Mission accomplished…first salmon!

I set the challenge for myself to catch my first Welsh Salmon and Sewin this year! 

Not an easy quest by anyone’s standards but they’re fish that I find fascinating both for their impressive migrations and their stunning looks. 

I’ve put quite a bit of time into getting to know some small stretches of a local river and with some helpful guidance and pointers from experienced locals (I am indebted to your kindly shared advice) have been able to get a few trout on the fly under my belt…however it was their silver ocean going relatives that I was really immersed in catching. 

With a week of torrential rain during June my attention was firmly set on ticking one of these mysterious travellers off my list. In high flood water it was time to get the spinning rod out…rapalas and flying c’s were the order of the day and filled my box in a variety of colours and weights. 

I put a fair amount of solid effort into my quest, fishing in everything from horizontal rain managing to find its way through every conseivable cuff and zip in my jacket, to warm humid evenings and eery calm before the storm mornings. 

However it was a still peaceful morning as the river was falling that saw the first of my ambitions hooked, I had woken up early before work joined by a colleague to try our luck at a fresh run Salmon. Rumours had hinted a few had been caught the day previous so hopes were high, despite our efforts nothing had shown in the almost perfect looking water. I was determined though and promised myself I would have a few final casts in a pool that I had a good feeling about before racing off to work…perhaps my confident approach to the pool made the difference, within a few casts my lure swang with the current over a depression I felt a sudden slam before my rod arched over and an iridescent indigo shimmering salmon thrashed on the surface out in the current. Heart in mouth as I played the fish in while in compete awe at its beauty! 


Not the largest salmon the river has ever seen but my first Salmon in Welsh waters and suddenly all the blanks and groussome weather needn’t matter as I gripped the fish by its forked tail and held it up for a photo before allowing it to recover and swim away strong. Onwards to continue its incredible migration and provide stock for years to come. 


After this fish I felt confident in my approach. People will tell you “you learn more when you blank” to me that’s not quite true. Yes blanking teaches you when not to go, what doesn’t work and on occasions can be pretty humbling, for me though it’s catching after putting in the work and reaping the rewards when you really start to learn. 

Learn what? Learn what the fish react to, when you should focus your time on that particular species and most importantly where they hold. The areas where that fish and no doubt other fish will be found in future. It’s a process you cannot get to alone without the blanks but to learn and become better success must be repeated. This is something I’ve always been pretty determined to do, not to count sucesss as a fluke, but to repeat it, do it again and if possible better. 

I missed out on two occasions when the river would have been in perfect condition due to work and other commitments. However once I had the opportunity to get out on the river again I was determined to seek success. I had thought through in my head the areas the fish could be holding, how could I present my lure to them and when would give me the best opportunity of success. 

An early morning plan was hatched and upon arrival at the pool I had in mind it was only a couple of casts in when I felt a sudden tightening before a fresh silver slab thrashed at the surface followed by a thrilling powerful bolt up and across the pool. After an awesome display of the strength and power of these fish it was landed and a few quick snaps taken before allowing the fish to recover prior to release! 


This fish was far superior to the previous, fresh off the tide it could have only been in the river a couple of hours, its tail and underside still caressed by sea lice along with its shimmering lilac tinted latteral line. It was fair to say I was in complete awe at the beauty of the fish and a memory that will stay with me for many years to come. 
No doubt I will continue to spend plenty of time out bassing over the next few months but I can’t help but suspect that these migrational beauties will have me sidetracked and distracted a little…can you blame me??

The year so far…

So 2017 is here, I’ve been fishing and surfing plenty while balancing work and my university studies.

January was a blique cold month with poor surf and over run with exams, spirits were only raised with a bit of fly fishing at the superb Stillwater that is Garnffrwd.

February saw a much needed surf trip to Fuerterventura with Swansea University Surf Club. We were lucky with some warm weather and consistent waves. Nothing exceptional but I’ll take warm water, sun and surf (along with typical uni nights out) in February without being too fussy.

Here’s a few shots from the trip. Lobos was definitely a wave I will be traveling back to surf again for sure. Heading over there at first light in a rib armed with your board and wetsuit to be dropped off in the lineup is an awesome buzz and as close as I’ve felt to being a Navy SEAL.


After returning from Fuerterventura I managed a day out Pike fishing which resulted in a new PB. We had no scales on us and pike can be tricky to guesstimate so not putting a weight to it but it’s not far off how big the pike get at the particular venue and I was undoubtedly over the moon with it. Seeing the take was just the icing on the cake! 

March arrived with some kindly mild weather, which in turn saw the first peel of the crabs and a few Bass that capitalised on the opportunity of some early grub. I didn’t manage much to write home about with the biggest of the month approaching 4lb but there was some good fish showing. Below is a shot of hugely committed angler and good friend Jeremy Evans with a cracking Bass. This shot sums up bassing for me, just look at the excitement in his face! 

April saw me opening my lure account and once the ball was rolling the Bass kept coming. The only limitation has been university studies and work, this has continued into May but on days off and revision breaks I’ve had some good Bass fishing on the lures. 
Something I have noticed for three years running now is that once the below coastal flowers come out, the bass fishing on lures really kicks off, I’d love to know more as to why this is but it’s something I’ve noticed and share with others I meet. Just one of natures little signs! 

Aside from the Bass fishing I’ve been spending quite a bit of time working on my fly fishing targeting Brown Trout on the rivers of South Wales, this hasn’t been easy and a steep learning curve but something I’m really enjoying and feel is another string to my bow. 

I took the opportunity of a guided day out with Kim Tribe from Fly Fishing Wales fishing a stretch of the Usk and I am very glad I did so, not only did we have a great day out but I came away from the day with plenty to work on and new skills learnt and will no doubt become a better angler as a result. 

With June just around the corner I hope to experience some awesome Bass fishing at home along with Summer swells and get surfing in a summer wetsuit. Sea Trout are high on my priorities also and as long as I get the time and conditions to do so I hope to manage my first Welsh Sewin, a real ambition of mine. In other news I would like to thank the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society for giving me the opportunity to write another piece for them in Sea Angler which should be out later this summer.

Thanks for taking the time to read and I promise the blog will gain some more consistency now University has finished for the year.
Nathaniel. 

Reel Time – Shimano Sustain Review

For a while now I have felt  that it’s worth sharing with the readers of my blog what tackle I use, but most importantly the tackle what works well for me and I trust.

I’ve discussed previously my thoughts on braids, (See here) but there is so much more that I use for my Bass fishing that I simply love to fish with and has done me proud over seasons of hard use (with a pinch of abuse) and I can wholeheartedly recommend.

One of the most essential pieces of equipment, but for various reasons I have struggled with for my Bass fishing over the last few years is reels. I remember during my 3rd season of Bass fishing, when I was starting to take it very seriously I went through 3 reels in the space of 4 months, one of which was sent back 3 times in a month and half. It simply could not stand saltwater use. It is well worth mentioning that I have not yet found a reel (that I can afford anyway) that is completely robust to saltwater abuse and if you’re using them regularly all will require a bit of TLC and regular care.

I am a big fan of Shimano reels, they are of the upmost quality, well designed, lightweight, smooth and a big plus is that there is a service station locally. I’ve used a wide range of Shimano reels from small spinning reels to chunky multipliers for boat fishing and I’ve been impressed and satisfied with nearly all of them.

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Last year I decided that I would take the plunge on a Shimano Sustain for my 2016 season and having used it exclusively for over a year now, fishing A LOT. I feel I am in a good position to give it a proper review.

Simply put, the Shimano Sustain 4000FG is about the most perfect reel I have used for my Bass Lure Fishing to date. It is light, smooth and perfectly balances on the 9-9’6 lure rods I use for my Bass fishing. Pair this with its sleek metallic midnight blue body along with gloss black and silver cosmetics, you’re on to a winner that really does look great strapped to any rod.

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The reel pairs up and looks great with the HTO 9’6 ShoreGame. Especially next to a slab of Irish Bass.

Yes anyone could tell you this within 2 minutes of handling the reel, however what is it like to fish with and how does it perform over time?

Simply awesome. I’ve fished with it all through 2016, all over my beloved Welsh coastline and 2 fishing packed trips to Ireland. Never once have I held back and on the regular the reel has been pushed to the extreme in rough conditions with plenty of salty soakings thanks to rough seas. I would often compare Bass fishing to having someone continuously throw buckets of salt water at you and the reel has to be able to withstand this.

The bail arm is positive, never do I get the annoying snap back over mid cast that I have had with other reels, that can be a tad embarrassing and even worse end up in an expensive crack off, as you watch your lure sail out towards the horizon with your line no longer attached. The roller bearing hasn’t seized up, something I would expect to see after a year of use for me, I would recommend keeping an eye on it though. The drag has remained smooth on both spools, although I did have an issue with the spare spool supplied that I will come on to later.

One thing that I must admit I really fell in love with about the Sustain from the off and over time using it have grown to love more and more is the soft EVA foam handle. It fits perfectly in the hand, feels great and grippy even with damp cold hands. Its just a joy to hold. Yes its the simple things that make a difference. Foam handles on spinning reels really do it for me.

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This is how well the handle fits in the hand. A dream to turn all day long…

This brings me on to the negatives, or not so much negatives but things I have noticed with the reel that I would advice others to take care of and keep an eye on. Firstly the spare spool that came supplied with the reel seemed to have a silent drag…I’ve since heard of 3 other people with the same problem with their Sustains, its quite easy to sort out and according to the Shimano Service Team its a case of the factory drills over tightening the screw on the drag clicker…strange its only the spare spool with this problem never the main one. Quick unscrew and re-screw to hand tight and a drop of oil to loosen the grease fixed this. The body and spool is not bullet proof…yes I would love it if it was but I will admit to a few chips in the spool and scratches to the main body from a lack of attention when putting the rod down unhooking fish, the chips were easily smoothed out though. I guess this is a sacrifice for having a lightweight reel.

The main issue I did have and it seems an issue with all Shimano’s in saltwater, is the handle bearing. This seized up on me back in October and really made the reel harsh to use. A clean and re-grease of the bearing thanks for my mate Jer sorted this, although it does need replacing due to heavy corrosion.

So as it stands with the reel resting out of action until Spring, the reel has survived a hard year of abuse. It is due a service where I expect a few bearings, probably the roller bearing and possibly one or two in the main shaft of the reel will need a clean and re-grease along with the complete replacement of the handle bearing. I may try to smooth out perfectly any chips that I have caused to the spool but on the whole, the reel has done well and I feel a bit of off season TLC is perfectly acceptable, especially for a reel that Shimano sell claiming for only “light saltwater use”.

I am very confident that the Sustain I have here will go on to serve another season of abuse, as long as I take care of it and give it a little attention after each session. I can throughly recommend it to other Bass anglers out there. I fish a lot and I would hazard a guess that a seasons use for me is the equivalent to 2 maybe even 3 seasons to some other anglers who may not be as lucky to live as close to the sea or get out fishing as much as me. Put simply it’s a reel I feel confident in, has done me proud and a real joy to use.

The year gone by…looking back over 2016

Let me start off with an apology for letting this blog slip away…I was thoroughly enjoying writing but Summer came and with it work, fishing and surfing took over and I just lost the flow of regular writing. I guess once you fall out of rhythm it is a hard thing to get back into.

2016 then…it’s been a great year for me in terms of both Surfing and Fishing, I’ve had some awesome surf sessions along with fishing ones.

So to pick back up from where I left things in July…

The end of July saw some pretty good Bass fishing round my beloved Gower coast, there was alot of small Bass about and it became hard at times to find a way of avoiding them and targeting the better Bass. This is where luring in the dark came into its own. Simple tactics, focusing on being in the right places at the right time and complete focus over where and what your lure is doing in the water yielded success.

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Ignore the gloves, I had hands that were falling apart from being constantly damp fishing, surfing and working in all weather.

This year really has opened my eyes to night fishing and how much it really is about confidence, a lure with a confident angler on the end will always out fish a lure fished by an unconfident angler (believe me I’ve learnt this the hard way). Something else that I really believe in at night is the power of a WAKE. A waked lure at night has done some real damage this year, not just for myself but a lot of the guys I fish with. A calm flat night, a wake along the surface just seems to drive the Bass mad. Slow but not stupid slow and your sub-surface lure will be just in that surface film waking and enticing the Bass with something to home in on.

August came and the Bass fishing dropped right off…we had a few unseasonal summer swells which saw the likes of Langland and Gennith pumping on quite a few occasions in the sun. I spent a day in Pembrokeshire with Matt Powell of Bass Fishing Wales on the hunt for some of the big Bass he had been both seeing and hooking into but on the day only a few small Bass played ball but we fished some stunning ground and got pretty adventurous. Wetsuits on clambering along cliff edges, near to swimming out to the mark, stuff a navy seal would be proud of.

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In August I had my first piece of published work for Sea Angler writing on behalf of BASS, I was really stoked with this and how the piece turned out, and its something I will keep for a long time. With my passion for writing still strong, its something I would really like to make more of and continue and improve on. Hopefully there is more to come. IMG_6852.JPG

September saw the Bass fishing at home start to pick up, with local estuary marks that hadn’t fished all year start to produce once again. Once again the Fiiish Black Minnow in the deadly yellow and white combo proved its worth, picking out Bass consistently in water you just wouldn’t look at for lure fishing.

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It does get a little clearer further out but not by much…

September is meant to be the month when we get some of the best waves of the year with clean ground swells straight off the atlantic rolling to our shores, yet this year they just never arrived…so with this in mind I headed off to Ireland with a group of Welsh Boys I didn’t know all that well but welcomed me along and made me feel apart of their friendship group along side some awesome Bassing. Here’s a taste of some of the fish had throughout the week across some stunning Irish coastline.

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Returning from Ireland, and October on the Horizon, everything should be at its prime, perfect clean autumn swells and Bass hungry on the feed before the water temperature begins to drop…well only one of those turned up, the autumn swells. October was an awesome month for surf and plenty of Autumn session were had. It was also when I headed to Newquay, Cornwall with the Swansea Uni Surf Team to compete in the BUCS Surf Competition, an annual comp that sees universities entering teams of surfers from around the UK, this year had a huge turnout with well over 350 competitors for a weekend of surfing and partying. As part of the Swansea Uni team, I took 5th place individually and as a team we took a respectable 2nd place in the team rankings. I was happy with my performance although I would really like to return next year with my eyes set firmly on making the final.IMG_7044.JPG

The waves were consistent back home there after with windy, stormy Langland being a regular thing, something I do thoroughly enjoy as it’s what I grew up surfing.

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Photo – Chris French

Into November, on the back of October’s swells it went flat for what seemed like an eternity. This gave way for calm, gin clear water, something I have rarely seen in November, just look at the image below!! Yes I did use my sunnies as a polarising filter, but it can only show whats there.

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The fishing, with the conditions we had, really came on fire. It seemed that the East winds, and sudden drop in temperature drove the Bass well and truly mad. When you found the fish they really played ball, smashing lures in the pitch black with sheer aggression with the average stamp of fish definitely up on what is was for most the year.

Its interesting what has been working at night, far contrast to what you will be typically be told will work at night, again confidence it a huge factor. Not forgetting that deadly wake. But the black at night concept hasn’t seemed so true is all I’m saying…

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Winter slab of silver…

December has been a surfing month with plenty of good sessions round Gower, with the crowds of summer dying off as after work surfs are no longer possible. With a new stick from long time shaper John Purton – JP Surfboards, I’m amped to get in the water as much as possible now on my small wave shredder and impressions so far is that it definitely turns crap, gutless waves into waves worth getting wet for. The fin set up also lends itself perfectly to laying down a hard rail and surfing this in small clean waves I can definitely feel an improvement in my flow and rail game.

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With the temperatures now dropping rapidly as winter takes its hold, conditions have definitely swung towards surfing, and that will be mainly what I am doing now until April. Piking, stillwater fly fishing and Grayling will be the targets over winter with their sessions taking place when flat or surf is poor. Grayling on the fly is something I am very keen to pick up and learn, theres something oddly satisfying about wading a river in the depths of winter while the ground is frozen and icicles hang from the overhanging branches on the far bank. I also find the czech/french nymphing methods captivating and something I am very keen to learn the ways of.

So to all those reading this, I apologise for the length of this post, but I hope you’ve enjoyed reading as I took you back over my 2016 season. It’s definitely been one to remember and I have a lot to take away from it and continue on with into 2017.  A late Merry Christmas and an early Happy New Year.

Nathaniel

Braid…the good, the bad and the ugly

Everyone’s opinions on what braid they like is different. Some want silk others want rope. Me…I like somewhere inbetween. As nice as some of these silky smooth 8 strand braids are, there is a part of me that doesn’t quite feel confident in them with a Bass of a lifetime on the end that’s diving towards and across shallow, jagged, barnacle ridden ground…but there is always the argument that any braided line thats tight against a rock is going to snap regardless, but there are undoubtably some that are going to take it alot better than others.

Personally I like a braid that’s friendly to use and enjoyable to cast all day. Hence this I pretty much only use 8 strands for all my lure fishing. Going back to a 4 strand braid since just feels thick, rope like and I can’t help but feel let down casting it and not getting the distance I am used to…(yes Bass aren’t always at distance, often below your feet…but it’s only beneficial to cover as much ground as possible and lets face it, it’s pretty satisfying to see your lure fly out towards the horizon).

Over the last few years I’ve gone through quite a few spools of braid trying different types and brands to see what works for me and how they will do for my various types of fishing.

Daiwa Tournament 8

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A very nice braid that I’ve only used in the ridiculously thin but strong 25lb…to use it’s absolute joy! Casts lovely, silent through the guides and I trust the breaking strain of it. It’s pretty strong stuff. Where I found it let me down though is wind knots…I did suffer from wind knots with this braid, it did tend to struggle to bed down nicely even when keeping an eye. Abrasion resistance is also another factor where I wasn’t fused on this braid. Just touching something remotely rough left it chaffed and after a long day fishing and rough dry hand syndrome sets in I was worried handling the braid and found that the area round my trigger grip was left lacking colour and fluffed out fibbers were pretty visible. Never the less though, over clean ground it is a nice braid to use, but for me it doesn’t stand up to the wear and tear or rough ground I fish so personally it’s not the braid for me.

Sunline Castaway

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This is my sweet spot. It’s to me a great point between a 4 and 8 strand. Just feeling it you can tell it is a pretty tough braid. Not stupidly thin but just right. I’d call it my goldilocks braid, yes it may miss out on a few yards that other super slick 8 strands can give but it isn’t far off.

What I do like though is how tough it feels, infact I’ve had a fish pull the line across some nasty ground where I really felt it was going to be “goodbye” but the castaway held in there and although chaffed it didn’t straight away give as I feel a lot of other braids would. Pair this with the fact it has a specific saltwater resistant coating it inspires a lot of confidence in me and without that whatever fish you hook into is always going to be at an advantage.

This is the line I’m using at home on the rough, nasty barnacle ridden reefs of Gower this year and after last seasons performance I’m hopeful it will do me proud again. Currently seeing how the lighter 20lb (1.2pe) stuff will do for me since the 25lb has had 2 flawless seasons.

 

Daiwa J-Braid

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This is a pretty new braid that only came out in the UK this year but wow is it impressive for the money, first impressions were that it feels a marginally thicker, tougher version of the Daiwa Tournament that I really wish suited my fishing better. I first started using it for my UL/LRF fishing, especially the lure fishing I do for Trout and I’ve got to say I’ve been nothing but impressed with it. For £15 a spool, its far cheaper than 90% of other 8 strand braids out there and it has stood up to alot of abuse. Especially the amount of abrasion its got from lures cast into bushes and trees that have been yanked out while the line is wrapped round branches or leaves.

I then went on to load up the spare spool of my Shimano Sustain with it for my trip to Ireland back in April…a week solid fishing I felt would show me if there was any immediate faults in the line, and nope. I could find any, it didn’t let me down. Knot strength was great and it is really nice to use in terms of feel and casting. Yes I cannot be 100% on it from that trip but after 8 months using it for my UL fishing and plenty of hours using it for Bass I got to say it’s up there with one of my favourites so far, especially when it’s half the price of many of it’s competitors (In my opinion) cutting a few yards away doesn’t feel so bad. I feel this could be my go to braid for cleaner or less sharp nasty ground where boulders and kelp is more of a sight as opposed to angry barnacle ledges.

So to round it up…for me personally my go to braid has to be the Sunline Castaway. It’s reliable, nice colour, I trust it 100% and I know that if fish over the rough ground I tend to fish decide to take the upper hand against me then I’m going to feeling rubbing (that the braid will resist to a point) that I can react to before I feel a ping as opposed to other 8 strands where I feel a ping is going to be the first you know of contact with rough ground…for me it’s a practical braid for real fishing purposes.

 

 

 

 

Zero Bass…ICES 2017 Advice

FullSizeRenderJust small changes to our Bass Fishing has in my opinion made a big difference to the number of Bass we are seeing across our coast. But it seems we are far from a sustainable fishery…ICES (International Commission for the Exploration for the Sea) have recommended zero retention of Bass for 2017 after two years of failing to meet their 80 and 90% reductions respectively. See here for the release.

Dispute the evidence if you must but this advice is only going to see more benefit long term, yes it is a shame that as anglers we could very likely see ourselves banned from keeping any Bass during 2017, which I don’t feel we are at all directly responsible for the decline of (if we want to be seen as important stakeholders though I feel we must take some blame and accept restriction)…but the biggest factor here for me is that we could see commercial fishing closed for the year. It has been an absolute farce this year that anglers cannot retain Bass while certain commercial fishing methods may continue nearly as they always have done. 

For me I’m being optimistic and thinking long term, I’m going to be out there though and say it I cannot overly sympathise with commercial Bass fishermen (as much as I do think commercial rod and line should be a part of the fishery once we reach a sustainable level). The way I see it those who are in Bass fishing for quick buck and greed will be filtered out, they will be gone (yes sad as they will need to find new jobs) but long term once we see a recovery in the stock we and less pressure from a greed driven commercial lobby we will only be left with those who care about Bass fishing and we can work towards a sustainable fishery.

Just look at what happened in Ireland, complete collapse of Bass stocks and now a sportfishing fishery that is the envy of Northern Europe. Only because the commercial fishermen that once relied on Bass moved on to other things.

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Releasing large Bass like this could one day become nothing but a smoke tinted memory…

In 6 years time I just hope that we could be looking at a sustainable fishery as we see the Spawning Biomass protected in order for the 0-1 year class fish reach maturity to have a huge number of breeding size Bass and even the smaller 1 to 2lb Bass we are seeing in decent numbers at the moment getting chance to sow their seed, and reach specimen size.

Here is BASS’ (Bass Angler’s Sportfishing Society) response to the 2017 recommendations.

I could be hopefully but this is “the bright side of the advice” that I’m looking at and there is every chance it could come through with a Ban.

Just please let us catch and release! Haha.

Time, tide and place

There’s no doubt about it. In Bass fishing time, tide and place is THE most important factor.

You can have all the lures under the sun. Work them beautifully, fire them to the horizon on your flashy jap rod and reel. But…if there’s no fish in front of you and you’re not prepared to cover ground and find them then sorry but results will be disappointing.

 

While on a walk the other evening it (conveniently passing a mark I’ve been fancying for quite some time) I decided that it couldn’t be left to think about no more and after thinking for a week about when (I guessed) fish would pass through and how I could safely get down, and fish it I had to get out and give it a go as soon as!

I’m sure there’s lots of guys out there that have been on similar walks or passed a mark and thought “Wow that screams Bass” or species of choice. But only then to stick to your banker marks and in your comfortable confident zone but as I’ll come on to. Sometimes scratching that itch, following your hunch and getting out – giving it a go can all be worth it. 


Well last night I headed out to said mark that took my fancy and gave it a go! Why not, I’d been to somewhere else I know I could manage fish out of but found a dirty band of muddy water, run off from an afternoon of torrential rain and thunderstorms. So I plucked up the courage and headed to the mark that’s been fizzling on my mind. 

Got there it looked perfect…little bouncy but that was going to be more hassle to me than the fish (they were going to love it) long story short I was trying to hit the rip that comes racing through out in front at full distance but with the loose cabbage like weed that was in the water anything that wasn’t on the surface was soon to be chocked. So stuck on the surface and right when it was getting dark and rip well within casting distance a gorgeous gold and plump Bass came up and smashed my Gunfish in a huge boil! Mission accomplished. 


So I guess the purpose of this post was partly down to my excitement of fantasising about fishing a mark , scratching the itch and having the outcome I’d hoped for! More so however I hope that it inspires others to get out on that mark they’ve been fancying and had a hunch about and hopefully by stepping out the usual comfort zone of your banker marks you could seek a nice reward! Get out and give it a go…here’s to more exploring!