William Powell Country

Bass on the Fly


Article written by 30 May 2013

The change in weather over the weekend, along with a gentle offshore wind, has brought about conditions that bass fishers have been waiting for all year. The change from hard crashing surf beaches, to warmer conditions and clearer water brings with it opportunity for lure fishing for bass.

The water needs the clarity, and the warmer temperature signals the arrival of shoals of baitfish that the bass start feeding on. These could be sandeels, small herring or mackerel, as well as the shoals of young mullet that they like to stalk up the rivers.

Over the last ten years or so there has been a revolution in lures used for bass. It used to be that a Toby lure, surface popper, Redgill or Dexta wedge were the mainstays of the bass angler’s toolbox. These are now very definitely considered old hat. Replacing them is a style of lure known as the soft plastic. These have been developed in Japan and the US for targeting mainly their own species of bass.

Soft plastics are typically sold in 2 parts; first the jighead, which is a hook with a lead built in to it, and which can be changed to effect different shapes and sinking rates, and second, the plastic bodies. These tend to come in packs of 6 or 10, and last a session or so depending upon the amount of fish that hit it. They come in different scents quite often and can even have rattles inside them. They signal a very different type of fishing, and no longer is the erratic and fast moving Rapala style of movement the thing. These are designed to be fished slowly, imparting movement through flicking and twitching the tip of the rod, and quite often move little more than a slow off centre roll.

One of the biggest changes is the ‘weedless’ style of fishing. Hooks with a kink in them allow the lure to be mounted on the hook so that the point is embedded in the plastic, and the snagging potential is much reduced. This makes areas that have typically been impossible to fish a reality, and many other species as well as bass are now targeted in kelp forests where they could not have been before.

So how does this have any bearing on fly fishing for bass? Well, a lot of the knowledge that is being gained on fishing with plastics is relevant for the fly fisherman. On the south coast where I fish, many lure fisherman are now playing in the rivers, fishing them across and down on a low ebb tide in a manner that reflects very much a salmon fisherman using a devon minnow, Mepps or Toby. It doesn’t take much to extrapolate that one could very easily be fly fishing that relatively shallow water.

Another technique that I am fascinated to try is fishing Isomes on the fly rod. Isomes are a kind of synthetic ragworm, typically fished on a rig with a light lead bullet and retrieved like a lure over sand. They are deadly for flounder and plaice apparently. The next opportunity I have to fish with my favourite south coast guide, Robin Howard, I shall request a trip to a bit of sand with flatties on it. I anticipate rigging up a floating line with a sink tip that will just drag above the bottom, and allowing the wind and tide to move the line, hence dragging the isomes across the sand. I think it will be a little like buzzer fishing, but I’m not sure what the take of a plaice on a fly rod would be like!

I took a trip this weekend with a switch rod of about 11 ½ ft down to one of our south coast rivers, and found it absolutely perfect. It was much like fishing a salmon river (but with guaranteed flow) as the water ebbed towards the sea. I used clousers, but when I received another purchase of soft plastics by post and discovered I had accidentally ordered 3 inch sandeel patterns I decided that these would be my new flees. Soft plastic by fly rod may not have become all the rage just yet, but maybe the trend is about to catch on….

I must add that, much like many of my salmon fishing trips, I didn’t catch anything with my fly rod, but then it was only half an hour’s drive away, and being tide restricted I only fished for 2 hours. If nothing else it’s good to get a bit of double handed casting practice in before the Dee next month, and when the time comes a big bass will hit that fly, and I can’t wait to hear that screaming reel.

William Church

Born and raised in the Essex countryside, will has been fishing since the age of 7. He has a particular love of fly fishing in rivers, however is not averse to using just about any method for any fish in any water where there’s.. Read more.

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