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

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.

The Finger of Blame

So as some of you may be aware there is a Bass Ban going on at the moment where no anglers may retain fish…but commercial fishermen may fish for Bass by rod and line and FIXED nets… find out more here

So when last night I saw a boat I presume from Burry Port laying two drift nets across Llangennith (something they aren’t permitted to do until July) last night I was pretty gutted to say the least. I’ve kept to the Ban for Anglers returning all my Bass so far this year yet to see this last night was a kick in the balls.

I did ring one of my local fishery officers when I saw it but being out of hours there isn’t much they can do but pass the information on…shame as all they really need to do it catch these boats coming back into the harbour and board them and check the gear being used.

At least when the stock collapses and the scientists call for a complete closure of all Bass fishing we will know who to point the finger of blame at! 

Gower, Swansea…Home

 

mapofgowerFor many people, especially my age (19), getting away from home is something they can’t wait to do. New experiences, escape the boredom of their home town and discover new places. I however feel differently…

I love where I’m from and with Swansea having the simply stunning Gower Peninsular on its doorstep I would be very hard pushed to find anywhere in the UK I’d rather be. When it came to looking at Universities I subconsciously tried to find somewhere that was similar to home before I realised and decided Swansea University was the best place for me to go and I’m looking forward to starting there next September.

We are very lucky to have such a huge expanse of coastline that gives huge variety to both the Surfing and Fishing opportunities, it is truly beautiful. Rightfully so in 1956 Gower became the UK’s first “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” and with locations such as Worms Head, Llangennith and Three Cliffs Bay it’s no surprise.

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© Paul Gill

From Langland through to Llangennith the whole of Gower has phenomenal (nearly) year round surf and a well deserved reputation for producing some of Wales’, if not the UK and Europe’s finest surfers, as it has done for over 70 years!

Here is a slideshow of images that show Gower’s true beauty and Surfing/Fishing potential!

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Fishing round Gower can be tricky, it’s the kind of place that takes years and years to get to know and although surfing has given me a big advantage and knowledge I can relate to fishing the coastline, I still have plenty to learn. Without having such a huge expanse of coastline though and so much variation I don’t think it would be quite the same and that’s where my love for Fishing Gower comes from.

It’s far from just Bass fishing we are very lucky to have though, we get some phenomenal Tope fishing once the Mackerel shoals arrive come June, our winter Cod fishing was once famed across the UK and our sandy bays are home to some of the UK’s finest Golden Grey Mullet fishing, something I’ve got to try my hand at.

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If the Tope are in you can expect plenty of them!

As far as places go for Surfing and Fishing, there are plenty of exceptional areas along the Cornish and Devon coastline, on both north and south coasts but I am yet to find somewhere that is like home and has that very special appeal we are so lucky to have.

Although people will move away and leave Gower, they’ll always miss home, there’s very few places as stunning and special as Gower, the place in very lucky to call home!