Catch fish with Mike Ladle.

Catch Fish with
Mike Ladle


Information Page

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 four 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. 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 so if you are new to fly fishing or spinning these are the ones for you).

10 March 2007.

Sex and blanks.

I expect the number of hits on my website will rise astronomically because of this week's page title. Sex! Sex! It's all getting a bit risque. The truth is that the weather has again been dire so I have to write about something other than fish caught. Why should you care about what sex the fish on the end of your line is? Well of course it probably makes little difference to whether it will take the bait (although in the case of salmon and trout it does at times) or to what the fish looks like (males and females are often VERY difficult to tell apart - fortunately the fish are able to distinguish). However, male and female coarse fish behave differently as spawning approaches and the females are often larger and heavier than males.

Take dace for example. This week I caught quite a few of these lovely silver fish from my local river. It is getting towards the time of year when dace spawn by laying their eggs on the stony bottom of clean gravel runs in fast flowing water. The sexes tend to form separate shoals and the males gather on the spawning grounds first. Shortly afterwards the females arrive, so you could catch predominantly one or the other depending on where you were fishing. The ones I caught were mostly males but I did land a single female and I took a picture of a pair for comparison. I expect that you'll look at the picture and say "What's the difference?" Well the male is a little slimmer and flatter in the belly and faintly less silvery but you need the 'eye of faith' to distinguish them unless you've had a fair bit of practice. However, as you hold the fish in your wet hand to unhook it all will become clear. The male will feel as though it is covered in sandpaper and the female will be as smooth and slippery as well soaped eel. In fact the skins of the males become so rough and slimeless that they often pick up a brown growth of algae. Simple!

In a few species such as minnows (they really do form separate sex shoals) or bream there are colour differences between the sexes but of course most species spawn within the statutory close season for rivers so you might never see them unless you fish ponds or lakes at spawning time.

In fact I've been fishing a couple of times since my last piece. One morning Ben and I went down to the coast (just to have a look!) and came home again after finding it not only unfishable but dangerous. The next time we went piking. The river was bank-full but clearing nicely. The first spot I tried was up a little ditch off the main river. It was only five minutes before I had a bite (a fish of 8-10lb). It was a fantastic lunging take in the glassy calm, clear water but I pulled out of it and it went off with my bait. At the next spot I missed a smaller fish twice (not my day) and that was that - no more bites even from a couple of spots that looked perfect. Still it was a lovely morning - spring's almost here.

Mr and Mrs Dace.

The male is uppermost and it's a pity that the picture isn't a 'feely'.

Never mind!

Ben was standing as far as it was safe to go.  We needed to fish another fifty metres out.


The daffodils look good but note the bank high turbulent water - not ideal for piking.

If at first you don't succeed.

Ben tries again in the little ditch where I dropped my first pike.  In fact he'd scared another fish from the grass at his feet when he approached - it wouldn't take either.