I have known Nick Hart for years now - he is a fly fishing guide and instructor based at the stunning Exe Valley fishery up on the Somerset/Devon border, and over the years we have done loads of fishing related stuff together. I was actually meant to photograph his wedding some years ago but I got stuck out on Vancouver Island with 9/11. Nick has grown up fly fishing, but over the last few years he has really got into lure fishing as well - we spoke the other day and I asked if he would kindly do a guest blog post. Make sure to check out Nick's own blog here. Oh, and that's Nick on the front cover of Sea Angler magazine from earlier this year with a lure-caught bass from Dungarvan Bay on the south coast of Ireland.
A few days back I read a post by Henry which posed a very interesting question, "Is lure fishing a possible future for fishing?" I read the responses with interest and realised that this was one of Henry's famous thought provoking teasers that really doesn't have a black or white answer. But of course we all have an opinion and did they ever come thick and fast. Quite literally the comment box had turned into a collection of essays and such are my feelings on the subject that I began to type in earnest. About 750 words in I paused and gave Henry a call to see if he would mind me posting such a long response within the comments section (especially as I hadn't finished!) or perhaps I could do something on my own blog? Instead he offered me the chance to say my piece as a guest on his blog. So here it is!
I obviously work in the trade and so whatever I type next could easily be misconstrued as nothing more than a vested interest in business rather than fishing. However, I think that anyone who is involved with the industry rarely enters into the world of tackle, guiding etc., because they want to make a fortune or get rich quick (although please do tell me if there is a way so that I can begin visiting all the places in Henry's new book!) It's because we love fishing. And surely that is what it is all about? Why wouldn't we want to spread the word? Underground, secretive cliques abound in so many walks of life but surely fishing shouldn't be one of them.
Three years ago I had my first proper go at lure fishing and loved it because of the mobility, directness of braid, light tackle approach and requirement to work lures such as soft plastics had so much in common with my first love; fly fishing. A couple of years later I even went ahead and stocked a few lures in the shop before quickly realising that I was out of my depth. However by working with my mate Cian over at Absolute Fishing I am pleased to report that several of my clients now own their own lure fishing kits. Likewise Cian has organised several saltwater fly fishing kits for his customers. Ok so we have each made a little bit of profit on those deals by working together; is that wrong? Should we feel guilty? We both have families to feed after all. But that's not really my point. Isn't it just great to see some barriers coming down in fishing or should we all just stick to what we know? I can honestly say that since I picked up a lure rod for the first time three years ago that I have learned more about saltwater fishing than I did in the previous decade, mainly through meeting a bunch of new people who I may never have come across had I stuck purely to my fluff chucking ways.
If I am truly honest one of the main reasons that I turned to the lure was to target bass in conditions which made the fly more or less impossible ... or practically insane! For several seasons I put it off, hoping beyond hope that eventually I would crack the code which enabled me to catch lunker bass from the shore on fly. The reality is that generally speaking when the conditions are right for bass on the rocks it is nigh impossible to fish effectively with the fly. I can still remember vividly that first cast with braid using a lightweight rod and the pulsating feeling relayed back to hand by the lure working somewhere out in the distance. My underlying thought was, "this is so easy!" This is why I think lures are a great way to introduce children to fishing. Sure, sending them down a cliff face (I have had my share of problems negotiating them myself!) to be pounded by waves may be a little extreme, but surely there has to be a simple way to inspire the younger generation to try fishing?
As much as the small child staring hard at a float hoping for a perch to take their bait may make us go all Mr Crabtree the reality is that times have changed. How much? Well I have had a few parents turn up with their kids to the fishery which I manage here in Somerset clutching a Nintendo DS or some other godforsaken games console ... just in case they get bored! To encourage these youngsters to put down the computer we have a specific "any method" pool where they can try a Mepps spinner (cheap!) and learn how to work a fixed spool reel. We even have a few ready made up spinning kits which we loan out free of charge. This policy has encouraged parents to visit with their family and try their luck on a lake stocked full of trout, which will almost certainly result in success. The necessity for patience, watercraft and all those other important fishing skills may not be discovered upon this venue but it allows children to experience a mobile, action packed style of fishing for the first time. Sit them behind a bite alarm and before long I reckon their attention would be focused on a liquid crystal display rather than what was going on under the water. General sea fishing was mentioned within the comments as a great way of introducing kids and I could not agree more. My children love catching blennies and go nuts for crabbing, but we are not so far from the coast. Kids living in the Midlands don't have immediate access to the ocean, but there are plenty of trout fisheries in the region. Imagine if some of those venues became lure friendly.
I have watched well-meaning parents here at Exe Valley attempting to introduce their children to fly fishing with "mixed" results ... those who have opted to take some time out on the any-method lake and cast a spinner have fared much better. We also have a parent/child ticket scheme which keeps the cost down, especially when compared with the price of a computer game! Perhaps a Mepps isn't deemed a proper lure these days? In which case why not try out something like the amazing little Cultiva Ring Twin Tails on a mini jig head or even push the boat out and add a couple of those Spearhead Ryuki 45S lures to your collection. Trout love them....and salmon! (Nick, check this link here for some awesome looking trout fishing on lures from Serbia - wow !!).
But there is a problem which I am sure you have already noted. Most trout fisheries are fly only and I know that the majority of my contemporaries wish for it to remain so. The mere thought of a lure being hurled out next to them makes their blood boil and there is no doubt that it is seen as a crude form of sport by many in the game fishing world. That is a whole subject in its own right and as I have now surpassed the 1000 word mark I had better not outstay my welcome on Henry's blog! For the record my view is that wild trout fisheries would no doubt suffer if "unregulated" lure fishing became popular (or indeed legal) but what exactly are we trying to protect on a stocked stillwater? Hanningfield Reservoir in Essex and Bewl in Kent are two examples of game fisheries who have flung open their doors to a variety of methods to try and sustain their futures. And there is a message there; like it or not venues such as these are businesses which must at least break even. Isn't it better to encourage lure fishing and safeguard them or should we just allow them to close while maintaining a stiff upper lip and muttering to ourselves that "at least we didn't turn to the dark side". Believe it or not this is the term I have hurled at me by more than a few fellow fly fishers since adding a fixed spool rig to my tackle collection ... oh and quite a large (growing!) assortment of lures!
OK, I am heading towards 1500 words now and that's magazine feature territory so I had better shut up! So in wrapping up this guest post I would like to thank Henry for giving me this opportunity and leave you with this thought. Our kids are the future of our sport and also the decision makers in seasons to come. If we don't do something now to encourage them and indeed their parents to take up a rod, how will the world of angling look in 10 years time? Sure we would all love to keep secret our special marks and no doubt it is frustrating to have them exposed via the internet. But lure fishing isn't the problem, that's the World Wide Web which has been massively effective in promoting all kinds of fishing, but is also bound to have some negatives. Let's embrace the positives, keep the glass half full and allow things to take their course. Lure fishing isn't going to save the world, but right now it seems to be growing in popularity and could help to swell the ranks battling to save threatened species such as bass and salmon ... which is the real issue isn't it?