The sun beams down as you begin to rethink if the clammy wading jacket was a good idea, you leave the giggles and shouts of eager summer beach goers behind. You navigate a labyrinth of gullies and boulders only separated by small patches of sand. The mellow thundering of lapping waves takes over. You take a few steps into the water and feel the cooling sensation as the first wave crashes against your side and the salty spray hits your face in the onshore breeze. Maybe the wading jacket was a good idea after all…. this can only mean one thing. Summer fly fishing for bass!
If there’s one thing I’m confident in my ability to fish for and understand it’s bass! Since the age of 13 when I first picked up a fishing rod. The species that sparked my teenage fishing obsession is bass.
I’ve since evolved and expanded my bass bait and lure fishing to include fly fishing, becoming obsessionally concerned with trout, salmon and sea trout.
However, despite a passion for fly fishing since being able to drive, fly fishing and bass fishing never crossed paths. They were two very distinct disciplines that I equally enjoyed. I would often tell myself catching bass up to 12lb on light lure tackle was plenty sport. Why should I make it harder?
Well, I guess as happens to some anglers. It becomes less and less about catching numbers, more about those moments that you will cherish and remember for many years to come. Therefore last year after many difficult nights in pursuit of sea trout. I took my usual #7 to the salt and begun putting the wealth of bass fishing knowledge I’ve spent my youth developing into the skills more recently built on in fly fishing. A romance of two true passions.
Needless to say, I swallowed a slice of humble pie. I was understanding of why some anglers now spend hours driving to the coast to wave a fly rod about, and why some anglers solely chased them on fly. It was relaxing, skillful and strangely rewarding, yet the moment you feel the line tighten and spring off the water as the rod hoops over, you feel on top of the world with adrenaline and sense of achievement.
Saltwater fly fishing is not for the beginner. You must have a good base level of casting, line management and more so understanding of the saltwater environment and your target species.
Although my bass fishing is now being done with a #9, as I strive to throw a large fly a reasonable distance in proper open coast Bassy conditions. There is absolutely nothing to stop your average U.K. fly fisher turning their hand to this sport with their standard reservoir or sea trout outfit! In-fact, this is exactly how I started out fishing and on a beach or estuary where the bass can be caught under your feet and don’t require too much bullying this is still the perfect set up.
I found the Airflo Forty Plus sniper fly lines absolutely perfect for the salt and able to throw most Bass flies you’re likely to use. With the sniper being another more lazy but efficient line to cast, although I must admit when conditions allow I prefer being able to false cast a longer line than 30ft head. I will be experimenting with more of the wonderful Airflo fly lines before the season draws to an end and report back my findings and preferences!
Firstly unfortunately bass marks are small areas with narrow windows of opportunity. Bass fishermen are known for being secretive and with the commercial and angling pressure on them being high, good spots are often kept between sealed lips.
What I can tell you though, is finding Bass means finding “edges” and the more edges you can pair together the more likely you may be in catching them.
These edges include:
Drop offs, edges where sand meets rock, edges of rips, edges where day becomes night (or vice versa), edges of physical structures and edges of where fresh and saltwater meet.
Typical ground to hunt bass ranges from open stretches of rocky coastline, clean surf beaches, rocky edges and points of beaches and estuaries.
These will fish on all sizes and stages of tides and it really is a case of putting in the time and working out the window of opportunity at each mark. With experience you will begin to be able to tell from a glance (with an educated guess). However for rock marks, generally try the first or last two hours of the flooding tide, estuaries the last hour of high when at the tidal limit or last two of the ebb further down the estuary. Surf beaches are any state of tide, it’s just a case of figuring the pattern but begin to focus either side of high or low in short regular sessions until the trend emerges.
The beauty of the U.K. is that you’re never far from the coastline, nor bass that will take a fly. They live everywhere, but…most are caught in small windows of opportunity and the skill lies in deciphering this! I hope this encourages you to get out this month with a few 4-6 inch Sandeel flies (surf candies etc) and sink your teeth into one of the most exciting and challenging forms of fly fishing the U.K. has to offer. Don’t be daunted by the experience and start the learning curve. The satisfaction when it comes together will be worth it!
5 tips to remember for bass fly fishing in the sea:
- Be stubborn, believe it’s possible and don’t give up – it’s easy to be overwhelmed in a big ocean, but under the right conditions catching bass on the fly is more than possible.
- Change location not your fly – you’ll catch more bass by finding them then swapping flies for what isn’t there! Pick a fly that suits the water clarity and stick with it.
- Wash down your gear – You’ll quickly ruin your gear if you’re not washing it down after each session a little 5 minutes TLC goes a long way.
- Don’t be wrapped up in having to fish SW winds and big tides – yes some areas suit this but just as many produce in the complete opposite,especially for fly fishing. Experiment and don’t follow “rules”.
- Vary your retrieves! Bass will some days want a fly stripped FAST almost faster than you can manage, where as some days they’ll demand a fly crawled back slow or swung in the current.
About the author: Nathanial James is a passionate Surfer come somewhat obsessed angler from Swansea, South Wales, UK. Be sure to Check out his Hook’n’Surf blog for more bass fishing tips!