It’s a simple enough question and one that from time to time crops up in conversation during a guided session. But how many rods should we use when fishing from the shore and what dictates this? Before I begin, I’ll pretty much assume that 99% of us use one or two rods at any given time, though I accept (and have seen in practice) that some have their reasons for using more. Logical thinking would suggest that more rods offer a better chance of catching what you are setting out for, but let’s look into this a bit deeper and investigate whether it is ever actually the case. Here are a few points of consideration, in no particular order.
A long walk to a mark can mean reducing the load and scaling everything down to a bare minimum, but then, if you're going to make the effort to reach that far flung point on the beach, might you just as well carry two rods to make it worthwhile? Yes, the prospect of two baits fishing at different ranges is a tantalising one, but in practice does this offer any real advantage? One scenario that I have witnessed time and time again is ‘the favoured rod’. Angler has a bite on one rod, angler winds in a fish. The process is repeated. That rod and reel then becomes the favourite for the course of the session and the other becomes neglected. By the time the angler realises this (if at all) it’s too late and the second rod more often than not remains unloved. On the other hand, I can recall sessions over the years when bites have been excruciatingly slow to come by and simply for something to do, a second rod is assembled which within a matter of minutes produces the goods! Is this simple luck at play?
But I believe the terrain we fish over and species of fish we are targeting also carry’s some weight when making that initial decision. The current influx of smoothhounds into the Bristol Channel can make for some brisk sport when the fish move through and two rods can create sheer bedlam if you’re not expecting a surge in activity. This is a time for one rod, a very focussed approach and a spare trace or two hanging from the tripod in anticipation of a catch or tackling up again following a break off. Having a second rod assembled and ready to go can be a great tactic and will ensure that the moment you have lost your end gear after pulling for a break, you have a set up ready to go.
Going back to that terrain, the few flat and sandy beaches we have here in the Bristol Channel would seemingly offer a great opportunity to fish with more than one rod. But given the speed of the advancing tide over the sand, it does come with its challenges. Walking back up the beach, paying line out as the tide line creeps up on you, it won't be long before you run out of line. The only option is to wind that rod in. But what if you have cast two rods out and find yourself in this predicament? The general result is that by the time you have retrieved up to three-hundred-yards of line (or more) on the one outfit, you then have to do the same with the second rod by which time you are up to your thighs in water, your forearms are burning like hot ham, your box has floated away and you can imagine the rest! This is of course avoidable by using high capacity reels and planning your point of retrieval in advance, but it’s all relevant.
It’s interesting to note that match anglers, even if it is dictated by the rules for the most part, fish with just one rod yet can amass huge bags of fish over the course of just a few hours. All of their efforts are focussed on that one rod and I firmly believe that it is possible to catch just as many fish with one outfit in use. There are no hard and fast rules as to what you decide to do when you next hit the beach. But perhaps these few words will get you thinking about how you approach things next time you're out.
For the record, as I once told a mate, ‘one man and his rod’, is my philosophy.