Float tube, tidal currents, mackerel and sinking lines

Float tube, tidal currents, mackerel and sinking lines

Viking Lars | Saturday, 9 September 2023

It’s mackerel season and are not only fun to catch on light weight gear, but also a challenge to find. They most often travel in schools, I think, because especially the spin fishers can catch them in numbers for a little while and they’re gone again. Even though fly fishing is less effective, it’s also possible to pluck out a handful in a short period of time. But I’m sure they also travel “solitaire”. When the big schools aren’t around, chasing the stragglers is challenging.

You need to be able to get away from the shore to find them. That means boat, pontoon boat or float tube. The Danish west coast has a significant tidal current, one that certainly needs to be respected and it’s imperative to observe a few safety precautions. Know the tides and when they turn. Always keep an eye out and stay within a safe distance from land. Observe a few landmarks, drifting along a sandy beach, it’s hard to tell where exactly you are if you have no markers. Before you leave home, check the weather forecast for wind speed and direction and take a look at the forecast for wave height etc. You can’t fish the west coast unless the wind is in some easterly corner. And be in good shape. If you more than a couple of hours, you need to be fit, because constant paddling is needed to deal with the current. This is not as bad as it sounds, perhaps, but visiting beach guests die almost every year, because they don’t know the currents. Remember that you’re essentially sitting in the World’s biggest life vest, so if you get caught, stay calm. And wear a floatation vest!!!

This wasn’t supposed to be a safety lesson, but just in case someone wanted to try fishing the west coast from a tube or pontoons, it needs to be addressed.

Back to the solitary mackerel. It takes persistence and a somewhat systematic approach. I fish a fast sinking line, a short leader and a bait fish imitation (although mackerel primarily feed on smaller stuff, they come in to chase sprat). I cast and retrieve, just as normal. Maybe 5-10 casts. Then I change the speed of retrieve - 5-10 casts. Then I count down the line, vary retrieves. Count the line down further and vary retrieves and so on. And try to remember where you got to if you land a fish. This is a well known technique for most. If you want the full and very technical explanations on sinking line tactics on still water, read some of Steve Parton's books and articles.

You really need to be aware, because even though you’re fishing bait fish imitations, takes are sometimes soft. In waves, in tidal current and on a fast sinking line, they can be hard to detect. If you suspect a take, make a soft strip strike. Sometimes it’s a fish.

If you suspect a strike, or miss a clear one, that’s when you deploy the “hang”. Rather than keep retrieving, I let go of the line, allowing it to sink a little and then start retrieving again. That keeps the fly in the strike zone. And of course, you still have to remember your count down. After fishing out a cast, I’ll sometimes just let the line go. Drifting freely, the line will sink deeper, allowing to fish water you couldn’t reach otherwise. Remember to take into account the speed of the current, if you’re drifting with it, holding or paddling up steam.

We were out a few days ago and I managed three mackerel, over 3-4 hours. That’s still a good day. It never seizes to maze me how strong they are. Use a barbless hook and don’t touch the fish - they’re easy to release from the float tube. When you find the fish and manage maybe half an hour of what Steve Parton called “sequencing”, it really is great fun and I enjoy this type of technical fishing.

I usually just fish a bait fish imitation of some sort. This week, my W/B Zonker, which I suppose looks mostly like a small fish, but also just looks like something edible.

Have a great weekend!