No fishing for me since the last blog update. We had our UK trip through mid-December, very enjoyable to be fair but not for the first time I brought back a very unpleasant virus that has laid me low since. I hope to get out early in the New Year but for now I've just been doing a bit of tackle tinkering that has inspired me to write this piece ... basically just some random tackle-related stuff from the last year.
I'll start with these, a pair of Daiwa Ninja 4000BGLT reels for my mullet leger rods that I picked up in July.
They replaced a pair of 3000 size Ninjas that I bought just after we moved to Ireland and that have seen out six-plus years of hard use with very basic care ... mostly they stayed on the rods from one session to the next and occasionally they got a scrub clean and a dot of oil on the external moving parts, nothing more. One is still good, the bail roller on the other wasn't running properly but still wasn't right after I got the parts from Daiwa. On closer examination I think the whole bail assembly was distorted (perhaps after a knock) and needed replacing but it was getting too much trouble.
I thought the 4000 size might offer a few more yards casting distance ... well, maybe, but not so you'd notice really. Nevertheless, I'm very happy with them, nice smooth and sturdy reels which offer very good value around €60 apiece. I'm not sure if the exact same model is still available but anything from the Ninja range is worth the dosh, and I'm much more comfortable with these than mid-range Shimanos for example.
Another summer purchase, a few packs of the new Drennan "Waggler Weights" in different sizes. They are basically very accurately manufactured drilled bullets, machined from tungsten alloy and the hole lined with silicone.
Jury's still out on them to be honest. On the plus side, unlike the locking shot they replace they can't fall off on the strike, or pinch the line if over-tightenened, you can slide them up and down all day long to adjust the depth without damaging the line at all, and they enter the water cleanly without lots of splash. On the demerit side, they are expensive and a faff to thread on - I discovered it's best to attack them with line cut to a sharp taper with scissors rather than a blunt chewed end! They definitely won't be for you if your fishing requires constant chopping and changing of float style or size, because you have to break everything down completely apart from the upper float stop.
For many years my favourite weight for long range legering for mullet on shallow venues like Christchurch, Broadwater and now Rosscarbery was the (old style) Korda Big Grippa in the smallest size 1.1oz or 1.5oz on particularly rough days. It was easy to mould groundbait around, cast well and held bottom brilliantly. Unfortunately Korda decided to discontinue the design and replace it with a new style lead, flatter and no hole in the middle, which is poorer on every level - groundbait doesn't stick as well, it doesn't cast as well, it doesn't hold bottom as well. As the old style leads became harder and harder to find, I started to seek alternatives. The best I could find was the Guru Impact Bomb, also available in 1.1oz and 1.5oz ... it did a decent job but wasn't as good as the original Korda and, ouch, the price!
My friend Jim Murray pointed me at a company called Foxy Leads who trade on Facebook. They do a near identical copy of the old Korda lead, I put in a bulk order for their 1oz size, also 1.5oz and some 2oz which will be perfect for gilt fishing. The price was silly cheap, working out about 50p - 60p per lead depending on size. I've recently started using them and they are just the job.
Along with the rod and reel I acquired from Eddie Baker in the summer, he donated me a mixed box of old leads.
Among the plain leads was a smattering of old red bead Breakaways, as far as I'm aware the first commercially available breakout lead from the 1970s that I remember being available and using well into the 1980s. And one or two oddities like the Breakaway Uptide lead - this was designed (as the name suggests) for uptiding from a boat but I remember briefly experimenting with them in strong lateral tides from the beach. They certainly had more grip than the standard Breakaway but never really displaced nose-wire grapnel leads for uptiding and soon they were superceded by long-tail breakout designs which did an altogether better job of holding out in strong tides.
I expect Eddie's leads are mostly going to end up consigned to a watery grave around Sheep's Head but perhaps I should preserve a few for posterity!
Speaking of Eddie, I've mentioned before the beachcaster he passed on - it's the Tony's Tackle Sea Match Special 126MM built on Daiwa's classic AWB 126 blank. The eyes are equally classic Fuji BNHGs with the luminous shock ring but at some stage the tip ring had been changed (I guessed) and the Dynaflo ring in place seemed a bit frail and undersize for the job. I wanted to change it but while I have loads of BNHGs in my bits box I didn't have a matching BPHT tip eye in a suitable size.
As usual with my rod-building bits, Hopkins & Holloway came to the rescue with their guidesnblanks.com website. It turns out Fuji haven't made either the BNHG or BPHT for several years, but H&H are doing high quality copies and I was able to get the perfect ring for the job. They also do copies of the classic Fuji DPS reel seat in larger 28mm and 30mm sizes for older rod butts - Fuji themselves stop at 26mm now. I grabbed a 28mm one for the AWB but I'm waiting for some natty shrink tube to arrive from China before fitting it.
The last time I went pollack fishing I posted the results on my Facebook page as usual and my old friend Scott Gardner asked if I'd ever used "slow pitch jigs" for pollack. I had to admit I'd never even heard of a slow pitch jig; pretty much all forms of lure fishing are a mystery to me once past Redgill eels.
Scott apparently uses these jigs to devastating effect for pollack and bass from his boat off the Hampshire coast. He kindly posted me these two bad boys to try - HTO Shore Jigs marketed by TronixPro. Unfortunately they took five weeks (!) to arrive with the postal strikes in UK so I've not had chance to try them out yet, they do seem the business though. They have plenty of casting weight and I imagine a nice flutter down through the water between jigging actions. The blurb on the back of the packs say the single "assist hooks" are to be kinder to fish intended for return than traditional trebles. That's a fine point but given the terrain here I'm hoping they'll also be less prone to be snagging up in the kelp.
I love my Korum folding triangle net, especially how it collapses down, rolls up, slides into its stink tube and disappears into the holdall for next time ... so much easier than carrying around a standard net head.
Unfortunately one of the aluminium arms fractured on mine early this autumn. I was hoping it would be fixable because the 23" model I have is no longer available and the larger 26" and 30" sizes seem far too unwieldy with acres of mesh. As it turned out it was an easy job to prise the broken end out from the spreader block, re-insert the arm, re-drill and fix back in place with the same two self-tapping screws. It was just slightly lop-sided but within a couple of months the other side had gone the same so now it's all symmetrical again and hopefully good for a few more years.
Another recent job has been replacing the studs in my Vass waders. To be honest I'd never bothered with studded waders till a couple of years ago when a particularly nasty slip on my low water mullet spot finally persuaded me of the possible benefits. I bought some dirt-cheap Kold Kutter studs and fitted them to the cleated soles - an easy job as it turned out with just tiny pre-drilled holes, dabs of Stormsure adhesive and screw them in with the tool provided. They have been brilliant, but they are hardened steel not tungsten and they have worn down over two seasons' use ...
I thought I could eke another season out of them but's what the point really when they are so cheap to replace? I got another set of 30 off Ebay for £9.99 and that included enough for a few spares and a tube of Stormsure. For the first time the tool is another few quid, or you could screw them in with a stubby flat-blade screwdriver. It was a quick job to screw out the worn studs, dab of Stormsure and screw the new ones into the same holes.
While I had the Stormsure out I had another job in mind.
Last spring I bought some Vass waterproof salopettes - they are light, semi-breathable and waterproof for the most part, but not the greatest piece of design as it turns out.
For a start, even with the velcro fastenings round the ankles undone, they don't really open out wide enough to get on and off over hiking boots or wellies without a lot of struggle and feeling you're about to rip through the fabric at any moment. It's easier to take your boots off to get them on but that's not ideal if it's just started raining...
Worse, just recently I've been getting wet knees when wearing them to walk the dog in heavy rain. They have reinforcement patches over the knees - a great idea in itself - and these seem to be glued or heat-welded on not stitched so there shouldn't be a problem. Nevertheless - repeated wet knees don't lie. The problem seems to be that the top edge of the patch itself isn't sealed, so the patch soaks up water, then bending the knee when walking actively squeezes some of that water back through the breathable fabric underneath.
I've sealed round the edge of the patch with Stormsure and hope this will do the trick. Vass kit is usually good but I wouldn't repeat this particular purchase.
Lastly my Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). I bought this in 2015 when we moved to Ireland and wear it in a pouch on the front of a self-inflating lifejacket when fishing rock marks. It's registered with the Irish coastguard and the idea is the if I ever find myself floating around in the sea or tumbled over on a cliff path with a broken leg I can flip off the cover, deploy the aerial, press the button and have it guide the rescue helicopter to me. It has a strobe light to help the final location.
Anyway, the battery was due for replacement after seven years in Oct 2022 and this can only be done by an approved dealer, fortunately there's one in Skibbereen. I wasn't expecting it to be cheap but my breath was slightly taken away to end up paying €147.89 + VAT for the replacement battery and fitting. That's roughly two-thirds the cost of a new unit with battery included!
Whatever, fishing the places I do and usually on my own, I can't really be without so I bit the bullet and paid. At the end of the day it's only a couple of quid a month when spread over the next seven years, it would be a good investment for anybody who fishes similar venues. And the lifejacket of course.
Sorry there's not been much fishing content on here the last couple of months - I do hope to put this right before too long. Happy New Year everybody.