Category Archives: Marine Foraging

Me freediving

Camouflage and why I’m not good at catching fish

The other day I went with a friend to dive on a local shallow wreck. I have seen millions of pictures of other people freediving, spearfishing and generally being under the water but this is only the second time I have seen pictures of me (the first time were Go Pro selfies with the wrong camera housing so they are a bit out of focus). For the first time this has allowed me to compare what I look like above water, with what I look like below.

We all know that the light underwater is different, depending on depth some colours are filtered out and therefore some are emphasized, this is why things tend to look blue and green, while reds tend to disappear. But what I didn’t realise till I saw the picture below is the thing that stand out so boldly, which must ring alarm bells with any nearby fish, is the white writing;  this is assuming they see the same colours as us, which they probably don’t!

Me freediving

Me freediving –  ignore the bubbles, poor form, I think I was trying to talk through my nose..

The logo on the back of my gloves is almost fluorescent, and also the wetsuit logo, why would someone produce a camo wetsuit then put a bright logo on the arm and chest?

Even when I’m not spearfishing I still want to watch marine life close up without disturbing it, so I’m going to have to paint out those logos on the gloves, but the watch is also very reflective, maybe a neoprene flap to cover that over?

When I was researching kit I thought that the attention really good spearos pay to camouflage was a little over the top, but now I am beginning to see what the problem is. The viz the other day was pretty poor and my buddy was almost invisible at anything more than 3m, but the thing that stood out was the yellow flash on her hood (she is a scuba diver, and they have so much shimmering metal and rubbish about their person that they don’t seem to worry as much about being visible).

I’d be grateful for any info on how fish perceive us, what they see and what they don’t, if anyone has any knowledge in this area…. Could I paint myself with lots of small silver bait-fish to attract hungry bass??

Louis Shield Wreck

A second test of my GoPro Hero2 underwater housing – Another lesson Learned

Well today we visited my most local beach as I knew the visibility was going to be good and I hoped to see some of the big barrel jellyfish that are swarming up the coast at the moment. Unfortunately I didn’t see any, but the viz was probably about 6-8m and there was plenty of other stuff to see.

Unfortunately I have learned the hard way about the standard GoPro Hero2 underwater housing. It doesn’t focus properly underwater! What! I think it is fair to assume that an underwater housing good for 40m will actually take reasonable pictures underwater, but no, I got it wrong. I need the flat lens dive housing. The standard one, although waterproof to 40m doesn’t actually work properly underwater, it is still really just meant for surfing etc. where it is expected to take pictures above water.

You can see a short video here that illustrates the problem (apologies for the spelling mistake).

It is colourful, and the subject matter would be quite interesting, but it never going to be great until the focus problem is sorted so watch this space for some more impressive video when I get a new housing.

The trip was still worthwhile, the local wreck, Louis Shield is just off the rocks. There are some bits in open sand in the middle of the bay, on a very low spring tide these are just visible. Today the top was about 2m down, and 4m to the sand and tangled with old nets and lobster pots, quite dangerous in fact. The bulk of the wreck is just off the rocks, again this is almost too shallow to dive sometimes.

Louis Shield Wreck

Loius Shield Wreck

 

The home made dive float – version 2

 

I knocked up version 1 of this in the autumn, and it was OK, but had a couple of design faults which I have rectified overwinter.

I don’t take credit for the initial idea, I got that from the Underwater Foraging book, but I love Wombling – getting something for free, making good use of redundant stuff, especially shed junk that should have gone to the tip long ago but will always come in handy. This dive float is very much in that category.

Don’t spend too much money on this, if you have to start buying bits and bobs then you can soon end up spending almost as much as a purpose made float with the canvas pockets and the polystyrene inside bit. I have a few tips as to how you save money on this.

Firstly if you are one of the tiny minority that doesn’t have a crappy bodyboard in your shed or a friend who wants to get rid of one, then go to a seaside campsite – they will have loads of them, especially at the end of the season. People arrive with an overflowing car, buy cheap boards for the kids, then, surprise surprise, no room at the end of the week to take them home. They only cost £8 each, it’s a no brainer, leave them by the big dumpster for the next family.

The other expensive thing I found is the If you have a single board you will still benefit from extra leash plugs. These are the screw in things that enable you to attach all sorts of other cool stuff to your board, speargun straps, drink bottles, nets, camera, etc. etc. If you buy them online then they are a few quid each, so again, try a seaside campsite, they will have loads.

I actually had a number of old boards which friends’ kids left when they visited on holiday, so I butchered these for the valuable leash plugs and velcro wrist bands. These are used to hold things like spearguns in place. The net is held in place by superglued plastic groundsheet pegs from GoOutdoors which are really cheap. These are a cheaper substitute for leash plugs if you have to buy them.

The hole in the middle was there from version 1, but the net within it was fixed in place, which meant that with fish in the bag it had too much drag and wasn’t easy to pull around (sorry Richard!). So I modified this so the net ring is held in place by bungee cords and at the end of the day you can unclip it to lay the net full of fish (hopefully) on top of the board, then swim back without it dragging in the water. (You can’t leave the fish on top for long or it will become a dinner table for seagulls.

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The net came from eBay. There was a guy selling an old stock of keep nets for £2 each (just the net, not the frame) so I made it worthwhile by buying 4 or 5 of them. They will come in useful in the future, and now I have taken a body board out there is space in the back of my shed for lots of other useful bits of stuff. The circular frame is from an old prawn net.

The only dedicated piece of diving equipment incorporated into all of this is the line and reel, that came from spearfishingstore.co.uk but I would have bought that anyway, and I sometimes use it on a smaller float if I am not out to catch anything. The reel is normally attached to a loop on the top, but the line can be fed through a loop on the underside so it doesn’t get tangled in any of the paraphernalia attached to the top-side.

I’d be interested if anyone else has a similar setup, or any tips and tricks that other people use on a bodyboard float like this.

 

A Trip to Dorset – And Still no Lobsters

Yesterday I visited a friend in Dorset and we went out on a diving / kayaking / fishing trip. There was one aim, and that was lobsters. It is prime lobster season, we had inside knowledge from someone who knows, and we went to a place called lobster point, renowned for its lobsters. What could possibly stand in our way?

We spent a good hour or so diving into chalk gullies and kelp beds, foraging around in all the likely places, but came up with nothing. Luckily we appeased our guilt by catching 4 mackerel off the kayak.

Again the water was cloudy with algal bloom and microscopic marine life. I seem to have picked the wrong summer to begin my freediving career, most outings have been blighted by poor visibility and all along the south coast of Britain people complain about the same. Rarely have I seen more than 6ft ahead and one one occasion with a bit of disturbance thrown in, I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.

 

 

 

Hallsands and Spider Crabs

A slightly deeper dive this time, but probably not more than about 8 or 9m, I’ve been peering into lobster pots, but still haven’t seen a lobster let alone caught one.

I realise now that despite the fact that the water is warm, I need some gloves. As well as the temperature I also need some protection from the hazards of underwater life. I know we should leave marine life alone and shouldn’t interfere with things too much, I remember my PADI diving course instructor many years ago said he thought divers shouldn’t wear gloves as it encouraged them to grab onto coral and break it, without gloves you would never do such a thing. Well today I made the mistake of tapping a spider crab on the back and paid the price, I got a thorn stuck right in the tip of my index finger and I can’t get it out. I don’t know how long it will cause me problems, but I think need to invest in gloves, definitely.

I also got a nose bleed, I think this is a repeat of the sinus problem I had on my AIDA course, but a bit more bloody, I did feel a little twinge in my sinuses so that was probably it. I generally have more of a problem equalising after a prolonged time in the water, or when I get water up my nose too much. This happens when I forget to shave and my mask doesn’t fit properly, it is all a big learning curve.

 

 

A Long Warm Dive – I Need to Catch Some Food

So yesterday I had my first adventurous dive session. I went with my friend the instructor to a spot we both know well, and one of his favourite spearfising locations. I am still in my Orca swimming suit, but it was a hot day and I survived quite well. I think one of the reasons for this is that I am moving a lot more than he does. My technique is improving, but I am doing a lot more splashing around, adjusting my mask, and generally spluttering than he is, so I am generating heat at the expense of saving oxygen, the better I get, the colder I will be. I borrowed a speargun and failed dismally at getting anything, partly because of the low visibility but mainly my own inadequacy.

I learned about dehydration the hard way. It was a hot day, we were captivated by the undersea world and before I knew it I had been diving away in the salty environment for a couple of hours, and hadn’t had a drink for 3. So I ended up headachy and struggled to drag all my kit back up the hill.

Dehydration is a problem for freedivers because of the number of descents they are likely to make in a day. As I undersatnd it every time your body gets under pressure the fluids are pushed from your extremities to your core, you kidneys think ‘hello! too much liquid, let’s have a wee’ and so the excess gets sent to your bladder, when you surface and the liquid floods back to your extremities again you are a bit more dehydrated. Over a period of time you will lose more liquid than if you were bobbing around the surface, and the deeper your dives the more you will lose.

Book – Underwater foraging – Freediving for food: An instructional guide to freediving, sustainable marine foraging and spearfishing

This was the second freediving book I bought. The first being ‘Manual of Freediving’ which I gather is the bible for most freedivers and a must read.

This book, ‘Underwater foraging – Freediving for food: An instructional guide to freediving, sustainable marine foraging and spearfishing’, is pretty much geared towards me, it deals with enough of the basics of safe freediving and spearfishing to set someone like me on the right track, and it is a guide for UK waters. The fact that it deals in detail with UK species of marine life makes it slightly specialised and not necessarily the best book for people elsewhere in the world. This only applies to part of the book however, obviously all the instruction on diving, kit, breath holding, weighting etc. is universal.

The real strength of this book, and this is something I have already noticed myself, is that it merges the sometimes disparate worlds of spearfishing and safe diving practice. I live by the sea and even as someone who is quite new to this, I have spoken to spearfishing people who advocate hyperventilation, massively overweight themselves, and who haven’t really been properly educated. Even if you aren’t gearing yourself to spearfishing, as a freediver you will want to know more about what lives under the waves, and will almost undoubtedly take some food back with you, even if it isn’t speared, so this is the book to get you going in the right direction.

The book is written by Ian Donald, of FreediveUK, and it is Ian who has taught me a lot of what I know so I must admit a small bias towards his book. But this isn’t just about supporting him, (I paid for it on Amazon and he didn’t ask me to review it), it is more about buying in to his particular ethos, safe freediving for enjoyment, food, and for a greater understanding of what goes on in the sea.