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Bass and Twenty-First Century weather conditions

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Juan Del Carmen has fished for his native, Spanish bass extensively, especially in a host of reservoirs in the south of the country. Here he looks at the effects on these waters that modern-day pressures are exerting.

It's both easy and tempting to ignore the threats that global warming pose to life, never mind fishing, in many parts of the world. Southern Spain is particularly vulnerable, not that far north of the Sahara Desert and always susceptible to changing weather conditions. And this is certainly what we've been seeing over the last handful of years. Global warming or not, rainfall has become much more erratic and much less predictable. No longer can we count on dry and wet months. Previous wet months have become dry, dry ones have become wet but most of all, it's dry now nearly all the time! Yet when rain does fall, it's frequently violent, prolonged, producing serious flooding.

These weather conditions are made worse by the amount of development in Spain, especially along the Costa del Sol. Building projects have gone crazy over the last fifty years and now the demand for water is really beginning to become serious. Developments are still springing up and each new flat has its toilets, its showers and its pools. Nor is the coast called the Costa del Golf for nothing. Still there are permissions given for new gold courses and don't forget, a golf course absorbs as much water as a small town. Environmentalists are truly beginning to see a very dangerous situation arising.

During the long periods of dry weather, feeder streams dry up and this means little or no fresh water is flooding into the reservoirs which become stale and deoxygenated

But we're talking about bass fishing here and every new situation, whatever it is, tends to have its pros and its cons. Certainly, the problems with the situation I've just described are obvious indeed. During the long periods of dry weather, feeder streams dry up and this means little or no fresh water is flooding into the reservoirs which become stale and deoxygenated. This is also bad for other species, especially Andalucian barbel which thrive in running water. Birdlife, insects and animals are also badly affected.

Water levels drop rapidly and frequently fertilised bass eggs are left high and dry as the reservoir empties. This is either eaten by the birds and insects or perishes anyway during hours of bright, hot sunlight. The situation is made worse because, as the reservoir shrinks, small fish have less room to hide and are more easily predated on by the hungry, mature bass that have less opportunity to feed as their range becomes restricted. It's early days yet but my hunch is that bass recruitment will be harmed in the long term.

When the reservoirs reach their bare bones, the fishing becomes hard. There's far less water and next to no depth. Water temperatures rocket and the bass feel increasingly insecure as one by one, their ambush points are exposed to the open air. The fish sulk and they are difficult to tempt. Then, when the rains come and the reservoirs rise rapidly, the bass swim onto the previously exposed grasses and rocks where there's a huge amount of natural food to be found. They glut themselves on spiders, lizards, all manner of insects and for several weeks are almost impossible to catch on the natural fly.

But there are positives to the situation. When there's less water, the fish stocks become more concentrated and location becomes less of a problem. This is only a pro for a while of course. At the end, when the water is really low, it's like shooting fish in a barrel, something no true sportsman is keen on.

But when the water's at its lowest it does mean you can plot structures and features very accurately indeed. Everything is now laid bare and the lake gives up pretty much all its secrets. Now is the time to be compiling very accurate maps. Line everything up carefully and measure out exact distances. When the rains come and the waters rise and the features disappear, you'll know exactly where to fish if you've done your homework carefully.

They love to hide out in the ruins and then make their attacks through the open windows, doorways or even vertically where once their were roofs

You will also begin to understand why certain areas have been so good in the past. Submerged woodland is always good but I've realised more and more during these periods of low water that it's drowned buildings the bass like most of all. They love to hide out in the ruins and then make their attacks through the open windows, doorways or even vertically where once their were roofs. Obviously, old buildings give bass great ambush possibilities but it's very likely I think that they offer them protection from underwater currents. These can be quite severe in large, deep waters, especially when there's a wind and if a bass can hunker down in an old barn or cottage then its exertions are kept to a minimum.

But, there will always be mysteries. Whilst I've come to understand that bass congregate round certain buildings, why do they always seem to ignore other ones? And why does one sunken tree always hold thirty, forty or even fifty bass and others just like it never seem to shelter any. The truth is, experience especially in low water, can teach you a great deal, but in the end bass are ultimately unknowable and will always retain their mystery. That's why we love them. That's why we never tire of them. That's why I hope Mother Nature is given every helping hand we can offer so that my children and my grandchildren will be bass fishing long, long after I'm gone.

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