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Monday, 30 April 2018

How To Target Tope

How To Target Tope
The Tope is one of the hardest fighting fish found in our waters. With specimen sized fish caught regularly your sea angling skills are put to the ultimate test.

Tope are typically found in coastal waters, and further offshore in depths up to 550m. They are a highly migratory species and some Tope have been tagged in the UK and have been recaptured in The Azores, Canary Islands and off the coast of Iceland. The species is found all around the world, with other key areas in the Southern Atlantic including Namibia, South Africa and Brazil.

Further afield, Tope are found in the North Pacific between British Columbia in Canada, and the Baja peninsula in Mexico, and in the southern Pacific off Chile, Peru, New Zealand and Australia.

They are slow-growing and long-lived; they can live to over 50 years and have a low reproductive capacity. As a result, it is illegal to target tope commercially in UK waters.

Tope are a very slender shark that has a sharply pointed snout. Its first dorsal fin is very large compared to the second, which is positioned very close to the tail. It also has an anal fin which is positioned directly underneath the secondary dorsal fin.

The colouration of the tope is as follows: grey/brown on the back and sides with a white/creamy coloured underbelly. The tope has sharp triangular teeth within its underslung mouth. These triangular teeth are common in most predatory sharks.

The average adult Tope measures 1.3m long, but Tope up to 2m have been captured and recorded.
They are one of the hardest-fighting fish caught off the coast of the UK and Ireland. As a result, Tope are a very popular species of sportfish with many sea anglers.

Depending on where you fish, the average size of tope caught is probably between 10-30lb, but in many areas much bigger specimens are regularly caught.

If you are after real specimen Tope, then fishing from a boat is your best option. The boat record in British water stands at 82lb 8oz (37.422kg), although fishing from the shore is not without its prizes. The current shore-caught Tope stands at 66lb 10oz was caught in 2013.
Luce Bay Tope

So, where and when can you catch Tope?  They can be found all around the coastline of the British Isles and Ireland. They live close to the bottom, preferring sand or gravel, but they will move into mid-water to feed. The younger the fish the more chance of it coming into the shallower water near the shore. Hotspots for the species include the Thames Estuary, Solent, north coast of Cornwall, Bristol Channel, Cardigan Bay, Isle of Man and Luce Bay in Scotland.

The majority of tope caught are taken from inshore reefs or from within large tidal estuaries, though fish are occasionally found in deeper water over relatively featureless ground.

From the boat a simple running leger is ideal. Most anglers use heavy monofilament in the region of 200lb breaking strain. A 3-4ft hook length is perfect to prevent bite-offs, but a 12-20ft rubbing leader of around 50lb monofilament is also necessary to guard against the fish’s rough skin damaging the line should it roll up the trace.

You’ll need a size 8/0 O’Shaughnessy hook; bronze hooks, ideally barbless, are essential. The hook length and rubbing leader are joined by a size 4/0 swivel. Some fish invariably swallow a bait, and the safest way to release these with minimum harm is to cut the trace as close to the fish’s mouth as possible.

Unlike stainless steel or zinc-coated hooks, bronze hooks will eventually corrode and fall out. An increasing number of anglers are using circle hooks for tope, as these invariably locate neatly into the corner of the fish’s jaw.

When fishing from the boat the gear to use will be dictated by the area you are fishing. In shallow water, such as estuaries, uptiding is almost always the most effective technique because it ensures baits are fished well away from the scare area created by an anchor in shallow water.

When shore fishing, a pulley rig is advised and here is how to construct it. Take 4-feet (122cms) of 60lb mono line and tie a size 4 rolling swivel to one end. Slide on a 5mm bead then pass the line through one eye only of a second size 4 swivel followed by another bead. At the other end, add a 3/0 Mustad oval split ring. The hook trace is formed in two parts. To the original tied on swivel add 18-inches (46cms) of 50lb mono then a size 6 swivel. Add to this by crimping 18-inches (46cms) of 50lb wire, and at the other end crimp on a size 6/0 Mustad Barbless Tope & Ray hook. The barbless hook is much easier to set in the jaw of a tope, won't fall free if you maintain a tight line

The free running swivel is attached to the leader line. When a Tope takes the bait, the rig body line slides through the eye of the connector swivel pulling the lead free of the seabed and sliding it upwards out of harm’s way. The main advantage is that the pulley effect gives you 7-feet (213cms) of heavy rig line and hook trace to avoid the rough body of the tope cutting the line if it should meet it.

The lead is important. Use release wired leads with long tail wires. Fix in place on the tail wire a bait clip made from stainless steel wire of 18-gauge diameter. By placing the baited hook in this bait clip on the tail wire the bait becomes part of the lead enabling it to cast further, gains protection by flying in the calm pocket of air broken by the nose of the lead in flight which maintains perfect presentation. As the rig falls slack as the lead hits the sea after the cast, the bait simply falls free ready to fish.

Breakaway Impact Lead
Breakaway Impact Leads feature a bait clip that naturally retains the baited hook during its flight and releases it when the lead’s nose cone hits the sea bed – like a freshwater bait-dropper. These leads will massively increase your distance casting and provide perfect bait presentation.
The way they work is that a baited hook is clipped into the Impact Shield and when the Impact Shield hits the water it tilts to the side and the hook is automatically released. An extremely simple and yet clever design which many anglers swear by, especially those looking to cast bigger distances or those using delicate baits.

When shore fishing your tackle needs to be strong, as even a smaller Tope will put up a great fight, especially if it can use the strength of the tide to its advantage. Large multipliers and stiff, sturdy beachcasters are the only choice.
Have the rod placed in a rod rest, the reel in free spool but with the ratchet on. A Tope's initial run will be fast and can be between 50-metres and 75-metres long. When it slows down almost to a stop then the fish is beginning to swallow the bait and must be struck. Expect a series of fast runs, kiting in the surf tables and dogged stubbornness during the fight. A Tope is beaten only when it starts to roll slowly rather than free swimming.

Shore Caught Tope
The best way to land a Tope from the beach is to tail it. Wade in to the surf and get behind the Tope, grab the wrist of the tail and then walk it slowly up on to dry sand. Be aware that the Tope can twist around and bite, so keep it at arm’s length and well away from your legs.

When it comes to releasing, the hook can be easily freed if at the front of the Tope’s mouth. Next step is to gently slide the Tope back in to the water by sliding it in to the surf holding the wrist of the tail. The fish will swim away of its own free will when ready.

Like all species of shark, Tope have a highly developed sense of smell, and can locate baits from a great distance. Occasionally when Tope fishing, you start catching fish immediately, but often it takes a while for fish to locate baits from the scent trail they emit.

Using bags of chum or chunking with small pieces of bait when shark fishing can be highly effective at attracting fish. Patience, and ensuring your baits are as fresh as possible, is often the key to successful Tope fishing.

If Tope are in the area, then there is little doubt that, given time, they will eventually locate your baits, and from then onwards sport can be fast and furious, with each angler experiencing
multiple runs.

Tope feed on fish. They attack schools of Mackerel, Cod and Whiting mainly, but when pickings are a little thin they will also feed on bottom-dwelling creatures such as Flatfish, Crustaceans and Molluscs. These species should be high on the agenda when it comes to bait.

Mackerel take a lot of beating, especially when prepared as a flapper with the backbone removed. If Mackerel are not available, then use the other species such as Whiting, Pouting, Herring, Garfish, Pollack, Coalfish and even various species of Flatfish. They can all be used with great effect and have great results.

Placing your bait into a deep fast-running gully where small fish are likely to congregate offer the best chance of shore-based anglers catching a Tope.

Our advice regarding hooking the fish is to set the hook as soon as possible after the run begins, which, often, will result in the fish being hooked in the jaw. If you miss the fish, immediately put the reel back into freespool and wait. If there is any bait left on the hook, almost always the fish will pick up the bait again.

Remember respect must be given to these magnificent sharks at all times. Tope are a large, powerful, active fish and their teeth are as sharp as razor blades and you can live to regret not taking proper care around them. But if you take the proper measures and are suitably prepared Tope fishing can be as enjoyable as any fishing on the planet.

Whether it be from the boat or on the shore if you would like more information about the tackle and tactics needed for catching Tope, you can contact us on 0141 212 8880 or visit us in store at the Glasgow & Edinburgh Angling Centres where our expert staff will be happy to help you.  

Friday, 27 April 2018

Improve Your Coalie Fishing

Improve Your Coalie Fishing
Coalfish are widely distributed throughout the North Atlantic, their range extending across to the eastern seaboard of America. They feed mostly on small fish and Sandeels but will also forage on the seabed.

Coalies, or Saithe as they are sometimes referred to, are often confused with Pollack. After a few catches, you will soon be able to differentiate between the two. The Coalfish has a symmetrical jaw, whereas the lower jaw of the Pollack protrudes. The lateral line of the Coalfish is a distinct, straight white line, whereas there is a definite curve above the pectoral fin on a Pollack.
Pollack (left) Coalfish (right)

The colour of Coalfish ranges from a greenish brown, typical with small fish, to a stunning slate black displayed on the larger fish. They are pound for pound one of the hardest-fighting species of fish caught off the coast of the UK, especially so when taken on light tackle.

Depending on location, the average size of Coalfish caught is probably between 1-3lb, but in some areas, notably deep-water wrecks, double-figure specimens are regularly found. Fish weighing more than 30lb are caught in both Iceland and Norway. The British boat-caught record for Coalfish stands at 37lb 5oz, with a fish caught off a wreck near the Eddystone Reef in 1986. Big Coalfish are also abundant throughout the Orkney and Shetland Islands, which is where most of the really big fish are caught in British waters.

Boats fishing out of ports in Cornwall have a long association with specimen Coalfish as the species used to be common throughout much of the south-west and western coasts of the UK and Ireland, but they are much scarcer today, especially fish weighing more than 10lb.

In many areas, such as Scotland and the north-east coast of England, many small Coalfish, typically fish below 2lb, are caught by anglers fishing piers, breakwaters, open beaches and within the lower limits of some estuaries.

If you are targeting Coalfish specifically from the shore, a light beach outfit would be best suited. You will quickly find Coalies will take most baits. Hooks on the smaller side, size 1 or 2, baited with Crab, Ragworm, Mussel etc. should give you a lot of success.
Century Tip Tornado LD Super Match Beachcaster
As Coalfish hunt smaller fish in mid-water, they can also be caught on lures by anglers fishing for Bass, Cod or Flounder from rocky marks during the summer. They will also take spinners and plugs in the same way that the closely related Pollack will. 

Occasionally they will be taken on Mackerel feather rigs. In places where Coalfish are abundant, such as the North East and parts of Scotland, it is sometimes possible to hook multiple small Coalfish on these rigs.

HTO Rockfish Revolution
As a result of the above factors, an increasing number of anglers are now using light spinning or LRF rods to fish for Coalfish.
Daiwa 17 Exceler LT Reel
Matching your rods with a small fixed spool reel and light braid will deliver a tremendous amount of sport with these hard-fighting fish.

When targeting specimen sized Coalies you will need to venture further afield and fish offshore. The ideal set-up for this is a 12/20lb or 20/30lb-class boat rod featuring a multiplier reel loaded with suitable monofilament or braid. In recent years, advances in tackle manufacturing have produced great spinning rods and fixed-spool reels that have been specifically designed for fishing for various species of hard-fighting sport fish throughout the tropics. These are excellent for targeting specimen sized Coalfish.

The hook length is tied to the other end of this swivel and is usually clear monofilament of around 20-30lb between 8-12ft in length. The lure is tied to the end of this. If using modern spinning tackle, then use a weighted shad. To fish with this rig, just drop it straight down to the bottom and rewind it up through the entire water column with a steady retrieve.

Savage Gear LB Cutbait Herring
Bigger Coalfish will inhabit heavy and rough ground and will take a wide range of baits with Mackerel strip, Herring and Sandeel all tempting Coalfish, as will worm baits (particularly Ragworm) and Peeler Crab. Other baits such as Mussels and Squid can also catch this species. Size 2/0 hooks in a steady pattern are the best choice to use as they will allow smaller 1-2lb Coalfish to be caught but provide the strength for a more significant specimen to be landed. If you fish rough ground, rigs incorporating a weak link release is best used to help minimise tackle losses.

The general method used when fishing for Coalfish over a wreck or reef is to position the boat uptide of the area to be fished, then slowly drift back over it. The angler drops his bait or lure down to the bottom, then slowly starts to retrieve it. This technique is particularly useful because the shoals of Coalfish are often located at various depths in the water column, and it is essential to determine at which depth they are feeding. Counting the number of turns of the reel handle to the strike zone can help maximise results.
Bites are usually indicated by a delicate plucking; as does pulling at the tail of the lure.  When this happens, it is essential that when you feel this, you maintain the same rate of retrieve and resist the urge to strike. Keep winding and, eventually, the fish will engulf the lure and dive for the bottom. At this point, you then set the hook by lifting the rod and hope that you have correctly set the clutch.

You will have to work hard and travel far from your regular spots if you are after specimen Coalies, but no one will argue that going after smaller ones on lighter tackle is just as fun.

If you would like anymore information regarding fishing for Coalies visit us in store at either the Glasgow Angling Centre or the Edinburgh Angling Centre. Or call us on 0141 212 8880 and our expert staff will be happy to help.

This article was brought to you in association with Sea Angler magazine.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Fishing for Flounder

Fishing for Flounder
The European Flounder is one of the most common species of Flatfish found in our coastal waters. It ranges from the White Sea in the far north to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea in the south and is especially prevalent in inshore waters around the UK, where beach anglers widely target them. They are also an excellent species to target when fishing sheltered estuaries and harbours, especially during winter and early spring.

The colour of a Flounder varies considerably and should never be used as a positive means of identification. As a rule, the back of a Flounder is a fawn, olive-green or pale brown, usually with spots and larger patches of darker brown.

Occasionally, some random reddish spots are present, and these can result in the fish being wrongly identified as a Plaice. The lateral line of a Flounder is nearly straight and runs along the middle of the upper surface, curving around the short pectoral fins, while the belly side is opaque pearly white.

The average size of this species caught around the UK is between 1lb-2lb, but much bigger fish are caught each year. Due to Flounder's preferred distribution, it is one of just a few species that shore anglers regularly catch to a larger size than those fishing afloat. The British boat-caught record is a fish of 5lb 11oz, which was caught at Fowey in Cornwall in 1956.

The species is distributed all around the coast of the British Isles, but are frequently targeted in or in the very near estuaries and some of our larger harbours. These Flatfish are mostly found in both clean sand and soft mud, and everything in between, but rarely over rock.

Flounders are far more abundant in many areas than a lot of anglers realise, and a little experimentation inshore on those days when the weather restricts options elsewhere might throw up a few surprises.

Shallow muddy estuaries are the standard habitat for Flounders, although they are also caught from beaches outside the estuaries in the open sea. Long expanses of sand or mud usually fish best during the flooding tide, and groundbaiting with used bait can help to lay a trail towards your baited hooks as you retreat the flooding tide.

Greys Flapper Rig 3HK
There is no real need for distance when fishing an estuary. The fish could be only a matter of a few feet in front of you. As a result a two or three hook flapping rigs in size 2 or 4 will do the job. Remember that fish can be caught at ridiculously short range; a gentle lob will often be enough.

Many anglers jazz up their Flatfish rigs with spoons and a colourful assortment of beads and sequins, and these undoubtedly prove effective for Flounders.

Whenever fishing for Flounders in estuaries, it will be preferable to use the lightest possible tackle, and lighter sea rods around 1-3oz are perfect. These type of rods are more than strong enough to handle the conditions within estuaries and also offer better bite detection due to their balance and lightness. Additionally, bass rods are not as heavy as full sized beachcasters, meaning that they are easier to transport from place to place if anglers are on the move around an estuary during a fishing session.

Greys GR75S Bass & Flattie Rod
Peeler Crab is a proven bait for estuary Flatfish, and a good choice when crabs are quickly stripping softer baits. Always ensure your bait is fishing hard on the seabed, which is where the fish feed. As water depth and the run of tide increases, it will probably be necessary to upgrade your tackle accordingly.

If targeting Flounders from the beach you will need more substantial gear. A good beachcaster can get you past the surf regularly and reach the deeper, calmer water.
Vercelli Oxygen Uccello
Flounder living just beyond the surf will snap up small fish baits such as Sandeels, Bluey and Mackerel. It's worth noting that Lug and Ragworm will also do the trick.

Penn Surfblaster II Fixed Spool
Finding a reel to match your rod again depends on where you are fishing. As mentioned the protective nature of estuaries means that the tackle used should be scaled down as it is rarely necessary to cast long distances or use heavy weights to hold the seabed in strong tides. When fishing from the beach, there are a number of casting multiplier and fixed spool reels that will do the job.

Team Vass 700 Chest Wader

If you are planning on a visit to your nearest estuary buying yourself a pair of chest waders would be a wise investment as you are more than likely to be fishing in the mud. Waders will not only keep you dry but they will, for the most part, keep you clean.

It's also worth considering a few other lures and baits for Flounder such as, Imitation Ragworms. They are renowned for catching fish in large numbers. Flounder and other Flatfish will happily grab a wide range of soft plastics, so it is also worthwhile carrying a selection of these.

Always have few mini metal lures too. These are mostly slim-profile types that mimic Sandeels, and it also pays to carry a couple of spoons as well. Stock up on dropshot leads from 3.5g to 7g and a selection of hooks from sizes 4-8, along with some jigheads from 1-5g in the same hook size.

Savage Gear Mini Casting Jigs

You should try and let the lure sink to the bottom and then retrieve the lure so that it skims across the seabed. Fishing the lure with little twitches within 6 inches of the bottom should make your lure touch the seabed now and again, which throws up little puffs of sand. It also pays to add some pauses into the retrieve as well; stop retrieving and let your lure rest on the seabed for a couple of seconds, as Flounders are curious fish and will investigate your lure. When you start to retrieve again, they will chase and, hopefully, grab the lure.

Flounder play a big part in an angler's learning. They are a fish that nearly every fisherman in the UK has caught at one time or another, and they are often the first species that a young angler will catch. Building rigs to fish for them provides you with a robust platform and will enable you to build more complicated rigs and target bigger fish.  This is an invaluable lesson. Especially to those who are new to fishing.

If you would like anymore information regarding Flounder fishing visit us in store at either the Glasgow Angling Centre or the Edinburgh Angling Centre. Or call us on 0141 212 8880 and our expert staff will be happy to help.

This article was brought to you in association with Sea Angler magazine.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

How to Catch Conger

How To Catch Conger
The Conger Eel is one of several species of marine Eels found throughout the world. The genus includes some of the largest Eels found, and in the case of the European Conger Eel, some specimens can grow as large as 10ft long.

The Conger Eel is so distinctive. It is all but impossible to mistake it for any other species, the single exception being small ‘Strap Conger’ weighing a pound or two that might be wrongly identified by inexperienced anglers as being a large Silver Eel.
'Strap Conger'

The average size of Conger Eel caught offshore is probably between 10-40lb, but each year many much larger fish are hooked, including a few weighing more than 100lb. The current British boat-caught record for Conger Eel is held with a fish that weighed 133lb 4oz, caught off Brixham, South Devon, in 1995.

Much larger fish have been caught commercially, with the largest ever recorded being a monster weighing 350lb taken in nets off the Westman Islands off the southern coast of Iceland. A 210lb Conger Eel was once landed at Falmouth, and fish of 170lb and 155lb have been landed at Newlyn and Plymouth respectively.

Congers are caught all around the coast of the British Isles, and most are targeted from the spring through until the autumn. The optimum time to catch them is during the high or low slack water period, and just as the tide starts to run. For this reason, the extended slack water periods
encountered on neap tides tend to be the most productive.

Century Kompressor SS Beachcaster
Due to the potential size and immense strength of Conger Eels, and the rough ground they inhabit, anglers specifically targeting big Conger Eels require heavy-duty tackle. Stiff beachcasters, big multiplier reels are the right equipment to hook a Conger Eel and bully them out of the snags and weed.

Your reel needs to be tough and large enough to accommodate your line. The line required will have to be on the heavier side, so use either heavy braid or mono. Some anglers prefer heavier mono as it has a much better abrasion resistance.

Your hook length should be either very heavy mono or a 6-8 inch length wire trace to the hook as a biting length.
Daiwa Saltist Black Gold Reel

By a long way Mackerel baits are the most commonly used to catch conger with Mackerel flappers, Mackerel heads, Mackerel fillets and full small Mackerel all proven to catch Conger. However, whole large Squid, Cuttlefish and Bluey can also catch big Eels, as these species are likely food sources which Conger Eels will come across in their natural environment.

The roughest and heaviest ground has the highest chance of being home to a Conger Eel, and tackle loss will inevitably be high. For this reason, anglers should incorporate some sort of 'rotten bottom' or 'weak link' release into the rigs they use. Knowing when to strike a Conger bite can be difficult as Conger can be surprisingly shy biters, so it is wise to give them time to take a bait entirely before striking and reeling in. However, if a Conger is given too long it may well make its way into a hole or manage to wedge itself into a crevice or crack. If this happens a decent-sized Conger will likely be impossible to budge.
Fisheagle Big Fish Smart Leader

Daiwa J-Braid X8
Knowing when to strike and reel in a Conger Eel is a matter of judgement (and to a certain extent, luck). It's also wise to leave the reel on the ratchet so that a Conger taking and moving off with bait will take the line and give an audible warning. Using this method eliminates the risk of the rod being pulled into the sea – something a large Conger Eel is more than capable of doing.

Firmly set the hook by winding the line as tight as possible, and then lifting the rod. It is essential to force the fish away from any snags as soon as possible, as the instant an Eel feels the hook, it will attempt to swim rapidly back into the wreck or reef and will be lost.
Mustad 11in Long Reach Pliers
Once you have bullied the fish into open-water, maintain as much pressure on it as you can, and start slowly working the fish up through the water column, which, be warned, is hard, physical work.

Before you set out in search for Conger, remember bites usually come very quickly, and it is essential that you get yourself sorted beforehand with a good firm standing platform. People don't understand what they are up against with a Conger and underestimate their incredible strength.

And if you are lucky enough to land your Conger, a disgorger or a good set of pliers is an essential piece of kit.

Catching a Conger is not for the faint of heart, but all the hard work could see you land a catch of a lifetime, and if you are unlucky, a hernia!

If you would like anymore information regarding Conger Eel visit us in store at either the Glasgow Angling Centre or the Edinburgh Angling Centre. Or call us on 0141 212 8880 and our expert staff will be happy to help.

This article was brought to you in association with Sea Angler magazine.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Fly Fishing for Beginners - Part One

Fly Fishing for Beginners
If you have always wanted a crack at fly fishing but have always been unsure where to start, then this is the article for you. When starting out, common questions include "what is the best fly rod for a beginner," "what's the best fly reel," "how do you begin fly casting," and "what flies do I use." This article aims to answer those questions and is part one of a series of three where we simplify what you need and how to get started. Our ultimate intention is to help you successfully embark on your journey as a fly angler.

Fly Rods 
Firstly, you need to kit yourself out with a rod. Buying your first fly rod depends to a large extent on what fish you are targeting, whether you will be fishing a river, loch or stillwater, and whether you will be travelling with your fly rod. Prices for a new fly rod range from around the £50 mark to £300 and upwards, but if you are starting out, you should be focusing on fly rods that cover everything.

As a beginner, it's important to understand that all fly rods have an AFTM rating. AFTM stands for Association of Fishing Tackle Manufacturers and is recognisable by a # (hash tag) followed by a number. So a #6 means a six weight fly line is suitable for the rod. In simple terms, a #6 will have the required weight to bend the rod adequately when fly casting. For the majority of those starting out on their fly fishing journey, something like a functional, affordable fly rod in the nine-foot-long, six or seven weight category would be the most sensible choice. You can happily target fish on both small stillwaters and larger lakes and lochs with this sort of outfit.

A fantastic fly rod for beginners is a Shakespeare Agility 2 Single Hand Fly Rod in 9ft6 for a six weight (#6) and will allow you to cover most fly fishing situations that a beginner will encounter.

Shakespeare Agility 2 Fly Rod
Fly Reel
As a beginner, choosing a fly reel that balances well with your fly rod, can hold an adequate amount of backing, is suitable for a six weight fly line, and has an appropriate drag system is all you need. Of course, as you progress and your needs change, there are a wide variety of fly reels to choose from for your particular style of fly fishing. But if you are looking at just the basics, an Airflo Classic Cassette Fly Reel is perfect for your needs. It is lightweight, durable, has an adjustable ultra-smooth drag system and comes with four polycarbonate spools in case you want to carry a few different fly lines. It also comes with a custom-made padded reel case for protection.

Airflo Cassette Fly Reel
Regarding fly reels, you may come across terms such as "standard arbor" "large arbor" or "mid arbor." "Arbor" simply means the distance from the centre spindle to where the base of the spool starts. In a standard arbor reel, the spool is very narrow, so this is more suited to smaller river fly rods. They hold plenty of backing, but the downside is that backing sits on the reel in very tight coils which reduces your retrieval rate, or how fast you can rewind the fly line on the reel. Another disadvantage of the standard arbor is that your fly line will suffer from a thing called "coil memory," or "line memory." The longer you leave the fly line on the spool, the line becomes 'coiled' and needs to be stretched or else the line will not sit in a straight line on the water but instead, in coils. In contrast, a large arbor fly reel solves a lot of the problems associated with the standard arbor and is the most popular choice for beginners. They have a much bigger diameter and wider design, offering better backing capacity, faster retrieval, and significantly less line memory.

Fly Line
For beginners, a floating line is an excellent choice because you’ll be able to use it to fish both dry flies on the surface and wet flies just under the water. The weight of your line should match the rod you fish with, so make sure you look for the information written just above the handle of your rod (as discussed). Given that we recommend a Shakespeare Agility 2 Fly Rod in a four to six weight, the recommended fly line for this rod would be a Greys Platinum Shoot Fly Line in a weight forward six (WF #6).

Greys Platinum Shoot Fly Line
Weight forward is a term used to describe the taper of the fly line. Most fly lines are tapered and vary in weight, diameter, and thickness over the length of the line. Some float; some sink at varying speeds per second. Weight forward taper is the most popular choice if you are a beginner. In the first 30ft of a weight forward fly line (WF), the line is heavier and the front end is tapered. The rest of the WF line is thinner and is sometimes known as 'running line'. The weight forward fly line helps with longer casts and offers better precision in windy conditions.

A floating line simply means that the fly line floats on top of the water and does not sink. For a beginner, a floating line is suitable for most fly fishing situations. As you progress, it is then worth having fly lines at differing densities, or 'sink rate' which will significantly improve your ability to adapt to the conditions.

Fly Fishing Kits
To make things event simpler, it is possible to buy a fly fishing kit with everything you need to get started. Kits include rod, reel, line and backing. Two good example kits to get started include the Shakespeare Sigma Fly Combo and the Airflo Elite Fly Fishing Kit.

Shakespeare Sigma Fly Combo

Airflo Elite Kit

Fly Line Backing 
As discussed, backing gives your fly line a platform to rest while wrapped around the spool of your fly reel. It also 'backs up' the length of your fly line with added distance while fighting a fish that takes long runs. For beginners, the most popular type of backing is braided in 20lb or 30lb strength. To start with, we recommend Stillwater Fly Line Backing.

Stillwater Fly Line Backing

Leaders, Tippets, and Loops 
Once you have your fly rod, fly reel and fly line, the next consideration is to attach a leader of some description to your fly line. For most beginners, an adequate solution is to connect a braided loop to the end our your fly line (some fly lines even come with a loop attached or are pre-looped) and connect your leader using a loop-to-loop connection.

Airflo Braided Loops
There are loads of options when it comes to fly leaders and tippets, but for beginners, there are two primary methods: use a straight length of tippet material such as Fulling Mill Fluorocarbon, or a knotless tapered leader such as the Greys Knotless Tapered Leader. Use a straight length of 9ft tippet, create a loop at one end, and connect the leader loop to your braided loop using a loop-to-loop connection. 

Fulling Mill Fluorocarbon

Greys Knotless Tapered Leader
A straight length leader is perfectly adequate for a beginner because you are still learning about proper presentation and improving your fly casting technique. However, if you feel that your casting technique is improving and want to present your fly with increased delicacy, say to a rising trout on a river, then using a knotless tapered leader will offer an advantage. Knotless tapered leaders will achieve a significantly better turnover because they are thicker at the fly line end and progressively taper down to a thinner tip section. The energy you have created in your cast will smoothly transition to the fly, resulting in better accuracy and very little water disturbance.

Eye Protection 
Finally, equipping yourself with a pair of polarised sunglasses is a must for two fundamental reasons. Not only do they protect your eyes from wayward casts and hooks, but they also help you to spot fish by removing the glare from the water. We highly recommend a pair of Greys G1 Sunglasses to reduce the stress on your eyes and make the whole experience of fly fishing safer and relaxing.
Greys G1 Sunglasses
Improving Your Casting
It is well worth booking a session with a coach or instructor if you are new to fly fishing as they can establish good casting habits from the outset and save you a lot of frustration. In the space of a few hours, an instructor can often teach you things that would take a fair bit of time to learn.

Finally, videos, diagrams, and written instruction can offer some knowledge but getting out and practicing is what will help you perfect your technique.

As highlighted, we have outlined the very basics of fly fishing by discussing fly rods, fly reels, lines, leaders and tippets, braided loops and eye protection. In future articles, we will go into greater depth about fly fishing clothing, fly fishing flies, and tips on fly choice. However, for more information on must-have fly fishing items in your kit bag, you can read our blog on Tackle Bag Essentials.

This article was brought to you in association with Trout Fisherman magazine.
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