Monday 27 May 2024

All about the Bass

With high tide due around 2100 in nicely fading light we’d normally be fishing one of the open beaches for Rays but last week’s visit to an interesting estuarine location had stirred our juices so Giles and I couldn’t resist another trip.  The day was sunny and bright with a light breeze from the north, the hike raised a sweat and had us puffing, we arrived by the water around 1630.  Today I’d brought a lure rod and I started off with this and it soon became apparent that there were a few Bass about as they were showing in shallow water.  I spent half an hour going through the lure box, chopping and changing but I couldn’t get a bite.  It seemed like the fish were moving around, coming into range then moving out again as we’d seen them do before elsewhere in the past.

By 1700 I had two rods fishing running leger rigs with long hooklengths; my normal ‘light rod’ was baited with a bit of squid and a 1980’s vintage carp rod was baited with ragworm.  There were obviously fish about so I was confident we’d soon be getting amongst the Bass but it didn’t work out, we sat looking up at the rod tips but they weren’t doing anything.  I tried the lure rod from time to time and saw a decent sized fish swirl at a shallow diver but still couldn’t get one to take the bait.  Then at last, after ninety minutes the old carp rod started bouncing and I had the first Bass of the night on ragworm.  Had a number of fish moved in to the area?  No, the next ninety minutes were fishless but my confidence didn’t waver, I was sure the Bass would arrive eventually.

And so they did, with the tide reaching its peak and the bay full of water the fish moved in, Giles caught two quickly and I managed a second.  The fading light and ebbing tide brought a flurry of action and we had bites on all rods bringing our total to eight Bass and a couple of Eels.  Fishy baits had remained untouched so by now we were using rag exclusively.  As the water dropped again the fish moved out of the bay and longer casts to the edge of the main current brought bites, with not much crab activity we could leave the baits out a while knowing we’d eventually get a bite.  Around 2200 I was alerted by expletives from Giles’ direction, his lighter rod was hooped over as a fish took line off the clutch.  This fish put up quite a battle and Giles’ patience was rewarded with a new PB Bass!

Spurred on by this we stayed later than planned, the gaps between bites was getting longer but they still kept coming if we waited long enough.  We had a couple more fish each, my final one came around midnight and just like last week it tried to drag in a rod that was rested against my chair and also like last week was my biggest of the night.  After a successful session the hike back through the marsh didn’t feel as arduous as it should have but this illusion was exposed once I sank into a comfortable car seat!

Another Saturday shift came to an end at 1600 and just over an hour later me and Giles were laden with gear and heading for the water.  The tides this week were all over the place and tonight we would be fishing through low tide and part of the flood.  Most sea anglers will reckon this is the worst time to go and my experience supports this but we were heading back to the estuary where we felt confident we’d be in with a chance of Bass, especially as night descended.

We were fishing by 1730, I’d reverted back to the beachcaster and left the carpy rod at home this week as it had felt a bit sloppy for fishing in this kind of current.  I had a leger rig with a long hooklength on each rod and chucked lures around from time to time.   In hindsight tonight we probably set up in front of water that was a little too shallow for this part of the tide.  There were fish about giving the odd fast rattle but nothing you could strike at and three hours into the trip we hadn’t managed to drag anything fishy up the beach.  But by now the sun had left the scene, the light was fading and the water level was rising rapidly, sure enough the fish moved in.

Bites came in flurries of two or three in a ten minute period followed by half an hour or so where nothing happened and you began to doubt the bait was still in place, then bang!  A tip light was dancing and another shoal of fish had moved in, from what we’ve learnt over the last few years this seems to be a feature of Bass fishing.  Another thing we’ve realised is you will never hit all the bites and we both missed several.  The fish we did land were a good average size, most would have made a decent meal if not quite legal.  Around 2230 I had a bite on the light rod and a fish that pulled back for a bit, a beautiful silver Bass bang on legal size had I been of a mind to eat one, which I wasn’t.  I hadn’t got this bait back out before the heavy rod was pogoing, this one was a bit smaller but still a nice fish.

After a quiet half hour the light rod banged again and I was in.  Straight away I said “this is a better one…” as something a little heavier was writhing and wriggling.  Bass this size fight bloody hard but on the tackle we have to use to present a bait they are never going to be stripping line, when this one ran along the shore I followed it with the rod tip then when it was close enough Giles grabbed the leader and dragged it up the beach.  A couple of pounds of beautiful shiny silver was unhooked, admired and slipped back in the sea.  A few minutes later the same rod banged again and it was the smallest fish of the night.  We fished on for another hour but the bites dried up and as usual our energy was also ebbing, our tally at the end was into double figures.

We’d never fished this estuary spot before this spring but after three consecutive visits it seems we might have stumbled on a little gem.  We’ve learned a few decent spots where we are confident we’ll catch Bass but this one ticks all the boxes and we’re starting to get our heads around how best to fish it.  However next time out we’ll probably be elsewhere doing something completely different.

Sunday 12 May 2024

Saturday to Saturday

Working Saturdays has never felt right to me and the feeling intensifies when your football team is playing its biggest game in over two decades…  But the heavy lifting had been done on a horrific, nervous midweek evening and today a goal midway through the first half made the afternoon comfortable.  I can hardly believe I’m typing this, the Town are going up!  After that the time soon passed even with an evening by the sea to look forward to.

Around 1730 Giles, Trev and I arrived at our favourite beach to fish the evening tide and everything seemed spot on.  The south easterly wind stopped the seaside temperature from rising too much but the sky was clear and the day dry.  Small waves rolled gently onto the sand, there wasn’t much turbulence out there and with high tide still four hours away everything looked good.  I expected bites from the start and was unwisely vocal in my confidence that we’d catch a Ray or two, I really should know better by now.  The breeze was light and the waves small so our rod tips didn’t have the normal rhythmical movements but unfortunately there were no fishy movements either.  For three hours we sat there fishless, not a nibble but as they say – the craic was good.

Finally as the sky was dimming I had a rattle on the light rod and winding in brought a small, brown fishy disc.  Another tiny Turbot had taken a small strip of Mackerel on a size 2.  This was not the start of anything good or bad, the tide continued to rise and the sky grew darker, the ‘best time’ came and went.  We were starting to think about packing up but full darkness and high tide did actually bring a bit of action for all of us.  Not the rays we’d hoped for but we shared a few Dogfish and I had a solitary Whiting.  By 2300 we were out of energy and head for home.  Trips like this may be disappointing but its good to be reminded how little we really know.

Working weekends comes with the payback of days off mid week so a couple of days later, for the first time in a very long time I found myself coarse fishing on a small lake I’d never even seen before.  I joined this club because of the chance of a bit of winter Chub fishing but as it has a few stillwaters and I had a bit of time, why not?  Today was just a ‘look see’ with a couple of rods thrown in so I didn’t get up early and it was 0930 before I’d got a couple of baits in.  On one rod I float fished corn in the margins over a couple of hands full of hemp and on the other an open end feeder was fished helicopter style with a couple of bits of fake corn on a short hooklength.  This was under armed to my right along side a reedbed.  Sweetcorn and hemp fished close on a warm spring morning, what could possibly go wrong?  I was confident I’d catch something.

The morning was warm and bright, for the first time this year the sun was making its presence felt on my ginger skin but it was lovely being out.  The lake is surrounded but old trees and the bird song was pleasant, I heard a cuckoo for this first time this year and high up a Buzzard mewed.  I’d walked round to get the north breeze on my back and when selecting the swim I’d managed to pick the only one on the lake without any shade.  After ninety minutes cooking I hadn’t had a bite and I needed to move for the sake of comfort if nothing else.  I tidied up, wound the rods in then went for a wander.

By midday I was settled again, fishing a little point near an entrance to a small bay.  The feeder was swung to the right towards the bay and I float fished corn in eight foot of water close to an overhanging tree.  The new swim was shady and comfortable and the water in front of me looked fishy but my luck didn’t change and I remembered I’ve always been rubbish at this kind of fishing.  I love using a float but honestly I’m better off sitting behind a couple of buzzers.  The most interesting thing to happen during the early afternoon was a thing swimming towards me.  I assumed it was a carp’s dorsal but as it got closer I saw it was actually a grass snake, the first I’d seen for a long time.

After a while I wound in the float rod and swapped the corn for a worm off the compost heap. This was swung out again but didn’t bring an instant change of fortunes.  A couple of recasts later the float finally sank and I struck into a fish with spirit if not size, my first coarse fish of the season was a little Perch that was beautifully vivid.  I figured where there’s one there is often more, out went another worm but the fish hadn’t read the script.  An hour later I’d had enough and packing up was quick and easy.  The lake is nice but something tells me it would require more effort than I’m prepared to put in.

Saturday again, no work this weekend so this was the most convenient day to fish but with high tide in the early afternoon where should I go?  I’d been bouncing ideas off Giles during the week and we’d suggested trying somewhere totally new, targeting Bass at an estuary spot.  Local social media had announced the Bass were well and truly in the rivers and from the pictures shown even we could work out where they’d been caught from.  So being bloody minded and antisocial we decided to fish a totally different river.  Last summer we tried mostly for the Rays and we hadn’t used ragworm at all but the number of Bass we caught dropped dramatically.  If we are targeting Bass then ragworm is a must.

In the end I ended up flying solo and as I drove east I almost talked myself out of exploring, it would have been much easier to stick to somewhere I knew but in the end my desire for solitude won and I found myself leaving the car in a different car park and hiking across an unfamiliar marsh.  It was a bit of a scramble to get to the waterside but once there I dropped the gear and surveyed the wide stretch of river in front of me.  To the south was a wide creek mouth and the more I looked at it the more I couldn’t look anywhere else so I hoisted the gear again and finally settled on a corner with slowly eddying water in front of me and a powerful flood tide further out.  My first casts were pretty much bang on high tide, as usual I fished a squid on the heavy rod and lobbed it towards the edge of the main current, too far out would see the rig being swept away.  On the light rod I used a simple running leger with a hooklength around three feet and a ragworm on a size 1, this was dropped in the slack water and I settled back.  The area looked as fishy as hell and I felt confident despite never having even looked at this spot before today.

The day was warm, clear and bright but the north east wind was a cool one, blowing against the tide and whitening the wave tops.  I didn’t know what to expect but it felt right and sure enough the light rod rattled after a few minutes.  I wound in my first Bass of the season which was very welcome, despite being one of the smallest I’ve ever caught.  Where there’s one Bass there’s usually a few more but they weren’t throwing themselves at me.  An hour passed, a couple of times I wound in to find the bait had been robbed and I missed one decent bite before I had my second Bass of the day which was twice the size of the first but still small.  After that the bites dried up and as time passed and the tide dropped it became apparent there wasn’t a great depth of water left where my baits had been landing.  I moved away from the creek but kept my eye of what the tide revealed, details stored in the camera for another day.

The move brough an instant result, a strange fluttering bite and quite a bit of weight on the end although most of it took the form of a big ball of weed.  Most but not all, on the end of the long hooklength was a Flounder and my best so far I think?  After that it all went quiet fish wise, as I had plenty of bait I switched to rag on both rods and kept recasting regularly, different ranges and different directions.  The leads were holding in the current okay until the occasional clump of weed folded itself round the line but this didn’t happen too often. 

I’d planned to be off before low tide but as time passed the shrinking water actually made me more confident and if I looked hard I could see the occasional swirl from fish moving in very shallow water.  I tried dropping a bait under my rod top but nothing happened.  When a bite finally came it was on a big bunch of worms lobbed out on the heavy rod and this was a Bass that would make a decent meal even though officially undersize.  I had plenty of bait left and was enjoying myself so carried on and over the next couple of hours into dusk I had occasional rattles and a couple of decent bites bringing one more nice fish to the shore. 

By 2100 it was head torch dark and I was tired so started to pack up.  I tipped the few remaining worms into the water, tidied up what I could then leant the rods against my chair while I packed up the tripod.  I’d barely done this when the light rod started moving purposefully towards the river, in grabbing it I managed to knock the other rod sideways but there was no time to worry about that as I was attached to a decent fish which very helpfully managed to run beneath the other line and away from trouble.  The fish twisted and turned and ran down the near shelf but with this tackle all I had to guard against was a hook pull and this I managed.  A lovely big silver Bass which managed to roll in mud before I could retrieve the camera, this was clearly a legal keeper but like the rest it went back in the sea.  For a few moments I regretted chucking the bait way but in truth I was knackered and it was time to head home.