My Recent Catches – A Writer’s Retreat!
It happens to all of us… You take a friend or family member fishing with you because you’ve been ‘smashing them’ on a particular mark and/or lure type. Conditions are seemingly ‘even better’ than all of the previous days when you’ve caught countless fish from that venue, and with the pressure well and truly on you are willing them on like never before. But after hours of thrashing the water you catch – diddly squat! Thankfully however, this wasn’t one of those days as everything went to plan – well, apart from the five pounder that I lost at my feet after 30 minutes of fishing!
For the first time in a long time I was the one being photographed during this session, as my fishing friend on this occasion was none other than fellow angling journalist, guide and photographer extraordinaire Henry Gilbey. Upon my invite, Henry had very kindly made the trip across the border from SE Cornwall for an afternoon’s bass fishing with me in glorious south Devon. After experiencing a bit of a barren run on his home patch, this session would allow him to test out some of the prototype Savage Gear lures he had at his disposal on a selection of marks that have seen a number of fish present just recently – it was a real pleasure to have him along.
One lure only!
So, keeping our distance in line with COVID-19 social distancing guidelines throughout, the first phase of ‘the tour’ around some of my marks involved standing high above a cauldron of deep water, interspersed with numerous ‘lure-hungry’ pinnacles slicing either just above or lying menacingly just below what was a relatively calm surface considering the potency to the crosswind.
Once down on what I’d planned would be the first mark (although we ended up staying there throughout as it happens) a number things were etched on my mind as I tied a fresh leader-to-braid knot (my version of the Alberto Knot) and surveyed all before me – idiosyncracies that I’d conveyed to Henry as we clambered out across the rocks with our studs scratching and gripping the very ‘iffy’ formations.
All of the bass I’d caught here previously had been taken in and around a particular series of rocks, at a fair old range of between 30-40m which, considering the wind direction and strength, would require a very precise bit of casting to continually reach. Moreover, this is the type of mark where essentially the fish (of varying sizes) move through in shoals along a predetermined route, therefore, I wanted something that could be left to ‘linger’ out in the kill-zone as it were. Finally, there are a lot of pollack sniffing around this venue, and they are extremely partial to a hard diving minnow – all of which pointed me in the direction of the ‘big daddy’ of surface sliding lures – the 140mm, 26g Patchinko II in the popular 500g/Lieu configuration.
Not one of those days surely!
Positioned around 40m apart, on two separate platforms and casting into the vicinity of two separate zones of water both close to recently submerged rocks, we commenced the session in clear view of each other – Henry was first off the mark and I followed up with a similarly sized bass of modest proportions. Now, I’ve taken Henry fishing a few times now, and on each occasion the overall theme has been either small bass turning up or we’ve both lost one when hooked!
Soon after, I hooked into what I knew instantly was a decent ‘lump.’ But after steering it out of the danger zone and towards my stance, as the gaping mouth and the chunky silver flank of a bass easily over 5lb materialised directly below me (as Henry primed his camera out of the corner of my eye) I was horrified as the hook-hold failed and the braid fell slack… Bugger! Surely it wasn’t going to be one of those days!
What can you do? Sulk or get on with it generally! With the latter strategy and a dogged determination to put a photograph-worthy bass on the rocks I kept on putting the ‘Big Patch’ into that kill-zone as what had previously been (on numerous and recent occasions) the ‘best’ period in the tide approached – again, something I highlighted to Henry courtesy of a shout across the slither of water separating us – a bit like Devon and Cornwall with the Tamar running between us!
The swirls and missed hits increased with the general fish activity just as I’d hoped it would, and soon after Henry landed a bass that had him shouting “I don’t care how big it is, it’s a bass on a lure I’ve helped to develop!” as another one was swung up ready to be quickly unhooked and released. “There must be some better-sized bass around” were my thoughts, as I patiently whacked out and worked the large, sliding, thrashing, spitting surface lure as close to the structures as I dare… BIG SPLASH! Yep, this was definitely better!
The rod arched and remained there as a good bass realised it had bitten the wrong struggling or wounded creature and attempted to dive in behind the rock. No, no, no my Son – I was one step ahead of this manoeuvre, much like I’ve been during my ‘tuned in state of bass-ness’ just recently – keeping its head up by utilising the sublime power and feel of yet another beautiful if rather extravagant lure rod I’ve purchased (more on that in my next post I promise!) as she cruised to my right… “Get the camera mate!” I shouted, “this is the one.”
I could see both of the large trebles (replacement items I must add after only two sessions, as the original hooks were already rusting and one of the split rings had straightened – echoing Henry’s recent observation that Xorus need to do better than this if they are asking £20 a pop for a lure) fixed within the lips of this extraordinarily dark-backed 5lb+ bass, as I encourage her onto a rocky platform behind me ready to be unhooked, made famous and quickly released.
Despite utilising contrasting approaches in regards to lure selection (I stuck with one throughout, whereas Henry experimented with the Savage Gear Pencil 150 and Savage Gear Surf Walker 155 respectively, alongside many others that he ‘sneaked’ out there!) we both sensed that this could turn into a bumper session as more and more hits and near misses stoked our enthusiasm, whilst the wonderful scenery and ambience enveloped us.
Henry added another bass to his tally, but then the turbo kicked in as wave after wave of bass seemingly decided to pounce on my Patchinko – with a further three bass in the 1-2lb range ripping into it as it lay motionless (during some pauses I like to administer on the larger surface lures) after being worked more vigorously. This was fantastic fun – fishing alongside an angler who has the ‘bass bug’ worse than me!
One more for the camera
I was just thinking “wouldn’t it be nice to catch another good one” when, as the lure settled to a standstill after slithering and snaking into position it was hit by a powerful slash initially, and then a full-blooded smash by another good bass, whereby it attempted to ‘run’ for sanctuary. I think this was the moment that Henry referred to in his own blog post about the events here when he commented on me shouting to the heavens in relation to my love of fishing!
After the initial exchanges, whereby I had to crank down on the fish to stop it reaching ‘that rock.’ Once it had splashed on the surface, dived down quickly and then began to rise in the water column as it swam towards me, I was able to coerce it through a gap in the rocks immediately in front of my position, and again, up onto a rather useful platform without any drama.
After Henry had taken the shot above I invited him to remain on ‘my perch’ as it were, as I was hoping he would nail a really decent one for himself – always the guide! As we were yapping away (talking equipment, methods and theories) his rod thudded over and was soon nodding to the rhythm of what was undoubtedly something larger than his previous bass of the session when… Ping! I could see he wanted to lob his rod and reel into the water, before demonstrating the same levels of restraint that were also keeping me from ‘ribbing him’ mercilessly…!
Do you know what though, it was ‘job done’ as far as we were both concerned. We’d enjoyed a fabulous few hours together – fishing hard and bouncing ideas around, plus COVID had hardly been mentioned at all – how refreshing, relaxing and a real writer’s retreat! Thanks Henry – see you again soon mate, and I hope those Cornish bass also return to their haunts…
Sea Angler Article
If you’re wanting to understanding which lure type is the most suitable during those balmy, sunny, summer days when you may only be able to grab a couple of hours fishing then my article in the current edition of Sea Angler magazine (Issue 584) focussing on soft plastic senkos or stickbaits could be right up your street!
My Book – Back in Stock!
The Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society (BASS) recently re-released their review of my book ‘The Lure of The Bass’ which can be found here. If you would like more information on what this self-published title encompasses then you can read more here. Furthermore, if you would like to purchase the book then please do not hesitate to contact me via the form below and I will send you the payment details.
Thanks for reading, and my thanks to Henry for sending me the photographs he captured that day.