So far our success has been slight. CEPHEUS has neither the speed nor the stealth to approach these fish with consistent success as they feed sporadically on the surface, and our one hook-up so far came as a result of two small pieces of luck. Firstly we managed to get close enough to a subsiding school of fish without disturbing them, and secondly the kite was successfully up and away with a mackerel kicking beneath it while the fish were still in the vicinity.
August 23………the gannets are still in the air, wheeling above the sounded fish and I am feathering the kite-reel with care as the bait skitters across the surface towards them at speed. Unexpectedly, only 60 feet away, a fish boils on it, tail and back above the water and then the kite is pulled down as the fish makes off in a welter of splashing water. I yell at Nigel to wind down tight to pop the clip and leave the kite rod to head for the bridge. A moment’s confusion ensues as the clip still fails to open, the fish moving away from us with almost no angle on the line. Richard winds down the kite and manually detaches it as Nigel takes the rod to the chair and the fish, finally feeling the hook, starts to empty the reel at an alarming rate. A hook-up, at last !
Forty minutes later we have the fish pinwheeling to Richard’s hands under a leaden sky, McVeigh and his boat ROSGILL hovering in attendance. Jenny is turning the chair with one hand and holding the gaff ready for me in the other. The double comes into sight and stays there for two full circles before Richard finally gets his hands on the leader. He pulls, back straightening, takes two wraps and gingerly pulls a little more. The fish, obviously feels the extra pressure, bites down hard and pops us off on the 300lb fluorocarbon leader. Forensics indicate a fish nine feet long, measured from corner of jaw to tail scuff-mark.
Our only other small success is a fish we manage to coax into jumping on a daisy chain of plastic squids, but it misses the bait. We have tried the kite numerous times more, but the fish have either ignored the bait or the wind has conspired against us to either stall the kite or send it spinning out of control. Sometimes we have actually managed to send the bait into the school, but they sound and reappear several hundred yards away. To get a kite down in a hurry to resume the chase is difficult at the best of times. Live-baits seem an obvious solution, but trolling them is slow and the gannets love them, live or dead. Chunking in the vicinity of fish means blue sharks, tope and spurdogs. Trolling spreader bars and daisy chains is another option, but again it is a slow process to retrieve them and run for feeding fish. Normal trolling speeds with Yozuri Bonitas, medium size lures and daisy chains have brought no success either. Strangely I also have yet to mark a tuna on the sounder. The one sure-fire method would seem to get a live-bait into the fish with the aid of the kite. We just have to keep trying it until it works again, which follows this procedure.
First, you have to close enough to busting fish to be able to get there in time before they go down. This has to be done without CEPHEUS (probably the noisiest boat in the northern hemisphere) frightening them off. You also have to be upwind of the fish, which can mean agonising minutes as you come from downwind and circle around the school. As you edge into position, the kite has to be put up and away from the boat without tumbling into the fly-bridge, tangling the riggers or touching the water - normally the sea is too lumpy for someone to do this from the bow. At the appropriate moment a bait has to be bridled (sometimes this can be done in advance) and attached to the kite rod - a long leader inevitably ends up under the boat if this goes wrong. Then the kite and the bait have to be sent away from the boat in concert so the clip does not prematurely release. Since the fish are inevitably disappearing by this stage the kite is normally deployed at some speed. Gannets, fulmars and kittiwakes all constitute a hazard to a frisky live-bait, as do blue sharks. All of these things have to be implemented correctly or with success, which leaves a lot to go wrong !
Even when all is perfect, something else can happen. Unbelievably one day we hook a blue shark as we are putting the line in the kite-clip, the sound of busting fish keen in our ears. On another perfect occasion we have the bait sailing downwind when the fish sound and then reappear on the up-wind side of the boat. Sometimes the wind takes a perverse pleasure in changing direction or force at the last second. We have a helium balloon on board but the one day we use it there is so little wind that the bait remains alongside the boat with the balloon directly overhead, bluefins 50 yards way thrashing the surface into foam. When I try to move the boat away from it the bait surfaces and gets eaten by a gannet. On some days, we can find no live-baits. Only one thing is certain, with only Richard in the cockpit (Jeff has finished for the season) I become a lot fitter as a result of shimmying up and down the fly-bridge ladder !
We will persevere, but the weather is now against us.
Thoughts………..people often ask me if kites have any relevance in UK fishing, and I would unhesitatingly say yes. Assuming you have the equipment, all you have to do is practise with it sufficiently until it simply becomes another piece of tackle and then you will become aware of the possibilities it offers. Here’s a brief resume of what it entails and what those possibilities are.
The equipment is simple. You need a kite rod and reel. I use a cut-down trolling rod 5’ in length coupled to a TLD25 loaded with 30lb hi-vis mono. The rod has Fuji eyes (no roller) and a Fuji reel-fitting - this makes it light and easy to use. The handle is glass and covered with a hyperlon grip. The reel has a safety-line. I use mono simply because I find it easier to use than dacron and when the line is wet it does not affect the kite’s performance. I set up the rig with as follows. Thread the line through the rod’s eyes. Slip a small bead onto the line and then thread the line through a small swivel which is attached to an Aftco Roller Troller. Tie the line to a small snap-swivel, which is then attached to the kite. You’ll find kites are supplied with pre-rigged bridles which have a swivel as the attaching point. At the appropriate distance down the line I tie a stop-knot with some power-gum. This distance is normally about 50 feet or so. When deploying the kite, hold the kite up with the rod and let out line until the stop-knot appears and starts to move the bead and clip away from you. At this stage stop the kite, attach your line and then deploy the kite and bait away from you in conjunction until you reach the desired distance.
Some tips :
- if you have the opportunity use a two-speed reel with the kite-rod.
- when using a long leader, deploy the kite and fishing-line away from you until the leader is in the air BEFORE you attach your bait. This will mean that as soon as you release the bait it will be immediately taken away from the boat.
- when deploying a live-bait, pay attention to it because it is often taken
as it goes away from the boat.
- try and keep the bait in the water as much as possible. Repeated airing will weaken and kill it.
- Bob Lewis produces four kites. One for extra heavy winds, one for heavy, one for medium and one for light. If they get wet they do not fly ! A helium balloon completes the arsenal. Aftco have a single multi-wind kite which can fly when wet. Personally I do not find it as good in heavy or light winds as the Lewis kites.
- You can use the helium balloon attached to any of the kites as an intermediate step. For example, if you use the helium balloon with the light wind kite it will fly in that period between light winds and flat calm. In conjunction with the medium wind kite, it will keep the kite aloft as the wind decreases from medium to light, and so on.
- Many people use Black’s clips as a release mechanism. If you have a Roller Troller that works correctly it makes an acceptable substitute and I prefer it.
- if the wind is strong, a weight may be needed above the leader to keep the bait in the water. It will also help to keep the fishing-line out of the water when it develops a bow between the kite and rod-tip if the bait is too light. It can also pay to make the weight or the leader visible with some highly-visible attachment when fishing at distance. A small piece of reflective tape is a good example.
- when the wind becomes too strong for the kite you are using it will start to climb. When this happens, change your kite while you have the chance. If not, and the wind becomes stronger, the kite will flatten out and descend until it is almost at the surface. At this stage it is almost impossible to retrieve.
- When your kite has hit the water (as it does…….hmm), take the boat towards it. If you try and pump the kite to the boat you will either take hours doing it or lose it by breaking the line. If you are at anchor in tide you will have to buoy off the anchor - most definitely.
- if you want your kite to go elsewhere apart from directly downwind, simply attach splitshot to the corner of the kite on the side you wish its direction to take and it will go that way !
So, after reading all this, you’re probably wondering why people bother with a kite. It’s expensive to set up, creates problems and means an awful lot of kit to drag around. Right ? Yes, but the advantages of using one far outweigh the disadvantages, and they are not confined solely to boat anglers. Here are some of them :
- it enables a bait to be suspended on the surface, leader and main line out of the water. This is a major advantage when fishing for shy fish.
- a live-bait suspended this way struggles like hell, drawing fish for yards around.
- it enables an angler to reach fish out of reach of ordinary methods and also reaches fish which may be put down by a boat approaching.
- while the general use of a kite is to put live-baits away from a boat, it can also be used to deploy dead baits on the surface, bouncing around and looking somewhat alive.
- it can also be used to deploy both live and dead baits away from both the shore and a boat which would otherwise remain in the area already covered with a cast bait. This merely entails putting the clip at its lightest setting and popping the line out of the clip at the required distance.
- The distance at which a kite can deploy a bait is limited only by how much line you have on your kite-reel. Want to put a whole squid out 600 yards ? A kite is the way to do it.
Practical examples of the advantages of kites abound throughout the world and some of them are so applicable to UK angling that the mind almost boggles. Here are some of my personal examples :
- I have used them successfully in Alderney from the shore to place live launce on sandbanks which a 200 yard cast would have not reached, or at best would almost certainly have killed the bait. This also enabled me to use light leaders. The target in this case was bass, but might also have produced tope, rays, turbot and brill.
- I have used kites for years to deploy multiple dead baits away from a boat in areas where there has been no tide or where the tackle being used precluded any other form of deployment. In Madeira during the winter months we would fish for the giant rays, and instead of having four baits placed underneath the boat, I could spread them far down-wind. No tangles, and many more fish.
- I have used a kite when sharking for as long as I can remember as a means to offer an additional dead or live bait on the down-wind side of the boat. As a rule, the kite bait would almost always outfish the standard baits being drifted in the slick. It almost inevitably caught the biggest fish. In Madeira it always caught the hammerheads which we would see in the slick, but never hook there. Instead they would circle around the boat and find a mackerel hopping from wave to wave on the down-wind side. To see a hammerhead eat a surface bait is spectacular, but to see two fight over it is awesome !
- I have fished many days when the ONLY fish caught were those on the kite - without it we would have gone back to port bemoaning the lack of fish. The sight and sound of that bait on the surface is enough to make lock-jawed fish turn into raging beasts, I kid you not. In Anguilla, the only sailfish we ever caught was on a kite-bait, and our most successful tarpon fishing there revolved around winds strong enough to lift the kites. It was also a particularly efficient way to catch shy black-fin tuna. In Midway the biggest trevallies nearly always ate the kite-bait, particularly after they would refuse the chum-baits.
There is a hardy band of anglers in New Zealand who never go fishing without their kites. They travel to their beaches with a kite rod, an electric reel (plus battery), and their gear. They wheel all this along their beaches on trollies and deploy baits so far off-shore that commercial fishermen on boats become a liability. They use multi-hook traces with great success, catching enough fish in a tide to stock up a small freezer. Beach anglers in Australia and South Africa also use kites for purposes other than catching blue-water pelagics. In Polynesia they have been using kites for centuries to reach fish outside the reef.
For any UK shore angler with the wind at his back a kite would thus seem to offer huge advantages, not only enabling baits to be presented at vast distances outside the realms of the most talented caster, but also allowing large live and dead baits to be presented at distance by specimen hunters. Wouldn’t shallow-water east-coast cod fishermen love to put out whole squid or huge worm baits 200 yards beyond the surf ? Wouldn’t south-west anglers want to put out launce and mackerel baits for tope and rays at distance ?
Even coarse fishermen could benefit from kites, in particular those who fish vast lake and loch waters for pike and carp. The former would find spectacular results with suspended live-baits, and the latter would not only find a means to place baits on distant gravel-bars (particularly where boats - whether radio-controlled or of the rowed variety - are banned) but I suspect the more cunning of them would also find a means to lift main-lines above bars and weed-beds and the most devious anglers will almost certainly develop alternative means of ground-baiting at distance. The travelling international specimen hunter will find a kite the perfect answer to a multitude of problems on those huge waters abroad.
I have said it before on this site and I will say it again. Kites are not solely the province of big-game fishermen in exotic climes. They can and will, if used, bring an added dimension to anyone’s fishing which will increase success and enjoyment. All it will take is for some inventive and innovative-thinking anglers in this country to bring about a revolution. Kites may seem at present be somewhat cumbersome if not used on the high seas (a full set of Lewis kites actually weighs no more than a flask of tea), but someone will probably develop a small pocket-sized one sometime and it could become just the ticket for small inland waters, rivers, small coves, and those special places where we want to put a bait ‘just there’ - but circumstances do not allow it. I suspect in many cases a small helium balloon will work for just as well as a kite. Someone just needs to produce a small can of helium which is safe enough to carry personally.
So, if a revolution beckons, are there any takers out there ? Any questions, e-mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org . I’ll be only too glad to help out if possible.