Surfcasting using light line

Surfcasting using light line

Fishing is a wonderful sport, so it is unfortunate that some anglers are happy to sacrifice this sporting element purely to put food on the table. As I have said before, if you can afford to buy this magazine and pay for transport, bait etc to go fishing, and expect your outlay to be converted into food for the table, you would often be better off simply buying your fish at the local supermarket. Even though fish can be expensive (I saw red cod fillets at $29.99 a kilo at New World today!), it will cost you more to go and catch fish (if you keep an honest account and include your time at $25.00 per hour) than it does to feed the family from the supermarket. Sure, you will have fantastic days when you fill the freezer, but there will also be plenty of blank, nothing-to-eat days that cost a $100 a time or more; they soon start adding up...

Once you get this in your mind, you can think about what you are doing on the sea shore with a rod and reel in hand. If you say, as many do, “I am only here to catch a feed,” then you are kidding yourself that you might be saving money fishing. Yes, you will catch a feed sometimes, but you can’t count on it.

The sport fisher of today is a far cry from the primaeval hunter-gatherer of yesteryear. Today, it’s all about top-of-the-line accessories to make the job easier and more likely to get a result: electronics for the boaties and long-casting rods and reels for the surfcasters.

A sport fisher will try anything to improve his results: lighter line, smaller hooks, better bait, different hours — any number of things that may help. A sport fisher is not looking for meat in the fridge; he/she is there for the love of the chase — the challenge of finding and catching elusive fish. Also, using lighter line makes the smaller fish seem bigger and gives larger specimens some chance of escape. Further, even if they do end up being caught, there is a fair likelihood they will be released.

On the other hand, the ‘meat hunter’ will use heavy tackle to make sure the fish that bite don’t escape. He will use big hooks, big baits and have big expectations. He will not be ‘wasting’ any fish by letting them go — he is there to catch food for his family, friends and neighbours. Sometimes he succeeds.

If that is your mentality, then I commend you: I see you out there in the wind and the rain; it’s not easy, and many would give up after a short time. How many times a meat hunter can go fish-less without giving up, I don’t know. Sport fishers, on the other hand, seem to handle the disappointment of failure better and are soon back out again, as if to prove to themselves that it was a single failure and won’t happen again for some time.

Fishing these days, with lower fish populations, is better done with lighter gear and lower expectations. The sport fisher knows this. He fishes for average-sized fish and savours the odd encounter with big fish that test his/her tackle and skills.

The meat hunter, however, often fishes for the biggest he can hope for and is often disappointed by catching very little or nothing. That could be due to his coarse approach. Fish are not especially intelligent, but nor are they brainless. The heavy-handed approach may work when seas are rough and dirty, the conditions allowing the bigger, more desirable fish to be caught. That’s great: anyone who fishes hard deserves good results.

However, when the seas are calm and clear, the light-tackle fishermen will do better. The light-line approach enables the bait to be presented in a more natural manner, moving in the current and attracting more fish, while the lighter sinkers used means the fish do not suspect anything is up until too late.

You might even like to cast baits out with no sinker. Known as stray-lining, the technique can be done using light or heavy line, but the light line has a slower sink rate and looks more attractive to any fish feeding in your berley trail.

Another big advantage to using light line is that you can cast further, so more water is covered, adding up to more captures being made. An example is when the fish are feeding outside the breaking waves and you must get a bait to them. Baits that end up in the breakers may not be seen. This especially applies to gurnard fishing on surf beaches; very rarely will gurnard be caught in the breaking waves, preferring quieter waters with less turmoil.

Using light line has paid off for me on numerous occasions. I will never forget one surfcasting competition when I ended up in the middle of family groups fishing heavy tackle. The rollers were While light line has its place, the writer still considers heavier options when fishing at night, especially in rugged areas. photo: Mark Kitteridgecoming in and breaking on a shallow bar about 80 metres from shore.

Consequently, although I may have been the odd man out with my long rods and 6kg line, I was casting at least 50 metres further than those on either side of me, so had a big stretch of water all to myself.

I was fishing with two rods. The first I cast out just short of the bar, where the whitewater was merging into blue in the inshore channel. It looked good.

My second rod was set up with a small salted skipjack bait and cast over the bar and breakers into the calm water beyond. Ten minutes later, I was landing a snapper on it – the winner for the day as it turned out!

Casting out again, I caught a kahawai – then another. The bait on the first rod in the channel hadn’t been touched, and neither had any of the baits belonging to the fishers either side of me. So I cast that rod out past the breakers, too.

During that session I caught a couple more kahawai, three lemonfish (including the biggest of the day) and another snapper (third place, from memory). The fishermen either side of me caught nothing, putting it down to me having the right bait on the day. I knew it was because I was fishing undisturbed water and that the fish at that time were not coming in over the bar.

So I’m sticking with the light line for my surfcasting – 6kg generally – as it’s simply more effective and results in more success.

However, I’m no purist; there are times when even sport fishermen need to be practical. I will go up 10kg occasionally when big lemonfish or snapper are possible, or when fishing at night or over rough ground.

Besides, whatever the line weight used, while I’m not a fish eater, my wife is, so it’s nice to bring back a few fish for her and friends to eat.

   This article is reproduced with permission of   
New Zealand Fishing News

November 2017 - Gary Kemsley
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited

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