Client Catches – Mid-Season Report…

Client Catches – Mid-Season Report…

Now that I am midway through my guiding season (that runs from the 1st April to around the first week of December) I thought it would be a great time to piece together the noteworthy ‘findings’ from the past four-and-a-half months, in addition to highlighting some more of the captures that my clients have achieved, and that I simply haven’t had a chance to write about.

A lovely bloke (Alan) and a lovely bass to boot! This one was hooked within the first few casts of the session if I recall correctly on a Xorus Patchinko 125 – a pattern of lure that has accounted for dozens and dozens of fish for us this year, much like it did during the ‘bait fish driven year’ that was the delayed 2020 season (read my yearly review here)

Patterns?

Together with numerous ‘Grip n’ Grins’ and short ‘Galleries’ of my contented clients herein, it is my hope that you’ll be able to relate to, or indeed spot the same patterns that I have noticed maybe within your own catches. On the other hand, if this season hasn’t so far gone to plan for you, then perhaps some of the details I’ll cover will assist you in the second half of your own season – I genuinely hope so.

Although still highly productive, the nine estuary and river systems that I frequent in south Devon haven’t quite seen the numbers of fish as they did in 2021 – so far anyhow…

Facilitators

Straight into it then, and I can say with the utmost conviction that there have been four standout facilitators that have come to the fore when I have guided my clients onto bass – many of which have been their first in darkness, from a certain type of venue, on a specific lure type, or indeed, their first on a lure ever! These are:

  • Hunting sea birds working the area.
  • The presence of bait fish in some form.
  • The twilight period and into early darkness.
  • The ‘turn’ of the tide.

Hunting birds: Essentially, if we’ve seen either cormorants diving or little terns working the area (in pairs as they often do) or have witnessed bass taking items ‘off the top’, be it on the open coast or inside the estuaries, then we have caught – plain and simple. Without any of this activity however, it has often been a case of search and move until we find signs of life!

Boom! An open coast, dark-backed beauty for my client Joe that smashed a ‘Patch 125’ just after the turn of the tide, and when bass were occasionally observed hitting bait off of the surface – always a sight to behold, and something that isn’t as common as you may think here in south Devon.

Below is a gallery containing more of the client catches achieved when either of these events have occurred when, as intimated in the first image in this post, the use of a surface lure (either the Patchinko 100 or 125 generally) has won the day:

Bait fish: Overall, the sea has been very calm (albeit with some odd ‘swells’ appearing on certain stretches of this magnificent coastline) and exceedingly clear here in south Devon throughout the spring and summer which you’d imagine would be highly conducive to sand eels shoaling in huge numbers – but it hasn’t really happened unless I’ve missed them…?

Excuse the blurry image taken on my old phone as the camera failed! This was a first ever lure-caught bass or this particular client (as you can probably guess from the smile on this face!) taken on a IMA Hound Glide 125 within minutes of foul-hooking a greater sand eel or launce. Moreover, the fish was hooked following a ‘duff cast’ made from a steeply shelving beach, in some delicious ‘swell conditions’.

Sand eels, either the lesser or greater variety (launce), aren’t the only types of bait fish or fry that group together in the tide races or shelter within the weedy margins though. Sand smelt (that are numerous within the creeks and estuary mouths early in the season between mid-March and mid-May in particular), mackerel and the sprat/whitebait have all proven to be key indicators of an impending bass blitz, which is when the bass in the gallery below have been landed either on the IMA Salt Skimmer, Patchinko 100 or 125 in clearer water, or the Savage Gear Gravity Stick Paddle Tail (or similar lures) in the more brackish and turbid environments. As always, all of the bass were successfully returned/released:

Twilight and early-darkness: Time and again this season, nothing has happened despite ‘ideal’ overhead daytime and/or or fantastic looking sea conditions, yet as soon as we enter into the evening period, no matter what the state of tide is, the bait, and subsequently the bass, have suddenly switched on…

A recent capture and a new PB for my client Nick. This fish was one of many that were landed as soon as the Sun had set behind the cliff behind us – the change in light conditions (as I’d expected) being the trigger for the activity.

As you would have noticed I’m sure, the bass catches that my clients have achieved have come from a variety of venues ranging from sandy beaches, pebbly shores, reefs, rocky promontories creeks and coves, with the beaches in particular being the most productive once dusk has drifted into darkness as you can see from the gallery below:

Lure wise, in much the same way that the bass have been present in one area during a specific day/evening/night/tide and gone the next, they have most definitely been keeping me on my toes in regards to what type of lure they want to eat! Moreover, although the surface lures, and to a lesser extent, the weighted, paddle-tailed, weed-less, soft plastics have proved dominant in daylight, within late-dusk and into early-darkness, they have been a little less fussy with the Albie Snax, Savage Gear SG Pencil, Savage Gear Gravity Stick Pulse and Paddle Tail and OSP DoLive Stick (all in white) proving to be the most reliable alongside some new arrivals (a Pirate Lures Teaser and the Marc Cowling/TC Lures ZIPP WAKE) as you can see in the images below:

The turning tide: When planning any fishing session nowadays, be it a guided or a personal endeavour, I will look to encompass the turn of the tide. Whether it’s the start of the ebb, or the commencement of the flood will depend on a multitude of factors, but one thing is for certain – it has, 100%, made the difference during approximately 70% of the sessions I/we’ve completed so far in 2022.

The way the tide interacts with the seabed on this otherwise featureless beach (as covered in my previous blog post here) was, quite possibly, what tempted this wonderful very near 70cm client bass into the area… Will I be testing out this theory again on this venue? You bet!! And in the dark too!

In addition to the physical turning of the tide, current and flow, although you’ll really need to do your homework in order to ascertain such events (as they may only be present for short periods with the tidal cycle), the ‘back-eddying affect’ that is present on many types of venues within the vicinity of deep-water headlands, gravel spits, sand bars and shallow beaches as discussed has been an especially fruitful interval to have a lure in the water.

The gallery below depicts some of the catches my clients have achieved when we’ve capitalised on either of these natural occurrences (some of which have been in very bright conditions you’ll note):

A break.

Upon reaching the halfway stage of my guiding season I always plan in a 7-10 day break away from the clients and my lap top so to recharge a little, which is precisely what I’ll be doing as soon as I hit ‘Publish’ on this post… I’ll spend some time with my family during our planned days out, enjoy a few nice pub lunches and dinners and a few bottles of wine at home, complete some DIY (as always!) and put my feet up, plus I’ll sneak out for a few fishing sessions alone – I can never leave it alone completely!

Thanks for reading

Marc Cowling

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