Client Catches – Winter Warmers!

Client Catches – Winter Warmers!

Following the few days of respite at the start of December from this relentless and bloody terrible weather, I managed to sneak in a very successful solo mission – but more on that in my next post! In this one I want to describe a couple of sessions that I have completed since winter officially began… The first warmed my client and I up on a very cold evening, and the second is one that became the most rewarding I have ever completed in the just over 3 years that I have been a bass lure fishing guide.

Bass lure fishing Devon

Prospects

It was the day/night before the weather was about return to very unsettled theme that has, at times, hampered my efforts, therefore, I was utterly determined to place my client (a returning gentleman called Steve who you may recognise from a post back in May when he landed a dozen bass with me here) onto a bass or two. I hadn’t guided anyone for a week and as we drove to the first mark of the day my own excitement was funnelled by way of me describing to Steve why I felt the prospects for this session were so good.

The sea would have a slight tinge to it and the tides, although tiny neaps, suited the terrain – a series of protruding headlands swept by strong currents. Moreover, I knew from the many occasions when I’d fished and guided clients on these marks that the bass were more likely to (or more likely to be able to) locate or ‘position’ themselves around the underwater structure surrounding these more obvious features.

Sat

During the afternoon ebbing tide we moved continually whilst I instructed Steve in the art of working small to medium-sized surface lures. I felt, that despite it now being early December, that if a bass was essentially ‘sat’ amongst the gullies and weedbeds and the belly-rolling, slowly splashing Spittin Wire was worked close by, that one would come up and smash it to pieces!

It just didn’t happen though, despite us walking a good couple of miles and trying a multitude of venues. But as I was saving the weedless, weightless soft plastics for later in the day and into darkness, Steve was happy to persevere – as both this method and overall approach was totally new to him.

As the Sun dropped and the early evening chill set in I attached a lure that has accounted for a fair few nice bass this season, especially during the period of twilight – the Black Wave Worm Bamboo Stick here. Again, after some initial instruction in relation to their use, Steve was very quickly in the zone and back fishing hard – unfortunately he was only rewarded with one tentative ‘tap’ on the lure.

Dormant

Something was bothering me though… There just didn’t seem to be any tide running at all! Quite possibly, the high air pressure (1025Mb) and very small neap tide had combined to create almost ‘dormant’ conditions, therefore, I decided that we should move yet again!

Arriving on the next mark, we were now about to reach the mid-stage of the tide – a phase in which it would (or should) be at its fiercest. By now, Steve was using the White Wave Worm under a very cold and starlit sky and casting it up-tide whilst aiming for a submerged ledge – one that I had pointed out to him earlier in the session and that has consistently yielded results.

Last chance saloon

The air was cold and moist (exacerbating the chill), and although there wasn’t a breath of wind, all the tea and hot chocolate we could consume couldn’t keep us warm – what we needed was something else (like a fish!) to warm us up! I have to admit it was pretty much the last chance saloon, as we were now into the final 45 minutes of the 8 hour session… But, when you’ve got a Wave Worm on the end in calm, clear (ish) water, in darkness and being retrieved by a very determined angler you’ve always got a chance!

Yes! As per usual, the second I turn my back the rod wallops over! With his Savage Gear Salt CCS 7-28g rod here held up at around 45º, and as the lure was dropping through the water column, it was grabbed violently. I picked up mY new net and waded into the ankle-deep water beside him with my headtorch already beaming – I really didn’t want anything to go wrong now!

The bass stayed deep in the laterally running tide, and with the rod nodding keenly I was waiting for a big splash out in front of us. But instead, the bass just came into view, mouth first, and glided straight into the net! Although not massive, it was Steve’s largest bass of the season, and one that he admitted afterwards that he didn’t think he’d catch because of how late it was in the year.

Guided fishing Devon Bass
Steve’s hard-earned winter bass, taken on a lure that I think will just keep on catching throughout this winter, as indeed, it did the last.

Apprehensive

I have to be completely honest here – I was more than a little apprehensive about my next guided session, as my client (David) had informed me that he’d lived with Parkinson’s Disease for the past 15 years. He will not mind me saying that it is the unsteadiness on his feet that causes him the greatest concern, therefore, my mark selection would have to take into account this, alongside the fact that (typically) Storm Atiyah had blown through the day before the session…

I knew this was going to be a tough call, as above all else, I had David’s safety and well-being clearly at the forefront of my decision making. It was though, an e-mail from him saying that he’d rather I erred on the side of completing the session, rather than rescheduling it, in conjunction with a slither of settled weather that would coincide with the planned day/night stint, that prompted me to inform him late on the preceding evening that, “we were on!”

Bass fishing in December with lures
I knew from the initial correspondence we had that David was a mad-keen fisherman, and upon meeting him my view was strengthened even further. He loves his fishing (especially bass fishing with lures) and doesn’t let any limitations he may have to get in his way – I have a massive amount of respect for that.

Grey

My plan was to fish two different marks – both of which had been relatively sheltered by the westerly/north westerly Gales (if they’d been more southerly I think I would’ve had to reschedule). Hiking across rocks, or any real distance from the car wasn’t an option, but there’s almost always somewhere in south Devon where we can eek out a bass, even in all but the very worst sea and weather conditions…

That said, upon arrival on the first venue, when I saw the the colour of the water my heart sank a little as we were greeted by ‘borderline’ lure fishing conditions – with a lot more than a browny/grey tinge to it… The positives were that: I’d previously caught (and so had two previous clients recently on a wild and soaking wet day in November) a number of bass from this shingle stretch in these conditions, there weren’t too many weed fragments present, and above all, the wind was due to drop and the tide was only halfway in – meaning that there was decent chance the water would start to clear.

Vibration

What we needed in these circumstances was a lure that would emit enough vibration for a predator to home in on it – something bass are utterly adept at undertaking of course. Further, something white in these circumstances has proved the most reliable solution to the ‘dirty water’ dilemma for me personally. So, as these lures had proven to be bass catchers on this and very similar marks, and (again) in very similar conditions in the past, I initially asked David to attach a pearl-bodied 23g Savage Gear Sandeel here.

But after 30-40 minutes of no action, and following a further search through his well-stocked lure boxes I came across precisely what I was looking for – the modern classic that is the Megabass Zonk Gataride 120 SW here. Fortunately too, he had one in the Pearl (creamy-white) pattern – the configuration that anglers would’ve cut their right arm off to own a few years ago!!!

With my instructions to “allow the lure to be held in the backwash of the swell turning onto the beach” and to “only retrieve the lure quick enough so that he could feel it vibrating through the rod tip” being followed intently, within minutes I watched (delightedly so) as his rod thumped over with the lure barely two metres from dry shingle – brilliant!

Megabass Zonk Gataride
The Megabass Zonk Gataride. Sometimes, finding the right formula or matching the lure to the conditions you face is absolutely crucial to your chances of success.

Now that we knew there definitely bass about, I could sense a surge of even steelier enthusiasm running through David’s actions, and it wasn’t long before bass number two hit the lure practically as he was about to take it out of the water!

Bass on lures murky seas
No words required…

We’d taken a chance heading out in these conditions and it was paying off. Plus, by now, the wind had started to drop out entirely and you could almost feel some warmth in the Sun – the weather forecast was proving to be accurate for a change!

Convinced

I’m a difficult man to sway sometimes – especially when something is working! But David wanted to attach a different hard diving minnow in the form of an IMA Hound Glide 125F (another proven classic) just for comparison, therefore I did ‘let him…’ However, after a fruitless 30 minutes I convinced him that it was the vigorous action of the ‘Zonk’ that was probably making the difference  – and sure enough, within a few minutes of reattaching it, he caught his third bass of the afternoon, before adding one more right on top of the tide.

With four, winter, lure-caught bass landed and returned and with dusk now setting in, I decided that a move to an even safer location for the final few hours of fishing in darkness was prudent. And although no further fish were landed, the funny stories, memories shared and all the talk of ‘life and fishing’ hanging in the soon to be frosty air the spirits remained high until David’s brother met us to pick him up – what a wonderful day and evening it had been.

Bass on lures in winter
Let’s get you a monster next time David! My thanks to a friend of mine (Pete) for passing by and taking this photograph (and for helping to save a seal pup that was dehydrated further along the beach!).

Meant to be

I love so many aspects to my job, but witnessing David’s enjoyment from his experience has taken the fulfilment and satisfaction I get out of it to another level entirely – I rarely think this way, but somehow I think this session was just meant to be. The largest bass may only have been around 2lb (small to many admittedly), but it just didn’t matter (something else I rarely think or say!) one jot to me or to David.

There isn’t a word, phrase or a way that could do justice to describing the complete and total respect I have for this man, his determination and his attitude to life – he is an inspiration. Do you know, he was even planning on heading out fishing during what would be the next batch of rain and Gales due to arrive early the next morning! David, I cannot wait to guide you again in the New Year!

Thanks for reading.

Marc Cowling

 

 

 

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