The elusive sea bass

When we fish for trout, we know, with some certainty, that the fish are there. Finding a feeding fish and fooling it with a fly is another matter.

The story when bass fishing is a little different…

Last week I had three sessions fishing for bass on the Cornish coast. Day 1 saw us offshore on a boat looking for active gulls responding to the predators chasing baitfish to the surface. We covered many miles from Lizard Point down to Mounts Bay, checking known marks with our skipper glued to the fish finder but the shoals of bait-bashing bass just weren’t to be found. We ended the day with just three bass and a couple of decent pollock.

The second day we went back to what we knew best, exploring the shore marks we had researched using Google Earth and OS maps. We picked a shallow bay on the south of the Helford River mouth, it was a good walk to even get there and access to the shore wasn’t easy. The tide was just beginning to flood and at first glance the fishing looked tricky due to the weed that had accumulated after several days of northerly winds. I put up my old Sage RPL 8 wt with a floating line and my failsafe chartreuse and white clouser and within a couple of casts a hungry half-pounder had swallowed my fly. Two more of a similar size came soon after. I moved along the bay towards the headland where a shallow reef was slowly being submerged by the incoming tide. Fishing around the rocks, I quickly had a better bass of ¾ lb. Thereafter nearly every cast would produce at least a follow if not a take. As the tide crept up the fish kept getting bigger and by the time we had to pack up, I’d had 20 bass of which the last half dozen were all over a pound and a half. A fabulous afternoon’s fishing.

Needless to say, we were very confident about our last day’s fishing. We didn’t have enough time to head back to the same mark but chose to fish the north side of the Helford River instead. We arrived with the tide low and looked down over what looked like perfect bass ground. There were reefs and rock pools aplenty, all full of crabs, shrimps and blennies. Surely the flats would be alive with bass once flooded by the tide. Several hundred casts later we had to call it a day without a fish seen, let alone caught. As the late great Hoagy Carmichael used to sing “Some days there just ain’t no fish!”.

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