I can understand this and there have been several points in time when I felt this way too but through some perserverance and sometimes with a little hard work and if you want to pursue winter fishing from time to time, there are some good tactics that can greatly increase your chances - difficult as it is and few as they are!
There are other apects to this early and late season fishing that are beneficial too -as you make and complete your early or later sessions, you also get back into or stay 'in the groove' much earlier and longer than your warm water friends! Sometimes over a lazy and slow winter, picking up and starting that fishing momentum can become a difficult thing! A bit like the late Winter or early Spring fish who are often a little sluggish, probably somewhat slow moving and generally finding things a bit difficult - shake off those 'comfortable' feelings and get out there....during this time you will undoubtedy hit some 'weather windows' or 'moments of magic', extended periods of mild reasonable weather can create chances over time.
This might only be a few hours of exceptional conditions that suddenly bring fish on (in fact it might be worth considering they may in fact be spawning, they are physiologically ready!) or suddenly you have success out of the blue - mark it down as something to watch out for in the future. Its something to amaze your friends with.
'You mean you caught fish in the middle of February in an easterly you hear them ask' - 'its not possible' they say. You know it may not be very frequent but it is very possible. The reason - you are actively engaged and in tune with your fishing the conditions and the circumstances that led you to the fish.
Fishing in the 'off season' always seems to be a little better when the water temperature is steadily falling as in late Winter (December January) and not rising as in early Spring (March April). This often means that weather fronts are becoming a little more unstable and it’s not often bright and sunny for a number of consecutive days. Winter and Spring terms are used loosely here.
Bass will start to move inshore during the Spring (April / May in Wexford) and there are one or two reasons why I think they are moving. One reason is to find the warmer water to spawn, the second, is to find food, as the chain kicks into life. Food sources have probably diminished over the long winter and forage has been greatly reduced due to lack of sunlight and cooler temperatures at sea. It may be one of the reasons that during 'weather windows' fish move out of and then back to their winter haunts, they are chasing food. They are never too far from shore.
Learning about prey behaviour means you learn about your quarry - and if fish are there they will eat.
I look for shallower water, and I definetly start looking for water clarity if possible. I'm fishing at depth in some current where possible.
Its difficult to know exactly what is the most common food source for fish are at this time of year. Crabs, shrimp little juvenile sandeel are probables. Throughout the wintertime when water temperature is cooler, I suspect predators are on the deeper bottom offshore and most of the food sources have already been greatly reduced. During early spring I tend to use smaller flies that are imitation of shrimps and small sandeels that I see along the shoreline. Be aware that the type of bass strike or take you will experience will tend to be more reactionary and sometimes slower rather than the sheer massive aggressive hunter strike that you will experience during mid and late summer.
To get the fly to fish it means fast intermediate or sinking lines with clouser minnow types fished on or near the bottom - inched along or fished strip and stop.
The retrieve and the fly line will put your fly in the right fishing position. So where is my fly? At this time of the year it needs to be close to the bottom! There are two fishing actions to make. One is the long strip you make with your line hand to move and pull the bait through the water. This is the initial 'triggering' method helping to grab the fishes attention. The second action is the stop or pause. This will allow the clouser to 'drop' to the bottom. So the fish has seen the fly swim and drop, maybe once or twice. It is during this 'fly activity time' that a bass will make the initial decision to take the fly, more often than not on the drop or pause. Pausing for 8 - 10 seconds is a good idea - even more, and sometimes Inching the fly along the bottom after the drop can result in very delicate pick ups by fish - be ready.
Remember fish are somewhat lethargic and don’t swim around chasing and using lots of energy in colder 'later' water.
Tactics to use in terms of the retrieve and helping to put your fly in the right place, with short leaders
- make longer slower strips with less time on the pause or stop
- make shorter strips with more time on the pause or stop
- increase the time of the bottom 'inching'
- add some stopping and starting to the bottom 'inching'
- slow down - A LOT!