The East Solent from the Isle of Wight across to Selsey really comes alive in the spring. From mid-April onwards a wide variety of fish come into reaching distance for boat anglers. There is a genuine chance of a record weight Smoothhound or Tope (catch and release please) and local charter boats take out stacks of anglers looking for drag-busting fun but you may just be missing out on one of our best kept secrets.
The humble Black Bream arrive right across the south coast from April and hang around through the summer. If you are lucky enough to be able to target these fish in shallow water you'll know that when fished for correctly the Bream is hard to look past for fighting quality and with a chance of fish nudging 5lb or more you can see why during April and May, I'm a bit obsessed by the bream.
There are several marks to fish when targeting Bream but my favourite by far are some reefs in 5-10m of water this is because with less current the tackle can be scaled right down. Lighter rods are a double bonus; better bite detection combined with less resistance mean more fish are hooked but mostly it's because the Bream will test your rod like no other fish in its size - even Bass.
Over the years I have searched for the right tool for the job but came up short. Ask most tackle suppliers for a light rod to use from a boat and they will produce either a 8lb-ish class boat rod or a short spinning rod (#fail)! To find a rod matched to the fish on my doorstep I had to look to the Med style of fishing rods.
An inevitable search through the Internet and I found the Hiro Bream Machine, a rod designed for a specific purpose - the name gives it away! The rod is made up from a 2.5m, two-piece blank with three tips of varying strength for bite detection. It's not blessed with real top quality guides and fittings like its rivals... oh wait, their are no rivals. Hiro rods are not widely available in the uk so when I eventually found one for under £60 I snapped it up. On arrival I wasn't too sure about what I'd bought, this was quickly forgotten once used in anger. I just wasn't used to this style of rod as it's not something I'd seen before let alone used. Just shows that I knew in my mind what I was after but when I'd tracked it down and eventually got it, I wasn't sure at first glance if it was for me.
It's been a year since I took delivery of the Hiro Bream Machine and it's seen plenty of action, from the Bream it was designed for through to Plaice fishing. If I'm able to get away with up to 4 ounces of lead and want a bit of finesse then it gets used. In truth, it's best suited to 2 ounces of lead, give or take; this feels right to cast without folding up the super sensitive tip. I initially teamed the rod with a 4000 size fixed spool but have since scaled down to a 3000 size reel - just feels better balanced. I've also reduced the braid strength from 20-30lb to 10lb, these little changes help to make a more balanced outfit which gives me more confidence, and more confidence normally equals more fish.
Speaking of fish, how does it react when it's attached to a bullish 3lb Bream? Well, the bite detection is second to none and the forgiving tips certainly soak up the erratic bites of these fish. Braid has been a minor revolution in boat fishing but when used with a stiff, old-school mono rod I'm certain that some bites are missed, due to the fish feeling the resistance of the rod. This isn't a problem with the Bream Machine and I'd like to think the rod has helped bite to hook up rates. Once hooked into a fish the through action cushions without folding up. The rod has a tough backbone and I've landed reasonable sizes Rays that have taken a Bream intended bait without too much fuss.
When attached to the fish from which it takes it's name, the Bream Machine comes into its own; not too soft that it feels numb but still able go bully a fish if needed. At 2.5m plus the tip, some may find it too long on a small boat. Hiro do list a shorter version but for a tall lump like myself the extra leverage a rod of this length offers is helpful. To get the most out of this rod it has to be teamed with a fixed spool of some quality, purely because a reliable drag is a must if you are to let the rod do it's business properly.
Into its second season I can say the rod still gets used regularly and it shows. Boat fishing isn't kind to rods at the best of times but I'm a little disappointed at the wear and tear suffered after only a year. The foam on the butt has started to peel where it rubs in the rod holders - something none of my other rods have suffered from - and the paint work has chipped quite easily, but like I say rods bouncing around in a boat will suffer from knocks and scrapes.
I don't want to end on a sour note because the Hiro Bream Machine is a cracking rod for the money; okay, it's not built to the highest spec but it puts a smile on your face every time the tips pulls round, and the design concept is something I wish the big boys in the tackle world would take notice of as this style blank, along with A1 fixtures and fittings would be a serious bit of kit.