Tackle and Tactics
Mike Ladle

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Where are the bass and mullet?

Anyone familiar with my blog will realise that I like to 'read the signs' when I go fishing. As a rule I'll try to fish in the places which seem most likely to hold the 'target' fish. Generally this approach works very well, certainly much better than just random choice of spots and although, like any angler, I have blanks and poor trips, more often than not I manage to catch something. However, there are times when even the most obvious signs don't come up with the goods and I just had a couple of examples this week.

It's getting near the end of my bass/mullet fishing season now and I've been keen to make the most of what's left. So even though the weather looked grim the other morning the tide was about right and I decided to give it a go. For once the weather forecast was right. I arrived at the shore in pelting rain with a stiff onshore wind. The sea was beating against the cliffs so my chances of going anywhere along the shore in either direction were nil. Having raked myself out of bed and driven to the coast I thought that I might as well have a look and see if anywhere was spinnable or fly fishable. Sure enough I managed to find a corner where there was enough shelter for me to stand up without being blown or washed away. Even better the high tide was washing literally millions of Coelopa maggots onto the sea. The down side was that I could see no sign of fish. I spun for a short while and indeed I was quite hopeful but I never had a sniff. Looking out across the bay I could see a crowd of black headed gulls feeding just by another point of access to the beach so I trudged up the cliff and down another path - futile - this time I couldn't get near enough the water to fish. In any case, although the gulls were having a feast of maggots, once again there was no sign of any feeding fish. I went home for breakfast.

The following morning the weather was equally bad and the westerly wind was just as strong so I thought I'd have another go. This time I chose an east facing rocky beach where the wind would be offshore. It looked excellent. Again the tide was very high but there was not too much of a swell and the water had a nice tinge of colour. I hadn't brought my fly rod but, to my surprise, in several places there were huge piles of weed and carpets of maggots on the sea. I gave it a good hour, first with a Sandra and then a Maria Chase but I never had a nibble. Not only were there maggots with gulls, both black headed and herring, feeding on them but there were sand smelts ringing the surface as they ate the maggots and I even saw a few cormorants and guillemots feeding well within my casting range. If I'd been a betting man I'd have put money on catching a fish or two, particularly in view of the shoals of sandsmelt, but it was not to be.

If these had been my first ever bass fishing trips I would have been thoroughly disillusioned. As it was I just put it down to experience and I'm still convinced that I was doing the right things in the right place. Nevertheless I'd like to know why the fish hadn't managed to locate the feast!!!!

If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you.'get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to - docladle@hotmail.com

Good sign.

Piles of weed like this along the high water mark are almost a guarantee of fish (but not quite).'

Better sign

Look at those maggots! There must have been billions of the little devils in the sea - but no fish at all.'

Different sign.

Feeding black headed gulls are nearly always a good indication of potential sport - but not this time.  The rough sea doesn't usually put fish off.'

Bass food.

Just look at those sandsmelts ringing the surface, but where were the bass?'

Bass food2.

Next morning I took some light float gear down to catch some baits but the 'smelts' were too small.''

Bass food3.

Note the typical purple irridescence found in many silvery, surface swimming species of fish.'