Making an effective purchase of any fishing tackle can be very difficult and frustrating these days considering the variety and choice. Competition between manufactures and marketing strategies doesn’t help, because let’s be honest no company is going to say something is good, but not the best.
I have a very simple question for this problem, which helps cut through all the marketing hype and gets right to the point. “Is this what you need and secondary is it what you want?” Need and want are two totally different things. Needing something is essential, whilst wanting something is a desire.
What you always need to consider is that all items of fishing equipment are tools to achieve an outcome. If that item isn’t going to impact on the outcome then it’s not essential, but if the equipment is going to make the outcome easier or more comfortable, then it’s desirable. Two totally different viewpoints.
Consider a bivvy or shelter, call it what you want. This product, I would say, is essential if you intend to continue fishing once it starts raining. So ask yourself what sort of shelter do you need if you only ever intend to fish short sessions? You will need something light, quick to erect and robust enough to withstand this type of use. However, if you are a long session angler the criteria will change completely and this is where desire takes over from need. This type of shelter must have different design criteria and you will have to consider what you actually want from the product. Sometimes simply keeping dry isn’t enough.
This is how I chose my shelters…I do both short and long session fishing, so I need more than one:
My short session bivvy needs to be light and easy to handle. It also needs to be easy to transport – bulky products regardless of weight can be a pain to work with. It should be simple to erect and preferably needs no other items to create its stability, because extra poles and a dozen pegging down points makes erecting any shelter more difficult. The design needs to make effective use of its cover space – it’s no good having lots of floor area if once it rains most of it gets wet. It needs to be made from quality water proof fabric. These days this shouldn’t be a problem as there are many good quality materials available for making bivvies. I look for those that can also cut down on condensation, which I believe on a single skin system is impossible to cure, but can be reduced. Breathable materials and high density nylon composites are always good to look for, but I find the best material for reducing condensation is actually canvas. Of course canvas not practical for this type of shelter. Finally, it needs to be green and preferably NATO green. Why? Because I like the idea of blending into my surroundings and I’m sure that NATO have looked at this problem and decided the best colour is green for far better reasons than my simple assessment. Once you have established that all your potential choices possess these qualities, it’s all about making a decision.
You might also want all the above qualities in a long session shelter, which is fine, but they are not all essential. For instance you might want something large enough to live in for two weeks, so therefore a bigger bivvy will obviously weigh heavier. I would always want a second skin system for my long session bivvy, so therefore the bulk will be greater. I also want something that is very secure, so stability in extreme weather is therefore important. This is where you need to consider design; large structures with flat sides don’t work well in high winds. Strong poles and quality manufacture are very important. My long session bivvy is over four years old has been subjected to gale force winds and monsoon conditions and still looks as good as new.
I always look at the door very carefully on any bivvy – “is it going to be a rain trap?” is the question you need to ask yourself. A big bivvy means a large door opening, which will increase the risk of rain getting into the main living area. There are some good door designs that use both peak door covers and subtle sloping fronts that reduce this potential, so it’s always worth looking out for them. Finally, I look at the ventilation system – big green nylon based shelters can get very hot in the summer; having a means to improve air flow through your bivvy is, I would say, “very desirable.”
If you follow the above thought process I’m sure you will finish up with a shelter you need, and one that will have some of those desirable features that make you that little bit more comfortable, regardless of the weather.
Some items of tackle are harder to assess until you use them. Some years ago I found myself in the position of needing a new landing net, so off I went to my local tackle dealer. The sales assistant quickly showed me the latest model manufactured by what I considered to be a reputable company, so I bought it not really knowing its qualities. On my first trip out with this new net I soon discovered all of its faults, at a very critical time when I was trying to land a fish.
The net cut through the water so slowly due to its frictional resistance, and the arms and handle bent so much that the lag between me lifting the net and it responding was incredible. In the end I had to start lifting before the fish was even over the net to ensure any hope of success. I took the net back and complained, but to be honest I knew it was pointless because the sales assistant didn’t really know anything about fishing. It was clearly obvious to me this net had never been tested and it was being sold purely on the manufactures reputation and its shiny appearance. Advice is best given by experienced staff and anglers who understand such problems.
Recently I visited a very large tackle shop and was amazed at how many Carp rods it stocked. The choice was incredible – it really prompted me to structure this article in the way I have done. How do you choose the right rod for you? Rods to me are like craftsmen’s tools; you get used to them and learn to handle them to best effect. I have two sets – for both long and short range fishing. I do have other rods, but I seldom use them. To be honest ‘never’ would be a better statement. All my rods, past and present, are very personnel items so I could never sell or dispose of them whether they have been good, bad or indifferent. That, I suppose, is the issue. How do you select a rod when the choice is so personal? Answer… you work to basic guidelines and facts.
For instance, what are the basic requirements would you ideally want from a long range rod? The term ‘long range fishing’ will be interpreted differently between anglers. I consider long range fishing to be anything greater than 80m. Why? Because that’s the effective limit my close range rods will work at. I should probably say ‘my’ effective limit, because casting is all about the individual. This is where you need to be honest with yourself and if you don’t already know your limits, they are probably going to be less than those of anglers who claim excessive casting distances with certain rod types.
Long range rods need certain characteristics above and beyond the norm. The physical strains they have to endure means they need to be designed to make them different. If they aren’t designed correctly they will break easily, trust me.
Casting long distances is not all about the rod, it’s about your ability to compress the blank and to achieve this your timing has to be right. Speed is what makes you cast a long distance. The better you are at accelerating a rod, and timing the release, the more efficient your casting will become. This is where physical difference between anglers plays its part. Some anglers will be strong enough to accelerate and compress a 3½lb test curve rod, whilst other won’t. So if I were looking at any long distance rods I would require a good choice of test curves from the range. Another feature you should consider is blank and wall thickness. A larger diameter blank will have a greater resistance to air than a slimmer one, which means you can accelerate a slimmer blank faster. So you might not be able to get the most from a standard tapered blank of a given test curve, whilst you could from a slimmer design of the same test curve.
Another consideration is the build design. I wouldn’t consider a rod as being suitable for long range fishing if it didn’t have a 50mm butt guide. I also like the ring spacing to be such that when I hold my line between the centre of my reel spool and the rod tip, it doesn’t touch the rings. Ideally the line should be in the centre of each guide, although this isn’t always easy to achieve because it does depend on the reel type you use. There should be as few rings as possible to allow you to compress the rod to its optimum potential. All this helps to create an effective angling tool.
I’ve used the phrase ‘effective angling tool’ because it’s pointless having a rod with which you cannot play a fish… most of our enjoyment comes from this part of the capture. Very stiff rods will increase the chances of hook pulls and leave you with less margin of error when playing a fish. I’ve seen this mistake made by so many anglers over the years, but with time they sort it out by changing their rods, or by adapting to the ones they have. One thing I do know is that they all would have landed more fish if they had bought the right rods in the first place!
The only quality I look for in a close range rod is a soft forgiving action, although fishing at close quarters can be done with long range equipment. But you must be confident that you possess sufficient skills to handle a fish regardless. Personally I don’t like playing the odds, and will always use lower test curve rods for my close quarter fishing. The highest I’ve ever gone is 2¾lb.
Ask yourself how has a rod been designed? To what standards has it been built and tested? Has it been built by a long established rod builder with a track record for quality and customer service? These are very important considerations.
Make sure you chose your angling equipment carefully. Make sure it is suitable for you and fulfils all of your needs.