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  • Robin Howard (a.k.a. Fishyrob)

Brighton Inshore Fly Fishing - Revised...

One of the first blogs I wrote for the BIF project, published on here in March of this year, was written as we awaited the final adjustments to BIF1's fittings, amidst the growing excitement of her imminent arrival in Brighton. It was the story of why BIF1 was going to be Brightons first fly and lure only charter boat, and only the 3rd such operation in the UK. It was a brief summary of how I found myself fly fishing for bass, and generally using the fly rod wherever possible.

What I did not know, was how much we would advance our knowledge of bass on fly, for the simple fact that I was able to be on them a lot more with the fly rod. Practice not only makes perfect with casting straight and distance lines. It also brings you a lot more in touch with the fishes mentality. We most definitely noticed some amazing "phases" with the fly rod. In those exploratory days, there were a few, where the fly would out fish the lure. On BIF1 this year, once the waters warmed and the bass began to be more interested in fish than crustaceans, the results on the fly went from ok, to interesting, to amazing. But... just as I was thinking fly fishing is perhaps the number one way of catching bass on artificials in shallow water, the water began to cool, the bait balls appeared, and just as I thought the fly would be peaking, suddenly, bass would do little more than follow the fly. By 93 fish to 1 on one amazing trip. 1 fish, to a very competent bass fly angler (and also the current BIF1 bass on fly record holder). 93 bass to shads...

Of course, there are lessons to be learned here. But how the hell do you work out the answers? About techniques, easy. We learned you simply let the fly sink deep, to the bottom, and then strip the hell out of it all the way back to the boat for best results. I mean REALLY fast. As if you are fishing for GT's. And if you dont want a lot of bumped off fish, each strip is pulled with anger, as if you are pulling the guts out of your wifes lover, having disturbed them. That kind of angry. These are the easy lessons. What I really want to know, always when it comes to bass, is WHY??? What is the fly doing, that the shad does not in times when fly is no1. And what is happening when suddenly, just as smugness sits on my face that I am the king of the sea, and know everything, they make me feel like an apprentice all over again. Dont misunderstand me. I love these mysteries. And, as the person spending the most time on the rods, and on the fish, I guess its down to me to try and work it out. When bass stop puzzling me, it will be time to turn my attention to other puzzles. Perhaps work out the English channel Bonito run. Something easy like that...

Flies themselves have been interesting. We are very proud to say, that we are now Ambassadors for Fulling Mill. And from this, they sent us a lovely selection of their bass flies. None of which, will catch good sized bass from my boat. Why? Well, these patterns are great patterns, designed by anglers with excellent records of catching bass. But none of them in East Sussex. It seems largely, in the eyes of many, Bass flys = Sandeel patterns. But if I fish a sandeel pattern, a mackerel, garfish or scad, or tiny schoolie, will be on it long before a decent bass gets the opportunity. Where the anglers that designed these flies fish, sandeel is king of the food sources. Around my patch, spratt, Herring and smelt are the pelagic food sources. Pouting the more resident one. It was only once we began using spratt sized plus flies, with depth of body, that numbers AND quality increased. Around here, deceivers rock, clousers catch bait.

Likewise, tackle. It is soooo much easier to fish #10 gear from a boat in a big wind, especially with a specialist distance line such as the excellent Airflo 40+ Assasin. But the history of bass on fly in the UK, where big water trout enthusiasts cottoned on that the biggest reservoir is what makes us an island. So, #8 10' rods became the standard for sea fly fishing. Personally, I dont like the pain of fighting such gear out in a big wind. Possibly another reason why UK fly patterns for bass are mostly small. #10 gear, gets a big fly out, no problem. Headwind, sidewind, doesnt matter.

I write this blog, at a reflective time. Our season is not over, but as we await hopefully settled periods of weather in December, the winds are preventing us even planning a sailing just now. The fly season is definitely over on BIF1 as the bass have mostly left the sub 30' waters, and we have to go 45' plus to find them, where fly never worked so good as lures. However, if you feel the need to flick the fluff, I am guiding Pike on Fly on East sussex waters right through to March 15th. if you fancy some of that.

The fly season will start again in April. If the politic allows. There is some talk of zero effort on bass from 1st Jan to 30th June for 2018. I dont think it will come to pass. But time will tell. We will of course keep you updated. Bream on fly is something we never even tried, but almost certainly would work though. There will always be something to put a bend in a keen fluff chuckers rod on BIF1. My mate Matt had a turbot on the fly, so everything is most definitely possible... Lets hope it doesnt come to that. And lets hope the wind drops soon, so we can get back to giving you catch reports, rather than stir crazy musings...

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