Category Archives: Spearfishing

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??

Sporasub SP1 Freediving Computer / Watch Review

The latest addition to my growing list of freediving kit is my new Sporasub SP1 freedive computer. This helps me with one or two of my frustrations which I am sure that I share with other new freedivers. How deep am I going? How long am I down for? How many dives have I done? One of the reasons I prefer freediving over scuba is the simplicity, so I really don’t want to clutter my body or my thought processes with anything more than i have to.

This is the perfect tool for me; as well as satisfying my curiosity, I con now benchmark one day’s diving against the next to see how my performance is changing over time.

Why did I go for the Sporasub SP1? Well, I started at the bottom of the price range (this cost £145 or $225), and worked upwards, luckily my criteria were satisfied by this one, which happens to be the cheapest on the market. It was also dropping in prices as the new Sporasub SP2 is available with wireless connection and heart rate monitor, and I wanted to snap one of these up before they stop making it.

Sporasub SP1 Time display mode

Sporasub SP1 Time display mode

What I wanted was simple:-

  1. Something that automatically kicked in to log dives without me having to remember to press any buttons.
  2. Something that allowed me to look at logs afterwards to see what I had done
  3. Something that logged surface time as well as dive time

What I didn’t want:-

  1. A scuba watch that also had a freedive function (watches with more than one button are confusing enough for me without having loads of extra functions I will never use).
  2. Something that relied on me having to press buttons before every dive (something else confusing that I can’t be bothered with).
  3. To spend double just to get extra functions that I won’t ever use unless I start training and competing at deep diving.
Sporasub SP1 Dive log Mode

Sporasub SP1 Dive log Mode, showing depth, water temp, and dive duration

What you get with the Sporasub SP1 freedive computer:-

  1. Dive mode automatically kicks in when the watch is submerged by 1.5m, you don’t have to do anything, it just starts logging straight away, even if the last time you looked it was just showing the time.
  2. When you get back to the surface it automatically starts to count surface time (you should be breathing up on the surface for at least as long as your last dive before you go down again)
  3. It logs dive time, dive depth accurate to 10 cm, water temperature.
  4. It saves these records for you to look at later, up to 199 of them.
  5. Depth warning, it will beep for 30 seconds when you reach a preset limit.
  6. Switch between sea and fresh water
  7. Other stuff you would normally get on a watch, time, date, stopwatch etc.

Things you might get on a more expensive computer that the Sporasub SP1 doesn’t have:-

  1. Wireless link to a heart rate monitor (like the Sporasub SP2)
  2. USB connection to download and analyse your dive stats and save them for ever more. (Sporasub SP2, Mares Smart Apnea, Oceanic Aeris F10)
  3. Time warning, multiple depth warnings, (Oceanic Aeris F10)
  4. hydration reminders, descent and ascent speeds (Mares Smart Apnea)

Summary – It works first time and every time, logging all the dives I do accurately (when compared to another borrowed dive computer strapped to my leash in a recent test dive).

I found the controls a little infuriating to start with when I tried to look at the dive starts whilst the screen was still displaying surface time. But this is more about my not remembering the instructions than design fault.

Who would I recommend this for? Any recreational non competitive freediver or spearo who wants an easy way to log their dives.

Who would I not recommend this for? More serious competition divers who want to really monitor things like ascent speeds, who need 10m warnings and want to monitor heart rates while diving. Those guys probably want to go for something more swanky, but they are going to pay in the region of £100 to £200 more for these functions.

Am I happy with the SP1? Yes. It looks cool too, though my wrists are so skinny I won’t be wearing it as a fashion accessory.

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.

?

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.

 

Apnea Camo Spearfishing Suit

Time for a New Wetsuit

The wife doesn’t approve of this at all, it is neither fashionable, flattering nor practical, but it might get me a fish.

I went to Spearfishingstore.co.uk otherwise known as Venture Sports, they are a specialist shop in Paignton, Devon, which happens to be not far away from where I live. They are a dive shop who specialises in spearfishing / freediving stuff.

They are really really helpful, can’t do enough for you and full of good advice. I had already bought a few essentials from them, knife, weights, fins etc. But this time I couldn’t resist the great price they offered me on a speargun, so the suit cost me a lot more than I bargained for, but hey, I’m a fully camouflaged spearfisherman and well equipped marine forager now, it will pay for itself in food within the week I am sure!

My suit is an Apnea one. I tried on the examples they have in the shop as they won’t let you ruin a brand new one. Unfortunately the one bought seems a lot tighter, very tight, in fact so tight I took it back and made them let me try a brand new XL, but that was too big, so I hope that the one I have will stretch. Today, having nearly dislocated my shoulder getting it on I spent a while waddling round the garden in it, I think it will stretch.

A Long and Cloudy Spearfishing Dive – I Have a Lot to Learn

Yesterday I went out with my friend the freediving instructor for a long spearfishing jolly round a coastal island near us. This was a real eye opener for me, it really showed how the skilled spearfisherman can be successful even in the most demanding conditions. The current was pushing us around and the visibility was less than 6ft, which if you played it right was probably a bonus as the fish are at the same disadvantage.

He speared 8 pollack, and I got nothing, I only fired my gun twice, and both of those had probably missed before I even pulled the trigger. The reasons for this? he is calm, stealthy, economical in his movement, like a fish. I am cumbersome, splashy, noisy, like a bather. He is perfectly weighted and his calmness gives him time to steady himself on a rock, aim his gun and wait for a fish to swim past. I am inexperienced, I rush, I can’t handle the gun properly. He has a camouflaged suit, I have one with white flashes on it, complemented by a hood with a bright yellow stripe.

At least one of these problems can be rectified immediately and for a fairly small cash outlay. It is time to invest in some spearfishing kit. I’ll be warmer too. Watch this space.

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.