Welcome to the second piece in the series in which we’re going to take a look at the tackle you need for surface fishing. If this is your first foray into surface fishing, then don’t be put off by some the tackle I’m going to list. It’s tackle I’ve found is suited to the job perfectly, but it does not mean you can’t go surface fishing if you don’t have it – to start off, you can use items from your everyday kit and then make changes here and there as you are able.
As I covered in part one, the best way to go surface fishing is as a stand-alone method, adopted as part of a stalking/roving approach. Therefore, the key in terms of tackle is to travel as light as possible, which allows you to move quickly at the sight of fish with tackle that won’t wear you down if doing several laps of a lake.
My normal surface fishing gear consists of; rod, net, mat & sling, bait bucket, scales, catapult, mini tackle pouch, polarised fishing glasses and a long-peaked carp. That’s it!
My surface set-up is kept apart from my normal kit, so that should the opportunity arise, I can have it all together in less than a minute and be at my nearest water in under ten. With many of my friends, it takes them an hour just to dig out all the bits they think they’ll need, and even then they’re often round to beg this and that during a session!
I’ve used many rods over the years for surface fishing. My personal preference is for a rod of around 9ft in length. I find a rod of this length is short enough to effectively negotiate bankside obstacles when deep in stalking mode, but also long enough so that you can easily drop a freelined bait over marginal cover, whilst also being able to cast a controller a good distance. I like a rod with an all-through action, which again is good for smooth simple controller casts with long hooklinks, but more importantly for me, allows you to play fish out in an enjoyable manner on light tackle.
I have a selection of rods to choose from with test curves from 1lb TC up to 2lb TC, and my choice will usually be based on the size of the fish that the lake I’m fishing holds. For me, one of the biggest factors in my surface fishing is enjoyment, and so as well as using modern tackle in many situations, I’ll also be found surface fishing using vintage tackle on a regular basis – there’s nothing like playing out a nice fish on the surface on an old split cane or glass fibre rod.
When using a modern set up I won’t leave the house without my Shimano Exage reel – you could not have a better reel for stalking and surface fishing… I sold all my baitrunners within a week of first using one and have never looked back…'nuff said!
For those liking the retro approach, there are loads of old Mitchell reels on eBay in the vintage section that are ideal. It pays to spend a few quid and, once spooled up and in action, these can be the best fun. Be careful, though; once you start using a bit of vintage tackle, you could easily find yourself buying more and more as I have – it can be addictive!
I use a fold up landing net I got off eBay years ago. It’s absolutely perfect for the job, as it packs away really small with an extendible lightweight aluminium handle for easy carrying round the lake.
For safety, I use a good sized roll up carp mat. Steer clear of the tiny ones – they should be banned! – you need something at least 60cm deep and over a meter long with a good level of padding. It’s often the case that a fish stalked off the top and quickly banked can be extremely lively on the bank so it pays to make sure you’re equipped to deal with any eventuality!
No self-respecting specimen angler should be without a pair of polarised fishing glasses, no matter how they are fishing, but when surface fishing they are imperative – if you can’t see them, how can you expect to catch them!? Polarised glasses remove all the glare and allow you to see well beneath the surface, which is what it’s all about – allowing you to spot the fish before they spot you!
Again there are loads on eBay, but stay away from the really cheap stuff. You want some that will also offer UV protection to your eyes. I also stay away from those that look like a normal pair of sunglasses – there’s just too much pollution around the sides that reduces their effectiveness. You are much better off with those that wrap around the sides, which cut out more peripheral light and enhance the effect of the polarised filter. A decent long peaked cap will also work wonders for improving your vision under the surface as it helps reduce the glare.
You want a decent sized bait bucket that’s going to be able to take your freebait – and lots of it – whilst also taking your scales, mini tackle pouch and any other extras you need. When fishing as part of a roving approach, they key is to carry as few items as possible, so by having a slightly oversized bait bucket you can keep all your odds and ends in here so that when you are moving from swim to swim you have your rod in one hand and your net, mat and bucket in the other. The more things you have to carry the more complicated it becomes.
I use a 10 litre camo carp bait bucket which will take a few kilos of dog biscuits in the base, then my catapult, tackle pouch, scales and such like on top. Keeping everything in one bucket just makes it quick and easy – and it also doubles as a handy seat!
My mini tackle pouch is actually a little lead bag which is only about 7” x 4”, but is perfect for storing all the end tackle items and accessories I’m likely to need during the session; baiting tools, forceps, line, hooks, controllers, bait bands, Vaseline and hookbaits, but I’ll cover all my end tackle in the next piece.
The only optional item would be my chest waders. On certain waters I fish, there’s a distinct advantage if you can get into the water (safely!) on some swims to present baits or land fish, but with others everything can be done from the bank.
The only other thing I’ll have with me is a drink and a bit of food, which can go in the bucket. When you’re fishing a roving approach you can be doing several laps of a lake and it can be tiring work – especially in the warmer months – so I always have a drink and a few sugary snacks to keep my energy levels up.
Well, that’s about it for tackle, I’ll cover my different set-ups in Part 3.
'Retro' carp fishing - it can be addictive!