Sometimes it's not until you have returned from a trip that you can properly look back at it with a degree of detachment and think about what happened, what might have happened, and what didn't happen. Both Nick and I are to be honest in a bit of a state of shock at just how awesome those few days were over in France, and for all the amazing stuff that I somehow get to see, photograph and experience as part of my job, I am putting that latest French sortie right up there as one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and I really mean that. Sure, we hammered a heap of fish and I came away with a stack of photographs and therefore material to write about, but more than that for me was the complete experience, the being there, those seas, the people, the weather, the fish of course, the boat, the lures, you name it we were incredibly lucky to get a somewhat surreal and I suppose completely immersive experience.
I don't know how I feel about the word luck, indeed I think I subscribe more to fate. This trip was obviously meant to happen. November off the coast of Brittany could have thrown any kind of weather at us for starters, but it didn't. We had better weather than any of us could have ever dreamt of, and bear in mind that I came very, very close to pulling the plug on the trip a couple of days before we were due to leave because I just did not feel comfortable gambling that much on conditions in November. How glad am I that I ignored those utterly daft long range forecasts and trusted in the French lads that whatever the weather we would be able to do something - but to be able to go to Ouessant and fish around there for the entire trip had to have been fate. It was meant to be.
The silly numbers of pollack aside, it was the bass that we were really after, and again I have to think that it was meant to be that the swell dropped off just enough that one morning to allow Matt to put his RIB very close in to a particular head where the bass were obviously stacked up in serious numbers. When it's really firing I understand that 10lb plus bass are taken in scary numbers, but what we witnessed was plenty awesome enough for us and also my cameras of course. I understand that "la pêche vertical" with shads/paddletails for bass is practised more than I thought here in the UK and of course the Channel Islands, but I did have a bit of a crash course in a few of the other techniques that these French lads are employing. As I said the other day, my biggest frustration is that I can't show how insane the conditions were via a still photograph, and please believe that not for one second am I trying to big-up what we did for some daft macho reason. I just happen to think it's pretty fascinating what a select few of these French nutters really get up to sometimes. OK, so Nick and I both turned to each other a couple of times and admitted to being quite frankly pretty terrified, but at no point was I worried, in that Matt is one highly competent skipper who knows exactly what he's doing. And let's be honest, for all the fish we smashed on those Black Minnows, it was 100% down to Matt and his knowledge/skill levels with placing the RIB in the right places at the right times - Nick and I simply fished how Matt advised us to.
One thing though did really ram home the "extreme side" of it to Nick and I - on the last day we had perhaps a couple of hours to fish before we needed to get back to the mainland and head back to Roscoff to jump on the (gloriously civilised) Brittany Ferries crossing back to Plymouth. The swell had dropped even more and lo and behold there were a couple of commercial bass boats on the head we wanted to fish. Matt got us in there but the commercial guys somewhat unceremoniously chased us off the spot and we went looking for pollack instead. So why weren't they on the spot the day before when we hammered the bass, and bearing in mind that this is about the best time of year ? I must assume that the conditions were too hairy, which does sort of put into perspective the experience we experienced !!
Now for all the incredible stuff that we got to see and go through, at the end of the day it as a work trip for us all, albeit in various different guises. For my part I am gambling that all goes well enough for me to come away with a bunch of photos that enable me to sell features to magazines - if it doesn't go well then I don't make any money for my time and effort, in fact I lose because of the various expenses involved in a trip like that. That though is the job and it's what I have been doing for years now. Nick from Top Water Lures is the UK distributor for the Fiiish Black Minnow lures, and between him and the Fiiish lads I am sure of course that they are looking for publicity and exposure to help sell more lures (and they would be daft not to be) - as to their professional relationship and selling/distributing the Fiiish products, it's none of my business. Work aside though, once again it comes down to the people. The fishing business is about people in my book. Sure, everybody wants something different from a trip like this, but at the end of the day we just get on with what we do and have as much fun doing it as we can. I can't thank the Fiiish lads enough for going out of their way like they did, and for giving Nick and I such an insight into some of the French boat lure fishing. We were there to use, catch fish on and photograph Black Minnows, so I accept completely that this was hardly some comparison trip where we were trying to find out if other lures might work as well or perhaps better. But for all that we were individually trying to get out of the few days, I can speak only as I find, and those Fiiish Black Minnows hammered fish. Are they the ultimate head/hook/body combination out there ? I have no idea, but it's a very clever system that works well, and I do know that the more I fish with them and the more I see them used, the more I believe that they are quite simply lethal fish-catching machines. If you want to take this as no more than Henry trying to help Fiiish/Bass Lures/Top Water Lures sell more of them then that's up to you, but for all that I work in fishing, at the end of the day I am no more than an angler who wants to catch more and bigger fish - exactly the same as you, and if I come across something that I reckon is going to help me do that then I'm going to get pretty excited about it - and then of course you are more than free to take what I do and say in the context which suits you the best. As for me ? Well I count myself incredibly lucky to have been on that trip last week and I will never forget those few days on Ouessant.................