Bass fishing - exploding the myths - part 2
by Henry Gilbey
If I put my "across the divides" fishing cap on and begin thinking like an all rounder, really the most important ingredient about bass fishing is learning where to find them. The ocean can be a dauntingly large place to go looking for roaming fish if you are used to small still waters, rivers and lakes, and doubly so when one has to take into account tides, tide times, sizes and currents when fishing in the sea. For the moment, forget all about tackle, gizmos and other such superfluous worries, and instead let's think like a bass. Believe me, if you find these fish on the feed you are going to catch them on almost anything, but finding them is the secret ingredient.
The bass is a fish that is perfectly happy to come into very shallow water to hunt for food, whether it be estuaries, beaches or rock locations. In all honesty you would often not believe how close they will come in, sometimes right behind you if you are standing thigh deep in a westerly surf, touch-ledgering with bait. Often huge numbers of school bass (small, immature bass) congregate in estuaries, and these are usually more than easy to catch when the wind blows gently onshore and ruffles up the surface a bit. But what of chasing the larger fish ?
I can talk mainly of where I know, but when I chase decent bass on modern, hi-tech plugs and lures, this is when we look for shallow, rocky, weed-infested bays that are going to hold all the kinds of food that the bass is looking for. Think crabs, sandeels, prawns, small fish, worms and other such delicacies, for shallow rocky bays often hold the lot.
I tend to fish coastlines that face from south round to north west, so a lot of these bays are fully open to the elements. Avoid very rough conditions as the heavily surging water definitely puts the bass off the feed, but nothing beats gentle to moderate onshore winds. What I can not offer advice on is when the bass are most willing to feed in the tide cycle, but through trial and error you will find patterns emerging. Many anglers new to fishing in salt wrongly imagine that a fish like the bass is only going to feed when the tide is flooding (coming in), but in truth, different spots will fish better on different size tides and at different times.
The bass is a fish that likes "life" to the sea, whether that be some wind-chop, inviting tidal swirls or food-holding, churning gullies. It may well be a slight generalisation, but tend to shy away from areas that simply look devoid of this all essential "life". I need to feel that a bass has every reason possible to come in and feed where I am fishing, and because I know they prefer to use cover when hunting in daylight, therefore I like to cast my lures over the roughest, snaggiest, most gullied ground possible.
I am not going to say that effectively being able to cast a fairly long line is not of benefit, because it is, but do not worry if you can not cast a fly many miles (I certainly can't). More important is being able to control flies and lines in the wind, whilst also watching for waves, swells and fly line-grabbing rocks.
You do need to be proficient at double-hauling with a fair degree of accuracy, for the more you can present big flies in specific, likely looking fish-holding areas, the greater your chance of success. Luckily the fly fishing world is full of highly competent instructors who can easily get you up to scratch on the casting front if needs be.
We often fish plugs that either deliberately work on the surface or just sub-surface, principally because inshore bass will happily hit lures like this, and often because the ground we fish is so shallow that deep-diving plugs will only get snagged up all the time. Indeed, my current favourite bass plug (the silver holographic Maria Chase BW) swims no deeper than 30cms, so think about your flies and lines accordingly.
Above all, never be afraid to experiment, and be prepared for travelling light and walking many miles in search of out of the way spots. A full day's bass fishing should often leave you exhausted but elated, so avoid this kind of fishing if you are not prepared to always look around the next corner.
You will have noticed that I have spent virtually no time here instructing on flies, rods, reels and lines : whilst of course these are important factors, in truth I feel that of far greater importance is the need to learn about where bass are going to be, and then understanding how to fish these areas. "Watercraft" is the single most important thing anybody who fishes in the sea needs to understand, and increased understanding comes about through more time out on the shoreline.
So what better excuse do you need to get out there bass fishing?
Please note that the "trophy" photos you see of actual bass here were caught on lures; this is the kind of bass fishing I spend most time around. I am not trying to pull the wool over your eyes and say these fine fish were taken on flies !! But rest assured that the kinds of locations they were caught in are easily fishable with fly gear; it is a case of getting out there and devoting proper time to it. A bass that takes a lure in my mind is a bass that will take a fly. The photos of lure fishing are purely to illustrate the kinds of grounds we fish over. The bass you see were successfully returned.
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- Venezuelan smorgasbord at Los Roques
- Pope of the Madison
- The principles of layering - the base layer
- Game Fishing by Bob Church
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