Submitted by Damion Fryer 10/2/2016
You arrive at your chosen fishing mark just as the sun’s trying to rise on the horizon. The winds are light, the sky is clear and conditions look good. You put on your sturdy walking boots, load your rucksack onto your back and pick up your rod and reel. The spot you’ve chosen to fish entails a brief walk along the Southwest coast path, an easy climb down onto the rocks, followed by a short scramble to your chosen fishing spot. As you stand on the rocks putting your rod together, a fishing boat can be seen in the distance making its way out to an offshore wreck, full of hopeful anglers anticipating a good catch of Cod, Pollock and Conger.
You decide to start with a shallow diving jointed plug and as you clip it onto the end of your lure clip, a shoal of sandeels are seen scattering out in front of you, a promising sign. You loop your finger onto the line, open the bale arm, bring your rod back over your shoulder and with a swoosh, you cast out in anticipation of an early morning Bass. Once your lure has landed, you click over your bale arm and start retrieving slowly, feeling every kick of your lure as it vibrates up through your rod. Your lure arrives back at your feet, so you remove a small piece of weed that has attached itself to the front treble and launch it out again, slightly more to the left this time as you want to cover as much water as possible. You start your retrieval and after a few turns of your reel, you feel as though something has just nipped the back of your lure. You keep winding, hoping that if it was a fish it will return for a second go and take it properly, as Bass quite often do. Disappointment sets in as the lure ends up back at your feet, leaving you wondering if it was a fish or not. Did you just catch a rock or maybe some kelp, or was it a fish? You’ll never know. After a few more casts, your’re now fishing slightly to the left having covered a fair bit of water without any action apart from what you thought was a Bass nipping your lure a few casts previously. As you’re winding in again, feeling the lure working away, you glance to your left and look at another likely spot about 15 yards away with easy access. It’s a flatish looking rock, with what looks like deep water with a couple of kelp strewn rocks that are just being submerged by the flooding tide. It’s decision time. Do you move across to the next mark, or do you stick it out here and maybe change your lure?
Just as you’re considering the options your rod suddenly pulls round and line starts to be stripped from your reel and your heart starts to beat a little quicker. Fish on! The first thing that runs through your mind is please don’t come off! The second thought is please be a Bass! Although you would be grateful for a Wrasse or Pollock, Bass are the target species so a Bass is what you’re hoping for. After a minute or so and a couple of brief runs, the fish rolls just under the surface revealing silver flanks and a spikey dorsal fin. Bass! A few seconds later, the fish is beaten. As you draw it towards the rocks with its head up, you climb down ready to lift your prize out of the water. As you lift the Bass out of the water by its bottom lip, you see clearly that he is well hooked by the rear treble, there was no need to worry about him coming off. After you’ve unhooked him, he’s weighed at 4lb 3oz and quickly photographed before being released. Not a massive fish, but a very welcome one as the objective of catching a Bass has been achieved. Decision time again! Do you now stick with this mark or move to the next one 15 yards away? Do you stick with this lure or try something else? Fishing is full of decisions. Sometimes you get them right, sometimes you don’t.
To stand the best chance of succeeding at a certain mark, firstly you need to spend time learning about the mark. Visit it on low tide, look at possible areas where fish will forage as the tide floods. Kelp strewn rocks are a typical example of fish holding areas, as are rock pools which will hold various types of marine fare for fish, which will become exposed once the tide floods over them. The state of the tide always plays an important part of succeeding at a certain mark. Some marks fish better on low tide, some fish better on mid tide and some fish better at high tide etc. You can try to gain knowledge of a mark by talking to local fishermen or popping into your local tackle shop and asking for advice. The other way to find out about your mark is to go and fish it yourself, learning as you go. The state of the tide, weather conditions, barometric pressure, moon phase, wind direction, temperature etc all affect fishing in some way or another. I’ve spent over twelve months fishing a certain rock mark in Cornwall and only just worked out what the best fishing conditions are for this mark. Wind direction, temperature, state of tide and height of high tide need to be right before I will fish it with any confidence. Even then it doesn’t mean that I will catch, but I’m confident I’m giving myself the best chance of success, although I have also fished this mark on days when conditions weren’t right and still caught fish.
Where do Bass go when they aren’t feeding on your chosen mark? Are they still present but not feeding? Do they go to another mark where conditions are different? Do they move offshore a bit? Are they feeding on your mark but not taking lures? There’s lots of unanswered questions in fishing and if we knew the answers, the word blanking wouldn’t have been invented. Until all these questions have been answered, all you can do is keep fishing and try to work the answers out for yourself. Until then, we’ll call it fishing not catching.