Bass from beaches
by Nigel Haywood
While looking for bass in estuaries is a fairly genteel occupation, and one not too far removed from river fishing, the surf is something else.
I used to fish beaches a lot with conventional tackle. I remember saving up when I was a teenager for a Mitchell 602AP multiplier, famous, according to the advertising literature, for its "gleaming Delrin sideplates", and apparently beloved of men who "muscle up to the breakers." There's no gainsaying it: beach fishing back in those days was a pretty macho occupation. Maybe it still is, though bass rods and multipliers are a lot lighter, and beach fisherman tend to put a lot more thought into their fishing than simply muscling up to the breakers and throwing their baits out as far as possible.
Even the toughest beach will produce bass on the fly if you approach it right. Because, as you'll have guessed by now, the fish aren't randomly spread throughout the sea. They're going to be where the food is. And yes, the answer is to get your map and tidetable, and get down to the beach at low tide. You're once again looking for fish holding features. You're also, to be honest, trying to find somewhere where you have some chance of fishing without being killed.
|A recce at low tide will reveal |
fish holding features, such
as the groyne, the off shore bar
and the pool in between
There are, of course, far more types of beach than just storm beaches. And there is something hypnotic about spending an evening up to your stripping basket in a gentle surf that makes it worthwhile seeking them out. My favourites will always be those beaches with a stream flowing into them. This gives an obvious holding area for bass, where the freshwater meets the salt. Pick a tide from half ebb downwards, and you can cheat wonderfully: cast out into the outflow, and let the current take your fly out as far as you choose. Then strip it back along the edge of the current. Deadly.
|Concentrate on places where |
freshwater flows into the sea
I like to use a slightly longer than usual rod on the beach, to help keep the backcast up. In rough conditions, I'll use a 9 1/2 foot ten weight, with an intermediate line. If there's any sort of surf, I'll move to a sinker. Anything else rapidly gets churned up in the waves, and tends to throw your fly back on your feet. A basket is essential. It is very important not to wade in too far. Cross currents can soon have you over, and if you're spending a lot of time worrying about getting dunked, you're not fishing effectively.
|The business end of a five pounder|
This leads me to another point. It's all very well being a fly fisherman. But most people aren't. And most people who catch fish in the sea aren't. If you want to catch fish, you're going to have to find them, and you need all the help you can get. Talk to bait fisherman. Talk even more to spin fishermen and pluggers. There's no point going into the local tackle shop and asking where you can fly fish. But they'll certainly know where you can catch fish on spinners. An essential part of recceing is going into tackle shops and drinking their coffee (amazing how many stay in business, the amount of coffee they give to visitors who don't buy anything). Do try and buy something from them, if only a few hooks and some leader material. These are some of the best investments you can make.
Nigel Haywood was brought up on the Cornish coast, and has fished in the sea for as long as he can remember. He tied his first saltwater fly over thirty years ago, and over the last ten years has focused almost exclusively on the fly rod.
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