With 2018 now upon us, and with all the optimism that seems to shadow us as we enter a new year, and with wind seemingly a permanent feature of this winter, a little summary of the first 6 months of fishing on BIF1, and how we have learned from it, and will be tweaking and introducing new products for the next six months...
The BIF project had a pretty scrappy start. Although we received the boat in May, I was off to the Russian tundra, for a commitment I had made before BIF materialised. And Capt Bruce, who did a sterling job in my absence, also found prior business commitments flourishing much quicker than anticipated. So, when the weather was at its best, and fish plentiful, BIF1 sadly remained in dock way too often.
The Russian job went sour, and I found myself leaving much sooner than I expected. Everything for the reason. It meant I literally landed, showered, and went to work on BIF1.
From that point onwards, it was just weather that delayed everything. Happily plenty of customers. Sadly, stacks of cancellations. The wind this year, has been a huge issue.
The fish really behaved quite differently this year, possibly as a direct result of the more energetic weather patterns. After 3 years of floating around in "Scooby" learning the inshore, in preparation for what I always knew would be coming, I felt I had the fish movements nicely worked out. This year, they simply did not follow the same patterns. The biggest suprise I think was the size of the fish. All our better specimens came early, May and June. Settled weather was favourite, and when it combined with neap tides, the spider peel kicked off. Easy feeding. Exactly what bigger bass are all about. However, in the autumn, when the bait balls form and we expect to see the biggest bass skulking somewhere close inshore, it simply didnt happen. Huge shoals of small fish, but very hard work to find even 4 and 5lb fish.
The shining star of the entire year, and the biggest learning curve, was the bass on the fly. From July until the end of October, it was simply the most productive method. And it was my desire to give my fly casters hassle free fishing that lead to perhaps the most significant discovery of the year. "Sole feeders". I found a patch of ground, that was clean, showed very little bait, but was always consistent for better sized fish, and often in good numbers. Took me a few months for the penny to drop. I kept asking myself (out loud often) why the hell were the fish there. Crabbing? but soft sands... Worming? Sandeels? But they would rise and show on the sounder on the slacker tide. And all this time I kept chucking back baby sole, coughed up on the deck still alive... DOH!! I really am far too slow on the uptake. What I had been calling "the shoal" were all specialists in feeding on slips. And now with this weather allowing me some headspace, it brings on a whole new approach for 2018. Time to tie "slips", and simply drift with them pinned down on the fast sink lines. Didnt try it yet. Expect it to be very effective. And much less tiring than the mega fast retrieves that proved so successful in 2017.
Other highlights include the very last trip of the year. Over 240 gurnard, to three customers plus myself. A spawning collective we suspect. But with Gurnard being tough creatures, releasing well, I will be happy to expand on that this time next year if needs must. Normally I wouldnt be chasing gurnards at this time of year, but big bass and coddies. The cod year was very poor. We had the first one on board at the end of August as usual, but between then and now the total became just 11 cod (codling). And yet, I havent heard of any greater numbers from any of the bait boats, which really rather highlights how few cod are in the Southern North sea / channel stock at the moment. The wrecking boats had a terrible summer for this reason, with the summer cod simply not showing. Most of the bait fleet dragged for flatties all summer as a result. Very worrying.
Family Charters proved very popular. Capt Bruces idea, that had a great take up in the short space of time we were available during the summer holidays. And a lot of fun for everyone, especially us. Short charters (3 hours) to make them a) Cheap enough and b) not so long so the younger nippers dont get bored. Keeping a youngsters attention is critical for keeping them in the sport as they grow, and the endless plaice and gurnard that inhabit the sands very close to Brighton beach are a perfect target. We want to see more families out on BIF1 in 2018. And our max 4 anglers capacity makes it a very intimate and smiley affair.
New products are coming for 2018. One is very family orientated, EXTREMELY eco-friendly, and does not involve bait, or hooks. Or any fish suffering whatsoever, so if you are a member of PETA, even you can come on board without hating us. The other involves us chartering another boat, to bring an amazing up close and personal insight as to what is happening out there. Not only the beauty of thriving reef systems, but also exposure to the damage that is being done to our environment on a daily basis with ecology smashing modern commercial fishing techniques. This product has a zillion spin off angles, but the one I want to push on, is awareness that there really will be nothing left for our grandchildren if there is no change. It has always sat in my head, something I read somewhere. "If the countryside was exposed to the same level of damage as the seabed takes from bottom trawling, it would have been banned 100 years ago". Well, we intend to change all that and let people see on a daily basis what could be, and what actually is.
A few statistics now, and a chance to wish all of our customers past and present, and even those that follow the blog because they are no longer in a position to fish, a very happy new year. And we hope very much, that if you havent already had the BIF experience, we will see you in 2018. Light line lure and fly fishing rocks. The fish do not need to be big, for the face of the angler to be illuminated with pure glee...
Total sailings - 58 (On target for our worse case scenario in the business plan of 100 sailings a year)
Total number of bass - 1222 (21.06 bass average)
Biggest bass - 8.5lbs to yours truly. (first year I have not either personally caught a double or seen a client with one)
Biggest bass on a fly - 7lb - John Cremer
Total number of bass killed - 37 (2018, as the current legislation stands, this figure will be 0 )
Biggest WOW - Has to be that AMAZING John Dory caught by Garry Briggs
And now an appeal on behalf of our sponsors. PLEASE MAKE THE WIND STOP...