Client Catches – Ending on a high…?

Client Catches – Ending on a high…?

Although having to curtail my guiding season in line with the second COVID-19 ‘Lock Down’ is, of course, very disappointing, equally, I am also exceptionally grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to conduct any guiding at all during this pandemic. Furthermore, I am also extremely ‘proud’ of my clients and the bass we/they have landed during what has been a very short season (late-June to the first few days of November) when faced with a number of logistical obstacles – something I’ll elaborate on next month within my ‘end of year review’ post…

Will I be able to guide anyone in December? I know the bass will still be around that’s for sure! But who knows, and although I am keeping my options open in this regard, I am also very busy behind the scenes with a view to thoroughly making the most of next year – when hopefully, life can return to something resembling normality. But if the bass catches depicted in this post are my final ‘clients catches’ of what has been a difficult, yet still hugely enjoyable season, then I will be a contented man.

Familiar face

If you recognise the grinning mug on the featured image from previous blog posts then that is because Steve (joined by his friend Dave over the course of these sessions) is a regular, and I have to say, a rather successful client of mine. The DoLive Stick (yet again, sorry!) accounted for the two gorgeous bass (at 3lb + 4lb respectively) landed by Steve – although these memorable catches only told half of the story…

I think Steve is a lucky omen for for me, as he always catches!

Dave, a very experienced Coarse and Fly angler, was just very, very unlucky during this session – there’s no other word for it. Stood just up-tide of his pal Steve, and therefore positioned in a manner whereby I expected the bass to ‘swim’ past him first, with greater levels of current to deal with, it was a soft plastic paddle tail lure/weighted hook combination that I am increasingly utilising (a 5″ Keitech Easy Shiner rigged onto a 5/0 Berkley Fusion 19 Swimbait Hook) that saw Dave receive too solid hook ups. Unfortunately and almost inexplicably, both of these fish somehow managed to shake the hook, despite walloping the lure as it trundled along the seabed in no more than 6ft of water and only metres from his feet.

This guy is a bass catching machine!

Tables turn

The next morning saw me changing tact to a more estuarine environment, with the three of us scrambling and slithering over quite ridiculous amounts of wrack in order to access a tiny bank of shingle. Upon arrival, we could see that there was a hell of a lot of activity – not just from what must surely be some kind of a mullet sanctuary, but the occasional and definite ‘swipe and swirl’ on the surface… Bass!

So with the bass seemingly intent on looking for items splashing above their heads, I decided that we should tap into their greedy and competitive nature (eat it or lose it!) by attaching a Patchinko 125 to Dave’s clip and the deadly Whiplash Factory Spittin Wire to Steve’s. It didn’t take long either, as within the first 10 minutes, my encouraging comment to Dave that it would be “third time lucky” (in relation to hooking a bass and actually landing it) was realised via a loud and very positive take. Boom! The tables had been turned!

“That’s a monkey off my back Marc”, I loved Dave’s retort!

We were off to a flyer! And sure enough, just as I wandered/waded back over to Steve I witnessed a swirl behind, followed by a much more decisive ‘whack’ on his lure – he was in! From the initial take, it was difficult to ascertain the size of this fish, and as it stayed under the surface and powered towards the weedy margins danger signs were flashing! “Turn it, turn it – don’t mess around with it mate, quick, quick!”, was my advice as what I knew wasn’t a tiddler buried its head into the wrack… Bugger!

For some reason, the Whiplash Factory Spittin Wire is especially attractive to estuary bass…

There are two approaches you can take when this occurs (well, three if you include getting into the water to recover the fish!) – apply a ton of pressure and attempt to drag it out (not easy when there are hooks not necessarily inside its mouth and therefore dangling) or conversely, give the fish some slack line (reduce the tension between you and the fish completely) just to see if it ‘thinks’ the danger has passed…

From personal experience, the former can result in pulling the hook(s) out, and the latter provides an opportunity for the fish to ‘dig itself’ even deeper into the weedy growth. However, if you can time it just right and apply pressure on the fish as soon as it starts moving you give yourself a 60-70% chance of landing your prize, which of course, Steve managed to do.

Steve’s beautiful 54cm bass – you wouldn’t want to be ‘spiked’ by that dorsal fin would you!

Off the boil

My next set of clients were Jon and Nick – a charming duo who, like many of my clients, like to dabble in a spot of Fly Fishing. They were opposites in another sense though, in that Nick was super keen and had gone out and purchased all the gear (via a list that I send prospective clients if they wish). In contrast, Jon hadn’t fished for some time and was, in essence, scoping out whether this form of fishing was really for him…

Although they caught, I felt that for whatever reason the bass had gone off the boil somewhat over the sessions I conducted with two anglers who could not have worked harder or been more receptive. Indeed, right from the off, they were more than happy for me to tweak their casting styles (in order to accomplish a technique that would enable them to fish effectively in all conditions) and to teach and talk through how to ‘work’ a variety of lure types – they were even happy to stand waist-deep in the water in the pitch black for hours on end too which was just as well!

Nick was first out of the blocks on nothing more complicated than a straight retrieve whilst utilising a lure that I’ve liked for a long time, but that are difficult to get hold of – the 5.5″ Gary Yamamoto Swim Senko in white. But it was actually a much smaller fish that latched onto Nick’s Patchinko 125 during a subsequent daylight session that had him purring “do you know Marc, learning how use this lure properly and then actually experiencing that fish take the lure off the top has made the whole trip worth it for me” – words that as you can imagine, make my job even more satisfying.

“What an experience that was!” Nick’s reaction to experiencing the sensation that is a bass smashing a soft plastic lure in the pitch black!

I don’t mind admitting one bit that it took hundreds of casts, and learning how to effectively use multiple lure types, all of which Jon placed a fantastic amount of effort and energy into, for him to finally announce “Yes, I’ve got one!” Nick, who was stood up-tide of his friend, had landed a bass on the Swim Senko only a few minutes before – signalling of course that the fish were moving through our area on the freshly flooding tide.

Thoroughly, thoroughly deserved. Well done on your first bass Jon.

It wasn’t a big bass by any stretch at a tad over 2lb, but when it’s your first on a lure, and more especially while in the process of discovering just how gratifying lure fishing for bass is, I’ll take that every single time. You only need to look at the smile it brought it’s captors face – another angler well and truly converted! The successful lure incidentally, was the Savage Gear Gravity Stick (Paddle Tail) – a soft plastic, rigged either weightless or with one of the 3g belly weighted hooks incorporated in the kit that I’m really staring to turn to in less that gin-clear sea conditions.

Shelter

With the gales, monster tides and heavy rain over the preceding days having either ‘blown out’, ‘weeded up, or ‘silted up’ 90% of my marks (both on the open coast and in the estuaries) I ventured slightly further afield to a stretch of coastline that served me very well a couple of winters ago, and that is pretty much sheltered from those incoming, jet-stream driven, low pressure systems.

At first sight, I felt that the water clarity was ‘borderline’ in relation to the use of surface lures – something I expected considering it was currently low tide. However, as this was a lure type and a technique that I knew my clients (Craig and Steve) wanted to master, alongside one that I knew would serve them very well in the future, I decided to start Craig off on the Patchinko 125 (no surprises here given it is such a consistent ‘caster and fish catcher’).

Over the years I’ve built up a vast selection of sheltered marks, suitable almost whatever the weather or wind direction- notwithstanding extremes I must add.

To witness a clients’ reaction to achieving the ‘tapping your head whilst rubbing your belly-type coordination’ required to make a surface lure dance, and then see their face when a bass nails that piece of plastic by virtue of their actions is something I love! So yet again, I have to say that Craig was luckless to have momentarily hooked two bass, which came unstuck almost the moment his rod bent into the battle.

Rather annoyingly (for me at least) the five bass in total that showed interest in their lures that afternoon just weren’t fully committing – a mood compounded by Steve landing a mackerel only slightly larger than the lure! In my back pocket however, was that I’d timed this session to drift into dusk and then a full hour into darkness, just as high tide would turn into an ebbing tide. I was still feeling confident one of them (or both!) would land their first ever lure-caught bass…

Changing

Whether it was the change of lure (to the white paddle-tailed Gravity Stick), the change of tide, the change of light or a combination of all three, either way Craig achieved his objective. And even though it was a very modest fish, that bolt out of the blue, just a few metres off of the rod tip where the shingle beach beach converged with the submerged reef (a proven ‘take zone’ that I’d earmarked and highlighted to them earlier in the day) was a perfect ending to what had been a lovely day, tucked out of the wind whistling over our heads.

Good vibrations

Two days later, and with the wind showing little sign of relenting I returned to the same venue, this time with another set of relative newcomers – Alex and Ben. With yet another bout of overnight gales having moved through, this time with more of a southerly edge to it, I knew we’d have our work cut out… Sure enough, after peering over the cliff, my heart sank a little… Would the flooding tide bring with it some clearer water as the wind eased? I was hopeful more than confident, but you need to ‘be in it to win it’ don’t you and there was no going back now!

The most common question in relation to attempting to catch a bass on a lure when the sea is either that disgusting grey or the revolting tea colour is: What lure should I use? For me, I’ve found that a slow moving, yet still zigzagging ‘noisy and knocking’ surface lure like the Zenith Z-Claw or my old favourite the Spittin Wire works well in very shallow (6″- 2ft) water in those more peaty and brackish estuary environments.

On the open coast, nothing seems to have been more effective, for me personally anyhow, than either a heavily weighted (on a jig-head so to tap the seabed) or slightly weighted (and even weightless if there is a lot of weed fragments in the mix) shad or paddle tail lure, Vibration is clearly being the key, and although I do like a white lure in these circumstances I can see the logic of utilising a dark coloured lure also, due to the increased silhouette.

How murky!

So how murky was murky during this session? In patches, where the rain had run off the muddy cliffs the clarity was zero – chocolate… Over sections of flatter reef, as the sea flooded over the rocks and into the rock pools I would say that we had around 8 – 10″ of clarity – good enough to work the surface lures then. Elsewhere, although the sea settled to dead calm once the wind completely dropped out during the early evening, the water clarity in and around the rocks and boulders littering this venue was a battleship-grey, with 6 – 8″ at best – not great in other words!

Midway through both the tide and the session, and with the water now covering a collection of pillow-sized, moveable, mainly round-shaped stones/rocks in one section of the cove we were fishing I asked my new friends to attach a white Gravity Stick (paddle tail) and Gary Yamamoto Swim Senko respectively. Drawing on the previous experiences of when I used to fish this area on a regular basis, I knew the bass were highly likely to move in and ‘nose’ around this inter-tidal zone looking for crabs presumably.

Prove that bass can be caught on lures in water that I would once have walked away from – great job Alex!

Both of the 2lb bass (I was happy with the result and so were my clients more importantly) nailed the white Swim Senko no more than a rod length from Alex’s stance – with the second fish seemingly ‘mouthing’ the lure via a series of thumps reverberating through prototype Major Craft rod that I invited him to use – speak to Mike at Chesil Bait n’ Tackle if you’d like to know more about this lovely all-round lure rod…

Bye, Bye 2020!

As I said at the beginning of this post, whether the clients here represent my final guided sessions of 2020 remains to be seen… I will update you on my personal catches over the past few weeks in my next blog post!

Thank you for your continued support, and thanks for reading.

Stay safe and well.

Marc Cowling

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