But if you start getting that bit specialised then things change a little, for as your experience grows then the need for just a bit more tackle increases, or so some of us would like to think. Just watch that you donít fall into the common trap of believing that every single gadget put out on the market is going to help you catch more fish. I will be honest and admit to being astounded by some of the things I see on the tackle shop shelves, but they must sell or else they wouldnít be there! But sometimes I canít help but feel we are caught more easily than the fish.
Beachcasters and other rods
For years now I have used Conoflex rods for the sole purpose that they do the jobs I want. There are lighter beachcasters out there, but not one of my Conoflex blanks has ever let me down and I have not seen other rods which I would rather own. For the majority of my heavier kind of rough ground fishing I use a pair of battered but trusted Scorpion Sports; all my rods have reelseats on and never those infernal coasters!
I have been playing around for a bit now with their new Demon range and there seems to be a rod there for nearly all my shore work, right from the heaviest heave-ho kind of work down to a bit of spinning for mackerel. I do not like factory built rods as I find they are inevitably rung with wrong spacings, too few rings, and an excess of breakable high-build! For that reason I entrust my mate Julian Shambrook to custom build all my rods at his business in Torquay.
In the long run it is entirely up to you what rods you choose to use, but do have a close look at your expected kind of fishing before parting with all that cash. It is no good investing in a match rod because it is light to hold if your fishing involves dragging unsuspecting cod through minefields of boulders and kelp! It is essential to realistically match the rod to the fishing, for though there may be a confusing number of rods on the market, only a few will feel right for you and do what you personally ask of it.
We havenít got that much choice of quality multipliers to choose from, if we are concerned primarily with heavy duty fishing; but that is no great problem as I believe the SLOSH (Daiwa) range of reels to be about the best we can get our hands on. I have loads of them in various sizes and apart from a few parts needing replacing, not one has let me down in years of tough fishing. For my fishing it is no good trying to squeeze every little bit of long range ability from a reel, for we would far rather have safe casting and all round ruggedness. My reels are set up to cast safely in all conditions, whether into a gale or with wind behind, and if they start to misbehave then they just need a little oil in the bearings! There is all the distance ability I could need, but importantly they are controllable reels when simply lobbing baits (as is so much of my fishing). They also have a very quick retrieve and loads of cranking power to get fish up and away from snags.
I have been using a pair of Penn 525 Mags for a few months now for my lighter, longer range fishing for cod and rays and so far I am very impressed; having initially dismissed the notion of magnetic brakes, you could now say I am converted! You just have to learn how to set the reel up for you and then remember how it behaves in certain conditions and with how you have set the magnets. But that is all pretty simple and more importantly the reel is tough, a good size and has a quick retrieve; look around and you will find some bargains.
I have probably tried almost every line that is going in the quest to find that magical something, but I just keep coming back to Ultima lines; I donít want fancy low diameter stuff that apparently cuts through tide like a knife through butter. You can get many lines like this, but my primary concern when choosing lines is out and out strength and you need a "normal" diameter to get as much abrasion resistance as is possible. Mainlines take a battering, whether fishing from the beach or rocks, although rocky ground is the least friendly to line by a country mile! Acres of sharp edges just wait there to cut your line or ruin it with a series of dodgy nicks and rough patches; but the problem is, big fish very often live in those snags and we want to catch them!
I prefer buying relatively cheap lines and changing them more often, rather than making an expensive spool try to last longer; I have tried these expensive lines and they may perform well under laboratory testing conditions, but take them out real fishing and I defy you to notice any difference between a 4oz spool of line costing £7 and one costing £14. Nothing is really tested until it has been put through its paces out in the real world and I cheerfully ignore any tests I read about! Trust your own instinct.
My reels are generally filled up with Ultima Red Ice and Rough Diamond, both lines costing around £6-7 and at these prices I am happy to take no risks at all and change my line whenever I see fit. If you donít like a red line (Red Ice) then either use a clear leader or use the dark coloured Rough Diamond; breaking out 35lb Red Ice when out huss fishing is somewhat painful on the hands and there are not that many lines you can say that about! I think sometimes various companies do not realise what they have produced and I think Red Ice is extraordinary stuff.
I only use Mustad hooks as they do not let me down and I can generally find a pattern I want to use, although there is most definitely the perfect rough ground, specimen hook still waiting to be made. In snaggy ground you are going to lose a lot of hooks and there is not much you can do about it; avoid cheap, nasty hooks at all costs! That bit of metal is what holds that fish on in the end, so trying to save a few pence here just does not make sense; give yourself as much chance as possible to land that fish of a lifetime. That next bite could be it.
I use a lot of Mustadís tried and tested Viking hooks as they are strong, fairly priced and can be resharpened with a stone; chemically sharpened hooks do have a time and a place, but they are often impossible to put a point back on when dragged from the snags. But the BLN range are excellent for various fishing applications and where would conger anglers be without the OíShaughnessy hook? Please use the bronzed variety so that a hook left in a conger will harmlessly rust out.
Let there be light
I am often walking long ways over dangerous ground, so I need my hands free; for that reason I never use a tilley lamp and instead rely on a good quality headlamp. They are almost more than an extra pair of hands when night fishing and I just can not imagine how I could go fishing without one. Mine is an old Speleo Technics FX3 (now called the Anglerís Light) that has never let me down, although do carry a few spare bulbs as they will and do go kaput; the rechargeable battery goes in a bum-bag and then sits comfortably around my waist. I wear it so much that I do not even notice the set-up is there and I keep it on all the time when night fishing as the battery has a ten hour life when fully charged; just make sure you keep the thing fully charged for that unplanned fishing session.
If you are going to go yomping to go fishing (specimen anglers have no choice!), then invest in a decent rucksack that is comfortable to wear; it's as simple as that! You will often be carrying a fair amount of gear and I have found no better way of getting it all to my marks yet.