Actually managing to stick to my main plan of focusing on fishing, which amazes even me. To the point, that the alarm was set for 0545 on Christmas morning. I was especially excited to be fishing one of the local ports, as on Christmas day, only the sad, lonely or determined are likely to be going to sea, which would mean a quiet water, right?...
Initially, yes. Then the first couple arrived, as a glimmer of grey split the far horizon. As what revealed itself to be one of the most spectacular pre sunrise skyscapes, reflected in the mirror calm waters, took shape. More people arrived, almost as if there is a facebook page screaming "GO TO FUESTA FOR THE BEST FIVE MINUTES OF YOUR VISUAL LIFE".
Colours changed quickly. Not with the speed of the Northern lights, which I have had the great pleasure to witness on the Arctic tundra, but fast enough, that every sixty seconds warranted another photo, just in case I missed a bit. Truly stunning. A small boat appeared on the far bank. Just really added to the magic of the moment. A true flurry of pinks and purples, until finally, the sun poked its head above the horizon, to bleach the sky clear, back to a monotone yellow.
As you may have guessed, the fishing was poor... Maybe I was too busy taking photos, but just a single spotty came for my christmas present from Neptune. The wrapping had been spectacular though. The rest of the day I spent with friends, in a restaurant somewhere I didnt hear of before. Lots of those about. Really lovely afternoon. and although I was determined to see what might happen in the evening, despite a chilly 6 degrees forecast, good company, food and drink, and concession to the fact it was Christmas day, won. Im kidding of course... I went back out there.
I got there earlier than usual. And lots more learning. Mark the guide appeared on the opposite bank, with his lad. And of course, they let me know when the fish were starting, which was in fact a little before the sun had dropped down. I managed half a dozen, the guys well into double figures. And then, something a little more solid. To the point that I climbed down to be able to guide the fish onto the rocks without stressing the rod. A lovely little regular bass that if it had some weight on its flanks might have made 2lb. Things looking up. Although I jest. Really big bass live out on the flats. Do they come into the towns...? I think yes, and I think night sessions are looming after the festive season.
Next morning, back at it mind. There before daylight again. Stiff cold wind, meant fairly sterile river. Sand smelt were there, but mullet were vanished. Not even a single pull for three hours of effort. This made me more determined in the evening, and again, I got there earlier than usual. Alone this time, and with zero commercial vessels I was confident of some action. Sun was down, when the spotted started. Five in quick order. Then nothing. Tide stilled, and began to flood. Moments away from leaving, as the chill air began to enter my less youthful hide, I had the tiniest of nudges. Lifting, I was fish on. Normal bass. Schoolie of course, but still, so nice to be seeing them.
Then followed a procession of schoolies, to the point I was imminently going to be rude to my dinner date if I did not leave. But I suspect it would have kept going. I caught and released eight in total.
For a change though, over a coffee I managed to persuade local guide Mark Privett, who operates "GONE FISHING ALGARVE" to take me out in his tinny. A proper little lure set up, with swivelling seats front and back, and electric GPS controlled positioning engine, as well as a directional (literally turn it on a pole) sensor that picks up fish for up to 30 meters in whatever direction you point it. All really useful stuff for fishing the big water reservoirs for black bass, carp and Iberian barbel.
On the morning, beautiful. Light winds, warm sunshine. Until of course we hit the hills. Where we experienced what I would say was a typical English winters day. Biting cold wind pushing frequent showers, and cold water not conducive to good fishing for anything other than carp. We cracked on anyhow, seeing as we were there. Taking the boat for a drive is never a good excuse to return early with.
Considering the last time Mark fished here, back in November, he was smashing a fish a cast, the fact that the technology was not marking anything, told a familiar story. With the water temperature from just 11 degrees at the head of the system, to 13.5 in the deeper main basin, the fish were clearly packed in somewhere tight. If we found them, we might have an absolute ball. But wow, what a big system.
We worked it hard. The boat was perfect for casting up into the edges, even up onto the bank, and then bounce the shads back down the steep rocks sides. For hours we went through the routine, and just as we had pretty much both mentally given up, I had a slamming take almost on splashdown, from a fish lurking in a sharp, slate ridden recess. Wow. We both lit up at that. But after another hour of no more action, we came to the conclusion. Black bass in cold water are a very challenging creature.
Still buzzing though, I didnt fight Marks suggestion to fish the sunset in the estuary. The full moon seems to be hampering the feeding at the moment, but of course, if there was a fish swimming there, Mark would be the guy to find it. And he duly did... Just the one regular bass, on a stunning Winters evening in the Algarve.