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.

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!

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! 

My Bass season has begun…

At last, I’ve got off the mark and had my first Bass on the lures of the year…

Two weeks ago I started back on the Bass, big tides, bucket of crab and bait rod down some gullies not too far from my house. This was the first blank.

I have since then been out half a dozen times with the lures or bait conditions dependant, all have drawn blank…that is until this week. A session with the lures was hatched between myself and two good local anglers Jer and Stan. We headed off for our mark in hope of clear-ish water although the relentless wind (unforecast) had us worried and lowered expectations. After the hike we arrived at the mark to see very nice conditions, good clarity, fizzed up water swirling round the rocks and a flooding tide. PERFECT.

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First Bass of 2016 on the lures. One of 5 the session produced for me.

It turned out to be a productive session to say the least, especially for early season nothing big, up to just over 4lb but it got our season underway and it made for a very exciting afternoon. Now the duct is broken there is no stopping, it’s all guns blazing till the bass gear is hung up come end of Autumn.

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Jer bent into his first lure caught Bass of the year

I’m off to Ireland on sunday (24th) for the week to stay and fish with John Quinlan of Thatch Cottage in Kerry. A full week of fishing is in order and John knows how to provide a good fishing holiday so hopefully there will be plenty to report back on soon!

A day on the Taff

On Sunday I headed up with my mate Tom to fish the River Taff on the Merthyr Tydfil Angling Association stretch of water. It’s a new one to both of us and the day was always going to be experimental but hopes were high for a Brown Trout or two! Expanding my love of small stream trout fishing with lures, we hit the river armed with UL lure rods, micro spinners, soft plastics and plugs.

We started by the Aberfan footbridge at a nice deep pool on the meander all looked pretty good as we pulled up next to it, then to add to the excitement, as we were walking up to it Tom spotted a dark-backed fish sitting in the shallows, by the time I’d come over to have a look it had darted off but we have reason to believe it could have been a spring Salmon!

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We worked this stretch of water briefly before deciding to head down stream along the path and work our way back up. Long story short it was cold, gin clear and we saw nor hooked any fish. A very nice stretch of river nevertheless, just a shame about the litter that smothers the banks.

We had worked our way all the way back up stream to where we started only to be greeted with a large hatch of blue winged olives, which the fish which we deemed non-existent had suddenly begun taking off the top in abundance! Typical, no fly gear and as you’d expect the fish were only interested in the hatch. We watched this in awe before knocking this on the head and headed for lunch.

The next stop was to where the river narrows upstream and it  was much more like we are used to back home! We only just got to where we fancied on this stretch, when within a few casts I saw a fish shoot past my right and hit Tom’s Lure (Rapala CD1) but in the excitement the hooks pulled as is often the case with Browns and their soft mouths. We saw a few more fish and had a few follows along this stretch including a small fingering for myself that was much darker with almost luminescent orange spots along its lateral line.

We worked our way up but time was running out and we had to head home, as we got to the patch where Tom had hooked and lost the fish earlier, I said he had to have a cast in there just on the off chance. Low and behold, first cast, fish on! Not huge but a very pretty fish and again far darker than the fish we get at home. Quick photo and it was released.

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As we headed for the steps by the bridge to go home I spotted a nice lie where I thought there could be a trout holding, a few casts and it resulted in two missed fish, I was using barbless singles and both times the hooks had pulled…not quite a secure hook up I felt and for me now my confidence in singles for trout is unfortunately low! From the flash I saw on hook up through the crystal clear water it looked a very good fish too, possibly a PB but that’s fishing and you can’t land them all.

All in all, a very nice day, the afternoon being the highlight along with sitting watching (in a little frustration) big swirls as fish engulfed Olives off the top (oh to have a fly rod and selection of dry flies with me).

Tomorrow I become a surf coach…

Well as the title says tomorrow I become a surf coach…after years and years of being coached myself, tomorrow marks the day the I become one myself. I’m heading up to Surf Snowdonia to their Wave Garden to assist in coaching the Welsh Junior Surf Squad on the first squad training of the new year.

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© Surf Snowdonia

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and it’s an honour to be given the opportunity to give back to my country and help the next up-coming generation of “groms” (that’s surf talk for kids) to achieve the best they possibly can and hopefully pass on experience and knowledge I’ve gained over years competing and being in their position myself.

Gwen Spurlock and Sam Moore are the head coaches and have a wealth of experience with this and it’s going to be great to work with them and assist them as part of the coaching team this weekend.

I’ve been pretty lucky over the years to have been coached by some very good coaches; Lloyd Cole, Micha Lester and Joel Gray. I hope to take what I’ve liked from each of these coaches and hopefully offer something useful and a great experience for the squad.

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Throwback to my time representing Wales in the European Championships Azores

I’ve not been up to the Wave Garden before, but it’s been on the “bucket list” since it opened last year, I won’t be surfing it myself as I’m there to coach but I’m looking forward to seeing some of Wales’ best up-coming talent tear apart the world’s finest in land waves. It’s had its criticism but is there really a much better venue to coach technique than a perfect peeling wave that is the same time after time…I can’t think of one, not in the UK at least!

Check out the potential of the wave. Can’t wait to see it in person with our young Welsh talent tearing it apart.