Big fish or Bust!

September, autumn, less day light, crowds gone, big winds, big seas and, if you get it right, big fish. That’s the theory anyway. 

Autumn is the harvest time. The growing season has peaked and now it time to fatten up on the crops available before the winter ahead. We see it in the landscape, it’s right their in front of our eyes. The colours change, the leaves fall and growth slows to a halt. It’s not so easy to see, unless you get in there, but it’s happening under water too. In freshwater the weeds are dying back, leaves are falling through the water, and as the fish activity slows the water will start to clear. And in the seas the big Atlantic storms will drive in big swells. The action of these long waves scours the sea bed, digging out the shell fish bounty, colouring the water and bringing a fizz of life. 

It’s an exciting time and it sees my attention turn to the goal of a big fish. I’m always trying to catch a big fish of course but at this time of year it tends to be more focussed and I’m willing to take the big fish or bust approach. I’ll sacrifice the chance for a number of easy small fish for just one possible big fish. However, that big fish may never come along. If it’s not there in front of you, you simply can’t catch it. I’ve never caught a big bass, not a proper big one anyway. I’ve tried, believe me I’ve tried. I’ve even given tips to new comers on how they might do it and sure enough they have, right in front of me! Sometimes you also need that little bit of luck on your side too. 

Bass are a fascinating fish. They can be caught by a real variety of methods in locations that are wildly different. From off shore on the boat around the famous Manacles reef where the rocks and tides have wrecked boats and taken lives of many a ship that got too close, to the raw Atlantic coast where swells that have travelled thousands of miles and unload their power on the beaches and cliffs, to the quiet, serene estuaries and creeks that wind their way through the sheltered valleys, you can find bass everywhere. How you catch them is another thing entirely and dare I say it, you can just about chose your preferred method. Well, maybe it’s not quite that easy. The method has to match the water but in recent years we’ve seen people taking methods into waters that the traditional books had told us wouldn’t work. But wow, they do work! Lures in particular have seen a revolution. Anglers have refined what’s been done for years and small changes have yielded incredible results. The one that really stands out is lure fishing, in surf, in the dark. It would have been laughed at years ago but the guys that have cracked it are the ones laughing. 

I can’t pretend for a minute to be able to do any of it very well, I’m in my usual category of, I can do it, I can catch but not necessarily very consistently or the numbers that specialists can. But having something to aim for, the chance to learn more, that’s what keeps the novelty alive and fires those neurones down those happy pathways and keeps me coming back for more. And, so far, in this season’s big fish or bust approach, it’s been a great big bust!! And I still love it. 

Surf Fishing with The School of Fish