Monday 30 November 2009

Fishing Report - Barracuda at the airport

Ain't no sunshine when she's gone.It's not warm when she's away.Ain't no sunshine when she's gone and she's always gone too long anytime she goes away.
And I know, I know, I know............

Fred sang all day. He was the happiest and the funniest guide I fished with all week. Fred loved barracuda fishing and here we were at location B, a barracuda shopping mall where they cued up to eat Bruce’s special fly. At a barracuda fly fishing primer Bruce Chard discussed his theory that the fish hit the fly half way down the body rather than at the head, he reckoned long flies produced less fish due to ‘tail biting’. ‘Cuda cut their prey in half, then turned and came back to ‘mop up.’ All these points were discussed at length but when I hooked and fought my first ‘cuda on the fly these finer items of the take were not at the forefront of my mind believe me!

It was a long run to location B, just a little over an hour for a distance of some fifty miles. The further south we ran the greater the sense of sheer isolation. There was no Monday or Tuesday here, no production meetings, no shirt and ties, no schedules or timetables, and the more I considered the vast expanses of the ever changing flats, watching them light up and disappear only to re-appear again in vastly different colours the more I realised how far I had moved away from the ‘normal world’. I was completely unplugged. We were way south of Andros Island. The next stop was Cuba.

We were charging towards a green horizon with no visible landmark insight, Andros was already left far behind. Fred pointed at something that only he could see

‘Dats where we’re goin’ he said, de ariport!

Slowly a bright bar silver appeared in the distance. As we powered closer I realised the tide was fully out and just beginning to rise over a long single sandbar of impossibly white tough gritty sand. In the distance on top and slightly to one side of the bar lay the ruins of a twin engined light aircraft. Long rusted into a hulk of barely recognisable metal.

‘Now ya know why day call id de airport’ Fred said, and he laughed and sang a few bars from a John Denver song.

‘Lets get oud an wade to the bones’

Momentarily I wondered was he referring to the crew that had perhaps remained in the cockpit and were now nothing but skeletons in ragged blue uniforms, the heat does strange things. I shook my head. The skiff scrunched to a stop and I picked up my trusty number 7 ready to do battle with some bonefish. Earlier Fred had instructed us that later into the morning as the tide flooded was perhaps the best time for ‘cudas as the bonefish schools streamed over the sand bar. I wondered how fast something had to move to catch a bonefish! In the first few hours we could wade and hunt a few single bonefish in the glittering silver flats.

My casting was off and I insisted on trying to put my crazy Charlie into the fish’s mouths from sixty feet. This did nothing for my chances and of course I spooked every fish I cast too, Fred grumbled several times (who could blame him). I went and got my camera. David was catching a lot of very good fish; I sulked and took some photos! Some days there is no point in forcing things. I pointed and clicked and made my way back over the flats towards David and Fred. As I got closer to the pair I whispered to David excitedly

‘Two fish, eleven o clock at about fifty feet’.

Dats ok Mon , said Fred – dares aboud five n half thousan of em at one o clock – at fordee feed.

I looked

Slowly I became aware that the darker underwater patch that lay waving and moving slightly in front of me wasn’t some grass or seaweed or different sand colour, it was a vast school of bonefish, and as my eyes adjusted I could see thousands of tails and fins flashing in the sun, fish moved towards me and away from the shoal, groups broke off, swam away and returned, feeling scared. It was a shimmering pool of biological silver. The school of bonefish stretched as far as I could see both left and right and into and over the horizon. David smiled at me. Fred chased away a six foot lemon shark with a crazy splashing dance; he hummed the theme – dun dun, dun dun, dundundundundundun. My brain was short-circuiting; I needed a sit down under a tree. I couldn’t speak for a long time.

We had a lot of fun that morning in the middle of nowhere – the three of us. It was a very special moment.

Fred said the sharks were coming too close now as the water was getting deeper and they would start eating our fish, or us. Apparently they had the advantage when the water got to ‘calf level’ I looked behind me a few times on the way back to the boat, not sure whether my wading was attracting them or putting them off. As I was leaning over the boat washing the sand out of my shoes Fred advised me to keep my hands out of the water. He smiled!

We went on the hunt for ‘CUDAS as the tide was ripping over the sandbar and down the gullies.

Fred manoeuvred the little skiff into a shallow channel through which the tide was flooding. He
took his position up on the poling platform and asked me to be ready to cast. I was fishing with my number nine and the Bruce Chard ‘cuda special fly. Bruce had already explained to me to strip fast. I simply wasn’t ready and didn’t know what to expect – Fred called to me that he could see a fish holding at two o clock at about 120 feet. For me it was always going to be easier to distance cast – I made the cast (couldn’t see the fish) and began to strip roly-poly style, faster said Fred. My hands disappeared into a sewing machine blur.
Then what I saw next left me dazed and confused (as if I needed more sensory overload). The fish was swimming not from behind the fly but rather charging from the left hand side, at least I assumed it was a fish. A closer description might have been a prototypical silver torpedo with teeth that also had the address of my fly in its memory. I simply couldn’t comprehend the speed of the fish travelling more out of the water than in it, and then he had hit my fly and the reel screamed in terror at the prospect of what lay ahead.

In the shallow water the fish ran for maybe fifty yards and then decided that going vertical might achieve more in terms of an escape plan. There was an explosion as the fish jumped from the water and shook his head far from the boat – so far I wondered was that MY fish? And then he ran and jumped and tail walked again and again

This went on for ten minutes until finally he was brought to the side of the boat and expertly handled by Fred. These were the little ones.

Fred said lets go to fish quay! I agreed, David smiled knowingly; he was in one of his ‘been there done that type of moods’ that meant – you don’t know what you’re in for Hendrick. At the back of the tiniest sandbar in the lee of an island where two lemon sharks snoozed in the afternoon sun I cast and hooked another renegade torpedo. The take was fierce and I was pulled over and had to take a step forward and plant my foot, then lean back a little. The reel was emptying rapidly, screaming in protest and even though I had the drag nailed tight it made little or no impact on the fish.
One hundred yards later it stopped suddenly, the silence was deafening and then out of the sea jumped the barracuda, again and again! Swimming at speed, jumping with ferocity, head shaking and finally, finally giving up. I landed him on the beach as Fred had poled the skiff up to the little island. He told me to step out of the water as I had one big and angry ‘cuda on the end of my line! I looked at David baffled and searching for words that I still cannot find.

Thursday 26 November 2009

Fishing Report - Day One - Andros South - Monday Nov 16th

Target Bonefish
Guide Sparkles
Partner David
Location Somewhere west in the Bahamas

Landing gear
Rod – Redington Cpx #7
Reel – Danielsson – LW 6/9
Line – Bruce Chard Bonefish line
Backing – Rio 250 metres 20lbs
Leaders – Rio IGFA hard alloy mono – 4 section tapered 12’-0”
Flies – Gotchas, charlies, clousers and variants from Bruce Chard

The anticipation that I felt on Monday morning was almost at times overwhelming. We had been in the US for 24 hours before flying across to Andros and then I attended the bonefishing school with Bruce on Sunday, more of which later.
What I had been waiting for was here at last, this was the real thing, my first days bonefishing on the fly.

Everybody from the lodge in our group was up and about each morning at 05:30 for a quick coffee and orange juice from the dining room, breakfast was served each day at 06:15. I had a quick coffee then followed my strict regime of sun factor application, the last thing I needed was a bad burn.
The fly-fishing gear, our lunches in cool boxes, and all the safety packs for the guides were loaded on the jeep and we were bussed to the little harbour about ten miles away.
Arriving at the quay we waited for our guides to arrive in their flats skiffs. We donned life jackets and speculated as to our locations and weather conditions and fly choice.

Our guide for the first day was ‘Sparkles’ and David having had the experience of Andros before, spoke about our requirements to him – as an intro we would stalk some individual fish in the morning and then try to locate a school in the afternoon. The gear was loaded on the skiffs, everything expertly managed by Rick, the rods slid into their little chutes already loaded with leaders and flies. Out here things happen so fast you don’t get second chances!
I removed my cap as the guide and the skiff fell away from the little quay and accelerated into the tidal rip that was pushing west – this was our ultimate destination – a ‘run’ for perhaps one hour through the middle of the island at break neck speed in shallow water to find the fish feeding in the gleaming flats – the adventure had begun and as we sped along into an unexplored wilderness the temperature had already risen above 25 degrees, the sky was blue, the water was crystal clear, the low green mangrove jungle lay in miles upon miles of impossible tangles. It was 07:45.

One hour later David was on the casting platform of our little skiff. The silence descended. Sparkles poled us along the margins of the mangroves. He said couldn’t see properly as the sun was hidden behind some cloud cover. We persisted for a while and then he told us to jacket up again – we would run further west over the ocean flats to a distant island where the sun was shining.
This time I was on the casting platform.

The skiff coasted to a stop in a slow tidal rip running downwind behind a little island, sparkles poled me down the length of the white sandy beach and at the end of a little sand bar he swung around and began to pole back up the other side, 20 metres from the shore – against the wind.

The next twelve minutes of my life I will never ever forget

I held the fly in my left hand and about 10 feet of fly line outside the rod tip, I had about 50 feet lying in the bottom of the boat, I stood rocking slightly, scanning the impossibly blue and clear water for fish then Sparkles spoke very quietly over my left shoulder the words that I will never forget and in some strange way was almost afraid to hear

‘Big fish comin’ straid atcha - eleven o clock – fifdee feed’

I oriented myself on the clockface and peered into the rippling water’
Do ya see ‘im ?
Twelve o clock, goin ride, fordee feed’
Do ya see ‘im ?

To say that at this time that my level of attention and focus was high is one thing. I was so hyper conscious I could hear the guides pole sliding into the sand and out again, the water dripping from the end, the gentle flapping of my shirt in the warm breeze, the fly line tapping against my fingers, the call of a disturbed bird in the midst of the island, the peppery smell on the wind, I couldn’t see the fish and waited for Sparkles words again.. then

Make a cast for me – one o clock fifdee feed

I did my best under the circumstances

Pik id up an doo id agin
More ride
Led id sink

Now I saw the fish, and two more!

Strip the fly – I saw the fish move to the fly – excited, almost cat like - Sparkles said

Keep strippin – mon hes a big fish he whispered
(just what I needed)

Strip, strip agin

Hes comin atcha – and then, fish on he said –
His voice had never risen above a gentle conversational tone, the word ‘on’ was spoken loudest, but still as quiet as a priest in a confessional.
The big wheel of the loop opti spun at an incredible speed as the fish realised he was hooked, I applied gentle pressure to the line to let it slip evenly and within two or three seconds I heard the clink clink as the bimini passed out through the rod rings. Then the reel spun into a halo of orange mist as the fish accelerated upwind away from David Sparkles the boat and I, this was the first run into the backing. At eighty yards the fish stopped. I wound, he swam and my knuckles were rapped HARD as he accelerated again for ten yards more. He turned and swam at the boat, at speed, I wound frantically. The fish passed us and Sparkles whispered ‘mon dats a gud fish ade pounds Id guess'. The fish swam away again and Sparkles poled us downwind towards him. I could not comprehend the speed and the power, the ability to accelerate was incredible.

Ten minutes later he was at the side of the boat, I got his head up a little and the perfection loop passed over the tip ring. David reached for the leader then he swam away again, unbelievably for another thirty yards, I wound and then Sparkles spoke again from over my shoulder, I heard the chilling words expressed calmly and low but also containing a sense of frustration.

‘Shark comin ad im’
I bullied the fish as best I could but there was a sudden fierce flurry of red and white and dark yellow as the fish on my line was eaten by the shark. The line went slack the fish and the fly were gone.
I replay it again and again - the experience of the first bonefish that I ever caught, I will never forget it. We had a long day ahead of us, my life was changing. We ran to another location.......only eight days left. This surely was the greatest fly fishing in the world!

Wednesday 25 November 2009

A return to reality

I have returned from my fishing trip to South Andros in the Bahamas. The words neccessary to describe the experience are within my grasp but it might take some time to shape them into how I want to try and best describe the last 12 days. Has it been the fishing experience of a lifetime? Yes it has. But its been much more than a singular fishing experience - in many ways this fishing trip has changed my life and again I now find myself moving and thinking in other directions.

Over the next few weeks I shall make some postings here of my experiences - from the people I met, the fish that I caught, the things that I have seen and learned - I hope you will enjoy them.
Below is a sequence of photos I made on saturday morning - 14th November. We went Kite fishing for sailfish on a short charter off Fort Lauderdale before we flew to South Andros in the afternoon.

Thursday 12 November 2009

Off today at last

This is the view to my back garden this morning, cold wet and a little miserable! In less than twenty four hours I will begin day one of five days at a Tropical Saltwater Fly Fishing School with another 4 days of personal fishing to follow both inshore and offshore.

Its a unique opportunity for me and SEAi to develop and learn, meet more people and discuss strategies, techniques and methods with experts and experienced anglers alike- I intend to bring as much of this home as possible and incorporate it into SEAi for 2010.

Coming soon 2009 a review!

When I get back from my trip I will have compiled a summary of the season for A Year In Review 2009. With people visiting from Switzerland, Belgium, France, America and Norway it proved to be a truly international season. I met lots of very nice considerate anglers whom I placed a lot of trust in. As is usual in this business that trust is repaid in many ways.

For data and photos from previous years of Bass Guiding in Wexford please take a look at the links below. I also have the .pdfs for 2005, 2004 and 2003 - these are available on request only.

A year in review 2006

A year in review 2007

A year in review 2008

Wednesday 11 November 2009

A Christmas present?

Thinking of a Christmas present then look no further than Out of the Blue - take a look HERE

photo of Chris courtesy of Matt Spence

"As I reeled up my line and shouldered my bag, I glimpsed a subtle swirl 50 yards in front of me. It was as if the water had been touched by a slowly meandering draught of air which faded almost as soon as I noticed it. After a few moments it re-stirred, advancing towards me, weaving left and right, trailing a row of shallow impressions on the surface, like a ghost's footprints."

Friday 6 November 2009

T minus 7 and counting - destination Andros

The question of gear!!: I think I must have read and re-read so many books and journals and forums regarding what gear to bring to Andros with me that I eventually just stopped. This is what I have finally decided upon. click on the names to link to the products specs

Two #7’s – Redington CPS saltwater
Two #9’s – Redington CPX saltwater
One #9 - Bloke XL50
One #10 - Bloke XL50

Reels -
Two Danielsson L5W 6nine with spare spools
Two Danielsson L5W 8twelve with spare spools
One Orvis battenkill LA Mach IV

Lines - Rio bonefish lines
Rio tropical intermediates
Rio tropical outbounds
Rio deep sea lines

Thursday 5 November 2009

T Minus 8 and counting - destination Andros

Preparing for a trip to the other side of the world in order to fish certainly makes you focus on making correct decisions regarding a number of items. Working as a fishing guide in my own environment I have every aspect covered, timings, gear, fly choice, line type, casting distance, in Andros I will be in the safe hands of Bruce Chard

Getting there : I started with my luggage requirements. I need to bring four rods as not only will I be fishing the flats but I will also have the opportunity to spend two days offshore. This immediately increased not only my luggage demands but also line and reel choices which I will look at later. Considering that my living is made from my fishing equipment I needed something to transport all this gear safely around the world whilst carrying, clothing, reels, flies and camera equipment. My choice was the Fishpond Rolling Rod and Gear Bag This unique, wheeled travel piece stores four 33” rod tubes in its bottom-moulded compartment. Top compartment stores vests, chest packs, clothing, waders, etc. I felt that the Chinook’s rugged construction and materials would ensure that my gear will arrive safely and in one piece. I got this tip from a guide - cover you luggage with a bag and tape down - it wont be targeted as a bunch of fishing tackle!

Wednesday 4 November 2009

David Wolsoncroft Dodds in Northern Manitoba

Below is a small sequence of photographs from my friend Davids visit to Manitoba earlier this year! You can visit his website HERE .

Forecasting the weather - November - 3

I came across a little book recently - Signpost to the weather by D&K Barlett. First published in 1949, I have extracted their forecasts for each month of the year. I hope you will enjoy their weather theories over the next few months -

The Month of November according to D&K Barlett with BASS indications by Jim Hendrick

There can be a good deal of changeable, rainy weather during this month.
However, short odd periods of calm weather can also occur, with sunshine, although nights are often chilly and frost, accompanied by fog near coasts and inland towns.

The sea still retains its warmth but the land surfaces are definitely cooler, and this helps towards the changeability of the weather.

The days are shorter so there is less sunshine, and the cool but often clear, nights are longer. Gales are possible particularly near the end of the first week and during the last week of November, but overall it can be a fairy calm month. The temperatures continue to fall faster than at any other time of year.

The weeks of November

1st to 7thThe latter part of this week is unsettled, with rain, but extremes of calm mild days and frosty nights can occur with some fog.
8th to 15thThe days continue to become colder. The first effects of the coming winter can now be felt with frequency of wind and heavy rain increasing.
16th to 23rdUsually a fair to changeable period followed by unsettled and rainy conditions.
24th to 31st - During this week the weather becomes more unsettled, rainy weather and strong winds at times but often milder.

Bass Fishing - One of the best months of the year for bigger fish on the fly if you can take a short weather window of opportunity. Tough for any travelling angler unless settled.

Rating 3/5

See November experiences Here

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...