Alan Stevens

Back In Action

One of my early childhood memories is of throwing a half constructed Airfix model out of my bedroom window. The frustration of sticking hundreds of fiddly bits of plastic together was too much for my clumsy, shaky fingers and short temper. These traits have lived with me all my life  and is the reason I never service my multiplier reels. I get stressed just tying a blood knot. I just know that deconstructing any of my reels would end in tears and left over pieces and an eventual engagement with a professional repair specialist, so it is much easier to just avoid the middle bit of pain.

So it was with great pleasure that I had a mail from Russ at Blakdog tackle that my Penn 525 Mag 2 was fully serviced and ready for collection. Russ is an awesome reel guy. As well as servicing high quality reels Russ also sells parts to those with the desire to do some reel DIY and thankfully for us, based here in Essex. I, like so many, have used this lockdown to get my multiplier back to best and Russ has been busier than a squirrel in autumn. I knew that Russ would not cut corners and when he was happy with his work he would let me know, and with this news I felt real excitement that my lovely reel would be back and raring to go. Now, Russ is a perfectionist not an alchemist, and when we speak he often talks about the basket cases people ask him to mend that are way past the point of no return, but give him a realistic project and Russ is as good as they come. And all for less than the cost of a day on a charter boat!

So thankfully my NHS responder duties took me to his neighbourhood and bingo, my beautiful reel was back with me smelling of oil and screaming to get back to work. But whilst my reel was with Russ, the reel stork had delivered to me a beautiful brother to my mag 2 – a new Penn Mag 4 525 so I was even more keen to use the two in tandem and compare performance.

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But first, I had to get back to Mersea to meet with local legend and trawler man Steve, owner of the Mersea Seafood Company, to (at a distance) discuss how he is helping with the launch of the sea fishing elements of the John Wilson Fishing Enterprise – our work to help kids of disadvantaged backgrounds find a purpose through fishing. 

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Listening to Steve talk about how his work as a local inshore trawler and conservationist aligns with what we desire as recreational fishermen warrants a whole discussion of its own and is one I shall return to soon. For now I just want to say thanks for all Steve does and post here that you cannot get fresher fish that from his stall at Bonners Farm on Saturday and Sunday – which has been landed that morning. The seafood chowder is to die for and constitutes my regular Saturday lunchtime snack. 

Anyway; with the JWFE planning done it would be rude not to air the reels for an hour, so I skipped down to the beach to grab a swift session at the top of the tide. Now my hopes for fish were not great; listening to Steve (who knows his stuff) he confirmed that the temperature is simply too low. The fish are there, but not in the shallower cold, more fresh water and out of range for us from the beach. If we have a week of warm weather, you watch, the fish will be back regardless of the fresh water run off still going into the river.

Clutching a perfectly restored mag 2 and a virgin mag 4, a small backpack, a couple of rods and my Shakespeare Salt tripod I felt like a complete novice. I hadn’t cast anything in anger for weeks and felt stiff and out of the normal groove where setting up is almost an unconscious thing. The mag 4 was mounted on my Vertix Odyssey LC-450 (a beast of a long-distance rod) and the mag 2 on my trusted Shakespeare Agility travel rod. The idea was to use the session to get the settings correct on the new mag 4 and test and bed in the serviced mag 2. Any fish would be a bonus

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The Vertix / Mag 4 combination was completed by a simple up and over terminal rig weighted by a six ounce breakaway lead. There was quite a bit of onshore breeze so the extra weight would give me more distance and the grip from the lead wires would prevent any wind or weed from adding to the bow in the line. The Agility / mag 2 set up was finished off with a streamlined three hook clip down and five ounce breakaway rig which I wanted to place carefully in a little spot I know where the fish gather just before high water. Precision on this rod, distance on the first one was the plan.

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The evening was a beauty for pictures but not good for ledger fishing in shallow water. It was time to relax, bond with my reels and wait for sundown, whilst sharing tales with the lovely Mersea locals passing with their dogs and to my delight, chatting by messenger with Mersea angling legends, Ben Yong, Daithi O’Riain and Rob Smith. Rob was further along the beach somewhere testing with great delight his new Akios Fury fx420, which I hear he can cast as far as to hit Bradwell.

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Well I can’t cast great distances and it is something I need to work harder on, but the Mag 4 combined with the Vertix went a mile – but not just far, I had huge control. For me the feeling of being able to place a cast where I want it to go is essential for my style of fishing, as I described in my blog about reading the beach 

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The new reel felt perfect with nothing I can comment on being anything but ideal. That said, the same applied for the mag 2 paired with the agility rod. I think, when serviced properly, a multiplier that has been bedded in functions better than a new reel. This certainly was the case for me here. Let me put it this way; if this was golf and my approach shot to the green, I would be within six-feet of the hole each and every time. The accuracy, distance and control of the Shakespeare rod and Penn MAG 2 reel is uncanny over the 80-100 yard distance and I was landing the worm baited hooks exactly where I wanted to be. And it paid off – as the sun went down, a lovely flounder was hooked from the spot I had targeted and it was time to go home. An hour and a half fishing and I was back in love with my gear. Mag 2 compared to Mag 4? – well its a bit like comparing the colours of your two Ferrari’s, a high class and irrelevant choice to have to make. I love both.

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