Flash Fisherman Sheds Light On Success

We seemed to get quite a few southwesterlies in June that year (2003); maybe that accounts for the exceptional fishing I was experiencing. As the year wore on, things started slowing down, but I knew that October always has the possibility of a good fish. This was borne out one weekend against all expectations; as much as we try to get everything right when we go fishing, that good catch sometimes takes us by surprise – one of the many bonuses of fishing I guess.

We had very small tides, and an easterly wind. Had I followed accepted bass fishing lore, I wouldn’t have bothered going. But I did go, and I was very glad of it. I worked my plug along an extensive area of reef for a couple of hours over low water, but with little to show for my efforts, I started walking back to the car. Something started nagging away in my mind – was that tiny cove I had seen earlier, but was now heading away from, worth another look? It looked very good, but fishing it would mean doubling back on myself. I’m just not wired up to take the easy way out, so there was never any doubt that I would go back, and thank heavens I did.

Flash fishermen sheds light on success – an October 7½lber

The light was going by now, and the tide was covering the most gorgeous flat ledges. I flicked ‘Bernard the gurnard’ out, and started twitching him back, across the surface. On the fourth or fifth cast, the little fellow was hit hard! I couldn’t see a lot, but the fish certainly let me know it was there. It made several strong runs, taking line, before I was able to slide it up the rocks – a beauty of around 6lb.

I had already made provisional plans with Mark Pilcher to fish the following evening, and when I told him of my success, he was eager to return to the same place. Conditions and tide would be the same, so it was game on.

We got down there just in time for the start of the flood, which coincided with dusk. Mark was using frozen squid, while frozen crab was my chosen offering. I prefer to use live crab, but frozen is OK – as long as it hasn’t gone off. I collect my own crabs normally, and will only freeze them if I know I won’t be able to use them within a week or so. They are frozen whole and fresh. I always give them a sniff when they’re thawed, to check that they haven’t gone off during storage.

After an hour, neither of us had had a touch. I loaded up with more frozen crab (which had passed the smell test) and moved slightly, to try a different area. I cast out, and walked back up the shore a few yards. I flicked the bail arm over, and as I turned to face the sea, the rod was nearly wrenched out of my hands! This was met with an automatic strike, and I started winding in. The thumping headshakes suggested this might be a decent bass, and certainly no bull huss or conger. Sure enough, a beautiful 7½lb bass, equalling my best fish of the year, was soon laying on the rocks. Who says you can’t catch bass in an easterly wind, or neap tides!

When I looked at the photo of me holding this fish, the reflective strip on the front of my coat was glowing like a light sabre. Someone in BASS came up with the idea of a caption competition, with the lucky(?) winner getting to come fishing with me; with hindsight, this seems a little pretentious of me, but it was offered in a spirit of generosity. In the event, Martyn Dymond, a local angler, came up with “Flash fishermen sheds light on success” and duly won the ‘prize’.

I suddenly realised what it must feel like to be a fishing guide. You so want your charge to do well, and if you blank, it’s disappointing for them, and does nothing for your reputation. With this in mind, I decided to take Martyn to my most consistent mark. I know this place well, having fished it many times, and I know the best tide state and height, the best wind strength and direction, and the best rocks to fish from.

All the elements finally came together early in October the following year. A quick call to Martyn confirmed that he was on for a trip, so we went ahead.

When we arrived, it was pleasing to see that the conditions were indeed spot on. I tried to give Martyn encouragement, without raising his expectations too much, but I knew we would have fish. Mind you, our initial efforts with plugs were without success. “That can happen” I said (how often have I said that to people!) nonchalantly, “but it doesn’t mean we won’t get them on bait”, still confident we would catch fish. We set up legering gear (standard rough ground rigs), cast out crab baits, and sat back to wait….

We didn’t have a touch for the first half an hour. Had I not known this mark, I might have felt more uncomfortable. But this was pretty standard for here, and right on cue, we started getting bites. My anxiety level wasn’t helped though, by the fact that I lost two reasonable fish at my feet; I actually saw one, about 4lb, drop off.

Martyn didn’t seem to be getting any bites, so I suggested we change places. This did the trick, and I was mightily relieved when he caught his first of several bass. Meanwhile, I cast to the other side. Sometimes you have to give to receive, as they say – I was gobsmacked to land a nice 6 lber, equalling the best fish I have caught at that mark to date.

So, the trip ended up a success – Martyn enjoyed himself, and caught a few bass, and my reputation (such as it was) remained intact; I very much enjoyed the experience too. Martyn and I never fished together again; I think our worlds had different orbits. As far as I know he kept his word, and didn’t divulge the location of the mark -15 years later, I still haven’t seen anybody fishing there at night.

I recently got in touch with Martyn, and I was struck by something he said: “you really inspired me to change, and widen my whole approach that night”. What more reward do you need?

From A Bass Angler’s Life by Robin Bradley.

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