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Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Tench Fishing Tactics and Tackle

With the weather warming considerably, a lot of coarse anglers turn their thoughts to Tench, writes Tim Ridge from Chapmans Angling. This enigmatic species was an early favourite of mine to the extent that I usually spent the entirety of my childhood summer holidays 'float gazing'.

Many of the places where I practiced my early Tench fishing have not fared well with time. Some have fallen victim to housing developers and their never-ending need to invade more countryside, one or two of the ponds that I used to fish have simply dried up, but by far the majority were stocked heavily with carp. Tench invariably fare poorly when they are forced to share their environment with vast numbers of Carp. My theory is that because the tench spawn slightly later than the carp, the newly emerged carp fry polish off most of the tench eggs before they get the chance to hatch. Whatever the reason, it is a fact that most of the venues where I used to catch numbers of tench have barely any Tench at all these days and the common ‘denominator’ is vast numbers of carp.

Thankfully there are still some fisheries around which support healthy and 'natural' populations of tench. I’m talking here about smallish venues where the average sized fish might be two to four pounds and the maximum size of the fish might not eclipse 6lb’s. These are venues where several such fish might be caught during a short morning session.

Specimen Tench waters tend to be the exact opposite of these places, crystal clear, large, sparsely inhabited and far from prolific. Of course, the windswept gravel pits and reservoirs that produce specimen tench, have their own charms; but nothing like those possessed by the smaller more ‘intimate’ tench venues of my youth.

So assuming you want to catch some Tench, any size of tench (let us not get ahead of ourselves here), what type of venue should you look for? Well in my locality I have reasonably productive tench fishing on a small farm pond and a couple of little brick pits, there is a shallow sand pit that often produces spectacular sport and there is also a narrow overgrown canal that fits the bill nicely. I also travel to a beautifully intimate gravel pit where the tench are slightly less numerous but also a little larger. So the simple answer to the question is, anywhere where the Tench are present in reasonable numbers.

Tench Baits - Basic but Effective
My favourite tench baits for float fishing with are maggots or casters. Used in multiples on a size 14 or 12 hook can be devastatingly effective. Unfortunately, Maggots have the disadvantage of being unselective and if your tench water has lots of small roach or rudd, the number of maggots/casters required to feed these ‘nuisance’ fish off can be prohibitive in terms of price.

A cost-effective alternative to using the maggots, is a combination of stewed wheat and hempseed. Both these baits are bought by the sack. To prepare wheat it should be simmered in a pan of boiling water until a large proportion of the grains have split to reveal the white (flour) inside. I tend to use two or three grains of wheat, presented on a size 12 or 10 hook.

Wheat is quite a dense bait and can be catapulted a good distance. I use the combination of wheat and hempseed loose feed for almost all my tench float fishing when maggots are impractical. I use so much wheat and hempseed that I tend to prepare both in large quantities, storing each separately in 1kg bags (cooked weight) in the freezer. 1kg of wheat and 1kg of hemp is about the most I would expect to use during a fairly hectic days sport. I would not feed this all at once of course. I tend to feed maybe half a dozen catapult pouches of bait initially, and from then on feed a couple of pouches of bait every ten minutes or every time I get a bite (which-ever is sooner).

Lobworms and Breadflake also make good hook baits. The lobs can be used whole on a size 8 hook or broken up into smaller pieces and nicked onto a size 12. Similarly, Breadflake can be used in a variety of sizes on whatever size of hook you deem appropriate. Smaller baits are better when it is necessary to cast any distance because the weight of a large hook-bait can contribute to tangles when float fishing.

“The learning and knowledge that we have, is, at the most, but little compared with that of which we are ignorant”: Plato

What might you ask has a quote from one of history’s most famous philosophers, to do with fishing and particularly with tench-fishing? Well, float fishing for tench involves the physical effort of watching for, interpreting and striking at the various indications. Any shortcomings in an angler’s technique are exposed (and believe me they will be). Consideration of fine detail should be afforded to any method, but this requirement is undoubtedly more ‘telling’ when float fishing. This is one of the real benefits of using a float because it teaches the angler to learn and adapt rather than just sitting there oblivious to the possibility that the mechanics of the technique are inefficient.

Float fishing for tench prompts constant evolution in technique and knowledge. There is no right way of doing it per se, it depends upon the whims of the Tench. On any given day I might change float or the position of the shots half a dozen times. Having said this it is well within everyone’s ability to catch a few tench so I will try to provide a basic description of some relevant tackle and tactics

Tench Float Tackle
I prefer quite long float rods for tench (by modern standards), 12ft would be my minimum length and I much prefer 13ft. A lot of tench fishing is close in work. Don’t be fooled into thinking a short rod is more suitable because of the distances involved. Line pick up is not so efficient with a 10 or 11ft rod and since tench bites can be quite fast, a short rod can culminate in them being missed. Fishing close to the rod tip is more accurate and less troublesome than if there were a few feet of line between rod tip and float so this also is better achieved with a long rod. Should the need arise, a long rod also casts much further, more accurately. Deep water is far easier to fish, with longer float rods. The advantages are many and varied.

If you are in the market for such a rod I would suggest the following models, all of which have the necessary attributes. Daiwa Powermesh Specialist Float 13ft, Greys TXL SL Float 13ft, Shakespeare Sigma Supra 13ft float and the Stillwater Matchstix 13ft float rod. All of these rods are more than up to the task and will not only deal with the medium sized fish being discussed but also very big tench.

Stillwater Matchstix Float Rod
With regard to reels, again there are lots of suitable models available. Top of my wishlist is the Daiwa Theory SP 3000 specialist. This has a large line capacity for float fishing purposes, but this is nothing that a little backing line won’t solve. The clutch is smooth and consistent once set, which is something highly desirable in a tench float reel. I also quite like some of the new Mitchell reels, in particular, the new Mitchell 300. The line guard or skirt around the spool of this reel looks to be of genuine benefit in preventing the line from getting trapped under the spool lip. The clutch is more than adequately smooth and the reel looks and feels robust enough to provide years of trouble-free service.

Daiwa Theory SP Reel
A compromise needs to be reached when choosing reel line for float fishing. Line needs to be robust enough to deal with the relevant ‘stresses’ yet sufficiently supple not to loop and tangle.

Using the float rods discussed it would be ‘impossible’ to break 4lb maxima by curving the rod around, using one hand to hold the rod as we do when playing fish. Slightly heavier, 5lb maxima, gives me the confidence to put the absolute maximum strain on a fish without even a remote chance of the line breaking. I’ve landed hundreds of carp to well over 25lb using such tackle so Tench should present no problem. Of course, this is reliant on your ability to tie good knots. Quite often I come across anglers who do get broken by fish, using such line and heavier. In almost every case they have been using a blood knot. If this is applicable to you then a change is necessary. The only three knots that I use are the overhand loop knot (for tying loops), the Palomar knot, and the Knotless knot for tying hooks to hook lengths.

I suspect that using a slightly finer (low diameter) hook length can produce more bites than would otherwise be the case, but I would always hesitate before doing this. You have to be a bit careful because I find those lines that are claimed to have almost ‘magical’ qualities in terms of stated breaking strain to diameter invariably have drawbacks. Certainly, they don’t possess the abrasion resistant qualities of most good mainline mono’s. My normal choice of L.D. hooklength material is Middy Low Vis fluorocrystal.
Middy Lo Vis Fluorocrystal
Having conducted tests on most of these hook-length lines with a micrometer and a set of scales, this stuff stood out. Being very thin it is still prone to damage when rubbed against weeds and the like, and its knot strength is not as high as that stated on the spool. However, this is something that applies to all of these L.D. hook length materials. I generally use the 0.16mm (5.2lb) strain.

I carry a selection of Kamasan B980 hooks in size 14 to 8 and I see no need to elaborate on this as they serve all my tench float fishing requirements. It is a pleasure to carry the bare minimum of tackle on these (often short) tench sessions. A fold up landing net is convenient to carry and takes up the minimum of space. I use the Korum Folding Triangle Net. If you are going to buy one of these you might as well buy the slightly bigger 28inch net. An 8ft net pole is usually long enough and telescopic models have the edge in terms of convenience.

You will also need something to sit on and there are lots of really good chairs available these days. I often cringe when I see anglers using a rod and reel, and sitting on a seat box. For pleasure fishing, a seat box is nothing less than heavy, cumbersome and uncomfortable. Do yourself a favour, get yourself a nice comfortable chair. The chair that I use most often is the Nash Indulgence Ultra-Lite Camo Chair. This as its name suggests, possesses all the necessary attributes to enable the angler to get to his chosen spot with the bare minimum of effort. The chair is high enough to enable me to get in and out of easily and I find the angle of the backrest perfect in terms of comfort. It doesn’t have armrests as these just get in the way when striking at bites.

Nash Indulgence Ultra-Lite Camo Chair
Most of my angling friends now own this chair, having seen how comfortable I am on the bank. At the same time that I sold them on the chair, I also recommended the Korum Ruckbag. These attach to the back of most chairs in transit, enabling almost the entirety of the tackle to be carried effortlessly on your back. I own both the standard and the compact version of the ruck bag but tend to favour the standard version for tench float fishing because it better accommodates the longer floats that I often carry. The rumor that I need the bigger ruckbag to get all my sandwiches in has some truth to it! Aside from the carrying convenience, I particularly like these rucksacks because the access to the contents is from the front, meaning you aren’t digging around for essential items that have become buried under everything else!

Terminal Tackle & Tactics.
The type of floats that are useful for tench fishing can be broadly categorised as wagglers. This name indicates that they are attached to the line at their base only, via a ring. There are two main ways of rigging such floats. Firstly they can be locked in place with split shot. This locking shot should comprise more than 50% of the floats capacity if the float is to cast without tangles. The remainder of the shot might be distributed in a number of ways which if I were to go into detail would require a lot more space than I am afforded in this piece, so I will restrict myself to a brief outline of its uses. The extra shot can be positioned in mid-water or below and utilised as a brake to prevent the float from being towed along by surface skim. The common term for shot used thus is 'bulk shot'.

Pellet Waggler Floats
The second use of this shot is as an anchor (self-explanatory) and also a trigger mechanism to indicate when a fish has moved off with the bait. To achieve this, a considerable amount of weight needs to be concentrated (usually just one big shot), set anything from a couple of inches to a foot or so over-depth, to lay well on the lake bed. Of course with a slack line between float and this shot laying on the lake bed, it will have no influence on the float. If you gently draw the float towards you then tighten the line between float and shot, pulling the float down so that only the tip is showing above the surface. When a tench picks up the hookbait and moves this anchor/trigger shot, the float will either rise or be submerged, depending on which direction the Tench moves.

The other way in which the float can be rigged is as a sliding float. This has benefits when fishing deep water and because it enables the entirety of the floats shot capacity to be positioned well below the floats depth setting, a sliding float arrangement has benefits in addressing the effects of severe surface skim.

The correct choice of Waggler is relevant to the circumstances in which you intend to fish. As a brief outline, the more difficult the conditions in terms of wind, surface skim, distance and depth, the longer the float will need to be. Similarly, the required buoyancy/thickness of the float's tip will need to increase as a means of overcoming surface skim and light flows such as those found on canals. Be aware that thicker/more buoyant float tips are harder for a fish to pull under. In some circumstances such as fishing very close in, more fish will be caught using a fine insert waggler, shotted down to the merest pimple on the surface.

Below is a diagram depicting two float rigs you might use in contrasting conditions. The left-hand rig will cope with fishing a long way out, it will cope with strong surface skim and being set up as a sliding float, it will be efficient in the deep water. Suggested float patterns for this rig include the Middy Bodied/SSG Wagglers and the Maver Bodied Wagglers with shot capacities as high as 6SSG.

Pellet Waggler Rigs

The rig on the right will not cope with any of the adverse conditions discussed but is far more efficient for fishing close in - in swims of moderate depth (2-6ft). I really like the middy loaded carp vis floats (with their interchangeable orange & yellow tips) for such work though I always remove the loading on such floats because I like the option of positioning more shot lower down the rig that would be possible with the loading in place.

One very useful item of tackle that I always incorporate into my float rigs, is the Middy Swivel Float Adaptor. This enables sliding floats to work (slide) more efficiently and perhaps, more importantly, it facilitates the quick and easy change of one float for another.

Middy Swivel Float Adaptor

And Finally If anyone reading this wants to learn more about tench, I would advocate joining the tenchfishers. This national organisation has an open membership with regular meetings and events. The members provide an endless stream of information. I myself was a member for several years. The only cautionary note I would add is that this flow of information is a two-way affair and if you want to take advantage of the many hundreds of hours experience contained within the group, you will be expected to contribute yourself.

This article was brought you in association with Chapmans Angling.  If you would like more information about Tench fishing techniques and tackle, you can contact us at Glasgow Angling Centre.  Alternatively, you can also call our expert Coarse Anglers at Chapmans Angling on 01482 639900.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

How to Tie the Palomar Knot

How to Tie the Palomar Knot
If you wish to hook and land seriously big fish, the Palomar knot is one knot that you should learn how to tie. It provides excellent grip upon both swivels and hooks, it retains masses of strength and it’s a very reliable knot to use too. If you are into LRF or Drop Shot Fishing, this is definitely a knot you want to master.

The reason why it is so strong is because two lengths of line pass through the hook or swivel so the load is spread out equally upon the line, as opposed to having just the one length of line wrapped through the eye of the hook or swivel.

What’s more, the more you pull this knot, the more secure it becomes.

Here is a breakdown of how to tie it…

Step 1: Fold your line over and thread it through the eye of the swivel or hook.

Step 2: Now loop the doubled-up line over and pass the tag end through the loop you have just formed.

Step 3: Pass the end of the doubled-up line over the swivel of the hook.

Step 4: Work the knot closed with your fingers and dampen it with saliva. Now gently pull the swivel or hook and the line away from each other to tighten.

Step 5: The finished knot should be compact and neat. Trim off the tag end and away you go!

It is a very simple knot to learn – anyone can tie this knot – and once mastered you will be sure that your link between line and fish is a strong one.

If you would like more information regarding knot and rig tying you can 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.

How to Fish Czech Nymph Style

Maybe you've overheard other fly anglers talking about their annual trip to the Czech Republic, seen pictures of fly boxes stuffed to the gunnels with Czech style weighted nymphs, or even tried Czech Nymphing without much success.  Then it is no surprise to learn that this style of fly fishing is extremely productive, and fun.  Why? If you were to turn over a few stones on the river bottom, you will discover nymphs and larvae are in abundance and form an indispensable part of the Trout's diet.  Therefore, learning to master the Czech Nymph fishing will give you some unforgettable sport.In this article we offer clear and practical advice on how to fish in this style, as well as highlight the tackle and techniques you need to learn.

Whether it’s Czech nymphing, Polish-style nymphing, or any other interpretation of these fixed-line methods – they all share one common theme; that of presenting flies at short range where a controlled, natural drift of the terminal tackle is achieved.

Although the presentation is paramount, the concept of this technique is ultimately to exploit fast, boisterous flows, or the deeper parts of a river. This is something that’s nigh on impossible to realise with more traditional methods when copious amounts of fly line snake across the river.

The Basic Method
Generally speaking, short-line nymphing involves lobbing your flies, leader and a short section of fly-line upstream at about 30 degrees to your position (diagram 1 below). Fished close together, a team of three heavy flies will sink quickly.

Cast 30 Degrees Upstream
With approximately a foot of fly line extending outside the rod tip, hold this clear of the surface, so the nine-foot leader angles steeply into the water. As your flies progress towards you, they should be tracked using the rod tip. Remember now, to guide the rod at a slightly slower pace than that of surface currents, because deep down on the streambed, friction between water and substrate reduces flow rates.

Allow Flies to Drift To One Side
The flies should be allowed to drift to one side of you and downstream (diagram 2 above) until a tensioned line causes them to lift off the bottom. As this can be a critical moment, don’t be in any hurry to hurtle the flies back upstream. During any drift, takes are determined by the fly-line stabbing forward (upstream), in a very positive manner, or the line hesitating. With the latter in mind, it’s as well to maintain a slight dogleg between fly line and leader (diagram 3). Once the flies are on the dangle, using a long, lazy sweep of the fly rod, present your flies at a different place upstream once more.

Watch Out For Stabbing Takes

The Fly Set-Ups
Many consider a three-fly set-up the norm when short line, Czech-style nymphing because this provides increased weight and gives the angler many options with regards to fly choice. As a rule, the flies are arranged on short dropper legs no more than 20 inches apart. It’s customary too to attach the heaviest fly on the middle dropper (diagram 4 below). The idea is that all three flies are now presented closer to the stream bed while allowing a marginally lighter point fly some degree of freedom to waft about seductively (diagram 5 below).

Fly Set-up
Fly Set-Ups for Czech Nymphing
Where shallow runs, riffles with boulders, or weedy channels occur, a two-fly rig goes some way to avoiding constant snagging. Again these can be arranged on some nine feet of leader overall with the heaviest pattern occupying the dropper position (diagram 6 above).

Tackle Choice
Rods rated for 3-5wt lines that are 10-11ft in length are perfect for fixed-line nymphing. More lofty outfits provide a greater reach, which in turn allows for slightly longer casts/drifts and more control over terminal tackle. As casting in the true sense isn’t necessary and with only yards of leader protruding, a more forgiving, softer rod blank cushions the blows of large, or hard-fighting fish. Something along the lines of a Greys Streamflex is ideal.

Greys Streamflex Fly Rod
Regarding a suitable fly line for Czech Nymphing, the Airflo Euro Nymph Fly Line is hard to beat.  This super thin specialist nymph line is built on a non-stretch core for maximum feel and features Airflo's super -dri coating so it floats extremely high in the water.

Airflo Euro Nymph Fly Line
Granted, the reel merely stores line, but because fish are hooked literally at your feet and can hare off in fast currents then something dependable is required, which is why a disc drag model such as a Hardy FW DD Fly Reel is recommended.  Despite its incredibly low weight, it offers an exceptionally smooth drag, which is important when fishing lighter lines and leaders.
Hardy FW DD Fly Reel
A straight through (level) leader of some nine feet will suffice and because it’s more abrasion resistant, fluorocarbon is a suitable choice. The idea is that level monofilament possesses less surface area than a tapered leader and therefore cuts through water more readily to help achieve depth. As for turnover, the sheer weight of heavy bugs provides impetus here. Given normal river flows, 5lb breaking strain should suffice and gives you some hope of retrieving flies that snag bottom. Where heavy water or floods occur, then step this up to 6-7lb breaking strain.  If you opt for a French Leader, you can't go far wrong with a Hends Camou French Leader.

Hends Camou French Leader
Another popular choice for Czech Nymphing is Rio Two Tone Indicator Tippet which offers a hi-vis two-tone indicator for maximum strike detection.

Rio 2-Tone Indicator Tippet

Which Water to Target
When this method came to the fore, naturally the whole idea was to target fish which held in seemingly impenetrable pools. Generally, good results are expected in faster water from thigh to waist depth.
However, as invertebrate colonies populate all types of streamy water, then you should look to search a whole range of areas that include calf-depth riffles to deep, rocky channels. By tweaking leader set-ups coupled with the angle of approach, it’s possible to search any area with appreciable flows.

Boulders and pocket water are a natural draw to trout and sometimes grayling. Because of swirling currents, these can be notoriously difficult to master. However, as no fly line comes into contact with surface currents, short-line nymphing is well suited to these water types.

Something else that needs consideration is the time of year. High summer and low levels point to depleted oxygen when trout seek out fast, agitated currents for comfort. Conversely, come a raging flood in the depths of winter, Grayling will prefer spots where turbulent flows are deflected, or fall slack, like the inside corner of a sweeping bend for example (see diagram 7 below).

Seek Out Fast, Agitated Currents
Keep On The Move
For any form of subsurface fishing, searching tactics should be used to find our quarry. If you are using a fixed, short line, then remember to only make two casts from one position before taking a pace or two in your preferred direction. Better still, aim to grid reference the section of water you’re planning to fish and make a methodical blanket sweep of this (diagram 8 below). Furthermore, where fish are encountered, it’s important to make several probing casts from the same position, before moving on. This is especially important where grayling are concerned, which have a reputation for packing tightly together.

Cover The Water
Swapping Flies
As you progress through a pool, the depth will vary considerably and many anglers might feel the need to change flies in a bid to deal with these fluctuations. In many respects, this remains impractical simply because you will ultimately end up continually swapping nymphs rather than fishing.

Fulling Mill Sparkle Orange Czech Mate
Where water less than knee depth occurs, aim to pitch your flies more broadside on (see diagram 9 below). This subjects them and the entire leader to the effects of the flow. A tensioned line now prevents them from sinking too quickly, so they remain higher in the water.

Pitch Your Flies Broadside
Conversely, angling casts directly upstream (diagram 10 below) reduces any tell from currents on your leader system, allowing the flies to plunge deeper.

Angling Casts Directly Upstream
Naturally, casts placed at different angles between these two extremes will alter the speed at which your flies descend, thus allowing you to explore different water depths using the same weighted patterns.

Handy Box of Czech Nymphs
As highlighted, learning to master Czech Nymph style fishing will give you some unforgettable sport.  And because the focus is on presenting the flies at close quarters using a longer rod, it is also a very relaxing method with not a lot of casting involved.  So the next time you are Trout or Grayling fishing, and struggling to catch fish using traditional dry or wet fly methods, why not give Czech Nymphing a try and you might just surprise yourself how effective it is!

For more advice on the short-line method, don't forget you can visit us instore at Glasgow Angling Centre or Edinburgh Angling Centre where our friendly helpful staff can help you with any aspect of Czech Nymphing or Game Angling in general.

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

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

How to Quickly Unhook a Sea Fish

How To Quickly Unhook A Sea Fish
Watching an experienced sea angler remove a hook from a fish and it looks so natural. It's all over in a split second. However, for many novices and even some experienced anglers, it can be a traumatic and challenging task, especially if the fish is hooked deeply.

The welfare of the fish is your first consideration, but because the majority of fish are small, many less than 1lb, and because standard are hooks fairly large at around size 2 to 2/0, there is a chance that the fish’s small mouth can be damaged unless we are careful.
Mustad Uptide Viking Hook

If you are fishing for the pot, and lots of sea anglers still do, then damaging the fish isn't an issue because it has already been dispatched. However, if you want to return most of the smaller fish you catch, removing deeply embedded hooks is a skill you have got to master. Preventing fish taking hooks deeply is not an option. You can use bigger hooks, although when they contact a fish they may do more damage. The problem is compounded by the fact that most of the species we catch eat first, swallow second.

Striking early can help, but it is not a consistent solution and often the range we fish at, and the tackle used only registers a bite when a fish, in all probability, is already hooked. So, you can't get around the fact you have got to remove hooks efficiently.
Savage Gear Long Nose Pliers
Unhooking quickly is mostly about angles. You need to manoeuvre the hook so that you are pulling against the barb only. Anglers have significant problems because they pull against the hook bend. Practice will make you efficient, and if you struggle, get an experienced angler to show you the correct method.

Disgorgers, pliers and forceps can all be used to make the task more manageable and less harmful to the fish, but again there is a technique and skill to the process. A disgorger is not a shortcut to easy unhooking if you don't know how to use it!

Long-shanked hooks are easier to remove than short-shank hooks. Short shanks may present a bait better, but long-shanks are the easiest to remove, only because there is more of the shank to grab so you can twist, angle, bend or push to get it free.

Soft-wire hooks are another commonly used option, although these can straighten when pulled and a sharp barb can cut the fish internally. Micro barbed or even barbless hooks are other options.

A significant amount of stretch in monofilament line fished at long range can allow a barbless hook to fall out. However, fishing with barbless hooks is only practical at short range and for conservation sea fishing.

A compromise is to use a crushed barb. Simply squash the barb with a pair of pliers; this way you retain a fish holding bump at the hook point rather than a sharp barb.

Forceps are excellent for unhooking
Another alternative is to use much smaller hooks. Coarse anglers catch giant fish on tiny hooks and it is possible to do this at sea, providing your tackle is balanced, and your catch does not have to be lifted.

Sea match anglers are increasingly adopting hooks down to size 10 because of the increase in catch and release events, and these are far easier to remove without damaging the fish. Small hooks are also easier to remove with a freshwater-type disgorger. A freshwater disgorger is useful for removing smaller hooks from Flatfish.
Wychwood Ex-Ceed Disgorger
Lots of sea anglers use their finger as a disgorger. Here you simply push your finger into the bend of the hook, push the hook and remove. Great for toothless fish, but not so easy with species like Whiting, which have dozens of tiny razor-like teeth.
Gemini Disgorger

Gemini makes one of the best disgorgers around. It is excellent for Dogfish, Whiting, and other species with small teeth that can make a mess of your fingers.  Using your right-hand, simply slide the eye of the disgorger on to the line and push it down to the hook bend. Pull the hook snood line tight with the left hand in the opposite direction and shake the fish and it should fall off the hook.

For boat fishing or bigger fish like Congers, Cod, and Ling, use a larger T-bar disgorger, which works on the same principle as the Gemini.

Leeda T-Bar Disgorger
Returning fish after the hook has been removed is simply a matter of slipping them back in the water gently and as quickly as you can. There is a range of potential problems you can encounter, such as a long drop to the water when fishing from piers and cliffs, and while some species are more delicate than others, the size of the fish makes a big difference to its potential survival.

Placing a small fish in a bucket of water allowing it time to recover before returning it can also improve the survival rate.

Support the weight of the fish when releasing
At the point of release, shore-caught fish should be supported by two hands, one at the tail, one under the belly, and held facing into the oncoming surf. Hold the fish until it regains its strength, and it will indicate by moving its tail and flexing its body when it is ready to go.

When releasing fish from rocks, man-made structures, and boats into the deeper water, lower the fish as close to the water as you can, then drop them in head first. The vertical entry seems to help fish recover quicker. This technique also works from boats too.

Careless handling of fish is a primary cause of casualties. Many delicate species, like Pollack, Pout, and Cod, lose scales and slime and are prone to dropping when they wriggle.

Wetting your hands before handling your fish is always reccomended, although many anglers consider it better not to handle small fish at all if possible. The slime coat in fish is composed of a mucoprotein that serves as the frontline barrier to keep essential fluids and electrolytes in the fish. Any break in the slime coat is akin to a cut or abrasion on our skin.

Anytime something brushes against the slime coat, it is disturbed. Handling, hooking, or even netting a fish, causes a significant disturbance of the slime coat. Biting or nipping by other fish, are another prime cause of damage.

There will always be brief distress to the fish when caught but by wetting your hands when handling you will help keep the protective coating intact as much as possible and this will make a big difference compared to using dry hands or gloves. Some species can be handled by the mouth which causes less damage to their flanks.

Hanging them from the hook snood is a better alternative than gripping the body. Dogfish, Smoothhounds, and Rays are more robust and can be handled causing them less harm, but you should be mindful of the rough skin and thorns.

Berkley PVC Fishing Bag
There are several ways to preserve fish for the pot, especially when they are caught early in a session on a hot day. Gutting the fish prevents the flesh going soft quickly, as does keeping fish separate from one another. Lay them in a covered cool box, bag or fish box. Don't cram them in a plastic bag and then leave them in the sun.

If you would like more information regarding unhooking your fish 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, 15 May 2018

Shooting Head or Spey Line?

Being able to read the conditions and choosing the right size Salmon fly can make or break your day. It's also important to use the right Salmon Fly Line for the circumstances at hand. However, with the increased popularity of shooting-head fly-lines in recent times, confusion still prevails about what line to use. Do you stick with a Spey Line or should you opt for a shooting head?

Shooting heads are more comfortable to cast than longer spey lines, and make life easier when dealing with sink-tips and heavy flies, but what about from a fishing perspective? What are the advantages and disadvantages of fishing with one over the other? To answer that question you have to look at the influence of the river on both thick and thin lines, particularly how you want the fly to work in the water.

Mackenzie DTX Spey Line
A thicker line will be more susceptible to the force of the current than a thin line because there is more of it for the river to carry. In a smooth flow where the river moves at the same speed all the way from near bank to far bank, a fly fished on a "longer" spey line will swing faster and come round on to the dangle sooner than one fished on a shooting head. This is because the river can exert more force on the full length of the spey line than it can on the relatively short shooting head, which is attached to a thin running line.

Fishing River With An Even Flow
In contrast, if you are fishing a river with an even flow (see image above) it is recommended that you choose a spey line for late-spring and summer when the water is warmer. This is because the fish are more active and you really want your fly to move at a reasonable speed. In colder conditions, when you want to fish slower and deeper, it is better to use a shooting head. By keeping your rod tip high, you can hold the running line off the water and precisely control how and where the fly fishes. So if you are only carrying a spey line and conditions call a for slower swing speed, the best approach would be to use upstream mends to slow the fly.

In a river with an uneven flow (see image below), where the central main channel is moving fast, the slack water near the bank will cause a fly fished on a shooting head to stop swinging and sink. The solution to this problem is to strip line, which keeps the fly moving, something that you have to do anyway to re-cast. A spey line will keep the fly moving at a more consistent speed as it comes round into the slack water.

Fishing River With An Uneven Flow
If you are fishing a river with an uneven flow, you can use a shooting head or spey line for late spring and summer. The fish should be lying in the faster, more oxygenated water and you will be able to present your fly to the Salmon with either line – however, the shooting head perhaps offers a little more control. In the colder conditions of early spring and autumn, when fish are likely to be holding in the slower water near the bank, the best approach would be to use a spey line so that you don’t have to strip the fly on every cast to keep it moving.
Guideline 3D+ Shooting Heads
In the past, some of the great Salmon anglers used a double taper line. Double taper and spey lines are easier to mend than modern shooting heads and shorter spey lines. But ultimately, success is all about watercraft and correctly presenting the fly, or as well as you possibly can.

One of the key elements in Salmon fishing is the speed and angle that the fly is fished. Therefore, casting a progressively longer line at varying angles culminates in a long downstream cast. So by holding the rod tip high, it will slow down your small fly as it swung from side to side.

Control The Speed Of Your Fly
Fishing for Salmon is all about controlling the speed of the fly, so a shooting head provides an easier tool with which to produce the same result. Shooting heads are more effective in slowing the fly during the first third of the swing. However, there are occasions when deep wading and fishing the fly on a short line will produce results but a long line won't. So to re-emphasise, it is all about the speed and angle that the fly is fished in a particular part of the pool that matters. 

Reading the pool and knowing where the fish are likely should be your central focus. Once you know that, it’s all about how to target them best with the tools you have. Some ghillies would argue that most salmon are caught between 15 and 25 yards from the angler. At these distances, you can fish the fly precisely the way you want. And if you can read the water, understand where the fish may be and know how to cover them, then all you have to do is be able to control your fly correctly.

Read The Pool Correctly
In summary, the right line to use is the one that allows you to cover the water, and the fish, most effectively. Remember, the thicker the line, the more the force of the river will act on it. A shooting head will move faster but is more comfortable to control due to the thin running line. In contrast, a traditional spey line will move at a consistent speed and is easier to mend (which is particularly useful when wading) however it is more difficult to control the depth at which the fly swims.

If you are a beginner who has learned to cast with shooting-head lines, it is worth making the step up and learning to cast a spey line as it will give you more options as to how you fish a pool, particularly once the water warms in May and throughout the summer months.

For more information, or help with choosing the right Spey Line or Shooting Head, visit us instore at Glasgow Angling Centre, or if you are through in the East, Edinburgh Angling Centre.  Alternatively, if you would like more help and advice, you can call us on 0141 212 8880.

This article was brought to you in association with Trout & Salmon Magazine.
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