I felt a bit more prepared for this one. When this LRF thing first started properly for us in 2009, Mevagissey was the first place that I ever fished with this kind of tackle. I even remember the first session there, catching millions of pollack on 2″ Sawamura One-Up Shads. Even though I’ve only fished there infrequently over the past few years I feel like I know it reasonably well at least. So no need to stress about practising or rubbish like that.
This week I even tied a few rigs in advance. This is something I’ve been doing for almost the past 18 months now after discovering the Cralusso Fine Match Quick Swivel Snaps. I now tie one of these to the end of my braid, and simply switch rig types to my heart’s content – without having to re-tie or waste time while I’m fishing. Everything is done in advance. Apart from carrying a couple of spare swivels with me just in case I do lose the whole lot, I don’t even really need to take any extra line, clips or anything out to the coast with me. I have everything I need, already tied. I know some of our customers struggle with tying leader knots in very light braids, so these swivels will be your saviour. I just tie them to my braid using a Uni/Grinner knot (normally with doubled over braid and around 6 or 8 turns).
Anyway, with my rigs tied and a prior knowledge of what I might catch and where I might catch it, this was a very chilled out evening.
All of the guys were in good spirits as usual, and despite there only being 6 of us this week (which does nothing but add to the level of chilled banter and camaraderie). I’d some dressed expecting rain, head to toe in Shimano Goretex. Typically this had the reverse effect on what the weather Gods were supposed to be thinking and it stayed dry and mild all evening.
To cut the full story a little shorter, I got nicely lucky this week in the form of a couple of species that I’d not expected, or even realised were on my line. A mini bass showed up while I was trying for a mackerel, and a poor cod took a fancy for my Scorpion intended Isome. The latter didn’t feel the need to show any definitive form of bite whatsoever, so I just happened to find him on the end of my line when I went to lift off bottom. I fished a fairly heavy putty weight all evening and expect a lighter one fixed closer to the hook may have told me he was there a little sooner. I did rub my hands together a little bit once I’d hauled all 2oz of him up the harbour wall though. A nice addition to the four species I’d already caught at that point.
To go backwards in time a couple of hours, I started with a little Ballan Wrasse on an Ecogearaqua bait, right down the inside on the outer wall. I spotted a little shoal of them and luckily caught this one on my first attempt at them. I was hoping he’d be followed by one or two of the other wrasse species, but they were weirdly difficult to catch during the evening, as we progressed.
Dragonettes are something that I first saw caught at Mevagissey during a Lure Festival evening that we had down there three or four years ago. Mostly out in front on the clean ground at that point, on tiny bits of Marukyu Isome, but it seemed that the likes of Luke, Simon, Will etc had since worked out that they could be caught at much closer quarters. Further along the outer wall from me I saw Luke land one so I followed suit under my rod tip doing the same and caught mine about 5 minutes later.
Funny, spiky little things (on top of the head), so be careful with these! With potential Mackerel, Pollack and Bass cruising the open water in front of us, I switched rigs and popped on a metal casting jig next, hoping for one of those mentioned. First cast I hit a pollack, so right about now I was thinking that maybe I’d do OK result wise.
I forget the ins and outs exactly but with lots of laughing in between, eventually I decided to have a go at a Blenny next. I’ve never caught many at Mevagissey but I do know where they hang out. Luckily there were more about than normal even and I could see them drifting about on the wall – a long way off the bottom – perhaps just a few feet below the waters surface. The bigger one of the group I was watching was far more interested in my weight than the lure, but eventually I annoyed him in to having it. Job done!
Then came the super-fluke Poor Cod and eventually… A BASS! A mackerel would have done just as well, but there’s something more exciting about the Bass. Tiny he may have been, but at least he was an intended target at the time.
With the tide ebbing I think we could all feel the fishing becoming a little harder as darkness drew closer. I was really happy with the end result. Mostly just because I’d had a relaxed evening and everything just seemed to work out for me. I won the round with my six species. 🙂
Luke Fox was second with 4 and Simon Knill just pipped Will Pender for third thanks to superior species points – both with 3 species.
- Ben Field – Centre (6)
- Luke Fox – Left (3)
- Simon Knill – Right (3)
I like these little LRF competitions. Chatting with Paul Godwin while we were down at Hayle this Wednesday, we agreed that organised evenings like this are just the motivation you need sometimes to drag yourself away from the rest of life and whatever it entails.
Going against nearly all of my own advice after struggling in round one, I just couldn’t find the time or motivation to pop down there for a practice beforehand. It’s just too tricky sometimes. Or at least too easy to make excuses not to. Although I organised the event and was here last year, I didn’t fish and hadn’t done so before – bar a little bit of exploration with Ben Tregonning (now at Farlows in London) about 5 years ago. Things were very much more basic then from an LRF point of view and I believe we were there solely for a go at the Gilthead Bream so ignored everything else.
So, this round was to be an adventure. I found a little time in the shop during the afternoon to sort through a few pieces of kit (and cut things back quite a bit actually) and felt happy enough that I’d got everything I might need.
Species Hunter’s Checklist
- Split shot – check.
- Small hooks – check.
- Heavy dropshot weights – check.
- Marukyu Isome………. ermmmmm…….. (more on that in a bit).
Hayle is a weird kind of place to fish. In the mouth of the estuary, you have to contend with absolutely insane amounts of current as the water gushes through a couple of bridged archways as it fills up the large saltmarsh type pools behind you. The Mullet love it here, as do the Gilts. Almost anything seems to turn up though. It is just so different fishing in such amounts of current.
From a competitive point of view, I think it became evident that you just need to get your timings right to make the most of the potential species present. Obviously you have the rising tide, the slack bit in the middle, and then the dropping tide (if you’re fishing over high). During the rise and fall you need to be picking your target areas carefully. Slack water is a chance to explore some of the previously unfishable bits (when the water is just gushing too fast). Some of the more difficult species need to be targeted at the right times too. For example, Luke Fox caught the only Ballan Wrasse this week (three actually!) over slack water in one particular spot that was unfishable with either a fast flooding or ebbing tide. Will Pender knew exactly what he was doing when he charged straight down to the sandier parts of the estuary mouth while the tide was flooding to quickly nab not just the Weaverfish he was after, but also a bonus Dragonette! This kind of foresight and experience is what separates the likes of Will from the rest of us on venues that they know well. Incidentally, I used Will’s example from last year; Not knowing how to fish the place, when we left the Asda carpark I headed straight to the spot that I’d watched him start in last year. Aaron and Simon were right behind me so although we missed Will’s memo about starting further out, Aaron assured me we were in the right place. Three of us standing shoulder to shoulder on one 6 foot section of concrete gives you an idea of how cosy this LRF malarkey can be.
I wish I’d taken more photos to give you a better idea of the venue, but it was definitely one of the more fun evenings we’ve had at this kind of thing. The fishing was a challenge but I really enjoyed trying to figure out at the start how best to catch numerous Blennies against the wall in such a current. I’ll write specifically about what I worked out with this later as it’s as relevant for windy days as it was in the current). Apart from Will who’d jumped on to a four species total after about the first hour, the rest of us were incredibly close for most of the first two hours with a variety of species being caught but none of us tallying any more than about two unique ones each.
Despite the closeness of it all, I had a moment of temporary joy after listening to Will turn the air blue for fifteen minutes trying to catch one of the smelt he was following around the walls. I wandered over and had one first cast….. IN YOUR FACE PENDER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
On to three species by now – adding the smelt to the Blenny (50 of) and Goby I’d caught – Luke and Bruce were over on the pool side of the arch fishing the slacker water. Luke had just had his third Ballan as was mid-explaining to Bruce how it was all about the way he wiggles his willy (or something like that) when I got there. As a prime example of how my luck was very obviously in on this night, I dropped straight down next to Luke and pulled up a Corkwing Wrasse. I’m absolutely rubbish with the Wrasse species normally so this one was a nice relief. I was doing pretty well.
Oh, I should get back to my Isome mishap. Anybody who knows anything about these kinds of competitions – or just LRF in general – knows that pretty much the only lure/bait you need is Marukyu Isome. It catches everything. Well, it turns out that while I was sorting my stuff in the shop earlier I’d forgotten to put mine back in my bag! So I made it to Hayle without the one confidence booster that I really needed. I’d even left my big Ecogearaqua tub at home – full of all sorts of smelly goodness. It wasn’t ideal, but the one thing I had remembered to take with me was a pot of old Ecogearaqua Straw Tails and a fresh pack of the red Katsu Aji Straights. It wasn’t a complete disaster because I could split and create some fishable little pieces with both of these , but I would have felt initially more confident with the old faithful’s on the hook. Alas, evidently no need to grumble in the end. I caught numerous Tompot Blennies to add a fifth species and finish second overall! Like I said in the first blog post I wrote about round one, this type of fishing isn’t something I have much experience in really so by aiming for fourth overall in each round, the hope is that I’ll be disappointed less times than I’m happy.
Will did the business again (like in round one) and had seven species for the win. Then me on five, followed by Aaron on four. Everybody caught and thanks to the lack of wind and comfortable temperatures it was the perfect evening for it.
As it stands, by some miracle I’m actually leading the league points table! It doesn’t really mean much at this point in time as bad results are dropped after round 5, but I’m glad I have two good results in the bank already to buy myself some breathing space and cushion the inevitably less lucky evenings I’ll have through at least a few rounds still to come.
The next one is at Mevagissey on Wednesday, June 22 from 6.30pm and all are welcome! I should have no excuses for that one since I’m pretty sure that Meva was the location of my first ever LRF session in what must have been 2009.
Three weeks ago now, a motley crew of us fished what was the first round of the 2016 Cornish LRF League. My report on that one is here, but jumping forward a couple of weeks we’ve now successfully completed round two.
Fowey is one of those places that I love for this style of fishing. It’s a beautiful town with numerous walls, pontoons and rocky outcrops. You can walk through the pretty streets, stop for a pint and catch a few fish all at the same time. The fishing can be absolutely brilliant too! The weather and atmosphere for round two was exactly as you’d want it to be. The evening was calm and quiet. No wind at all, hardly a “sole” wandering the town… It was dry, calm and peaceful. All apart from the nine reprobates that had turned up to catch some fish. Even Phil from Louvine in France had come over for a few days to see how we catch ’em. That was the plan anyway…
To cut a very dull story short, the fishing was diabolically hard! The tides were good. The weather was perfect. The company couldn’t have been bettered. But the fish just weren’t there. We fish for three hours, and after nearly two of those I think Bruce Fisher was the first to finally catch a fish (a nice little Ballan). I think he probably danced a jig in his head, as he like the rest of us was probably starting to predict that that one fish would win it!
After round one when I’d annoyed myself by trying too many things and just spending way too much time faffing about, I decided in Fowey that I’d just stick to the one little area that I know best and really just try and stay comfortable and content. Just like last time, winning wasn’t really the aim (although a lovely bonus) but fourth place was a nice target to aim for against the guys who were there. This one was a “length” round (1cm = 1 point) with bonuses for species caught and for catching the largest of each of those.
Luke had headed off further around the corner to try for some wrasse, while some of the boys split to a different section in the town so the four of us who stayed on the wall we were on didn’t really know what was happening elsewhere. Naturally you just assume that they’re all catching fish though.
Eventually I had a massive run of luck. While I’m not a great species hunter, I can catch pollack. Over a 20 minute spell I eventually managed to land four of them – the first going a respectable 34cm. I’ve never played a fish so limply in my life! We’d all gotten to the point where just landing a single fish of any kind was all we wanted to do. A run of three more quickly followed and I was lucky in that nobody else on the wall was having any joy.
We’d all seen a few micro flounder but having them take anything was the tricky bit. Will James eventually caught the decent scorpion fish that he’d been trying for for a while. Obviously come the end I was happy that length wise it looked like I’d topped our little group on the wall. Although right place and right time had a lot to do with it I think. Inevitably thoughts of how many massive wrasse, pollack, mackerel and bass, Luke had caught around the corner prevented a more intense delight at the time though.
As it turned out back on the quay afterwards, Luke had caught exactly the same as me. Length wise he was a touch short of my 89cm, but it turned out his biggest fish beat mine, so another 10 bonuses were added to his score. It was bum-cheek clinchingly close, but I’d beaten him by just two points at the end (99 vs. 97 once bonuses were applied). I was hugely relieved that I got a decent result on the board as I know already that the following species-hunting rounds will be my downfall. Hayle is the next one on June 8th. Just let me know if you’d like any more info – everybody is welcome. I should probably follow my own advise this time. Having never fished down there properly before I will go for a little play beforehand. Also stick to my preferred split-shot rig.
I may have organised a lot of fishing comps over the years, but until this Wednesday I’d never yet actually fished one myself on British soil! A few years back I travelled to a couple of one-off competitions in France but they were different to how we’re running our species hunt events here at the moment.
This was the first round of this year’s Cornish LRF League. After introducing the league last year, this year I’ve passed it to 2015 champ, Will Pender to take the reins. Not only did I always feel too busy to do a good job last year, but passing things over to Will means I can actually fish the thing without having to attend every round. He’s had more time than I to be very proactive in the run-up with organising this one so I’m happy we’ve gone this way.
Although I do feel a bit of pressure to get a good result or two during this league, the local anglers know that I am far from being a species hunting expert. I’m nowhere near as experienced as the guys who tend to fish this league or our Cornish Lure Festival when it comes to really going for the species tally. I love LRF but my own fishing tends to reflect back to my old match/coarse fishing days when I’d prefer to keep myself busy catching quantities of fish, no matter what the species, rather than making it hard for myself by going for constantly different fish (and ignoring the ones I’ve already caught). When LRF began we weren’t fishing such targeted methods and in the days when I was doing a lot more fishing, we never really got our heads down a lot and went for variety. Overall, LRF has changed a lot since then. I just like being busy, basically – so if that means plundering Pollack after Pollack, mackerel after mackerel, goby after goby, then I’ll be a very happy and content angler.
All that said, I really want to support Will and others who are taking the bull by the horns and running competitions like these. Being the organiser can feel like a pretty thankless task at times – although almost by definition, LRF anglers do tend to be some of the most chilled out there. It’s because of the fact that I’ve done the odd little TV thing or talked a lot about the topic in the past that I do feel a personal pressure to be able to mix it with the species boys on any competition I fish these days. It may just be something I needlessly put on myself, but there’s an obvious risk of sounding hypocritical during my days in the shop – giving advise about the topic if I can’t actually walk the walk myself! Anyway, I think most of the locals know that modern-day species hunting isn’t really what I do, but I don’t mean like that to sound like an excuse before I even get started…… 😀
The full report will be over at www.lrf.co.uk once I’ve uploaded all of the results so I won’t go in to all of the details for now but I will just fill you in on a couple of things I think I might have learned about species hunt competitions.
I finished up 5th overall. That was my target before the round really – although 4th would have been nice and anything more a very pleasant bonus. I felt like I didn’t fish well at all really and it was all down to inexperience in reality. Certainly having fished one species hunt competition in my life doesn’t quality me to write a how-to, but for the benefit of anybody who may find themselves in the same boat one day, here’s a bit of a rundown…
It mostly went wrong for me in the middle part of the three hour time period. By fishing away from everybody else I hoped I’d be spooking less fish while they all huddled round the end of the pier, almost shoulder to shoulder, dropping the same lures on the same fish, cast after cast. Turns out you can only spook fish if you can actually find them though! The wrasse species for example only really feed during the daylight hours, so the three main ones had to be nabbed before sunset. While I spent the hour chucking “experimental” rigs in to snags, some of the guys at the end were building a decent tally of the things without my knowing. By the time I’d wandered up to join them I’d missed my chance pretty much. The Wrasse weren’t the be all and end all or the reason for my average result, but catching them when they were there, and to have been in the right place at the right time would have been an advantage. There’s certainly a point to be made about knowing a venue in advance of fishing a competition on it! I’d never fished Newlyn before in my life.
I mentioned “experimental” rigs above too. From all my years match fishing on the freshwater side of things I should really have already known that during any competition (even if it is just a bit of fun) is never really the time to go completely off-piste and start chucking a load of new rig patterns that you’ve never used before. I ended up spending more time messing with unsuccessful, snag-magnet rigs during that middle hour than I’d like to remember. Luckily I did have a trick or two up my sleeve for when it came to re-tying in no time at all – which I’ll share in an upcoming post – but losing rigs and catching no fish becomes a bit annoying after a while. If I’d been fishing a pleasure session I’d have been happy either catching Pollack on the outer wall or blitzing the Gobies and being happy with any odd surprises inside, but having caught both of those species already there was just no point during this evening.
To take nothing at all away from the guys who are very good at this type of fishing, what they do to be successful is actually quite simple…. (and it’s not what I did):
1) Find your favourite rig style and stick to it. Between the top 3 or 4 guys in Cornwall you generally see either a dropshot or a split-shot rig almost permanently attached to each of their lines. Some prefer one; some the other. They don’t switch every 20 minutes. Admittedly, they don’t necessarily need to experiment on the night because their favoured rig choice has generally been decided with their differing experiences or just personal preferences. Having confidence in your setup is as important in an LRF comp as it is in any freshwater match fishing environment. While my evening in Newlyn broke this rule completely, I can now see the comparisons with the freshwater match scene quite clearly, even if I didn’t really think there would be any similarities beforehand. Naturally, if you decide to start chasing mackerel or bass then a switch to a casting jig or something is the way to go, but the point is that for most of your bottom dwelling species you will catch on just one rig setup (split/dropshot). Pick your favourite and make it work. It will.
2) Know the venue. I mentioned it above and it’s a very obvious one. If you’re fishing against experienced guys who have fished a venue a lot of times before (and you haven’t), you’ll be up against it a bit. Not only will they know where they’ve caught certain species or the most fish in the past, but mentally they’ll be confident that they can do it all again – whereas you’ll already be thinking negative thoughts or resigning yourself to a middle of the road position as a result. Experienced anglers with the right rigs, a knowledge of where the fish are and a matching, sensible confidence are always going to be right up there in the prizes! The joy of a species hunt is that you never really know what will happen as a little luck can come in to it from time to time, but it helps if you can make some of your own luck too by fishing a venue BEFORE you rock up to try and compete on it.
3. Marukyu Isome and Ecogearaqua rule! It’s really not a point that I learned about on Wednesday (since it’s been almost 6 years since we introduced both brands to the UK), but these lures will catch you 95% of all fish in any species hunting competition. I’d go as far as saying that EVERY LRF competition I have EVER organised have been won by anglers predominantly using them.
Obviously to go with the above points there are other things that the successful anglers apply to their fishing. There’s that 10% that literally nobody can explain. Some people just have it. When you’ve caught a big variety of species over the years, consistently, you have patterns in your head about how you think it is best to catch each of them. I know a bit, but not enough to start telling you how to catch each of them. That’s where these guys excel.
Anyway, I left Wednesday’s competition not disappointed but really just considering how I could have done better. It’s not a serious event at all in terms of the competition itself as it’s one where you really just hope for a couple of decent results during the league, but it’s just nice to think you’ve fished decently for yourself. I’ve fished so little lately that I really just wanted to try a lot of new bits and pieces out – which didn’t suit the competitive environment at all – nor the venue. Or any venue. In fact, some of the things I did were just really, really rubbish. I enjoyed thinking about them in theory but I won’t be returning to most of them (and won’t bother explaining them).
You can obviously fish these things with a number of personal targets – whether you just want to fish with a bit of company, go all out for the win or settle somewhere in between. I’d say most of the guys are somewhere in the middle. Certainly I am. The winning isn’t important, but to win an event is a satisfying confirmation that you did things just right – and that’s my target for any social session really.
I’m yet to decide whether I’ll fish a dropshot or splitshot in Fowey at the next round, but definitely I’ll be picking one of the other and going with it. Although…… it is a “total length” round so may play more to my strengths of catching numbers of fish rather than variety. Hopefully see some of you there!
After last week’s Pollack and Scad bonanza, this Tuesday evening I went back for a bit of the same. I wanted to try a few new tackle bits and also play about with some existing ideas. I wasn’t species hunting but really just wanted to catch a few fish. In hindsight I’m really glad that we hadn’t organised an evening like this for a Species Hunt comp as it turned out the weather was absolutely horrific!
My chances to fish are generally so few that I’ve given up even looking at tides or weather forecasts before planning trips. Bit stupid really. Last week the tide caught me out (although I still bagged a load of fish) and this week, after a dreary day sat in the shop the wind really seemed to get up in the evening. On getting down to Fowey it turned out to be the roughest conditions I’ve ever attempted to fish there. Most of the town stretches were completely unfishable in all but the very occasional corner where you may have managed a chuck with the wind at your back. So I had very few options.
I started out on one of our favourite walls casting under the lights. Always good for a few Pollack, I had about 15 feet of extra water here than last week thanks to the high tide. With the same Fish Arrow Flash J 1″ lure that I had on last week on a 1.8g head this time because of the wind I actually had a fish first cast. A Pollack (as expected) of about 8oz or so. I had a few more of these on the same lure before the rain really started blasting at me. I’d foolishly left the car coatless to beat a very quick retreat to a close by shelter. From here I could still just about fish but knowing where the fish were lying it would be a pretty long chuck across the wind. It was pretty much the only option I had though.
Ultimately, it ended being a lesson in presentation – or at least doing what you’ve got to do if you actually want to catch a few… The other option was to change nothing, fish easy and catch nothing.
I already knew that fishing light and small was the way to catch as many of these fish as possible. I also knew where they were hiding – in the shadows at the end of the wall – just out of the lights. Fishing closer to me or in the shallower, sheltered waters to my left may have been easier but I wasn’t going to catch much (if anything) there from experience.
It was also my first time out with a new rod and reel combo. The rod being a new Gamakatsu AJ Master 76 I’ve claimed as my own! The specs just match exactly what I wanted, but being rated to only 5g I was aware I might need more weight than this in the wind! I only had three lure options with me that would be heavy enough to reach the distance and be heavy enough to keep me in control of the lure in the crosswind on the retrieve.
1) Xesta After Burner Mini 7g.
2) Spro Teppan 7g vibration bait.
3) A mix of 3g+ jigheads.
I wasn’t expecting to have been using any of these options at this time of year as I reserve most for the summer months when the fish are more active and aggressive and the top two options are obviously well above the maximum casting weight on the rod. They were only really in my bag as left-overs. That said, the Xesta jig was first on to cut across the wind. Surprisingly to me the rod handled it and the lure very easily hit the mark. With a straight retrieve I was chuffed to catch another fish first cast. Following that they weren’t having it every time and I wasn’t feeling any indications from the fish as soon as I got past the mark (so 80% of the retrieve was a waste) but considering the conditions it was better to be catching than not! I also tried the vibe bait and heavier jigheads with a couple of 2″ softies but didn’t catch a fish on either. The Afterburner was the way.
For next time I will have to get back in to the Caro tackle again. In hindsight this would have been absolutely perfect for this session (as a way of presenting a small lure at distance) and I think I could have retrieve this more slowly than the casting jig as well – which I’m sure would have caught me more.
Towards the end of the session the rain subsided a little and I ventured (slightly precariously – getting blown off my feet) on to the end of the wall where I started. There were obviously a lot of fish there to be honest and I’d not been able to make the most of them from my far off position. It goes to show what a difference good presentation can make. There were a lot of fish there all along but I wasn’t catching every cast from my far off position on the heavier jigs. From here I could fish lighter, slower and more easily and was having at least an indication every cast, if not a fish. It didn’t take long to put another half a dozen fish back but being so windy I decided I’d head home and warm up.
A real shame overall about the wind and rain but, regardless, I ended up with probably 15 fish or so in a couple of hours. Lovely playing about with new rods and reels (super impressed).