Like many fishing addicts, I am always stoked to have a rod in my hand, whether it be stalking wary bass in a small river, wading into the surf to cast for a kob or steenbras, trying to maintain my balance on the deck of a bobbing boat in the deep off Cape Point, or just chilling out on the bank with a rod in the water and my sons splashing about in the shallows.
Certainly, I have my preferences, lure fishing being chief amongst them, but simply being able to engage in the act of angling is fulfilling enough on most levels to keep me coming back for more.
There is a downside to my particular fishing addiction, however. We have all heard the saying, ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’, and this statement surely rings true in a sport with so many different facets and variables. Can we compare the skill, patience and finesse required to successfully fool super-wary trout in a crystal-clear Cape mountain stream, with the constitution and sheer stamina needed to tame a giant yellowfin tunny
40 miles from the nearest landmass in rolling seas and 20kn winds?
Equipment requirements aside, becoming an expert in all styles of fishing requires far more of a time investment than most lifestyles (and bank balances) will allow. While some charmed individuals, either through happy circumstance or sheer talent
or a combination of both, manage
to rise to the top of the pyramid and become complete, all-round angling machines, the rest of us aspire to simply not looking clueless when faced for the first time with unfamiliar fishing territory or techniques.
The beauty of our sport, however, lies in two basic facts: first, a fish rarely if ever cares who is at the other end of the line, and second, the same basic principles apply in almost all forms
of angling you are ever likely to attempt – tie something on the end of your line, throw it in the water and hope a fish eats it…
AN ALL-ROUND ATTITUDE
While many of my bass-, tuna- or fly-fishing-obsessed friends would disagree, in my opinion it pays to become a versatile fisherman as opposed to focusing on only one form of angling, for several reasons.
Being an all-rounder means one always has options, and it is not such a difficult goal to achieve – it is surprising how much overlap in terms of basic skills and techniques there are in angling.
So where to start? The very best fishermen I know all have one trait in common – they are keen observers of all things related not only to angling, but
to the great outdoors in general. They are well versed in variables such as weather patterns and their effect on fish, the functioning of the ecosystems where they are fishing, the main food sources in the areas they are targeting, and so on. While some may find examining the stomach contents of a flapping fish a tad over the top, not to mention distasteful, it is precisely this level of attention to detail that will result in repeated success and better catch-rates than the average layman achieves.
Fear not however: one needn’t perform an autopsy on your catch to become
a better all-round angler. Start with the basics: first, keep a journal in which you record details of your angling trips, not only when you are successful but also when you are not. Write down variables such as weather and water conditions, time of day, bait or lures used, size of fish landed and any other salient points you may choose to mention.
Second, take the time to learn about the weather and the effect that
it has on fish behaviour – it is remarkable how similar an impact factors such as barometric pressure, the passage of cold fronts or a sudden change in water temperature have on a huge variety of different fish.
Third, learn from the experts. I have picked up more invaluable angling knowledge from watching and speaking to fishermen more skilled and experienced than me, than in every
book on the subject I have ever read.
There really is no substitute for experience, especially in a sport like angling where one’s skills can actually improve with age.
It is also important to keep abreast of current trends. The ever-increasing sophistication of the tools at our disposal has meant that we are constantly presented with new lures, new bait types, new tackle and a host of hot new techniques that would have seemed foreign less than a decade ago. Some examples are the advances in line technology, the incredible evolution of the ‘coffee-grinder’ and a host of ultra-light, ultra-strong rod building materials that have redefined the sensitivity, weight and comfort of the modern-day fishing rod.
Finally, apply the 80:20 rule in the majority of fishing situations. It really
is a truism that 80% of the fish are to be found in 20% of the water where you are fishing. It is the angler who knows which areas to focus on and when who will be successful, no matter what type of fishing he or she may be practising.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but even in these situations factors such as water depth and temperature, bottom structure and the presence
of baitfish are critical elements when
it comes to finding fish.
THE ALL-ROUNDER’S TACKLE BOX
As I mentioned before, the pursuit
of all-round angler status has its drawbacks, the accumulation of vast amounts of fishing tackle chief amongst them. I have a problem with lures: I can’t have enough. Many of my purchases are impulse buys and in any case, I tend to stick to my tried and tested favourites. I can’t bring myself to sell the ones I do not use, however – one day I might need exactly that lure that is supposed to be deadly on giant threadfin or some other exotic species I am unlikely to ever encounter.
My lure obsession aside, I do have
a good all-round selection of tackle that allows me to be equipped for just about any fishing eventuality. To conclude this article, let’s explore the minimum tackle requirements of the all-round angler, taking into account issues like space and financial constraints. I have focused on saltwater fishing for the purposes
Three rods should suffice to cover most situations: a 7’ medium-action spinning rod for estuaries, drift fishing and light-tackle spinning, an 8’ or 9’ medium-heavy action rod for bank fishing in estuaries, rock and gully fishing as well as spinning off the beach and rocks,
and a 13’ medium-action rod for fishing from shore into the surf. Stick with trusted names, buy stiffer rather than softer and choose 2- or 3-piece rods
for ease of transport.
The new era of coffee grinder style reels cast further, carry more line and offer much more backbone than their predecessors, and are a must for the all-rounder’s tackle box. Size and style will depend on your budget, but generally a 2500 and a 5000 will cover most eventualities, from spinning for bass to catching kob or garrick in the surf. I would also recommend at least one sturdy multiplier reel like a Shimano Torium or Daiwa Sealine for beach and surf fishing. Again, buy the best you can afford and look after it well.
This is where it can get confusing. Once again,
I would advocate three levels, namely: light-tackle, medium and heavy applications. For light-tackle fishing, a spread of sinkers from tiny ball sinkers to about 1oz barrel sinkers should prove adequate. For rock and gully fishing, 2oz and 3oz bottle-style sinkers will suffice under most circumstances, while off the beach you will need a selection of 4oz, 5oz and 6oz grapple-style sinkers, heavier if you practice slide fishing.
In terms of hooks, a selection of chemically sharpened hooks ranging from No. 10 for catching live bait up to 7/0 for large kob, geelbek and elf will be adequate. In addition
to hooks and sinkers, you will need several spools of spare line (5kg, 7kg, 10kg, 13.5kg, 20kg fluorocarbon for tying traces), a selection of swivels in various sizes, some steel trace,
a sharp knife, bait cotton, some sturdy fishing boots or shoes, a pair of polarized sunglasses, a bag to carry everything in, a valid fishing license and a good hat!
I have not gone into lures much here
as that is another whole article in itself, but
I would strongly recommend that the aspiring all-rounder carry a couple of spoons, plugs, paddle tails and Rapala-style lures that match the tackle you are using on any given day, especially if your quarry is elf, leervis or kob.
As mentioned before, the above recommen-dations relate to minimum requirements in the pursuit of all-rounder status. There are a host of specialist gadgets available that make life easier for the astute angler, such as non-return clips, bait additives, beads, bells and whistles… the list goes on and on, but for simplicity’s sake equip yourself with the basics first and worry about the trappings further down the line.
Well there you have it. Not so difficult after all, is it? Of course, you still have to put in the hours, but if you start by equipping yourself properly, learning about wind and weather and gathering as much knowledge about this great sport as you can, you are already well on the way to becoming a true all-rounder.