Friday 30 July 2010

Bringing on the Bass

After two unsuccessful nights after another elusive Canal carp, I was starting to get itchy feet and so with some active fishing in mind I couldn't wait to explore a rocky mark down in the South Hams in search of bass and other sea species. Big tides are always favourable in these parts, an extra high tide bringing the fish really close in. My brother has had good results for mullet in these conditions, which feed ravenously on the many maggots which infest the rotting seaweed high up on the tide line. After witnessing a nice bass tail a streamer fly however, I was only going to fish it one way.
A few casts later and one of my sand eel patterns was grabbed- no nips or cagey pulls here but just sudden, solid resistance. As conditions were calm we were using 7/8 weight floating line set ups, which provide absolutely ballistic action with a bass attached! A fish of a pound and a half was admired before a quick release. Great start. The bass was legally "keeper" size, but at this age this slow growing fish may not even have spawned yet, hence the goal of the B.A.S.S (Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society) to increase minimum size limit to 46cm.
With the tide lapping up we hotfooted it over a fresh set of rocks closer to the shore. Within seconds it was clear that some serious predation was going on, with bait fish leaping clear and boils at the surface. It was Ben who struck next, the fish taking in plain view right under his feet. Again, the power of the bass is sensational on a fly rod. This one was just two ounces under three pounds- nice fish, but a cheeky bugger for catching it on one of my own home rolled flies! This one was also carefully released, as was a one pounder. Good karma, I reckon.

From then on in it was mackerel and pollack all the way, skittish looking shoals of sandeels running under our feet and predators never far behind. The raw speed of mackerel is something else when viewed close up- terrific fun on a fly rod too.
What a difference from carp fishing! Don't get me wrong, I enjoy carp too, but it's such a buzz to see fish hunt in clear water and use imitations of what the fish are actually eating (rather than trying to "train" fish to eat bait they wouldn't ever find in nature!). The key to catching at sea always seems to be exploring as much coast as you can, as there is so much space and the fish are never evenly spread. A fast retrieve is also important- sea predators are quick and fully expect to chase their prey down, so long strips of line are best with streamers.

Sunday 25 July 2010

A Game Weekend

The CLA Game Fair made for an entertaining trip this weekend, not to mention an excellent place to meet up with old friends and make new ones in the fishing world. The size alone is quite staggering, with everyone from the carp crew to the green welly brigade having a good sniff around. I always love looking at new flies and lures, but how's this for a novel use of a paddling pool to show the killer action of your wares?:
As a sucker for a stylish lure, Bass Lures ( right up my street, with plenty of hard to find lures from Japan and America. Perhaps the real eye catchers were Sebile's "Magic Swimmer" lures however- the soft versions are versatile and pretty-damn-near-weedless. These look terrific for either bass or pike where weed soon puts the dampers on a sexy wiggle:
Elsewhere it was good to see the Westcountry Rivers Trust in force with exciting prospects of new water opening for next season. I can hardly wait- but for the kind of mouth watering rivers on offer, Total FLyFisher, also at the show, feature a trip to near virgin water on the Okement this month where I joined Westcountry Angling Passport manager Toby Russell for a trip into the wild. (
The Game Fair it might have been, but the coarse side was also out in force. I couldn't resist my chance to pose with the fish of a lifetime- I'm afraid the beautiful common carp below was of the stuffed variety however:
Accidental discoveries of a non angling variety were also welcome at the show though and I loved the birds of prey especially. The African Crowned eagle was one highlight- a massive, beautiful predator which snacks on adult monkeys and wild dogs in its native environment!:
Above all it was a weekend to open up to all sides of fishing. I've joined B.A.S.S (the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society), something I should have done earlier, whilst Sunday was all about the next generation of anglers at the Exeter & District Angling Association's come fishing day.
Two dozen youngsters got a terrific, free introduction to the sport, whilst I helped untangle pole rigs and do the rounds. What a brilliant day- the kids caught roach, crucians, perch and even the odd carp. Watching the simple excitement of youngsters catching fish is always magical- hopefully they'll nag the folks to try again and some of these new recruits have found a hobby that will bring them many happy days by the water.

Thursday 22 July 2010

Camera Tricks

Back on a sunny Tidal Exe (above), I had another meeting with mullet. This time I left the catching in the capable hands of mullet maniac gent Bert Brockington. How unpredictable are these buggers? You just can't account for their antics. Fiddly bites and fine tackle required, and then the next minute one was following Bert's swimfeeder to the bank like a dog on a lead! Most bizarrely of all, Bert once witnessed a group of mullet butting a large carp with their noses to try and bully it away from their patch. Go figure!
Just as I was wondering if we would be back next week to try again, Bert hit a good fish on bread flake. These mullet are real sprinters- astounding power, sleek and streamlined. He followed this up with another thin lip of 3lbs 2oz for good measure too.
Excellent for pictures these fish- quite beautiful in a strange sort of way. Nice work Bert! I learned a lot about these frustrating fish from simply watching rather than fishing. It's also good to see plenty of young fish in the Exe- it's not known for huge specimens, but numbers are up. Bert and the National Mullet Club have long campaigned against netting and perhaps the future now looks brighter for it.

Wednesday 14 July 2010

Canal Carping & Exe Mullet

Feeling half dead, half happy today after an overnighter and some success to redeem an otherwise very tricky fortnight or so of fishing. To catch a carp from Exeter Canal has long been an unfulfilled plan of mine- and finally I have my fish! Back in my match fishing days I used to get smashed occasionally by these creatures- after several unsuccessful sessions last year it was a great feeling to hook one on tackle that offered a fighting chance.
A welcome pressure change may have had something to do with it, as well as trying in the cooler, more antisocial hours of the day to beat the heat. A tigernut worked in the end (I inevitably get just bream on boilies), buried inside a decent sized PVA bag and on a longish hooklength to try and keep weed free. At 6am the run came and I half jumped, half fell forward to grab the rod. Inevitably, the fish had gone for the weed and a very tense stalemate followed for several minutes, just the occasional tap on the line reminding me we were still connected.
Eventually the fish bolted out again- I had tried slackening off, but in the end steady pressure worked; one of those situations where you're grateful of strong tackle and a barbed hook. I had little idea of size at first, so covered in weed was the fish in the net! 13lbs 12oz is no earth shattering fish, but still a very satisfying first for me, having watched these semi wild fish for many years and wondering what it would be like to catch one. So satisfying- and so different from fishing a stocked pond.

Otherwise I had the daft idea to try and end a frustrating spell by fishing for mullet. Not the brightest idea although Paul Hamilton, who knows the tidal well, did manage four to feeder fished bread.
They fought excellently for a few pictures- and whilst I managed to lose the couple which I hooked it was good to see some on the bank.
The mullet are really contrary creatures I always find: usually I can get a few on baited spinners, but I've often struggled with the feeder and with mullet you never quite know whether the day will be dramatically successful or absolutely bloody useless. Perhaps we should be thankful of the mullet for keeping us guessing.
Talking of Mullet, I also couldn't help noticing one of the kids at work had some world cup 2010 stickers featuring legends of the game: lo and behold Glen Hoddle's 1990 mullet was there in all it's glory, a mullet of majestic proportions from the days when grown men sported these barnets proudly, wore shorts the size of swimming trunks and the England team actually played good football.

Thursday 8 July 2010

From Blank to Blank

Amongst all the articles you read about fishing, there's one common phenomena that seldom gets much detail: the dreaded blank. In fact, I'm still waiting to read the feature honest enough to describe a biteless day of soul searching.
Angling writers blank too; they just don't talk too loudly about it. In actual fact, the real die hards in search of elusive specimens can blank many times along the way. But I can't make that excuse of late. Colliford Lake (above), for example, can usually be relied on for a fish or two. The water level was way down on our arrival- strange to be walking on dry land where we've caught fish in times past. A cooler day amidst the scorchers should have proved better though. Witness once again that maddening gap between theory and a fish in the net. From tiny nymphs to big lures, it was all pretty futile. The only monster spotted was a thick shouldered carp crashing the surface- an unknown quantity here, but some good fish hide here completely off the radar. Perhaps a lead someone who checks this blog could follow up? It's fly only, but the fish look susceptible in the shallow corners when the sun is up.
The sea hasn't proved much easier either, despite the River mouth at Seaton looking perfect for an early morning bass on the fly. The sandeels were there- so where were the buggers? Best blanking excuse I heard this year came from a fellow struggler: "the sea's too choppy today." I didn't have the heart to mock, or point out that sea fish are, erm, perhaps used to a few waves?!
Looking at it philosophically, perhaps the blanks make the good days sweeter. Or do the good days make the blank days blanker? Personally, I blame the fish.

Thursday 1 July 2010

A Sea Change

After a long stint in wild Finland, Britain hits you a little like the pounding headache and vague sense of despair that follows a great all night party. In fact, the first week back I scarcely wet a line. The sea has been calling for a while however and Torquay harbour was a surprisingly beautiful place on a balmy evening. The fishing was pretty underwhelming- just one decent mackerel to my usual coarse gear tactics and lots of glum faces on the sea wall.
Never mind, the sea is always a welcome calmative and the real spectacle was to arrive later, Frazer McBain the man responsible for capturing the unreal, stunning colours of a muggy sunset on the coast; for once it was him pleading "lets stay another ten minutes- it'll get better, you'll see." Another surpise were many dozens of mullet swimming underneath the elegant old promenade here.
Wanderlust has got the better of me otherwise, and even when the fishing is indifferent a good walk with a few lures is always interesting. Aside from sunbathing carp on the urban River Exe and the odd jack battering a surface lure, the real highlight has been the ever reliable perch. Even in real sunburn weather, these handsome little buggers will give chase and just occasionally your eyes widen as a much chunkier individual shows up. I'm making it my habit to carry smaller lures these days, as these fish are just as interesting as pike in their own way. The canal stripey pictured below took a fair sized Kuusamo and was caught after I'd seen it follow a smaller fish earlier on, seemingly intent on stealing the lure straight from its mate's gob!
A return to work and England's lame exit from the world cup have been less of a kick, but then I guess summer can't be all fishing and cold beer.