ACROBATS OF THE SEA
They fly through the air with the greatest of ease, making for some thrilling float-fishing action
Exciting sport with garfish.
Resistance on the surface and a maelstrom behind the float, the garfish usually swallows its prey on the spot, but as soon as it realises something is amiss, the silver arrow will thrash around in panic. This is what makes fishing for garfish so spectacular.
It’s a fish that can be caught quite easily, especially when present in large numbers (it creates lots of food envy), but there are ways to do better and garfish enthusiasts are certainly coming up with ideas easily accessible to other recreational anglers.
Here’s my view on why fishing for garfish is so popular in parts of the UK, as well as across the North Sea on the coast of the province of Zeeland in Holland where I live. It’s a Dutch twist for your style of fishing, and the pictures show my friend Kees Westdrop. Check it out!
To get the best from your garfish sport you should use a rod that is not too heavy. However, this is partly dependent on the circumstances, such as when you need to cast a good distance and may need a heavier rod after all. My advice would be to start as light as possible.
I like a 13ft coarse match-type rod that can cast up to 50 grams because I don’t generally use floats of more than 40g. When using a light rod, it is also a good idea to use a light, but robust spinning reel, say, 4000 size that is suitable for mono or braid. I like the Penn Battle reel. Fill it with something like Berkley Nanofil (0.04mm to 0.10mm) with a 24-25lb mono leader (one-and-a-half times the length of the rod). Nanofil is a smooth, round line, which makes it easier to cast than a braided line, but it has the same properties (strong, supple and not much stretch) as a Dyneema line.
Garfish are caught near the surface, meaning the most used method is fishing with a garfish float, which come in various types. In my opinion, a small disadvantage of using a float is that you cannot really fish sharply (on feel) and that you use a similar hook system as you do while fishing for carp with boilies. The difference being that the garfish will hook itself on the weight of the float.
When fishing with a garfish float it is difficult to register the bites. As a result of this, more bites will be missed. Often the fish is already hooked and will break the surface just as you feel the bite. Therefore,
fish with a weighted bombarda or bomberta (floating), which are ideal for saltwater fishing. The line will run through the centre of the floating body, and you can more or less fish with a sliding system, which enables you to see bites directly on the top.
A cheaper variant of the bombarda is a Buldo (40mm diameter), but be sure to pay attention that the hole is in the centre. You can fill a Buldo with water so that you will have some casting weight. The very light material, in combination with the sliding system, is a very important aspect in this style of fishing.
The bombarda slides on a leader with a small bead between the swivel (size 16 to 20) that holds the hooklength. You can vary hooklength from one metre to 2.5 metres. When there is not much wind and the water is very clear, use a really thin fluorocarbon hooklength (16-20lb).
The hook should be as light as possible to give the bait a natural action. I like a light minnow hook (size 6-10) with a short shank, such as the Gamakatsu 1310 or 1312.
Garfish are sight hunters so this last bit is very important. In competitions, two or sometimes three hooks are often used. It means you can present two types of bait, and if one bait comes off while casting, then the chances are that there will still be bait on the other hook. A small disadvantage is the fact tangles are more likely.
As with every type of sea fishing, the tide is often the deciding factor. In principle, you can catch garfish throughout a tide, but I find bites increase when the tide is flooding or ebbing.
After casting, reel your line tight to make contact with the bombarda float. Every time you make contact you pull the float a metre towards you in gentle tugs or drags. This ensures that when you let the bait rest (10 to 30 seconds) it will float down calmly due to the weight of the hook, and whenever you tug carefully it will climb to the surface again – a perfect way to entice these jumping fish.
If there is a lot of current, adding some lead weight halfway up the hooklength can improve things, but is detrimental when there is less current because the bait will sink too deep too quickly, and the weight will provide more resistance.
If you feel the slightest bit of resistance while dragging, then the garfish has taken the bait. Be sure to give about a metre of line, but keep watching the float’s bulbous top. When the fish makes a run, you can rest assured that it has felt the hook, usually this is also the moment the garfish will first break the surface of the water.
It isn’t really necessary to set the hook. Put you hand on the reel or close the bale-arm and the fish will hook itself. If you use a fixedfloat the garfish will hook itself on the weight of the float rather than you having to set the hook when using the bombarda.
Many anglers also turn garfish floats into sliding systems by threading their line through the swivel and closing it off with a stop or a swivel, as described for the bombarda. However, in my opinion, the hooklength will often wrap around the mainline when casting and the sliding effect is ruined. ■
The bombarda float slides on the leader
A hooked garfish creates a maelstrom in the water