Watching the other anglers for a few minutes while I struggled into my waders, I could see that they were having some problems. The steelhead-length rods they were using were just barely getting the bait out far enough in the surf, and a feisty rip current was driving their sinkers along the beach, allowing only a few seconds of soak time in the “strike zone.” They got a lot of action the first few seconds, but then the bait was getting washed back into the murky slop and the fish weren’t following.
This was going to be a perfect day to try my new Surf Series Loomis rod. The big 11-foot beauty should get my four-ounce sinker well beyond the sandy surf, right where the fish were feeding.
I waded out between a couple of anglers, exchanged a few pleasantries and launched my bait. When I felt the rod load up on my backswing, I snapped the rod tip forward. My sinker and two clam-baited hooks rocketed into the brisk breeze, taking my offering well beyond where everyone else was casting. As soon as I took in my slack I felt the attack of something substantial through my rod tip. I waited a couple of seconds to be sure the fish was on and set the hook. After a few minutes of fighting, I beached a couple of fat perch. This was going to be a good day!
The rest of the day was terrific. Right up until the tide turned I had lots of action, much more than anyone else. Getting out well into the surf had paid big dividends. My rod was the real star. This was the first day I had fished it, but from my first cast it did everything I could want, mostly because of the practice time I spent on the football field!
Practice Makes Perfect
Every summer, just before the fast action of the fall fishing seasons, I spend a few hours down at the local practice fields. Naturally, I pick times when no one is playing or practicing on the gridiron, although I usually get a few folks dropping by to watch! This is my practice time, and I find that it really pays dividends.
Before I head off to the field, I gather up half a dozen rods, and a lot of the same sinkers, floats and lures I plan on using during the fall and winter seasons. Using one rod at a time, I rig up my outfits, step on the goal line and do some casting.
With the line markers, I can measure my cast to determine how well each rod, reel, lure and sinker performs. I have all the time in the world and no other anglers, biting cold, or overhanging trees to worry about. Pretty quickly I can determine how best to hook up my floats, which lures need a little extra weight to cast well on my outfits, and what I will need to do if the fish are jumping way out in the surf or at the far hole in the river.
This also is a great time to try out and get the kinks out of the new line. If you’ve just put new line on the spool, tie one end to the goal post and unspool your line as you walk down the field. When it’s all out, pull back with the rod tip to stretch it out and get rid of the spool memory. When you start casting, you’ll have good straight line in your spool.
Getting the Feel
My successful casting in the surf was a direct result of a couple of evenings I spent with my new surf rod. Like every rod, it had a unique feel. I put about four ounces of weight on the end of the line with a snap swivel and made a few easy casts. On my back cast I could feel the rod bend and “load up” lots of potential energy. I got my timing down and pretty soon was whipping the sinker way down the field. By the time I’d tried a dozen casts, I was reaching the other goal line, some 300 feet away! I tried a couple of different reels and pretty soon had settled on the perfect combination for surf fishing.
After I felt comfortable with my surf outfit, I tried out my float casting rod with a couple of new floats I wanted to try. I had to adjust my pencil weights and swivels to get a good balance point, but pretty soon I was able to get the bobber well out over 100 feet, just perfect for my favorite salmon river. The setup was easy to cast, and I could get distance well past what the average angler would be able to touch. There are some really nice slots near the far bank, and I might well have those to myself if I could duplicate my casting distance from football field to surging river!
Finally, I tried out a new trout spinning rod I wanted to use on our local lakes. My new rod was about seven feet long. Where I fish from shore, I have to get pretty good distance to reach a couple of good shelves out in the lake. It took a little while, but I finally found the right reel, line, and sliding sinker to get the distance I needed. I didn’t have to froth up the lake or bother other anglers to do it, just put in an hour or so in the friendly confines of the football field.
When you are traveling somewhere new, find a good fishery, and need to get some new tackle to give it a try, you might put in a little practice time on the field before you hit the water. It’s a lot easier to deal with a sticky bail on your reel, a line that tangles like crazy, or mismatched lures in a setting where everyone isn’t watching you, and where you can easily get back to the bait shop to get something that works a little better.
Like a lot of kids out there, you can get in great shape for the fall and winter seasons if you spend a little summer time practicing on the gridiron!
Bob Ellsberg’s column, Fishin’, appears monthly in RV Life and rvlife.com