a point for attaching the bungee that secures the line when not in use. There’s also a small handle which I will use to secure the hand line to the kayak. In this respect I have used the suggested setup and created a simple link with a couple of carabiners and a piece of bungee as a shock absorber as shown below.

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Below is the full set up with the large carabiner simply attaching to the kayak wherever is suitable.

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So there you have it, bought on a bit of a whim during the Winter months but I am keen to give it a go soon – hopefully this weekend at some point if I can finish work quick enough!! Initially, I will try it with some feathers or maybe some hokkais but as already pointed out I think it has potential in other areas too. Will post a report on how effective it proves to be in due course.

Until next time…

Return of a reel favourite…

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Many many moons ago, before I came to my senses and realised my preference for sea fishing, I used to be a coarse fisherman and spent my fair share of time sat by a lake or on a river bank waiting for a float to be pulled under or for a bite alarm to go off. There was one piece of kit I had which I liked above anything else in them days – my Shimano Baitrunner reel which I generally used when I was carp or pike fishing.

For a while now, and certainly since I’ve had the kayak, I’ve been thinking about using a Baitrunner reel for live baiting. I was particularly thinking about trying it for bass in the summer as the mackerel shoals begin to show. Last year I had pondered the options out there with a Penn Live Slammer reel a good option but if I’m honest I really wanted the Shimano Baitrunner D option which I thought ticked all the right boxes, looked the business and reviewed well………trouble was the price differential. The Penn could be picked up for around the £80 mark whereas the Shimano option was nearer £140 and I just couldn’t bring myself to pay that for it bearing in mind the limited amount of use it would probably get.

How does a Baitrunner reel work you may ask? Well, a fixed spool reel is normally controlled by a clutch which may be at the front or at the rear of the reel body. This allows the angler to set the tension at which line can be pulled from the spool with the bale arm engaged to prevent breakage of the main line when playing a larger fish. The Baitrunner is an additional clutch facility that can be engaged to let line flow freely from the spool with the bale-arm engaged, but, with a simple turn of the reel or flick of the switch, normal clutch tension is applied to the spool.

I’d put it to the back of my mind over the winter and hadn’t really thought to much about it  …… until that is my wife said to me she’d ordered my birthday present but wasn’t sure if it was the right one. “The right one?” I said with an air of panic – what the hell was she doing ordering a reel for me – she knows nothing about fishing!! “Well it was on that Birthday/Christmas list you gave me last year” she retorts…… Surely she hadn’t taken a flyer on a list from last year had she?! Well, the answer was ‘”yes she has!” and yesterday  I once again became a lucky Shimano Baitrunner owner! It’s not something I was expecting and probably would still have been “umm-ing and ahhh-ing” over it this time next year knowing me. The wife has really come up trumps this time and has some serious Brownie points in the bank for sure!

The model is the Baitrunner BTR-8000D so is a fairly chunky bit of kit but the main plus with it is that it should handle the wear and tear of salt water which was the major consideration when I was doing my original research. Out of the box you get the reel itself, the maintenance oil, spare adjustment washers and the instruction guide…… so no spare spool which is a little disappointing but I can live with that. The features stated on the box of the reel include:

  • 4:8:1 Gear Ratio
  • 3 Shield A-RB Stainless Steel Ball Bearings
  • Baitrunner System
  • Dyna Balance Anti-Wobble System
  • Propulsion-Line Management System
  • Fluidrive II Gearing System
  • Super Stopper II Anti-Reverse
  • Oversized Power Roller Line Roller
  • Front Dial Water Proof Drag Mechanism With Positive Click
  • Direct Drive Mechanism (Thread In Handle)
  • One-Piece Bail Wire
  • Cold Forged Aluminium Spool

The technical bits are:

  • Weight 21.7oz (615g)
  • Line Capacity 14lb/295 yards, 17lb/250 yards, 20lb, 195yards

For full manufacturer information on the reel click here.

Obviously I haven’t had a chance to use it in anger just yet but the first ‘dry’ impressions are very good. In particular the smoothness of the winding, the comfort of the handle and the sturdiness of the Baitrunner mechanism all stand out. As soon as the opportunity presents itself I will be giving it a proper test. It will be an excellent spinning reel as well which will probably be the first outing it gets but we’ll see. I’ll write a post on my findings later in the year no doubt along with some pictures of it in action.

Thanks to the wife for a cracking birthday present!

Until next time…