In the chapter on Fishing from Small Boats I have very carefully described the best forms of lead, and the position in which the swivels should be placed. The various kinds of bait which may be used have been described in a chapter particularly devoted to them, and the tiro should very carefully study the remarks on bass, pollack, and other fish which come near the shore, to be found in the chapter more particularly devoted to surface-swimming fish.
Suppose now that the angler is standing on some rocky point—a well-known haunt of bass, best fished at spring tides— and the tide is rising. There is a gentle breeze blowing on the shore, causing a slight rippling of the surface, and all conditions are favourable to sport. Taking the spinning rod in his right hand, he should unroll on to the ground thirty or forty yards of line, and hold the line near the lowest ring in his left hand. The trace and about three or four feet of line should be dangling from the end of the rod. He should then make his first cast and, as the bait flies out over the water, let the loose line pass through his left hand before it enters the rod rings. The first cast or two should be short ones. The length can gradually be increased as confidence and skill are acquired.
When the bait touches the water, the angler, if bass are about, should at once draw in the line quickly with his left hand, letting it pass between the first finger of his right hand and the rod. Between each draw the rod should be pulled away from the sea, so that a constant motion of the bait is kept up. In other words, there should be first a draw of the left hand, and as the left hand comes from the rod down to the left hip, the point of the rod should be brought round a little seaward ; then while the left hand is coming up for a further draw of the line the rod should be brought landward. If these alternate motions are maintained, the bait will be kept in continual motion. For bass the bait should be worked rather quickly. For pollack a slower spin is better, and before any attempt is made to draw in the line, time should be given for the bait to sink nearly to the bottom. The exception to this rule occurs, as I have already stated, in the evening, when pollack are often found near the surface.
There is one considerable objection to casting in this manner for bass. If while we are drawing in the line a fish of this species suddenly seizes the bait and makes a gallant rush seaward, as likely as not some of the line on the ground at our feet will twist up into a small knot and foul the rod rings or get caught in the toe of our boot or on a button, and in an instant there is a lamentable smash. For pike fishing the method which is common on the Thames answers well enough, because pike do not, as a rule, make any considerable rush when first hooked, as do salmon, trout and bass. Unfortunately the difficulties of casting from the reel in the Nottingham fashion, which for sea fishing is undoubtedly superior to the Thames method, deter many people at the outset from learning not only a very useful but a very pleasant branch of angling. No one, however, need dread the difficulty of casting from the malloch reel described on p. 197. But I certainly prefer Nottingham gear myself.
After all it is only the first rung or two of the Nottingham ladder which presents any difficulty. After they have been surmounted the rest is easy, and proficiency soon comes with practice. Early attempts at casting from the reel should certainly be made in a lonely place where men, trees, houses, animals and beasts are not. Even a small dog standing twenty yards behind the angler who is making his first cast in an opposite direction would not be safe. Let the first day's practice be on some desolate sandy shore at low tide.
The rod should not be too stiff, for the spring of it will help the cast. The rings should all be large ; the line of pure silk lightly twisted and undressed, and the reel should be well made. Cheap Nottingham reels are apt to revolve untruly, and the unseasoned wood soon warps. The reel may be fitted with an optional check, which when the cast is being made should be thrown off. It is obvious that a large reel requires more force to set it revolving than a smaller one made of the same material, but having once started, it continues revolving for a longer time than a reel of less circumference. Two things follow : In the first place, the small reel is best suited for casting lightly leaded tackle, while a large reel would require checking with the finger towards the end of the cast sooner than a small one. As a rule, one or two ounces of lead will be required on the trace used for spinning1 from the shore. In deciding this point, the additional weight of the bait, which if of metal may be half an ounce or more, should be taken into consideration. It is a great thing to know one's weapons. The expert caster becomes as accustomed to using his own particular reel as a shooter does his gun. In sea fishing so much line is usually required that small reels are generally out of the question. For casting light weights it is therefore desirable that the drum of the reel, though large, should be of a light material. Some day we may see them made of aluminium.
1 I use the word ' spinning' as the term is a technical one understood of anglers. As a matter of fact several of the natural baits cast from the shore for bass and pollack do not and need not spin.
It is not altogether easy to give satisfactory instructions in writing for casting from the reel in the fashion known as the Nottingham, which practically originated with the anglers of the Trent ; but anyone who closely follows the directions hereafter furnished should, after a little practice, acquire the knack of it. Assuming that the beginner is a right-handed man, he should stand with his left side towards the sea, and hold the rod with the right hand above the reel and the left hand below it, pointing the rod along the line of shore and rather away from the sea than towards it. The rod should be a little above the horizontal, not much. The first finger of the left hand should be pressing against the rim of the reel to prevent it revolving, and the line should be wound neatly on the reel until only five or six feet of line and trace together depend from the point of the rod. The rod should then be waved back and checked for an instant, when the bait will swing pendulum-like backwards and upwards. As it reaches the full height of its swing, the rod should be brought smartly forward in the direction the angler wishes to cast, and the reel released by removing the first finger of the left hand. I do not pretend to say what the bait will do at this first cast. The line may twist round the angler's neck. When success meets his endeavours, and the leaded trace is seen flying out over the sea, like a rocket shot from a life-saving apparatus, then comes the most important and delicate task of all—namely, to check the reel at the right instant and to put on the pressure of that first finger of the left hand slowly and gradually.