Choosing the right tackle for your fishing

The first visit to a good tackle shop is rather like entering Aladdin's Cave. The walls are hung with scores of rods, each designed for a particular purpose. The showcase houses a collection of reels, there is a rack of special clothing and a pile of nets, Floats of every shape, colour and size are hung on cards, There is a bewildering range of hooks, lead shot, baskets, stools and haversacks, plus a thousand specialized gadgets whose uses you can only guess at! Do not be put off, however. Although everything in the shop has its use at certain times and under certain conditions, to begin with you need bother only about the basics.

The most obvious requirements are a rod, reel, line, floats, hooks and lead weights, but you will also need a haversack or shoulder bag in which to carry the smaller tackle items, a stool to sit on and a keepnet to hold the catch, As a beginner you will not be specializing in any particular aspect of angling, so you should choose just one rod that will do several jobs, Luckily, today's glass fibre rods, light and almost unbreakable, are versatile tools and you will have no trouble finding a general-purpose rod of about 4m (12ft) in length. Do not be tempted to buy a much shorter rod because you think it will be easier to manage - it will not. Short rods are a disadvantage when fishing a river bank with a soggy or reed-fringed margin, as they will not allow you to reach over the margin and into the water. They are also a handicap when float fishing a deep stretch where the depth of water is greater than the length of the rod, as they make casting difficult. The general-purpose rod will cope with most sorts of fish and situations, except the specialist styles needed for big carp and pike.

Types of Reel

There are three types of reel to choose from: the centrepin, which is now rarely used except by a few traditionalists and some matchmen, the fixed-spool and the closed face, which is a variation of the fixedspool. The most widely used of the three is the fixed-spool, a reel which takes a lot of headaches out of casting. It has a slipping clutch which helps avoid sudden line breakage, can be bought in either left- or right-hand wind and has the added advantage that spools can be changed in minutes.

This means that you can carry three or four different spools, each loaded with a line of a different breaking strain, and switch them around according to the species you are after or varying water conditions.

Types of Lines

Modern lines are made from nylon monofilament, which is cheap, rotproof and has a degree of elasticity which acts as an additional safety factor in the hands of the beginner. If you are buying a number of extra spools, choose a range of different breaking strains, 1kg, 2kg, 3·50kg and 4·50kg (2lb, 4lb, 8lb and 10lb), so that you can cope with the varying situations you may meet. If you are not likely to be catching big fish and you do not want to buy too many reel spools, stick to lkg and 275kg (2lb and 6lb). Read through the instructions which come with every reel to find out the line loading of each spool. A shallow spool may take 91m (100yd) of 1kg (2lb) line, while a deeper one may accommodate a longer length of thicker line. Make sure you stick to the correct loading, for the amount of line on the spool can affect the casting. Too little will cut down the distance you can cast, too much will have line spilling over the edge and can cause tangles.

Floats

Next we come to floats - and a headache if you let yourself be dazzled by the display in the tackle shop. Look at the whole range and you will see such odd-sounding names as Duckers, Trotters, Sticks, Zoomers, Avons, Antennas, Missiles, Carrots, Arrows, Swingers, Onions, Wagglers, Darts and a dozen or so more. The purpose of the float is to put the hookbait in a given area or depth of water and to tell the angler when he has a bite.

The floats can be made of wood, cork, pith, plastic, quill, reed or polystyrene. However, you will need only a couple of basic types for lake and river fishing. For stillwater (lake) use you will need a float with its buoyancy at the bottom end - an Antenna is a good example. For river fishing you will need an Avon, Stick or similar float, and a good oldfashioned standby for many situations is a length of peacock quill.

Buy an assortment of split shot - lead balls with a slot cut halfway through, used to balance the float - in various sizes, and some Arlesey bombs. The latter are pear-shaped leads with a brass swivel set in the narrow end, and are used for ledgering which is fishing with the bait on or near the bed of the lake or river. You should also buy a maggot dropper, a very handy gadget which puts the maggots exactly where you want them on the river bed, and some swimfeeders which serve the same purpose with groundbait.

Types of Hooks

The tackle shop will sell three types of hook: spade-end and eyed (which are bought loose and have to be tied to the end of the line), and thirdly, hooks ready whipped to lengths of nylon. The latter are slightly more expensive but they are easier for the beginner as they do not involve any knot-tying. You simply tie a loop at the end of the main line and slip it through the loop at the end of the hook link. Get a swing- or quiver-tip which screws into the top rod ring Both are designed as bite indicators when ledgering, when you do not have a float to tell you what is happening beneath the surface. You will also want a pair of rod rests for use when ledgering, a landing net with an extending handle to help land fish which are too big to be lifted from the water and a keepnet large enough to accommodate the catch. You will also want a plummet, used for checking the exact depth of water when float fishing, a disgorger for removing the hook from a fish's mouth, and a pocket knife, handy for all sorts of jobs.

Finally, you need something in which to carry all the odds and ends, plus the day's food and drink, and something to sit on. The old-fashioned cane basket or its modern glass fibre equivalent will do both jobs, but it has the disadvantage of having no back rest. The alternative is to buy a haversack or shoulder bag in which to carry the bits and pieces and a separate stool, with a back. This is a matter of personal preference, so see what the shop has to offer and make your choice.

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