Wednesday 27 August 2008

In 'Bass Fishing Files' NOW

Fly and Lure fishing tactics for when you and the fish are faced with poor subsurface visibility.

Monday 25 August 2008

Bass Fishing on the Fly - P9 - Doing it and Improving

Saltwater fly-fishing fundamentals

Part five – Doing it somewhat!

We have already covered various topics such as when and where, including the best times, tides and places to fish near. Part two dealt with some of the pitfalls likely to be met along the way to success, and I made some general suggestions regarding equipment, gear, training and flies. In this post I hope to clarify some of the more technical elements of fly-fishing equipment, mainly the fly lines, the fly rod and the flies which you will be fishing with. Fly fishing technique, or the ability to properly cast a fly and put it where you want it, is the heart of fly-fishing. Without the ability to cast well and confidently, all the rest - such as your gear, your clothing, your flies - is rather useless. Ultimately, the ability to properly cast a fly while fly-fishing will make or break any fly-fishing outing. Choosing the right equipment and a proper instructor will help you in all of this. Please remember that this is not an expert’s opinion – but one based on years of very hard work.

It was over a period of many months that I had made my choices regarding tackle purchase, based on reviews and expert opinions, budget and angling requirements including training, and the technical arena of line and rod type. My choice of rod was the Shimano XTR biocraft range a SW#10, the reel was an Airflo T7 again a #10 suitable for use in the sea, and line was an Airflo saltwater weight forward #10 floating. I have subsequently heard more opinions regarding all of these pieces of equipment that I simply don’t worry whether I had made the right decisions or not. They all still work and they have caught me some superb fish over the last number of years including many Big Bass. I can fish confidently with these pieces of equipment even if they are a little heavy!

One of the biggest issues that the saltwater fly-fisherman will have to deal with is wind. Generally speaking, no matter where we go along the Irish coastline there will inevitably be some breeze blowing. This will range from the ‘moderate to fresh’ to ‘light and variable’, and it may be no harm to visit the met eireann site to understand these definitions. A lot of weather information can be had at many websites which can prove very useful to the angler. Looking back now over April and early May of 2002, (during this time I expected to catch a Bass on every cast) I realise that I was subconsciously looking for areas sheltered from the worst of the wind or worse still, even when the wind was light I would position myself to favour my cast. Doing this cut down hugely my chances of ever catching a fish. The equipment I had purchased was more than capable of throwing lines good distances with big flies in most wind conditions, the problem was, that I wasn’t. Andrew Ryan at the Clonanav fly fishing centre confirmed this to me when, after the second cast with my equipment he cast all the fly line from the reel into a head wind of force 4; At least I had done something right! Andrew was quick to point out to me that casting a #8 or #7 in the same conditions was entirely possible – provided the technique was correct!

Regarding lines and rods and things – It is, in my opinion, important for the would be saltwater fly angler to understand the basics of the ‘science’ involved in fly lines and rods! Now I don’t mean you should put on your white lab coat, carry a clipboard and wear an absurdly coloured tie, but study and understand the principles and mechanics behind some of the terms like – AFTMA, weight forward, shooting heads, tapers, running line, belly etc. This is recommendation number eight; get a copy of a good book on the principles of fly-fishing! This should cover the basics of fly lines and rods, knots, leaders, and some casting techniques. It doesn’t have to be an encyclopaedia but should contain enough information for you to ‘visualise’ some of the principles. You may remember from part one that I suggested the purchase of a number 9 or even 10-rod, line and reel, some of you might be saying this is over kill, but what I wanted to do was match the equipment to the requirements. Lets just quickly look at the requirements again

1. You want to catch fish in the sea using fly fishing techniques
2. You will more often than not be casting into a strong head wind.
3. If your target is Bass then the flies you will be using will be quite big, some very big; you will need to cast them safely and efficiently!
4. There will often be rocks, seaweed and other obstructions where you fish.
5. On occasion waves and current will wash your line into these and you may need to exert some force to free your line.
6. You need to subdue your quarry as quickly as possible to prevent lactic acid build up and undue stress to ensure a positive catch and release.
7. Sometimes you may have to ‘bully’ your quarry through weed or rocks.
8. If you are targeting Bass and Pollack in deep water you might need some butt power .

I don’t want to make the Irish coastline sound as hospitable as the surface of Mars, but it is a pretty demanding environment. It is perfectly capable of smashing your equipment and your emotions quite easily in a short space of time, we don’t want that to happen. Dare I say it but here is recommendation number nine; what you need initially from a line is good quality, one that’s not too expensive, has a short head and a weight forward profile and lasts well in saltwater. I would suggest that you start with a floating line then as you become more proficient purchase a clear intermediate line. Some fly lines are better than others, of that there is no doubt, but initially the right type rather than manufacturer is paramount. To a novice the difference between a Hardy line and an Airflo line is not really going to be detectable for some time, except in price that is! Remember you will need about 75 to 100 yards of braid to back up your reel and attach to your fly line; this is readily available and quite inexpensive.

The same principle applies to rods and reels the more expensive the rod or reel the more technically adept the equipment. Please remember - expensive equipment does not always automatically translate into long casts, and long casts do not always translate into more fish! I think you can work it out for yourself. You need a rod that does the job by throwing these lines and your flies where you want them to go as far as you want them to go, as safely as possible. Length and type (fast med) however, should be seriously considered before making your purchase. Saltwater fly-fishing does unfortunately require casting and re-casting, sometimes made while standing in chest deep water. So, recommendation number ten is; a minimum of a nine-foot rod is needed to be effective out there. Some individuals have gone to 10-foot or longer rods, but they can be hard on the wrist to cast, especially in the heavier weights of nine or ten, and they will tire you out much quicker than a nine-footer. The rod needs to be saltwater resilient, anything that is exposed to saltwater will, with time corrode and rust if not attended to. Please pay particular attention to the reel seat and the rings. A quick rinse in warm water and then a rub with a rag sprayed lightly with WD40 will add years to your equipment.

While rods and lines are very important, do not overlook your reel when considering saltwater fly-fishing. Recommendation number eleven is; spool capacity and rust/corrosion resilience are some of the main things to look for in a saltwater fly reel, (if you find a saltwater proof reel please let me know, I do know of one!) also extremely important is a durable, and smooth drag system. Big Bass and particularly Pollack are known for their long, fast initial runs and you don’t want your reel to seize or simply fall apart in the middle of one. Unlike trout fishing, where you can set the drag to nearly nothing and palm the spool, you will have to rely on the drag from time to time to slow bigger Bass or Pollack especially in currents. The reel holding your lines needs to be of a large arbour type (they also look sexier than the traditional type) to help take the memory out of your line and it also needs some capacity for backing - that’s the brightly coloured line you put on your reel before your fly line, you do get to see and feel it from time to time! So what’s next? We’ve looked at lines, rods and reels I guess that only leaves flies leaders and tippets, simple!!

So, flies are big? Small? Blue? White? Or that fancy one - chartreuse and white? Deceivers? Clousers? Poppers? Bangers? Flatwings and hollows? What’s going on here? Day, night, evening, dusk, and dawn. Hold it together now, we’ve come this far, remember always try and make it simple, break it down into easy parts. If you remember from part one, a long time ago I know, we decided that when we are beginning the best times to go fishing were early morning or late evening; well this has an effect on the colour of fly you should use at this time also. The following I will add as recommendation number 12; a list to help you make your decisions regarding colours, remember this is a very broad list and is matched to your early morning and late evening trips

1. Before the sun rises over the horizon use a white fly with some yellow like a deceiver.
2. When the sun is just above the horizon and it looks like becoming a bright day then switch to an all white fly again using a deceiver pattern.
3. When the sun is rising to just above the horizon and it looks like becoming a dull day then switch to a darker fly with some patterns in it. A possible change to a clouser or a darker more patterned deceiver of brown or olive.
4. If the day looks like its becoming broken with sunny spells then switch to a coloured fly like blue and white or olive and white or even red and orange again a clouser pattern.
5. During evening time before sundown go back to your white and yellow deceiver.
6. At night a black or darker fly works, so do white and chartreuse flies!

Now I know you have become a naturalist over the last few months, especially with respect to the wildlife at your chosen fishing grounds. If you have local knowledge regarding baitfish like sand eel or gobies or young pollack and their patterns then use this to your advantage and experiment with chosen flies and fly colours. I like to use a particular colour that works for me. Two years ago I collected two Rapala J13’s off one of the local beaches after a storm. Both were pretty battered but both had a distinctive colouring – like that of a goldfish. I asked around and found out that local boatmen use this pattern all the time; it’s their number one choice. I subsequently use very frequently a fly that contains red, orange and yellow, particularly during daytime hours and it works very well. I still get blank days of course!

Regarding the type of fly when you are starting out, two or three flies come to mind, deceivers clouser minnows and surf candy. If you can, purchase 4 deceivers - two chartreuse and white and two white, then add 4 clouser minnows – two blue and white and two of olive and white. Finally get a mixed bunch of surf candy. This should set you back no more than 30 euros and it is enough spend for you to get started. Recommendation number 13; use this first set almost as a write off – an experiment if you like, don’t worry what happens to these first flies. Get used to casting the different types, feel the difference between the deceiver and the minnow. Drop them, attached to your leader of course, in the water in front of you. Watch how they behave when moving in a current or in slack water. Do they sink or hang, do they look natural and can you invoke some ‘life’ into them. Cast them into and across the wind – get used to how they feel when wet and dry on the cast. What do they look like at the end of a session? In part six we will discuss some methods I found of how best to fish these flies.

For some reason tapered leaders and tippets and co-polymers and fluorocarbons and all of these things still cause huge sense of confusion. I’m not really sure why but they do! At the end of my fly line I have a braided loop attachment. To this I attach about 5 feet of 18kg BS clear Rio alloy mono and then to this I attach about 3 feet of hard mono of 7kg BS, to this I then attach a tippet of flourocarbon then a fly using a rapala knot. I join the two lines using the surgeons knot. And that is about that as regards your equipment requirements to get you fishing in saltwater. Recommendation number 14; if you already have some fresh water fly fishing gear it is possible to use this in the sea. You may need to maintain your equipment more often and you might be restricted to certain less demanding species and localities but you will be already skilled in fishing with the lighter lines and rods so have a go this spring and summer!

Saltwater fly-fishing fundamentals

Part six – Improving on doing it somewhat!

I remember driving home from what would be one of my last sessions of the season. It was a calm, dull cold and overcast November Saturday. Already the days were getting dark at 4:30 and blue-grey smoke from fires lit in country houses hung low in the sky across fields of stubble. Geese had replaced terns on the estuary and the constant sounds of a thousand waders filled the air. As I drove home I saw some forgotten carved pumpkins lying tossed in gardens, their crooked smiles testament to the season passed. I noticed air temperatures (a constant hobby of mine) had dropped by more than seven or eight degrees and I told myself that maybe the warm sea might hold the fish into December. I was finding it very difficult to let go. I managed one more long session at the end of November on the fly – I had no fish – it was inevitably coming to an end!

And now it’s nearly beginning again! What does this year hold in store…. who really knows with fishing! Before we move on to some words about flies and things I just want to mention the importance of recording data that’s relevant to your fishing. Its March now and heading towards the start of the sea trout season. What I want you to consider doing is laying out on some paper or in a notebook from you local stationers, or indeed on a computer, a sheet that would look something like the one below.

I have this sheet laid out in Microsoft excel and it’s done in a way that I happen to like. You can add or subtract the columns and amend it as you see fit. It simply records the day, the date, the atmospheric pressure, maximum temperature, minimum temperature, sunshine hours, tides and so on, all the way across to the part on fishing activity. Start recording data into the sheet on a daily basis whether you go fishing or not. When you are fishing you can record the details of flies/lines used and fish catch. When you are not fishing you should still record data, and overtime you will achieve an almost intimate closeness with the weather and tides. If you hear information from friends who have gone fishing, put it in here too! Recommendation number 15 - I really can’t emphasise enough the benefits of this exercise. It is definitely another tool to help you succeed, now and in the future. If you require the spreadsheet in Excel please feel free to e-mail me at for a free copy.

What I am asking you to try and achieve is an ever-increasing awareness of elemental factors and the more than probable effects they will have on your fishing. When you build data into the sheet over a season or indeed a number of seasons you can then perform some extraction analysis and build patterns that occur on the occasions when you have and haven’t caught fish.

The second and I promise this is the last of the homework that I would recommend for number 16 is to get the detail of your local tides and condense the information into something like the sheet below. I know some of you are thinking –‘ this a bit of overkill...?’, ‘I think Jim mentioned this before…’ I realise you probably have spent a lot of time in ‘set up’ mode and this is more of the same but I personally think the benefits for the beginner and even for the seasoned angler who has never done anything like this before can be enormous. It will greatly help your decision making process and guide you down the path to further success.

Start to mentally couple the weather and the tide in your mind and before you go fishing you will almost certainly get that primeval feeling of what to expect from your best angling marks. Subconsciously you will begin to make decisions about when and where to fish and even when not to fish. Then slowly begin to establish natural patterns and rhythms that represent success and when you notice them falling into place a few days before you know are the best tidal times, the anticipation of waiting to go fishing can be incredibly exciting.

So it’s Wednesday and its June 15th 2007. You know from your tidal guides it’s going to be a good morning tide on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th, the weather has been excellent with high pressure hanging over Ireland for the last 6 days, winds speeds are low, and air temperatures are constant at around 17/18 degrees. It looks like its not going to change either. The anticipation should start to build, a bit like a pressure cooker! You go home from work on Wednesday and get your rod, waders, reel, line and flies, clippers, forceps, ready. Now I know you have them ready since April but you get them ready again anyway, you make a few false casts in the back garden and get tangled in next doors telephone cable! Thursday the weather is good, you begin to want to go on Friday morning but you know you cant. You’ve told the relevant person/s where you are going at least twenty times and at what time and then finally we get to it.

You arrive at your venue at 4:15am put on your gear at ramming speed and charge to the spot, you make several casts (false and other) over your hotspots in a lather of sweat and shakes while you remember you forgot your sunglasses. Suddenly you spot some explosive surface activity twenty yards to your left, well within your casting range– I never really know who is responsible for the next guaranteed sequence of events but it happens - you pull too much line from the reel causing an overrun, when you are repairing this your favourite clouser gets the taste of freedom, likes it, and decides it wants to hide in a bed of bladder wrack and set-up permanent residence there, meanwhile your loose fly line winds its way around your ankles and as you bend over to sort it, whilst stepping on your leader, your fly box slips out of your jacket into the water, you watch it bobbing away when you spot a passing Bass veering slowly out of its path on its way to this mornings favoured hunting spot, which now looks like a boiling cauldron. Then and only then you see the other angler. A little bit away, he’s staring at you biting the inside of his lip, he has stopped reeling his surface lure, rod still pointing at the horizon he’s completely motionless, frozen in time, in fact he hasn’t moved since he saw your frantic arrival and first cast. You straighten up and wave and wish you were dead! He smiles (you think) and thankfully keeps his thoughts to himself, shakes his head, looks for his lure, locates it, and gives it a sharp pull, splashing it across the surface three feet from the hot spot and…. Then you cry!!!

Anyway I was going to tell you a few things about how I fish with the deceivers, clousers and other flies, well, recommendation number 17 is, slowly works for me. I learned this the hard way – a bit like the guy above. Take your time, get your gear on, if you have to walk a bit and you are using neoprene waders and temperatures are up then carry them in a rucksack, put your rod together, put your reel on but don’t pull the line through the rings yet and check that you have everything again. Lock the car. Put the keys away safely. Walk towards your venue. You know those little pairs of binoculars that you can buy quite cheaply? If you can, get yourself a pair. Recommendation number 18 is to study the venue from a distance before walking up to it. Are there birds about feeding in the area, can you see what they are feeding on, is there any surface activity, breaking shoals of fry, what state is the tide at, (which you should already know,) does it look like there is weed in the water? Sometimes what you are expecting may not actually happen. You arrive, put on your waders and walk into the water.

Think again. I cant say how surprising this might seem but if you can cast 20 yards make your first cast is made 15 yards from the shoreline away from your chosen spot in such a way as to cause a minimum of disturbance. Then let the fly work its way to the correct place by using the tide and natural flow of water. Watch your shadow and sky profile. Remember during the previous few hours fish will have spent the time in darkness, they will often still feel secure in the pale early morning light and will lie very close to shore.
Move slowly closer to the shoreline, quietly, working your fly further and further out nearer any hotpots that you know are there. Cover as much ground as possible. It is here I still have a lot to learn; by a lot I mean a huge amount. But I will tell you what I like to do. Using a floating line and a leader of about 9 feet. If the tide and flow is moving from right to left and I know where the ‘hotspot’ is, rock or other underwater obstruction, then I make a cast uptide in such a way and at a distance that I know by the time the fly is carried down towards the ‘hotspot’ without retrieving and with some mending the fly that it will start to lift and swim in the tide. It is then that I will often make a sharp short pull and stop on the fly line, maybe a foot or so to cause the fly to streamline and then open enticingly and then turn and drift back. Let it drift back more slowly than the tide include a few ‘short tugs’ and then repeat with a pull of about two feet and so on. Impart random life into your fly and separate it from other ‘non natural objects’ etc. This method has worked well for me using both the deceivers and the clousers. Retrieve rates and movements are best determined on the day I’m afraid. I think from my own experience, fly selection and fishing method is still where I need to spend most time learning.

If you ever have the opportunity to watch Bass or other predators like mackerel chasing baitfish at close quarters then do so. I had such an opportunity to watch mackerel chase sprat up a long narrow yet deep inlet this summer. They were rapidly followed by Bass mopping up on stunned sprat and not really bothering to work for their supper. It was the action of baitfish hit, and then missed by mackerel that interested me most; their action was very similar to one that I could impart in my deceivers. A slow moving twitching and turning baitfish that moves randomly and enticingly in the tide. Alternatively fishing with an intermediate line and a sparse closer minnow with similar methods allows you to fish deeper and closer to the bottom. The unique nature of the upside-down swimming action of the closer allows this with minimal tackle loss.

But my real favourites are the surface lures, the poppers and crease flies. When I started trying to cast these at first, all my old mistakes came flooding back. I was flaying about like a mad thing! Because they look so big, mentally, I was trying to cast the fly like a spinner, but of course the original principles I had learned held through and eventually I managed to get it somewhat right. One morning early in May and purely by accident I used one of these flies. I had tried every other fly in the box and I had had no hits. I knew there was fish moving through on a regular basis and a local angler had landed and returned four on spinning baits. So I sat down, growled to myself and tied on one of these big guys, I knew they floated and I had on a floating line, so I tied on a shorter leader (six feet) and I slowly walked straight into the middle of a complex rocky reef structure and made a goodish enough cast. I applied the same thinking as the ‘traditional’ plugs and things I use, and pulled the lure through the surface water, splashing and spitting the fly and then stopping and waiting. I counted to ten and then repeated the sharp pull when wham, it was smashed into by a very nice fish of about 5lbs. Such is the ferocity of a Bass when hitting these lures that a strike is unnecessary. When you experience these surface attacks it remains with you forever and it does nothing but to further increase the deep obsession, excitement and sheer enjoyment that is bass fly-fishing.

Since the summer of 2003 I have guided a lot of people from all around the world along the Wexford coast. I have some brilliant photographs of various clients and their well-deserved fish but this year, if I have the opportunity, I am definitely making a conscious effort to photograph the faces and reactions of people as they experience that first surface lure Bass hook up. From a slightly raised eyebrow to simply falling over in the rush of excitement, I have witnessed many and I hope to continue to witness many more

Mackerel on the fly - Childs play

Dan and Ruth (aged 8 +6) have had great fun catching mackerel on the fly this week - I'm told the next fish Ruthie wants to catch is a Bass! Its fantastic fishing for early beginners in saltwater fly fishing and the only real assistance is a little casting help, making sure they both dont fall in and minding sharp hooks! They learned retrieves, knots, fish handling, a lot about nature - plus had loadsa fun!

Thursday 21 August 2008

The Galleries

I have been neglecting the galleries somewhat over the last few weeks. This is because i've been concentrating on the 'bassfishing files' blog and another project which is cooking for the winter. I will over the next week or so bring you up to date with some nice photographs I have made over the last five weeks or so

Bendy Rods

Tuesday 19 August 2008

Big Fly-Big Fish - Do I need BIG rod?

Does a big fly mean a big fish ?

How can i cast a big fly in strong wind?

How do I land a big bass on a light fly rod quickly and without stressing the fish?

A fly rod is a casting tool and I am often asked the above questions and many more - retrieves, fly choice, presentations - how does it all fit together?

Monday 18 August 2008

'Bass and B.A.S.S.'

A refreshing new book from the Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society, with over 70 articles drawn from the Society’s magazine over the years. Covering the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and striped bass in the USA, it deals with every aspect of the fish, the fishing and the Society.

From people who genuinely know and understand their bass fishing and have done so for years - this is a must for every serious bass angler.

Sunday 17 August 2008

Post No 101

I've reached post number 101 for this blog. Over the past few weeks I have been adding some material to the Bass Fishing Files section. Now that I have material added and some commentary going it will be accessible to all readers of Saltwater Fly & Lure early this week. I hope to keep Bass Fishing Files as informative and interesting as possible with

  1. weekly weather predictions
  2. fishing reports and predictions
  3. help and information
  4. up to date techniques and methods
  5. local information for the visiting angler or on the link to the right

If you would like to see anything added to the files please dont hesitate to contact me at

Saturday 16 August 2008

things can only get better!

Bass Fishing Influences - Water Clarity (PII).

The sun is beating down from directly above your head, the sky is the brightest of blues and the water's as clear as Gordons. Theres only the faintest of breezes cooling the sweat on your back - On the other hand what happens when you are fishing in conditions resembling cold chocolate? The following notes could help your fly and lure fishing under both circumstances.

Dealing with cloudy water - tactics for bass on fly and lure.

The photograph above is now a common sight on the south east coast, and has been especially visible and regular over the last few weeks. The lethal combination of continuos strong winds and heavy rain adds 'colour' to the water, combined with large deposits of rotting seaweed it spells tough times for the fly and lure fisherman. Circumstances like the one above are at the extreme end of the range and as the first thirty meters are brown I am often asked, especially by flyfishermen, as to what to do.

There are two major types of fish - the predatory type and the scavenger type. Predators tend to want to catch and eat most of their prey when its alive, although they will scavenge if they need to. Using their highly developed senses of smell, sight, sensitivity and hearing they locate their prey easily. Sight is a very well developed sense in most fish and is especially developed in those that are predatory. Bass eyes are located high on their heads looking forward up and a lot to the side. Contrast and Movement play a BIG part in their vision.

Because of water clarity in Ireland and its normal restrictions, fish tend not to see beyond twenty or thirty feet. However lots of fish dont 'look' beyond a range of ten feet any further is too far! They have good colour vision and they have excellent night vision too. Predators rely on sight as the major tool in the hunting box. But what happens when they cant see effectively?

The extent of the turbidity of the water is usually indicative of whether bass will be present or not. In the photograph above they are most definetly not present, this photograph was taken after some days of very strong winds and rain. The photograph to the right was taken after the wind had blown but the weather was improving and the sea was 'fining down' or settling. Bass would be present in the circumstances to the right even with the suspended particles and seaweed present. The camera visibility here was reduced to about two feet.

Tying up subsurface visibilty, the weather and its impact on your fishing has been discussed in Part One. Here are some pointers to help when the sea is murky.
  1. Try to fish as early in the change of wind direction, increase in strength or deterioration as is possible.
  2. If this is not possible re-plan you fishing to attempt the latest set of tides in the cycle that correspond to an improvement. In other words after wind and rain dont go fishing just 'cause the sun shines - it takes time for the fish to return.
  3. If the change in weather that is causing the 'breakdown' is a big one the first two tides of this period are often excellent at producing BIG fish, if you can deal with conditions!
  4. If the change in weather is a fast moving depression that comes and goes very quickly, fish immediately the next tide when the barometric begins to rise - a key time!
  5. Do not expect a lot of fish after extended periods of strong wind and rain
  6. When the sea is 'fining down' dont be dissapointed not to get fish on the first tide you try - try the next - they'll be there and hungry too.
  7. Avoid fishing areas close to runoffs or river inlets, estuaries, where weed is gathered on the beach, or the windward sides of peninsulas or rocky points.
  8. Check the visibilty of different areas of water by dropping a fly into the sea and estimating maximum distance at which it remains visible - often fish can be concentrated in the optimum areas of 'bad' conditions. Use a brightly colored or very dark and noisy fly or lure! Do some combat fishing by creating impacts with structure with the fly or lure.
  9. Fish a black or purple or 'BLURPLE' fly as this contrasts sharply as the bass view it against the skys lighter background as they look up. Try black or smaller dark poppers or fish heavy flies/soft lures close to the bottom where visibilty is often slightly better
  10. Try and find current and watch and wait - often different phases of the tide produce clear conditions just for a short period - fish are often condensed in these areas and travel with the clear water.

Bass Fishing on the Fly - P8 - Species, when, and where.

Saltwater fly-fishing fundamentals

Part three – the species and the possibilities

For most people who are not saltwater fly fishers, along with a considerable percentage of those who are, often seem to think that saltwater fly fishing is limited to wading or being poled in a spectacularly white, extremely powerful speed boat over shallow tropical flats in search of tarpon, bonefish or permit. Admittedly, this may be the best-publicised aspect of the sport and the three species above are regarded as the "holy grail” of saltwater fly-fishing. Here in Ireland it’s a little different and while it may often be less glamorous it is by no means and may indeed be, more difficult than the warmer water fishing.

Bass were, at one time, abundant along most of Ireland’s coastline. Due largely to over fishing by inshore gill-netters and the continued illegal practice, today they are more restricted in distribution but still occur in some areas and especially difficult to access natural shoreline areas. Sea trout have also suffered but are now beginning to recover somewhat. Mullet are present in large shoals – often seen mooching around estuaries and backwaters. So what are we saying then? Well sea bass are somewhat abundant and are the prime target for the saltwater fly fisher, even sea trout and mullet can be caught if one knows where and when to fish, but what other challenges can a saltwater fly fisher face in Ireland. Apart from these three species what else is there?

As we have discussed in previous issues, under the right conditions, all of the species above can be caught using the same fly outfit: an 8- or 9-weight rod and a reel with a smooth drag and a capacity of at least 75 to 100 yards of 20-pound backing, in addition to a weight-forward fly line. Depending upon the conditions and the type of fish, a floating or sinking line may be employed. The best all-around line choice for experienced anglers is probably an intermediate (slow sinking) line, but beginners may want to stick with floating lines until they hone their casting skills.

Any number of flies work well on these fish; deceivers, minnows, poppers, flatwing and baitfish patterns are often employed. One of the best all-around patterns is the deceiver; is successful all over the world for many species. Trout often show a preference for baitfish flies; adding Mylar or crystal hair to one's offering and using body material dyed yellow, orange, and even red can make a difference. Mullet have a preference for maggot or bread imitation flies and are often caught in the most unexpected circumstances.

I believe most of the effort expended by Irish fly fishers along the coastline could be directed at other fishes and other alternative fly fishing methods. In a bid to expand and further understand our potential quarry four of the possible ‘unexploited’ and dare I say it somewhat ‘unexplored’ fly rod targets are wrasse, garfish, pollack and flounder. Regarding techniques other fly-fishing methods might include the use of the double-handed rod and distance overhead or spey casting methods. The options are limitless and surely present true frontier fishing for us all.

One doesn't have to spend $400-$500 a day for a tropical saltwater guide to experience fly fishing for some tropical bone crushing predator — many of the spots where sea trout, flounder, garfish, and pollack can be caught around Ireland are accessible from shore and can provide their own reward often greater than landing a large GT on a #10 outfit while labouring over the fish in 100 degrees for hours. These rewards may often come in the form of new personalised techniques, guile and watercraft not yet available to the ordinary fisher. One of the techniques I would like to mention is the use of longer double-handed rods between the length of 11’-0” and 12’-0”

The conventional single hand overhead caster will depend on the single or double haul to achieve maximum line speed; the effort of constant casting is spread across both arms as well as the shoulders. Irrespective of your casting efficiency, during a long session it can become very tiring, especially when using the heavier weight rods. Some people never really adjust to the proximity of big flies whizzing past their heads at considerable speed whilst fishing with nine-foot rods and hence a lot of would be saltwater fishermen pack in early. Lets talk about the double-hander or two-handed light saltwater switch rod.

The two-handed overhead cast does not rely on the haul to achieve line speed; rather it depends on the rods power dynamics to utilize line weight and profile as a means to increase casting distance. This powerful casting technique has definite advantages. The most obvious advantages are the substantial distances that can be achieved with very little expended energy on the part of the caster. With a balanced line system, a moderate caster can easily achieve massive distances with a minimum of effort. With a moderate amount of practice, 90 to 110 ft. casts can easily be achieved with only one false cast.
The two-handed caster does not depend on just the wrists and forearms to work the line, as would a single hander. Rather, the work needed to accomplish the two-handed overhead cast is efficiently distributed throughout the casters entire upper body. When constant extreme distance presentations are required, this advantage can definitely create an easier, more relaxed day on the water. Your arms and shoulders will not be beaten up by the double haul. Your long distance casts can become more consistent, and they will be accurate. Back or face wind can be penetrated very effectively with a shooting head system, especially when throwing heavy, wind resistant flies. More time can be spent with your fly in the water rather then in the air!

There is also an element of safety here- two-handers allow you to avoid deep wading or creeping out to the end of dangerous and exposed rocky promontories. While working in big surf the longer rod will hold your line above the breaking waves during the retrieve. The ability of these rods to carry very large flies vast distances cannot be underestimated. It really has to be seen to be believed and here too lies a vast hunting ground for the surf fly fisherman. And remember these switch rods although long are available in all the lighter line ranges from #7 through to #9. All and all, whether you fish estuaries, surf, or fast moving waters, this is an incredibly effective caster and fishing friendly system to add to your fly-fishing techniques.

So what have we covered in these posts, we recognise there is a lot work, determination and observation required to increase and maintain your fly-fishing skills. It is necessary to be in tune with nature, to have confidence in casting and presentation and to posses a well balanced and effective fly-fishing outfit. Training in fly casting and fishing is more necessary than having a very expensive fishing reel. There are many species waiting to be caught effectively and efficiently with new techniques and flies and methods. But most of all I feel what we have to learn is what lies ahead of us.

Can any of us fly fishers’ say with confidence yes – I can catch many species on the fly in Irish Saltwater with no problems, I don’t think so. And therein lies the challenge. Its new, its undiscovered, there are no experts – only you, as you forge the new ground and limits of you own and ever improving saltwater fly fishing techniques, ranges and species.

If you haven't started to attempt to catch these ‘new’ fish on fly tackle, you're missing a lot of fun — give it a try!

Saltwater fly-fishing fundamentals

Part four – When and Where

1. Fly-fishing in the sea is difficult and can be hard work.
2. Confidence, but not over confidence is essential.
3. Always try to keep things simple
4. Success, when it happens, is a moment to be proud of and is extremely hard to beat.

My wife suspects I’m having an affair! I often go out fishing for three or four hours, with little or no visible stacks and boxes of gear – no long rods, umbrellas, beach lights, jackets, heavy boots or smelly stuff in pink boxes from California. When I come home her suspicions are often compounded, I am clean, I don’t smell badly I am still wearing the ‘good’ clothes I went out in and most of all, the singular most damning piece of evidence (apart from the lack of fish that is) is the often euphoric state of mind in which I return. Singing and humming vacantly to myself as I go about the domestic routine, I am often visibly and inwardly engaged in the somewhat ‘other worldly’ and mysteriously compulsive world of fly-fishing. My wife can often be seen standing at the living room door watching me dubiously, go about various chores in a happy go lucky sort of way. This of course creates doubt in her mind as to how I can be contented with a tin of Mr Sheen in my hand. It will bode all saltwater fly fishermen well to remember that -

1. The continuation of the existing marriage/relationship into the foreseeable future is not dependant on successful saltwater fly-fishing.
2. Regular confirmation with your partner/spouse of the benefits to your person through saltwater fly-fishing is essential.
3. It is essential to continue this development of the new improved you and it is intrinsically linked to the new pastime of saltwater fly-fishing.
4. You will need a strong ally to persist in this long and difficult challenge, someone who will listen attentively to boring fishing stories etc
5. Confirmation for tomorrow evening between 7:00 and 10:00 is ok for next session.

Over the next few pages I would like to recount my experiences of saltwater fly-fishing to date and to share some of those experiences with you. I want to try and make saltwater fly-fishing easier for you, based on what has happened to me, right or wrong. Right now if you are reading this you are probably on your Christmas holidays or are just about to begin them. It’s probably fairly miserable outside, the days are short, you go to work in darkness and you come home in darkness. The last of the flounder are running down the estuary and there are no cod to be caught. The end of January is a long way of and the distant summer seems like an eternity away. Take these few pages and use them to cast your mind back six months to the summer of 2003. Remember those days, it got light at 3:30 and was warm at 4:30; there was a distinct possibility of sunburn at 5:30 in the morning! Remember those early mornings? You had three hours of fishing done before you started work. What? You mean you don’t?

Lets come to terms with this one first. There are times during the day (or night) when it is easier to catch fish. These two times are generally considered to be – early morning time, before sun up, and late evening time, just after sun down. I have found that successful saltwater fly-fishing has an incredible amount to do with confidence. On the long and twisty road to success, one of the first steps is to ensure that you have determined the best fishing time for your fishing efforts. Recommendation number one is to buy a cheap and noisy alarm clock. Recommendation number two is to buy a copy of the local tide tables and learn how to read them or learn how to calculate the next few day’s tides and times available from If you find calculating the tides and their times six months ahead of your Christmas dinner a bit daunting, then it might be worthwhile joining a local sea angling club or talking to someone who sea fishes regularly. They will gladly entertain you over some Christmas cheer about the vagaries of spring and neap tides, heights and times and stages of the moon. Recommendation number three is to determine the dates when rising tides coincide with a rising sun (not exactly of course) or, when rising tides coincide with a setting sun. Three recommendations in the last paragraph – total cost 5 euros!

No need to be foolish here, you can’t continue to fish every early morning tide and expect to remain human in an office or other work environment! Fish the tides that fall correctly on Friday Saturday or Sunday mornings and at least you can play catch up during the day! And then a few days later you can fish the corresponding evening tides. For example, if you fish a 4:30 tide early on Friday morning you can fish a 7:30 evening tide on Monday. You have now determined the best tides and the best times for you to put yourself in position. The question is where do you put yourself? On the road to success it is important to know where exactly you are going and, as we have seen when we will get there.

I’m going to ask you to spend some more money now. Recommendation number four is to buy an ordnance survey map, a compass, and a car. You may already have a compass and a map; if you don’t own a car they can (with some persuasion), be obtained from Fathers, Mothers, wives, partners, sisters and brothers, even close friends. Go out and buy a copy of the Irish Times as well, the weather page is fantastic. Go home and clear the kitchen table and spread the map out, place the compass on the map and let it settle. Look at all that blue stuff around the coast – that’s where you are going to fish and isn’t there an awful lot of it? What I want you to look for is

1. The mouth of estuaries.
2. Rocky headlands.
3. Points of land that stick into the sea.
4. Long stretches of beach that suddenly stop.
5. Deep patches of water that lie close to shore.
6. Where rivers flow into the sea.

Circle these places on the map – these are all possible fish holding areas. Pick some that are relatively close together but offer different types of topography and concentrate on those. Open your tide tables look for the next low tide, and then when the time is right pop the children in the car and tell your wife/partner that you are taking the smallies on a picnic/treasure hunt, hence the map and compass. Remember you will often be travelling to these places early in the morning so a long distance journey is not recommended. Look at the map in the weather section of the newspaper and note the wind direction When you arrive at low tide look for deep pools, rocky patches and reefs, holes and gullies, imagine when the tide is rising where does the water flow and how does it flow around and within the area. Are there any ambush sites where predatory fish will be lying in wait? Is it possible to access these areas as the tide is rising and are these areas a safe place to fish? Note what way the wind is blowing and how is this going to affect your casting ability/range/accuracy. Keep visiting the areas with the children or for long romantic walks with your loved one and as the year moves closer to summer, activity in the water should increase, baitfish should appear, sea trout, Bass and mullet will show themselves on or above the surface. Keep constant notes of wind direction, temperature, tides, phases of the moon, natural activity. These notes will, over time become your bible.

Of the areas that you have chosen perhaps two or three will have most if not all of the following

1. A strong geographical feature – like rocks, headland, or river mouth etc.
2. Will have displayed high levels of natural activity – bird life, and fish life.
3. Is prone to tidal currents like slacks and fast eddies
4. Is easy to access and safe to fish
5. Is fishable in different wind directions.

This is where you are going to fish. Let these three places be your own private hunting grounds, get to know them like your back garden. Begin to feel comfortable there in all conditions and begin to anticipate the effects of the combinations of wind, tide, and temperature on the environment and the wildlife that inhabits the area. You have now determined the best tides, the best times, and the best places to fish. There is always the opportunity with time spent at the water either fishing or simply observing to add to that vast database that is necessary for success. For instance, you will learn that a sudden drop in temperature (by two degrees or more) or a sudden change in wind direction, or a slight combination and change of these factors will turn fish off and make them harder to catch. Weather will also play havoc with your casting and mood, I am not saying that you shouldn’t go fishing, but on the road to success -sometimes its better to say no to going fishing rather than simply going and getting a bad result. We will deal with this later.

All of this so far is leading me to say that fly-fishing in the sea in Ireland is not a straightforward task. If you want to catch fish from the sea on the fly you are going to have to find them, you are going to have to understand why, that the next time you came back the fish weren’t there. But instead of being afraid or daunted at the task we will continue to break it down it smaller more manageable pieces. Everything that you have read on the previous pages is also applicable to most fishing scenarios. The next few pages are dedicated to the more technical aspects of fly-fishing and the pitfalls you can encounter along the way. It’s a long time since I made a recommendation so here comes one Recommendation number five if you are interested in fly-fishing in the sea, find someone else who is already reasonably competent at it and go fishing with them and talk the hind legs off them. These experienced saltwater fly-fishermen have learned how to combine the ‘natural’ parts with the ‘technological’ parts and are well down the road to success.

Friday 15 August 2008

Fishing Report - August 15 - Jim Hendrick

I had a nice short session on the fly this morning taking four - best to about 4,5lbs all on a chartreuse and white deceiver stripped at speed.

Landing gear

Redington CPS #7
Danielsson LW 6/9
Vision extreme distance #7 intermediate
Fly - Oceanflies white and chartreuse deceiver

I was also introduced to a new technique by Andrew - a spinning reel on a fly rod - Luying I believe its called. I was a witness to Andrew catching two fish using this method - good fun!

The two guys below (bottom) were fishing with Kiltys and had several fish too - Take a closer look at the photo just to the right of the guy in red at the level of the top of his head - see the BIG fish jumping!!!!! click on the foto to see bigger version

Thursday 14 August 2008

Conditions South East - Week 36

Just had a quick swim at St Helens - water clear and very warm - a little weed but nothing to worry about - it may be possible to squeeze in a few sessions before the breakdown on Saturday/Sunday.

Looking out the window and at the current forecasts means its tough times ahead again this week. It looks like the strong winds may not abate until wednesday or thursday and even though they are westerly there is colour already in the water on the southern shorelines. So brace yourselves for another 'classic' week of bass fishing - fly fishermen beware....

Bendy Rods

Wednesday 13 August 2008

In 'Bass Fishing Files' NOW - Attempting bigger bass on the fly - Flies to use

Having had a look at some casting techniques we now move to Big flies

Fly choice is important when targeting bigger bass, of that there is no doubt. So when making choices I tend to favour bigger flies, when I say bigger I mean greater than 6 inches in length.........this often means big lines too!

Allez les bleus - the continuation

Dear Jim,

I just would like to congratulate you a new time for the top level quality of the pieces of information and the marvellous galleries that you propose on your blog. They are like "parts of dream". We hope to visit you next year, we will do our best in order to inform you ASAP (when it was not the case last time...). We keep in mind the very pleasant wexford fishing areas. Chris is still very proud due to your (very good) choice to introduce his "photo" at the opening page of your website.
Please give our very best regards to Paul who was also fantastic during our fishing trip.
Just for last, we were very disapointed not to meet you during the last sport fishing exhibition in Paris (February 2008). The irish guys that were present on the "Irish fishing booth" were so friendly and also seemed very tired (we have visited them around 2:00 PM). For sure, when you travel from France to Ireland (or the opposite), this trip cannot be without strongs effects for your health!!!


Sunday 10 August 2008

3 Days in the South East

Conditions South East - Week 34

Tides are falling back into their neap cycles at the moment and wont kick back to life until Friday 15th 'till Sunday 24th of August. Remember Spring tides disperse baitfish whilst neap tides concentrate baitfish. Look towards the estuary entrances in the gulleys at low water!

Wind conditions remain moderate to fresh in a south westerly or westerly direction with temps in the mid teens. At St Helens today water clarity wasnt too bad but weed was visible in many places and inevitably will pose a problem over the next few days. The search for clear water continues i'm afraid.

Saturday 9 August 2008

Fishing Report - August Andy, Pat and Gerry

Jim -
I think I can speak for the three of us when I say that the guiding, education, accommodation - the whole package - exceeded by uncountable orders of magnitude anything we could have hoped for and I sincerely hope that you got as much sheer enjoyment out of it as we did. Two specimen bass to lures/fly for the lads and two personal bests for me on consecutive days is not to be sneezed at at all, especially given the conditions we had to deal with - well, you had to deal with. You're the one who had to do the hard work - we just did our best to follow your advice. I know that Andy and I had a certainty from last year that you could put us where the goods could be produced, god willing and weather permitting, and I think Gerry (globally experienced angler that he is) is in absolute awe of your abilities. His comment as we stood on the roadside with his knackered engine was 'well, could have been worse - it could have calved on the way down - and I wouldn't have had my specimen bass'.

Once again, we have returned from our stay with you enriched by the experience and with much to ponder and practice in the next year and a couple of days, which, believe me, we will be counting. And thanks for putting up a prize for the SWFF competition - I'll not be taking part sadly as I'm taking a few friends out and introducing them to fishing for blues, porgies and tope that day and since I have to drive them there and back and entertain, I can't even sneak off for an hour to get the fly rod out.

Give my regards to you lovely wife and teach your children what three generations of the Hendrick clan already know. The world will be a better place for it.

Sunday 3 August 2008

Conditions South East - Week 32

As the wind moved and has stayed westerly water clarity is returning and by monday (if winds remain light overnight on Sunday) clarity will improve and should be good by Monday midday or Tuesday morning. The week ahead looks pretty good too with mild temperatures and westerly breezes accompanied by cloud cover. Im very much more optimistic than as of late.

Bendy Rods

Saturday 2 August 2008

wave landscapes today

In Bass Fishing Files Now - Attempting bigger bass on the fly

Catching big bass is not easy and the added dimension of the fly adds another degree of difficulty. I am not neccessarily a big fish hunter but through incidences of having caught a few I have learned a little that I hope I can bring you through 'Bass Fishing Files' over the next few weeks. I will keep each section reasonably short too.

5.You in the 'Bass World'
7.Weather and tides
9.Gear (possibly)
10.Fish handling (possibly)

Friday 1 August 2008

sometimes it doesnt work of course

Aidan, John and Jack returned this morning to Tyrone. There visit for bass fishing was a short lived one as the weather has turned against us. Sometimes its better to cut and run. They were delighted to see some of the Wexford coast and I overheard a converstion where Aidan described it as very 'Fishy looking'.

Looking forward to their return in September.

WANTED - One weather repair kit

New Website

The beginning AND the end…

Forwarded to - The Irish Bass Policy Group (David McInerny, John Quinlan, Shane O Reilly, Mike Hennessy, Dr William Roche, Dr Nial O'Ma...