Are you still having trouble seeing those nervous bites from a nice sole at night? Are you walking up and down the beach with a lighter trying to find where you left your last trace? Well, now you could get a ray of hope as Graeme Pullen illuminates some tips to make sure. 


Three headlamps in the Petzyl range.Venue Hayling Beach. Fishing was poor,the fire was great !

My first sessions on the beach started more than a few years ago with precisely nothing to spot night bites. You stood next to the rod tip, occasionally lighting the rod top with a hand torch to check it wasn’t bent double with a bass. Most of the bites back then probably came as soon as I turned off the torch, and the luxury item on the beach then was to be the proud owner of a Tilley pressure lamp. Run on paraffin, and started with meths, it was the first of the pressure lamps that became popular in the Les Moncrieff and earlier seasons, when you could walk off the beach under the weight of several cod. I eventually became the owner of one from a kindly grandfather who had an old one, and with careful nurturing it gave me service for over twenty years. Aside from cracked glass and busted mantles there really wasn’t a lot to go wrong with them. Lighting was OK, but not great, just enough to make out the rod tip, change baits or read a tide table. I did most of my fishing from the beach at Eastoke corner on Hayling Island as the family had property work there. In between work there was plenty of time for flounders and the odd 3lb bass.

                                   Then, as I travelled further afield, the realisation came that lighting had moved on apace. There were lights on the beach that would have done justice to a lighthouse, and eventually, on long distance trips to fish cod with Tony Kirrage at Eastbourne, and Jim Ingledew at Trimingham in Norfolk I became a convert to the Chinese made Anchor lamp, and its truly fantastic 350 candlepower. It was like a model T-Ford to a Supercharged Dodge. When Jim Ingledew introduced me to their high poles with shepherd’s-crook hanging position, half the beach became lit up. What a machine. And they were reliable too. To this day I am still using the original Anchor lamp purchased from “Tony’s Tackle” over twenty years ago.                   

This Anchor Lamp came from Tony's Tackle at Eastbourne about 25 years ago,and is still going strong

This past winter saw me having a resurgence into good old fashioned beach fishing. The Conoflex 2400 and 2600’s came out of storage and the big Shimano fixed spools, but Mr Anchor lamp seemed to have become sluggish in its old age. So a search by Google gave me a service department up near Norwich that not only supplied spare parts, but had some great tips as well. So for those of you with ailing Anchor lamps. Don’t toss them in the metal recycling bin and rush out to buy a new one. Think economy, and service it yourself. I did it with mine and its pretty much as bright now as it was when it lit up my first 9lb cod in the surf off the point at Eastbourne. My first and only call was to A.J.Fuller at Stalham near Norwich, who sold me the spares and gave me the tips. This is now run by Carl Fuller, and has been a family business since 1969.As a guide to how efficient they are with service, since 2003 they have sold over 700 pressure lamps. Of these the most popular is the Petromax 500cp(£89-00 plus p&p).The equivalent Anchor 500cp goes for £68- delivered, but he only has a few left at this price due to the fluctuation of sterling. Petromax is German, the Anchor is Chinese.

                 The Anchor Pressure Lamp Company originates directly from Shanghai, where they have been manufacturing lamps and heating equipment since 1915.The largest of these is that 500cp single mantle version, which is tried and well tested throughout the globe, right down to insect collectors who use them (and the Tilley lamp) to trap moths etc at night. The 350cp is the one I use, and you can find which size you have by either a stamp on the base or one the edge of the nipple nut at the top where the fuel vaporises. The Anchor can be started either by using the kidney-shaped methylated spirit dish in the central unit to start vaporising the fuel, or by the “jetting” method. For speed of lighting the ”jetting” method, which sends a hot flame onto the mantel area is fastest, but it does use a bit of paraffin up.Also,some lamps send a clean spray up, others just neat fuel, which is not so good. As I tend to fish long sessions I use the meths to start, so I then have more fuel left to see me well into the night without the hassle of a restart. You can even buy a refurbish kit for the Anchor 350,comprising 2 x 350cp mantels, spirit bottle, filter funnel, spanner, 1 x nipple,2 x cleaning needles,1 x cleaning nipple key,1 x pressure gauge washer,1 x leather pump washer and 1 x pricker,all for the princely sum of £13-50 inc p&p. The standard glass lenses cost £15-50 Inc p&p for two. The budget 500cp must be one of the most powerful pressure lamps available today, delivering 500 candlepower sustainable for over 8 hours on one tank of fuel. It is high quality and durable finish to give years of service if looked after.

                              A tip worth noting from Carl is to avoid using paraffin with white spirit or naptha in it, which is a cleaning agent, and apparently added to some paraffin just to thin it down and avoid paying some tax which is apparently reduced on sales of spirit and naptha. This burns far hotter than pure paraffin and will burn out your needles faster. The needle becomes distorted rather than straight and when turned down below the top nipple it crushes up against it when you try to turn it up again. (I’ve had that several times so must have had oil with the spirit added).Where possible Carl advises the start to be with meths. Years ago this type of pressure lamp was always maintained for long term use in lighting, so servicing should keep it trouble free.

                                 I always thought a good spray with WD40 would assist this, but Carl advises not as WD40 has a high acid content. Better to use a good Castor oil from an old fashioned chemist, especially for the pump leather. When doing the initial meths burn, do not open up the flow valve too early as the fuel will not be vaporised and you get a flame-up. It can take up to five minutes or more on a cold night. The optimum setting for the flow valve is about 4 O’clock, but it can be reduced once it is running. The nipple at the top is only to make the spray run clean, which you want as a mist, rather than straight fuel. There should be a hole in the gallery to push the spout of the meths filler can through, rather than dismantle the top (like I used to do) and risk damaging the mantel when you replace it. Use only premium grades paraffin oil like Bartoline, Birdbrand or Caldo oil. A good ironmonger should be able to get you the better grades.                

Now you have the Anchor refurbished and burning brightly, you would think my old torch was consigned to the bin. Certainly it had been upgraded to Petzyl’s fine range of headlamps some ten years ago, with the Petzyl “Zoom” one of my favourites, and still working. It has helped me many a time on big Lemon sharks and 150lb tarpon at night off the Florida Keys, and I consider it has done me a major favour in getting me back to the marina when my main 1 million candlepower Q-beam had failed. You may be amazed to know it could light up the channel marker reflectors at eighty yards. Even so, on some of my more recent forays I could see things on the beaches of Britain had again moved on. Anglers were not using the cumbersome Petzyl “Zoom” with its cranium–tilting multi battery pack. Now everyone seem to have LED mini headlamps that made things easier on the neck, yet still allowed free movement of hands for baiting up, unhooking fish, or spotting big waves just before you made the cast.Discusions with anglers along the beach showed there was a larger array than before, and you could spend any amount you wanted depending on the job in hand. After research was done I came up with three models that would best suit the British beach scene. The trouble with the Anchor pressure Lamp is that they have to be treated carefully if you are doing any kind of rock fishing. Any hard contact and the glass shade is gone or the mantle disintegrates into a puff of useless white poweder.So keep pressure lamps to beaches or flat rock platforms, and use a good quality Petzyl headlamp for the rougher rock terrain.

                           Of the huge range of Petzyl lamps available, I finally reduced the practical models for beach work down to three units. The TACTIKKA, TACTIKKA XP, and the truly miniature E+Lite. Of these, the cream of the crop was the XP, which I used for a good time for the seven hours of darkness I fished, and it didn’t even start to go dim. The weather was mild, and perhaps under colder conditions the batteries would be shorter. However, here are the facts that you need. The XP comes with coloured insert lenses which can be stored in a separate compartment on the elastic strap. This allows you to reduce the light to a more subtle, proximity hands-free operation. This would be useful for rock fishing for bass in clear water, where you did not want to spook the fish with a sweeping white light every time you turn your head. It is so light compared to my old Petzyl Zoom, weighing in at a featherweight 110g, including 3 x AAA/LRO3 batteries, which incidentally come with the initial purchase. It comes in desert or camouflage colour. Aside from the interchangeable lenses, it has a white LED lens, and operates with three lighting levels.Maximum, Optimum or Economy. I used the standard setting most of the time, which was great for proximity use like unhooking fish, baiting up, tying rigs etc.The maximum and boost mode I used rarely, just to check the rod tops for sign of action.

    In boost mode it shines 50 metres for 20 seconds. This gives 50% more light than the maximum mode. It even has a battery charge indicator at the side of the light giving green (full) blue (half) and red (low) readings. A red filter can be slid over the glass on the front to give you a mode for close work that avoids the problems of losing your night vision. Ideal for when you are fishing clear water. Light measurements give you 40 lumens of power with the XP, and an amazing quote of 120 hours of battery life. Lumen is a measurement of luminous flux indicating the total quality of light in all directions. This measurement is complementary to the lighting distance. In effect, different light sources can shine the same distance, but with different intensities.

                               Petzyl based all their lighting measurements around a value of 0.25Lux which is comparable to the light of a full moon on a clear night. They stop measuring the light duration when the lights falls below 0.25Lux at a distance of two metres. Led’s have a very long lifetime and do not require service, so Petzyl give them a 3-year guarantee against faults in materials and manufacture.

                    The standard TACTIKKA gives off 26 Lumens, and is about the same size as the XP,but it weighs even less, coming in at just 78g ,or 2.75ozs with batteries !Battery life is also given as 120 hours, and it can light from 6 to 27 metres. It has a red flip filter to give that subtle proximity lighting, 3 x AAA’s provide the powerpack, and this, like the XP, can have the Option kit for belt clips or hard hats if you don’t want to use the elastic headband. It comes with wide angle tilt front for close work, and would sort out all baiting, unhooking, and rig-tying jobs at close quarters.                       

The beams from the Petzyl lights can last for hours,especially if you use economy mode and good batteries.

Finally there is the tiny, weeny Petzyl E+Lite. It comes in a small plastic pouch that can be attached to the belt, and when opened it weighs….wait for it….a featherweight 27g!! This one is ideal for all the home, camping, car, and loft jobs, never mind fishing, yet it still gives out 45 hours of battery life. It’s waterproof to a metre, and comes with a 10 year guarantee. It can be used in temperatures of +60c down to -30c, and offers 16 Lumens of light output, with 35 hours of battery life on maximum setting, or 45 on Economy. It has a 5-setting lever, giving you Economy, Maximum, white strobe, red strobe or constant red status. Batteries are 2 x CR2032 Lithiums, which are included in the purchase price. This tiny lamp is ideal for using in conjunction with the Anchor pressure lamp when you are down by the surf sorting out a bird’s nest, or scrambling over the rocks. It is essentially a proximity light, but is so light you will forget you are wearing it. I found prices on the Internet as follows—TACTIKKA XP Adapt-£45-95.TACTIKKA Plus-£38-00, and E+Lite-£19-95.Just go into Google and type Petzyl Headlamps Prices and check all the sites.

A good tip I had when fishing thirty years ago off Trimingham beach for cod with Jim Ingledew was to get the lamp up high on a pole to throw the light further. I made one up with a reflector shade of tin foil, but it eventually buckled in a storm and I never got round to replacing it. Now Carl Fuller tells me you can get good Shepherd’s crook type pole holders at garden centres. Apparently 5ft6” crooks for hanging baskets do the same job and are about £15.Try Garden Xtras in Lancing, or similar centres.

                  Finally, here are a couple of Factoids that Petzyl provide for safer operation. Use Alkaline or NiMH rechargeable. Do not use the TACTIKKA with Lithium batteries. Due to recent advances in their performance characteristics (especially their higher output during discharge) they can cause the lamp to overheat and possibly damage the Led’s. Batteries must be inserted correctly with respect to the polarity by following the diagram on the battery case .If one battery is reversed (inserted incorrectly) a chemical reaction is produced in minutes that releases explosive gasses and extremely corrosive liquid. I recall a trip on a plane where I was told to remove all batteries from camera flash/.motor drives etc.I put them into my trouser pocket, together with loose coins. Later on the flight I leapt up, claiming my thigh was about to combust, as the loose coins had been touching the terminals on the batteries, so beware. Light on the beach has never been better, whether you are refurbing your old Anchor lamp, or investing in one of the new super lightweight Petzyl headlamps. Now all you need to do is add fish !……

Contact for Anchor lamps and all the spares-A.J.Fuller. Carl Fuller.4, Brecklands, Stalham.Norwich.NR12 9DX. 7 days a week till 22.30 .email-                                    

For Petzyl, type Petzyl Headlamps Prices into Google and check out all the sites for the best prices


Sunset off Hayling Island. Now is the time to start thinking of lighting.

COPYRIGHT: Graeme Pullen. All rights reserved.