Client Catches – Clarity, confirmation and a cracker of a bass!
I’ve said it many times before, but meeting the clients, getting to know them, assisting them, and then sharing the experience of catching and releasing these beautiful fish is very special indeed.
Whether it’s their first ever bass caught from the shore, on a lure, in darkness or even just witnessing their disbelieve that these amazing predators can be hooked in such shallow water, at night or from certain ground is something I’ll never take for granted or tire of – I love it!
My client for this session on the 26th October was Richard, angler who enjoys the surroundings and scenery as much as the fishing. A fly fisherman of 40 years, in the last 10 years he’d mixed this passion with lure fishing for bass.
Spotting potential marks, looking for the similarities along his native reef systems, watercraft and ensuring he was fishing the lures correctly were all high on his list of things he wanted to learn and most of all confirm that he was doing correctly. Moreover, the prospect of learning how to attack his own marks in darkness was something he was really looking forward to.
Having made the long journey from Sussex, he’d planned on being in south Devon for two days (staying overnight in Kingsbridge) although given half a chance, I think he would have stayed another week! The south Hams has that affect on people.
In the 10 days leading up to this session, the UK had been hammered by two storm systems – perfect timing considering I had to be away from home for a week! But in the final 48 hours before we met, the wind had dropped significantly and the sea had began to clear and calm down perfectly for what I had planned for him.
With the 4.5m (daylight) and 4.2m (darkness) neap high tides falling at 1008 and 2230 respectively I asked Richard to meet me at 0930 so that I could guide him over high water and into the ebb – after which we’d take a break for the afternoon before meeting up again later in the evening.
In much the same way as a previous session/client here considering his desire to learn as much as possible about the terrain/ground (and how this links into targeting very specific venues at night) the thought of actually standing exactly where 12 hours later he would hopefully catch a bass fired his enthusiasm even more!
Following a quick drive to the stretch of coastline I’d earmarked, Richard told me all about the frustrations of lure fishing around the south East coastline – with water clarity being the number one problem. Any onshore wind, he said, would cause the chalk from the cliffs and shoreline to colour up the water therefore, he literally prayed for northerly winds. He added that when the water was clam and clear, that he’d achieved quite a lot of success on surface lures – the small Patchinko 100 surface lure being a favourite of his.
Upon reaching the shoreline – I think Richard was impressed! High cliffs, sandy/shingle coves and… clear water! Even with a bit of swell (no more than 2ft) the water was still very clear – something that he found hard to comprehend given the sea state and what the comparison would have been if he was stood on one of his local marks in similar conditions.
Twitching, popping and diving…
I briefed Richard that he could expect to be moving regularly around the rocks, casting into certain areas before transiting onto the next one, whereby we would utilise surface lures, sub-surface diving minnows and weedless soft plastics over the shallower reefs.
Out onto first mark, and with the swell moving nicely around the rocks I asked Richard to attach a sub-surface lure initially in order to cast over a reef that has been kind to me over the years. Here, there are a number of large boulders, behind which I believe the bass often hide and ambush their prey – if the fish are present they will show themselves very quickly but today, they didn’t appear to be at home.
Next up, a flat expanse of reef with a deep gully running parallel across it saw Richard’s Patchinko 100 being worked around this feature. The whole environment just looked wonderfully ‘bassy’ to me – with a lovely green tinge to the sea and an overcast sky… Nothing here either though.
With the tide really beginning to ‘strip’ off of a nearby shingle bank and the reef adjacent to it, I explained to Richard how I believed the increased movement in the tide tiggered small fish (gobies/blennies/wrasse/pollack) and crustaceans (shrimps/crabs) to effectively ‘exit’ the reef or seek shelter – this is what the bass clearly prey on.
With an OSP DoLive Stick attached Richard set about casting, moving and casting into the same regions but from different angles in order to thoroughly search out the reef. A few knocks were recieved but I believe they were from small wrasse, rather than bass therefore, we moved once again to cast a large surface lure – the 135mm 26g HTO Canine which is effectively a Patchinko copy that costs a quarter of the price!
Following some tuition, Richard soon had the lure zig-zagging in a ‘walk the dog’ style and I was expecting it to be snatched at any second, particularly when he was casting it in and around an ‘island’ of rock that is at the entrance to a sandy gully but no, they just weren’t playing! With the swell actally increasing with ebbing tide (very common) Richard attached a tiny spinner/jig (a Tacklehouse P Boy) that he said could be cast so far we wouldn’t be able to see it hit the water – and he was right too! If the bass were 150 yards out then he would certainly have caught one!
The first 4 hours were gone in a flash therefore, as the tide had now ebbed off of most of the reef we would be targeting that night I, of course, took the opportunity to highlight to Richard exactly where I wanted him to cast his lure in 7 hours time… This was very much deja vu for me!
We met up again at 1930 and I drove the final 5 minutes back to the mark ready for Richard to make his first cast at 2000. At this time, the water would have reached the shingle, signalling the water was deep enough (6″ – 1ft) to commence fishing over the reef. As I mentioned, high water was at 2230 therefore, he would be fishing well into the ebb tide again – an excellent period along most of my ‘night marks’.
It was a very peaceful night – the swell from the morning session had melted away and the waves were just lapping the shoreline. The half-moon was obscured by the thinning clouds (that I was hoping would break later in the session) and the water clarity was absolutely perfect – with easily 3 – 4ft.
I’d briefed Richard that if he were to latch into a bass (which I fully expected him to) then to treat it like a trout caught on the fly – the only difference being to allow me to grab the line when the fish was in the final metre before hitting the beach – this alleviates/mitigates the risk of the hook hold pulling out in those vital final seconds.
With the conditions being so ‘still’ I attached a white 6″ senko to Richard’s lure clip (I plan to mix it up a little within my own fishing sessions in the coming months by using black and green senkos). Within the first couple of casts Richard had received a ‘hit’ but it didn’t amount to anything – small pollack perhaps?
About 1½ hours into the session I was beginning to consider other options such as the Albie Snax, a needlefish or as the Moon was yet to appear – a small rattling diving minnow thinking the bass might want something making more sound/vibration. It was the senko that had caught two bass from this mark the last time I’d guided on it so “another 20 minutes” I said – “concentrate on casting into this area as the gully leads right into beach here” adjusting his stance accordingly,
About 10 minutes after this I’d just turned my back to answer a call of nature when out of the gloom I could here Marc! Marc! I ran back down to Richard to find the rod bent well into a fish and the reel/drag giving away line “That hit just came out of nowhere!” said Richard as he continued with the battle.
The bass was pulling strongly to the left initially, then turned and headed right, which was when it surfaced about 15m out. From there, Richard had the upper hand which was just as well, as even though the tide was 40 minutes short of high water, there was only about 6″ – 8″ of water over the shallowest part of the reef – typically the area the fish headed for. The bass had taken the senko right where the gully forms a bigger pool, only 18″ lower/deeper than the surrounding expanse of rock – fascinating stuff really.
As the bass neared the shoreline Richard did precisely as briefed and shuffled up the shingle bank so that I could grab the line – the bass slid onto the shore with no problems whatsoever. I knew straight away it was close to 5lb and sure enough we measured her at 59cm.
Testing out the camera
This was the first session that I’d ventured out with my Nikon D5000 SLR camera therefore, I was obviously (and still am) getting used to it – but I’m very happy with the clarity of the photograph below:
Quite often, if the bass are about at night – if you catch one then you’ll normally catch another. Not tonight though – not that it mattered to Richard! Walking back to the car, he was sorely tempted to stay another night – he’d never experienced anything like it and he wanted more!
Armed with the knowledge of knowing what to look for when studying the reefs around his neck of the woods, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to receive a message from him between now and Xmas saying he’s caught a bass in darkness from one of his ‘new marks’ Good luck, Richard, hope to see you in 2018.
Thanks for reading,