January fishing lessons

In the first half of January the weather was good for fishing: not too cold and not too windy. I like the winter. It is much quieter on the bank, with fewer people about, and this enhances the feeling of getting away from it all.

Curt came for a lesson. One of the first things he learned was how to bait the hook:

Baiting the hook

We were using pinkies for bait, a type of small maggot, half the size of the usual ones. When the water is cold, the fish aren’t as hungry and smaller baits can be more effective. Soon he was fishing, with just me and a swan for company:

Winter lake fishing

The fish were a bit elusive to start with, but eventually he caught his first ever fish – a small perch:

Curt's first fish

Next I showed him how to set up the rod and reel:

Setting up the rod and reel

After a casting tutorial, he was able to fish further out into the lake, and after missing a few bites, caught this roach. Not big, but the fact he caught it indicated he was starting to master the skills of casting, line control, striking and retrieving:

Curt's roach

Beth and Dan were looking to take up fishing as an outdoor activity they could do together. I started them off whip fishing and they both caught roach and perch. Here is Dan with a perch.

Dan's perch

We moved on to the rod and reel, where there is quite a lot to learn including assembling the tackle, adjusting the drag and how to bring a fish in. Learning to cast is quite easy:

Learning to cast

It is crucial to learn how to undo the inevitable tangles around the reel and wind the line back on neatly, as Beth is doing here:

Fixed spool reel line control

For the last 45 mins we went back to fishing. As the light started to go, we had a bit of a magic spell during which Beth caught several good sized perch on the whip, while Dan was getting a bite every cast with the waggler float on the rod and reel. It is quite common at any time of year for the fish to start biting more freely as dusk approaches.


Matt and his son Seb had never fished before but hoped it might become a shared interest in the future. I got them to work together where possible, for example, threading the line through the rings of the rod:

Father and son fishing

They both caught a few fish:

Matt's roach

Seb was surprised at how hard even a small perch can pull! He also learned that you have to concentrate on the float at all times, as otherwise you miss the bites. As the session drew to a close, Matt was in the zone and focused:

Winter lake fishing

When the whiting are biting

Over Christmas I was in Devon with family, so of course I took some fishing tackle with me. After a couple of days of turkey, mince pies, drink etc I was ready for some fresh air, so I headed out for a spot of rock fishing.

I wanted to check out a potential new fishing location (or ‘mark’ in sea angling parlance), in Plymouth. In the event I didn’t like the look of it, so it was back to Torbay to a mark I had fished before.

By the time I got there it was low water, about half past two, so I would be fishing a rising tide with the light gradually fading. This is often a good set of circumstances for sea fishing.

I cast out quite a long way, beyond the rocks onto clean sand. It was then a matter of putting the rod onto a tripod, tightening up the line and watching for signs of fishy interest.

Rock fishing

It didn’t take long for the rod tip to twitch, signalling that somewhere out there a fish had located my worm bait on the bottom. I soon caught a dogfish, then a bit later, a nice whiting:

Whiting

After it got dark, I started holding the rod, keeping the line taut over my fingers. Fishing like this, you can feel the line pulse and twitch when the fish attack the bait. It’s a rather weird sensation, especially in the dark when your sense of touch seems to be heightened.

By the time I packed up at high tide, I had caught several good sized whiting and some pouting (smaller than whiting, but members of the same cod family). All the whiting came at long range while the pouting where close in, by the rocks.

The next day my brother-in-law converted the whiting into fish and chips. He is a dab hand in the kitchen (no pun intended). Served up with some sea beet he had foraged, they were good eating, quite delicate.

Practice pays off

Fly fishing beginner Keith returned for a trout session having taken my 1hr casting lesson a few weeks back. I was glad to hear that he had been practising in his local park. We started off with a 45 minute casting refresher. His hard work had paid off in the form of consistently narrow loops. There were a few things still to work on, but he was clearly going to be able to present his flies to the trout OK.

We did some dry land exercises to simulate bringing in a fish. This is well worthwhile – when you hook your first ever trout, you don’t want to lose it. Then we went through the knots and connections needed to rig up a rod and line from scratch, and discussed tackle and tactics for trout fishing at Rib Valley.

It was time to start fishing. With a damsel nymph on a floating line, Keith set to work covering the water. No takes were forthcoming for a while, but there was plenty to learn and practise including how to get the line and fly onto the water to start with, roll casting, retrieving the line and striking.

No action after 30 minutes; time for a change. Casting was going well so I figured we could get away with two flies without the risk of tangles. A daddy longlegs went on the dropper and a black and green lure on the end:

Black and green trout fly

We moved down the lake to the windward end. On about the fifth cast Keith’s rod took on a bend as he struck into a fish:

Playing a trout

He kept the line tight and brought it to the landing net in good style – his first ever trout:

Keith's trout

That was on the black and green – a consistent fish taker here. It was now the end of the lesson but I asked Keith if he minded me taking a few pictures while he fished on.

First he had to change to barbless hooks for catch and release fishing. Amongst his newly purchased flies we found a small black lure to go on the end and a dry daddy for the dropper. I figured the latter would float for a bit before being pulled under on the retrieve. It looked very obvious bobbing on the wavelets and I remarked that it would be nice to see a trout take it. Shortly afterwards that’s exactly what happened as a spotted head appeared and engulfed it!

Keith was on his game and connected with a smooth strike. He unhooked this fish in the net as we were going to release it (trout are best not removed from the water):

Unhooking a trout

I suspect Keith will be practising again soon to develop his casting further and pave the way to more success in the future.

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