Sunday, 26 July 2009

Back from Jersey and a great session on the bass!

I’m just back from a family holiday to Jersey and am totally blown away by the place for the second year on the run. Last year was a long weekend without kids and NO fishing rod! This year I made up for it…

Packing my bag with the allotted 20kg of hold baggage I managed to have 7.5kg of fishing gear and a 3kg bag – that left 9.5kg for clothes… oh there was hand luggage as well (no weight restriction on hand luggage but no sharp implements allowed). Needless to say the Abel went with me in the plane!

I’d had a few chats with Mick Ward aka Mr Fish prior to the trip and we’d discussed both fly and lure opportunities for bass… I really wanted to go over the water with a fly but Mick suggested that it may not be the best way of getting in touch with a bass… he’d commented that it was hard enough with a lure never mind the fly – it would be his call especially if there was someone else on the boat as well.

After we landed at Jersey airport and settled into the hotel I made contact with Mick… I knew they’d had a hard June but Mick had a couple of good sessions under his belt during the last week, however, sod’s law was that the weather had become rather changeable and the sea state not that kindly.

Sunday was spent mooching around the island with the family and we ended up at a lovely beach to end the day… the tide was on the in, probably an hour or two off high water and I met a couple of guys plugging the depths. I didn’t take much persuading and popped back to the car for the fly rod. I set up and put on a chartreuse clouser and cast about… my accidental companions left to try another few marks, I cast about and felt a significant knock on the fly… sadly we didn’t connect. On retrieving the fly I found that I’d got a right wind knot and tangle on the fly with the tippet effectively running eye to barb and back through the body… this would never have hooked up in a month of Sundays!

I met Mick at his shop at First Tower on St Aubin’s Road on Monday for a chin wag. When I say shop, it can only be described as an Aladdin’s cave as the walls are festooned with every type of lure you could imagine, racks of rods ranging from Red Dragon Expresses to modestly priced beach casters, reels that could haul a record breaking conger from the deep to super smooth fixed spools for the lure angler. Don’t even mention line and terminal tackle… spoilt for choice!

I had the chance of observing Mick dealing with a young lad buying what might have been his first major purchase in a tackle shop… rod, reel, line etc etc. The young lad was in with his grand mother and Mick treated him as if he was a top angler looking to spend hundreds of pounds – it was great to see and without a doubt Mick will have another customer for life.

We discussed fishing for the week and frankly the mixed weather didn’t really look good for a boat trip. Looking at the map of Jersey and taking into account the wind and that I wanted to fly fish I chose a small area of coastline that wouldn’t appeal to the family. It has to be said that you are either on a family holiday or a fishing trip and the two don’t really mix, so a few snatched hours aren’t going to help you conquer new marks. I didn’t have any success at fishing from the shore and this wasn’t down to technique or kit but down to lack of local knowledge… all will become apparent.

A couple of days later saw a window in the weather and an opportunity to get out that coincided a free day that we hadn’t booked to do anything as a family. Thursday morning came and I spoke with Mick… could I get down to the shop for 11.30? “Don’t bring the fly rod” was the only instruction from Mick.

We met at the shop and I was introduced to a Devonian baser called Martin, a pal of Mick’s holidaying on the island purely for the bass fishing and who was also hit by the less than favourable weather. They’d been out on Tuesday and Martin had blanked on an iffy sort of day. (As an aside I had a go on a Prowler 15 fishing kayak on the Tuesday with Jersey Kayak Adventures… subject for another post to the blog).

There was much talk of which lures to use and whilst at the shop I bought two lures. Having plenty of shallow runners and lures that would work to 4ft I decided to supplement my surface lures with a Xorus - Patchinko II in Silver/Black 27g and 140mm and go deeper with a Tackle House 18g 80mm intermediate minnow. I was also keen to see that Mick stocks single hooks for lures to replace trebles if that takes your fancy… I’m keen to try this out and bought some circle hooks to replace trebles on some smaller Rapala lures.

Off to the boat and get on the water… enough of talk – let’s catch some fish.

My choice of rod and reel has always been my 4 piece Harrison designed Mike Ladle 4Surespin… a great rod that has been used and abused BUT still pulls in the fish. The reel is a fairly standard and cheap Wychwood 4000 loaded with Powerpro 65lb with a 20ft leader of 15lb mono finished with a new purchase from Mick… a size 3 JB clip… an original and not a cheap copy… all I can say is WOW a fantastic bit of stainless!

With the boat in the water I put on a Bomber Long-A Salt lure in chartreuse on… I have been favouring chartreuse recently for bright days and having read a bit on fly colours for salt water fish this was the one!

We motored out of St Helier to tackle Henry Gilbey’s favourite stomping ground and frankly you can see why… reef upon reef of granite blocks providing a stunning flooded alpine landscape covered with barnacles and studded with limpets exposed at low water. In full flood an area for the unwary to have their craft torn apart or pinned to the rocks… an area for local knowledge.

Mick took us to a drift 30 minutes away from setting off, I can’t recall what lures Mick or Martin was fishing… I do know we did have to retrieve one that Martin sent the country mile without the braid attached when the bail arm decided to go on mid cast… but retrieve the lure we did… and at £20 a pop for some of the lures you need to!

Back to fishing… I was casting out and getting the lure to about 4ft bringing it in quickly then slowing it right down and giving it a twitch… not that easy with a spinning rod of 10ft up against the 2.7m Tenryu Red Dragons BUT I know my rod.
30 minutes in I’m into my first fish of the day… initial thoughts were that it was a Pollock but it was my first ever Bass… not a biggie but at 1.5lbs I wasn’t complaining, these are super fish! I have a fancy that I’m turning into a Mike Ladle stalker here by doing pike autumn, winter and spring with summer taken up with the salt water fish!

After being photographed and put back in the water safely we moved on. The next fish fell to Mike another schoolie bass. Martin lost a sinking lure on the premature bail arm problem on his reel and switched to putting a mono leader on to take some of the shock out of it if it happened again.

The tide was starting to turn and Mick was telling us that as Jersey has no estuaries to hold fish they move around and he knew where to find them (all being well) at certain states of the tide. The caveat here is that the bass have been fished hard over the years and some of the bass breeding grounds which supply Jersey with its summer visitor have been hammered with breeding stock overfished.

Bass interestingly stay in the schools, in their year groups so hit on small schoolies and you’ll catch small schoolies, bigger bass end up being solitary as their year group are caught or die. These are fascinating fish!

Almost 2hrs after setting off and drifting through rocky snags I cast into an area of dead water behind a rock… on the retrieve I slowed it down and I hit a snag, strike, bang and over the rod tip went and line stripped from the reel as the fish went south into the deep. I tightened the drag slightly and retrieved and again it took the line, tightened again and brought the fish around for Mick to net it… I admit there was a heart stopping moment as the fish was in the net then not then it was.

This was a terrific fish, 4lbs on the nose and every inch the perfect predator! Photographed and put back to fight another day… I was totally stoked! That Bomber Long-A was doing the work… Mick is going to stock this fab lure! He actually accused folk like Martin and me of feeding his habit… I don’t know what he means as I felt his shop was feeding my habit – I’m a fly fisherman now for heaven’s sake.

I hadn’t appreciated that Martin was on an empty streak but gauged from the conversation that the other boat partner from Tuesday had landed a good fish and Martin had to get a good fish or suffer potential ridicule on a forum. Another hour on we spotted some bass hammering sand eels and Mick put the boat on a drift over water that was boiling with convergence of tide lines over rocks. I was messing around with a different lure (should have stuck to what I knew!) and both Martin and Mick had a double hook up on schoolies… Blank over, with much relief for Martin. I have to say that he’d been really unlucky having had a number of follows to the boat… in fact if his follows had connected he would have outfished Mick and I.

With large rain clouds fast approaching Mick decided to head for home before the down pour caught up with us.

Like most fishing trips you get to meet some great folk, having the opportunity to fish with Mick was brilliant and thank you doesn’t really do it justice. In addition to his angling his watercraft was awesome in such a hostile environment. BUT Mick bring me a cushion next time if you are going to make me sit in the bow to balance the boat… my backside has only just recovered from the arse slapping ride home… ooh err missus!

A footnote to all: If you want lures, hard or soft then Mick is your man. He admits that in high season you may have to wait a couple of days BUT then you have to take into account that he’s out testing these things to destruction. The Red Dragon Express looks the business and certainly works the lures well. It is nice to see a fixed spool reel specification lure rod for a change rather than relying on multipliers!

1 comment:

Trent Piker said...

Very nice, that's a great looking fish!