A closer look at - Ramon Vella ex KSFA angler
Name: Ramon Vella
Date of birth: 4th July 1973
What are your views regarding how would an ideal sport angler be in our island?
First of all I would like to thank you Adrian for inviting me for this interview. Hope that my responses will serve as feedback for those new sport anglers rather than getting to know me. Well, this first question encompasses all what sport fishing should be all about. As the name suggests, a sport angler should have priorities when going fishing. It’s a matter of getting to know the sea and the fish and respect this natural bond between them. In my opinion there are two types of sport anglers: There are those who take part in competitions and use the techniques allowed to get a good placing and rating in the final classification. The training needed to enhance speed and technique is no less to other classical sports. Psychological fitness is another important factor which will be reflected in one’s performance especially when competing on a National level. The second type of sport angler is one who does not necessarily take part in competitive events, but prefers to practice the sport at his /her own leisure. Usually, such anglers, practice specific techniques and target species of fish according to season. Sport anglers have common characteristics: They respect the sea, practice a sensible degree of catch and release, are willing to help novice sport anglers and make their fishing experience as challenging as possible giving the fish a high chance of getting the better side of the bout.
Presently, our coastal seas are abused in many different ways with very little respect. This reality demands for a very important role from sport anglers. It is their task to disseminate information and good practice amongst the public via clubs, newspapers and social media. The more successful they are in their sport, the higher is their responsibility as they are the leading role models for many.
When did you decide to become a sport angler and how did it start?
That’s quite some time ago! I remember when I was at sixth Form(early 90’s); I went to buy some fishing tackle from Pirotta Fishing Centre in Gzira. Mr Pirotta gave me a membership form and explained in quite detail that the group organises fishing competitions every month. Pirotta Fishing Centre was at that time one of the few (if not the only one) fishing centres in Malta and he was sponsoring the club in the competitions. This was the start of my experience within the Kingfisher Sport Fishing Association, and my first step towards sport angling.
I was welcomed in the club as one of the youngest members and as a team we strived together to promote the association’s main aim: To promote sport fishing! I learned so much from these guys that I feel in debit with them for life. I mastered different techniques and above all I got hold of what fishing as a sport is all about. I can still remember my first competition ever at Marsascala….. I caught a mullet at the end of the competition and to make sure it doesn’t leap out of the net I killed it! There were no rules and regulations and statutes at that time. I recall Mr Johnston getting shocked seeing me do that in front of tourists on the Marsascala front! Gradually I matured within the Association and later gave my input even in the committee itself.
What has been your ever biggest win, achievement or high placing in a tournament?
Well… with KFSA I won almost everything. The highest achievement was placing first in the singles league of 1996. We used to be over 50 competitors during that season and being consistent in all the competitions was essential to have a chance to win the league. Other achievements were: second in the doubles league, biggest fish award and first in two annual three-day Marathons.
My objective was to represent the association on a National level, a dream which sadly did not come true in my era. At that time we were working very hard to gain recognition within the Malta Olympic Committee and hence affiliate with an International entity. Seeing sport fishing being accepted as a sport was our main objective and at least today I can see the result of that hard work.
Have you ever participated in an overseas fishing tournament? What are your views about Maltese anglers competing abroad?
Unfortunately, that is something I regret I never accomplished as mentioned before. Now I am retired from competitive fishing and just enjoy this aspect of the sport from the outside. I believe that there are very good youngsters who can represent our country with dignity and compete with foreign anglers. Unfortunately, the latter are much more aided both psychologically and economically and this is what puts us at a disadvantage from the beginning. Getting results internationally is not a matter of being lucky on the day! It is a matter of getting experience on an international level. It’s like other sports, isn’t it?I follow our teams via social media during the events and at times I really wish to be watching and supporting the event on TV at least. I really hope that one day; our delegation would be formed by the best anglers, a technical coach and a psychologist. I can imagine the pride of an angler wearing the Maltese flag on his fishing gear so getting descent financial backing by the state is something to struggle for.
Now that you have nearly completely moved away from bait fishing what is your favourite go for lure?
A lot of preparation time is devoted to competitive sport fishing and when this was not readily available for me anymore, I quitted. It is then when I moved to a more solitary type of sport fishing. Fishing with artificial lures is a different scenario. To achieve a satisfactory amount of success, I had to make a lot of preparation beforehand; mainly reading on international fora and practising. I have to admit that my experience with bait fishing helped me a lot to understand fish behaviour and to identify good fishing spots were predators usually hunt. When I started fishing with artificial lures there were very few anglers who practised this technique and usually they kept their knowledge for themselves. It was not easy at all to believe in the technique and that it can be fruitful not with just barracudas. This technique has now evolved drastically and different methods emerged from the classical spinning like shore jigging, LRF and popping, etc… Fishing exclusively with lures is not productive as fishing with other types of baits for various reasons. All the following perquisites should be in check for success:
• Being at the right time at the right spot
• Perceiving what type of predator is hanging around and where it is hunting
• Animate the lure in a way that it distracts the predator from other baitfish and persuade it to attack your lure/jig.
From my point of view, all this makes the sport more challenging. Moreover, fishing with artificial lures gives a better chance to the angler to practice catch and release.
To answer your question, my favourite go for lure is top water. Being it walking the dog or popper, the strike at the surface is always fascinating. Those seconds of build-up while the predator is following the lure before the strike is simply breath- taking. Also, top water gives a better chance to the angler to have the better side in clearer waters.
Do you still do some bait fishing? Any type or method of bait fishing still you love doing every now and then?
In the summer months I still go for a couple of sessions with my uncle for mullet. I am aware that today the trend is to use bolo rods for more finesse; however I still prefer to use my 8m pole, some good ground bait and considering the time year I use paste as bait. Mullet has always fascinated me!
In October, I also try not to miss the appointment for some match fishing for saddled bream and white breams. This is mainly a nocturnal session with some old friends. I use a long match rod, solid ground baiting exactly during sunset, 10g+6 waggler and worms as bait.
What is your biggest weight ever registered in a shore fishing tournament?
Frankly, I don’t recall any exceptional big fish during competitions. Good sized mullet and gilthead breams were the norm at those times.
Any other sport anglers you admire locally and abroad?
Well… thanks for asking me this question Adrian. I was going to conclude with this anyways. The person from whom I benefited a lot is definitely the founder of the Kingfisher Sport Fishing Association… Mr. Stephen Johnston. He was the man with a firm direction from the start and he gathered the human resources to help him achieve his goals. I really admire the way he tackles problems and confrontations. He was the man who started to spread the philosophy of catching and releasing fish… thus making angling a sport!
Being more into artificial bait fishing, I have some foreign friends who practice this technique from whom I learned some things. I think that Dimitri Siozos (seaspinning.net) from Greece was the first angler to film the strike of an amber jack using shore jigging technique. At the end of the clip he releases the majestic fish back. His rigging technique is also perfectly adhering to the shore jigging model that Eastern anglers use.
What is something very few people know about you?
Well… I don’t know Sometimes people that do not even know me personally give me the impression that they know me inside out by the way they judge me on social media in my struggle to disseminate the idea of fishing with a conscience and promoting catch and release.
Being a teacher, I have contact with children of various ages and every year, with the help of other dedicated teachers, we organise sport fishing events for them. These extracurricular activities will help the children to view angling from a different perspective. In summer I also coordinate fishing activitiesata local summer school.
My other interest is aquascaping…. That is keeping and maintaining an aquarium with live plants and fish.