Flyfishing For Bass    

Steve Binkes

Fly-fishing for bass can be a very rewarding and satisfying way to catch. You are not just limited to the school bass either, as some would have you believe. In the right conditions with the right fly, anything can happen. Here is a story of one morning when things fell in to place.

Itís funny how a good idea the night before becomes very un-funny in the cold light of dawn. Quite literally, as it was now about one hour before, my good friend Darren Roberts had accompanied me on an early morning bass trip.

The pair of us now stood on a West Sussex beach donned in chest waders and armed with our rods. My choice was 9 ft, 8# sage. Darren had decided to stick with his spinning rod. Mainly due to the fact that he has difficulty casting a fly and thatís putting it mildly! With a little over two hours sleep I wasnít feeling my best, whilst trying to decide where to start on the three quarter mile of shingle and wishing I hadnít drunk quite so much beer the night before.

With the cool South Westerly was blowing at around 10 knots, pushing nicely onto the beach, it was a good start, as this will normally bring the bass within range of a fly rod. There was good cloud cover, so light levels would stay low giving us more fishing time.

I chose a clear intermediate shooting head line; 9 ft tapered leader, with an 8lb point. My choice of flies that morning was all based on an  pattern called the Clouser deep minnow, in a variety of colours


In the half-light the we began to probe the water with metal and fluff, making around six fan casts, then move the other side of each other, leap-frogging, so as to cover as much water as quickly as possible along the beach. Once one of you hooks up, stop and search more thoroughly.

We fished our way up the beach to a small estuary; high tide had come and gone at 04.30am. It was now two hours after flood as I scanned the water around me. Because of the estuary the water was a mixture of fast current and slacks, making ideal fish holding areas, but not today! ď Why donít we try back at the breakwaters?Ē I said, Darren didnít say much. The look on his face spoke volumes though, so I quickly scuttled off in the direction of the afor-mentioned breakwaters.

I think the lack of sleep and wishing you were back in bed was starting to creep in. I arrived at the first of a set of breakwaters, making a few casts along side. Cast out; count the line down and strip it back in. Depending on the amount of time you allow the line to sink before commencing a retrieve, will dictate how deep your fly will fish in the water. This makes an intermediate a good choice in relatively shallow water of less than ten feet.

Any deeper and a fast sinking line would be more useful, and quicker! I had reached the third set of breakers and nearly completed another retrieve. (Rather than draw the shooting head right in, I leave around ten feet out-side the top ring to help with the next cast. What I do is to move the rod tip up and to one side so as to do a roll cast, but also check the fly as it comes into view for any weed, etc), It was whilst doing this that I saw a bass of around four pounds follow my fly right into the edge of the surf, not more than six feet away.

The bass saw me and with a flick of itís tail was gone. This was just what I needed and I fished on with renewed enthusiasm. But as with all things fishy nothing happens when you expect it to. After another ten minutes of casting and stripping my mind had started to wander again, this time to cups of warm tea and cake. I looked up to where Darren was, only to see him pouring something hot from a flask.

 Now I was really torn as I desperately wanted a cuppa, but also to keep fishing and just where had he been hiding that flask all morning! Suddenly the line between my fingers snapped tight as an unseen force hit the fly. I strip-struck a couple of times to really send home the hook, then raised the rod high. The fish turned and made out to sea, normally I can stop a fish pretty quickly after a hook-up but this one kept on going and going. Forty, fifty yards before it began to slow. I shot a quick glance to where Darren was, to see him running down the beach towards me. ďIs it a good size?Ē he asked, the next moment the bass hit the surface for all to see.

There was no mistaking, this fish was huge, and we were both a bit speechless. It seemed like an age that the fish just lay on the surface fifty yards out, then it gave a kick and was off again. By this stage I had managed to regain some composure. The fish was directly onto the reel so I could give or retrieve line in a normal fashion. For the second time the bass hit the surface and just lay there, this scared the life out of me as hook holds really take the strain like this. I didnít want to put to much pressure on, but the fish would not move. In the end I had to walk up the beach very slowly drawing the fish nearer.

Eventually I had it under control, I was back in the surf with the bass plodding around in front of me at about ten yards range. My arm was starting to ache by now as I desperately tried to bring the bass in on a wave. Three attempts later and the fish was mine. It looked even bigger out of the water, and at nine pounds two ounces it was my largest ever bass. A few photos were taken before returning her to the sea.

Now to sort out the post-catch chaos, while I was sorting things out, Darren had started to cast his lure in the general direction of where I had hooked the bass and rightly so as there were bound to be more fish about. I checked my watch to see where on the tide I had caught, three hours down from flood. Quickly I set about changing the fly, as the bass had really mangled the blue/white Clouser minnow.

The only fly I had big enough was an orange/white Clouser tied on a size 2 stainless hook. A quick roll cast put the line out around twenty feet, I then used the waters surface to load the rod, haul the line off,  shoot another fifteen feet on the back-cast, then haul the line again on the forward cast, minimum effort, maximum distance.

This went out around thirty-five yards, I left it to sink for a count of ten seconds and begin the retrieve. Third strip and the line stopped dead as another big fish hit the fly, my friend looked on in disbelief as he had been fishing a lure all around the area for the past ten minutes without a touch.

This fish also made a long run out to sea taking forty yards of line before stopping. I could feel its head shaking in a bid to rid itself of the offending item it had just eaten. I started to apply some pressure, but the fish was having none of it and made another run of around twenty yards. I had wound the drag up on the reel in a bid to slow the fish down and it seemed to be working.

Just when I thought I was beginning to get things under control, the hook pulled, my heart sank, then there was that horrible feeling washing over me that only losing a big fish does to you.

Although we fished on for another couple of hours, it seemed that the fish had moved out with the tide leaving us to chase a few 12-inch school bass, all seemed futile.

I have been back to this mark many times since, but never repeated that mornings fishing, not yet anyway! Its days like these that keep you coming back, just in case.

Copyright Oceanflies 2002


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Last modified: January 13, 2005