Catch Fish with
For anyone unfamiliar with the site always check the FRESHWATER, SALTWATER and TACK-TICS pages. The Saltwater page now extends back as a record of over several years of (mostly) sea fishing and may be a useful guide as to when to fish. The Freshwater stuff is also up to date now. I keep adding to both. These pages are effectively my diary and the latest will usually be about fishing in the previous day or two. As you see I also add the odd piece from my friends and correspondents if I've not been doing much. The Tactics pages which are chiefly 'how I do it' plus a bit of science are also updated regularly and (I think) worth a read (the earlier ones are mostly tackle and 'how to do it' stuff).
13 December 2007
More hard tack!
After I'd written the last piece about tough fish and strong spinning gear I had the following email from my pal Steve.
Just read your latest web page and agree with most of what you say.
It is often a compromise between using over-engineered rods and reels (excess weight) and the rare occasions when a really large fish comes along and then the usual gear stands little chance. We've landed good fish over the years on those beastmasters and 4000 sized reels, so have proven that it can be done.
I do think though that we have lost fish and certainly have had to play big fish for a very long time on this gear. The longer we've had to play fish for the greater the chance of hooks straightening/pulling out and line and traces wearing through. Getting fish in quickly is an advantage and a smooth, powerful, well set drag is the key to tiring fish quicker. The 6000 sized Stellas and the Diawa Saltigas are an ideal size for shore fishing.
The 10k and 20k sized fixed spools are still no match for hauling out tuna and billfish when really a 50lb class boat rod and multiplier are what is needed to get sufficient leverage. However, you can't (easily) fish a popper (or a fly!!!) on a boat rod and multiplier, so the big fixed spools with the high-performance drags and tough innards do at least make this very exciting type of fishing possible, rather than just dragging a lure behind the boat as in trolling, you can have a much more active part in casting, retrieving and (more importantly) hooking your own fish when fishing for large pelagic species from a boat.
There are limits to the size of fish that can be landed on a fixed spool reel, but the limits seem to be increasing all the time as all the component parts of the tackle are perfected and anglers themselves are better prepared e.g. on the caranx website some of the guys who regularly catch 75kg + tuna and 50kg GTs on fixed spool gear have pre-trip fitness programs and do specific body-building to strengthen legs and arms. They also develop different techniques to pump fish hard, using their legs rather than their arms (that makes sense) and they may apply 20kg or more of drag - much more than I could manage without the rod cracking my ribs (me too ML). Extreme fishing and not for the faint-hearted.
Lures - Have a look at the two attached pictures.
The first is a picture of a Sert Killer Pop I bought for the last trip. I upgraded the split rings (150lb) and hooks, replacing with 4X 4/0 Owner barbless trebles. At home, the lure looked huge and the trebles ridiculously crude.
Second picture is of my largest GT. The same lure is by it's mouth and it looks much smaller - certainly nowhere near too big.
There was no doubt, at the end of this last trip that the bigger, splashier lures sorted out the biggest fish. We still caught good fish on smaller lures mind you (jobfish, snapper, bluefin trevally etc.), but there was always a chance that a bigger fish would take a small lure and the hooks and rings probably wouldn't have lasted long under the pressure.
As I mentioned to you - I've come to the conclusion that I'm not built for hauling in 50kg tuna, but it is an experience that I was glad to 'enjoy' and whilst there are times during the fight, when you wonder why the hell you put yourself through it, when you do land a monster it is a wonderful feeling, as you can see by my stupid grin in the second picture.
I replied and asked Steve whether they wore butt pads to protect them from being disembowelled when playing big fish. Here's what he said -
I was a pansy and opted for a butt pad on most occasions, but Bruce (tough South African that he is) tended to position the last 12 inches of the rod butt between his legs - I think to the left side of his groin, but I didn't wish to appear to be paying too much attention in that dept.
This gave him plenty of leverage and his hands were usually above the grips (see pic) when applying max pressure.
In the previous mail I mentioned using your legs, rather than arms. The technique, when pumping fish up, is to lock the arm holding the rod and bend the knees, whilst winding down (with the other hand) to take up the line. Then, instead of using the arms, stand up and lean back. This uses the leg and back muscles, rather than the biceps, which are likely to tire much quicker. I guess it's like a weight lifter doing squat presses. The process is repeated until the fish is near the surface, then the arms are used in the final stages to haul the fish in on a short line.
You need the drag screwed right down for this to work, so as to get the maximum lift for the effort involved, otherwise the drag will release line when you stand up each time. I never quite mastered the technique and used a combination of the old bend and heave to pump fish. Probably the reason why I found it hard going and the muscles in my arms felt like they were going to explode after 10 minutes of sustained pressure.
Even under what appears to be maximum drag pressure, these fish can still pull line off. There is a very real danger that they will pull the rod from your hands, so when they do crash-dive, it's a question of inter-locking your fingers around the rod grip, gritting your teeth and just holding on for dear life until they stop. It really can be a painful experience - not unlike a runner 'hitting the wall'
You may notice that I am wearing a pair of gloves in most of the pics. I found on the previous trip that all that heavy popping for 10 days gave me sore hands. Bear in mind that you are also flyfishing the flats and your hands get wet a lot, so this time I took some leather-palmed cycling gloves for the popping work and they were really useful when playing fish. I'd recommend anyone doing this sort of fishing to use gloves and they are also handy when leadering and handling fish. They assist your grip, avoid blisters and cuts and also protect the backs of your hands from sunburn.
I would imagine that a fighting chair and /or harness is the only way to subdue and land even bigger fish like marlin etc. Having said that, some very large fish have been landed on 14wt fly gear. Lots of time and a mile of backing is probably the secret here and I think that the fish will suffer during such prolonged battles.
So that's the way to do it. Anyone who is contemplating a trip to 'tuna territory' would be well advised to go on an SAS type training course and fit themselves out with decent gear.
If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you!' get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to - firstname.lastname@example.org
That's the way to do it!