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Indian Adventures: Small-Fish Angling in the Winter Sun

Gem Stapleton talks about her recent escapes to Goa, India, where she spent time learning from her local friend, Monty, how to target rock-loving fish.

Goa is one of my favourite holiday destinations and I have been a regular visitor over the last eight years. I do my best to visit twice each winter holiday season, in part to escape the cold, whiting infested Sussex beaches but also to enjoy the supremely chilled vibe that South Goa offers. Not to mention, also, the stunning palm-line beaches that pervade Goa’s beautiful coastline.


Basically, it’s my downtime, an escape from everyday life and a chance to eat copious amounts of Indian food. Yes, I do tend to return home heavier than when I left, even though I often eat at restaurants that focus on delivering high-quality healthy cuisine, inspired by the many yoga-focused tourists.

Despite Goa being one of my regular winter destinations, I have never actually fished in India before. Typically, one can witness school kids fishing with what appear to be bamboo canes with line tied to the end, perched on the edge of the rocks. At sunset, the fishing boats return to the beach, and they can be witnessed unloading and packing their catch, typically containing small fish: a good clue about the size of fish I could expect to land. These boats are sometimes owned by a group of families, bringing home food to feed themselves. Never, in my many trips here, have I actually seen someone fishing with a rod and line.

Goa Fisherman

This year, I was keen to take the HTO Nebula Travel rod and a 3000 size Lure Game Reel with me. The plan was to target small fish, for some light-hearted fun, matching my ‘downtime’ holiday ethos.

HTO Nebula Travel

Packing Before Departure

The beach that I always visit in Goa is about 1km long and populated by swimming tourists: not ideal for fishing! However, it is flanked at each end by rocky peninsulas, which looked much more viable as fishing venues. As I had not ever seen anyone rod-and-line fishing here, I was a bit in the dark about what methods were best to use. So, I needed to pack wisely, utilising my minimal spare luggage space to maximise the range of options I had available to me in Goa.

Fish Market

Needless to say, the lack of any sign of people fishing with a rod and line corresponds to a lack of fishing tackle shops in the local vicinity! The nearest tackle shop was a decent distance away, requiring a day trip in a taxi if I needed additional supplies. If I forgot something, or found out I required any items for which I had not planned, it would be tricky to rectify the situation.

Bait-wise, the local town, Chaudi, has fish stalls where I could purchase fresh prawns, which Monty told me are a great bait for the area.

So, what should I pack? Well, all my fishing was to be with the HTO Nebula Travel lure rod, matched with an HTO Lure Game reel, loaded with 20lb Tronixpro X8 Power Braid Line, with a short length of Nebula FC fluorocarbon to act as a leader.

Packing for Goa

For fishing from the beach, I decided to pack some HTO Shore Jigs, identifying the quieter north end as a suitable spot to cast in the evenings because few tourists swim there at that time of day. Alongside the Shore Jigs, some floats went in the suitcase for using from the rocks, in the hope that I could find a suitable ledge from which to perch. These were complemented by some squid jigs as I had heard squid could be caught locally, though I’d be forewarned that it was, so far, a poor season for them.

Tackle for Goa

I also needed an array of other bits of end tackle, plus tools for cutting line and unhooking. To keep all these items tidy and easily transportable to fishing venues, I also took with me a Tronixpro Match Organiser and a Mini Bakkan, which were ideal for packing the kit safely in my checked-in luggage. The match organiser was great for storing hooks, line, clips and other items of end tackle, including the HTO Lure Fishing Multi Tool – perfect for cutting mono and braid, unhooking, and performing a variety of tasks on the beach as well as taking up minimal suitcase space.

Tronixpro Match Organiser

The last item I needed to obtain before the flight was a decent tube in which to pack the Nebula lure rod. Whilst the four-piece travel rod will fit in many suitcases, I wanted to be sure of its safe passage – I was using a large bag as my check-in luggage, not a ridged suitcase. I purchased a document tube, designed for checking in to the hold, for about £20 that was a perfect length and diameter. At last, I was ready to leave the literally freezing UK behind and head for warmer places!

Nebula Travel Rod

Hitting the Beach

I decided that my first session would be off the sandy beach, casting a Shore Jig near the rocks to see if I could pick up anything. A heads-up from my local friend Monty was that just before sunset might be my best chance: perhaps this the witching hour wherever you fish around the globe! This also coincided with fewer people swimming in the sea; I would never cast a lure, or anything else, near swimmers, so this seemed an ideal time to fish the beach. On arrival at my spot, the sea did not look in a good state – sadly it was heavily polluted with ash from, presumably, burnt rubbish (an environmentally bad local practice, which is a sad consequence of a lack of waste collection infrastructure).

Before I’d even cast out, my activities had attracted a lot of interest from the locals, first from some school boys, then some adults who were knowledgable of local fishing methods. They advised me that it would be much better to fish the rocky headland, which I had planned to do with Monty later in the trip. Not too disheartened, as my main goal today was to have some fun getting a lure in the water, I started to set up my tackle. I picked a 28g HTO Shore Jig, attached to my leader using an HTO Lure Link. Catching anything today would just be a bonus, and I was still keen to wet my line.

Casting in Goa

I decided to fish for about an hour, mainly to get a better feel for the rod. Best to do these things on solid ground, rather than slippery rocks, in my view! Well, this is a brilliant lure rod – it sent the 28g metal lure out a long way, easily 60 or 70 meters – with just an overhead flick! I could tell this rod was going to be a delight to use, confirming earlier thoughts when I had briefly used it last summer targeting mackerel; don’t be fooled into thinking you’re making a compromise by buying a travel rod, the Nebula holds its own! Just before sunset, I packed up and headed back to my beach hut, in hope of fish-filled sessions later in my trip.

Rocks were productive

Slippery Rocks, Cucumbers and Unexpected ‘Catches’

Next up, it was time to hit the rocks for another sunset session. Although the tide was a bit on the low side, I was still keen to try out float fishing and get a deeper understanding of how to target fish here. I set up using a strong, short shanked size 1 Chinu Ring hook, attached to a 30 gram Casting Float, with about a 4-foot drop from the float down to the hook: just the right length to trundle my bait a short distance above the rocky bottom, to tempt any rock-dwelling fish to dart out and grab it. Well, that was the theory anyway!

The bait was to be prawns from the market, with a small tub costing anything from 10 rupees (10p) to 200 rupees depending on how much ‘tourist tax’ was applied by the vendor as a starting point for the inevitable haggling that ensued! A single prawn was attached to the hook, bound on with fine Baitex and we were off! I cast towards the sun, out to sea a little so that the float could trot back towards me through a deeper channel surrounded by rocky peaks.


After a few casts, I got a bite! Yes, could this be my first Goan fish? I could feel fighting, with whatever was on the hook, was pulling on the line and making the fine rod tip bend nicely. When it neared the surface, I was confused, what could this be? Well, I never, it was a sea cucumber! These are thought to be fragile marine creatures, so I did my best to carefully unhook it before releasing it back to where it came from. Beats a blank? Maybe, the jury is still out on that one!

The sea cucumber was the only action on my first Goan rock session. A few days later, I caught far more than expected: a dose of dengue fever. The worst, however, was yet to come: when I recovered from dengue fever, for the first time in my many trips to India I got a proper dose of food poisoning and was struck down by full-on Delhi belly. Argh! Thankfully, I recovered from this just before my flight home. More fishing would have to wait until my next trip to Goa, when I was to return in mid-February.

Fishing in Goa

Returning to Goa: Success at Last

With some learning behind me on my first trip in December, I was confident that I had packed suitable tackle and did not need to take other items to India; I’d left my kit with local friends to save transporting it to and from the UK for a second time. My focus now was set on fishing the rocks over high tides that coincided with sunset. There were about four days on my holiday where high tide was close enough to sunset to make fishing worthwhile. I was eager to make the most of that time.

Gem fishing in Goa

Getting to the rocks, I quickly set up my float, much the same as I had in December, as the local knowledge I had gained suggested this was the road to success. Within a few minutes, my float shot under! Fish on! In came a new species for me, a small grouper rose to the surface and was soon safely on the rocks. Over the next couple of days, I landed plenty of these pretty little fish: they afforded me some fun sport, just what I’d been seeking in my downtime away from the UK!

Fishing in Goa

One of Monty’s friends – a local policeman, joined us on the rocks when we fished. A keen fisherman, his preferred tactic was to use a throw net to catch his dinner. He had clearly mastered this skilful technique, regularly catching fish with a little time and effort. His catch included a spotted scat, which I later found out had poison delivering spines in various places! This served as a good reminder: when fishing in unfamiliar areas, always respect the fish and handle any unrecognised species with caution.

Throwing net

On my first session this trip, I missed about 50% of the bites. I needed to go a lighter with my set-up. I went down to a size 4 Chinu Ring hook – just about big enough to cope with a single prawn as bait – and a 10g casting float. This tackle-change quickly resulted in many more bites being registered. With less resistance being felt by the fish, I was sure I’d increase my hook-up ratio and also see bites from smaller specimens.

I wasn’t wrong, with more groupers being landed and also several smaller fish of another species, whose identity I am still unsure of: I was told they were rock fish by one person and sweet lips by another. With the reminder about potentially poisonous fish being at the forefront of my mind, I was careful to handle the sweet lips, aka rock fish, with a thick rag when unhooking and returning them to the Indian Ocean. If you know what species this pretty little fish is, then let me know!

Fishing in Goa

Over my four sunset outings, I landed plenty of fish to keep me entertained and had a lot of fun. The sessions served their purpose: to provide space to relax and declutter my mind, away from life’s distractions, and hang out with friends. As an unexpected bonus, walking around the local vicinity carrying my fishing gear attracted a lot of attention and was a great way to interact with the locals, as well as other tourists. I lost count of how many locals wanted to buy my fishing kit off me! I was greeted by many disappointed looks when I said it wasn’t for sale.

On my Goan adventures, the HTO Nebula Travel Rod showed its versatility, allowing me to float fish as well as chuck out lures. It’s the perfect travel rod for this kind of fishing, and would easily handle far bigger fish than those I was targeting.

On future holidays, I’ll try something different and use a greater range of lures along with fish-baits to target red snappers, which lurk in Goa’s waters. I can’t believe I waited so long to take my fishing gear on holiday and I have no doubt that the HTO Nebula travel rod will be joining me again next season, helping me to form fishing memories, with friends, that will last a lifetime.

Fishing from the rocks.

About the author

Gem Stapleton

Gem Stapleton is a Brand Ambassador for Tronixpro and has 45 years of fishing experience, starting at the young age of three. She is an England International and won Gold fishing in the Ladies team at the Home Nations 2022. Being primarily a beach angler, most of Gem’s fishing is over clean beaches on the Sussex coast, where she can be regularly found either pleasure or match fishing. Gem enjoys tournament casting and can hit over 170m off the ground.



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