Great to be going bass fishing again – but take care

As from today (13th May), we’re allowed to go bass fishing again in England (and hopefully elsewhere soon). That’s great news, but we must remember that this deadly virus is still out there. Please respect the restrictions, and take care not to put yourself, family members, or others, including the emergency and rescue services, at risk.

Although the new restrictions allow for fishing with one other person outside your household, I’ve taken the decision to fish alone for the time being.  If you do decide to fish with someone outside your household, the Angling Trust are recommending that you maintain a distance of 15 metres from them; Dean Asplin explains that this greater distance is required because you could be fishing with them for several hours. We’re allowed to drive as far as we want to take exercise/go fishing now, but please use restraint and common sense here – people in tourist areas like Cornwall are frightened of an influx of visitors from out-of-county at this time.

Let’s hope the fishing is as good as it was this time last year.

65cm (~ 6lb) bass taken on crab 21.5.19.

Let’s get behind those who seek to promote our interests.

Big thanks to the Angling Trust for making the case to Government for fishing to resume. Unbelievably, there are anglers who knock groups like these, and others such as BASS, and its campaigning arm SOSB , who are simply trying to do their bit for anglers. Why not do your bit as well, and join these groups? the more members they have, the more they can do for us.

I guess it’s inevitable, that any group that calls for greater protection for a species like bass, will be blamed for restrictions placed upon those who exploit it – whether for commercial gain, or for pleasure. Responsible anglers, who care for and respect their quarry, will accept, perhaps even embrace, these restrictions, if they are necessary and proportionate. Others, who simply want to take all they can, with no thought to the future, or who feel anglers have been disproportionately penalised, may take a different view. But please respect any restrictions imposed – the way to change things is to get involved, and support these groups when they call for action, not to flout the restrictions.

Groups like SOSB are doing excellent (unpaid) work, to fight for the protection of bass stocks for the benefit of all  anglers, while at the same time defending their rights to take  a bass (or two) home for tea.

It’s personal

Like many other people I’m sure, the Covid-19 pandemic feels very personal to me. I have mercifully, as yet, not lost a family member or friend to it, like many others have. But the ever-present risk of one of my family succumbing to it in the course of their work in the healthcare sector, is never far from my mind.

I’m mindful too, of all the scientists working on vaccines and new tests, and of colleagues working long shifts to process all those thousands of tests, which are proving so vital in tackling the pandemic, in double-quick time. It would be remiss of me not to mention all those working on possible treatments for Covid-19, not least colleagues in the NHS Blood and Transplant Service working on the use of convalescent plasma. How different my life would be right now if I was still at work!

VE Day

How ironic that the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe day, which drew a close to the unimaginable  loss of life during WWII, should fall in the midst of this awful pandemic, which has also taken so many from us. Yet perhaps VE Day may bring some comfort in showing us that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m finding that my emotions are all over the place at the moment, and when my niece posted this picture of my late mum on social media, I  couldn’t hold back the tears. She was an ambulance driver in the WRAF during the war. I am so proud of her, and miss her dearly.

Cathy Bradley, in her early twenties.

A Bass Angler’s Life

The 8th May is another significant date for me – it’s the date I finally finished my book last year, after six years of work. It was a labour of love though, and I didn’t spend every minute of that time on it!

Keeping us informed and entertained

If there are any upsides to this pandemic, the amount of information being provided for anglers to help them get through the ‘lockdown’ must surely be one.

Examples include some excellent blogs on the BASS website, available to members and non-members alike. Likewise the Angling Trust’s ‘Fishing buzz’ webpages. And if you want a master class in bass angling, with lure or bait, I would strongly advise you to visit Mike Ladle’s saltwater fishing diary.

A nice way to while away some time is to watch some Fish Locker videos. I’ve been watching the ones about foraging recently – very enjoyable and instructive, particularly if you have, like me, an interest in marine biology.

Thanks to James Lean for putting me onto this great podcast from Cornish angler Dave Taylor about lure fishing for bass at night. Dave’s enthusiasm, and obvious prowess, comes across in bucket-loads!

I recently read an article in Sea Angler magazine by Mike Thrussel (Issue 582, p78 – 80: Shore Species Spotlight Part 8 – BASS). Something in it really stood out: ” …note small pockets in the rocks that hold water after the tide has gone out because these are hotspots when the new flood tide arrives”. It just struck me as a really clever way of identifying those slightly deeper areas which can be so productive for bass – simple, but it had never occurred to me before.

Recent catches

Anglers in the UK have not been able to go fishing since the lockdown began. Those on Guernsey have though – for several weeks now.  Bryn Le Poidevin is becoming quite a dab hand at photography, and he sent me this gorgeous photo from one of his recent trips.

A beautiful Guernsey sunset. Photo: Bryn Le Poidevin

We all take our phones and other devices for granted these days, but it’s at times like these that you really appreciate the power of modern technology. God knows when I’ll be able to get to Guernsey again, but I’ve been able to keep in contact with my mates over there as if they were sitting right next to me! Bryn Le Poidevin and Simon De La Mare have been getting a few of late, including this nice one for Bryn.

A 3lb 8oz bass for Bryn Le Poidevin, caught on a Patchinko 125 surface plug in his favourite Holo Bait colour.

Bass fishing prospects

With not being able to get out, it’s been a frustrating time for those who like to fish the early run of bass. The main bass fishing season should kick off anytime now – in fact, from what I’m hearing, it already has. Lures, particularly surface  ones, have served me well at this time, as has crab bait. And bang on cue, the foxgloves are starting to flower!

When the foxgloves come out it’s time to go bass fishing.

Changes in bass fishing over the years

Thinking about catches in the past,  BASS are looking for evidence of how the quality of bass fishing has changed over the years. There is plenty of anecdotal stuff about this, but little actual evidence. I wrote about ‘Bass catches in the past’ in an earlier blog. If you have any information which might be useful, please let me know and I will put you in touch with the right person.

Hope for the future?

Thinking about bass fishing in the future, I’m optimistic that the 2020 year class could be a good one. A mild spring, and a run of winds with a westerly component during February and March (a crucial time for spawning), should create good conditions for lots of baby bass to make it to our coastline.

A newly-arrived ‘0’ group bass, about 3cm long, found in an estuary creek in early July.

A memorable session

We may not have been able to actually go fishing recently, but that doesn’t stop us  thinking about it, particularly those memorable fishing sessions that stay with us. These can involve a notable fish, a larger than normal bag, the discovery of a new mark, the mastering of a new technique, or a combination of events, place, time and conditions which burns itself into your memory.

One such session which I vividly recall goes back to 2003. The area where I was fishing is a particularly beautiful stretch of the Cornish coast. To add to this, there are several marks you can fish within reasonably close proximity; in fact, I used to call it “3 in 1” because you could do a circular walk and take in three marks between leaving the car park, and returning to it.

I nicknamed the second mark of the three ‘peg’, because somebody had helpfully placed a short wooden stake in the grassy bank at the top of the cliff, indicating where you can get down. I can only think this was another angler, to whom I’m eternally grateful, although I never saw anyone else fishing there. The last time I walked that way, the peg had gone, so perhaps they’d seen me fishing, and didn’t want anyone else going down there!

I managed to get down with a bit of a struggle, and headed for the water as soon as I found a likely-looking place to cast from. Conditions were superb, with clear water and plenty of ‘fizz’. I was fishing in the evening light, under a moody sky, with the clouds scudding along in the south-westerly wind.  I opted for a Jointed Thunderstick (JTS) plug, a choice that immediately paid off when a bass hit it virtually as soon as it landed, with another joining it soon after.

The classic Jointed Thunderstick in Silver Scale, with hooks upgraded to singles in more recent times.

With seemingly a few fish  around, I really should have stayed put, and cashed in, but  couldn’t  resist exploring while the going was good. Moving further along the rocks, I saw a corner where I could bring the lure back through a gulley, if I could just get down to it. I did, and guess what –  the lure was hit as soon as I started retrieving it! Sometimes exploring does pay off.

Time for a bit of experimenting with different colours and plugs. I clipped on a JTS I had painted myself with silver ‘Hammerite’ and black aerosol, to mimic the Silver Scale colour, which was so effective but not easily obtainable. First cast – bang! Confidence now sky-high, I had to try that Mean Skipper plug from Harris Angling in Blue Silk, a lure which was not unlike the Jointed Thunderstick. You guessed it – success!

I lost count of how many fish I caught before they moved on, but it must have been at least 10. I can’t recall what size they were, but it’s probably safe to say they weren’t monsters. Nice fishing though.

A hairy experience

One last thing to mention. I was beginning to feel slightly unkempt, having not being able to get to the barbers for a couple of months due to the  Coronavirus restrictions. With an uncertain end to these, I considered the possibilities. To my surprise, Angela seemed keen to undertake the task – with the clippers we use for the dog! What the hell, I thought, I probably won’t see many people for a while, and I can always wear a hat for a couple of weeks.

The ‘appointment’ was made, and despite some words about wanting to do it outside because of the mess, it all went rather well really. At least that’s what I think – you can judge for yourself. The hardest part was deciding how much of a tip to give.

Post ‘Coronacut’ – no hat required!


Keep safe.