Sunday, 15 December 2013

The Handmade Fisherman

I have finally made a start on building my new website, “The Handmade Fisherman” hopefully this will be a base for visitors to land on and explore. At the moment it seems still like I have a couple of thousand things to deal with before everything is up and running and I can get back to making some videos let alone doing some fishing.

I also did a bit more experimenting with my real minnow, adding another hook hanger and a diving lip. I may get chance for a couple of testing sessions next week, it swims great in the bath but that is never a judge of how it will work out in the real world. Weight wise I have ordered some tungsten 4mm fly tying beads which I think will work out better than lead free shot I am using at the moment. Carving the balsa is still a bit of pig so I made up a face out of layered paper covered with foil, this feels like cheating a bit. Another great thing I discovered about working on something this small is when I go back to making larger lures like the crank bait the feel massive by comparison. 

Monday, 9 December 2013


Above: Mario Doiron painting a beach scene

I don’t often know what to make of the internet, it seems like a place of infinite possibilities. If I wanted to get up tomorrow and build a high powered rocket to attach to a bicycle it wouldn’t be a big ask to a least find some instructions and possibly a video floating about the web. I wonder where those possibilities will take me. 

Early next year I plan to start another series of videos, with better production thanks to some new camera equipment, editing kit and help from a video making course I have been attending  part time for a couple of months. Content wise I want try some new stuff, stuff that is new to me and dig out some of those wackier ideas I have been sitting on for too long.  I want to push myself out of my comfort zone and maybe make use of those infinite possibilities the web has to offer, who knows a rocket powered lure on a bicycle.

Today while trying to draw something on the computer, answer e-mails and deal with the rest of the things that ping at me to tell me, what somebody has posted or commented on, I got a message about a video an artist had posted. The video was of painting a beach fishing scene, and the scene was inspired by an image from a mackerel fishing video I made on Chesil Beach. I watched the video it is fair to say a few times and felt privileged to be part of one those infinite possibilities.  

Thanks Mario

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Carving a finger full of balsa

A little bit of light carving.

What I wanted was something I could dropshot with that unlike a soft plastic lure it would have 
some buoyancy. The main advantages of dropshotting is keeping the lure a set distance from the bottom rather than guessing, while also working the lure without changing its position so effectively it gets to dance in a predator’s face rather than racing past . The disadvantage is keeping the rod up and the line tight plus it isn’t great at any distance.  Adding a small float above the hook can work for distance as it keep the line up out of any trouble but inversely it also reduces the distance of cast. So with this aside I thought I would make a floating dropshot lure for a trout and perch water I fish.

I didn’t have to look far for inspiration, when it comes to balsa trout lures there is of course Maki Handmade lures; it would be fair to say that if god wanted to make some fishing lures he would probably serve an apprenticeship with Maki.  There isn’t a lot to say about his workmanship, it would all be a bit superfluous just follow the link            (and don’t forget to come back).

Rather than resort to shell veneers I thought I would stick with foil and also limit my choice of finishes to a bit of black acrylic paint, a dab of red sharpie and 15-20 dibs in some model aircraft dope. One of my aims when I started making lures was to keep it simple and often I find myself jumping headlong into over-complication, while this can be fun I try to remember the person I was when I first began making lures. Keeping it simple means I didn’t want to get the airbrush out, I wanted to sit and just make without the hum of a machine or Darth Vader’s respirator.
So I sketched up what I thought would go for a prototype, redrew it in a Cad program and then printed it out as templates. Rough shaping the body was easy enough with the parting line between two pieces of 4.5mm balsa giving me a dead centre.

Carving the face required some very light music, I found a YouTube channel that played Gregory Alan Isakov, songs back to back and settled in for the duration. I shouln’t really call it carving, it was more a case of cut and sand; balsa being a bit of a pig when comes down to fine details. Carve, fit the through wire and weights, foil, paint with a bamboo skewer and then dip every half hour in dope until I lost count but a least over fifteen times would be a good guess.

So I have my lure it is a little smaller than my index finger and more importantly it has been finished just as the trout season is over so I won’t know its true value until next spring. It isn’t perfect but I know largely the bits that went wrong and how to avoid them in the future. This is a start and the learning has only just begun so I have quite a lot of fiddling about ahead of me. Maybe if I get a bit better at it I'll make a video.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The T Shirt Action Camera Mount

I am dead baiting for pike. For a lure builder this feels like surrender or the start down a slippery slope. I take comfort in the fact that at least I have made my own float from a couple of corks and some bamboo. This is the second swim I have tried and despite the sunshine it is bloody freezing and I am conscious that I may be found frozen to death with a rather healthy tan.  

My float is finally showing some signs that the mackerel a few feet below has drawn something’s attention. I wait until whatever is down there has decided to don a napkin and tuck in. The float starts to move as if propelled by its own outboard motor and then like Nemo’s Nautilus  it sinks below the surface. I wait for what feels like an indescribably long period of time but probably amounts to a couple of seconds and then strike. My rod is bent and there is a thud of fish while simultaneously the cold that has been gnawing at my toes disappears. I attempt to wind in but nothing seems to move and there is crunch inside the reel housing, I try again while the fish continues to exert some pressure on the rod but the reel is not moving.  

 I have one quote that I keep for moments like this, it comes from that literary masterpiece, The Viz and was often used by Timmy Timpson (aka spoilt bastard)  when things were not going his way; here goes   “bugger, bastard, bugger , bastard, wank”.  I consider hand lining the fish, but with branches touching the water either side of me it wouldn’t be the best of approaches. Realising I have only one barbless treble connecting me with the fight I tip the rod down and wait, the pike takes the float for a tour before managing to slip the hook . Never mind, I walk back with the rod up in the air and get the bait out of the water before pissing round with the reel ; my feet are suddenly cold again. 

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Making Simple Soft Plastic Fishing Worms

It is all over the film is uploaded it seems to run ok, there are fifty things I would like to change about it but I want to go fishing so much it hurts. Someone on video course I am attending asked me what I do as a job, one day I would like to say fish.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Sushi Whip Tail Grub Molds / Moulds For Sale

In an attempt to pay for some much needed video equipment I am offering some Sushi Whip Tail Grub moulds for sale at £10 each plus postage. These are cast by me using high quality RTV silicone from my master, they take a day to cure and then a day later I give a test, if everything is ok I put in the post.   Recently I have done very well fishing with this grub on small jig heads, the body being just a little over half instead of fully round means the hook can be left to stand really proud, which seems to have helped hooking bony mouthed fish like the pike and the odd very greedy little perch.  

The grubs from the mould are 85mm (3 ¼” approx) long, the tails come out thicker than injected bait moulds which gives them a nice pulse that draws fish out even in the mucky ponds and canals I fish. If you are interested send me an email to unfortunately I can only deal with paypal users.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Adding or Replacing the Eyes on Soft Plastic Lures

He tells me the fish used to be bigger and there were more of them and then almost to contradict himself he tells he watched a guy pull a 27lb pike out last year on a dead bait. Before I leave him to his feeder rod and head along the bank he tells me that he has never seen anyone catch anything on a plug. I don’t stay to argue or brag, fish are always bigger and better in the past.

Maybe he is right if I killed a fish and stuck it on a hook my chances of a large pike would improve no end, but often it’s not the arriving that matters so much to me as how I got there. I route in my tackle box and pull out another little creation and cast again; the fish seam less than impressed today with my handiwork.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Making A flying Minnow Lure and fishing with Dave

There is a pike on the edge of the reeds, when everything settles it lunges scattering the fry that hold up in the shade. I have been through every lure in my bag casting and retrieving them as close the stems as I dare but none so far have sparked any interest. Paul a fellow angler spots me and comes over for a chat, eyeing up his brace of rods and bite indicators set up a little way down the bank I ask if he has gone over to the carp side. He tells me he has always been a carp guy and only fishes the float for roach and bream when he has not had much luck with the big fellas, which he says is more often than he would like. 

The carp here can get to just under the thirty pound mark but they have seen it all, every rig, bait and trick in the book and while getting fat they have learnt to avoid spending any time out of the water.  So we talk about baits and he tells me about one of his friends who used a chicken Macnugget to land a twenty pounder and the next day Paul had been through the drive-in hoping to repeat his friend’s success. Talking weird baits and strange catches is a vast subject, I throw in a couple of tales including the story of the terrapin catch I had made on pellets; the non-native terrapin had probably been released after the Ninja Turtle craze had subsided. Then I tell him about Dave taking a pike on a mussel while float fishing for tench; a fish so ugly it would not be considered pretty if it was amphibian. 

It is a little over ten minutes later when Dave arrives as if summoned by the mere discussion of his fishing exploits. To say Dave is an unorthodox fisherman would not quiet convey the distance he has travelled either by design or folly from the main practices of the modern coarse angler. This evening he has two rods, the first is a fly rod fitted with a fixed spool reel to which is attached an unspecified monofilament line, a cage feeder, a hook length of 1.5lb and a size twenty hook, with this set up he hopes to land something. His other rod as if to balance things out is a straight piking, dead bait set up with a bubble float. As he has carried both rods from his house, broken down with the rigs attached and has not brought his glasses the task is given to me to untangle the treble hooks from the feeder and the rod rings; Dave helps by holding his can of beer steady.

I tell him about the topic of our earlier discussion which encourages him to share his own little gems including his story about catching the same catfish in a Thai lake as Jeremy Wade of River Monsters fame.  He has lived probably a little longer than the biggest carp in the lake and has seen almost as much but listening can be a bit of guessing game. Dave’s ability to communicate is based largely on the powers of his audience to fill in the bits of his sentence’s that are missing or edit out the bits that have been added by mistake. Sometimes if my concentration dips or Dave breaks his monologue by swigging from the can that he has been using as a microphone I am left with the feeling that I have been eating pasta without the sauce.

The light is falling and Paul asks me if I am still selling lures, and I tell him about the videos and people making them themselves. I tell him about the guys who have made lures from my designs and send me pictures from Australia, and South America of fish and places to fish, we talk for while as the drunks on the far side of the lake laugh into the darkness and the rats scuttle.  

A Baramundi on a Phox Minnow made in Australia by  Roy Priestley, thanks for sending the image Roy

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Giving It All Away

                He tells me he threw a chair at a teacher and that’s why he has to go to ‘naughty school’. I tell him that I wished I would have had the balls to throw a chair at a teacher when I was at school. We are waiting on rods; I have a feeder rod set up with a pellet feeder lying just off the edge of the reeds. I have lent the kid a pellet feeder and a banded pellet hook length and cast them out a little way; even on his less sensitive carp rod this is a no brainer technique hopefully if he can get to the rod in time he will catch. To up the stakes I have told him I will give him my spare feeder rod if he catches a fish. The spare rod was given to me by the tackle shop owner as it needed a repair which was just a case of replacing the tip.

I ask if the reason he doesn’t own a fishing chair is because he threw it at someone, he doesn’t see the joke and continues to pace while I find myself watching two rod tips. I tell him if he catches a fish before me I will be pissed. Yesterday I had pulled out big slabs of bream one after the other as if they were offered up to me, today is obviously another day and the first fish is the most important omen. He asks me about the fish I caught yesterday; he had been watching from the far side of the lake. I tell him I don’t know how many I caught and that I do not weigh fish as I don’t work in a fishmonger’s.

While we wait I remember school and the seemingly unending boredom of it, I have never been to prison I think school was close enough for me. It has been ten minutes and the tip of my rod is knocking slightly as a fish or fish bump my feeder. He is bent over messing with the undergrowth and I tell him unless he has eyes on his arse he cannot see his rod tip.

As if responding to my assertion his rod tip bounces and the line slackens a little as the hooked fish moves the feeder toward the rod a little, I tell him he has fish and not to rip its head off but just lift the rod and wind. It is a medium sized roach and I show him how to unhook it and then I am forced to take pictures of him with his mobile phone, mock kissing the fish. I ask him when the last time he had caught a fish before this one was and he gives me some kind of bullshit answer that tells me it was either a long time ago or he once got lucky or maybe never at all.

 He asks if I will look after his fishing tackle while he goes to the shop and then not waiting for a reply he disappears. I am left with the lake to myself; there are no dog walkers or strays of any type only the fish, reeds and the water.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Easiest Fish In the Sea

Mackerel at sunset on Chesil Beach

The light is failing fast and it is already too dark to film. I forget about the camera for a moment and enjoy the sunset and the stray mackerel that I have managed to snag. I am back on Chesil Beach for another chance to throw some feathers, but it has been slow; slow enough for me to fit in an hour or so of wondering if I know anything about catching fish. The wind, tide and light have dropped and finally the Mackerel have decided to put in appearance, my doubts are laid aside maybe I know enough to catch the easiest fish in the sea.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Making Reed Fishing Floats (bobbers) by hand

It has been a little bit of a strange week, I seem to have been stuck making a video that didn't want to be made; computer crashes, broken cameras, accidentally deleting scenes and then breaking the float I’d made.  Just before finishing the film I took my floats down to the lake and it all largely didn't seem to matter.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Prototype Skull Jig Head

I should be a little tidier but it is not in my nature, yesterday I lost a little skull I had made from polymer clay using a toothpick for the finer details. It was about the size as my fingertip and will probably turn up while I am searching for something else I have lost. So I started again and this time set the camera to video and hopefully if the special silicone I have ordered turns up before I lose the new model I may get a video out of it and some tin jig heads. I don’t know why I should need a skull jig head, maybe I need all the Voodoo I can get my hands on to lure some monsters.  

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Waggler Floats and Cigarettes

The crossroads was empty except for a mange riddled fox that stood a little off the centre point. I wondered if it was waiting for the lights to change but knew it was sizing me up, trying to separate the jumble of rod case, net, chair and the man carrying it all. It waited a long time and then a cyclist pasted me and the fox moved, slinking through a gap in a fence. It was a little after four thirty and the sun was already high enough for the day to be considered fully formed all that was missing was the traffic.
                At the twenty four hour garage opposite the park entrance a guy stood on the edge of the forecourt as if waiting for a taxi. He asked me for cigarette as I neared, I told him I didn’t smoke and he asked for money; I told that I only had enough for a bottle pop as the sliding doors to shop opened. I passed him again on the way out and walked into the park.

At the lake a mist was puffing its way in from the fields cloaking the small nib of my float that poked at the surface. I missed some bites, and then missed some more, eventually I found some pace and began hooking roach and the odd bream. A noise made its way through the park cloaked by the dense foliage on the far side of the lake.  When the owners of the voices finally made it in to view I found myself watching two men striped to the waist half dance their way down the path alongside the lake. They spoke what I took to be an African language, but Africa is a big place.   They told me they wanted to catch a fish and that they were drunk as if it was carefully guarded secret , I looked at them blankly while managing to keep an eye on the float and then they asked for a cigarette.  

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Mackerel Fishing With Homemade Feather Rigs

There are those rare times when I am fishing that a fear creeps in. It is not the fear of going home empty handed but the fear that it is all a dream and in a moment the lap of the water and the tension on line will fade and I will wake up in an office with only the hum of copier machine for company.  

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Making Soft plastic Fishing Lures

A very bad fisherman

    When the pike hit the lure I did what I have been telling myself I shouldn’t do, instead of striking and setting the hook I reached for the button on my camera. The pike needless to say was camera shy and just as I got the video going it threw the hook and buggered off to recover. I gave a few more casts just in case it was having second thoughts but I guessed it had better things to do. Well this was my first outing with my new Sushi Whip Tailed Grubs, I hadn’t actually caught a fish but at least I had proved to myself that it had attracted or annoyed one enough for it to take a swing at it.

                Despite being five in the morning other anglers had begun to arrive and my open water was quickly reduced to small patch which felt only a little larger than the bath tub I had tested the lures in. Before long I was into something again and this time I managed to strike. Whatever was on the end of the line shot off stripping line from reel as the drag buzzed. Despite thudding away at my rod I was not convinced it was a pike, I thought maybe it was one of the fabled catfish or a foul hooked carp.  A few mutes later I was gaining on it and the back end of a very large eel emerged from the weeds.  

I suppose an eel foul hooked doesn’t count unless you are a really bad fisherman. The only compensation was that I didn’t have to get my forceps down its mouth to unhook it.  

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Making a Beetle Fishing Lure From Plastic Spoons

I am not sure this lure project really made sense until I added water and then when a pair of eyes swam towards the camera I knew it had that spark.  The plastic spoon lure was an idea I had, had a long while ago and never got to building; mainly because I knew I could make the beetle part but I had no clue how to turn it into a lure. In the end I made the beetle last week and after working over the weekend in the city at the river festival, I came back to it with a plan. Rather just create another wobbler I thought about a drop shot rig which I have been using for pike in the winter when they tend to sit in the mud. As always I am a few seasons behind with my lure making but when weed dies back I should be able to bounce this baby a foot or so off the bottom without the constant fear of losing it. 

Monday, 10 June 2013

el Dorado ............ Golden Dorado

La mejor manera de cubrir un señuelo de pesca son las marcas dejadas por un par de dientes afilados. Gracias a Cholex1000 que me envió un link a un vídeo que ha hecho de su primera pesca de madera señuelos. Ahora quiero vivir en Argentina y para pescar el Dorado (Golden Dorado). Gracias por el video         Google Translate

The best pattern to cover a fishing lure with are the marks left by a pair of sharp teeth. Thanks to Cholex1000 who sent me a link to a video he has made of his first wooden fishing lures. Now I want to live in Argentina and to fish for el Dorado (Golden Dorado).  Thanks for the video

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Drinks Can Vibe Lure

I often start a lure project with a big idea and then try to bolt ahead to the finish without paying too much attention to the details. This is great for quick prototypes but almost useless if I want them to last longer than a few chucks into pond. So this vibe lure is about the details for me, the real lure or big idea I want to make is a swimbait with a polycarbonate core but my main experience with polycarbonate comes from making minnow lips rather than anything structural.  Using polycarbonate as the lure body has put me on a really steep learning curve. It is an unbelievably strong material with a high impact resistance but a bit of a pain in the arse to drill and needs a bit of work to bring the edges up to a shine.

 Using the drinks can was something I thought about for a while; normally aluminium cans are coated internally with varnish which makes for a better surface for the glue to bond to than aluminium. Having pre-coloured and protected finishes also saves a bit of time.  So this was a bit of fun which really worked on the canal perch even if I didn’t catch anything bigger than a handful I mean a finger full. 

Sunday, 26 May 2013

A Pike Breaks The Stillness

Another 5.30 am and another lake and this time the mist was up early softening the lines of fence posts and hedgerow trees. I drove with the sun pushing long tinted rays through it all on the road above the lake which had disappeared under a weight of haze. I felt that overriding sense of anticipation I sometimes enjoy before arriving at the waterside as if the moment of that first cast is akin to the feeling of hooking a monster.

The view from the water’s edge was limited a little by the softness and bolts of sunlight, only the crested grebes cutting ripples in the distance gave any movement to the glass that lay before me. I was a little uneasy about throwing a lure into a lake that looked like it was expecting a sword. Out of respect I clipped on one of my balsa weight shifting minnows to give me some distance without beating at the surface.

I could have stood there all morning watching the light change and mist creep up over the fields but a flash struck at the lure and I was into a pike. It ran a little and then took to the air tail walking its way through the shallows until it calmed a little and I slipped the hook out while it was still in the water.

I worked my way along the bank as the display out on the lake gave way to the force of the day and a bright sun. The magic had gone. I missed another couple of tugs and watched the bow wave of a powerful fish chase down my lure and lunge only to miss it and roll at the surface.   When I left the day had hardly begun………..

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

A Mouth Full Of Crankbait

Image Above: A Pike Breakfasting On My Homemade Crankbait

I arrived at the lake a little after 5:30am and found the carp crew who had been camped out for a couple of days were in the process of landing a lump of a fish. It turned out to be a rather large tench but not a carp and the crew were not happy. I stopped to inquire where their web of lines stretched to so as to avoid setting off another bite alarm and creating some more disappointment for them.

Two days earlier I had been out for an evening’s float fishing session when the crew had turned up carrying all their equipment in a supermarket trolley. Knowing I would be required home they set up around my swim with banks of rods laid out like cannons on the deck of a destroyer. With guns to the left of me and guns to the right, I hung on for an hour and then left them to it.

This morning I had two small patches of water to myself to hunt for pike and fling some new lures and prototypes about. I clipped on a fat head wiggler knowing that this really wasn’t the best location for hurling big bits of wood about. The plug flew but landed with the poise and grace of a scud missile scaring the moorhens and their chicks. I let it swim for a bit and then put it away saving it for a trip to a bigger water and then clipped on a Balsa Crankbait.

Despite the smaller size and lightness the lure flew to almost three quarters of the distance covered by its bigger cousin but also landed with less of a thud. It wasn't long before something was kicking up swirls in pursuit but after a couple of lunges whatever was out there gave up. I moved to my other free stretch of water just as a pike broke the surface in the shallows. Three casts later it had taken my crankbait and when it surfaced the lure was firmly wedged in its jaws. I switched on the mini video camera and then not thinking stupidly landed it in the net instead of picking it out the water from under its chin, instantly the belly hook snagged up and I had two hooks to untangle.

With some minor surgery the hook came out of the fish ok and I slipped him back while I dealt with the bigger problem of the net. When I finally got back off my knees I realized that my little lure had caught its first fish and had the rash to prove it. Unfortunately the video was unusable but I managed to salvage a still from the junk.

After deciding previously to limit myself to one pike per visit to my local water I set about testing some other little creations.  Despite some design successes the lake is the place to come and find flaws and test ideas some of which should of never have left the drawing board but it is often only when I have added water that my failings become apparent. One particular prototype swam off in a direction that almost made me believe it was autonomous. I still have a lot to learn about lures and filming especially in the great outdoors

Friday, 17 May 2013

Turning An Old School Fishing Lure On The Lathe

Image Above: The Fat Head Wiggler

I went a bit mad with the power tools and finally dusted off the lathe to make my own take on that old school classic ‘the wiggler’. I suppose my next project should be an earlier lure maybe something made from bone with its origins in the Stone Age. What interests me about these types of lures is their birth within that period when mass production was making products affordable or at least within reach of  ordinary working people.  These are lures born out a machine both in terms of design and production; they don’t look like anything I have ever seen swimming in a lake but then not a lot of lures do.
  The decal on the side was something from my school days when hip-hop was just emerging and I spent all my free periods at school drawing graffiti in the back pages of my school books while wishing I lived in New York and had a posse. At the time one of my school friends owned the biggest Ghetto Blaster in Liverpool which used about the same amount of battery power as electric outboard and required its own seating on the buses, despite its size it did nothing to help us to become cool. I was truly un-gifted as a break dancer but it didn't stop me putting on displays at family weddings which I am still try to live down. Thankfully I have now reached an age were rap music has become noise and I no longer dance at weddings. 

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Birth of a swimbait

Image Above: Mackerel swim bait drawings 

I seem to be in the mist of at least half a dozen new (new to me) lure building projects at the moment and wondering which one to make a video out of or if I will every go fishing again to catch fish rather than to test prototypes. So far, ahead of the pack is a swim bait I am working on which is a first for me and I am quickly learning it is all about the joints so rather than try and construct something from wire I am experimenting with a polycarbon chassis and hinges with a balsa body or maybe foam. The trouble with experimenting is it often leads to other places and the original lure gets lost so I am trying to concentrate and also simplify some of the my more ridiculous ideas.  Eventually I hope to make a lure that looks like a mackerel and I can finally use if I ever get to do any sea bass fishing.  

Image Below: First attempt to make a polycarbon lure chassis, (a little rough)  

Sunday, 28 April 2013

How To Make A Balsa Crankbait Part 2

I took my little crankbaits for a testing session at one of my favorite lakes, what I hadn’t figured was that while I have been away from fishing the rain has also managed to hold off and the lake had shrunk a little. Not being a very deep lake to start with its shallow margins which reach a way out into the lake had become very shallow; down to inches in places. The cold had also kept the weed growth down leaving any would be pike practically naked if it had chosen to leave deeper water.

Well it was water and water is a good place to test lures. The crankbaits surprised me casting cleanly with only the occasional tumble and reaching distances I had not expected. Even as the wind began gusting enough to push up some waves I had no problems cutting in. The retrieve really threw up some god vibrations although the waves made it a little hard to check out the action and once again they ran straight out of the box without any tuning.  Despite the obvious lack of fish I was happy, well who wouldn't be stood in water holding a fishing rod and casting homemade lures. I hung around for stupidly long period of time before realizing I could safely walk out in my wellington boots and nearly reach the distance of casts. 

Monday, 22 April 2013

How to make a Balsa Crankbait

Well it is a start……………………

   I finally edited together my balsa crankbait video. It feels like an age since I started messing around with this little lure and hopefully later this week I will after a long recuperation from my recent illness get a chance to throw it back in some water.  Maybe I will remember how to catch some fish but that is never guaranteed. Part two will be along soon.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

The lost fishing trip

Looking toward the Burg from Eilean nan damh (island of the stags) Mull, Scotland

I drove four hundred miles crossing the border into Scotland and taking the ferry to the Isle of Mull, I thought I had outran my pneumonia but there it was like a heavy suitcase that someone had chained around my neck. For the best part of a week I sat staring out of the cottage window or the windscreen onto the bay and beach while the ocean and my fishing tackle rested easy. Not fishing is hard; not fishing here is almost criminal.

At a loose end I read the guide books and some of the history of local settlements that had been emptied in the Clearances almost two centuries ago. Sad letters from old men begging to stay on the land where they were born and had made lives,  sad letters that were answered with bailiffs. While the words penned are now only a matter of historical record the voices they conjure have lost none of their power to tug at my own feelings for land and loss.
The empty villages still haunt the glens, un-roofed carcasses sleeping in moorland grasses or remnant hearths and stacks that have the look of giants stalled by the soft peat.

A little further up from the bay my friends are carving out at new life from that same island soil on a small croft. The first beds have been dug and the kelp collected from the beach has been laid as a blanket to rot down and replenish. 

 Their boat lies in the grass awaiting some minor repairs before it too returns to the bay a little ahead of the returning summer mackerel.  Maybe I will return but a little less weighed down with luggage. 

Thursday, 28 March 2013

How to make a Flying C Spinner

Image Above: The Flying C, another DIY project
Image Right: Balfour Bay, Erraid, Mull, Scotland

With my Pneumonia on the wane and the snowman who has stood guard over the garden for the last week starting to suffer from erectile dysfunction it seems only fair that I should be going on a little trip. Hopefully next week I will be sat in a cottage just back from a Hebridean  beach with a view over to the sea cliffs of the Burg, and if the mood takes me I may venture down to throw some lures or visit the local freshwater loch to test my new Flying C spinners on the local trout.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Old Red Eyes Is Back

Image Above: Balsa Crankbait Prototype, foiled and waiting for paint and epoxy

Crankbaits are as American as a certain type of pie; so it is with a bit of apprehension that I have begun messing round with my own little version of a trusted classic. Regrettably in the UK we don’t have that other American Classic to accompany the lure, freshwater bass. We do have the humble Perch and then there is always a chance that a pike may be in the market for a snack rather than a full meal. 

Why a crankbait? I was looking for a lure to work at close range on a particular type of water we seem to have a lot of in this country, old industrial canals. As man-made structures I often get the feeling when fishing them I am somehow just testing lures in an overly large bathtub and to certain extent because of that uniformity I find them very hard to read, but water is water and needs to be fished. Depth wise my local stretch is a maximum of  4’3” or 1.3m and anything from 15ft wide to double that, on the plus side it does run for 127 miles and at times it has felt like I have walked or possibly trudged every mile. Structure can be sparse with long sections of aquatic motorway hemmed in by concrete or reinforced banks. But then there can be narrow sections under bridges or turning bays for long boats, sometimes wild sections spring up with reeds and water lilies but still conforming to an engineered geometry.

To date my forays to the ‘cut’ (slang for canal) have not been particularly fruitful but then winter can bunch fish together create whole swathes of canal that are almost devoid of fish, so I make my excuses. Part of the problem has been making lures for open water fishing and expecting them to translate easily into more restricted situations, here working with short casts is the norm but not just short they also have to be a little more accurate.  

Like all bits of water that skirt urban and industrial areas the canal seems to attract  almost surrealist debris, I have found whole desktop computers with screens happily bobbing along still tethered with cables to the keyboard and hub. Supermarket trolleys are almost a staple hazard but a more common and unseen one is the plastic bag, half filled with silt they line the bottom ready to grab stray hooks and hold them until the little sack can be dragged to the bank. All inviting stuff; but then there can be sections so steeped in that Victorian past with cobble stones and brick warehousing that it would not seem out of sorts to bump into Dickens enjoying a constitutional.

I suppose I should know the basics of what makes a crankbait, but no matter how many lines I lay down on paper or re-plot on the computer the test and then the refinement comes only after I have had a good chance to throw it in some water; even then I devote more time than is healthy wondering if I should tweak it a little. So my latest crankbait balsa prototype is waiting for some coats of epoxy, paint and a lip. It’s through wire is reinforced by a brass weight so if I should find a monster or a monster plastic bag the wire will hold up. Rather than make it in two halves I have gone for the simpler slot approach with a hole for the belly weight.  It should end up about 65mm (2 1/2”) long and 10g (1/3oz) just on the light end of what my rod will cast. The shape is standard stuff but rather than taper to the tail or head I have gone for a flat sided approach to make it pump a bit more water and also simplify the design, should anyone else want to have a go at building it.
For finishes, well I have been experimenting again with resin additives and new ways of laying up foil to create some depth in the facial features.

So next comes a little more testing and the start of another How-to video with hopefully some fish catching footage or bag retrieval. 

Friday, 22 March 2013


A few of the classics given the CAD treatment, Crank Bait, Deep Diving Crank, Stick Bait and Wiggler

The X-rays came back this morning and the diagnosis was better than I expected; it seems I am not going to die just yet but I have managed to get a good dose of pneumonia. In the delirium of the warm waiting room I imagined the doctor placing the x-ray on the light box and telling me that the problem was I had the bone structure of a fish. So I have been in bed for what seems like an eternity designing some new lures and drawing up some classics I haven’t the energy to build, but most of all dreaming of fishing and deep pools of water. Bed sores aside I have now accumulated a long list of ideas for new videos for when I recover and then hopefully I will be busy long enough to fill out an average lifespan.

I will be back soon…

Thursday, 21 February 2013

How To Make A Simple Wooden Lure

I padded off down to the lake this afternoon to try out the paint brush handle before the water had a chance to freeze up again. I briefly had the place to myself and threw the new lure without my usual restraint, it flew like a rocket. The hardwood and rear weights kept it on course enabling me to place it rather than hurl it and hope for the best. With the rod tip lowered and a steady jerk on the retrieve I could keep it subsurface gliding and bucking with its silver sides flashing.  I slowed my retrieve and added long pauses so it sank to the bottom and kept some depth. In among the jerks I felt the rumble of a fish but it had gone after putting a couple of bends in the rod. I cast again and again while trying to remember the sequence of tugs and pauses that had triggered the attack. In the end I contented myself with the thought that it would have all been too much to catch a pike on the lure’s first outing, especially in the middle of winter: it didn't stop me vainly casting along the same stretch of water.

When the Essex boys turned up I switched to a lighter drop shot rig and a soft plastic fearing the water would quickly be covered by a web of carp lines.  Moving out of the way while they set up I threw jellies along the reeds. One of the lads asked if I had any old lures going spare so he could do a bit of spinning while waiting on his bait alarm.  I fished out a jig head with a soft plastic lure, but he didn’t seem that impressed so I gave him a Phox Minnow that I had managed to spray up in the style of a multi coloured sock. Although I give away lures a little too regularly I still get that nervous feeling that comes from handing over my work to be judged by someone else.

I moved a little further round the lake and continued my campaign to either catch a fish of freeze to death in the process. Back over the lake my Phox Minnow had claimed its first victim a small pike and I headed over while they waited for me. I waded into the shallows and unhooked it claiming it as my own as I had made the lure and was having no luck myself. I wandered back to the reeds and gave a few half-hearted casts before deciding that despite Christmas winter on the whole is crap, so I packed up and headed home. 

Monday, 4 February 2013

How to make a Buzzbait

It was a little busier at the lake than I am accustomed to. The warmth of the winter sunshine had brought out a field of competitors, but rather than clog up the central swim they had tucked themselves away into the corners leaving me a sizeable stage to test my lures. I had come to get some film of my latest project the Buzzbait, this was to be a repeat performance after yesterday’s visit when I found once again my camera was battery- less.

The buzzbait is at best a little more than ridiculous, I know it has its roots in the spinnerbait  but there is pushing the design envelope  and then there is farting in it and posting to someone you don’t like. Despite looking like a unfortunate accident involving a teenager with a mouth full of dental work and desk fan this is a lure that truly make sense once you get it into the water. Given a couple of reel handle cranks and a slightly raised rod tip the lure rises to the surface as the blade splashes creating a sound very similar to that of a duckling running on water to make good its escape. Unlike the sloppy casting spinnerbait the buzzbait flies a little longer and little more directly all be it with a purring blade.
With all that said this is really a summer lure for use when little critters like ducklings, rats,mice, and voles are about on the snaggy margins where wobblers fear to tread. Until then I can just make the excuse that I am testing it rather than fishing with it.

When I had what I thought was enough video to edit together I put the camera away and clipped on a Montana John and went for walk along the bank. A group of young lads decided to join me casting jellied lures across my line while telling me about the pike they had caught last week, whose weight seemed to be yo-yoing with every detailed addition to the story. I tried to get a little distance on them and attracted the attention of another passer-by who asked how it was going as I struck into a fish.
It felt a healthy size and drawn by the commotion the lads ran over brandishing landing nets and asking if I wanted them to net it. I jumped down into the shallow water and brought the fish in; with crowd safely on the bank I slipped the hook out and let pike away before it became a thing to prod at.

The lads, who couldn’t have been much more than ten, asked what I caught the pike with and I showed them the lure. The oldest of the group took off the jelly shad he had been using and began tying a different lure on his line, one which I recognised and  I told him the lure he was holding was one I had made; I think he thought I was asking for it back. His mate said he had gone into the lake to get it out and the water had come up to his underpants. I had given it away to fisherman a few weeks earlier who must have lost it only for it to change hands again.  To show I was not trying to reclaim lost property I gave him another lure, a plastic swim bait I had retrieved myself and thought I better throw in some traces for safety. I had my fish, my film and smile from hearing about a kid who wadded in after one of my lures so I packed and headed home.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Mackerel Feather Rigs Revisited

I have been back over some old ground, creating some more mackerel rig videos but I felt the original needed some improvements. Hopefully the addition of new patterns and videos will make the process of tying your own a little easier and maybe I can move on to breaking some new ground or at least get out fishing.

Stop Press. 
Depressingly the Marine Stewardship Council have taken mackerel off the ‘fish to eat list’ due to the threat of overfishing to its breeding stock in the north east Atlantic. 

Friday, 4 January 2013

How To Make Lead Free Jig Heads

With a free day on my hands I went to check out a new pond. One of the guys who fishes at my local lake had recommended it as a pike hot spot but warned that it was a bit snaggy. Why is it that fishermen are prone to extremes when it comes to the truth? The lake was a lot more than snaggy it was at best a drowned forest where someone had dumped large amounts of scrap metal. My loses were limited to a couple of jigs and an old balsa prototype that had caught fish in other locations. Lucky I managed to land three replacements, a Mepps spinner,an impossibly small crank bait and a Yo-zuri Crystsal Minnow 130f.  

I left after an hour or so, nobody else was catching fish and I wished I had brought a little dingy to collect the other ten lures I had seen hanging in the branches of partially submerged shrubs. Back at the local lake I hooked on the Yo-zuri out of curiosity. I can only remember buying one hard bodied fishing lure in my life and that was hand made from H+M lures, a thing of beauty that I packed away for the move down from Scotland and that was the last I saw of it.

The Yo-zuri felt like it could do the business there seemed nothing wasted in its design. It flew well though not to any greater distances than I was used or with  any more finesse but I loved its pulsing wobble a thing I recognised from own pine minnows being that they are a little longer than the balsa.  Most of all I liked the way it tangled in the trace when I threw the  usual sloppy cast or slapped it into the water, proof that no matter how good the lure or how long the designer has worked on it still has to be tested on idiots. 

Annoyingly I caught a small pike that saved the day from a blank but part of me wished I had caught it on one of my own lures. Fighting the darkness I slipped on my weight shifting Phox Minnow and threw it across the lake, it felt like coming home.