Thursday 25 January 2018

Guiding For Bass - Not all locations are equal

The key to any successful and sustainable tourism initiative is achieved through a clear sense of difference from other competing destinations or services. For me as a bass fishing guide this was achieved by basing any development and marketing strategy on the local attributes and strengths of Wexford as a bass angling destination. This was combined with the unique varied and challenging angling coastal environments, heritage sites and abundant local flora and fauna including of course the fish. It was within this world that I chose to guide for bass on a full time basis.
Working on articles for angling publication or my site I attempted to portray both Ireland and Wexford in a very positive light. Whilst delivering my workshops or whilst guiding for bass this was done in a fashion that emphasised the importance of ‘where we were going’. I tried to achieve this by making the most interesting photographs and words that I could, not only of the fish but of the people who were fishing with me capturing the environment and time in which they found themselves either being guided or during learning . There are many things other than fishing that make any trip to Ireland worthwhile, and it was important for me to remember that when I was out there working as a guide. Not only was I looking to capture that ‘trophy’ moment, but I was also hoping to record the influences, the many different environments that were shaping peoples experiences of the country in which they were investing a lot of personal time. The culture, the lifestyle, the history of Wexford all played a part in shaping a sense of authentic service.
Not only was it important for me to realise that each experience was unique, but by spending time in many of the different bass fishing environments and places of local heritage and culture enabled people to understand the interdependence and influences that one environment has upon another. It is only through this understanding and wider sense of enjoyment that a much greater appreciation and understanding, advocacy and empathy for the protection and conservation of the coastal resource in all its aspects  truly developed in peoples minds.
The richer the experience that was offered to the guided angler the greater was the chance of diversification into the local community and the support of ancillary services. Good food, good traditional music, immersion in modern Irish life, quality Irish made product, indeed visiting anglers couldn’t find this ‘uniqueness’ at home, hence it created a special trust between guide and angler. The foundation of  any guiding service.
However, I was always conscious that over-selling a product could have a negative impact on any business, especially a fishing guiding service. Angling guided services should not to be encouraged or developed for their singular sense of ‘self promotion’ ‘look at me I’m a guide’.  To be successful as a guide is to be many things but bass guiding in Wexford was mainly about not standing in isolation but rather about building a small community based economic and local development tool aligned to creating a total ‘local’ and sustained experience.
There needs to be a reduction in the the modern craven urgency expressed frequently in the over utilisation of angling journalism and various media as a means to secure customers or build 'angling credibility'. A decrease of the obsessive culture of ‘self with fish’ portraits or look at my new gear obsessions might serve long term and sustained development better rather than quick fix ego shots.
The facilitation of manipulated social media reportage that serves no real end in achieving competence proves ultimately fruitless and in fact damages the fishery.
There’s a fine line between selling the fishing and managing the corresponding impact on your future clients realistic expectations. A good guide will always try to strike that balance especially when linked with important locations, the fish that live there and their continued protection management.
Not all locations are equal...hard choices and decisions need to be made with long term sustainability in mind.
The careful management of my guiding service into other local tourism networks and taking sensible opportunities to work and demonstrate allegiance with other local similar businesses with diverse but related experience and knowledge (fly tyers, fly casters, other guides, or accomodation providers) was a large part of business development for me. This strategy even today projects confidence, enhances profile and indeed professional credibility. It also strengthens possible partnerships that can create foster and extend networked interdependent strategic relationships across local coastal communities, conservation groups and activity providers. 
The Wexford environment doesn’t possess dramatic, jaw-dropping scenery. It doesn’t have the ruggedness or sense of wilderness that you get on the west coast. It doesn’t have outstanding architecture. What Wexford does have is a multiplicity of different smaller environments and opportunities that are much more complex and which interact in a way that is so subtle it can almost be overlooked. 
You must look closely, almost discover each one be it cultural, natural, or historical in order to experience the fullest and greatest depth of detail. To be transformed by the time invested.
Ultimately an ‘experience’ a ‘transformation’  is what I tied to create for my angling customers, the readers and visitors to my blog. By facilitating people into a multiplicity of venues, the sanctuary of estuaries, the excitement of rocky shores, the thrill of fast moving, powerful currents, the more likely they were to see and feel the ‘Wexford Bass Angling Experience’ that I tried to create.
Most seasoned travellers will know that to expect too much is to invite disappointment. “There are not as many fish as I expected”, “The fish are smaller than I expected”, “The weather is different than in my own country”. The weather is the major stage on which all the elements will perform. In Ireland that factor is enough to strike fear into the heart of any guide. It’s simply not possible to plan at times. Some seasons were extremely difficult for bass fishing. And this is where the paradox lies. Wexford has its own unique environments, it has its own sense of itself and it has a superb saltwater sporting fish that performs admirably on fly or lure. But it performs only on the basis of two key elements one which is predictable (the moon) the other (the weather) is not so regular.
The portrayal of the fishing and the fishing environment must always reflect a performance risk accurately and fairly to visiting anglers.
We all know yes, that at different times bass can be caught with many different methods. All anglers have their preferences and the more sporting the method employed the more the weather will impact negatively upon that method. It will force you into circumstances where you need to ‘angle’ much more creatively and efficiently. By combining the environmental impact and the challenges that the weather creates for lure and especially fly-fishing, this fusion of influences must somehow manage to enhance the experience by transforming the customer beyond the angling difficulty. 
What is achieved easily in bass fishing is often forgotten quickly with little or no understanding of its significance, this is true of technique, local information and angling presentations. There is always much more than this that needs to be experienced. We need to be transformed to fully understand the larger picture.
In other words, it was not always easy for an international bass angler to come to Wexford to catch bass at the drop of a hat. It could take time and effort, patience and depending on circumstances this could have been days, weeks or even years.
When it was difficult it was always the smaller decisions, the glimpses of fish in a wave, the perfect cast into a gale, the surface strike in pouring rain –moments of genuine satisfaction that made the fishing what it was. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it was easy, it was not! At times the sun shone and every fish was big and silver and each cast produced a miracle. Those were the days that we fished for.
But remember too – Wexford was and is currently challenging, but it has many different rewards if you know where to look. If you like to discover whats local and unique and what will ultimately transcend less important things then remember too what can truly transform you

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...