To all those caught by the fly...
End of Season Newsletter 2013
The 2013 season is a wrap and I'm not really sure what to make of the year as a whole. On the 10 year anniversary of www.bass-fishing.co.uk and 6500 clients later we were blessed with probably the most clement weather in terms of heat, light and low wind for almost a decade and the clarity to go with it was extraordinary. The season started really late and as mentioned in the mid season newsletter I had Bass milting me whilst unhooking in late May. Interestingly enough the IFCAS (Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority) officers mentioned to me whilst on the jetty at Itchenor in West Sussex that their initial survey (which occurs in June) of the Bass Nursery Area in Chichester Harbour trawled up NO year class zero Bass which maybe reflects that the first spawn class of 2013 didn't make it to hatching - certainly with Bass milting in late May it reflects a number of things:
a. Did early season spawning happen at all?
b. If it did, did it survive?
c. If it didn't, was the May milt a reflection of how late the initial spawning class was?
I would be interested to know if the IFCAS survey for the latter part of the season saw any significant improvement in presence of this year class. However, although this on the outset looks pretty bleak, it does reflect what maybe is happening in our waters and this I feel this can be highlighted by the catch returns I have been witness to this year and in subsequent years. Firstly, I have seen a particular year class of fish over the last 2-3yrs, namely Bass in the region of 1 1/2 - 21/4 lbs. These fish were spawned between 5 and 7 years ago which coincides with the last strong spawning class in recent years (2009) There has been a distinct lack of quality stock in the usual areas and quality double figured fish are just not around in the same numbers.
Charlie Elliot plus cockroach equals Bass
Some of the reefs we work have always produced good quality stock but they are just not there. These larger bass produce small Bass and my fear is that if the brood stock in the last 5-6 years has been significantly hit then we will have a giant hole appearing from 2016. The anomaly to this observation is during this season when we have been working within the 5 mile offshore limit, I have witnessed some of the largest shoals I have ever seen, some of these shoals have been hundreds of meters wide and would have yielded maybe as much as 10 tonnes if trawled, certainly one particular shoal was over 500 square meters and my estimate is that at an average weight of 21/4 lbs or 47cms, this shoal probably had at least 7.5 - 8 tonnes of biomass present.
The question is, "How do you hide 6000 - 7000 Bass"?.... and this is the strange thing about this season, when we experienced a red letter day in previous years i would guarantee that over the course of the next few sessions, similar catches would be experienced by fly fishermen who had been afloat, this is easily explained by the limited movement of tidal flow in a particular area over a particular part of the lunar cycle - the more the neap tide the less tidal flow bullies the food around and therefore the more static the bait is, easy pickings for the predator and the less incentive to forage - not this year, even on the smallest tides the Bass were in and then out. What does this mean, maybe a complete lack of food was present and what there was was insufficient in mass to prevent the Bass from moving around. If we conclude that Bass spawning conditions due to the late spring and very cold waters have negatively impacted this years class of younger fish, then it's logical to assume that many of our warm water species suffered in the same way; remember, Bass eat other fish!
The Solent in June in a Ski Jacket!
Internationally as well there was a twist as the False Albacore run just didn't happen at all!....Striped Bass were there and some nice fish were taken as well as lost on the leader, but the Little Tunny didn't show. When I asked one of the guides as to why he thought this happened I was told that this particular species has only been present for the last 2 decades and this statement came from a veteran of New England Sound with over 35 years experience on the sea - a sober reminder of the way nature changes it's course over time, food being the common denominator in this particular equation - if the bait stream moves then expect the predator to move with it - certainly this season we have traveled further and worked longer to find your quarry which suggests this statement is true.
Retail this year has seen all records broken with over 100 x 8 wt rods being sold with the equivalent amount of reels, spare spools and lines being rigged for use. I am grateful to all those clients who have purchased "Seawolf" rods directly from us and also those of you who are buying on-line through the Bass-fishing shop, as this is an endorsement that top quality kit does not have to come at a top tier price and we will keep prices for single handed saltwater rods, switch rods and LA reels the same as this year.
Also if interested, I am offering for sale bespoke 12 wt rods for £325. These are hand built and approximately half the price of most top brands. This has come about as many clients are traveling internationally these days and GT'S seem to be the order of the day so the opportunity arose to offer the larger AFTM fly rods at the lowest possible price knowing that the infrequency of this particular kit's use was the main barrier to payment - because you can afford to travel does not mean to say you have to spend £700 on a fly rod!
I have a number of ex guiding reels which as usual will be offloaded to anyone who requires an LA reel at a rock bottom price so just call me if interested, at the last count I have 7 reels all fully loaded, scratched but in top working order.
Statistics this year as mentioned are as follows, over 1600 Bass in total, this is 15 percent lower than last year but considering we were 40% down in the early part of the season I am pleased with that number. 85% of all Bass fly caught were mature but nothing over 10lbs and only some to 70cms plus. Cockroach patterns took the majority of Bass over 5lbs and hook sizes were from 3/0 and up. Red & White were very effective smaller patterns whilst Chartreuse deceivers in 2/0 scored consistently well over the whole year.
A record number of 8 & 10 weight single handed rods sold as well as Switch rods and LA reels. Clients for both Guiding and casting instruction topped over 400 which is still a reflection of the appetite for this fantastic sport fish -Thank you
Changes to 2014
As the diary opens for the new season I am keeping the Guiding rate the same as this year but the fuel surcharge increases by £5. There will be a kit rental charge for borrowing a rod or reel or both and any breakages need to be covered at the trade price which is the same as this year. Connecticut looks like it will be scheduled for the week commencing the 22nd September 2014 until the 28th so if interested please let me know but these dates are provisional and yet to be confirmed. For now I wish you all a good run into the Christmas period and I look forward to seeing you again in the Spring - remember Rods, reels, lines and flies are much better than pants or socks!.. http://www.bass-fishing.co.uk/en/shop
Roland Schnapka getting tugged Sept 2013
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“If you are planning for a year, sow rice: if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.”
Zeno Hromin editor Surf Caster's Journal.