Lure Fishing with Robbie Northman

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Robbie Northman

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Chub: A Lure and Fly Day

The weekend approached and I couldn’t decide what to target. I had planned on fishing an estuary for bass. However, I received a call from a friend who fancied doing some fishing, I suggested chub. Everson hadn’t caught chub on a lure before, so that would be the target for the evening. I formulated a plan, we would tackle a tricky section of river close to dusk. Everson would lead in with the lures, while any fish he spooked I could cover with the more delicate fly approach, so I was excited to see which tactic would come out on top.

We arrived at the venue with clear indications that it had been a busy day. The swims were well-trampled and the last of the day’s paddlers were packing up. The chub here are used to activity on the water, but it does put them on edge. We moved in to the first swim of the day, where I instantly spotted a group of three sizeable chub. Covering them with both lures and fly, it became clear that they were on edge and not willing to take at the moment. Instead, we spent the next hour brushing up on Everson’s casting skills.

It can be quite difficult to place a tiny 3g lure accurately, inches from an undercut or skimming it under the branches of a tree. The Bow cast is a technique I use often for those tight swims. You simply point the rod towards the feature and load the rod with the lure in your left hand. On release, the natural recoil of the blank will carry the lure. It just takes a little practice to perform it with pin-point accuracy. It’s a cast I use a lot for stalking chub. Minimal movement reduces the risk of spooking fish, and the range is plenty for most small rivers.


Loading the cast

With practice over, Everson and I decided to go back to targeting chub. We covered a few more swims and managed a few lazy follows on the lure. I decided to tackle the next few swims on the fly to see if they wanted a little more finesse. I rigged up the 5wt, tied on a large Foam Beetle and got to work. A well-established tree was my target area. Tall and ancient, with branches overhanging far into the river. Chub would definitely be at home here. I watched, waiting for a fish to reveal its position, then made my cast. Plop, two fish emerged to investigate, I stripped a few inches of line, twitching the beetle to grab their attention.

It worked. One fish made a beeline towards it, slowing down, then decided to reject the fly. I quickly cast again, landing in the path of the second fish, who eagerly raced in. The fish slowed on approach. Moments felt like hours as the chub gathered the confidence to make a move. Gulp! The fish was fooled and swallowed the fly. I paused as it turned, then set the hook. A great battle followed, with the fish making jagged runs towards cover. I played the chub hard, keeping it free from snags and weed, and it soon hit the net. A nice fish to start us off. After a swift release I turned to Everson with a grin. “It’s time to get you one!”


Foam Beetles


Not yet confident with the fly, Everson fished with the surface lure. Using the Bow cast to present to some tight places. No follows from fish, but as we passed a bend in the river I spotted a big chub lying alongside a tree. I instructed Everson to cast upstream of it, and instantly put motion into the lure. Plop, the cast was spot on, and the fish raced towards the sound. Unfortunately, the movement wasn’t there, and the chub sulked away, disappearing out of sight. We moved on to a shallow gravel run where I spotted another lone fish. This time, the cast and movement proved perfect. An explosive take followed, and the fish ran for cover. Despite Everson’s best efforts to keep it from the snags, the battle was lost. The fish had found a weed bed and managed to shed the hook, leaving us with a clump of weed to untangle from.

The excitement of the chase had fully taken hold, and we fished through the next few swims eager for the rush of an adrenaline-fuelled take. As I explored the swim ahead, a chub caught my eye, a quality fish. It was moving around the raft, searching for food mere feet from the bank. I called Everson over and pointed out the chub, blissfully unaware of our presence. He made a cast towards the raft, landing in snags. The chub hadn’t noticed and another opportunity was granted. A careful cast upstream, and the fish moved to hunt. It didn’t see the lure, and patrolled off downstream in search. A few moments later we spotted it moving back towards the raft and cast again.

This time the chub spotted the lure, charging towards it. The fish followed the lure to the bank, with nowhere to go, Everson twitched the lure on the spot mere feet in front of us. Hidden by the reeds the chub hadn’t seen us, and unaware engulfed the lure. As it turned, the hook set and the fish bolted, stripping yards off drag. A powerful fight followed as the chub attempted to reach multiple snags. However, this time the hook held, and I slipped the net under Everson’s first lure-caught chub. Mission accomplished!


A first on the lure

I plan on covering fly tactics for chub more in an upcoming blog, alongside some exciting trips planned at the end of this month.

The post Lure Fishing with Robbie Northman #20 first appeared on FishingMagic Magazine.

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Robbie Northman

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Chub: Trying to Track a Giant

With the season well and truly under way, and the chub fishing steady, I decided to turn my attention to specimen fish.

Up until a few years ago the chub fishing on my local rivers was truly amazing, with a number of 6lb+ fish to target. Unfortunately, our small Anglian rivers have been in decline. Over-abstraction, silting, predation and pollution are among many issues, and the majority of these large fish have reached the end of their cycle. Fortunately, there are some young healthy fish to take their place, but with the rivers having shrunk considerably in the last decade, will it ever be as prolific?

Among my action-packed sessions, stalking chub on the fly and lure, I’ve been back and forth visiting a difficult section. Barren, silty and lacking in features, fish are few and far between. In this harsh environment only the strongest survive, and occasionally a specimen fish appears. Morning, evening, afternoon, when on route to other venues, I’ve taken the time to have a quick forty minute walk of the small stretch, armed with my lure rod in case I see signs of a fish.

A few weeks into the season I finally spotted a fish. Patrolling the overgrown banks slow and cautiously one afternoon, I spotted a ghostly, grey back, glowing against the dark shadow cast by tall reeds. Over 2ft long and thick on the back, I knew this was great fish between 6 and 7lb. Instantly crouching down, contemplating the best approach as I rummaged through the lure bag. Instinct told me to remove the surface lure and go for a small crankbait. The fish was alone and I foresaw a spooky rejected take. The crankbait being almost neutrally buoyant would hopefully allow the chance of a hook hold.

I rose to my feet and plotted the cast. Aiming to play it safe, casting upstream, and drifting it in to line before my retrieve. Plop! The fish hadn’t noticed and I waited for a moment for the lure to line up. I began my retrieve and the big chub instantly gave chase. I lost sight of the action behind the tall reeds but continued to wind. Suddenly! The rod hunched over, drag clicked and excitement kicked in. No… Everything went slack! The fish shook the hook, leaving me standing in silence. That was the only fish I would sight on that walk.


A short strike. The lure flies back after a big chub misses the hooks.
Some anglers add a link before the hook, to extend the reach


A cautious follow. Speeding up like panicking prey can often entice a take.
Sometimes the opposite works and a subtle pause and twitch seals the deal

I moved venue to a slightly easier section of river with a smaller stamp of fish. Changing back to a topwater lure, I covered the shadows and undercuts of mature trees. While retrieving the lure the surface erupted! I hooked up to a strong fish. Initially believing it was a pike due to the aggression and fast run, I was mistaken. A long torpedo-shaped chub emerged, thrashing at the surface. I quickly netted my prize, an awesome streamlined fish at 56cm, comfortably in the 4s. My mind was at rest, and I could set off home later that evening somewhat redeemed.


My redemption chub. A fantastic looking fish

Crankbaits, each colour can have its day. I’m a fan of dark and natural colours

Time passed, and I continued to drop by the section, not once catching sight of a chub. I placed casts in a few strategic areas, managing the odd small perch and dace. No sign of chub, but it was just a matter of time. I knew the area it would likely show, I just needed another shot. A burst of rainfall and a gloomy day, I returned to the section assuming there had been little activity on the water. The fish may be confident enough to show. The cooler conditions enticed small groups of dace to cruise the surface, hopefully the chub would have a similar mind-set. I walked through the stretch to the section I’d spotted the fish first, scanning meticulously through my glasses for a glimpse of grey. With nothing in sight, I decided to stop, wait and watch. Perhaps this was just a resting point for a lone nomadic chub.

Half an hour passed and I finally spotted the fish, accompanied by a smaller chub around 4lb which it dwarfed. Hidden by the reeds, I watched in awe as they circled around, settling alongside the reeds where I had hooked the fish previously. I took a few breaths, composed myself, and made a cast. The smaller chub followed and I quickly retrieved my lure, knowing my chance would be blown if I hooked that fish. Before it could regroup, I cast again, the plop grabbing the attention of the big one. I slowed the retrieve twitching the crankbait along the surface as the fish followed it downstream. The tension grew and as the chub approached, I increased the speed, imparting more action. The flight or fight instinct kicked in, and the chub lunged at the lure, engulfing it.

Heart in my mouth as I paused, waiting for the fish to turn and hook up. Splash! The fish bolted, driving the hook home. The 3-10g rod was doubled over with screaming drag as I fought to keep the fish free from snags. A minute felt like eternity as I focused on controlling the runs and lifting the heavyweight from weeds. A flash of broad flank emerged at my feet and I quickly scooped with the net, landing a fish of great proportions, 60cms in length with a tremendously broad back. In prime conditions a behemoth, but totally empty at 6lb 4oz. I was elated, ecstatic, heart pumping after landing my biggest chub of the season. I slipped the fish back, rewarded after such a great search. The target to top is my PB 7lb 10oz, I may never beat it, but I’ll keep trying to track that giant.


The two-tone flank of my target fish.
Only visible on one side as you can see in the top image

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More like a cod than a chub Robbie; another cracker, great stuff!
 
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Robbie Northman

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A day aboard a charter boat inspired me to buy more jigging metals

Bass at Extreme Range

Alongside summer chub I’ve been back out targeting bass. However, despite amazing clarity, a new challenge has appeared. Launce, mackerel and other large prey have finally arrived. My problem… to overcome, fish at long range. Aside from short feeding spells in low light, everything has been out at extreme distance. The usual crankbaits, soft plastics and surf seekers haven’t quite hit the mark. I ordered a few new lures to try. Jig minnows.

I had recently picked a few up for a charter boat trip with friends, we used them to fish vertically, but after inspecting them properly I realised the potential for my own coastal fishing. With 40 grams of dense weight, casting and slow jigs perform like a tournament weight, capable of reaching an insane distance. With that in mind I spooled up with my slickest 20lb x8 braid and hit the coast.


I’ve often used smaller sizes for mini species, but overlooked the bass potential

There are a few areas of coastline near me with a steep gradient, offering depths of 6-8 metres at 100-150 metres out over high water. I picked these areas as the perfect test for the jigs. I targeted high water, wading out as far as I could and performed my best cast. It wasn’t long before I started picking up pint-sized schoolies at around 90 metres. I pushed harder, increasing the distance of the cast, and soon began reaching 100 metres, hitting the backing knot at 120 on a few occasions. From there I would let the jig thump the bottom and pulse it back, much like fishing a soft plastic. Once the jig reached shallow water it proved difficult to retrieve. A straight wind, with a few darts of the rod tip, would prove more than enough action to pick up the odd fish.

After some experimentation it was clear that most of my hits came within the first few bounces of my longest casts. I continued to fish when I suddenly hit a better fish. The fight was unusual, the bass thumping away at such great range, impossible to tell the true size. As the fish came close to shore, it suddenly woke up, tearing off on short aggressive runs and kicking off once it caught sight of me. I soon netted the fish, no monster but a quality bass none the less. Once the tide turned and the water off shore became shallow, the jig failed to perform, and the bass seemed to move to greater ranges. The lesson had been learned and I was keen to return for Round Two.


In harsh sunlight range and depth were the key

The next session’s antics proved identical, with the bass holding at long range in deep water. While walking the stretch of coastline I came across a shoal of launce, and the action heated up. I landed three small schoolies in quick succession, then hooked up with a much better fish. The weight was heavy, but the fish seemed to put up little fight as I gained ground, easing the bass towards me from over 100 metres out. As the fish eased close to shore it bolted, taking quick runs and ripping drag.

I continued to ease the fish closer, with the fight seemingly won, and finally caught a good look at a nice bass, probably close to 60cms thrashing on the surface. Suddenly, the fish found a second bout of energy, taking off on a fast run when the hook pulled. I checked the lure to find a blunt hook point, this is something I barely thought about while bouncing the bottom. With a lesson learned, I continued on, losing and banking a few more fish until the tide receded. A great session with no monsters, but I was redeemed by a nice fish in the 50s. I’ll certainly be back for Round Three.


A better stamp of schoolie made up for my lost fish. Bass of all sizes pull back hard

I was using some pretty hefty kit to fish comfortably at these long ranges. I’m by no means an expert caster, so a scaled-up combo definitely helps. I picked a 9ft 6in rod, 15-42g, and a reel, a large 5000 size with a wide spool. I paired it with a 40g jig minnow and some slick 20lb braid. Every inch of the long blank is put to work during the cast, while the wide spool allows line to feed effortlessly. This sort of combo may be worth considering if you fish a lot of open beaches where range is often a success factor.


40g Jig Minnow. There’s a plethora of shore and slow jigs available.
On this occasion I used the Savage Gear ones

I have some exciting plans for the weeks ahead as I head down South to re-visit wrasse fishing. It’s been a long time since my last trip, and I’m excited to try my hand at catching these powerhouses again.


Wrasse, is there a more beautiful fish in UK waters?
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Robbie Northman

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Perch against a moody skyline

New Kit & the Sea Angling Classic

AN EXCITING OPPORTUNITY

As I’ve mentioned in past blogs, I really enjoy fishing the Broads and other waterways from my boat and kayak, often using electronics to locate new and prolific areas to fish. One company’s products I’ve been really interested in is Lowrance. The easy-to-operate Elite series catching my eye. I wanted a unit that’s compact, quick, and easy to set up that I can easily move from boat to kayak, to suit my fishing plans. After chatting with Lowrance HQ, I was invited to join the Ambassadors team, getting the opportunity to work with some of the latest equipment. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to get started.

A few weeks later my first unit arrived. The Elite FS7, and like a kid at Christmas full of excitement, I had to get out there and put it to the test. Seeking out new areas for Broadland perch.

A period of cooler weather moved in and I took the opportunity to get out there. Armed with some prototype lures and four hours to spare I set off down river, scanning the banks and trees for areas likely to hold fish. It wasn’t long until I found what I was looking for… the Sidescan picked up a submerged structure along the bank. Coupled with deep water and a rock hard bottom. Lily pads, harbouring a buffet of rudd fry, bordered the swim. I knew there would be big perch nearby.

I started to work the swim, covering the structure and pad fringes with the new lures. I fished low and slow, grazing the deck with small hops, drags and bounces. I figured the fish may be lethargic this early in the evening. A change of colour bought the first bites of the day. A dozen or so small perch to around 10oz.

As conditions cooled off the activity increased, and it wasn’t long until I hit a better stamp of fish. Thump! The rod tip hunched over with an aggressive summer take and I hooked up with my first decent perch of the evening. The fight was immense on light tackle as the fish made dogged runs towards the lilies. I believed I was into a real specimen, and was surprised as a feisty high one emerged.

I was thrilled to find a better stamp and continued to fish, adding some more quality perch to the tally. The fishing eventually quietened down and I contemplated moving. Instead, I stopped and sat back, thinking about my strategy. Instead of a swim change I would change the boat angle slightly and cover a different line of attack. I cast deep into the snags, a risky move. Suddenly! The tip slammed round and I was in.

The fish ran, instantly convincing me it was a pike. Then a big flank broke the surface far from the boat. I maintained the pressure, teasing the fish closer, when it began to kite towards the pads. With the pressure on I steered the fish clear and netted my prize. A beautifully proportioned old perch which in later months would likely breeze 3lb. At this time of year, a comfortable mid 2. I slipped the fish back, and enjoyed another hour or so of action before heading back to the marina, content with a very rewarding evening and great test of the tackle.


A quality perch

Searching for features with Sidescan

The road trip begins and for the first leg I headed to Hayling Island to check out the Sea Angling Classic and meet the rest of the Lowrance team. One of the sponsors for the event.


This insanely fast boat had people curious

The Sea Angling Classic is a new event with 30 boats competing across the Solent and £20,000 of prizes up for grabs. The aim of the competition ticked all the right boxes, with conservation in mind, and the data collected being used to better understand our coastal species. Checking out the teams, there were some impressive boats and tech on display. With five species to try and bank during the competition the lads would certainly need it. Many marine retailers set up with the latest equipment on display, while the Angling Trust was on hand offering tuition for new anglers. The National Mullet Club ran demos and tuitions on the bank, with a rare opportunity to fish in the usually private marina. It was a fantastic, relaxed atmosphere, and while I wasn’t fishing the event, I was keen to see how the lads got on and grab a few casts in the morning and evening.

Mullet on the fly was my mission during the duration of the show. Something totally new to me, which I was keen to learn. Unfortunately, despite the expert advice from Colin Macleod and the NMC, they didn’t play ball and I left having only managed to lose a few fish. I’ll certainly try again on my local waters for this fascinating species, and look forward to learning a new style.



The boats heading out for the competition

Now I’m heading off for the second leg of my journey, targeting wrasse on the South Devon coast… Stay tuned.

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Robbie Northman

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The Road Trip

With the Sea Angling Classic at Hayling Island finished, it was time for the next leg of my journey.

A two-hundred and sixty mile drive West into deepest Devon in search of the most beautiful fish I’ve laid eyes on…

The Ballan Wrasse



Wrasse inhabit rocky areas of coastline. They feed on an array of food, from scraping limpets off the rocks to chasing down goby and sand eel. Wrasse will happily feed on crabs and shrimp too. With incredibly powerful jaws and strong physique, they are perfectly adapted to feed in the breakwater of the rocks, although often retreat to calmer areas in rough conditions. The variety of wrasse is unrivalled, uncountable colours and patterns in one species, and there are sixty-plus worldwide. My favourite perhaps are the specimens that show a little bit of everything.

Ballan wrasse can grow to over 9lb but a 3lb+ fish is a great catch from the shore on lure tackle. They give a dogged, hard fight, often snagging you amongst the kelp and rocks, leaving hit-and-hold fishing as the only real option to stop a fish. Rods in the 5-20g or 10-35g casting range will handle specimen wrasse when paired with a powerful reel and 20lb braid. 20lb fluorocarbon will resist teeth and rocks. Lures in the 2-3inch range are perfect, and weedless hooks are almost always a must. In terms of action you fish for wrasse much like perch, hop and bounce the lure along the bottom, coupled with pauses, it’s often the most productive way. Anyway, let’s move onto the rocks…


A simple cheb rig works perfectly for wrasse.
Texas and free rigs perform great too

Joined by my good friends Rob and Sam, we arrived at the first mark. The cove was calm and water crystal-clear. The twins had never been wrasse fishing before, so we decided to start at the deep end. We paddled out to an exposed rock, using the dry bags to ferry the gear. From there we would have the perfect angle to fish the deeper gullies and kelp beds inaccessible from shore. The plan was to catch some clonkers before the tide ran out, then move on to some fresh areas.

(Swimming to a spot is never a good idea unless you really understand the area, currents and tides well. Carrying the correct safety equipment is a must, and when rock fishing I always pack a first aid kit and throw rope. We always fish in a group and wearing a life jacket is advisable in many locations.

Without careful planning these kind of trips carry great risk. The rocks are often sharp and treacherous. Ensuring you build an understanding of wind, tide and exit points is essential in ensuring safe access. We picked very safe conditions and planned ahead for this trip. There are many safe places to fish for those looking to give it a go, such as harbour walls and rock-lined coves etc.)


My wrasse set-up

Rigging up on the rocks we were filled with confidence as shoals of sandeel and baby pollack circled around us. There would certainly be wrasse here. With an abundance of fish present, I decided to rig up with a Savage minnow, casting into a deep gully, while the twins worked their lures through surrounding features. Rob was first to hook up, his rod hunching over as the fish ran. He gained some ground, seemingly keeping the fish from the snags. Suddenly, the fish charged off, and in a desperate bid to keep it from the rocks he pulled a little too hard.

Bang! The rod snapped clean at the spigot and moments later silence was replaced with the sound of frantic curses. I’ve never seen a rod break on a wrasse before, but keeping a fish from the snags really does push the limitations of the kit. While still in disbelief, and on one colossal rant, I made matters worse. Thump! The tip slammed around and I hooked up with a powerful wrasse. In tight quarters it was a hit-and-hold battle, the fish trying hard to dive into the rock crevices and break me off. I stood my ground, not willing to give an inch when the fish made a desperate dash for open water. The locked-up drag screamed with the run, but with nothing to dive into the fish soon gave up and hit the net.

Awestruck! I set eyes upon probably the most beautifully coloured wrasse I have caught. I slipped it back, having captured my trip’s target, and although many followed it remained my best for the day. Having caught my target, I stepped back allowing Sam to take the swim and after a few small ones he also managed a stunning fish of great proportions. Shortly after, Rob, who had just finished setting up the spare rod, managed his prize. A truly spectacular start to the trip. Once the tide retreated we continued on, searching fresh areas and banking plenty of smaller fish. Time flew by quickly, and soon it was time for the hour-long walk back to the car, eager to return to camp, sleep and prepare for day two…


Robbie’s wrasse

Sam’s wrasse

Rob’s wrasse. Three similar size fish, each totally unique
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Robbie Northman

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Wrasse Disaster – LRF Salvation

Day Two of our wrasse adventure began, with rain and high winds bombarding the tent, laying waste to our morning’s plans. Changeable winds from a huge storm system would make finding safe areas to fish difficult. We scoured Google Maps for sheltered coves and bays, unable to find anything close by. Instead, we settled on targeting the mouth of an estuary on the evening tide, a prime location to catch a few bass. Although the fish were small, we were happy to salvage the day, and were eager to set out on Day Three.

Day Three arrived and we faced the same storm system! However, as it passed over us the strong Southerly would begin to shift a little more to the West. This opened a window of opportunity, granting us the chance to fish bays and harbours sheltered by rocky, hilly mainland. We picked an area on the map that would grant us much-needed calm water, and set off eager to catch some fish.

We struck gold! The new area was stunning, offering clear water and shoals of small baitfish. It wasn’t long until we found wrasse. Jigging around the submerged rock formation, we quickly began catching. The majority were smaller fish than Day One, although equally as beautiful. As the tide receded, we continued on tempting a few each around the 2lb mark. Thrilled with our wrasse adventure, it was time to mix things up. We put aside the big rods and pulled out the micro gear, eager to try some species hunting with the LRF tackle.

LRF (Light Rock Fishing) is really fun. Fishing for anything and everything, big or small. There are countless species to catch, with a mixture of lures from micro metals and plastics, to ragworm imitations like Isome and Gulp. The latter are much easier to get to grips with for a newcomer. We picked the smallest rods, 1-5g and lighter, and coupled them with fine braid and fluorocarbon. 4-6lb is perfect. Going lighter can be better, but there’s a great chance of picking up a decent wrasse on the tactic. There are many rigs to use, from simple split shot rigs to dropshot, and micro jigs. We decided to use 1.5g chebs, coupled with small hooks, covering the slightly larger scale of LRF fishing. We fish these like any other lure, jigging them slowly in open water and around the rock faces. Sometimes the opportunity to sight fish comes up, with the excitement of stalking blennies and giant goby in shallow rock pools. My target species was wrasse, but not the giant ballans. I wanted the much smaller and incredibly pretty corkwing wrasse. These small fish really fight pound for pound, and are certainly a fair challenge on LRF kit.

We started the micro-adventure with the rock pools, targeting giant goby and blenny. While not hard fighting fish, the frustration of teasing them out of their hiding places, and tempting them to take a little lure in plain sight, leads to quite exhilarating fishing. They spook easily, approaching the tide pools with caution is necessary. It wasn’t long before the twins and I had managed a mix of blennies, giant goby and even a greedy scorpion fish. This UK variety is not venomous.


A Blenny

A Giant Goby

Scorpion fish

Next it was time to tackle the open water and find the elusive corkies. There were plenty of small pollack to target around the kelp, and after we had had our fill of those we dropped into deeper holes for wrasse. Smaller ballans from ounces up to a pound or so made exciting sport. They hit the lure hard and strip line in powerful bursts as you try to keep them from the snags on under-gunned kit. Often the battle was lost as they threw the lure in dense kelp. The thrill of downsizing and taking that chance made for some of the most exhilarating fishing of the trip. Each cast providing a mystery, while every hook-set led to an epic mini-battle.

While searching each and every corner of our rocky hot-spot, I finally found a shoal of my target species. The electrifying blue stripes and dots of a corkwing wrasse appeared as I retrieved my lure over a rock ledge. I quickly cast back down, grabbing the fish’s attention. Unfortunately, it skulked back into its hiding place. I dropped down again, working the lure deeper and soon received a tentative tap. I struck, and the rod hunched over as the micro powerhouse dived deep into the kelp. I teased it out and an aggressive battle followed, with the main snags cleared, I soon landed a great-sized corky. I continued on enjoying the action of the little beauties until it was time to leave.

After a pub meal and breaking camp, it was time to move on. I bid farewell to Rob and Sam, and set off on another two-hundred mile drive for the next leg of my fishing road trip.


A colourful Corkwing Wrasse


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Robbie Northman

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The End of the Road Trip

It was time to leave the South coast and head home. Not directly! Instead, I planned on heading up to Derbyshire to catch up with my good friend Andy Buckley. Andy’s a full-time fly fishing guide, and with a few days off, we planned on breaking his routine and searching out the lowland rivers for big chub. Unfortunately, the unpredictable UK weather systems dampened our plans as severe rain bombarded the region for the next 12 hours, leaving the rivers in a muddy mess.

After the storms passed, we set off to fish the available water. Thankfully, the steep gradient of the Peak District allows the smaller headwaters to rapidly clear, leaving us with plenty of trout fishing. Who better to go with than a Derbyshire angling guide? Andy and I have spent many sessions fishing the middle reaches of rivers like the Dove and Derwent, but with these still pumping through I was keen to try something new.

Andy suggested visiting some of the Peak District’s historic venues. Loved and fished by Izaak Walton and Charles Cotton back in the 1600s. A step back in time, and an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of our angling forefathers. Where better to start our journey than in Wolfscote Dale, intimate close-quarters fly fishing, very close to the famous Cotton/Walton fishing temple built in 1674? A celebration of their friendship, and a rather fitting place for two chums to catch up after many months.

Wolfscote Dale delivered! Beautiful sheer valley with turbulent rapids and falls, which paved way to deep riffles and long glossy flats. The trout blend seamlessly into their surroundings, and adopt brilliant bright spots and slate grey backs, making them difficult to spot. Andy and I fished through the glossy flats with the dry fly, and snuck into the deeper riffles with a stealthy French leader approach.

It wasn’t long until we put a few trout in the net with the odd bonus grayling. The most memorable for me being a black-backed, yet vibrant-flanked brownie that was living in a particularly dark pool. With the Dove ticked off, it was time to fish our next venue. One I’ve wanted to fish for a while.


Fishing the French leader on the Dove

A pretty Dove wild brown

THE RIVER LATHKILL

The Lathkill is a limestone river with impossibly clear water, so much so that without a ripple of wind it doesn’t look like water at all. Charles Cotton described the river as so, “the purest and most transparent stream that I ever yet saw… and breeds, it is said, the reddest and the best trouts in England”. And with a testimonial like that, I was more than eager to get started.

The outstanding clarity of the Lathkill really proved true, and the number of trout overwhelming. It was difficult to approach the bigger fish in each pool without spooking a smaller trout, setting off a chain reaction, and ruining the swim. The downside to bright sunlight and crystal clear waters.

Despite the challenges, we rose plenty of smaller fish, then set off to look for a larger target. The opportunity arose as Andy and I both spotted quality trout. Creeping through the cover it wasn’t long until I stalked a beautiful brown on the dry fly, as Andy hooked up with a fish of his own. The Lathkill browns really were beautiful, with the bluest backs I’ve ever seen on a trout. Mission accomplished, it was time to head to the Wye.


The water clarity on the Lathkill was unbelievable

Lathkill browns are very unique, bright blue backs and blood-red spots

With just a few hours to spare we arrived at the Wye. The only river in the country with a naturally spawning population of rainbow trout. It was these rainbows I had come for, having had a taste of some big ones on past trips, I was keen to feel the immense fight again.

I found myself side-tracked by a big brown trout for nearly an hour, hidden tight in overhanging branches. It was a tough fish to move, and aside from a few glances at the fly it wouldn’t budge. The inevitable eventually happened, I spooked the fish. Time to move on.

The next 45 minutes, a learning curve. I had insisted on fishing with 4lb tippet to ensure I could target and land a bigger fish. Instead, I managed to spook and place poor drifts over every rising fish during the spinner fall. Meanwhile Andy fished with his recommended 2.5lb tippet, achieving perfect presentation and absolutely destroying me. He was like a machine landing trout after trout, and while I was perhaps a little frustrated, I came away from the swim having learnt a valuable lesson about fly presentation.

I was keen to go back and target some big trout I had seen earlier, and Andy was curious to give it a go. Almost dark at this point, we couldn’t pick the fish, but instead ran blind casts over the spinner sippers. I would fish, while Andy crouched down in the swim waiting to spot a subtle rise in the darkness. Strike! Andy watched a fish take the fly, and I set the hooks into a very big trout.

Insanely strong, the battle raged on as I followed the fish up and down the bank as it ran, thankful of my 4lb tippet choice. After some time it finally tired and hit the net. Not the monster wild rainbow we were after, but a huge holdover brown, one of the most exciting fights I’ve had to date. We slipped the fish back, now in total darkness, and returned home. A great final session of my fishing road trip.


Andy with a beautiful wild rainbow

A big brown to end the road trip
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Robbie Northman

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Hi grayson,

A 'holdover brown' is a US term for a fish that, although stocked, has survived a year or more in the wild.

All the Best,

Robbie
 

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OK - thanks. Slippery slope , Americanisms- one minute you're catching a lunker from a tailwater and then it's wacky worm for panfish ...
 
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Robbie Northman

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Topwater Perch

After exploring new venues on my road trip, and now back home, the urge to explore was still with me. Thinking about what to do next, I was a bit lost. I received a message from Rob and Sam, who were planning on travelling to Lincolnshire, asking me if I would like to join them, and just like that I was off. The plan, to target perch on some of the rivers and drains. Venues I had never fished before, and an opportunity to try new styles.

We all met in the local pub for dinner and drinks, accompanied by Ash Costa. Ash has managed to fine-tune perch fishing in his region, turning it into somewhat of an art form. His captures and consistency speak for themselves. Naturally, I was keen to pick his brains and learn some of his techniques, to add to my own perch fishing armoury. It quickly became apparent that Ash’s local perch fishing was unlike anything I’d experienced in the UK.

Duckweed is a huge problem here, clogging up entire sections of river and drain, leaving it seeming unfishable. This was not the case! Where many would dismiss fishing, Ash had been refining American-style topwater and punching techniques, adapting them to catch big perch from some very unlikely places. We all talked for hours, sharing our fisherman’s tales and forming new friendships, until it was time to leave. Sleep was hard that night, like a kid at Christmas I lay awake, eager to unwrap the secrets held in these waters at first light.


Ash’s colossal topwater perch

Dawn arrived and we set off in search of perch. Sam, Rob, Ryan and I began by searching different areas. The fishing, uneventful with only a few small perch banked. Finally, we arrived at a likely spot with signs of silver fish dimpling the surface. Soon the first feeding flurry of the day began, with the twins banking some quality pound-plus perch on topwater lures. Eventually, Rob and Ryan had to depart, leaving Sam and I to fish out the day. Instead of spot fishing we decided to inflate my E-Rider kayak, and take to the water in search of some untouched gems.


Pop Shadz were the flavour of the day. Perfect for fishing in dense weed

The drain was crystal-clear, with duckweed covering miles of the waterway. Bright sunlight would make it difficult to find fish in the open, but with so much cover finding them at all would be a challenge. Fishing through the weed would also be difficult. Heavy Texas and Carolina rigs to punch through the dense matting would be the option, topwater lures fished in the thick of it may grab a bonus fish too. I’d left my weedless frog box at home, not expecting to encounter such a situation, luckily Sam had bought some Pop Shadz, a weedless lure that can be fished weightless. Perfect for this scenario.

We paddled down to a thinner area of weed and began working the water. We fished opposites to find a winning tactic. I punched through with a Texas rig while Sam fished the top. It didn’t take long until a bow wave appeared behind Sam’s lure, followed by a gulp! He was in. The fish fought hard in dense weed, it was well hooked and soon hit the net. A lovely mid-two. We continued on exploring spots and alternating tactics, catching on all methods, but we couldn’t locate anything big.


A beautiful perch for Sam

Fairly strong rods work best with weedless lures as they need a bit of resistance to set the hook. I was using my 3-16g Fast Shad which is soft enough to resist small pulls, but quickly becomes strong enough to put the power down. Although you strike some bites on topwater, most of the time you just continue working the lure until the fish hooks itself. You get lots of false bites and short strikes while fishing for perch, but very often they will keep hitting it until hooked.


A perch from dense duckweed. It creates shelter on otherwise barren drains

After miles of paddling in the heat, through duckweed, thick and viscous like porridge, we arrived at a good area. A smaller drain entered, and the duckweed was sunbaked and thick. Clear water surrounded the feature, making it one of the few safe areas for a predator to hide. I cast my lure into the dense weed and began popping it back.

Suddenly! Bow waves and strikes appeared everywhere, lashing at the lures. There were too many perch competing, we had found the jackpot. Sam and I cast again. With the fish aware this time it wasn’t long until I got a take. I struck into a quality fish and while playing it Sam did the same. A double hook-up of two pounders. We gave the spot a rest and photographed the fish, returning for Round Two.

Once again, we hooked up to numerous good fish fighting hard beneath the weed, seemingly trying to avoid the bright daylight. We continued the process, banking eight 2s and numerous 1s, before calling it a day. It was probably the best topwater perching I’ve ever experienced. I’m not sure how I can translate this to the Broads. But it certainly showed me that unorthodox methods can work in unlikely places.


Rob returned after work, tempting a few himself
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Robbie Northman

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Sea Trout Shortcomings

A summer morning sat beside a misty lake in dappled sunrise targeting tench, with my good mate John Bailey. Crouched in reeds, watching pin bubbles, a wiggle of the float, time for concentration? For me, questions… Being an avid fly and lure angler it’s hard to stay quiet, especially when sat beside such a wealth of knowledge. I love a good fishing tale as much as the next angler, and from John I wanted to hear about his youth. Specifically, targeting sea trout in the North Norfolk creeks. I could listen for hours about fresh bars of silver, leaping and running yards of line in the most skinny water. Truly tales that inspire.

Feeling inspired, I set out to try and land one myself. But am I setting an impossible task? Certainly, there are very few people targeting them these days. Aside from the odd by-catch by bass anglers, and occasional fish falling to worm, you rarely hear of their captures. I think the big runs of seatrout here are history, but there are certainly still fish that visit our coast and coastal rivers. Some venturing far upstream, where I’ve caught them in the past as by-catch while targeting other species.

Back in spring I spent many of my trout sessions fishing with streamers not far from where small numbers of sea trout still spawn. The streamer fishing proved to be a huge success in singling out the biggest trout, leading to a wild brown PB. Soon after things got really interesting… I spotted some large ghostly-coloured trout in the river one day which quickly disappeared. Shortly after I hooked a powerhouse, which I was unable to stop before it spat the hook while way into the backing.

Not disheartened, I fished on towards dusk when I hooked another powerful fish. An explosive burst of speed and big jump was followed by a long dogged fight. Finally, I landed an unusual fish. Very similar looking to the sea trout I’d landed years before. I instantly shared the photographs with John, who excitedly agreed I’d caught a sea trout. This capture alone inspired me more to target them in the saltwater creeks and estuaries. Hopeful that I could crack the code, and make it a consistent style of fishing.


At nearly 30 miles inland, this sea trout has began to adopt a coppery colour


Over the last couple of weeks I’ve tried hard. From casting sandeel imitations over reefs on the open coast, to fly fishing tiny estuaries and saltwater creeks. Most of my attempts have been close to dusk, even hours into darkness, with little success. I fished different phases of the tide, moon, winds, clear and cloudy nights. Never once hooking my target fish. One thing became clear, I was getting closer. My time spent on the water slowly added more pieces to the puzzle. I watched a few breach and jump, both in open sea and the creeks, surely it’s just a matter of time. I learnt how truly resilient and adaptable brown trout are, catching them in places I believed too muddy or salty. At one point I almost thought I’d hooked my target fish…


A tidal creek hiding a shady pool

The water flows slowly in these creeks, so I picked flies I can move

I arrived at the water upon dusk, quickly setting up my two-fly rig. A small Cuban Shrimp on point, with a Czech on dropper. I sat and watched the water as light fell, the estuary still low and muddy. As the rising tide drew in, the change became noticeable, the creek began to fill and the flow reversed. Darkness had taken over, the moonlight barely illuminating the reeds around me. The hum of mosquitos droned on through the night as I performed cast after cast.

High water approached, and the first signs of life appeared. A splash in the darkness, no doubt a trout. I crept down towards the sound. Casting and covering ground as I moved. I gently teased the flies back, crawling them through the water, occasionally changing to a faster retrieve.

Bang! I felt the line shoot through my fingers and struck into a heavy resistance. The fish jumped two feet out of the water, and I quickly switched my torch on, catching a glimpse of silver among the ripples. I held on with gritted teeth as the fish ran, quickly clearing the excess line, reaching the drag. Through dim torchlight a frightening fight, no idea where or how far this fish had ran. I continued to pull back, inching the fish closer when it leapt again, this time landing in the reeds. Everything went tight and I thought I had lost it! I heard another splash, phew. The hook hold was good and I was still in with a shot.

I slid down into the muddy reed bed, hoping to find the fish still fighting away among the snags. I cleared the line from its obstacles and regained full contact as the fish made one final run then glided towards the net. This wasn’t my target sea trout, but an awesome slob brown, which certainly didn’t deserve that name. I took a quick photo and slipped the fish back. Now 11.00pm, I fished on for half an hour with no other signs of life. Finally deciding to head home.


A big brown from brackish waters. This one took a Cuban shrimp

While the quest for a sea trout continues, the journey itself has been the real prize. Taking on an alien style of fishing has been another great learning curve, and certainly something I’ll keep working at.


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Robbie Northman

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A Deadly Tactic For Chub

For many years now my summers have been spent wandering the riverbanks in search of chub. Lure and fly have been my go-to tactics, accounting for numerous specimen captures. As seasons have passed, lure fishing for chub has risen in popularity, widely becoming recognised as a top method to catch these spectacular fish. More anglers targeting the species have created a demand, bringing new and exciting products to the UK market. However, they all follow the same trends, and many are really designed for other non-native species, lacking certain elements that make them truly successful for chub.

Naturally, as chub get targeted on any tactic, they become more spooky. I’ve noticed, in particular, towards the end of the season the amount of aborted takes increases, leading me to fish more sensitive fly tactics through late summer and autumn. To overcome these spooky chub I’ve been out experimenting, re-visiting tactics I began to tune in a few years back.

Micro soft plastics have been a winning method for targeting chub. Fine lines and delicate weights allow you to achieve inconspicuous presentations that fool the wariest fish. Comparable in accuracy and finesse to fly fishing, micro plastics have accounted for a large number of my chub captures. Using lures like the PVC Mayfly weightless, twitched along the surface in small rivers, has produced on very tough days, but being very light they’re difficult to fish at range.

More companies are seeing the benefit of buoyant lures for finesse perch fishing applications. Certainly these can be applied to chub fishing too. There are a few soft topwaters in existence, often a little too large or slightly off with the hook positioning. Perhaps with a few tweaks many perch lures could do just the trick?


The Savage Gear PVC Mayfly, fished weightless or lightly weighted, has been a steady catcher

I tried experimenting a few years back with floating Stickbaits and TRDs. Cutting them down and placing a weedless hook inside. It was surprising how well they worked. Being buoyant and fairly bulky they cast surprisingly well. With a steady retrieve and bounce of the rod tip, they walk the dog and shift water, grabbing the attention of chub. While they tricked a few wary fish they didn’t quite suit the application. Now, with more designs and profiles of these lures available, surely one would be perfect.

I tried a few styles and patterns of lure, struggling to pick one with the right buoyancy and effect. There were however, two winners, a prototype coming soon and the Z-Man BugZ. After a bit of trimming and chopping, I created my desired profile and found them to remain barely buoyant with a size 1 EWG hook. Barely buoyant being the key. These late-summer chub abort the takes often because a lure is overly-buoyant and resistant in the water. They take delicate swipes and mouth at the lure, often avoiding the hook. I want my lures to be slurped down as effortlessly as one of my little foam beetle flies. With my requirements ticked off I hit the bank for a very quick session in search of late summer chub.


Chub on the BugZ

At the first opportunity while walking the bank, I spotted a feeder stream. The entrance was narrow, full of reeds and weed. Despite all the obstructions, there was a channel of flow with a clear path. I watched the area for a moment, soon spotting a chub. This would be a great test for a weedless lure, a long cast into thick cover. I lined up and cast as far as I could up the stream, landing in thick vegetation.

With a few jerks of the rod the lure pulled free and I began twitching it back. I reeled slowly with the tip high, bouncing the rod tip repeatedly, making the lure twitch and walk. Slam! This chub hit the lure hard! Breaching in the process with a loud splash. As it turned I set the hook and battled it through the reeds. An exciting fight on light tackle. I netted the fish, admiring it briefly before slipping it back.

I moved on in search of more chub and spotted another shoal. As I crept into position I made a little too much noise, spooking the fish. I arrived in another productive swim, with a long cast upstream to an overhanging tree. I made my cast, slowly working the lure back in the same style. Twitching and walking it along the surface. The disturbance caught the attention of a chub, which bow-waved across the river before slowing down upon spotting the lure. This was a test of buoyancy and control.

I twitched, jerked and paused the lure in various sequences trying to keep the chub’s attention, as it followed for a metre or so. The retrieve worked, and I paused as the fish mouthed delicately at the lure, taking it down before turning away. I watched the braid tighten and set the hook. The fish stripped drag and dived for cover in an intense, short battle. I tightened the drag to keep it free from the snags and steered it towards the net, landing another chub. A great test of these lures in a short session.



Here’s a comparison showing how I altered the BugZ to better suit chub fishing.

Top – my modified version.

Below – the standard lure.

The hook I used is a Gamakatsu Worm 330 size 1.


My short session chub


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Robbie Northman

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Last of the Summer Chub

Summer has drawn to a close, transitioning to autumn. Daylight hours shorten as the leaves display a fiery array of colours. October brings change in my fishing as I step away from chub, and turn my focus back to bass, and later pike. It’s not that chub can’t be caught on lures though autumn and even winter. But, with so much to fish for, I’m excited to change my target species.

Although ready for a change, I’ve been out on the bank, trying for a few final fish before moving on. As covered in last week’s blog, I’ve been toying with different ideas and tactics. In recent sessions I’ve set my sights on fishing new venues, taking the opportunity to catch up with my good mate John Bailey.

TO THE RIVER WYE

My old friend Joe came back from the States to visit his parents. Years ago, we worked together in a tackle shop and have stayed in touch since. Joe’s an avid angler, and really enjoys targeting striped bass, salmon and steelhead back home. Exciting fishing. Joe, however, had unfinished business with one particular UK species… barbel. A fish Joe had yet to catch, along with big chub. With a bucket list fish to tick off the list, I suggested Joe and his father (Rick) make a visit to the River Wye for a guided session with John Bailey. I of course had to tag along.

We arrived in Herefordshire mid-afternoon, with a few hours to spare before checking in to the bed and breakfast. With time to spare, we decided to check out a day ticket stretch of the Wye, finding the river extremely low. Heavy rainfall was forecast, which would help us greatly on the quest for a barbel, but in the meantime we chucked on the waterproofs and decided to target chub.

Joe was excited to try and catch one on the lure, comparing the set-up to his light smallmouth gear back home. Joe was keen to see me take the lead, demonstrating the lures and techniques we would be using. I rigged up a 2-10g Custom Ultra Light and tied on a 3D Cicada, and we set off in search of some fish. With the river so low and banks steep, it was easy to spot fish.

Within a few minutes of walking, I set sights on a nice chub sitting beside a fallen branch. There was a clear path to the water below where I could land the fish, so I prepared to take my shot, casting from higher on the bank. Plop, I landed a few yards across river from the chub, aiming for my lure to pass within about 12 inches of its nose. I began to retrieve slowly, making the wings of the Cicada rock and churn water.

As the lure drew close to the chub it sprang into action, bolting forwards and engulfing the lure. I chose not to strike, allowing the fish to hook itself as it turned. A strong fight followed, the fish trying hard to reach the sunken branches. I grabbed the net and began to work my way down to the water. I missed my step, focusing on the fish and lost balance, and before I knew it, I was on my backside hurtling towards the water with a large splash. This of course gave the chub a second bout of energy, however I quickly recovered and netted my prize, a beautiful golden coloured chub. My first from the Wye.


My first Wye chub

The rest of the afternoon was spent teaching Joe to catch them on lures. The first hour proved difficult with a few missed and lost fish, including what would have been a PB for Joe. Eventually he got the feel for it, and after a well placed cast banked his first ever chub on a lure. Joe was thrilled with the result, so we fished on for a few hours, banking several more. The session with John really made the trip complete, as both Rick and Joe banked PBs, with Joe achieving his target species.


The 3D Cicada proved most effective, tempting Joe’s first chub


The session with John produced many more fish for the father and son duo

KAYAK CHUBBING

The next venture for me was to target chub from a kayak, something I’ve never tried before, due to most of the permissions I fish being quite small. With the opportunity to target a longer stretch I decided to give it go. It proved an interesting experience, with benefits and drawbacks. Long clean casts, to feature I would usually struggle to get to from the bank, opened up much more water.

The drawback proved to be the range. It’s difficult getting close to spooky chub while causing so much disturbance. However, with perseverance I soon banked a few fish, finishing my session with a cracking chub, while jigging a PVC Mayfly. Targeting chub from a kayak is certainly something I would like to explore more. While not overly beneficial on smaller rivers, it could prove to be excellent sport on larger public venues where fish are used to activity on the water.


A battle-scarred old chub. Jigging PVC Mayflies over a gravel glides proved effective

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Robbie Northman

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From Striped Bass to Sea Bass

Two days spent on the bank with Joe. It had probably been the best part of five years since we spoke face to face. We had previously worked together in a tackle shop while Joe was undertaking his studies. I was pleased for him when he made the decision to move to the US to pursue his career, a decade ago now. But good friendships last over thousands of miles. After catching up on personal life on the banks of the Wye, I quickly shifted the conversation to fishing.

After all, American lure fishing has had a great influence on our own UK fishing scene. With much of my early lure fishing being done with US musky and bass products, I was keen to learn about Joe’s experience fishing amazing waters in Maine and around Lake Ontario. Salmon, steelhead and smallmouth bass interested me, but the striper fishing really got the cogs turning.


Joe with an amazing striped bass

Striped bass are a cousin of our own natives with a huge environmental range. They can thrive in both fresh and saltwater, and often run estuaries in large numbers just like our own bass. Striped bass are sea bass on steroids, capable of growing to a whopping 80lbs, rather than the 20s ours can reach. Joe fishes for the big ones using dead bait tactics, boat drifting on the wind, with larger baits weighed down by heavy leads. Although he also uses soft plastics and swimbaits for the smaller specimens.

After hearing all of this and with one session left before Joe’s flight home, I made it my mission to hook him up with a UK bass. To see just how ours stack up pound for pound as a sport fish.


The tackle we planned on using:
Rod – Savage Gear SGS5 9ft 9-35g. Reel – SGS6 4000. Braid – 20lb Suffix X8

MY SESSION

I had the luxury of a pre-fishing session. Targeting the coast in a gentle Southerly wind and perfect tides. Taking a roving approach, I decided to target deep waters with reaction lures opting for a large 17cm Sandeel Jerk. The water was clear, with the odd flash of baitfish at close range. Terns and gulls were working close to shore, diving occasionally as close as fifty yards. I was in with a real shot at some bass, covering ground and occasionally sprinting towards short episodes of bird activity. I’d cast the lure to the horizon, wind a few feet, pause, then add some jerks. Slow and erratic, aiming to grab the attention of any bass looking up.

Although clear and bright, the small schoolies were plentiful, smashing the lures with pure aggression before diving to the deep. Great fun, but I hoped for something a little bigger. As the sun began to set my chances increased and I hooked up with a larger fish. A fierce fight followed as I chased the bass along the shore. A much better one around 55cms. The fish seemed beaten, just floundering in the surf, as I fumbled to unclip the net. The hook pulled free and the silence of a barren coastline was interrupted with a loud echo of an unmentionable word.

I soon recovered from my loss, and while pausing the lure had a hit from a decent fish. I chased the bass again dialling the drag back, unwilling to make the same mistake. Fast aggressive runs in surf raised my blood pressure considerably, as soon as the fish began to tire I charged in, securing my catch in the net. A beautiful fish in the setting sunlight. Released, and now content with my evening’s sport.


A big Sandeel Jerk tempts a hungry bass

My evening reward

JOE’S SESSION

It was time to hit the coast with Joe. Restricted to a specific morning session, we would miss our ideal tide phase and to make matters worse, a 15mph crosswind had picked up with a fierce tidal current in matching direction. Our plan to fish with hard lures was abandoned. Our only hope was to fish with dense metals. Shore Jigs and Seekers would be our best choice to counter the elements. But with less visual attraction, we would have to meticulously comb every inch of water to find a bass shoal.

In many ways the conditions wouldn’t be too different to what Joe may find, shore fishing for striper on rivers like the Penobscot in Maine. We decided to take a roving approach and I took point to set the pace. It wasn’t long until I hooked up with a small schoolie. Then I turned my attention to Joe. Guiding him through the process of metals fishing. It took a while to get to grips with, but soon Joe had the Seekers dancing and working to his command.

We varied the retrieve. From drop and jig, to sink and draw, flutter, wind and pause. Analysing the depth our quarry would be feeding at in several metres of water. I was beginning to worry about the lack of activity. Suddenly, Joe felt a tap and set the hook. The rod hunched over and the fish used the fierce rip current to strip yards of drag, quickly ending up some 40 – 50 yards down the beach. I instructed Joe to chase it, all the while battling the strong fish. A tug of war ensued as the fish drew close to the surf, I dived into the water, net at the ready, and as the opportunity arose netted Joe’s PB.

A lovely size bass in the 50+cms range. Joe was thrilled, and in awe at the fighting prowess of our UK bass. Able to head home to the States with a great new story, and new species ticked off the list. Perhaps, some day I’ll join Joe in the US, and experience these monster stripers firsthand.


Joe shows his hate for metals. A lure he struggles with back home

Proven wrong. A happy lad with his PB bass
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Robbie Northman

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A Broads 20, tempted with a big tail bait

Pike Plans

Autumn is here, short days, cooler nights and happy pike. I avoid pike fishing on the Broads during the summer months, because boat traffic is intense and the water temperatures soar up. In recent times, anglers have become more cautious when it comes to warm water pike fishing. Particularly on the Broads where 20ºC+ water is constant from mid-June – mid-September, with many local anglers actively campaigning for a by-law restricting summer piking. Whether the impact is as great as claimed, time will tell, Broadland certainly has a number of issues all fish have to struggle through. For the most part, pike are in the best condition and most sporting through autumn and winter. With so many other summer species on my hit list, I can’t wait to get the big guns out and tackle autumn pike after such a break.

Autumn is a magical time for pike. They feed with ferocity as they recondition themselves for the coming winter. A high metabolic rate and urgency to feed makes autumn the best time to throw those really big lures. That’s exactly what I will be doing over the coming weeks. Covering ground with large search baits. A percentage game, draw in enough fish and a big one will eventually fall for it, right?

So here we go, a summary of the tackle and lures I will be putting to use for pike this autumn.

RODS, REELS & MAINLINES

With big lures you can fish heavy. Bait casting or spinning outfits are ideal. For the most part, I use a rod in the 20-60g range for the smaller lures, and a 150g casting combo for the big ones. A 100g setup is ideal to get the best of both worlds out of one rod. I keep the braid heavy, running 60lb on my light setup and 80lb on the heavy. With lots of snags where I fish it’s nice to bend a hook out and retrieve the lure. 40lb titanium wire is an ideal match up for big lures.

SWIMBAITS

Swimbaits have been my go-to lure for years, they draw pike’s attention and get follows like no other lure. Retrieved relatively fast, they are a good option for covering ground. Big swimbaits in the 30cms+ range can pull fish from the depths like no other lure. I prefer to fish with much more castable 18-20cm versions. Retrieved with a steady wind, they are incredibly effective. Adding fluctuation in speed and dead stops can really trigger takes. Practice will reveal the best technique for fish in your local waters.


Big swimbait and small pike. These lures draw out raw aggression

TAIL BAITS

Perhaps my favourite pike lures. Tail baits are super easy to use and work effectively throughout the year. For my autumn fishing I like to go big, launching 20-30cm lures, fining down to smaller sizes as cold conditions move in. Tail baits are very versatile and can be worked at various depths through the water column, with both steady and paused retrieves. They fish particularly well on the drop, with the long flowing tails producing action from the moment they hit the water. Nowadays there are a lot of hybrid options, hard lures with soft curl tails. These often sink very slowly, allowing extremely precise presentations.


A selection of tail baits


A fighting fit pike from a late October kayak session

PADDLE & PULSE TAILS

Big soft paddle tails, they’ve been enticing pike for years with a plethora of designs. There are many pre-rigged options, I particularly like loose bodies you can rig yourself. Again, for my autumn fishing 15-25cm lures will be my go-to. With smaller lures kept in reserve for tougher days. Paddle tail lures are perfect for searching the water column. Aggressive jigging can trigger takes, equally, rigged light and retrieved mid water swimbait-style can produce the goods. Pulse tail variants have been used for a long time in the US, and are slowly gaining popularity here. They feature a fat, fin-shaped tail with minimal movement. This often puts people off, but it’s what goes on beneath the surface that makes them effective. Pulse tails are a very natural swimming design and that tail really pushes a lot of water.


Paddle and pulse tail lures

HARD BAITS

Big hard baits will always have a place in my tackle box. Jointed glide baits and jerkbaits are perfect for covering those mid – upper layers. The seductive actions can really tempt lazy followers to strike. Jerkbait fishing can be extremely rewarding. Imparting your own action and style to tempt a fish is as exciting as it gets.


A jerkbait proved irresistible to this pike

FISH CARE

It’s equally important to take good care of pike. Big lures often require big hooks, and unhooking can be made much easier with good tools. I like to carry a set of pistol pliers, heavy-duty long-nose pliers and side cutters. Side cutters are especially useful for removing stray hooks, making unhooking a quicker and more pleasant experience. Rubber nets designed for lure fishing make handling much easier too. I always keep an unhooking mat with me to prevent any body damage.

All set for the season ahead, I’m excited to write about my pike fishing adventures throughout autumn. With some luck, I’ll even bag a big one.



The post Lure Fishing with Robbie Northman #32 first appeared on FishingMagic Magazine.

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Robbie Northman

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A Start on the Pike

With changing weather and time on my hands, it was time to set out after pike. My first session of the autumn. Last week I wrote about my autumn lure choice, now it was time to test the logic. I decided to head out with my friend Everson for a session on the boat. It would be my first pike session since March, and I was keen to get off the mark. Everson, however, had a goal in mind. Having caught great fish on bait tactics, he now wanted a big one on the lure. With a lure-caught best just over 19lbs, his mission is to catch a 20lb river pike.

We decided to head out for an afternoon on the river. The plan, to start covering ground, hopping from bay to bay with large lures. A tactic that usually prevails early season. I rigged up with a large tail bait, the 17cm hard eel, while Everson took the paddle tail approach. We fished through a few swims and bays, a slow start until I got my first take of the day. While working my lure fast over a decaying pad bed a pike emerged from the gloom, hitting the lure a foot below the surface. A fighting fit fish of around 7-8lbs. An acrobatic display, with a few great tailwalks and jumps following before the fish hit the net. Great motivation for the pike fishing ahead.

We covered several more bends and bays over the next hour or so, with little action, when we arrived at a very prolific zone. An area I’ve caught big pike from in the past. I fished the shallow feature inside the bay, while Everson covered the deeper edges and drop-offs. Suddenly, I turned round to see Everson hooked up to a good fish, the drag clicking and boils of a large mass beneath the surface. We struggled to stay calm, believing it to be a potential PB. A broad head broke surface, and the pike made a tremendous tail-walk, followed by another great run. Soon the fish ran out of steam. I quickly scooped the net beneath Everson’s metre-plus pike. A long lean fish of 18lbs, not a PB, but his second biggest lure-caught capture.


Everson’s pretty pike

A 17cm goby shad tempted the take

With new found confidence we fished on with the big lures, but were struggling to tempt any large fish. So, with dusk drawing in, we went on the hunt, looking for the shoals of skimmers and roach being harassed by hungry predators. We moved out from the tree-covered sections and into the barren areas, with little visible feature, just miles of flowing Norfolk reed. I scanned bank to bank, using side imaging sonar. Looking for pockets of fish. Occasionally we would encounter tight clusters of small roach, stopping to fish around them. Everson took the large lure approach while I fined down, opting to fish a 9cm shad close to the bottom. Testing the water for anything that would bite.


Scanning vast reed beds for signs of life

We picked up a few fish by spotting shoals, and returned to target the area. The smaller lures excelled for this style of fishing, picking up perch and jacks. After a few stops we scanned a large shoal of small roach, pushed tight to the reed beds. I quickly dropped the weights, making casts back towards the shoal. After a few minutes working the swim the tip slammed round and I hooked up to a strong fish. I kept the pressure on, powerless for a few moments as the fish took line and the light rod bent double. Using a fine wire trace I was able to put plenty of pressure on, soon steering the fish towards the boat, where it made one final run for the ropes. After a hectic moment I reached for the net and landed a lovely double figure pike. A pretty fish in lean condition, and a great one to end the evening on.


A beautiful pike in the evening sun

A small shad, fished with precision, can often perform where larger lures fail

I managed to slip out a few days later for another quick session on the water. Following the same pattern, I quickly hooked another fish. This one went berserk, making some big runs before I subdued it and the fish hit the net. Unfortunately, this one was carrying someone’s lost treble trace. Luckily, with a bit of care, we were able to remove the hooks from deep in the pike’s stomach. A lovely long fish, which will hopefully recover and pile the weight back on.


My rescued pike. This one will be a great fish in full winter weight

The fuel situation in Norfolk has been unreal, with many petrol stations closed or offering restrictions. So, with no chance of fuel for the boat or leisure, that was it for the pike fishing. At least until the chaos blows over later in the week.


The post Lure Fishing with Robbie Northman #33 first appeared on FishingMagic Magazine.

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