I learnt early on in my fishing career to always fish at 100% effort. It stands to reason that a good fish, maybe your only fish on a bad day, can come right on the last cast. This doesn’t just apply to short sessions of a few hours, I also follow this philosophy on prolonged trips of a few days or even a couple of weeks.
It’s these longer periods of intense fishing that can see you fall in to a lazy mood that sees your fishing productivity fall, especially when tiredness creeps in. Yes, I know fishing should be fun, but you owe it to yourself to make some memories of big fish and special places, and you can only do that by concentrating hard. It’s all about attitude!
This was my intention on a recent trip to the Gambia in West Africa. I knew the fishing was hot there, and that I had a chance of catching species I hadn’t come across before. That made my motivation easy to hold on to, and I intended to fish hard every cast right through each and every session to make the most of the opportunities in front of me. Luckily, the hard work paid off.
Not that much is known about this piece of coast. Many of the fish have local names that make written identification difficult. Research before leaving suggested that the captain fish might be the same threadfin salmon found in Australian waters. Something called a ninebones appeared to be a Ladyfish, and the “Jacks” looked like a familiar friend the jack crevalle. The list was endless!
The area holding the captain fish was typical threadfin country. Right in the mouth of the mighty Gambia River itself is a rock ledge falling into rough ground and big boulders with a fast tide running over it. The captain fish tend to show here during the bigger tides either side of low water.
I chose my tackle carefully. A UK style uptide casting rod 9ft 6ins long, a medium sized multiplier loaded with 30lb line to handle the rocks and fast tide, and a simple sliding ledger rig with a 4-foot hook length of 60lb line. The hook had to be strong to hold these fish. I went for the Mustad Suicide 92554NPN in size 5/0. Baits were whole small mullet or a local fish called yahboy.
There were two other anglers on the boat. They both missed early bites and one guy had a fish estimated at just under 40lbs. My rod stayed totally still and unnoticed the whole morning. Time to do something different.
I lifted the rod and allowed a little line to spill from the reel holding my thumb on the spool of the multiplier. After a few seconds, I released a little more line. Some thirty seconds later I felt a gentle “tap tap” on the rod tip. I gave a few feet of slack and waited. The line pulled tight and a big fish took off down tide like a scalded cat. These fish fight hard near the seabed making long runs, but will swim in tight circles when they feel the need for a rest. Several times when I thought the fish was tiring it would turn back in to the tide and run fast and far. Twice when at the surface this fish turned back for the seabed and made it all the way with ease. A frantic 15 minutes of fast action finally saw the fish at the boat side. It was guessed at 40lbs and released.
I worked the baits in the same way and was soon in to another fish. It was hard work continually allowing line off the reel and occasionally retrieving it when it got too far away, but that was the successful technique on the day and the effort in the baking heat was justified with two more fish to well over 40lbs.
I’ve since verified the captain fish as true threadfin salmon. The identical species to those from Australia.
The hard work ethic also bears out in having a range of tackle set up, immaterial of whether you think you might need it or not.
On the same trip, even when fishing a big bait for the chance of big fish, I was also fishing a lighter 8lb outfit, just to see what was around. This “fun stick” accounted for cassava to 17lbs, jack crevalle to 8lbs, ninebones (ladyfish), grouper to double figures, bream like sunpat, plus small stingray, rock cod, moray eels, mangrove snappers, banded eels and weird looking butterfish. All fish I wouldn’t have caught if I’d been too lazy to fish two rods.
One of the other guys and myself also stole a brief nterlude fly-fishing for garfish, which appeared by chance and took a Mustad Crazy Charlie Variant fly fast stripped on the surface. If we hadn’t taken the trouble to set the fly rod up, just in case, we would have missed the chance of catching them. Likewise the Mustad Fish Skin Sabiki bait rigs I’d rigged that proved irresistible to beautiful little tapendal, angelfish and sardines that lurked around the pylons of a road bridge.
Hard work always seems to eventually bring a reward. None more so than in fishing. I love the peace, quiet and total serenity of fishing, sure I do, but I need, want and just simply enjoy catching fish. Giving 100% effort gives me the best chance of doing that.