There are never many of these big Spring coalies caught over the deep water wrecks of the English Channel, but the ones that are caught are usually big fish. It would be wishful thinking, but I don't suppose for one moment that we will ever see a forty pound Coalfish caught in British waters. But fish of this weight have been caught in Icelandic and American waters by anglers fishing the cold waters of the Continental shelf. But you never know your luck, fishing is a funny old game!! There seems to be a brief period of a few tides in the Spring when the Winter shoals of Pollack are beginning to break up and head for their summer residence, when the echo sounder screen will show the clouds of pollack above the rusting plates of some long lost wreck. Then, high above the Pollack in mid water, there you will see a small lonely pod of two or three fish. This will inevitably be the Coalfish.

Experienced hands will reel their pirks or lures up the usual thirty or forty turns for the Pollack and then show their experience by continuing to reel up at a faster pace for another twenty turns or so, before sending their gear away for another drop before the drift ends. These anglers know that the Coalfish are higher in the water than the Pollack, they have peeked into the wheelhouse and spotted that little pod of fish on the sounder screen. They say nothing, they just reel a little higher than everybody else, because they know that while everyone else is busy working their lures near the bottom, those coalfish will be theirs for the taking.

Everyone talks about the stunning crash-dive of a big Pollack when it feels the sting of the hook. Believe me that is as nothing compared to the powerhouse plunge of a twenty pound Coalfish bombing away from a starting point in mid water. Once the Pollack had done its party-trick, apart from a couple of shorter dives, especially when it sees the light under the boat, it will virtually be all over. The Coalfish might run back into the sanctuary of the depths three or four times taking twenty or thirty yards of line on each occasion Believe me, there are few fish that fight as hard as "Ol' King Coalie" in European waters.

Setting out for a day afloat over a deep water wreck from ports such as Weymouth, Dartmouth or Plymouth, how can you prepare for an encounter with a mighty Coalfish? It would be easy to say that your normal Pollack tackle will handle it and for most anglers their first encounter with a Coalfish is on their Pollack tackle. If they are lucky and land the Coalie, somewhere in the back of their mind a little molecular switch is pressed and they say 'whooops, I will be better prepared next time'! If they are unlucky and lose the fish during the fight, probably two mental switches are pressed and a learning experience has occurred. That hi-speed smash up will not happen again!!

I thoroughly enjoy fishing light tackle for deep water Pollack, my belief is that a good 12lb class outfit can land any Pollack that swims. The problem with such a light outfit is when you are fishing the boat with eleven other anglers and one of you gets into a really good fish, the inevitably tangle more often than not results in the fish being lost. A much more sensible outfit is a twenty pound class outfit which will give you far more control over a big Pollack and more strong-arm muscle if a Coalie picks up your lure. So if I were buying an outfit today, my preference would be for either the Daiwa Powerlift 20 or one of the Daiwa Interline 20 pound class rods. I didn't like the Interline rods when they first came out, but I have got to confess that they do perform very well and for deep water wrecking they are brilliant.

The choice of reel is largely influenced by what type of line you choose to use. If your choice is monofilament then the Penn GLS 25, a small Shimano TLD or the new Daiwa Sealine 40 will do the job very well. These reels have a good line capacity and retrieve rate for working lures. If like me, you have turned over to superbraid almost exclusively for blue water fishing, then a reel with a levelwind is essential. Reels such as the Penn 310GTi, Shimano Charter Specials or, if you want a reel for life, save your pennies and get yourself a Shimano Calcutta. These are good reels which will give the level of performance you need when playing a mean ol'Coalfish. It is vitally necessary if you are using braid to ensure that when you load your reel, that the braid is packed down hard. Otherwise as soon as you get a Coalfish pulling your string a bit, the extremely thin diameter of the braid will cause the coils of line to dig in and bury, which will almost certainly cause a break off. The best way to pack your line down is to put a small swivel on the end of your line and trail it in the water whilst motoring out, then reel the line in with the water pressure pulling the braid down tightly onto the spool.

Many of us also put a 10 metre shock leader of monofilament at the end of the superbraid to act as a rubbing line for whatever rig you are using. If you are using 20lb breaking strain braid, use a mono shock leader of about the same breaking strain or slightly less. Tie the shock leader to the superbraid with back to back Uni knots using doubled braid, giving the knots a drop of superglue just before snatching the knots tightly together. Otherwise tie a short 50 turn Bimini loop to the end of the superbraid and join the monofilament to the loop with an Albright knot. Reading this it might seem a bit of a long drawn out palaver to use braid lines and to some extent this is true, but this new line really is very good and in my humble opinion, well worth the effort.

It is not necessary to use an ultra long leader when fishing deep water wrecks, 12 feet is enough, 15 feet as long as you ever need to go. The recently introduced Knotless 300mm boom is excellent for fishing deep water, simply tie it to the end of your mainline with a reliable Uni knot. Then about 8 or 9 feet of 15 to 20 lb breaking strain monofilament to the swivel at the end of the boom. Fasten a small swivel to this line then from it, tie on a 2 or 3 feet length of 25 - 30 lb breaking strain clear monofilament or better still, fluorocarbon as a hooklength. This is to act as a rubbing length guarding against the highly abrasive "grip strip" that the Pollack and Coalfish have at the extremity of their jaws. Provided your knots are well tied and your line is not "tired" this outfit is capable of landing the biggest Pollack, Coalfish or Bass that you will find swimming over any wreck or reef in European waters as well as giving you one of the most thrilling encounters that you are ever likely to get with a fish in European waters.

Questions to russ@reelfoto.demon.co.uk