Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Idle Hands . . . . . .

In case some of you have been living under a rock for what feels like the longest winter in history: easterlies, gales and ground seas have pretty much ruined all hope/opportunity of fishing recently. So apart from sulking, swearing and wishing I lived somewhere warmer I decided to really think about my approach to HRF-i.e. wrassin with softies! 

I cut my teeth in lure fishing as a kid in South Africa, when I was introduced to bass fishing for fresh water large mouth black bass by watching friends, then "idols" on ESPN and various other satellite channels, I soon mimicked what they did, how and why. It didn't take long to work my way through a succession of outfits until settling on a baitcasting duo-pretty standard stuff given the style of fishing.

So...what the hells that got to do with this HRF lark? Well the similarities between freshwater largemouth bass and wrasse are undeniable! 
Behavior, aggression, territorial-ness(!), their love for structure and features to name but a few. Both can be forced to hit lures, both will definitely strike something to satisfy their inquisitive nature, and of course both engulf lures mistaking them for food. 

What then about the method...?
Jigs, soft plastics, carolina, texas...sound familiar...? All born out of freshwater bass fishing. Yes, this is no revelation I know. We are all familiar with some similarities in the rigging methods and the lures themselves, so what's my point? Why do we copy every aspect of a freshwater method of fishing for a fish which is so similar to FW bass, use the same techniques, but we use different rods and reels!?

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to use baitcasting gear! Better casting accuracy. Better sensitivity/feel(imho). Better choice of rods-albeit on the USA market mostly. So if it's Better-Better-Better, why aren't we all doing it? There is a common misconception that these little baitcasters are a 'mare to cast/control, and have no place in windy conditions, but that is far from reality. Most modern middle-of-the-road baitcasters come with centrifugal and magnetic brakes plus spool tensioning knob; so yes, that's three means of effectively taming these unruly little devils. With too much time on my hands due to crap conditions, I had to satisfy my fishing obsession online, with "important research" on the matter. And that's where it got tricky. Not much tackle or info available for this "niche" in the UK. With a little help and advice on various forums and Facebook groups (thank you Mike Sullivan!), I eventually bought an Abu Revo stx gen 3, a mouthful, but a masterpiece in engineering!

The other misapprehension is that baitcasters don't have the cranking power, drag or robustness as they are, after all, born out of the freshwater scene. This reel is not the best available by any stretch, rather a good mid-range example of what is available these days : 11 bearings, choice of 3 different gear ratios, a massive 20lb max drag and aluminium main (ct) frame. All suggest that they are more than capable of handling our beloved rock pigs. I still lust after my "perfect" baitcast rod, and the more  research I do the longer my shortlist gets, so when I came across a second hand option at a good price I snapped it up in the form of a  Majorcraft Days 7ft heavy BC rod. Not perfect, but will tide me over while the search continues!

Now, before this goes any further, I am not discounting spinning reels altogether saying that you must switch immediately or you will get lost in the constantly churning gears of this evolving machine that is HRF. Lets face it, this-like all forms of fishing- need only be as simple or as complicated as we choose to make it. But with too much fishing "down time" and a mind that's enslaved by tides, tackle, techniques and ways of improving, this seemed to me a very obvious move to make. I have only had one proper little session with this new set-up and two aborted sessions (one in 25mph SE-desperate times!) so maybe it's too soon to say that I am fully converted, although I can't see myself ever turning back. I am yet to have an over-wind that needed more than a yard of braid (yes I am using braid which supposedly is impossible) to clear. No issues with digging in, unless pulling for a break directly onto the spool-which you should never do with braid no matter what the reel. It just feels a far more natural and intuitive set-up than my dedicated HRF combo, and is far more enjoyable to use. Granted this may come from an extensive background with this type of gear, but, if YOU know someone who has a BC set-up- borrow it, crank the mags up, engage the centrifugal brakes and let her rip...you may never look back! 

Tightlines all, until next time - Neil

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

AT LAST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

God where do I start!!!!!!! This winter must have been my worst ever with regards to fishing, I simply havent been for months and apparently have been a total nitemare to be around (sorry)!! What with the strong easterlies then big southerly gales and the enevitable groundseas it has been impossible to get out with any hope of safety or actually believing that you will catch anything!!!! Slowly but surely things are a changing and it cant come soon enough!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

With the water temperatures still way down on last year it has been noticeable from the distinct lack of sandeels and bait fish resulting in fewer sea birds around the islands and the numbers of pollack caught have been the lowest for years! Finally with our weather finally deciding to settle we should all see the catches improving day to day. Even the wrasse, our usually ever obliging soft plastic quarry have been almost non-existant and certainly far from their aggressive feeding best of last year but yesterday was the start of things as I actually managed to get out for a few hours (yes for those that had thought I had sold all my gear and started knitting, I havent but have been dormant).

I decided to head out under the airport to the marks that hadnt let me down all last year, water clarity was unbelievably good, best I have seen this year in fact and if I could remember how to fish I felt in with a chance!! Starting out with the Major Craft Crostage I rigged up a small crawfish pattern called Ghost Shrimp texas style and within a few casts and the odd missed bite (the expected rustiness from lack of fishing) I had the slamming over and the first of many wrasse was brought to the landing net.

Several small wrasse followed before I decided to move in the hope of finding some larger fish with the dropping tide.

A change to a new as yet un-named soft plastic from Jackslrf which certainly looked the business brought more success.

Notice the blue spots appearing on the fins and dorsal tail, a sure sign that the wrasse are starting to spawn.
This fish put up a decent scrap as it tried to find sanctuary in its rocky home. Now that I was back in the groove I changed over to my new toy, a Century 7'7'' Vectura-Ti. I got this rod purely for the big wrasse that Ive hooked and lost before. It will be put through its tests over the coming year but it certainly feels powerful, way more powerful than the Century HPR 7'3'' model that I have used before. This new range of rods are based on the exact same blanks as the HPR's just with the new 3M Powerlux™ resin system used and have the much improved Titanium SiC guides fitted as standard. I made several casts with the new rod and found it a joy to use and was certainly more than a match for many small wrasse up to 3lbs.

A final move back across the bay for the start of the flood saw the wrasse continue to snap up the lures being offered and were of a slightly better stamp with a couple of 4lb fish bending and testing the Vectura.

Things were starting to go quiet so I decided on having the last cast when I hooked the biggest fish of the session, not massive but at 5lbs it made the trip all the worth while.

All in all it was great to be back out on the rocks and even more pleasing was that I hadnt blanked. Now all I have to do is learn how to take photos again and everything will be ok!!!!!!!!!!