Saturday 30 March 2013

Fly fishing for bass - Positive turnover Part one

‘The good news about catching big bass is that anyone who can cast twenty yards (not a hundred and twenty),who is willing to approach the business with an open mind and who has a moderate degree of patience, can succeed.’
Alan Vaughan – Hooked on Bass 1988
I can cast a fly from a boat to a 100lb Tarpon on a #7 rod. Tarpon flies are not very big, they’re certainly not bigger than a regular fly I might cast to a bass here in Wexford. However I would have a LOT of trouble landing a 100lb Tarpon on a #7 rod, whereas, if I wanted to cast a big autumn bass streamer into a southerly force five on a cool November day on the same gear I would also have a pile of trouble! I need to go up a couple of sizes, but I want my gear to remain in balance with the size of fish I’m trying to catch.
There’s a lot going on here, flies, lines, rods, fish size, conditions, casting, fighting fish!
Saltwater fly fishing for bass is not easy, or rather, fly ‘casting’ for bass is too often the very difficult part of it, if not the most difficult, part for many people. I’m on a constant search for ways and means to make it easier both for my customers and myself. One of these ‘ways’ that I have spent a hell of a lot of time on is turnover and fly delivery for bass.
I want my fly to land where I want it to be and I want to connect and control it immediately after it has landed.
Sometimes that’s not easy, in fact its downright bloody tough!
Under reasonably ‘normal’ circumstances most people can cast to bass or mullet or seatrout – anything from a light saltwater #6 through to a #7 will cover the fly size and fish perfectly. In sheltered estuaries its often all that we need. Taking a #6 or #7 out onto the open windy coast with bigger flies however has its limitations! Rather than fly size dictating the gear we use, oftentimes conditions are now setting the bar.
And lets face it, isn’t this where its at a lot of the time? Windy over the right side, waves breaking, rocky shores, line management, bigger flies – opportunities for bigger fish. We need all the help we can get. I am convinced of one thing though – good turnover at fifteen or eighteen yards is worth much more than dumping the fly at twenty five or twenty eight. And this is where we CAN do it easier and more effectively even though its tough!
Don’t think distance (and often having to deal with the subsequent recovery) think getting closer, more accurately and with a better ‘straight to’ swim - IMMEDIATELY.
If you are one of those lucky people who can cast nice flies into strong head winds a considerable distance with good turnover and still manage the line – awesome!
And if you are not?
What are we exactly required to do? What is it that saltwater bass fishing requires of our fly casting and fishing in these circumstances? How do we make it easier?
  • On a rocky windy coast with rising tide
    • Early tide steps
      • We are casting and moving from target to target – nearly always
      • We need to fish early in the rise with a floating or very slow intermediate line –
      • Turnover and delivery needs to be excellent
      • A longer polyleader on the floater – 10’-0” (float or slow sink)
      • A shorter polyleader on the inter – 8’-0” (slow sink)
      • A fly that rides high ‘hollow fleye’ tied dense, or popper
      • To some extent we are often casting at or close to very specific possible white water locations or to fish we can see
      • Some accuracy is required especially if sight fishing (rarely)
      • We are not drifting flies
      • We are not blind casting
      • We don’t cast constantly
      • Its likely we will see some fish
      • We are thinking very quickly
      • We don’t need to cast far, fish are always just behind the waves following them in to pick up opportunities
      • Expectations of big fish are high
      • Flies are often fished fast in shallow water – stopped when possible
      • CASTER SKILL – distance decreased – accuracy high – turnover high – line management medium
    • Mid tide steps
      • We are pushed back from our targets, faster and more frequently
      • Water depth is increasing and with wave activity a switch to an intermediate is good
      • We will need to increase our casting distance a little
      • The density of our fly is decreased, its getting down a little more
      • The size of our fly is increased a little
      • Switch to a shorter leader on the intermediate – 6’-0”
      • Our chance to drift flies may increase – change to a floater with an intermediate polyleader if the opportunity presents
      • Less accuracy is required
      • Turnover needs to be good
      • Our ‘blind’ casting increases more and more to remembered ‘hot spots’
      • Retrieve speeds vary – mid water
      • Expectations of big fish decrease
      • CASTER SKILL – distance increased – accuracy decreased – turnover increased – line management high
    • High tide steps
      • We are a considerable distance from our initial start
      • Water levels are much increased
      • Fly size is increased again
      • Sink rate of leader is increased if remaining on intermediate line
      • Depending on location (tidal movement) a change of line to S3 or similar might be strategic
      • Leader length is decreased – 4’-0”
      • Blind casting increases
      • Expectations of bigger fish increase again
      • Distance is not a requirement
      • Flies are fished slow and down (depending on overall depth presented)
      • CASTER SKILL – distance decreased – accuracy decreased – turnover good – line management medium
    • Some further notes here – Little casts for bigger fish

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Fed up

Definition of FED UP

: tired, sated, or disgusted beyond endurance

When a hawk has eaten its fill (in falconry speak, when it’s “crop is full”) it won’t want to hunt. Of course, another way of saying it’s eaten its fill is to say it’s “fed-up.” The phrase has moved from a bird who doesn’t want to hunt anymore to a person who is bored, annoyed, or disappointed, especially with something that they have experienced for too long.

Ever notice that when you bring a bass home to eat you more than likely find its stomach is empty? You may then conclude rightly that the reason it ate our fly or lure was because it was hungry and actively feeding. Sometimes I find myself wondering if, during the fight that, the fish might have regurgitated his last meal in an attempt to shed the hook. If the fish did have food in his stomach how much food was there initially and ho1-DSC_8495w much more was any bass prepared to eat and when did the fish stop and start feeding?

Lots of questions as usual! We all know well at this stage that bass, will, in most instances, eat anything that moves, crabs, shrimp, sandeel, gobies, worms, cuttlefish. They do at times become selective and very efficient, but over time cannot be completely selective at the risk of missing an opportunity to increase a lipid reserve.

Lots of energy is spent chasing food, this energy must be replaced, hunger must be sated, normal physiological requirements met, growth patterns followed and even the laying down of a fat reserve is all required from feeding.

If you know where and when bass may be feeding AND you know what they may be feeding on then your chances of catching them increase. Bass don't have teeth and so tend to swallow their food in its entirety. Not having a set of chompers to cut prey in half and eat smaller pieces requires a different type of mouth and swallowing action. Fish need to swallowed head first I guess, crabs and other shellfish must be dealt with too which can't be easy!

Once swallowed the food finds its way into the convoluted stomach system. This convolution is known as the rugosa. This system creates an increased stomach area without increasing the size of the stomach itself. This also increases the bass’s ability to absorb its food very quickly. A bass feeds until it can hold no more food this might mean feeding over several tides, and then the fish takes time out to digest the stomach contents. During this ‘time out’ period fish will not be excessively active.When the contents of its stomach have been absorbed the fish begins to move, becomes more active and starts to feed again, hence when we catch them we catch them with empty or just beginning to fill stomachs.

1-DSC_8496When do bass feed? During the season springtime heralds their arrival and forage is often sparse, summer seems particularly active and also during the post spawning period. There appears to be a slow down in late summer as temperatures rise and then an Autumn rush to get fat on for winter as temperatures cool again. But once water temperatures begin to drop towards 10 degrees the fishes metabolism begins to slow and once that happens they tend to feed less frequently. This doesn't mean you can't catch bass In cold water, you can of course it's just less likely to happen with any great frequency. In colder water digestion takes longer too, what often might take a few hours to digest during summer might take days during winter. That is of course if temperatures are conducive to feeding in the first place.

I believe that even in cooler temperatures and when presented with unexpected food sources these opportunities are taken advantage of whenever possible and bass will eat.

Sunday 24 March 2013

That was then - this is now

Walking today, along a drab cold Cork coast, I couldn't help but remember what I was doing this time last year. Back then it was a sunny bright dry and warm week, in fact on one afternoon around the 27th I think I remember reading a local air temperature of 16 degrees. Water temps still remained relatively cool though and a sharp easterly put a bite on it at times. This was from my Kestrel hand held weather station an invaluable piece of equipment really.

But we took fish William and I, and Richie tried his usual 'non standard' variations on a theme.

I made a post about it here I-Shad Sunset and I still remember it as one of those magic times that jump out every now and again.

Looking out over Cork harbour now from the warmth of the kitchen, it hardly seems like the same country - but such are the challenges and opportunities of the bass fishing environment - every year poses something different !

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...