Well I've done my first official work as a bass fishing guide and I cannot tell you how much I have learnt. Although the fishing in Kerry was tough, the main thing is that our clients left happy, and I must put that down to the sheer majesty of Kerry itself, the quite outstanding setup that is John and Lynn Quinlan's Thatch Cottage Ireland, the fishing (even if it was hard), and I would hope a little bit of what I was able to offer. I was lucky in that the group of four clients could not have been nicer, and the fact that they were all good anglers was kind of ideal. I would like to extend a monster thanks to John and Lynn for being so open to me giving this guiding thing a go, and also for looking after me to well.
To spend a few days in Kerry once again was like living in a dream land, and when the fishing goes off and the light comes good I think I would have serious trouble breathing properly. Fishing/guiding/photographing amongst that landscape takes your breath away and I caught myself looking around about a million times a day and having to pinch myself that I really was working in the middle of a place that is as breathtaking as I remembered it being - I can only hope that my photographs go some way towards showing you how awesome Kerry is, albeit I know how hard it is to convey such a sense of scale within the confines of a still image.
My respect for good fishing guides is even more than it already was. John Quinlan works silly hours to try and put his clients onto fish, and there is so much that goes on in the background that clients don't see. I suppose we were on the go for around 14-16 hours a day and I loved every single second of it - just the simple fact of being in all that fresh air for such long periods is a bonus, and not once did I struggle with not fishing myself, although I am going to have to spend some time down there as an angler again.
One thing that tore me up though was the photography, and I will explain why. On the one hand I would have loved to shoot the living daylights out of the four days, because we had many periods when the light and conditions really went off - but I was there to guide, and as such I shot a fairly small amount. But John and I sold these four client spaces along the lines of us two working together as guides and along with my photography - now to be honest, we were not entirely what side of the photography we were actually selling, in that did people want a bit of help and tuition with their photography, or did they want me working around them with my cameras to then get them some photos of their fishing, fish etc.?
Well some of the feedback we got is that the clients would have liked me to take more photographs, and I find that absolutely fascinating - I was not hugely comfortable with taking any photos at all because I was very aware that taking photographs was pulling me away from guiding (albeit my time spent on photos was minimal at best), but then it ends up that the clients want more. Now this is my fault entirely, and it is my inexperience at doing something different to my more usual feature work that came through. I think with a feature/book head on when I take photos, so when I was working as a guide I was conscious of guiding - and I missed the fact that to have lots of (what I hope are at least semi-decent) photographs of your fishing holiday is really important to a holidaying angler, and my questionable business sense stopped me thinking about my properly photographing a trip like this for the benefit of the clients as being a unique selling point.
I take photos for a living, I love taking photos, and I am hugely proud of most of the photos I take. But nobody photographs me, I don't want anybody taking photos of me, and so I suppose that my memories of all these trips I do are contained within the photos I shoot of other people. But with this guiding thing I have to distance myself from what I do regularly and think about the fact that such an experienced bass fishing guide as John Quinlan working with an established fishing writer/photographer (me!!) is a unique product, and I must recognise it as that and in the future market it more like that. I have always felt uncomfortable being "recognised" for anything, but of course I must play to my strengths and recognise that photographs are memories for clients who let's face it most likely simply are not out there nearly as much as we are. Loads to think about as I am sure you can guess!!
I stopped off in Dungarvan for couple of days on my way home, and as per usual I stayed in the Gold Coast Golf Resort - why? Because it's perfect for anglers. I like to have easy access to the Copper Coast (essentially Dungarvan to Tramore) and also the extensive Dungarvan Bay fishery, plus west of there as well. Staying in Dungarvan puts me right in the middle of the fishing I love so much, and it was hugely satisfying to walk out of where I was staying, not get in the car, and a little later be dragging a chunky 7lb plus bass into my net.
Why no photos? Because I was fishing on my own. Sure, I could grip the bass' bottom lip and shoot a few head shots, but I was up to my chest in water and my camera bag was some way back. That 7lb bass walloped a 12g/120mm Fiiish Black Minnow the moment it hit the bottom, and I managed to net it, slip the barbless hook out (shock horror, you won't lose bass on barbless single and treble hooks if you fight them properly), weigh the fish by gripping onto the net with my BogaGrip, and then release the bass without ever having to even handle the fish. Sure, I would have loved to get some photos, but if I had been fishing with somebody I would have asked them to hold the fish anyway - as I often do. I don't need photos of me with fish and I have always been uncomfortable with fishing writers or photographer appearing in the magazine features they write. Oh, and one thing I will never be doing is laying the bass down flat on a rock and shooting a few photos of it like that - it's just not my thing at all.
I have been looking forward to trying out the YUM "Lil' Suzy" paddletails, and I managed to nail a fish on one by fishing it weightless/weedless on a slow straight retrieve. I am also starting to give the brand new Varivas Avani Sea Bass Max Power Tracer 8-strand braid a proper workout, and so far it's behaving absolutely impeccably - my hope is that it's a bright green version of the stupidly good (grey) Varivas Avani Sea Bass Max Power PE 8-strand, and so far, so very, very good. Not cheap, but then the best 8-strands never are. I am sure that a better lure rod than the 9' Major Craft Skyroad will eventually cross my radar (review here), but currently I am struggling to see how a bass rod can get much better than this thing, and I just keep on loving fishing with it. I can't trip the rod up with any of the lure techniques I am using.
Now obviously I had to drop into the den of temptation that is Absolute Fishing in Tramore - Cian was showing me these brand new Bait Breath TT Shads you can see above, and already some of the Irish lads are reporting good bass on them. I bet they would work great on a jig head that is either bounced along in a current or fished with a slow sink and draw - just how we often fish with the Black Minnows. Honestly, the tail movement on these Bait Breath TT Shads is ridiculous, and I have it on good authority that a certain somebody rigged one up and swum it in the bath at home in order to get a really close look at the tail. No names mentioned, but there is a chance that this certain somebody owns a tackle shop about half an hour east of Dungarvan....................