Henry Gilbey
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When your local fishing goes really quiet, do we actually have much of a clue why?

I don’t know how your own local fishing is going at the moment, but here in south east Cornwall it’s been bloody hard work on the bass front for a while now. We had what I think was a pretty early start to the season as such, and then the bass fishing kicked off pretty damn well with some nice fish coming in, only to drop off the edge of a cliff the last few weeks…………….

And if there is one thing that this sudden dropoff proves to me yet again is that we are then left guessing as to why the bass don’t seem to be around in any numbers at the moment. For sure it fascinates me how every single year is different in various ways to the previous year, but around here we have gone from what I would class as some pretty good bass fishing to seriously struggling - and I don’t know why. For sure I can guess, but this sudden drop in bass activity doesn’t half ram it home to me that this fishing thing we do is us (ignorant?) human beings trying but often failing to get one over on the natural world.

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This blog was never going to be an endless report on all my fishing activities, and I personally find it far more interesting to write about fish we or I might catch - or not catch - if there’s a connection back to specific techniques or lures or locations or problem solving and so on. Some anglers count the number of bass they land or enjoy measuring every single fish and putting them up on social media and so on, but that’s just not me and how I operate. We had some good bass fishing up until a few weeks ago but I was never going to report on it all because it just doesn’t interest me to do so. What does interest me now though is why we are now struggling so much.

So things have been weirdly quiet around here for a while, and whilst yes, I accept completely that bass stocks are a shadow of their former selves, I refuse to believe that the bass we were catching have all literally disappeared off the face of the earth. So what’s going on around here? A couple of weeks ago Mark and I were on the beach for a 4.30am start and conditions were perfect. As I went to wade out only to my knees I had sandeels darting away from me and I radioed to Mark further down the beach that this could well be a cracker of a session. Two hours later without a sniff of a fish and we conceded defeat! This time last year we were catching in that location on those sort of conditions and tides.

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There’s a spot I know where I sometimes go night fishing for bass, and with the right tides and conditions I’d fancy my chances of catching at least a bass most sessions - but even this place has gone eerily quiet. We finally got some south and south west winds a while back and things fizzed up nicely, but still it was like a desert out there - why though? I should know more about the spawning habits of bass, but might that have something to do with it? Does a generally mild winter and then a strong early start to the bass fishing mean later spawning?

I wonder if there is a lot of food offshore and the bass are out there feeding on that? I hear a lot of second hand reports about how in some areas both inshore and offshore anglers are struggling to find bass at the moment, but this information is rarely first hand and obviously when you see anglers posting their catches on social media they are not exactly shouting about the blanks! You’d expect to see peaks and troughs throughout the season, but I can’t recall seeing a local trough quite like this at a time of year when we would usually expect to be in the middle of some pretty consistent fishing. Anybody know what’s going on out there, or are we all just clutching at straws with how little we do actually know about what is going on when the fishing goes so quiet?

When things pick up again then these recent struggles I am sure will fade away and be forgotten about, but as an angler who strives to learn and learn and learn, my brain starts to churn and I think about things such as the bass’ prey species and what might be going on with that side of things. How much do we really know about what bass feed on at different times of the year for example? Is my struggling at the moment also down to my lack of knowledge? Do we learn more when the fishing is tougher because perhaps we slightly take it for granted when the fishing is going well? Fishing to me is so much the eternal quest for answers to the many, many questions I have, and I cannot tell you how strangely reassuring it is to have it rammed home to me recently that I am just as far away from knowing it all as I ever was……………..