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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Self-Takes Part 2

Since my original bulb release split, the mechanism being permanently fixed to my adaptor bracket, I have been using a second bracket which I bought when I thought I'd lost part of the first one. Having used it for a good few months now (although not recently...) I think it's better than the first one as it locks more securely in all places and being aluminium and steel construction the thread the release screws into shouldn't strip like the plastic block did.

The part that screws into the camera's base is also less likely to be lost as it is captive in the channel of the bracket. I've slipped some aquarium tube over the ends of the posts to stop them slipping out in transit. The only thing to watch out for is a thumbscrew working loose and getting lost.

Camera attached to bracket and tripod quick-release plate

The bracket (and the replacement bulb release) were bought from SRB-Griturn who have since proved very helpful with other orders for photographic accessories. To be safe order the angled version which will accommodate any angle of shutter button. A larger version for SLR cameras is also available.

More on self-takes here.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Shimano 4000D

When Tim Kelly, tackle tart extraordinaire, pointed me to the then forthcoming new range of Shimano Baitrunners, the successors to the bullet-proof B series, I got quite excited. They were hailed as being as robust (designed for saltwater fishing) but with improved spool profiles and line lay. Being a reelaholic I was itching to get my hands on one (or more...) but managed to resist the temptation to order from the USA owing to carriage charges being ridiculous these days. I also wanted to check the spool sizes out. The 4000D seemed to be the replacement for the 3500B but the size numbering used by Shimano has changed over the years and there would be no guarantee that the spool would be any bigger.

From various forums I noted that there were some available on-line in the UK, so I checked out Ted Carter's site and there they were! I needed to visit Staples for some stationary today (I could have managed without but it was a reasonable excuse!) so I called in at Ted's. My first impression was that the reel looked small. In the hand it felt it, and light too. It was not what I was hoping for. Initially I had envisaged myself purchasing two of the 4000Ds for barbelling and three of the smaller DL FA Baitrunners to replace my Ticas - even though the Shimanos have the hateful double handles.

After handling both reels I decided that the 4000D would be perfect to go on my tench rods, and I'd stick with the 3500Bs for my barbel fishing. This is not to say the 4000D isn't a nice reel. It is. It's compact, the drag feels smooth, the Baitrunner has good adjustment and the handle is comfortable. With the reel back home the spool was almost identical in profile to that of the 3507 Tica.

3500B and 4000D compared

However, the Baitrunner lever operates with a satisfying click (going both on and off) in the opposite direction to all previous Shimanos - which shouldn't prove troublesome as I soon got used to that on the horrible Daiwas I had - and the anti-reverse switch is annoyingly small and fiddly, just as it is on the XTEA. I suppose if you always use the drag or always backwind this isn't an issue, but I sometimes do both.

A nice feature is the one-piece bale arm that will allow line to smoothly flow onto the large roller. On the 3500B I find braid has a tendency to stop where the bale arm wire enters the flared piece over the roller - there is noticeable wear on the black anodising at this point. The rest of the bale arm on the 4000D seems a bit thin though, like it may be prone to getting bent.

Spools and line lay compared

I guess Shimano have introduced the 4000D and the other two small front drag Baitrunner series to get into a market that Okuma have cornered. The DL FA and ST FA ranges are competitively priced, good looking and have the Shimano name to them. They'll do well I think. I won't be getting rid of my Epix Pro 30s, but the Ticas' days are numbered.

Now to the rant! Why can't reel manufacturers settle on some universally accepted system for classifying spool sizes? Why do Shimano keep changing theirs? I have 8000 Biomaters that have bigger spools than my 10,000 XTE-As, and 3000 and 4000 spools that are interchangeable! It makes buying new reels sight-unseen impossible. What is required is a system that combines the spool diameter at the lip and the length (from lip to skirt), and even the depth as a guide to capacity. I expect I'm howling at the moon.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Books, writers and writing

I mentioned in an earlier post that I'd read Casting at the Sun recently. I also got a copy of My Fishing Days and Fishing Ways by J.W. Martin (The Trent Otter) at the same time. Two reprints from the Medlar Classics series - affordable hardbacks produced in an appealing format. I'm not a book snob and think books are meant to be read not objects to be admired, so the cheap price appeals to me. Paperbacks would have been even more appealing.

It must be me getting old, as I usually prefer books that are instructional rather than intended to invoke the spirit of angling, but the Yates book is a very good read. An evocative tale of his journey through carp fishing to catching the record. But for me it is spoiled by the section relating to the Golden Scale Club.

Nostalgia is fine, but trying to live in a romanticised Enid Blyton world in the modern age makes me spit. If Yates wants to fish with old tackle to catch carp, great. But please leave the silly names and ginger ale out of it. If I get the urge to read the book again I shall be taking a sharp knife to physically excise the offending pages!

The Martin book, on the other hand, is a genuine piece of history, having been written in 1906. For me the sections about the Trent and barbel are the most interesting. The famous Cromwell weir was still at the planning stage, so the river must have been tidal further upstream and somewhat different to what it is today, yet many of the stretches mentioned will be familiar to Trent regulars and are still productive today. I've caught from some of them myself. While tackle and baits have changed in some respects it's interesting to read how little some other things have altered. The fish are still the same, so they still hold in the same sorts of places they did 100 years ago and behave in similar fashion.

Another thing that hasn't changed is anglers moaning that the fishing isn't as good as it was years ago. In Martin's case I can't help thinking that taking most of the catch home, or selling it to pay for the next day's bait, can't have helped. So it's no wonder that a double figure pike was a rare capture, and a twenty pounder an absolute monster, but fourteen pound barbel were still to be had from the Mighty Trent. A good read. I must seek out a (cheap) copy of his barbel book.

You may have noticed a new quote from John Gierach in the sidebar. Not a writer I was familiar with, what with him being an American cane fly rod wafter, but I have seen a number of quotes from his writing on a few sites - notably Pure Piscator. I thought I ought to acquaint myself with his work as he clearly had things to say that were worth saying.

I ordered Death, Taxes, and Leaky Waders, a compendium of essays culled from six of his books. My third angling book purchase in as many weeks that contains no photographs of fish or diagrams of rigs! Gierach's a writer more on the 'why' of angling than the 'how' (although there's some of that slipped in almost incidentally), on anglers and their motivations. It turns out he studied philosophy, and had ambitions to become a 'serious' writer, which no doubt accounts for this. A parallel with Yates, perhaps, who went to art school - which attracts people who don't like the concept of work in the nine-to-five sense of the word, people who look at the world through enquiring eyes.

I have long felt that fishing is akin to the creation of art, be that in paint or prose. Writing, painting, and fishing are all about immersion in the task at hand, about solving problems, finding new ways to do things, avoiding repetition, keeping out of ruts. They are all three intellectual pursuits. The results (the book, the painting, the fish in the net) are not what they are about. They are about the process. While that process can be frustrating, to the point of heartbreak or despair, it is what provides the satisfaction. Gierach knows this. Joseph Conrad knew it too; "They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means". That's stuck with me for nigh on thirty years - which is why the full quote appears at the foot of this page.

Books of essays can be dipped into. Having a mistrust of all things fly-fishing I turned straight to the essay Pike - hoping I might ease myself into the book through a species I have some understanding of and almost immediately found a quotable line; "Skill in fishing is a nebulous thing based largely on seasoned intuition, perhaps informed by a little knowledge, but catching a few fish now and then doesn't mean you have it". The book is by my bedside. I can see it being defaced by my corner foldings and underlinings...

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Review - Sensas Easy Loop

Some time ago I mentioned a new toy. It was a Sensas Easy Loop. Two of them actually as there are two sizes in a pack. They look a bit like a cross between a small green, deformed, hockey-stick and a crochet hook. How they ever came to be designed I don't know, they are fiendishly clever.

Sensas Easy Loop

The smaller size makes loops that are good on the end of a hair rig and the larger one loops that go well on the end of a hooklink. The instructions are not too easy to follow and there is a bit of a knack to using the tool. But once you have the knack you can tie loops faster than you can by hand - small, neat, 'same size every time' loops. When you get the length of spare line that is required correct you can tie up quite short hooklinks.

I tested a loop tied with two twists in some 10lb braid against the hand-tied figure eight loop I have been using for some time on my hooklinks. I ran the test three times in fresh lengths of braid and the Easy Loop knot survived every time. I was so impressed I bought myself another pair to keep in my stillwater box.

The video below isn't intended to show how to use the Easy Loop, but to demonstrate how it lives up to its name.

Although I used orange Dacron for the video the Easy Loop works well with Spectra braids and, possibly even better, with nylon mono.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Review - Tica Sportera 3507SR (and other ramblings)

I would have been out fishing today if my plans hadn't been scuppered by flu ridden delivery drivers. I had it all planned, rods out for Christmas Wednesday and Thursday, fish Friday. Wednesday went well and the courier arrived early. If that was repeated on Thursday I might even manage to snatch a few hours on the river before and after dark. By five thirty yesterday I was still waiting. Then I got a phone call to say the driver would be late - as if he wasn't already. Ten minutes later another call to confess that there was no driver, they were short-staffed owing to 'flu' and they couldn't collect until Friday. So here I am, twiddling my thumbs and waiting. So I thought I'd fill my time rambling on here.

Back in August I wrote a review of the Okuma Epix Pro EPB30 Baitfeeder on this blog. It's a nice little reel that has it's body and spool in proportion - something I like in a reel. I mostly use the Okumas for perch fishing, where the freespool option comes in handy when there are daft carp about. For barbel fishing I also find that feature useful, especially when using two rods, but for that I use Shimano Baitrunner 3500Bs which I have reviewed on Barbel Now. While I have used the Okumas for feeder fishing for chub and roach I find they are a little slow on the retrieve. Not much of a problem on a river or when fishing at close range (as most of my perch fishing is) but on a long chuck it seems to take ages to get the feeder back for a refill.

Spools L-R: Shimano 4000, Tica 3507, Okuma 30

For a long time my tench fishing had been done with Shimano Aero Baitrunners of some description. The size had always been the same even though the model numbers had changed over the years. Originally they were 4000s, latterly 8000s. All take the same spools. A 4000, for example, takes the 4500 spools - the only difference being their capacity and the width at the spool lip. The smaller Aeros, however, are really the same reels with noticeably smaller spools. I have never seen any advantage in this. If I want a smaller capacity reel it's to use with lighter lines and lighter rods - so I want a reel that is smaller too. Anyway, the 4000/8000 Aeros are ideal for use with mono lines of 12lb and upwards to maybe 18lb. They are a popular size for carp and pike fishing. Personally I don't think they are robust enough for piking (maybe the more recent and more expensive models are) and prefer other reels, but that's for another blog.

In 2007 I decided that I wanted a slightly smaller freespool reel for my tenching and bought myself three Daiwa Regals. After just a short period of use I realised they were a bit flimsy for me. The bale arms bent for one thing, and one had started to sound a bit rough after I'd used it for a session on a river. I persevered with them until the end of the tench season, having had no trouble with them, and managed to palm them off on someone during the winter. In April this year I replaced them with three Tica Sportera 3507s. Initially I was unsure of how these relatively cheap reels would perform, but after landing a lot of tench on them, and playing a big carp on one for a long time before I lost it, I have grown to like them a lot.

Top: Shimano 8000RE Bottom L: Okuma Epix Pro 30. Bottom R: Tica Sportera 3507SR

They are not much larger than the Epix Pro 30, but considerably smaller than the 8000 Shimano - and therefore than the 5000 Shimano that has a similar sized spool. For close to medium range casting with lines up to 10lb they are spot on and balance nicely on an Interceptor or similar rod with a test curve of 2lb or less. The drag is surprisingly good, the bale arms don't bend, and after a fair bit of use they still feel smooth and satisfyingly 'solid'. Maybe not quite as smooth as the Epix Pros, but on a par with the Shimanos.

The line lay may not be as nice as on some reels, but I can't honestly say it has hindered my casting. They are not reels for distance fishing anyway. Even on the longest chuck I find they whip rigs back in quickly enough. If I ever get round to doing that roach fishing I keep threatening to do their spare spools will be getting loaded up with five pound mono. In the meantime it's 10lb. Should I need to cast further for tench or bream then it will be out with the heavier rods and on with the Aeros. Horses for courses.

Why the Tica range of reels isn't more widely stocked I can't say. All their reels I have seen in the upper price brackets (which is still a lower bracket than the top ranges of other manufacturers) have looked and felt as well constructed as the Sporteras. That's a Tica I bought for my chub fishing last month, for example. Bigger sizes of the Sportera are also available and even if you are not on a tight budget they are worth a look.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Fish Prints from Chris Turnbull

I've never been one for hanging pictures of fish on my walls. Most fish prints I've haven't struck me as worth having. I was, therefore, quite surprised to find myself tempted to keep and frame a print of Snag Swim Barbel that I had told Chris Turnbull I would return after writing a review of it.

You can read my brief review on Barbel Now or get a better look at Chris's prints at his new website -


Monday, August 04, 2008

Review - Okuma Epix Pro EPB30 Baitfeeder

You may have seen a small black reel in a few of my perch fishing posts. That is the Epix Pro EPB30.

What really bugs me about some reel manufacturers is their insistence on using one reel body for three or more different 'sizes' of reel. I put 'sizes' in inverted commas because all they do is change the rotor and spool. I realise this is done on economic grounds, but if I want a reel with a small spool it is to use with fine lines on a light rod. So I don't want a large and heavy reel!

Okuma have understood that a reel should match the sort of rod it is to be used with and the 30 size Epix Pro Baitfeeder is perfectly proportioned. Even if you don't need the 'baitfeeder' feature this is a superb little reel for fishing with lines up to 0.25mm/8lb. I guess you could go heavier, the gearing and drag is up to the task of playing large fish, but the spool size is too small for smooth casting with a thicker line in my opinion. I have two of these reels loaded with 0.20/5lb mono and find long (comparatively) casting is a doddle. I've even used one for a spot of float fishing.

The reel is supplied with two graphite spools, one of which is a shallow 'match' spool, and one a deep aluminium spool. The line lay is possibly not as good as on some reels, but is perfectly adequate. Not only do you get three spools, there are two handles supplied as well - a double and a single (my preference).

Internally there are some ten bearings, and it feels like there are, being as smooth as silk to wind and reassuringly 'solid'. Everything operates as it should and the clutch is smooth enough for anyone - although I still prefer to backwind when using light mono.

Initially I was a little sceptical about some of the plastic parts, but they have proved tough enough (although some of the chrome has worn off) as have the reels overall. For some reason line can, very occasionally, wrap around the drag knob on the front of the spool. But that is my only, very minor, niggle.

I like these reels so much that after a couple of seasons' use I have added a third EPB30 to my collection. Given the current price is well under £60 they are excellent value for money.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Review - Ultima Power Plus

While I am satisfied with another line in thicker diameters (over 0.285mm) it isn't available in the lower diameters I want for perch, roach and so forth. This is where Ultima Power Plus comes in.

It is not a particularly exciting line (if lines can be exciting). It is not super-limp, but is nowhere as near as wiry as other 'economical' monos and performs well on the reels with little twisting. In fact it is a pretty bog-standard mono which has proved reliable - even when daft c*rp have been hooked - which is all you need from a main line. The colour is a pale olive green.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Review - Gardner Braided Hair Needle

Despite its name I find the Gardner Braided Hair Needle, which I have used since 1990 or thereabouts, to be a versatile tool to carry - even for piking. Not only does it serve for its intended purpose of putting boilies on hair rigs, I also use it for threading braid through rubber beads, any line through short lengths of silicone tubing or tapered rig sleeves to provide tangle protection on rigs, for pulling loops through when tying hair rigs and figure eight knots on the end of hooklinks, as well as for tightening loop knots (using the shaft of the needle rather than the hook).

Although the point is sharp enough to push through plastic corn, casters and so forth, it won't prick your fingers when rummaging in the tackle box or if carried in a pocket, and there are no sharp edges to fray braids - which also makes it a handy tangle unpicker! I have yet to find a more useful needle and always carry a spare.



Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Book Review - A Time for Tench

It's that time of year again, and if you are thinking of doing some tench fishing over the coming months and haven't read Time for Tench by Chris Turnbull then I suggest you snap up one of the few remaining copies of this excellent book.

Instructional, anecdotal and inspirational Chris has provided something for everyone. Each chapter is in two parts dealing with the topic in hand, be that bait, tactics or whatever. The first part deals with the practicalities in detail, while the second relates a tale that is relevant to that topic illustrating how what you have just read has applied in practice.

There are masses of colour photos of big tench and tenching scenes throughout which can't fail to make you to want to catch a few of these red eyed beasties, and there are Chris's own hand drawn illustrations of rigs and so forth to clearly show how things should be set up.

Without a doubt one of the best angling books I have read in a long time, and one I keep dipping into each spring - even if only to look at the pictures to remind myself what a tench looks like!

It's priced at £24.95 plus £4.00 p&p from Harnser Books at 48 Hansard Rd, Norwich, Norfolk NR3 2PX.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Review - Owner C-4 (Aya) hooks

It's not often I review products that I sell, but as the C-4 Owners are my first choice for barbel fishing I can't really review any others! I use them in sizes 8 through 2, selecting the hook size to suit the bait. 2s are used for 21mm pellets and double 14mm boilies, 4s for one and a half boilies, 6s for single boilies and 15mm pellets, and 8s for single 10mm pellets.

What I like about the C-4 is the shape. When I tried hooks where the shank curves round more, supposedly a good shape for use with hair rigs, I found that too many fish barbel were dropping off. My thinking is that the point was only getting a shallow hold because of the angle of the point relative to the shank, and tearing out. I prefer the wider gape, and the slightly in turned point does seem to resist damage from hard river beds.

Apart from the overall shape, I like the fact that they are a strong hook. I am of the opinion that you should fish as heavy as you can get away with, so I prefer to use hooks that are thick in the wire which I can't open out when playing fish. However, using 30lb braid I can still open out a size 2 C-4 when it finds its way into a snag.

I also happen to think that hooks with thick wire are less likely to cut their way out of a fish, making them less likely to damage a fish's mouth during the fight, and with the micro barb doing no more damage than a fine wire hook when being removed by the angler.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Review - Daiwa Infinity Duo

Although I prefer using braid for some of my fishing there are situations where I don't think it gives any real advantage over nylon mono. For stillwater legering I am more than happy to use mono, for example. In the past I have used Sylcast, Berkley Big Game and Daiwa Sensor with confidence. All cheap and reliable, but also all a bit on the 'wiry' side. Using braid a lot does let you see the benefit of a limp line's handling properties.

When a customer brought a rigged up rod along for me to look at with regard a rebuild I noticed the line on his reel was a nice pale green colour and very limp. It was Infinity Duo, which actually has a two tone green/black effect to it. At the first opportunity I bought a spool of the same diameter as the Sensor I had been using for tench fishing last year - 0.31mm.

I know I keep harping on about buying line by diameter, but Duo is IGFA rated - which means it is guaranteed to break at less than the breaking strain stated on the spool. This means that the 0.31 is rated at 14lb compared to 0.31 Sensor which is rated at 10lb. IGFA rated lines will not break above that strain stated on the spool, whereas other lines might do.

After a couple of sessions I decided to re-spool with the next diameter down, 0.285mm rated at 12lb. Still plenty strong enough for tench and bream, but more supple still owing to the finer diameter compared to the 0.33mm line.

Despite having seen reports that Duo is prone to line twist I really cannot say that it has been any worse than any other mono I have used. There may be some truth in the story that line twist in Duo appears worse than other lines because of its split colouring making the twist more visually obvious. In practice I haven't had as many problems with line wrapping round rod tips or curling up on itself when allowed to go slack as I had with Sensor in the past.

In use I have found Duo to be easy to knot, to cast well off the spool and, although not used in the most testing of environments, to be reasonably abrasion resistant having stood up to fishing in weedy tench swims. Not as cheap as Sensor, but a nicer line to use, and reliable.

PS - 23/08/08
While this line in the 0.285mm didn't let me down in 2007 I have experienced some unexplained knot failures in 2008 with the 0.26mm which I had been using for tench fishing with no problems (landing some nice fish). Out of the blue I lost two fish on the stuff while applying very little pressure. Spooling up with the 0.285mm I had no further problems. It has been known for some lines to suddenly become unreliable, maybe Duo is one of them. Or possibly more line needs cutting back at the start of each session than I had been doing.

PPS - 22/03/09
I have since heard of other people having similar unexplained failures with this line. Fine when new, but untrustworthy after some use.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Review - Reflo Powerline

To fill in the gaps between fishing session reports (which may become a bit thin on the ground for a while) I thought I'd start reviewing tackle and other stuff that I've been impressed with. So here goes.

I was first told about Reflo Powerline from Preston Innovations last year when I was tench fishing, but didn't get round to trying it out for myself. That was why I used it for the first time during my brief perch fishing campaign and liked it. Since then I have been using it for tench and bream and been well suited with it.

It knots well with the knotless knot, four turn Uni-knot and even with a figure of eight loop (which is the knot I use for making up hooklinks when the length needs to be carefully controlled). What I like about Reflo Powerline is that it is clear and limp. Frankly I don't know what all the fuss is about fluorocarbons - I can't see Reflo any easier than fluoros when I drop a rig in the margins, so given its ease of use and reliability I'll be sticking with it.

For the perch I used it in 0.15mm for worm and maggot fishing, in the 0.19mm for fake casters on a #16 hook for tench and the 0.21mm for tench and bream with a #14 or larger. It's a pity it isn't available in thicker gauges still as I would be tempted to try it for barbel if it was.