Nothing humbles you like fishing!!

My apologies for the lack of blog posts last week when I was out in Ireland, but we had a bad internet connection and the fishing also got really tough. After that fast start you can’t help but think yes, here we go (check my previous blog post), and although we got a few more fish off the beaches at night on those slow-retrieved white senkos, for the most part there was a real lack of bass around last week and we struggled. Nobody would ever say that bass stocks anywhere are in the rudest state of health, but it was interesting how we saw virtually no bait fish around, and as much as we want these bass to behave for us, it has always been my understanding that the fish ain’t coming close inshore for a bit of fun - if the food is somewhere else, that is surely where they are. My view is that we just hit a set of tides when the bass we might hope to see had quite simply sodded off, and I wonder if the forecast over there for this week might get things moving again. As always, you can but pick your times and tides and hope to be over in Ireland when the bass fishing kicks off……

As tough as the fishing was though, I have come away with what I really wanted to get - a great big jolt of confidence that I can give my local waters a serious go with those white senkos at night, and now knowing that even if on a particular night the bass aren’t playing ball that I am fishing “correctly” as such. I am pretty sure the bass I caught last week on this method were the first ones I have actually caught (and not just witnessed) at night on soft plastics - it doesn’t matter if you see fish coming in like this, because as much as this might get the interest levels going, you and I both know that nothing gives absolute confidence as much as catching the fish yourself. My brain is now churning like you would not believe with various places I might try around where I live, and whilst night fishing and having to use loads of harsh flash for the grip and grin photographs breaks me creatively, I am out and about that much in lots of awesome light that I reckon I can live with it.

A friend of mine who was over in Ireland a couple of weeks before we headed out had a very interesting few days - they got the kind of conditions that you tend not to wish for around the Copper Coast area, save for the fact that of course we have hammered plenty of good bass in bright calm conditions when the estuaries etc. (areas with current) are fishing well. These lads made the decision to take their night fishing techniques from back home and apply them to some of the Irish beaches, and they caught a heap of fish - now I don’t like quoting numbers of fish as I don’t think it does much, but I do know that nearly 85% of the bass they caught were taken at night on white senkos in calm conditions, and around 50% of those bass were around the 6lb to 8.5lb size. Pretty frigging good if you ask me, and I find it absolutely fascinating that if they hadn’t turned to the night fishing then they would have ended up having a relatively tough few days.

Somewhat ironically we then had a fair amount of onshore winds that gave some pretty nice conditions for the open coast, yet it just wasn’t fishing very well - or at least it wasn’t for us with the knowledge levels we have of where to go and when. We had a few fish off the beaches at night on the white senkos, but in reality we could have done with more of those calmer conditions for that kind of fishing - anglers eh, never happy with the weather!! But in reality it gives me huge hope for future Ireland trips and of course my bass fishing around home, because if I persist with learning about this night fishing with soft plastics like these innocuous looking senkos, then perhaps in time I will come to jump for joy at dark, calm nights instead of continually wishing for lovely bouncy conditions to get the open coast fizzing up. Put on our arses by the bass fishing last week we might well have been, but I have another string to my bow and all the confidence I need to see where I can go with it……….

Crumbs, white senkos at night on a clean beach - that'll do me just fine!!

Holy frigging cow - first night in Ireland and we’ve started with a bang. I’ve caught a bunch of bass on white senkos fished in muckier water during the daytime, but up until last night I had never caught one at night on one of these rather innocuous looking soft plastic lures. Steve was out here a couple of weeks ago and they hammered a lot of good bass at night on white senkos, of course bearing in mind that for most of their trip they had pretty calm conditions and as such the open coast wasn’t exactly bouncing - which kinda then pushed them into doing a fair bit of night fishing……

So we got to our rental house here at the Gold Coast just before 8pm last night, having checked out the conditions at a spot we had an eye on fishing at last light and into dark for the first few hours of the push. It would be remarkably foolish of me not to pick the brains of a thoroughly talented lure angler who has been doing so well via this particular method (Stee who was once Steve), and as per us fishing these senkos during daylight hours, a slow, straight retrieve at night seems to prove killer. Why does white seem to work so well at night when you tend to hear far more about black being the killer colour when it’s dark? Beats me, but with the amount of fish these lads have caught on these colour soft plastics, there has to be something to it.

So much of this fishing is about confidence, and quite simply I needed to try and catch a bass on a white senko at night to then give me the confidence that firstly I am doing it right, and secondly that I should be taking this uber-simple method and applying it to my home waters. I have caught a fair number of bass at night on various hard lures, but standing in the gentle surf last night and slowly retrieving a soft lure that to our eyes does squat in the water, and I will admit to a degree of scepticism!! Which flew right out of the window when a bass around 3.5lbs smashed my senko before it got dark.

To be honest that would have done me just fine. I set out to do something and fortunately it went to plan, and that single bass give me all the confidence I needed to add another method to my armoury. But about 12.30 last night and no more than fifteen yards off my rod tip, a proper bass went and absolutely smashed into my white senko, and I reckon the fish was in no more than 2-3’ of water. Cian was fishing close to me and he kindly came running over to help me get the thing landed, secured, unhooked, and then held in the water while I sorted out a camera and flashgun for a couple of pix. As good as the scrap was, I did get a bit of a shock when Cian’s BASS tape showed the fish as 76cms long, indeed this was the first bass I have caught that I have ever had measured in my life.

Now if that bass had been really fat I guess it might have made the 10lb mark, but whatever the BASS measure might suggest (and at the end of the day it is only a guide for the likes of us to use), I am giving the lean bass 9lbs maximum - and I am over the frigging moon!! I’d have settled quite happily for the single smaller fish, principally because I caught on a method of fishing that I had no properly explored before, but of course that bigger bass was a bit of icing on the cake. First night in Ireland and this perfectly glorious place does it yet again. White senkos at night - if you’d said to me five years ago I would have been fishing like I was last night with those lures I might have giggled, and this proves to me yet again that it’s just plain stupid to dismiss stuff in fishing………

Do you ever have those sessions when loads goes wrong and you just know you're fishing like a tit?

You do don’t you, or is it just me? Yesterday morning was just about the most perfect example of a quick session when most things went wrong for me, and I just knew that I was fishing like a complete tit into the bargain. Almost nothing felt right if that makes sense. A part of me wanted to scream at my ineptitude, but the other more logical side was in fact celebrating getting all the crap stuff out of the way before I head over to Ireland on Sunday morning……

So I picked Mark up at 4am yesterday morning - with flat calm conditions we had decided to fish a bit of current and time it with an early start. It was thick fog out on the roads and I am having to take it pretty easy. Halfway there and we see a “Road Closed” sign, so I take the detour and the fog’s even worse on this road. Aside from nearly running into a deer, it was no real bother, and in pretty quick time we are parking up and walking out to our chosen spot. I put my camera rucksack down, clip a white senko on, and give it a few chucks with a nice slow retrieve - and about my fifth cast I go and get a beauty of a wind-knot with some braid that has never given me one single second of hassle. Just about a perfect start!!

There isn’t a hope in hell of picking this wind-knot out, so I go back to my bag, dig out my glasses (getting older eh?) and some leader, and set about cutting back to the wind knot and tying a new leader on. No worries with the leader knot, but when I tie on my lure clip, the fluoro goes and breaks on this knot. I had forgotten that this happened to me the other day as well, and as with getting a wind knot in some braid that I had never had any problems with, this particular fluoro has performed impeccably for me for a while now - it’s a new spool this year and I wonder if it’s possible to simply get a dodgy one? Let’s just say that by now Mark can without doubt hear the odd expletive wafting gently through the fog from my general direction.

I pull a spool of 15lb Amnesia out of my bag and tie on a new leader, which then promptly breaks when I go to tighten it up, and by now I am looking up to the sky to see if somebody up there is looking down and laughing at me. I tie another leader knot which holds fine this time, and by some miracle I then manage to tie on a lure clip and everything holds. I wander off across some very slippery rocks, and yes, I was convinced my luck was so badly off that I was as good as crawling across them because I fully expected it to be that kind of morning when I tripped and broke my neck.

I clipped on one of those small TT Shads rigged weedless, which I then went and snagged on a thick bit of kelp out in front of me. Mightily gingerly I waded out to free the lure up, whilst of course making sure that Mark wasn’t looking over as I fully expected to step right in a great big hole and fill my waders up - but somehow I didn’t, and I got the lure back as well, albeit with not a sniff of a fish for my efforts. We fish on but without any real signs of bass, save for a single fish having a couple of slashes at my surface lure. I can’t pretend I felt a huge amount of confidence on this spot, but if you don’t try a few different things when open coast conditions are tough, how are you ever going to find stuff out?

One last cast I tell myself, and I do one of those quick flicks kind of cast with my Skimmer, only to hear that horrible sound when a wind-knot bunches up and flies through the rings. My second sodding wind knot with braid that never wind-knots on me, and I have absolutely decided that it was one of these sessions for me when it’s just not going to come together!! I reckon the bass that slashed at my surface lure could have gone and impaled itself and I would most likely have missed it because I was fishing like such a tit. I pack up by winding the wind-knot back through the guides (as with the other one, not a bloody hope of getting this one out) to sort out back at home. Oh, and on the drive back we choose to ignore the “Road Closed” signs and see what’s up, only to find that there are no bloody roadworks anyway!! Here’s to hoping that my skill levels over in Ireland next week are at least a little better……

Potentially good news on bass MLS, but why can't newspapers get (sea) bass right?

As per below from The Times on Monday, it is seeming increasingly likely that an increase in the bass MLS (Minimum Landing Size) from 36cms to 42cms will be agreed next month, and of course this is potentially some more good news as regards the future of the bass stocks. Any chance that bass have to grow that bit bigger and hopefully get the chance to breed before being hoovered up has got to be a good thing, but have a look at that article from The Times and see if you notice anything slightly amiss………

We only have one kind of bass in UK waters, and they happen to live in saltwater. As far as I know these bass have been called simply bass for many years, so why on earth does a newspaper like The Times feel the need to call them sea bass? Are they worried that their readership either won’t know what a bass is, or that the fish could be mistaken for bass, as in bass guitar etc.? Is it a modern, chef kind of thing to call bass sea bass, and is it increasingly here to stay? I understand completely if there is a distinction that needs to be made between fresh and saltwater bass, but since we don’t have freshwater bass in the UK, how about bass remain simply bass? Does one have to assume that the lack of general awareness of the natural world will soon mean that a fish like cod gets referred to as sea cod? Remember the attempt to rebrand pollack as colin?

This minor gripe aside, I am guessing that all of you did a double-take at the main photograph used in the article and thought hang on, those fish don’t look like “our” bass!! As a photographer myself who has also had a little bit of experience of the power of the press when they got hold of the fact that we saw a great white shark off the coast of north Cornwall some years back, it winds me up no end that an article all about (sea) bass in a “proper” newspaper like The Times can’t get things right and use a photograph of the kind of bass that are being talked about in the article - instead of what I am guessing are Chilean sea bass. How hard is it to get things right? I remember being interviewed by various newspapers over that white shark, and then reading the subsequent articles and realising that they bore little correlation to what I had actually said.

I bet you what happened was that a picture researcher was tasked with the job of finding a suitable photo of “sea bass” to go with an article on sea bass, so they tap “sea bass” into a stock library such as Getty, Corbis etc., and up comes this non-bass as we know it photo - because it’s most likely tagged as “sea bass”. In the article it goes, out goes the newspaper, and at the end of the day I suppose it doesn’t really matter save for the fact that to me it’s lazy and kinda misleading to get something this simple so wrong. If I went and sent the wrong photos in to say Sea Angler to go with one of my articles, I would get my knuckles wrapped. Forget about my grumpiness though, because really I am wanting to jump for joy that this increase in the MLS might actually happen. Nothing is guaranteed of course, but things do seem to be happening with regards to (sea!!) bass preservation/rescue/rebuilding etc.