My Recent Catches – Follow The Fry!
To begin, I’ll say here and now that it felt bloody brilliant to out fishing again, and to land and release the beautiful 64cm/6lb+ March bass in the featured image was something I took a great deal of pleasure from as you can imagine! Indeed, as I hadn’t fished since the 8th March, when a run of three straight blanks confirmed what I already knew (which was to concentrate on the ‘home straight’ as it were in relation to all the DIY I’ve completed over the winter and the landscaping of a large part of my garden) I had earmarked the spring tides later in the month as a period when I would ‘have a sniff about’ some of my more regular haunts in search of an early season bass…
Unfortunately, when my wife and daughter both came down with COVID around mid-month I knew there was no escaping it this time… Sure enough, between the 16th -28th March I was testing positive, and although I didn’t set foot outside of the boundary of my property, trust me, I had enough to keep me busy to the tune of being committed to shifting and spreading 10 tonnes of top soil onto my recently excavated garden (after I’d removed, one wheel barrel at a time, 20 tonnes of gravel over the preceding weeks) and then laying the 150sq metres of turf… Yes, I am nuts, and it most probably extended the virus’s stay in my body, that I have no doubt!
Clear and clear!
So after spending an entire day of my fishing sabbatical exchanging treble hooks, and lovingly re-arranging my lure boxes both in readiness for my own personal fishing, but also that of my clients courtesy of my impending guiding season (that has started well incidentally), I was ready to roll! Clear of COVID and with the water on my chosen venue for the evening also absolutely crystal-clear, I was astonished to witness a bass ‘whack’ some poor immature fish (fry) off of the oily surface within seconds of arriving.
A ‘surface lure’ was the first thing that entered my head, and with extreme distance seemingly required following a repeat of the initial savage attack at a range of 45m+ I grabbed a gleaming Patchinko 125 from out of my perfectly positioned (for the moment!) arsenal. Third cast: BOOM! The water around the lure erupted and I was into my first bass of what I determine to be ‘my season’ which I set between 1st March- 28/29th February on the basis that February is often the most difficult month to land them on lures here in south Devon, whilst March is when I eagerly await the sea temperature to begin climbing towards the ‘magic’ 10oC again.
Miniature fish – baby mullet, bass, sea trout perhaps, or maybe just sand smelt in their hundreds if not thousands could be seen within the weedy margins, attempting for all their life was worth not to become overpowered and swept into the current here – something the bass were clearly tuned into with vigour. I ended up with eight small bass for my exertions (and I did feel a little ‘whacked out’ myself after walking and climbing around to this venue I have to say) which was ample payback for the blanks I’d endured earlier in the month.
Later that evening I surmised that the wonderfully warm and settled weather we’d experienced over the previous fortnight or so had not only allowed me to work out in the garden (I would have been safely tucked up on the sofa instead of transforming my garden if it had been freezing or raining I can assure you!), but it had also encouraged very large numbers of ‘fry shoals’ to form and infiltrate the estuary systems and neighbouring open coast coves.
I wondered and I thought… I wonder if it’s worth visiting a venue almost an hour from me that would still be very sheltered from the freezing (certainly in comparison to the previous days) north-easterly wind that had strengthened overnight following the cold front… I was confident the fry would have also formed those very obvious shoals for the bass to prey upon, but I wasn’t quite so confident it would provide what was essential – the clear water. My logic here was that if I couldn’t see the fry the bass had been avidly feeding on, then I would suspect any bass within the vicinity wouldn’t be able to either, which invariably would transfer to them switching back to a more crab-hunting and grovelling along the seabed mode.
Go ahead – make my day!
With a bit more vitality pumping through my body following a great night’s sleep, as soon as I clambered through the hedgerow and glimpsed the stunning backdrop of a muddy lagoon emptying with clear (ish) water and those all important fry being swilled about by the occasional gusty interlude (creating some intermittent ‘chop’ on the surface layers) and the vicious ebbing tide I knew I could be in business.
Was my day about to become a whole lot better in the coming hours I pondered as I inched my way along the slippery foreshore that was becoming rapidly revealed. Matching the hatch to a certain degree I commenced this chilly session with a grey-backed, silvery-bellied 5″ Megabass Spindle Worm in a configuration called ‘Ablette‘. This is a lure type that proved itself impressively last season therefore I was especially keen to utilise it within a region teeming with small silvery critters, in addition to numerous 5-8inch mullet zipping about.
I only had two hours to fish this morning as I’d promised I would assist my Dad to shift a cooker of all things which, although I wanted to help him, I was now regretting as everything around me just smelt, tasted and looked exceedingly, well… ‘bassy’. The generally dull overhead conditions with intermittent sunny spells briefly illuminating the seabed, the slight greeny tinge to the increasingly shallow water, the way the tide was being funnelled out of precisely where I was now arrowing my lure, the copious levels of fry being practically sucked out of the giant depression, a massive bowl of sorts, before me – the dreamscape! All I needed was a bit of luck, and after checking the time and realising I only had about ten minutes of fishing time remaining that is exactly what I received!
Aiming a cast some 20m out and a little more parallel to the bank into an area littered with clumps of wrack, I had already pre-empted the gentle splash and sink rate of the 5″ Keitech Easy Shiner in the stunning Sight Flash pattern I’d swapped over to (a lure that accounted for a 72cm monster for one of last season’s clients here) by bringing over the bail-arm concurrently with the lure entering the water, before commencing an almost immediate retrieve.
Three turns of the handle and… KNOCK, in fact I’d go so far as to say a very hard ‘knock’ reverberated up the very special Major Craft Seabass Custom 882M that I just love to fish with. There was then a second where the fish realised its mistake (a tell-tale sign of a better-sized bass I find), before it decided to swim towards me shaking its head, no doubt rigorously striving to shake the point of 6/0 3g belly-weighted Savage Gear weedless hook embedded in its meal!
Then, as she neared my stance she decided to try and outpower my set up by making a beeline for the main section of faster current that was only a half-a-dozen metres off the rod tip here. I stopped her in her tracks, however I sensed in this crucial moment that perhaps I was administering a little too much strain on the hook-hold therefore, I loosened off the drag just a smidge as she ran parallel to me and to my left with the force of the tide.
Next, there was moment of danger as I lowered and levered the rod rapidly to avoid her getting her head into some weed, whereby she broke the surface for the first time now only a couple of metres from my feet. I really didn’t want to pussy-foot around here as I’ve witnessed many a good-sized bass shake a hook under these circumstances, so I bit the bullet and placed all of my confidence into the fresh leader knot that I’d tied after inspecting and finding a few frays in the Lo-Viz 20lb Sufix 131 braid (here) I am really liking.
Success! As with a bit more delicate coaxing with the rod held very low and to my right now that she’d manoeuvred back up against the flow (another sign of a good one) I managed to slide her onto the mud/gravel bank. Corrrr what a moment, and one that I’d dreamed about – and I’m not joking either!
In my next blog post I will update you on how the fishing/guiding has gone since the start of April via a ‘Client Catches’ post, but lets just say I am happy, if hoping for just a little more warmth to the air temperature (especially at night!) just to fire them up a bit!
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