Fishing in Ireland, Pike, trolling

Lucky Strike

With the collapse of all salmon stocks here in Ireland and the disastrous state of the trout fisheries I am turning more and more to Pike fishing so that I can at least get out occasionally with rod and line. I can’t be bothered messing around with dead baits so I spin or troll for pike in the loughs and my favourite lures are spoons. Big spoons.

I bought an old silver ‘Lucky Strike’ spoon the other day for a few cents. I’ve not owned one of these spoons before so I am keen to give it a swim. I imagine it will work for pike here in Ireland but they were designed for salmon trolling in Canada from what I can gather. This is a large lure, deeply indented to give it a flamboyant action in the water. Plain silver, front and back it looks to have the attributes of a spoon that our big Pike like to attack in cold water.

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This specimen, while in reasonable condition, needed some TLC before I could use it. Big Pike need to be treated with respect so any possible weaknesses in your gear need to be addressed.

Removing the old split ring

  • The swivel looked to be on the small side to me so I changed it for a more substantial one.
  • The top split ring was rusty and had to be changed.
  • The treble hook was in need of some TLC. Surface rust had to be rubbed off and the points sharpened.
  • To give the hook plenty of distance from the broad end of the spoon I added a second split ring between the spoon and the hook. I personally don’t think enough attention is paid to the relationship between spoon dimensions and the size of the hook attached to it. The simple expedient of adding an extra split ring takes only a few minutes but can make the difference sometimes. Pike hooks need to err on the big side in my book. When you open the mouth of even a modestly sized pike the gape is massive. It must be hard for a hook to find a good hook hold in there sometimes.
  • While I was at it I swapped the tiny red plastic tail and put a much bigger one on in its place. An old traditionalist at heart, I like a bit of red on my Pike lures. The wee red tail I took off was just the right size to adorn another, smaller spoon (waste not, want not).

 

The new, larger red tail

I don’t do a lot of pike fishing but this old spoon will be near the top of my list to troll during the coming winter. Silver spoons have always been a favourite lure of mine and they seem to do their best work in cold water conditions. Selecting the right spoon on any given day is far from an exact science and sometimes a different size, action or colour can do the trick when an old reliable has an off-day. A big snap link swivel on the end the trace allows easy and quick changes, something which is important on cold, wet days when any additional effort is best avoided.

Two other lures came in the same packet as the Lucky Strike, a big ABU Atom and a copper Toby. The Atom is one of those black and gold Zebra coloured ones in the 35 gram size. It will find a home in my box of Pike lures too. Over the years I have boated a number of Pike on Atom’s but can’t say they have been particularly effective. Smaller ones work well for jacks  but then those fish are not overly fussy.

The Atom, in reasonable condition

The copper Toby is a handy 30 gram Salmo version, the only drawback is that is is not a Swedish one. Not yet sure if I will hang on to this one or sell it on.

The weather is turning colder now and it is time for me to get back into fly tying mode. I have no excuses, the boxes of hooks and drawers full of feathers await my attention. Both salmon and trout fly boxes have ominous gaps in the serried ranks which need addressed before the next season starts. Old reliables will be tied but I have some new patterns in my head too. I’ll be sure to post my efforts here so keep an eye out for them.

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, salmon fishing

Repurposing

€5. A fiver. That’s all I spent to buy a box of old flies and lures on fleabay. There were some  photos to accompany the listing and staring at it I homed in on one fly in particular. It was tied with feather which are rarely available these days. The blue elver fly is a pattern now difficult to make as the Vulturine Guinea Fowl which supplies the feathers is a very rare bird, so when I saw this one in the corner of a box in the photos I placed a bid. All I really wanted was that one fly, anything else that I could salvage would be a bonus. Although a little bit of the electric blue barbs were missing from the wing feathers the elver was in good shape and it will be given a swim on Carrowmore next season. Who knows, it could be a good fly for the sea trout on Beltra?

Blue Elver a la Arthur Ransome

When the package arrived it turned out to contain no fewer than 6 metal tins, one full of old baits and the other five all filled to the brim with flies. I know it is not everyone’s cup of tea but rummaging through forgotten fishing tackle is a great pleasure to me. Finding old fly patterns, using ancient baits after they have been cleaned up and simply handling gear which was once used on famous beats or lonely lochs off the beaten track gives me a lovely feeling of connection with the past. Now the fun could start!

First up was the biggest tin which contained old baits. Now most of them were junk, badly damaged or rusty beyond redemption. However there was an ABU Tylo which could be cleaned up and used again (18 gram, Zebra coloured). There were 4 thin plastic sandeels which I will try out next summer when the mackerel are shoaling in the bay. A pair of Mepps with plastic fish were given a swift clean up and deposited in my box of Pike baits. A small wooden plug, two wooden devons and a big silver wobbling spoon were thrown into my big plastic box marked up ‘REPAIRS’ to be dealt with later. Then there were a pair of enormous spoons, chromed on one side only. I’ve never seen metal spoons this size before and they appear to have been handmade. No swivels or hooks adorned these giants and I really don’t know what use they would have. For now they have been put aside. I’m toying with the idea of painting the concave faces and trying them for pike. Bloody BIG pike! The rest of the contents of the large tin went in the bin.

Next I opened a battered old flat metal fly box which was lined with cork. First impressions were none too positive, there seemed to be nothing exciting inside. But some poking around the 50 or so old patterns in there revealed a handful of hidden gems.

the pair of Green Highlanders

There was a pair of huge Green Highlanders tied with yellow bucktail wings. I wonder which pools this was fished through all those years ago? Flies this size might have seen action in the deep flowing waters of the river Tay or maybe the rock-girt runs on the river Awe. Like most the flies in the boxes these Highlanders were not going to be useful for actual fishing anymore. The colours had faded with the throat hackles in particular showing signs of age.

Hairwing Green Highlander

 

A salmon March Brown. Nice hook.

A big March Brown was in remarkably good condition but the hackle was well worn and was now too short in fibre. Not a pattern I would have any faith in, I plan to salvage the large, bronzed up-eyed single hook. The mottled grey turkey wings can be cut off and used on a Grey Murrough.

looks like this was a Jock Scott once-upon-a-time

Some of the flies were chewed to bits, either by fish or moths! There were broken bends and dulled points aplenty but some of the hooks could be reused once the old dressing had been removed.

One for the bin…………..

Another large fly was lurking in the flat box, it had once been a Beauly Snow Fly, something you don’t a lot of in these days of modern tubes and articulated shanks. Not many patterns boast a blue body. Sadly this example was beyond repair so I took a photograph before wielding the scalpel to free up the big old iron.

A large Beauly Snow fly

Next up was a river Dee favourite of yesteryear, the Akroyd. The simple strip wing made of cinnamon turkey tail and the downward pointing Jungle cock made this fly easy to identify.

An Akroyd tied on a gut-eyed hook. I’ll salvage the Jungle Cock and maybe the cinnamon wings too.

The next two tins I opened up contained tube flies. Some were well tied examples of standard patterns but there were a lot of homemade efforts mixed in with them. On the plus side, many of the tubes were adorned with Jungle Cock cheeks. Some were a bit tatty but still useful after a bit of trimming here and there.

I got some Veniard ‘slipstream’ tubes out of this lot, the plastic ones with the hidden hook connection point on the end. They are on the long side but I will tie up some flies on them. There was a lot of good hair which I salvaged too, using it to make a variety of salmon patterns. Then there was the embossed tinsel which had been used as a rib on some of the tubes. I carefully unwound this and then used it to make some Delphi’s. I’ve never landed a salmon on a Delphi but it works well for sea trout around here.

A quick rub up with a cloth and the old embossed tinsel was as good as new

and used to tie a Delphi on a salvaged size 8 double hook

A triple hook ‘demon’ type arrangement had been residing in one of the round tins. Three size 10’s, the one on the tail an eyeless double, were joined withe stiff wire. Gold metal tinsel bodies on all three hooks was actually in really good condition so I kept the dressed bodies and clipped off the orange cock hackle wing. I was reminded of a dressing I had seen years ago so I unearthed my old Tom Stewart books and found the fly I was after, something called a ‘Mary Ann’. I made a small change to the pattern in Tom’s book and swapped out the red cheeks for a pair of salvaged Jungle Cock. I’m quite chuffed with the result!

old triple hook fly

 

Two more old tobacco tins remained. More dodgy old flies were in residence inside them, again a mixture of trout and salmon patterns from long ago. I recognised many of them but some had me baffled.

A simple hairwing tied on an offset bait hook!

useless tubes, but look at the Jungle Cock!

Articulated salmon fly

the hinge looks a bit rusty

some palmers dressed on size 10 sneck hooks

Half-a-dozen nicely tied palmers caught my eye and I plan to try them next season. They are tied on wonderful sneck hooks! I can see them working on a windy day on the lough, ploughing through the waves leaving a tempting wake for the trout to see.

a well chewed Mosley style dry mayfly

Judging by the range of patterns I suspect the previous owner had a long angling career and he or she fished mainly on big Scottish rivers. The predominance of feather winged flies leads me to suspect they date from the 1950’s, around the time that tube flies and hair wings started to appear. They (or someone close to them) also tied flies as many of the patterns were non-standard and some were roughly tied. The trout patterns suggested he/she also fished on Scottish lochs too. In amongst the bigger flies there were a sprinkling of tiny doubles, size 16 and smaller. These reminded me of similar sized flies which were so popular in the North East when fishing for sea trout. Had this angler fished the lower Dee or Ythan?

I ended up with about 100 flies which were too worn to use but were tied on good hooks, mainly salmon singles and doubles. I’ll work my way through them, stripping off the old dressing and reusing the hooks to make new flies. Another 30 or so flies were in good order and are now in my fly boxes. I rescued around 80 Jungle Cock eyes a pair of kingfisher feathers, lots of bucktail, a little bit of bronze mallard and the embossed tinsel. Not a bad haul for a fiver!

 

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Fishing in Ireland

Last casts

Last Saturday was earmarked for a sea angling session but other commitments got in the way and instead I ventured out with the beachcasters on Sunday. The weather forecast was for a fine day but the wind was due to strengthen from the east overnight. It didn’t look too bad when I left town in brilliant sunshine but after an idyllic drive down to Killery it became obvious the situation had changed en route. A gale was blowing in Connemara.

The mark I had selected was exposed and so I decided to go to the end of the rock point and fish with the wind behind me. That was grand except the wind was so strong I was literally blown down the rock shelf as I headed for the water’s edge. My big black tackle box was acting like a sail, making it hard for me to balance (bear in mind I suffer from very poor balance due to vertigo). It was tough going just to get to the mark!

I set both beachcasters and punched the baits out a fair distance thanks to the wind behind me. The wind was blowing dead offshore, so at least the waves were small. Bites were hard to register as the gusts of wind were tossing the rods around but I hooked a couple of fish which came off when they buried themselves in the kelp. At the top of the tide all action stopped. The wind had picked up if anything by now, making the smallest task seem like the labours of Hercules.

Each cast resulted in a trial of strength as the foul bottom clung to my gear. Snap-offs were the norm and I was losing a lot of tackle for no return. Time to have a coffee and rethink my options.

The ground I was fishing was extremely rough and with the tide starting to fall the current would add to my difficulties. Maybe another mark over in Clew bay could be a better option? I packed up and hiked back to the car into the teeth of the wind.

Cocooned in the motor I quickly recovered from the tossing and battering of the gale and I made good time pushing back up the winding road to Westport and then out along the southern edge of the bay to the fine concrete pier at Lecanvey.

The tide was high and just starting to drop but the sun shone in a cloudless sky, not ideal when fishing shallow water marks like this one. I was using a new bait to me, sardines. The smell off them was pungent but the flesh is very soft and it requires a lot of elastic to keep the bait on the hooks. Even still the crabs were able to nick the bait at every cast, so after a couple of hours I gave it up as a bad job and dismantled the rods for the last time this year.

It is going to be back to the vice for the any free time I might have for the next couple of months. My fly boxes have some glaring gaps to fill and I’ve got some ideas for flies to try out. I will keep you all updated with the new patterns!

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling, trout fishing

Oddball baits

I own a ridiculous number of old baits, most of which will, in all probability, never see the water. They dangle from racks on the walls of my fishing den, jostle for position in numerous tackle boxes or lie sedately on the bench awaiting refurbishment. Plain silver or gold ones, brassy and coppery ones, multi-hued creations or bright flourescent ones, they are all somewhere in my fishing collection.  I confess that just have too many lures and not enough time to try them all out. The vast majority of them are your bog-standard Toby and Rapalas, but there are a few oddballs kicking around in my collection. For those of you who share my passion for slivers of old metal and plastic here are some of yesterday’s baits that you may not be familiar with.

Tommy

The Tommy spoon is an unusual shape with a wee ‘lug’ on the end of one side which the hook is attached too. This off-centre attachment makes it wobble around in an unusual fashion, one which generations of fish must have found attractive as ABU manufactured and sold this spoon for a long time last century. They made the Tommy over a period of about 30 years from what I can gather which suggests to me that it must have been a productive bait for the anglers who invested in them.

Like so many other spoon baits the Tommy is scaled on one side. Does this make a difference? We will never know but the idea of mimicking fish scales appears to us to be a good move. It catches anglers even if it does not fool the fish. Manufacturers stamp the scales on the convex side of spoons for some reason. All Tommy spoons that I have seen also sport a thin red or orange strip along one edge on the concave side. ABU obviously thought this added to they spoons fish catching ability as they used it on a number of their products.

That off-centre wobbling motion could suggest an injured fish to predators. ABU made the Tommy in a wide range of sizes and colours, including the tiny ‘Lill’ version which weighed in at a paltry 7 grams. ABU made Lill versions of a host of different lures over the years, mainly for targeting smaller species like perch and trout. I have one only of the Lill Tommy versions in silver and gold. It is a bit knocked about but what else can you expect for a lure which is at least forty years old? I can’t recall having ever tried this one out in anger- maybe next year…………..

Then there is the big copper Tommy which came to me sans hook, sans swivel, sans everything except for the spoon itself, liberally coated in a layer of grime. Once cleaned up and re-armed it looks good and it should tempt the odd Pike on a frosty late autumn morning. My 30 gram copper one is at least 50 years old! I like the idea that it will still catch the occasional fish after half-a-century.

 

Torsjo (also marketed as the Daffy in America)

With its orange ‘fins’ on each edge this is an instantly recognisable spoon made by ABU. To me it looks like a very old design. I can’t imagine some hip young fella on his PC drawing the crazy outline of the Torsjo on a CAD programme. Was this spoon supposed to look like a small flat fish? Who can tell? The ‘fins’ on the edges don’t seem to impart any particular action that I can see but perhaps they act as some sort of stabilizer.

The Torsjo first made an appearance way back in 1949 and ran right through until 1972 when it was discontinued.

I have one all silver Torsjo which weighs in at 15 grams. Given its age, it is in good condition. My issue with this spoon is what is it supposed to be used for? I guess it would tempt a grilse but I am not 100% sure what else would grab it. If it was heavier I would use it in salty water but at 15 grams it is a tad too light for that craik. Sudden revelation: would the Torsjo be any good spinning for sea trout in estuaries? I am used to trying longer, thinner and heavier baits like the ABU Krill when spinning for estuary sea trout but maybe the Torsjo is an alternative?

An interesting aside is the influence of the Torsjo on the legendary Toby design. When ABU started to make prototype Toby spoons (or the Tobis as it was then called) the lure did not have those distinctive little fins on the rear of the bait. The designers were not happy with the lures action in the water and someone had the idea the ‘fins’ on the Torsjo might be a clue to stabilising the Tobis as it was retrieved. Small fins were added and an improvement was seen immediately, so after some further tweaking the pair of fins became one of the instantly recognisable features of the Toby for generations to come.

Fins on a Toby, inspired by the Torsjo!

Then one day while on holiday I was mooching around a supermarket in Poland. I was supposed to follow the carefully written shopping list but I stumbled upon a whole aisle dedicated to fishing tackle, so I ditched the shopping list and got down to a closer inspection of what was on offer. Surprise, surprise – on a rack of metal lures made by a company called ‘POLSPING’ I spotted a copper coloured spoon named the CEFAL. Was this a copy of the old ABU Torsjo?

On the same rack there was another copper bait which looked like a skinny ABU ‘Tylo’, this one being called a PERKOZ. These baits are equipped with strong split rings and good quality VMC treble hooks. The only issue I have with them is they do not come with a swivel but it is only the work of a few minutes to add barrel swivels to them. After parting with a few more zlotys, both of these baits were in my basket, starting the long journey which would see them tried out on the Conn next season.

 

 

Pep

Looking somewhat like a Toby spoon the Pep had a short and undistinguished life. Stamped out of thick metal, the Pep looks like it should be a good catcher but I have yet to hook a damn thing on them! I suspect that this lack of success on the end of angler’s lines translates quickly to poor repeat sales and lures which are ineffective don’t last too long. We fishers see our baits as vital items in our armoury which we lovingly look after and consider. To the hard-headed business people who manufacture fishing tackle each SKU must generate a profit. The Pep fell short when it came to catching fish and this led to its demise.

Both of my examples weigh in at 18 grams which I would have thought was the most popular size for a bait like this. One is gold and the other one is silver and each has a lick of red paint on one edge and blue or green on the other. I am toying with the idea of trying the Pep for Mackerel since they are not too fussy when it comes to baits. I’d like to catch something (anything) on a Pep!

 

 

 

Hogbom

Now this is a real odd-bod! Manufactured in Sweden by another company the licence was bought by ABU back in the 1940’s. I understand the lure was designed for use on the famous River Morrum in southern Sweden by an engineer named Mr. Hogbom. The bold Mr. Hogbom created a lure unlike any other that I have seen. The folded metal body is roughly fish-shaped. There is up-tilted, flat, angled ‘tail’ gives the lure its action. ABU dropped them for many years then they made a comeback between the mid-sixties and 1976 when they disappeared for good. I only have one of these strange baits, a gold pre-ABU one which weighs 20 grams.

If the Hogbom was designed for use on the Morrum it was made to be attractive to salmon and sea trout – and big ones at that! The river Morrum has a global reputation for big salmonids as any online search will show. Photos and videos abound of massive sea-trout and gigantic salmon caught there. What interests me is the way the treble hook is attached to the Hogbom if it was being cast in front of these huge fish. A piece of stainless steel wire passes through the middle of the bait, out of sight for most of its length. Maybe I worry too much but I would like to see that vital couple of inches of wire are in perfect condition before I chuck it at a fish of a lifetime!

The treble hook on  my Hogbom is dressed with a rakish looking orange hackle. It softens the otherwise hard lines of the Hogbom. Other examples I have seen are adorned with only bare hooks.

The question is does it work? Disappointingly it has failed to produce the goods so far but I will keep giving it an occasional swim.

 

 

Morrum Spinner

While we are talking about the legendary river Morrum I will show you my only example of the ABU Morrum Spinner. I love these mad-looking baits! The unusual head which acts as a keel is placed in front of the spinner blade on a separate piece of wire. Behind that are a set of beads which form the main body of the lure. The problem I have with the Morrum spinner is that it tangles when casting. Maybe this is a function of my bad technique or maybe it is a function of the articulated nature of the lure. It is so unlike any other lure in my box that it catches my eye every time I lift the lid. Trolled behind the boat it has only tempted small Pike so far.


 

 

 

Glimmy

Ah, the Glimmy! I really like these old spoons and snap them up if I ever see them for sale. A very old lure, they are hard to find these days which is a shame as they are mighty fish producers. The smallest ones are fatally attractive to perch for some reason so on a very slow day I clip a Lill-Glimmy on and run the boat over one of the noted spots for perch. It almost always produces a bend in the rod for me!

The first Glimmy’s appeared in 1951 and back then they came in only two sizes, a meaty 30 gram version and whopper of a spoon that weighed in at an impressive 38 grams. These early examples were both the same length (90mm), just stamped out of different thicknesses of metal.

Years passed and ABU expanded the range of sizes to include the 18 gram and 12 gram Glimmy. These ones are both a nice size for salmon trolling, so if you are keen on that branch of the sport look out for Glimmy spoons and give them a try. These are not easy to find as ABU only made the 18 and 12 gram Glimmy for three years from 1973 until 1976. Those nice wee Lill-Glimmy’s can be as old as 1952! I’m currently looking out for a gold Lill Glimmy as my last example wedged itself on the bottom of lough Conn a couple of seasons ago. The gold coloured ones seem to be particularly effective.

A pair of silver lill Glimmy spoons

 

 

Facette

I only have one of these spoons and it probably takes up the space of a more useful lure if I am honest. Angular in shape, they do have a lively action in the water. My sole example was once black in colour but it is faded now to a marled grey. The outside sports some sort of a reflective material. I got my hands on this spoon just to see what it was like on the end of the line and it does hop around a fair bit when trolled at even a slow speed. Unfortunately the fish seem to be seriously unimpressed with the Facette, or at least with the flashy 18 gram one that I own.

Originally released on to the market in the 1950’s this spoon came in the standard 7/12/18 gram formats but it vanished again at some point in the 1960’s. I think I am right in saying that the Facette then re-appeared back in the late 1970’s. Now it was clad on one side in the reflective tape like my one. With that added bling it looked like a ‘70s lure. I think of it as the Morris Ital of the lure world. It is pretty much crap!

Morris Ital 1.3 HL

 

Safir

a bit worn maybe but they still work just fine

The Safir was a small spoon which ABU made during the period from the late 1940’s through to the end of the 1950’s. I have only ever seen them in 7gr and 10gr weights but maybe they produced bigger ones for all I know. The lads in southern Sweden seem to have had a problem deciding on the colour scheme for these wee spoons as they came in a wide range of variations, most (but not all) had a red or orange painted inner side. The convex face could be silver, copper or gold or some were a mix of different metallic colours.

That 10 gram silver/copper Safir in the photo above can be accurately dated because the weight is stamped on it below the word ‘Sweden’. This was only done by the factory in 1957 apparently.

So are they any good? The Safir is a bit on the small side for most of my fishing so they tend to lead a quiet life, snuggled into a compartment of a big tackle box. On the rare occasions I snap one on to the end of a trace they have brought in Perch and jack Pike. Nice wee spoons though………….

7 gram silver/gold Safir

 

Plankton

Closely akin to the Safir  is another ABU spoon, the Plankton. Deeply concave and semi-scaled, this spoon has a great action in the water. During its 30 year life the Plankton went through remarkably few changes to the colour. The basic silvers and coppers are available in the 7gm, 12gm and 20gm sizes and are still for sale on the secondhand market these days. I have only recently acquired some 12’s and 20’s for my box but one of them is a lovely silver and copper which looks great in coloured water. I’ll try them for Pike, confident that they should do the business.

trio-of-planktons.jpg

Not sure about the BG coloured one I own, I’ve never been a fan of that Bluegill pattern for some reason.

a pair of 20 gram silver Planktons

 

ABU-draget

These are an old design which A.B.Urfabriken introduced around the end of the second world war. With ABU stamped on the top of the convex surface we fishers of a certain vintage have grown up simply calling this one the ‘ABU spoon’. I only possess a copper 15 gram and a silver 20 gram but it came in a wide range of colours and some were even equipped with an additional treble at the head end too.

The ABU-draget has a lovely slow, rolling action in the water. The 15 gram size measures about 50mm, a fine size for summer salmon.

Production of the ABU-draget ended in 1975 and this unimposing little spoon was consigned to history. I like this one though and I keep an eye out for them on the secondhand market. I’d like to find a 20 gram copper version – I’s suspect it could be a killer!

 

 

Barramundi Mauler

Always a sucker for a good name, I had to buy one of these when I came across it. Marketed in Australia (hence the name) this a well-made plug, one which should stand up to a lot of punishment. I have never tangled with a Barramundi but I’m guessing they are tough customers which can destroy poorly made baits. This is another deep diver and it came equipped with stout treble hooks and hefty split rings for battling big, aggressive fish.

Similar to a lot of other plugs already ensconced in my tackle bag, it may be just the lure to give me a salmon someday. Then again, maybe it won’t. Great name though!

 

 

Risto Rap

The hot Alabama sun beats down on the lily pad fringed pond where the old angler is flipping his bait out. It catches the rays of the sun as it sails 20 yards through the moist air before landing with a resounding ‘plop’. The snapping turtle watches him from the sunken log it is hiding behind as the short baitcasting rod twitches during the retrieve. Small Bluegills and crappies shoal in the shallows, constantly moving as they search for food while keeping an eye out for their enemy – the largemouth bass. The angler fans his precise casts out to cover the deep water, sweat on his brow under the weathered John Deere baseball cap. Just as he thinks he is wasting his time the rod slams over into a sharp bend and battle is joined with a stubby four pounder. The Risto Rap has worked again.

That is how and where I image Rapala’s Risto Rap was supposed to work. I expect it was made with the American Bass fishing market in mind. It sports a gargantuan front lip to push the buoyant bait down to about 8 feet below the surface. My own one is a nice, flashy chrome example. Rapala stopped making them a while ago and they are hard to find these days.

I was looking around for a plug to dive that bit deeper when I came across the Risto Rap. Drop offs have always fascinated me and the thought that big fish are lurking in the black water just over the edge from the shallows sends shivers up my spine. I wanted a plug to troll deeply in that zone and I figured the Risto Rap was worth a try. Watch this space………………………..

 

 

Landa Lukki

Fancy a change from tossing Toby spoons? Then look out for Landa Lukki spoons. Made in UK in the late 70’ and 80’s these were good copies of the famous Swedish Toby. They work too! The best news is that you can find them easily on the second-hand market where they change hands for very little money. I recently bought half-a-dozen perfectly good Lukkis for less than a Euro each.

Sizes are similar to the Toby but the colour range is restricted to the basics. Lukki spoons with slashed sides, marketed as ‘Lukki Turbo’ can also be found out there. These can bend easily under pressure so check them if you have to free them from rocks or other stickers on the bottom. If they are out of shape simply bend them back again and carry on fishing.

As a side note, Landa used to make a really nice bait called the ‘Herring’. Now this did not look much to the untrained eye but by jingo they slaughtered Pollock and Mackerel. I have lost all the ones I used to own bar one tiny wee gold specimen which is too small to fish in the sea. I keep looking for more of them but with no luck so far.

 

All of the lures (even the Pep) will catch a fish on their day. Trolling can be a boring pastime so swapping baits helps to liven up an otherwise quiet day. The ABU spoons in particular were very well made baits. High quality metals must have been used in their construction because they have lasted so well.

I am a late comer to trolling and it will always be my second choice when fishing Lough Conn. On those days when the fly is not going to be effective, such as flat calm and brilliant sunshine, I turn to the trolling rods and trail the ironmongery behind the boat for a while. Using these old baits adds something to an otherwise boring day. If you left me to fish with only a single 18 gram silver and copper Toby I strongly suspect I’d still catch the same number of salmon but the enjoyment of a day cannot always be measured simply by the number of fish. When a silvery salmon grabs that oddly shaped few grams of metal, stamped out on a press in a factory in southern Sweden decades ago, I feel a tingle inside. Oddballs are good in my book.

On the troll

 

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Fishing in Ireland, Pike, salmon fishing, trolling

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Wind the clock back many, many years to the 1970’s and you would find me on the banks of a Scottish salmon river clad in a worn Barbour coat and thigh waders. Depending on the conditions I’d either be wielding a 15 foot Hardy fly rod or my trusty ABU Atlantic 423 Zoom spinning rod. Sometimes I’d carried them both with me so I could switch between methods as required, my tackle bag bulging with boxes of flies and baits. I still have that old Hardy fly rod but the Atlantic went missing many moons ago.

The Aberdeenshire Don and the Cothal pool on Upper Parkhill. The old ABU subdued many fine salmon here

At the time I was living in a tiny flat in Aberdeen, so minute that there was no room for my rods and they were thus consigned to a cupboard under the communal stairs. I always fretted about their safety but the security system on the front door should have kept any thieves at bay. Alas it was not so! One day I noticed some of my rods were missing and among the haul the perpetrator had taken was my much-loved Atlantic 423. It was a disaster of immense proportions and  I mourned for that 9 feet of Swedish fibreglass for a long, long time. Soon after the theft I moved away and became very busy at work so by the time I got around to buying a replacement heavy spinning rod there were some new kids on the block and I went for something a bit longer. Over the years I amassed a range of rods but none of them really replaced that champagne coloured Atlantic. Until now.

Picked up in Glasgow for a small amount I am now, after a gap of 30 years, the very happy and proud owner of an original ABU Atlantic 423 Zoom. To some of you this may look like a dinosaur of a rod, with its thick fibre glass and metal ferrules but to me I now have possibly the finest spinning rod every produced. The balance, power and strength of this rod put it in a class all of its own for me.

This rod is ringed for use with a fixed spool reel (the ba….d who stole my original rod also got away with my trusty ABU Cardinal 77 as well). I have a nice 4000 sized Okuma fixed spool reel which will fit perfectly on the new rod for now. I am afraid that even I baulk at the cost of an old Cardinal 77. They were absolute tanks of reels and a pure joy to fish with, but a good example is changing hands for €200 – €300. That’s too rich for me I’m afraid!

Specification wise this beauty boasts a full cork handle, those lovely flexible stand-off rings, a keeper ring, shiny chromed metal male and female ferrules, a down locking reel seat and brown whippings over silver tipping. It is rated to cast 30 – 60 grams but trust me, it can hurl an 18 gram Toby clear across most rivers.

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Interestingly the rod bag states the casting range is 18 to 60 grams, different to what is on the rod itself

I’ll grant you that by modern standards the Atlantic is heavy. I personally don’t mind this in a spinning rod as I don’t have the patience to spin for hour after hour. Instead, I fish in short bursts and often stop to change baits (usually in an effort to keep close to the bottom). All that weight is nicely distributed and the rod is not top heavy, unlike so many beefy spinning rods. I willingly put up with increased weight for the security engendered by the thick fibreglass walls as opposed to a brittle, skinny wand made of cheap far eastern carbon.

I think that one of the big advantages this rod had over the competition was its ability to apply huge pressure when required. With such power in the butt section I always felt confident I could bully a fish out of difficult situations and only the biggest of salmon every got the better of it. My old one landed a good few 20 pounders back in the day.

Going ever so slightly overboard, around the same time that I bought the lovely Atlantic 423 I also acquired a somewhat less than pristine ABU Atlantic 443S Zoom. This rod was on offer at a very low price so I bought it to see how it compares to the Atlantic that I know so well. It will certainly handle differently as it is ringed for a multiplier reel and is equipped with one of those speedlock handles. I was confused when I saw this rod advertised as it was claimed to be 13 feet long and a beachcaster! I was sure these old 443’s were 9 feet long and cast 1-2 ounces and while they are grand for spinning in the sea you could not class them as beachcasters. Sure enough, when it landed in my sweaty paws it did indeed turn out to be a nine-footer.

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As I said, the 443 has some damage and the handle needs attention before it can be used in anger. Cosmetically, the deep mustardy-yellow of the blank is not attractive to my eye but that is just my taste. What is more important is the strength of the blank and this is another powerful rod. Once I have repaired it I plan to use it with my Ambassadeur 5500C for salmon spinning or possibly pair it with a bigger 6500C3 or even a 7000C for fishing off the rocks for Pollock.

Length is the only area where I think ABU could have improved on these rods. Nine feet is a wee bit short for my liking and an extra 12 or even 18 inches would have made a commanding weapon. I guess it would also have upset that perfect balance I was talking about so I will settle for just the 9 feet.

The 443 rod actually came with a reel attached to it when I bought it – an ABU Abumatic 350 closed faced spincaster. This seems to be an odd pairing of rod and reel to me, I would have thought a heavy spinning rod like the 443 would require a multiplier reel to get the best from it. Having never owned a spincasting reel like this before I am unsure about its capabilities. I always figured the Abumatics were grand for coarse fishing but would not be strong enough for salmon angling.

The 350’s were made from 1976 – 1982 and this particular one is dated June 1977, making it over 41 years old. Try as I might I can’t find out much more about the 350. There is lots of info online about the smaller and more popular ABU spincasting reels like the 120 or the 170 but this 350 remains a mystery. I’m guessing it will hold a descent shot of 10 pound line so I’ll try that for a start. First things first though, I will strip the Abumatic down, fix a dodgy return spring, the loose free spool toggle and the brake which is not functioning at all. It will then need a good clean and lubrication. Any other defects need to be found and repairs effected before I try to fish with it  (as long as I can source spare parts). All of this is an ideal job for a wet Saturday afternoon with the radio on, listening to the football and drinking copious mugs of steaming hot coffee.

As a rule I purchase this kind of old gear to fish with and not just to collect dust in a display. To some people it may appear sacrilege subjecting such fine pieces of angling memorabilia to the muck and water of a day’s fishing. I do understand that point of view and accept that for some collectors my wanton disregard for varnished whippings and lacquered finishes borders on criminality. But my view is that some of these old rods and reels are arguably among the finest tackle every made by human hand and I get my joy from their use. The smooth retrieve of a well serviced reel or the powerful curve in a fibreglass rod are only accessible on the water. I still regularly use an old ABU Atlantic 410 for lighter spinning duties and harbour a sneaking suspicion that fibreglass may just be a better material for spinning rods than carbon.

After the unmitigated disaster that was the 2018 season I am now actually looking forward to Spring 2019 and the chance to use my latest purchases. Let’s hope there are a few more fish around to put a bend in the fibreglass ABU’s!

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Fishing in Ireland

Feathertouch

That impulse buying of old fishing gear got a hold of me again and I ‘invested’ a tenner in an old American closed faced spinning reel, a Zebco One Classic Feathertouch. I love the look of these reels and have wanted one for a while now so when I saw this one online I made a silly bid and, hey presto! I won.

I will confess I know next to nothing about closed faced reels and even less about the Zebco range. My understanding is that in the States you can still wander into your local Walmart and buy a new Zebco closed faced reel for a few bucks but like so many other producers the manufacturing operations have moved to the far east and quality is but a shadow of the originals. I think I am right in saying that Zebco were based in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

In my mind this reel would work well on a tiny 5 or 6 foot rod for those rare occasions when I free-line a worm or maggot for roach or cast tiny lures like devons on overgrown streams for trout. I went online to see if there was any information about Feathertouch and sure enough  there are avid collectors and enthusiasts aplenty. Even better, Zebco have a great website with lots of good information about their reels on it including short videos on maintenance. I am confident I will be able to keep this old lady in good nick and am looking forward to giving it a try.

Now what is this reel all about? Let’s look at some good and bad points.

Pluses

  • It is small.
  • It is very light too, meaning it is great for the lightest forms of fishing
  • It seems to be very well made for a budget reel
  • It was cheap (always a good point for me)
  • It looks quirky (as above)

Minuses

  • Line capacity is miserly so don’t go chasing big fish with heavy lines
  • The drag is basic to say the least
  • It is an old reel so I don’t know how easy/cost effective it is going to be to get spare parts for it
  • I don’t do a lot of very light spinning (does anybody use the term ‘threadlining’ now?)
  • I only rarely fish for Roach or Perch on rivers with bait either, so it is not going to get used very much

A relatively open section of the Clydagh river in Mayo. Access is a real problem on this river so baitcasting may be an option

All my rods are too big/long/heavy for this wee reel and light line so I will treat myself to a new fishin’ pole. I’ll pop down to Frank Bain’s fishing emporium on New Antrim Street and see if he has a sweet little bait casting rod for me to team up with the Zebco. With a rod like that I could even team it up with my old silver ABU Ambassadeur 4500 which I can spool some light nylon on (I knew those spare spools would come in handy one day). Then again, some ten pound braid, a short wire trace and I could use that set up to chase jack pike on the rivers! Suddenly the options open up and that is the beauty of an ultra light spinning outfit, you can fish in places where other methods are ruled out or so damn difficult that all the fun is taken out of it.

The Ambassadeur 4500CB, it will work well on a short baitcasting rod as long as the baits have sufficient casting weight

Going back to the Zebco, this ‘one classic’ model is a version of the famous ’33’ which Zebco built their reputation on. As far as I can make out these reels need to be spooled with nylon and not braid. The spring in nylon is required so the line leaves the spool when casting. I am thinking about using 6 pound nylon to fill this reel. That should be strong enough without compromising casting distance too much.

I will do the basic oil and grease stuff over the winter and have this little lady ready for the new season. My initial examination of the reel shows it has probably not been used for a long time and all working parts are stiff. Arthritic reels are caused by a lack of lubrication so that will be reasonably straight forward to deal with. There are no obvious signs of damage to the outside surfaces and if the innards are in similar shape I will be a happy man.

Sure, where would ye be going for a tenner?

 

 

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Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing

The wonder of Woolies

I hate shopping. I mean I really, really do hate shopping. There, it is out in the open and you can launch as much criticism as you like at me for my profound dislike of the retail experience. Freud would be delighted to know that I trace this back to my childhood and the trauma (OK, slight over exaggeration) of shopping on Union Street in Aberdeen with my mother. Three kids in tow, she would battle the Saturday morning crowds to get us new school clothes, shoes, football boots or whatever else we required. I simply could not fathom why it was so important to get the right thing, why there had to be so many items to choose from and why it took so long to complete the whole dreary exercise. To this day I hold all shopping in complete and utter contempt. Except for buying fishing tackle!

Woolworths on Union Street, Aberdeen

Funnily enough, the only high street shop I didn’t mind was Woolworth’s. Universally known as ‘Woolies’ (well, in Scotland at any rate) they were purveyors of what was probably best described as general goods and wears under the brand name ‘Winfield’. The Aberdeen branch occupied a prime site on Union Street behind one of those solid grey granite facades. It had a small section upstairs for fishing gear, so every family visit saw me shoot off up those wide stairs with the tiny mosaic tiles to examine the tackle in detail. Occasionally, pocket-money allowing, I’d purchase a packet of hooks or maybe even stretch to a small metal devon minnow. But it was the multiplier reels which I was always fascinated by. Way, WAY beyond the reach of my pre-teen pocket money, I still gravitated to them and always spent some time looking at and handling these inaccessible machines. They seemed to be so exotic and incongruous perched there in their Teal blue boxes on the shelves between haberdashery and baking/cake making. Shiny black side plates enclosed by glittering chromed rings, free spinning spools, the ‘clunk’ when the gears were engaged and those star drags that I had only ever seen in books.

By the time I was working and in a position to buy my own tackle I had become more circumspect and Woolies finest was disregarded in favour of ABU and Hardy’s. I moved away from the city, the shop in Union Street shutdown and the shiny multipliers therein were forgotten about. It was many long years later that somewhere along the line I bought some fishing junk in a second-hand shop and in amongst the various items of tat there was a big old Winfield multiplier. It brought a smile to my face but I had no thought of actually using it. Meaning to sell it on later, this old reel lay in the bottom of a drawer or in various boxes as I moved around different cities with work over the years. I’d unearth it periodically, give the handle a spin and chuck back into the box it came from. Then an odd thing happened, I came to buy a few other Winfield multipliers. It started off as just seeing a cheap complete reel or one which required repairs which could be bought for an insignificant price. Useful, cheap reels. Over the year though my resonance with these reels has grown and developed into an appreciation of these solid testimonies to Japanese manufacturing.

So what is the attraction of these old sea fishing reels? It is hard for me to put it into words because, at the end of the day, they are pretty agricultural in use. No silky smooth drag systems, no ceramic spool bearings or hi-tech anti-backlash brakes here! Winfield fishing gear was universally known as being cheap and not of particularly good quality but I am not sure this is the truth. The reels were good copies of the popular American Penn models of the day and were manufactured in Japan by the same company who built the Matchmaster and Chuyo reels. Over the years I have heard lots of tales of stripped gears and disintegrating spools which may or may not be due to bad technique in use or poor maintenance. I can only comment on Winfield multipliers as I have zero experience of any other Winfield reels (they were purveyors of fixed spool and fly reels too). To me the build quality was OK. Unsophisticated perhaps, but the materials used and the way they were put together was not bad for that era.

Woolies stocked a bewildering array of multipliers. Why they thought they needed so many variations beats me and it must have been hard to turn a profit out of so many stock lines. The minor differences between the surfcaster and the shore caster for example can hardly be described as significant yet both models were on sale at the same time. The one reel which stands out for me is the tiny Bassfisher. These are actually sought after these days and if you own one which you are not using you will have no trouble selling it on the second-hand market.

A drawer full of old Winfield reels

I have a couple of nice, clean Bass Fishers which are in great condition for 40-year-old reels. I also have a couple of somewhat battered examples which have obviously seen a lot of action in the past and I keep them for spare parts.  These reels have very narrow spools which mean you can brake them during casting by applying pressure to the inside surfaces of the spool as the lead flies out. Don’t imagine for a single minute that this means this reel is a good casting machine – it is not! These old reels were bereft of any sort of braking system beyond your thumb, so bird’s nests are not infrequent if you try to push for distance. But then again, this reel was not designed for lashing 6 ounces over the far horizon. It was meant for dropping a peeler crab or lugworm just beyond the third breaker, typically a gentle lob of 60 yards or so. Use it for that kind of work and you won’t be disappointed.

I’ve got a real soft spot for my Bass Fishers. Gloriously quirky, they are unlike any other reel I own. Yet they are strongly built for such small reels and I know that if I keep looking after them they will last for many more years. In an age where everything seems to be dumbed down so the user requires less and less actual skills my wee Bass Fishers demand a small degree of ability to use them properly. I like that. I enjoy mastering the physical learning process of handling the reel so I can cast with it without getting too many bird’s nests.

We don’t get a lot of bass around our part of the Irish coast here in Mayo. The odd one or two turn up in the summer and autumn but fishing specifically for them will entail lots of blanks! The old Bassfisher reels don’t get as much use as they should but I still like to give them a try on those occasions when I’m casting over roughish ground looking for anything that forages on the bottom.

All the reels in the original range of beachcasters had black side plates (I will call them mark 1 but there was no designation on them). These were replaced by reels clad in the much nicer green side plates (mark 2?). As far as I can make out the mechanics of the reels were basically unaltered and the side plate colour change was for cosmetic purposes only.

Shorecasters and Surfcasters were the same reel but with longer bars to give a wider spool on the Shorecaster. I use these as pier reels where nothing more strenuous than a lob of a few yards is required of them. The idea of a full-blooded pendulum cast with one of these is terrifying! They would make nice little reels for jigging for Mackerel from the boat and you can pick them up for a tenner on a certain well known online bidding site. I’d say the Shorecaster is the weakest of the Winfield stable due to the width or the reel. To my mind the Surfcaster is a better balanced reel given the design which is all screwed together. I use the Shorecaster with my venerable Milbro Monarch glassfibre rod for pier fishing.

Lord only knows where the ‘DB’ series fitted into all of this! Were they the forerunner of the surfcaster reels? I honestly don’t know but they were certainly available along with the others in the 1970’s and I have seen the odd one on the market. These reels are instantly recognisable because of the odd semi-circular thumb rest on them.

I want to emphasise to you the need to protect plastic spools on older reels. You can easily destroy old spools by not cushioning them effectively from the high compression forces of tightly wound nylon lines. By this I mean winding on the layer of compressible material first before winding on your mono or braid. I use cheap fly line backing, just running on about 3 or 4 layers of the backing then joining that to the line and continue to fill the reel as normal. Trust me, the few minutes extra and the small outlay for a few yards of backing will be worth it in the long run.

I don’t remember seeing this next reel as a child so it possibly came along later in the 1970’s or even ‘80’s. By then ABU had the shore multiplier market all to themselves with the exceptionally smooth and refined Ambassadeur series of reels. Winfield boldly took on the challenge by introducing a level-wind model. Sporting oddly shaped end plates which were strangely prescient of the ultra-modern casting reel in use nowadays, these level wind models don’t seem to have sold in big numbers as they are not common finds these days. I managed to make one out of a bag of bits which I bought for next-to-nothing online. Trust me, this was no major feat of engineering; the insides of the Winfield reels were simple and easy to understand. Thoughts to self: I must have a proper search through all the bits and pieces which were left in that bag, I might have enough to make a second Woolies level wind!

Buying broken reels or even just parts is something which has served me well over a lengthy angling career. These days it is much easier to source parts than it was in the past. There are specialist companies who deal in spares or upgrades for the most popular brands and even a cursory search online will yield a range of these businesses across the globe. It does begin to get expensive when ordering bits online due to the high cost of postage. Over the years I have picked up everything from complete reels, stripped down  and packed in old boxes right down to gear trains, end plates and handles sold separately. I guess it all depends on what you get enjoyment from – I’d rather repair a good reel and keep it running than rushing out to buy a replacement. The downside is the mass of bits and pieces which are in boxes in the fishing den. I have boxes upon boxes of parts for freshwater, shore and boat fishing reels!

Speaking of the boat, Woolies stocked a range of bigger multipliers for use afloat too. These were pretty robust affairs which, at first glance, looked identical to the Penn’s of that era. The shore reels all sported plastic spools but these were replaced with proper metal spools on the boat reels. Whether the internals were perfect replicas of the near-bulletproof Penn gear train is not certain. Again, there were Winfield boat reels in an impressive range of sizes. The International sized reels in 20, 30, 40 and 50 formats can still be picked up for a song on the secondhand market. The metalwork on the Winfield boat sea fishing reels all seemed to be heavily chromed and they do appear to be lasting very well if they have received a minimum level of TLC over the years. Even the best reels on the market will be reduced to a ball of rust if neglected and the simple job of a good rinse with warm water to wash of the salt takes only a few minutes after a trip but it will add years to the life of your reel. I’ve seen excellent reels like the big ABU 20’s and 30’s destroyed by salt just because the owners were too lazy to wash them in fresh water after use and keep them properly lubricated.

An International 50

I have a venerable ‘International 50’ (this was the first one I bought all those years ago) which suggests to me it was built to cope with 50 pound test lines and the rigours of heavy leads / tides / fish that go along with that class of reel. I don’t go in for the skate and shark fishing this reel was made for, I just happened to pick it up as part of a job lot of tackle and I use it sometimes for general bottom work. Having seen at first-hand how some modern reels fail utterly when out on the boat I think my old Woolies job is at least as robust as some cheap new kids on the block. I will admit to having doubts about my International 50 being up to hauling a barn-door of a skate up off the bottom of Clew Bay!

this is the 50 I am using for spares, note the missing reel seat screws

I was lucky to pick up another ‘International 50’ for use as spare parts recently for a few cents. The gears, side plates, drag and handle were all in good condition with just some of the smaller parts missing or broken. With luck I should be able to keep the good reel ticking over for many years to come.

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Skipper Darragh McGee lifts Sean Fahys prizewinning skate aboard the White Water II in Clew Bay

Then there is the International 40 which I bought only this year. Senility must be creeping in because I have parted with cash for a reel that I do not intend to fish with. This reel has never seen the water and comes with the original box, instruction leaflet, oil and spanner. It is just too damn pretty to use! It’s like those reels I drooled over as a schoolboy a lifetime ago.

 

I have a Winfield boat reel badged the ‘Nautilus 30’ but I’m not sure if they came before of after the ‘International’ reels. Somewhere out there I suspect there lurks an avid collector who could tell me more about these reels but for now I will have to remain merrily ignorant. The Nautilus I own sports a metal spool and looks the same as an International of the same size. This reel is in poor condition and needs a total re-build. Once it is repaired it should hold enough line for the type of bottom fishing I do out in the bay. Another wee project for this winter!

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The Nautalis 30. Note the metal spool on this reel

Those of you long-suffering masochists who read my blog on a regular basis will already know that I have a certain penchant for using vintage (read – old) fishing gear. The link with the past, the better quality materials which were used, the ‘feeling’ you get using old rods and reels are part of me and how I approach this life. New-fangled contraptions are generally beyond me and so I stick to the gear I know well and have enjoyed using all my life. It’s not just fishing tackle this extends too – I could go into a showroom tomorrow and buy a new car if I so desired, but my trusty 17-year-old VW does me just fine, thank you very much! Like its owner there are too many miles on the clock, the bodywork is a bit tatty and it can’t reach top speed anymore. But it chugs along and so do I, each of us comfortable with the others foibles.

Earlier on in this post I mentioned stripped gears. To void this always ‘pump’ heavy loads instead of winding against them. This applies to weeds/rocks as well as fish. Reels are not built to withstand high pressures and the best of them will fail if you keep winding against a load. Lift the rod up high then lower it quickly, winding in the resulting slack line. Stop winding and lift the rod again. Keep repeating this until you have retrieved the line. If you are stuck on the bottom and can’t free the hook by pumping them give yourself some slack and wrap a cloth around your hand then pull until the hook frees or the leader breaks.

Talking of old shops in Aberdeen, who remembers this one?

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