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May Newsletter 2013

To all those caught by the fly...

Well after a pretty wet and wild winter it seems like Spring has just about arrived although it feels late and water temperatures are still low for this time of year, presently 11 degrees in the Harbour and maybe a degree or 2 lower in the Solent. Last season fly fishing for Bass kicked off when the water column spiked in temperature to just under 14 degrees, fish being cold blooded react to their external environment, so higher water temperatures will motivate the Bass to hunt more aggressively. From mid-May onwards last year we saw many shoals of Bass hunting in the "Mixed layer" or near the water surface and when it happened it was like a light switch being turned on and this has just started to happen in the last few days with Bass blitzing in the upper layer as small sandeel  and fry are starting to show in the bays.

James Mayhew finding an early May shoal of Bass on the bite..
 James Mayhew finding a shoal of early May Bass on the bite.

I feel a common misconception is that Bass arrive in late Spring and depart in late Autumn, but maybe the real answer is that some fish leave our Southern shores and others remain in open water quite local to their summer grounds as there seems to be far too many reports of good catches of Bass within 10 miles of any number of Southern ports throughout the colder months.

The reason why Bass tend to move off into deeper water is probably something to do with the thermocline becoming chilled or worse than that it can be quite transient, especially in the first few meters from the surface. These swings in temperature are an annoyance to any creature which works in parallel with its external environment and therefore my belief is that Bass will move into a part of the water column which is less transient (more stable), and this will therefore be in a lower part of the water column, below the thermocline which is less affected by the movement of cold polar air.

As an example of this, in January this year I was fishing offshore for Bass with friends in water depths of between 45-65 ft and the Bass were numerous but very tight on the sea bed. We used "Stingers" which resembled small 3 inch herring. The pack was tight and didn't move so if the drift was accurate, you would expect a hook up as soon as your lure hit the bottom.

On a very similar mark in May (4 months later), the same method was used and the interesting point for me was that a shoal of Bass was operating in both the mid water layers (Thermocline) as well as in deeper water, so our target was more randomly distributed through the water column suggesting that the thermocline temperature was steadily increasing or maybe becoming less affected by the upper "Mixed layer" allowing the Bass to hunt more actively; another observation was that a much better quality Bass was founder deeper on the same mark than the school Bass which were feeding much higher up over the same mark, so get you lure down quickly or it may well get intercepted by a smaller predator. - this poses two interesting questions:

1. Why did we witness a smaller class of fish higher up in the water column than better quality fish lower down?

2. Does it take longer for larger fish to adapt to a change in their environment?

Bearing this in mind, I have tried many experiments to coax Bass onto a fly when the water temperatures are very low and have found to my disappointment that they do not easily jump on the line - this is because either they cannot motivate themselves to chase down a fly which is moving away from them as their metabolism is too slow to justify the chase, unlike with soft baits and lures which tend to be generally larger and worked slower so maybe more of a target when looked at from a risk reward perspective.

Either way, if you work a relatively large fly deep and slow in the early part of the season you may be rewarded with a better than average pull on your line. - "Strip long, fluid and slow in the Spring months, increasing the rate as the season heats up".

Due to this I have tied up some larger flies from 3/0 up to 5/0 in Deceiver cockroach patterns which I will use when adrift offshore in deeper ground - see website for patterns:

Rod and reel sales have been very good over the last few months as clients have realised that good kit doesn't have to cost a fortune, so for any of you who are looking to purchase a saltwater kit in either an 8 wt or 10 weight single handed rod or the popular Switch rod series, I am here to help. We have recently taken delivery of new 7/8 and 8/9 weight Switch rods in an 11.6" series which are popular among Salmon fishermen venturing onto the salt for the first time.
The next few days look stable and the ambient temperatures are climbing to hopefully the catches will become more consistent .... in the last few sessions we are seeing more and more fish start to move, so may this continue - pray for cloud, light winds and the Bass won't be far behind.

Looking forward to seeing you out there again along with the sun!.

Kind Regards

Game Fishing Logo

Justin Anwyl

IGFA Captain/Guide UK/USA


Tel: 07767 820268 or Tel: 01243 785496