Hello Dan, tell us something about you
Hi, my name is Dan, I’m 28 years old and currently living in Dorset in the UK. I’m an Aircraft Engineer working on Helicopters. As part of my job I was based down in west Cornwall for a long period, while down in Cornwall I used to love exploring the miles of hidden coastlines and tucked away beaches. About 2 years ago I moved back to Dorset and carried on my passion for exploring the coast.
Why did you start spearfishing?
I started spearfishing when I was around 15 years old. After seeing some of the fish my brother was producing using a metal hand spear, I thought it seemed very interesting and wanted a new challenge. When a full set of spearfishing gear come up for sale cheap in the local area that was a perfect excuse to try out the sport.
After purchasing the gear, I instantly got the buzz to go out diving. The fins were too big and the suit let a large amount of water in but it still didn’t put me off. When I first started my favourite mark was a lagoon with a small tidal range. I loved swimming into the centre of the tidal part and drifting down with the tide. It was only a shallow mark but was an awesome way to get used to begin diving tidal marks and learning how fish acted in those conditions. My favourite part was tucking in behind small rocks and letting the bass and mullet fly past with the current. Trying to track the gun around in the tide proved quite a challenge meaning I had to change my technique very quickly.
As I got older, I switched over to rod and line fishing and ended up competing for a few years with the local club, taking a break from spearfishing.
It all started again when I had a good bit of spare time due to work shifts, after trying on all my old spearfishing gear and realising that it was all outdated and no longer suitable, I quickly upgraded all my gear. This started a cycle, because I was warmer and more comfortable, I was enjoying it a lot more. This in turn started producing more fish and making every dive more enjoyable. Getting the buzz back I went from being sat in most days to getting out exploring some of the remote coastline in Cornwall exploring random rock outcrops or large kelp forests. This quickly highlighted that no matter how many videos you watch or books you read there was no better way of learning than getting out exploring.
Where are your favourite places to spearfish?
I always love crossing a couple of counties and heading back to Cornwall for a dive. There is something about the area that keeps drawing me back and every dive I have down there is different, there is so much variety in diving and some very good fish to be had down there too. There are deep marks and shallow marks, and best of all there are beaches facing most directions so almost always possible to find some visibility. As the summer comes in the visibility increases massively and becomes near on tropical conditions meaning the longer guns can come out and also the thinner wetsuits.
However now I’m back living in Dorset I am slowly exploring the area around here, starting to find different ground that hold different species. I don’t think Dorset will ever overtake Cornwall as my favourite area to dive, but the more I’m exploring the more I am enjoying the diving. It also saves a 3-hour drive for a dive.
What is your favourite catch?
My favourite catch to date is a Pollack I caught from down in Cornwall, there was something about that day that makes it one of my Favourite dives. I finished a morning shift and drove to the dive location, once I got there my brother had already been in the water to check out the visibility with his dive partner but managed to get two nice pollack in the process. As I got to them, they were just swimming back in as the conditions wasn’t that great and the swell was only picking up. As I drove to the spot and was already suited before they got out, we agreed to swim back out so I could have a couple of dives. I dropped down once to see what the conditions was like, then breathed up and dropped in again. I was around the 14m mark when a dark silhouette came rocketing in towards me, I popped my head over the kelp and took the shot. After dragging the pollack from the kelp and hugging it against my suit we decided that we should head back into shore before the conditions got dangerous. I didn’t realise the size of the Pollack until I was laid on my float next to it where you could see how long it was compared to my speargun. The pollack weighed in at 7.2 LB, at the time this was a new personal best for me. It topped off a short dive but I was still happy that I got a new P.B.
Most influential person to dive with?
It’s got to be my older brother Matt, he has taught me a lot of handy hints and tips over the years, or pushed me in the right direction leaving me to find the information for myself.
When we are planning a dive, we will chat for days before hand spending hours on the phone, running through all the details to come up with a good plan for the day, normally we will cover the tide flow and direction, species that we are aiming for, general hunting techniques and anything else relating to the dive. If exploring new areas, we will normally come up with numerous back up plans to ensure its not a wasted day. Living so far apart now we don’t dive together as much as before, however when we do dive, we have an ongoing friendly competition that whoever catches the least on the day buys the cream teas afterwards. This always works out nicely as gives a bit of friendly competition to keep motivation while conditions are hard.
So, when is your favourite time of the year to dive?
I love spearfishing in summer when the days are long and the seas are warm, especially as the seas really start to come alive then. Once the bloom has burnt off and the visibility improves its an awesome time to get in the water even if it is only for a couple of hours.
Although weirdly I also enjoy diving when the temperature starts to drop and winter sets in. When the weather makes a break and allows for a quick dive, winter is a great time hone the skills and go exploring to find new marks ready for the summer. With the kelp thin over winter any underwater features like cracks or holes are easier to see which makes it a perfect time to mark them up using landmarks ready for the upcoming season. With fish being few and far between it also makes for a great time to go foraging or a perfect time to scan the sea bed for flat fish.
What equipment are you using?
For me spearfishing in the UK I have found light set ups work best, I have switched between numerous spearguns over time and finally found a set up that works well. I am currently using Meandros B28 guns in a 75 and 95 length, I also have a Picasso BW carbon 105 for when the conditions are good and a Pathos 82 that I am planning to set up with a trident to start exploring more wrecks, holes and caves. All of my guns have a small reel on them with enough line that I can swim back to the surface in the event of getting the spear trapped, I only use a single wrap of Mono as it keeps it simple and fast to load. I’ve found for the smaller guns a single 16mm rubber and a 6.25mm spear works best for me. This produces a very quick shot and keeps it light and easy to track. For the longer guns I have opted for twin 14mm rubbers. Like the smaller guns this produces an accurate shot and has a good range on the gun, being 14mm rubbers its nice and easy to load, even after a full days diving.
What is your favourite piece of equipment then?
My favourite piece of equipment has got to be my Epsealon Patrol, it makes long swims enjoyable and works as a perfect safety platform. It’s a larger style float but means you can get right up on it to explore new areas, with a high flag pole it is also highly visible which is great and reduced conditions.
Biggest problems while spearfishing?
I’ve never had any major problems while spearfishing but have had some close calls with things that could be avoidable. One of the things that sticks in my mind is when I was first starting out my friend borrowed a speargun off a friend. We were swimming around and the gun inadvertently shot off. On closer inspection we noticed in fact the spear had broken in half on one of the notches as the other half of the spear was still locked in the trigger mech. This highlighted the importance of checking gear regularly to ensure it is still suitable and safe to use.
Another problem I encountered while spearfishing was in one of the local competitions, we swam out to an island and managed to pick up a few pollack and a wrasse, as the end of the competition was approaching I decided to head back in to make my way back to the weigh in, as I started swimming in the tide started to push a bit so was fighting the tide back. As I got parallel to the shore, I felt my float line was getting pulled tighter. I carried on swimming as thought it was just the tide picking up, the float was getting tighter and tighter until it started pulling me back. When I looked back the sea was bubbling and my float was getting pulled under the water. I noticed a big black head rising next to my float and it continued to pull me back again. It was a massive bull seal pulling the fish off my stringer. As the tide was pushing hard now, I continued to swim trying to pull my float in at the same time. Eventually I got back to the beach and the massive seal swam past. I’m pretty sure it had a big grin on its face as it just had a very easy meal at my loss. Getting out the water with a steamed-up mask and no fish left on my stringer it made me appreciate the ocean a lot more. I was in the seals home and it was time for it to eat. It also made me pay more attention with tides to prevent getting caught in that situation again.
If you could give one tip or advice to a newbie what would it be?
Something I see a lot of new guys posting is about the best way to improve breath hold or how to get deeper quickly. The best bit of advice I can give is don’t get caught up on massive breath holds or big depths, take your time to learn how fish act, what conditions or habitats to look for and the fish will follow. Make a diary or dive log with dives and soon you will start noticing trends which will result in more fish being caught. The more you dive the more your body will adapt to being underwater. The depth and bottom time will all come naturally over time.
Thanks for your time Dan, we look forward to getting a dive in as soon as possible 🙂