Nowadays the vast majority of sea anglers use synthetic lines made of nylon, perlon, terylene, courlene, etc. All these materials are rot-proof, and this gives them a very important advantage over the old-fashioned flax line.
Synthetic lines are available in three forms - twisted, braided, and as a single strand commonly referred to as monofilament'.
Nylon Monofilament is very popular for many kinds of sea fishing, partly because its smooth surface allows it to flow freely off the reel when casting long distances, and partly because it is inconspicuous in the water.
However, it is worth mentioning that this type of line varies considerably in quality. The cheaper brands tend to be springy and intractable, and it is always worth paying a little extra in order to obtain a supple line that is pleasant to use.
A more serious drawback for certain types of fishing is the tendency of nylon monofilament to stretch under strain, making it difficult to strike (i.e. drive the hook home into a fish) when fishing at a distance.
Beginners must be very careful when tying knots in nylon monofilament, owing to the slippery and springy nature of this material. There is a correct knot for every purpose.
Braided Terylene is popular with anglers who require a line which does not stretch under strain, and is inert and pleasant to handle. It is particularly useful for big-game and deep-sea fishing; and - in its finer forms - for casting with a multiplying reel.
Twisted Nylon is very cheap, and this makes it useful as a rotproof 'backing line' for large capacity sea reels. On top of this backing line there is normally attached, by means of a blood-knot, a superior grade monofilament or braided line.
Apart from rod, reel and line, the sea angler will require a selection of hooks, traces, leads and swivels, together with a bait-box, a sharp knife for cutting up baits, and a tackle box fitted with a carrying strap. The tackle box should preferably be divided into a number of compartments, so that everything does not become hopelessly jumbled up.
The above list includes only the bare essentials. The wise angler will also carry a gaff or landing net (depending on the type of fishing), a pair of long-nosed pliers for removing hooks and making up wire traces, a fine carborundum slip for sharpening hooks, a torch for night fishing, and a rag for wiping bait-slimy hands.
The thickness of your hooks should be governed by the test curve, or pulling power, of the rod being used.
For instance, a heavy-gauge hook is essential when one is after large conger or skate with a powerful boat rod.
On the other hand, when using a light and lively rod - perhaps for driftlining or float fishing - it would be absurd to use a stout wire hook. Such a hook needs a strong, quick strike to drive it into the fish, and the flexible rod would lack the necessary power to do this.
A fine-wire hook, however, could be driven home quite easily, and there would be no risk of it being straightened out by a powerful fish because the flexibility of the light rod would act as a shock-absorber.
Needless to say, when choosing fine-wire hooks it is particularly important to select only those of top quality. Avoid hooks which are over-brittle, or which straighten out too easily. A good hook feels springy when you try to bend it between your fingers.
It is important that the size of hook should suit the type and size of bait being used. A common mistake - especially when baiting with fish strips - is to use a bait that is too big for the hook, so that it prevents the barb from fixing in the fish's mouth.
Round bend hooks are best when using worm baits, and if intended for flatfish they should be long in the shank. Also, the hooks should be in new condition - not roughened by rust. It is almost impossible to make a neat job of threading a ragworm on to a rusty hook.
The need to avoid weak links* when selecting tackle sundries cannot be stressed too strongly. Most sea anglers use brass swivels, because these are not greatly affected by salt water. Nevertheless, there is bound to be a gradual reduction in strength owing to wear and oxidisation, and an adequate safety margin should always be allowed for this.
Size for size, swivelled link-springs are probably somewhat stronger than swivel buckles when new. But the steel clip corrodes very quickly in salt water, and unless frequently checked it can become a dangerous source of weakness in one's tackle.
Much stronger than either of these, however, is the stainless steel spiral clip. Although too conspicuous and cumbersome for light fishing, this type of clip is ideal for tope and conger traces.