Friday, 28 December 2012

How to tie Mackerel feather rigs (Sabiki rigs) PT2

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

How To Tie Mackerel Feather Rigs (Sabiki Rigs) PT1

Here goes a bit of illustration to go with the  Youtube Video I made earlier this year.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Happy Birthday

Image above: Hanging Up the lures to dry over the fireplace.

So it rained all day yesterday and I chose to visit the canal today, my birthday; to say the water was coloured would be an understatement, I may have been better casting my lures on the towpath. After far too long I drove back to my local lake to get a couple of hours in before sunset but it was to no avail. Despite the lack of fish, I was fishing which in fairness beats many of the alternatives

In preparation for this monumental day I had spent the previous evening down in the cellar making brass/copper spinner baits and jigs from some bar stock and sheet metal. I also threw together the ultimate quick make, balsa vibe lure which incorporates all of my annual profits as a weight (a five pence piece).

The lures all swam beautifully, the vibe lure vibed the spinner baits spun and the jig heads flew like well-aimed missiles, but where were the fish? Not catching does leave plenty of time for thinking and I came to the monumental realisation that pop music sounds like a continuous loop of shit advertising jingles and inversely jazz makes sense. Before I unearthed any further gems of wisdom the phone rang and when I answered I was treated to a rendition of happy birthday by some friends and their children. When the chorus subsided I told them I was just about to catch a fish and their phone call had ruined my chances, they apologised (well you have to blame somebody). They were phoning from the island of Mull and their little patch of land that overlooks Loch Scridain and giant sea cliffs of the Berg.

I remembered Mull again, living there and fishing, the endless summer days and the clarity of winter but most of all, the ocean. I said good bye and left the lake to the gathering dusk and the mist amongst the reeds.

Balfour Bay: Isle Of Erraid, Isle of Mull

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Foiled Again

Image Above: Phox Minnow meets Aluminium Foil, waiting for some coats of Epoxy

I had spent the morning playing around with finishes on the weight shifting minnows, starting with foil and epoxy resin. Having finally come to the end of messing with their guts I thought it was about time I looked at some alternatives to my standard paint job. I have a love hate relationship with foil and fishing lures, I love the results but I hate the finicky nature of the material; I have suffered too many bad foil days. With the lures turning on the drying rack while the epoxy cured I set off for the lake knowing full well that almost all of its surface was covered with a thin sheet of ice.

The small patch of water that remained open was basking in the long rays of winter sunlight.  I felt warm in that superficial way that allows the coldness to creep into your bones un-detected until the only remedy is whisky and a roaring fire.

I flicked jig heads and threw lures into the stillness of the afternoon as dog walkers eyed me suspiciously judging me for my addiction as they would the alcoholics and drug users who also frequent the place.  Sometimes I understand that to be happy I need only a fishing rod and bucket of water to aim at.

After half an hour another fisherman ventured down the path towards the lake sporting a collection of plastic bags, a net and a handful of rods. He asked if he could set up next to me and being that the ice had reduced the options of where to fish down to a choice between which side of me and that I have never laid claim to any section of back I said yes.

So I threw some more lures and we talked about fishing here and in Australia from where he had escaped. He tossed a dead bait out and then set up a float rod to pick off any roach that were brave enough to head out from under the ice. He offered me mackerel as bait so I made up a trace and sent it out past the reeds.

It was hard waiting as the sun began to drop taking the temperature with it, a passing lady asked if we had seen her missing dog, a small grey terrier. My new fishing partner asked for the dog’s name and she replied “Woolfy”, without acknowledging the irony. When the wait got a little too long I decided to have a go at twitching the mackerel on a slow retrieve. After a few casts my retrieve was ended by a large swirl in the water; the bait bore the marks of a pike a little beyond the hooks. We speculated that the pike was probably full after snaffling Woofly down.

On the edge of darkness the ice began to set up on the clear water and I found I was now casting onto fishmonger’s slabs that had drifted from the main sheet; it was time to look for whiskey and fire. 

Image Below: Fishing on the edge of ice

Friday, 7 December 2012

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

New Homes for Old Lures

Image: A little fellow caught on a Jig Head.

God it is cold.  I am bandaged into my clothes with various bits of fishing tackle slipped in between the layers of cloth and still the bits that remain exposed ache in the cutting wind.  I have taken one small pike at the other end of the lake with a resin jig head but the centre section of water has been covered by the lines of a small group of carp anglers.  A couple of weeks ago I woke one of their brethren who had been camped out overnight by snagging one of his lines and setting off his bait alarm. His face said it all, woken from dreams of sumo sized carp only to find a sumo sized pike angler looking a little more than embarrassed.  

I have learnt my lesson and I am fishing out of harm’s way in amongst the snags at the shallow end of the lake. So far it has been one fish and two lost resin jig heads.  I clip on the long cast balsa minnow and watch it sail through the cross wind; it runs a little shallow for cold winter days and I still nervous of losing it having neglected making a few spares.

There is a call from across the lake and I briefly wonder whether I have hitched up another line. One of the carp lads is asking if I have a spare fishing lure. I tell him to come over and start routing through my bag and its collection of old prototypes and reject lures. I pull out an early version of the pine wobbler that has a slightly shorter lip. Its centre hook is missing; probably taken to use on another lure. I replace the hook and tell him I’ll just test it as I can’t remember if it’s any good despite the fact it still has some pike teeth ebbed in it. It swims with a wide wobble but it I am still not sure about it, so I give him a later version which has also seen a few battles and he thanks me and wanders back. He has fished here long enough to know I make the lures myself.

I keep the pine lure on the line and give it a few casts but it is difficult to handle after the precision of the weight shifting balsa lure.  A badly aimed shot lands it amongst the reed stems at the water’s edge but it swims free and a pike grabs it within an arm’s length. It is only small thing but the fight draws the carp angler back over. I unhook the pike in my hands and with a bit of fumble it leaps back into the water.  

I unclip the lure and hand it over to the carp angler before packing up. It might not be the prettiest thing I have ever made but then there are lots of shiny new lures hanging in shops and none of them have ever caught a fish. The tally stands after two hours at two pike, two jig heads lost and two minnows with a new home which all leaves me a little more space in the tackle bag.  

Saturday, 24 November 2012

A long cast into the soup

Image Above: The Prototype, magnetic weight shift balsa minnow lure

I knew I should I have stayed at home before I set off. It had been raining hard for almost a day and a half before the weather broke and a weak sun managed to hollow a disc in the clouds. The lake water had turned the colour of strong milky tea, the kind of tea you would accept only in politeness while looking for a plant pot to tip it in. Normally when the lake colours some visibility remains even if it is reduced to a few feet but today I could have been dropping my lures into molten lead.

I had come to test a new lure which in fairness is not the same thing as fishing although catching a fish while not pursuing them is always a bonus. The lure was a Phox Minnow with a new magnetic weight shifting system. I wasn’t looking for distance particularly but to reduce or even eliminate the tumbling that normally plagues lightweight lures on the cast.

                I don’t have a great record with prototype lures I have a tendency to test them to their limits and then a little beyond so there is always a little trepidation when tying on a new crash test dummy. Rigged and ready I found a nice open area of bank and swung the rod, there was a sharp click as the internal weights shifted and then the lure sailed out over the lake. There was no tumbled or spin just a long arcing flight with the line pealing out like a vapour trail, I half expected a thud and then the rumble of a distant explosion as the lure touched down.

I am not used to early success so I casted again and again, and then some more, and then a bit more and again and then after I had decide to leave I stayed and casted some more. The lure worked again and again and despite the water being a slightly wetter variety of mud and the chances of catching a fish being slim to nothing I was enjoying myself.

I eventually left the lake and made the short walk up the embankment to the canal. By comparison the water looked almost pristine but in reality visibility was only a little over eighteen inches. There was another problem to contend with; the wind had stripped the last of the autumn leaves from the bankside trees and they hung in the slow moving water suspend like mines. I wasted too long collecting flora.

Later I clipped on a spinner bait in the hopes of avoiding the leaves and maybe luring out a pike by vibration rather than sight. Instead I moved from flora to collecting the kind things that canals are more famous for holding. A brief but not exhaustive list of my haul follows: A complete open golf umbrella, a hood from a jacket, a pair of trousers, part of a pair of jeans, an Asda plastic bag, a Tesco plastic bag, a cloth draw string P.E. bag (haven’t seen one for years), part of a rod case, a long piece of what looked like video tape. Eventually a pike made a feeble strike as the spinner passed  but it missed and rolled at the surface before returning into the murk.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Shifting a bit of weight

Image Above: Phox Minnow with internal magnetic weight shift tube.

Some bits and bobs of pipe finally turned up with this afternoon’s post and I got to mess around trying to put together a weight shifting tube for the Phox Minnow. Like most lightweight balsa lures the Phox suffers from a bit of tumble on the cast, so I decided a while ago to design a magnetic weight shift. At the first opportunity after dinner I quickly bent up a new wire configuration to incorporate the tube and then carved out a balsa body. Externally the lure will look exactly the same it is only internally that things have changed. There are four balls, one external to the tube then a magnet, plastic spacer and another three balls which will hopefully pull away from the magnet with the force of the cast and then roll back when the lure dives to be held in place until the next cast.

This is all untried as far as this lure goes but fingers crossed I should get to try it out in water  in a couple of days. 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Thank You Mr Bettell

Image Above: Pike on a homemade jig head
Image Below Right: Polyurethane jig heads and spinner bait (note the missing point on the last jig)
Image Bottom: Bungee sacrificed in the pursuit of pike 

Blanking once is bad enough but to blank twice in a row is a bit of a confidence breaker and when it’s your own lures on the end of the line, well it doesn’t get any worse. I have a list of familiar doubts for these occasions but with pike I take comfort in the fact that I have only been fishing for this species since February this year a little less than tenth months. My previous pike experience was a couple of fishing trips to a gravel pit about five years ago; even then I was fishing with homemade lures and enjoyed some success.  I still have a lot to learn and winter is proving to be a harder master than I anticipated.  
I suppose things have slowed down and I have still been fishing as if the sun was still cracking the flags. Pike like most fish get a bit lethargic in the cold and without that extra kick of solar energy heating things up chasing down every plug that rattles past them can not only be costly but just plain impossible.  Most of my lures require some speed to create action or in the case of floating/diving lures to dive down to the fish. Slowing things down requires something else; a lure that has action, depth and moves slowly enough to annoy the pike for a little longer. Looking for a bit of inspiration I turned to the late Charlie Bettell’s book entitled, ‘The Art of Lure Fishing’. Amongst the anecdotes and fisherman’s tales he gives some sound advice on using lures that run a little slower and deeper like spoons trailed behind weights, spinner baits and jig heads (my current favourite).
So last night I got the polyurethane resin out again and cast half a dozen jig heads from some recent moulds I had made. Taking Mr Bettell’s advice I knocked up my first spinner bait with a blade cut from a scrap copper fire surround. To dress the jigs I got the feathers and flash out, added some brass jingle bells (nearly Christmas) before butchering a bungee elastic to make rubber skirts. Finishing touches came by way of my sister who is helping to sort out a friend’s fashion design studio by getting rid of off-cuts. I managed to retrieve to pieces of stretchy fabric one with a glow in the dark coating and another with fine silver scales, these had come from an outfit she made for a guest on ‘Top Of The Pops’ ; a television program I watched almost religiously until its demise.

It was a cold start at the lake but the spinner bait was a revelation the blade turned even on the slowest of retrieves and as it pulsed the feathered tail gave a mesmeric wiggle. Following Mr Bettell’s instruction I bounced it off the bottom and as if by magic its design kept it almost snag free. I worked the lake but nothing was in the mood and not having  brought my wellingtons I didn't fancy dampening my feet to get over to the island and the sunlit shallows to see if anything had come to warm up. I went through all my jig heads giving each a try and retrieving them in slow bounces until I had an almost mental picture of the bottom of the lake. Finally I pulled out my bungee corded friend and sent it across the lake. Within a few casts I had hooked a jack and despite the cold it set off at a pace for a patch of shallow water a little further down the lake.  I was just about to jump into the shallows when I remembered my lack of boots and quickly walked the fish to a place I where the bank was low enough for me to unhook it while it was still in the water.  As if to pour scorn on my lethargic pike theory it bolted like a torpedo.

I moved further up the lake and within five minutes was into something a little larger that set my drag ticking like a bomb. On my knees at the bank I reached down to turn the hook again and release the fish without lifting her but the barb wasn't going to come back through so  I got the snips out closed my eyes and let the point and barb ping over my head. I felt a momentary pang of disappointment realising that was the end of my jig but feeling the pike surge out from my gentle tail pulls more than made up for it. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

The Oldest Trout Parr

Image Above: Trout Parr Casting Spoon, experimenting with colours

Sometimes I avoid things and build them up until when I finally get round to them it is all a bit fraught. So I finally sat down with a trout parr, lure blank and began experimenting with colour and pattern. Working free hand without stencils is like riding a bike with your hands tied behind your back, you can do it but when it goes wrong it goes very wrong although the thrill is quite cool. I still have a way to go with this lure even though I have been messing around with its shape for over a year, it isn't perfect but it is starting to look like the thing I imagined. 

Friday, 9 November 2012

Starting At The End

Having in one way reached the end of the construction part of this set of videos I find myself at the beginning with a lure, a rod and a lake. I have been taking bits of wood shaping, painting them and throwing them in the water for over five years and I still get excited every time one of my fishing lures springs to life at the end of a line, but when it stops dead in the water and the rod arcs as something grabs hold that’s when it all kind of makes sense.  

I would not of been able to make these videos without the help, inspiration or encouragement of other lure fanatics, those people who share to the ‘how to’ either as bloggers, video makers, writers, professional lure makers or the people who take time to answer question on forums so thanks and thanks to my family for dealing with my lure obsession with compassion, understanding and only occasionally singing or shouting in background while I was filming.

Special thanks to

Solarfall Baits, Genie Lures, Hansom Lures, Maki Lures, Pondbuster Lures, Lure Passion Italy, Manart Craft Baits, Mac Tackle, 61diemai, Japanese Handmade Lure Blog, Salty Water Rusty Memories, Dawn Patrol, Brain Pope and Tails From The River Bank for the encouragement and Lauri Rapala.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Dirty Little Things

Image Above: Home Made Jig Head Pike Flies, size 1 hook brass and polyurethane heads

There is something unnatural about grown men stroking feathers especially feathers attached to 
hooks; with that said, last night I found myself with a pack of cock hackles and some flashabou happily stroking away as I tied a mess of fibres to a hook.  I had decided to revisit my jig heads and make some adjustments to the position of the hooks so the eye was a little nearer the front of the weighted head. I cast the heads in polyurethane resin in mould I took from a piece of polymer clay I had sculpted; the mould also holds a hook weighted with brass. Essentially what I am making is a variation on a buck tail lure, something a little more popular in America than over here. Rather than use buck fur or attach a soft plastic tail I wanted to try some feathers and shiny fuzz of which I have a selection from tying mackerel feathers. The idea was to have a cross between a jig and a pike fly and take advantage of what both have to offer. It is not that I am against fly fishing for pike it is just that at the local lake they have only just accepted the fact that I don’t fish for carp, if I was to turn up with my fly rod it is fair to say they would  ask me to leave or attach a bite alarm to it.

Despite the almost religious fervour with which lure anglers seem to be turning to soft plastics I have never really been able to catch fish with them , this could just be because I am a crap angler after all I have never had much success with spinners. The other possibility is when I build my own lures I design them for the conditions, places and the way I like to fish. If I was to buy fishing lures instead of making them I would have to spend a lot of money finding out which lures were suited to my style of fishing and predictably which were not.

Feathers have a lot offer as any fly fisherman knows, apart from colour and they have a flexibility that once soaked in water translates into incredibly life like movement. Long cock hackles flow and with light tugs ripple in a way that makes me want jump in the water and have a bite myself. Fluffier feathers like marabou and their synthetic cousins add pulse and delicate motions that seem to capture a vitality that I find missing in plastic no matter how supple. And despite all that action and life they are completely insubstantial so when a pike strikes at a fly its jaws will easily find the point of the hook rather than a thick piece of rubber.

In the hands of an expert with a tying vice and some simple tools, feathers can be transformed in the most amazing creations, lifelike or otherwise. Unfortunately I am not an expert and do not own a vice nor the requisite tools or skill; let’s just say I tied something to a hook, to call it a fly would be an exaggeration maybe a tail would be closer to the mark.

At the lake my jig made a soft landing and sank to the bottom, I teased it into the shallows letting it kick up a trail in the mud as its long tail flickered. Three casts and a pike found it and I was happy, god I was happy, shit I was giggling a little. I let the pike off while it was still in the water it looked to be in the five pound range, I picked the jig up and wet as it was I stroked some fluff.

If you are interest in some proper pike flies try

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Montana John Revisted

Image Above: A Pike With A Mouth Full Off Montana

I went to the lake this morning to test some new jigs heads I have been experimenting with and more importantly to avoid filming wooden minnows. The jig heads had an obvious fault, that is to say the fault was obvious when I put them in water. I had positioned the eye of the hook too far back from the front of the head which completely unbalanced them to the point where they wandered off on their sides, never mind.  The jig heads had been made with the idea of fishing the bottom of the lake where I suspected the pike had gone to hide out for the winter. The water isn’t deep about five to a  maximum of six foot but it is a snag ridden hole and lipped lures tend to pick a lot of lost fishing tackle when they bounce along the bottom; on my last session here I managed to take home three more lures than I had arrived with.   Soft plastics would be an obvious solution to this problem as they often come with single upturned hooks and faces that don’t mind bouncing over things, but having spent too long making hard baits I don’t fancy a change.  

With the intention of doing a bit of testing I had left my collection of lures at home and found myself with a very limited selection of alternatives to my wonky jig heads. I soldiered on for too long with the jig heads before I reached into the bag and pulled out a Montana John a lure designed to run just below the surface rather than at depth. On the far side of the lake the sun was at least throwing some warmth into the shallow water around the island and hoping a pike may have come to look for a basking spot I wandered over.   There was movement at the surface but it looked to be a carp chasing windblown feathers.

The Montana John was inspired by an American angler who suggested a single hook was all that was needed for a pike lure rather than a collection of trebles. To large extent he was right, my first outing with this lure as a prototype brought home a pike within a few casts and also as a bonus unhooking the toothy critter was an easy affair. But today it was winter and I needed every extra bit of help so I swapped the single hook for a treble and sent the lure across the lake. At first I didn't really notice the difference in the lure but when I moved back to deeper water I realised the extra weight of the hook had turned the lure into a slow sinker. 

Rather than sink in a horizontal position the heavier hook at the rear end meant it sank in a vertical position until the hook touched down.  As best I could make out when retrieved it ran hugging the bottom and when paused it went back to sinking to a standing position.  I quickly realised the advantage of this, the hook despite landing on the bottom seldom came into contact with it unless I paused to let it sink back and with a bent back lip I was no longer picking up stray lines. So I twitched it along the bottom like a walk the dog bait until my first bite came which I automatically assumed was a hook up with a plastic bag so I let the line go slack, the fish took up the slack running into the shade of a tree and was gone before I had chance to strike.

I moved along to one of the deeper swims where I had float fished in the summer and began bouncing and twitching the lure slowly over the bottom. It worked again and quickly I had another bite this time I kept the tension on and the pike came bounding out into the shallows a little pissed off with the sudden change in temperature. With only one treble to remove from the fish I released him without letting him leave the water and he swam to edge of the shallow water to recuperate.    

I left the lake with the same amount of lures as I had brought with me but one of them was at least a little different. 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Part 6 the end is a bit nearer but not yet

The penultimate video, I feel like Cecil B Demille but maybe a little poorer. While I am prating round with wooden fish my little brother is providing animation instillations for the Victoria and Albert Museum,  obviously when he grows up he too will film wooden fish.  Tomorrow I will fish not film and do some other work I have been putting off. 

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Making Balsa Lures the saga continues

Will it ever end, is it 'Gone with Wind' for lures?

On a lighter note autumn is with us and I find myself staring into golden pools instead of watching my line. This morning a juvenile crested grebe followed my lure beneath the surface to my feet and then exploded when it realised its mistake. 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

How to make a balsa lure part 4

Image Right: what you could have won............

Link To Pdf   Materials and tool list for lip        
Link to Pdf    Jig and lip templates

Some days are just a bit crappy and the fish don’t bite. I have a whole list of excuses for these days , a change in the weather, too much rain, too much mud in the water, the wrong lure, the right lure the wrong colour……. It goes on. I tried everything today I had the whole arsenal out and even managed to create a new lure (new to me) by combining a spinner with a wooden plug. I fished deep, mid water and surface. I changed colours from bright reds to softer blues; I picked up the pace, dropped it back, twitched, walloped and cranked the baits. It was not a good morning.  

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Gill Netting Sea Bass

Image Above: Sea Bass Caught With a Gill Net on a Welsh Beach.

The net stretched out from its anchor point at the seaward end of the jetty into shallows at the bottom of the tide. I wondered if it was sea trout they were after or bass. The net’s owner was up to his waste in water lifting the line and floats as he moved towards the ball that marked the end of its reach.  When I brought my gaze down to the sand I found almost at my feet four sea bass lying stiffly in the weak sunlight. I took some photographs and moved on.

I don’t know whether gill netting sea bass is wrong. I know I ate fish and chips for lunch and the fish tasted like cod but I didn’t ask the question so I couldn't say where it came from or if it was as endangered as the few cod who now make it into British waters are.

Image Below: The Net

Friday, 12 October 2012

Building A Balsa Fishing Lure Part 3

After spending a little too long messing with videos I needed to get out and get some fresh air. So this morning I headed off to the local pond while the weather was bad enough to deter less fool hardy anglers.  Building lures can be great but fishing with them is in a whole different league. I wasn't expecting much from the pond it had rained for the whole of the previous day which had raised the water level a little but surprising not coloured it much beyond its normal noodle soup hue.  

There was one carp angler who was packing up his tent after what looked to have been a heavy night. I clipped on a Phox Minnow and sent it the short distance across the lake. With the summer weed almost gone the lure bounced off the bottom on fast retrieves only bringing home the occasional autumn leaf.  I worked along the reeds and covered both shores at the tail of the water. When the Carp man had gone I moved to a deeper stretch and took a jack almost on the first cast. The hook was looped around a gill raker but luckily it had not pierced any flesh and there was no blood. I slipped the hook out gently and the raker flopped back into position undamaged. Back in the water the pike bolted and I move along the bank a little.  Five or so minutes later I was in a again and then as I struggled to find my camera the fight came to an end as the pike broke the surface and threw the hook.  I took a few casts over the same spot hoping for a replay and surprising I hit into something a little larger once again I let the line fall slack as I pissed around with my camera and then the pike was gone.

I put the camera away and headed over to a small stand of reeds on the other side of the lake where I had often seen movement. This had all the looks of classic pike hold up,  a sunken tree trunk, reeds, shoals of juvenile fish and almost impossible to fish with a lure. I managed a few casts and something rumbled under the surface on the edge of the reeds. In the excitement I buried the lure into the submerge tree and after a harsh tug on the line there it stayed and will probably always stay. I tied on a new trace and clipped on my larger pine minnow casting it way out beyond the snags, it wobbled its way up to the reed bed and the rumble came out to meet it.  This was a much bigger fish and I kept the camera safe inside my jacket until I had it on the bank. 

I need a go-pro or a cameraman

Jack Pike On A Phox Minnow

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Back To The Drawing Board

Image Above: The Phox Minnow Blueprint 

Despite owing a few drawing boards I rediscovered CAD this week after downloading a free to use program called Draftsight.  It has been a good few years since I last used this type of software but I am slowly picking up the bad habits I got into last time.  So I have set myself a bit of a challenge to come up with a set of plans and instructions on how to build a Balsa Minnow for anybody with a bit of spare time on their hands. One of the hardest tasks I find while making lures by hand is getting uniformity. The other is waiting, watching resin dry can be pretty nerve racking.  

One of the big disappointments I often find with lure making tutorials and books is the reliance on a well kitted out workshops and a range of expensive power tools.  So I have set myself some limitations as to tools and equipment.

As for the lure design, this is a refinement of a minnow I built a while ago that just keeps catching fish. The inspiration behind the design came from Japan and minnow lures that are still made by hand by craftsmen who should be working in temples rather than workshops.

Hopefully I will get the first vid out around the weekend and a PDF of the Plans.  Watch this space. 

Monday, 1 October 2012

Polyurethane Blank Fishing Lures (hanging to cure)

It was back to work today, if you can call making lures a job. Over the last week or so I have been trying to speed up the process of making my casting spoons and today’s quick turnaround creating blanks seems to prove that the new methods are working.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012


Image Above: The Roach King sits out the Monsoon


The noise came from the other side of the lake; I could hear the crashing of branches and looked along the shoreline of the island and the muddy creeks that separate it. It sounded as if a fellow angler was having a fight with the shrubbery; fishing rods seldom pass cleanly through undergrowth. When the clank of goose or duck broke through I guessed a loose dog had found some sleeping waterfowl and decided to wake them. A brown back finally scuttled on the edge of a thicket of dogwood, when its legs stop kicking a large male fox emerged backwards onto the muddy shore. It stared at me for a while and then took a few paces unconcerned with my gaze. I played the slow motion game trying to reach for my camera at a speed that would not startle the animal but at least give me a chance of a photo.  The fox paced and then left as I fumbled in the rucksack.


At the far end of the lake the sky has darkened under a cloud blue enough to remind me of scorched steel.  I have taken one pike, lost another and I am hoping to stoke the interest of a third that has just broken cover as my lure left the water at the end of a long retrieve. To my left the Roach King (nickname) is perched under an umbrella giving me instructions on how to rid his swim of the beast that has already taken a roach he was playing into the bank.  He is fishing a deep channel in the lake with a homemade float over a size 22 spade end hook; some people like to make it a little harder that it ought to be.

I cast again but fat drops of rain are falling, they grow fatter and faster until the lake almost shudders under the onslaught. I drop the rod in the long grass and shelter in the trees.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Lure Making School

Image Above: Salmon Parr Casting Spoon Prototype

Image Below Right: The Original with a Cole Fish

I spent the day trying out some new ideas I had come up with while making spinners from scrap. I have been putting off buying some kind of wire former hoping I could come up with a homemade alternative a little more suited to my needs. It is not that I am against buying tools, far from it; it is just that because I never went to lure making school I find myself doing things in a way that requires tools that as yet don’t exist and then in the process of making tools a whole new field of opportunities and ideas opens up. So from scrap spinners I jumped to wire forming jigs and lead moulds and decided to have another go at wiring an old prototype that I have never gotten round to finishing despite being the first lure I ever cast out of resin: The result is above; a trout or salmon parr casting spoon which is through wired and weighted and waiting for paint and epoxy. The original prototype took a fish on its first cast which I lost close to the boat but I got another on the second cast so I am hoping for good things.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Another Pine Minnow Victim

Image Above: The Pine Minnow and its latest victim

It has been a while since I have done any lure fishing for pike and feeling the need to test some hardware I headed for Cheshire with a box of home-made lures. In my absence my favourite lake had become almost choked with summer weed growth and I spent a couple of hours beating path along its banks while collecting samples of the aquatic flora with a selection of lures. Bushwhacking and stalking are not the best bedfellows and I managed to scare up quite a number of frogs in the dense reeds and also the pike that had come to hang under the banks for a free meal.

In the end I found a small stretch of open water and clipped on a pine minnow. I am still in awe of this lure and the deep rumbling wobble that sets up when it’s retrieved. I casted the lure as close to weeds as I dared and then held the rod high for the retrieves to limit the depth of the run. The lure shook its head as the line plotted a regular curve through the surface. Within half a dozen casts a jack emerged from a blanket of weed close in, pushing a wave up it took the lure almost in front of me. He was small enough for me to pluck from the water with only a hand under his chin. As if returning the favour he decided to kick up enough water to half fill one of my wellington boots. The mid treble on the lure looked to be holding his jaw shut and rather than do any more damage I cut the protruding points and barbs with a pair of side cutters I have starting carrying with me. What was left of the hook slipped out easily and the fish took the opportunity scoop a little more water up with its tail before I returned him to the weed.

I soldiered on a little but it was hard to find any open water or bank space. At one point I looked down to my reel and found I had wound in a good clump reed with the line. I hate to say it but, roll on winter piking and clear water.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

If Moleskine made Lure Boxes

Recycled Fishing Tackle Box #2

I needed a portable home for my little collection of homemade spinners. I imagined afternoons on a trout a stream with a rod, reel, and my box of spinners. I routed out compartments in a piece of scrap pine and then attached a cover made from the front of an old business folder. I took inspiration from that other portable device the Moleskine pad and a tobacco tin of lures an American fisherman had shown me down at the lake.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

How To Make Spinners From Scrap

I started making my own fishing lures for a number of reasons one of which was losing lures while teaching my oldest son to fish with spinners. Spinners while great at attracting fish are also amazing at attracting snags, I suspect there isn’t a pond, river or lake in the northern hemisphere which isn’t playing host to its little collection of orphaned spinners; no wonder Mepps claim to produce the world’s bestselling lure.

Having found the remnants of copper fireplace hood that somehow had managed to survive a few decades past its style by date I thought I would see if I could start with raw materials and make a decent spinner.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Fishing The South Pacific (straight to video)

Image Above: Tackle Box made from an old video case.

I am sat amidst what looks like the aftermath of a rock festival, a long train of debris surrounds the lake like a tide mark. Summer has brought its fair share of litter louts to the pond, tins of sweet corn and empty bags of ground bait mix with half eaten packets of crisps and pop bottles, fish food and fisherman’s food.

The smell of weed wafts over from the next peg and in the distance on the far bank a voice breaks into a few verses of and old Roxy Music hit.  The vocalist is a big guy and continues to run through hits that may have been popular in his youth.  I reach into my rucksack and pull out a video, South Pacific. There is a pause as I look at the palm trees and dream and then I open the case and take out a fishing float.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Zen And The Art Of Angling

Image Above: The Chinese Garden, Liverpool Garden Festival

August has arrived and summer is on the ebb. This morning as I walked the avenue towards the park and the lake the sun had managed to pick out only the attic windows of the houses leaving the pavement below to the shadows of trees in leaf. At the lake with the new homemade rod rests I had finally organised I set up creating a little armchair for myself by the water. It was all a little too relaxing. A fellow angler took the adjoining peg and for a couple of hours we managed to coax some roach and skimmers from the still water. It was hard to leave but the mother of all bike rides awaited, a tour of the parks, the promenade and a visit to the garden festival with at least six children, one brother, a wife and a father. I found myself at another lake by lunchtime in the Chinese garden and my father reminded me that it was strictly no fishing which is such shame to see all that water and seating going to waste.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

There is a man in the garden with a gun

Image Above: A little silver thing.
Image Below Right: Filming in the garden.

I dropped my mother in law at the airport at about 5am and then cruised home to collect my tackle and head for the lake. At five thirty I was at my favourite peg with a float poking at the surface tension of a still lake. It was a slow start but eventually a shoal of small bream cruised past and I took half a dozen before they moved off trailing bubbles down the lake. The roach came a little later fat and greedy for breakfast. In the small bay where the lake widens a father and son were dealing with an eel the lad had caught and the excitement drew some spectators from the other anglers who had arrived while I was busy with the roach.

I left a little before nine with the feeling that I had lived almost a whole day and had yet to enjoy breakfast. Turning into the avenue I found a film crew setting up for a day’s shoot with cables and light gantries strung down the pavement only to converge on our neighbours house. I spent most of the morning packaging lures between visits to the bedroom window to keep ahead of the action. They were filming a new drama thriller for channel four about conspiracy theory called ‘Utopia’ and Liverpool was doubling up for London which was probably all down to cost.

I watched the stars (none of whom I could recognise) climb the garden walls with one of them brandished an automatic pistol. At one point they ran a small rail line down our back garden to carry the camera while the cast re-enacted what looked like a scene from the great escape. Two things struck me about the filming, you have to be so thin to work in front of the camera that some of the cast would only be a little heavier than my balsa lures. The other thing was that the crew employ a man whose sole job was to hold the replica gun while it was not being used in filming; a gun minder like a baby minder only with a gun.

In the afternoon I went off in search of welding rods along the dock road, the family came along for quick trip to Crosby beach and some bass scouting.

Image Below: Sculpture at Crosby Beach.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

How to tie Mackerel Feather Rigs (the Movie)

Another ‘how to’ video, this time it's mackerel feather rigs in time for the summer’s bounty of the little striped monsters.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

A Fish Called Jesus

Vid Above: Shameless Self Promotion

I had forgotten that the wind can blow here for days if not weeks on end without pausing to draw breath. In Italy when the bora blows people are driven mad by it, here on the Isle of Mull people live leaning into the wind that blows off the ocean and on rare days of stillness they find themselves unbalanced like cliff top trees.

It felt like a long week of watching for a break in the weather while the dinghy hung on its mooring in the shelter of the bay. Isaac the young son of the friends we had come to visit was almost as eager to get out into some depth of water as myself. Earlier in the week we had tried a bit float fishing from the rocks at the head of the bay. After a slow start we tried to charm the fish from the sea with Isaac promising them fish tanks and all you can eat fish food buffets. Later rather desperately I tried summoning the support of the fish god but Isaac suggested that the Jesus of the fish world might be a better bet. I tried to image what the Jesus of the fish world would look like between bouts of crippling laughter.

When the wind finally ran itself out on the last afternoon of my short visit Phil, Isaac’s father grabbed the petrol tank while I and Isaac followed with the fishing rods. Out beyond the reefs the chop hindered our pace throwing up the plumps of spray to wet down my jacket and remind me that too long at the lakeside had made me soft. A short distance down the sea loch Phil idled the engine just off a rock one of the longer residents of the bay had showed him.

I let the line off the reel and on my first drop I pulled up a single undersized mackerel which I slipped off the hook and dropped back into the blue. On the other side of the dinghy Isaac’s spinning rod whipped over and there was some confusion whether it was his oversized lead weight or a fish. He hauled it back up with some help from his father and landed a nice cole fish (Coley, Saithe) and a good sized mackerel. Over the next five minutes we hauled up just over twenty mackerel some a little on the small size were slipped back into the sea. The Feather rigs had done their job again and we were on our way back to the bay for a fish dinner.
Our prompt return was taken by those who had stayed behind as a sign that we had been beaten by the conditions and as we tied up a pan of pasta was put on the hob as standby in the absence of a fish supper.

I filleted the fish in the sun just above the beach by the cottage doorway as the boat’s owner the local telephone engineer stopped for a chat. He was off for a bit of rock climbing and Phil promised him a share in the catch when he returned from the rock face. When I had finished and my hands were blooded I walked down to the water and tossed a fish spine into the air; even before it splashed down the gulls had left their meanderings to swoop in. I left the scraps at the water’s edge as the gulls’ calls echoed off the row fishermen’s cottages at the head of the beach.

A final note.

Two days later the Boat’s owner Steve sadly passed away. He leaves two young children and a wife. I knew him as BT Steve a name he acquired while repairing the island’s telephone lines for British Telecom (BT). On the morning of the boat trip he had seen me fishing from the rocks at Uisken beach while perched atop a telephone post. When I saw him again later outside the cottage he asked if it was myself who had been fishing at Uisken and we talked about the fishing marks along that part of the coast. He told me about a deep channel that runs between a headland and small rock offshore where big pollock hold up and I told him if I get back to the island I will give it a go.

Image Below: Eilean Corrach (Steep Island, Approx Translation from Gaelic) at the Entrance to Kintra Bay, Isle of Mull, Scotland