Thursday, 28 October 2010

Irish Bass Fishing - Catching the Lure Bug!

Anyone who has ever read Henry Gilbeys blog will know how passionate he is about lure fishing in Ireland. A few years back, in fact almost a decade ago, I travelled to Ireland a few times myself to fish in the company of well known guide John Quinlan. Henry came along on one of those trips in the hope that we would hook a few Bass for his camera. It was a tough week and although we got fish I remember feeling back then that perhaps the fly was not always the best method to target this exciting sport fish.

Granted, there is no doubt that on its day the fly can be truly deadly. But what if the wind is gusting to over 30 miles an hour and the surf is rising to in excess of 3 ft? Add low visibility and there is no doubt that fly anglers will be at a distinct disadvantage when these conditions prevail. Heading back to Ireland with Henry last week there was no doubt that I was hoping for the right kind of weather to allow me to experiment with a bunch of new flies and methods. In reality it was never going to happen .... well, at least not this week!

During his many trips to Ireland I know that Henry has found it invaluable to fish with anglers who know the coastline like the back of their hand enabling fishing over the right place at the right state of tide. One such person is Cian of Absolute Fishing who was certainly getting excited by the prospect of Southerly winds which can turn the fishing on along the Southern Irish coast line, creating the all important "fizz" as he calls it. This highly oxygenated water, crashing in over some of the sexiest Bass features you have ever seen (gullies, weed beds, drop offs and more) can turn the fishing on. A brilliant predator, Bass love the "fizz" and whenever we happened upon yet another brilliant mark I felt that the fish were never far away. However, fishing often boils down to conditions and as the wind whipped up into a series of snorting gales fly fishing became impossible.

I did find some fly action, hooking up a bunch of Pollack (always a great fallback for fly anglers looking for Irish Saltwater action) and also realising a long time ambition to hook up a half decent Wrasse on fly. See more here. But then it struck me. Short, sensitive rods. Mouth watering, silky smooth reels clad with braid. And lures! Lots of lovely, fantastic, shiny, amazing .... Lures! I could feel the kind of buzz I distinctly remember when I first got in to fly fishing.

With brilliant names such as Zonk, Xorus Patchinko or the Jackson Athlete Minnow it is hard not to be drawn into this game. But there is much more to lure fishing than being a tackle tart. What a brilliant method of fishing which has so many similarities that simply must appeal to all but the most ardent of fluff-chuckers. Its highly mobile, the lures have a variety of actions and in many cases it is highly important to "work" the lure with subtle wrist flicks. This is when the specialised rods really kick in, especially when coupled with non stretch braid which offers an unbelievable amount of sensitivity. But best of all this is light tackle fishing which can be enjoyed in conditions which rule fly tactics out.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Henry for taking me along on one of these trips, as this is his chance to get some fishing after a season spent behind a camera rather than a rod. All manner of lavish tackle was thrown my way, plus lures (sorry, I did lose a few!) and I even learned some new knots. I must also extend my thanks to Cian, plus his friends James and Paul who had never met me before and yet offered advice, their time and knowledge to ensure that we had an amazing trip. The fish were not easy to come by, but fishing is not all about catching. Its the experience. I will never forget this week, especially as I have now found lure fishing. In fact tomorrow I head to Chew Valley Lake with good mate Karl from Leeda to fish for Pike and will be my goal to hook one on a lure! Now that's a first.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Dreamy Deveron Salmon Fishing

I guess while I am trying to decide which platform & designer to commission to redevelop my blog I may as well being using this one. Especially when the fishing has been great recently! I have been busy as usual guiding throughout the year and managing the shop, but also made time to enjoy a bit more fishing myself this year. It is an occupational hazard .... become a guide .... go fishing less! But I would not have it any other way, especially when fantastic opportunities to visit venues such as the River Deveron arise. 45 minutes fishing and this fresh little beauty had snaffled a Red Flamethrower.

Salmon anglers often head for well known Rivers in the North East of Scotland such as the Dee and the Spey. But the reality is that the Deveron is a very well kept secret. Checking out the hut (which was closer to a small cottage..... complete with wood burning stove, tables, chairs, magazines and refreshments!) provided by the Marnoch Lodge Fishings my eye was drawn to a large map of the river and the best fish caught during the last few seasons. 30lbs, 25lb 8oz .... my eyes were out on stalks! A few days into the trip and fishing the last hour of light I was hit by the most powerful fish I have ever hooked in UK waters. It literally tore me to pieces, screaming off down stream, before unleashing a turn that Michael Jackson would have been proud of. Stripping line like a mad man, I got back in touch with the fish for seconds. But its plan had worked a treat, the line fell limp and I was left to dribble on the bank. I did not stop shaking for an hour. Seriously.

The weird thing is that although I would have given away a reasonable amount of flies, line, rods and quite possibly blood to see that fish, I was so in awe that I couldn't be upset. I felt privileged to have hooked it. It always helps when "the one that got away" is witnessed too and I could sense that both Alasdare & Stuart wanted me to land that fish, just as much, so they could take a look too. But alas, it was not to be and I will need to return. In the meantime we still managed some awesome fish. Add to this some great laughs (in fact we rarely were not laughing), stunning scenery, some obliging weather and the hospitality offered to us by the Marnoch staff (in particular, Shaun) and this ranks alongside one of my top 10 trips of all time. And how easy is it? Jump on a plane from Exeter, get off at Aberdeen and why bother heaving bags? We sent our gear up by courier. Talk about easy fishing and it does not get better than hunting down big wild fish with the fly.

This was my best fish of the week tipping the scales at 15lb. Coloured yes, but a magnificent specimen of a Cock Salmon in spawning colours. It too fell for the Red Flamethrower on a pool which produced the majority of our sport, Lower Hummies.

Great company is so important during a fishing trip and it doesn't come much better than Alasdare Lambert. Laid back, ready for a giggle and a fishing nutter. He also likes a glass or two (make that a bottle!) of red wine and its just lucky that this fantastic 14lb specimen took when it did ... yes you have guessed it .... a Flamethrower but this time Orange. Poor old Al was looking a little worse for wear after an evening of cheap red wine and stories of giant man eating Lamprey. Its a long story and not relevant right now! Needless to say that Al's hangover suddenly disappeared as the adrenalin kicked in and he realised he was hooked up to a decent sized fish. I don't think he fished for an hour afterwards. Scottish Salmon (in fact all Salmon) are very special and I can quite understand anyone who sits back to relax and savour the moment. Especially as this was Al's personal best Salmon.
However, if you wish to live the moment all over again ... get the fly back in the water. After a full week on the water it was very noticeable how the fish would suddenly start taking and then switch off. Also very apparent were the movements in barometric pressure. Every fish we caught was on a rise or a level Barometer and I have to say that after a few years using my Casio Protrek watch with a built in atmospheric pressure gauge I am sold on the theory that Salmon rarely take when there is a pressure drop.

Enough technical waffle. Stu, who lives in Aberdeen will no doubt be heading back to the Deveron soon. After a couple of quiet days he cracked it on the Lower Hummies pool, with the Red Flamethrower and an Intermediate line to land this, his largest Salmon to date at 10lbs. What a week, we all landed our best Salmon during the trip. Most important of all, each and every one went back safely. There were more, but these were the best fish. The very best fish .... well ... they all got away of course!

More about the Deveron soon. Right now I need to get back home and start putting together my gear for a trip to Ireland next week. And tonight when I close my eyes I will relive that moment when an unseen monster chewed me up and spat me out. Speaking with the owner of the fishery today he tells me that Shaun is reporting a fish resting in a pool (Falconers) that is in excess of 35lbs. Did I hook it? Who knows .... all I know is that the Deveron is the stuff of dreams.