As an all-round angler I frequently use tackle designed primarily for freshwater angling in salt water. My approach to fishing is to use tackle appropriate to the species I seek and in many cases that can mean getting more enjoyment from the fish hooked and an even greater success rate. After all tackle designed for freshwater angling is often designed for fish that are on average bigger than those hooked from Britain’s coastal waters. In general the only reason sea anglers use heavy tackle is to combat the harsh environment. Strong tides may require heavy leads to anchor the weight to the seabed. Rock and weed may make strong tackle essential to extract fish from their safe haven. So if we give it some thought we can use our freshwater tackle for a vast range of venues and target a large variety of species.
Light float fishing Mention the use of freshwater tackle on the coast and many will automatically think of grey mullet. These hard fighting fish are prolific all around our coastline during spring, summer and autumn. They can be caught using light float tackle or quiver-tip tactics. A twelve-foot float rod in conjunction with 6lb line, a chubber or Avon style float, size 8 to 10 hook and a pinch of bread flake will bring success. Harbours, rocks and piers are ideal venues where the application of ground-bait will entice not just mullet but garfish, pollock, mackerel, and even black bream. In addition to float-fishing a cage feeder packed with breadcrumb with a two hook paternoster baited with bread flake will provide excellent sport. A quivertip rod designed for barbel is ideal.
Free lining for bass After dark an exciting method to try is free lining for bass using a 2lb test curve carp rod and 15lb line. Harbours, beaches and some rock marks can give anglers the opportunity to catch large bass.
Choose a calm night, a flooding tide is generally more productive though this will depend on the venue. A large mackerel bait is my favourite, either a head and guts or a whole side mounted on a size 6/0 hook. I always use a hook length of 30 to 50lb as a precaution against sharp rocks, or the teeth of an unexpected conger.
At many venues a pair of waders are a distinct advantage. Under the cover of darkness large bass will ghost around harbours and beaches in search of prey or discarded food. There is no need to cast far, do not shine a light on the water, as this will spook the fish. Lob the bait out into the flooding tide, it is surprising just how close in bass will venture. Try to keep in contact with the bait at all times, I hold a loop of line in my left hand and feel for bites. On the first indication of a take I pay out a bit of slack, as the line tightens and the fish moves purposefully away raise the rod to set the hook. If the area is snaggy you will need to put plenty of pressure on the fish to prevent it breaking free in rocks or amongst ropes or structures in the harbour. This can be very exciting fishing, the electrifying pull of a fish taking the bait and a short tense battle on a straining line with a rod bent double to the pull of a powerful bass.
Getting light on the boat A pike spinning rod, carp rod or salmon spinning rod is ideal for spinning for bass from a boat using plugs or spinners. Another fun tactic is to use a light paternoster set up to target flatfish, triggerfish, whiting, pollock and a multitude of other species. I spent a day on a boat last autumn when two of us landed a total of ten species using mackerel strip fished on a two- hook paternoster. Braided line will give greater sensitivity and enable lighter weights to be used to hold bottom.
Estuary Fishing Many of the South West’s estuaries provide great autumn sport with the humble flounder. A light carp rod and fixed spool reel loaded with 10 to 15lb line is ideally suited to casting out a two or three hook rig baited with ragworm or peeler crab. Put the rod in a rest and await the rattle on the rod tip that signifies the arrival of a flounder, this is laid back fishing, give the fish time to devour the bait and then reel it in. On this light gear they give a surprisingly spirited tussle. From time to time the rod will surge over in a more spectacular fashion as a bass picks up the bait.
Fly Fishing Bass are the top sporting sea fish to target with the fly rod and can give some spectacular sport. A rod capable of casting a weight forward 9 line is ideal. A leader of 8lb to 10lb fluorocarbon is suitable. A streamer style fly is used to imitate a sand eel, whitebait or prawn. Shallow water at the mouth of an estuary is excellant territory, as the tide floods in over the warm rock and sand wade out up to your knees and cast the lure into likely spots. A pair of good quality polarised sunglasses are an essential piece of kit to spot the bass that will move into water that barely covers their backs. It can prove extremely exciting casting at fish as they hunt the margins. On a hot summers day this fishing has elements that make it comparable to fly-fishing for bonefish in tropical waters.
From The rocks A wide variety of species can be targeted from rock marks. During the summer months a strip of mackerel suspended beneath a sliding pike float will tempt mackerel, pollock garfish and bass.
If the seabed is not too rough carp rods can be used in conjunction with a large fixed spool reel to target species such as smoothound. These members of the shark family will take small crab baits fished on size 1 to 4 hooks as used for carp angling. Take care to engage the bait-runner facility, as these fish tend to take off at a rate of knots and will take a rod from a rest and out to sea in seconds.
Plugs and spinners A spinning rod that is used for pike or salmon is perfect for casting lures for bass, Pollock and mackerel. The use of braided line will help to set the hook and feel the takes.
Gear for the roving angler I have given a brief summary of areas where tackle designed primarily for freshwater angling can be used. I often smile to myself when I see rods labelled for carp, pike, salmon or bass such rods are often remarkably similar. They can often cast a weight of between 2oz and 4oz, handle lines of 10lb to 15lb b.s and have a test curve of between 2lb and 3lb. There are now a number of excellent telescopic rods available that meet this criteria and matched with fixed spool reel loaded with 15lb b.s line they will provide the roving angler with sport virtually anywhere in the world whether the water be salt or fresh.
I hope that I have given a little inspiration to cast a line into new waters. I believe the barriers are coming down between the disciplines with anglers horizons starting to widen as they realise there is not a gulf between freshwater and salt, just a wide variety of different species to seek in refreshingly different surroundings.