Anyone who knows Andy Macleod will support the fact he’s the man to tell us how to be at our most effective when fishing from the beach.
I’ve written previously about the value of being organised on the beach or rocks and how this can increase your fishing success rate. This month I’m going to get a bit more specific and focus specifically on beach fishing, because I believe this is the discipline where organisation can perhaps make the greatest difference. My rationale here is that bites can be fewer and further between, making maximising effective ‘fishing time’ (i.e. time with bait in the water) especially important. And, as my fishing philosophy is first and foremost about catching fish, I like to have my eyes trained on my rod tips (I nearly always fish two rods to double my chances of success) while these baits are out soaking, rather than distracted somewhere else (perhaps tying knots or baits). With this in mind I work to two key principles when going on serious surfcasting missions:
Some of the tasks I complete at home are:
This probably makes me sound pretty pedantic, but no more than my serious surfcasting mates, and we can tell you plenty of stories about organised anglers pulling good bags of fish out of the sea whilst lesser organised anglers still had their heads down in a tackle box. So yes, surfcasting can be tough, but why make it even tougher than it has to be?
Whilst you can’t reduce a sport like surfcasting down to a formula (there are way too many variables for that!), it’s just common sense that the longer you have bait in the water the greater the chance you have of catching fish. I therefore rotate four clip-on/clip-off rigs across two rods at all times; sometimes I might rotate as many as six if I’m using a range of baits or am in a particularly serious mood. With this technique I can usually retrieve and recast a rod within a minute, while my other rod remains ‘fishing’.
I also try to keep things tidy and set myself up deliberately, placing useful things in convenient places and making sure to recall where they are. It’s very easy to leave items such as pliers or bait elastic all over the place, and then accidentally bury them in the sand as you rush to a bending rod. Using a bum bag can be helpful for those items you use over and over during the course of a surfcasting session. This is particularly valuable when the bite is hot and you’re constantly dealing with caught fish and trying hard to get new baits in the water.
When initially setting up, it pays to consider where your position will be relative to your rods. What path will you be walking back and forward all afternoon? Are you positioned so the sun is kept out of your eyes? Can you easily reach the bait and accessories whilst watching the rod tips? All these things add up to make a significant difference to our eventual chances of success.
More particularly they count when fishing long sessions and/ or through the night. In these scenarios fatigue will set in at some stage; having systems that make your life easy will allow you to keep fishing effectively when your body and mind are not operating at 100%. I’ve fished many ‘all-nighters’, usually in the name of competition points, and organisation (and grit and determination of course) is a key factor in separating the men from the boys. When you’ve been up for twenty hours straight, the sea is pumping and your eyelids drooping, organisation comes into its own. At these times it is very easy to get lazy and not attend to the ‘one percenters’, so doing things such as preparing a number of baited traces at home for just those moments can be invaluable. And if you decide to take a short period of shut-eye, having both rods ready to cast on waking up helps too!
Refining your fishing accessories over time will also pay dividends. Aside from the fishing tackle itself, the two most important accessories to me on the beach are my scissors and pliers, with both saving me heaps of time. Let me explain. The trusty ‘bait knife’ seems to be as popular as ever, but aside from perhaps gutting my catch at the end of a session, mine gets very little use. As I’ve already explained, my bait’s been filleted before I arrive on the beach, so I find a pair of scissors more useful than a bait knife could ever be. I use them to cut my bait into appropriatesized pieces (fillet baits, pilchards etc) and they are also extremely useful for trimming old bait and bait elastic off retrieved rigs. It still surprises me the number of surfcasters who don’t have a pair of scissors on hand. I buy mine from the $2 shop and throw them out when they go blunt. You can’t go wrong.
I can say much the same about pliers. A heap of surfcasters don’t keep them handy, simply relying on levering hooks out of fishes’ mouths by hand. Not only is this a precarious exercise when dealing with toothy species like barracouta, when a fish is well hooked it can take a heap of time to free the hook, cutting into your valuable fishing time and also reducing the likelihood of a successful catch and release (if that’s your game).
Every serious and successful surfcaster I know is very organised in their own way, sometimes to a level of almost military precision. I say ‘in their own way’ because organisation is very much a personal thing. I’ve told you about a few specific things I do, but others do things quite differently. However, the guiding principle is the same – making the most of valuable fishing time by being efficient on the beach. If you prefer to take it easy on the beach that’s fair enough, but by taking the time to think about and streamline your approach, I can guarantee it will increase your catch rate over time.
To support my point, let’s say you decide to adopt clip-on/ clip-off rigs, which will probably save you two minutes every cast. Consequently, if you fish two rods and go out for four hours’ fishing ten times a year, this will increase your effective fishing time (i.e. time with bait in the water) by about five hours. So why not have the law of averages in your favour?
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