Thursday, 25 January 2018

Guiding For Bass - Not all locations are equal

The key to any successful and sustainable tourism initiative is achieved through a clear sense of difference from other competing destinations or services. For me as a bass fishing guide this was achieved by basing any development and marketing strategy on the local attributes and strengths of Wexford as a bass angling destination. This was combined with the unique varied and challenging angling coastal environments, heritage sites and abundant local flora and fauna including of course the fish. It was within this world that I chose to guide for bass on a full time basis.
Working on articles for angling publication or my site I attempted to portray both Ireland and Wexford in a very positive light. Whilst delivering my workshops or whilst guiding for bass this was done in a fashion that emphasised the importance of ‘where we were going’. I tried to achieve this by making the most interesting photographs and words that I could, not only of the fish but of the people who were fishing with me capturing the environment and time in which they found themselves either being guided or during learning . There are many things other than fishing that make any trip to Ireland worthwhile, and it was important for me to remember that when I was out there working as a guide. Not only was I looking to capture that ‘trophy’ moment, but I was also hoping to record the influences, the many different environments that were shaping peoples experiences of the country in which they were investing a lot of personal time. The culture, the lifestyle, the history of Wexford all played a part in shaping a sense of authentic service.
Not only was it important for me to realise that each experience was unique, but by spending time in many of the different bass fishing environments and places of local heritage and culture enabled people to understand the interdependence and influences that one environment has upon another. It is only through this understanding and wider sense of enjoyment that a much greater appreciation and understanding, advocacy and empathy for the protection and conservation of the coastal resource in all its aspects  truly developed in peoples minds.
The richer the experience that was offered to the guided angler the greater was the chance of diversification into the local community and the support of ancillary services. Good food, good traditional music, immersion in modern Irish life, quality Irish made product, indeed visiting anglers couldn’t find this ‘uniqueness’ at home, hence it created a special trust between guide and angler. The foundation of  any guiding service.
However, I was always conscious that over-selling a product could have a negative impact on any business, especially a fishing guiding service. Angling guided services should not to be encouraged or developed for their singular sense of ‘self promotion’ ‘look at me I’m a guide’.  To be successful as a guide is to be many things but bass guiding in Wexford was mainly about not standing in isolation but rather about building a small community based economic and local development tool aligned to creating a total ‘local’ experience. 
There needs to be a reduction in the the modern craven urgency expressed frequently in the over utilisation of angling journalism media as a means to secure customers. A decrease of the obsessive culture of  ‘self with fish’ portraits or look at my new gear obsessions. The facilitation of manipulated social media reportage that serves no real end in achieving competence proves ultimately fruitless and in fact damages the fishery. There’s a fine line between selling the fishing and managing your clients realistic expectations. A good guide will always try to strike that balance especially when linked with important locations, the fish that live there and their continued protection management.
Not all locations are equal...hard choices and decisions need to be made with long term sustainability in mind.
The careful management of my guiding service into other local tourism networks and taking sensible opportunities to work and demonstrate allegiance with other local similar businesses with diverse but related experience and knowledge (fly tyers, fly casters, other guides, or accomodation providers) was a large part of business development for me. This strategy even today projects confidence, enhances profile and indeed professional credibility. It also strengthens possible partnerships that can create foster and extend networked interdependent strategic relationships across local coastal communities, conservation groups and activity providers. 
The Wexford environment doesn’t possess dramatic, jaw-dropping scenery. It doesn’t have the ruggedness or sense of wilderness that you get on the west coast. It doesn’t have outstanding architecture. What Wexford does have is a multiplicity of different smaller environments and opportunities that are much more complex and which interact in a way that is so subtle it can almost be overlooked. 
You must look closely, almost discover each one be it cultural, natural, or historical in order to experience the fullest and greatest depth of detail. To be transformed by the time invested.
Ultimately an ‘experience’ a ‘transformation’  is what I tied to create for my angling customers, the readers and visitors to my blog. By facilitating people into a multiplicity of venues, the sanctuary of estuaries, the excitement of rocky shores, the thrill of fast moving, powerful currents, the more likely they were to see and feel the ‘Wexford Bass Angling Experience’ that I tried to create.
“EVEN AFTER SPENDING A LIFETIME OF FISHING FOR BASS IN THESE VENUES I REALISED EVENTUALLY THAT WE WERE SIMPLY SCRATCHING THE SURFACE OF POSSIBILITY, IT WAS BOUNDLESS IN TERMS OF TECHNIQUES, METHODS, PRESENTATIONS…”
Most seasoned travellers will know that to expect too much is to invite disappointment. “There are not as many fish as I expected”, “The fish are smaller than I expected”, “The weather is different than in my own country”. The weather is the major stage on which all the elements will perform. In Ireland that factor is enough to strike fear into the heart of any guide. It’s simply not possible to plan at times. Some seasons were extremely difficult for bass fishing. And this is where the paradox lies. Wexford has its own unique environments, it has its own sense of itself and it has a superb saltwater sporting fish that performs admirably on fly or lure. But it performs only on the basis of two key elements one which is predictable (the moon) the other (the weather) is not so regular.
The portrayal of the fishing and the fishing environment must always reflect a performance risk accurately and fairly to visiting anglers.
We all know yes, that at different times bass can be caught with many different methods. All anglers have their preferences and the more sporting the method employed the more the weather will impact negatively upon that method. It will force you into circumstances where you need to ‘angle’ much more creatively and efficiently. By combining the environmental impact and the challenges that the weather creates for lure and especially fly-fishing, this fusion of influences must somehow manage to enhance the experience by transforming the customer beyond the angling difficulty. 
What is achieved easily in bass fishing is often forgotten quickly with little or no understanding of its significance, this is true of technique, local information and angling presentations. There is always much more than this that needs to be experienced. We need to be transformed to fully understand the larger picture.
In other words, it was not always easy for an international bass angler to come to Wexford to catch bass at the drop of a hat. It could take time and effort, patience and depending on circumstances this could have been days, weeks or even years.
When it was difficult it was always the smaller decisions, the glimpses of fish in a wave, the perfect cast into a gale, the surface strike in pouring rain –moments of genuine satisfaction that made the fishing what it was. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it was easy, it was not! At times the sun shone and every fish was big and silver and each cast produced a miracle. Those were the days that we fished for.
But remember too – Wexford was and is currently challenging, but it has many different rewards if you know where to look. If you like to discover whats local and unique and what will ultimately transcend less important things then remember too what can truly transform you
‘AT THE TIMES THE SUN
DOES SHINE AND EVERY FISH IS BIG
AND SILVER AND EACH CAST
PRODUCES A MIRACLE, OR NEARLY, AND MEMORIES ARE FORGED IN GOOD COMPANY AND SURROUNDINGS.
IS IT HOW YOU GOT HERE?
OR IS IT ALWAYS THE FISH? ’

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Guiding & Workshops Closed - Website now at THIRTYARDS


I believe that bass fishing is about coastal experiences. So much of the fish is about the places where we find them. The things we see hear and smell on the way, there and back. The moments, the company, the fun, the challenges we face, the learning, the environments within which we find ourselves trying and reaching further, creating the memories and some of the understanding we now have that the fish and the fishing has given us.
Transforming us.
Bass fishing in Ireland has given me many moments, some of unforgettable shared miraculous grace, others that are both very personal remote and at times inexplicable.
My name is Jim Hendrick, I have been lucky to have fished for bass  since childhood, somehow the fish have moved in and out of my life in mysterious ways over the past forty years or so! Recently after working for the past 12 years as a bass fishing guide I have had to change my life a little, again, and I no longer guide for bass!   Some of those 12 years are archived on this website from Probassfisher.

I prefer now after all these years to fly fish for bass and I can be found at www.jimhendrick.com
This change in my life was borne of circumstances beyond my control and beyond the parameters of how I felt I could run my bass angling guiding business. I will no longer continue to guide for bass and seatrout fishing for many reasons but I am happy now to mostly spend my time on the coast with personal saltwater fly fishing in mind. This decision has not been easy, but at this time there are simply too many circumstances and aspects that currently exist in Irish bass fishing that make the change one that I am very happy to have made. This change has also allowed me time for considerable reflection.
After more than twelve years of freedom to personally build and evolve through something worthwhile as a bass fishing guide was given to me by two people at the center of my life. This  freedom was way beyond any normal sense ‘value’.  I was free to contemplate the rise of a tide over a location, free to rise from a warm bed at 02:00 hrs to bring people from around the world onto the coast to fish for bass, free to watch a breeze arrive across a mirrored sea. Free from the constraints of 9 to 5 ‘time’, mostly had no consequence unless it was connected to a tide or arrival of weather fronts or departure of customer or season. I have time now to contemplate the consequences and meaning of such generosity.
Today I don’t have that same freedom but my anticipation of being on the coast to fish when I can is even more heightened, more valuable, more significant. Time cannot be wasted and I am more eager, more interested more challenged by my personal fishing than I have been in a long time. I don’t regret not having that same freedom, I have been lucky beyond belief, worked hard, created luck,struggled, laughed, cried, failed, lost, learned, understood, witnessed and grew. I bring this with me now to my life, my family, my new work and more than anything to my new found re-discovered personal bass fishing. The coast, bass and bass fishing will always remain a large part of what I do and who I am.
The experiences have taught me to be aware that the fishing will always be there, waiting, for any time that I might choose to use it again. Whenever I am ready, whenever the coast is right again!  I am waiting too…

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Fishing not casting

I first started catching bass on metal, most notably the choice was either the Abu Krill or Abu Toby. The reel I used was a DAM Quick 440N and it was loaded with 12 or 14lbs BS mono. I learned quickly to terminate the line with both a link swivel and a normal swivel. Things improved dramatically when my father bought me a 10’-0” Berkley Buccaneer spinning rod. This longer lighter rod replaced a solid glass rod my grandfather had given me earlier, the Berkley was pale blue in colour and had complex wrappings at the butt, with black foam handles, I loved its oversized rings. It changed my bass fishing life at the time and I fished with it for many years.
On a summer strawberry pickers salary, I learned to be careful and clever with the gear I had. There were days with many fish, days with few and lots of days with none. With the Berkley I would also use simple light terminal tackle, paternosters and ragworm or crab, rolling and watch leads. But spinning the Krill and Toby were always for me what I enjoyed most. I had two types of fish to catch the easy ones based in and around Wexford harbour and the difficult ones based south on the coast at Kilmore and Rosslare. Difficult because it involved a 15-mile cycle, twice!
Over lots of time I developed different skills with each of the lures. They fished differently of course and I felt I could catch fish on most occasions with what I had learned. Any of that arrogance of competency was destroyed early one morning in the company of Clive Gammon at a reef near Rosslare as I stuck a Krill in a rock on the first cast, the least said the better!
I fished then with the attitude that the fish were always in front of me and it was up to me to catch them. I believed they were there swimming, hunting, waiting. If I was fishing and not catching it was because I wasn’t good enough or the fish didn’t want what I was using or they saw it too frequently or whatever.
I still fish like this today, I believe they are there. But now I believe that in many situations rightly or wrongly of course, that if I’m fishing and not catching that I must ‘fish’ less and spend more time waiting before I cast again. In some instances I’m impacting  the fish if I continue to simply cast.
So I stop casting and I start fishing…




Saturday, 30 January 2016

Countdown

Can we catch big bass consistently?

Is this a question we should be interested in?

Is it really that important that we pursue bigger fish?

Remember too in a healthy protected population of fish we could all be catching more and bigger fish – simple!

There’s a considerable angling challenge of course in pursuing bigger fish in a very much reduced population, which often leads us to conclude that once we catch one we have become better anglers. This is fine if we believe we have become a better angler than we have previously been because of the experience and focused effort but not so good if we think this has made us ‘better’, in some ways, than other anglers.

An angler spends forty hours a week for four weeks fishing for bass. He catches one fish greater than ten pounds each week. Without knowing the detail of his considerable effort we would consider him a master bass angler who has caught four specimen fish in a month! Perhaps we should read – after 160 hours of fishing he has caught four specimen fish.

Time on the water is one simple factor that will inevitably yield bigger fish to already capable and experienced anglers. The more time you are willing to invest the more likely it becomes that you will encounter bigger fish.

Some anglers who are prepared to spend a lot of time in pursuit of bigger fish will invest in specific locations with specific techniques, say eight hours a day lifting and dropping plastics in a current for five days to catch a ten pounder. We already know, and often too easily, that this is a deadly technique, so another capable angler spends two 20 hour weekends on the same technique and catches a ten pounder.

One angler catches a ten pounder after a week of fishing one angler after a weekend. It’s a question of perspective. But it is always related to personal effort and learning and technique and time on the water.

It’s probably inevitable that if we spend a lot of time at something we should also get better at it. This may not always be the case, but if we build on our experiences which have helped us to improve then it will be similar with bass fishing. The more time we spend and invest the better we become, if we are learning! To that extent we probably are catching two ten pounders in forty hours of effort. Or one fish in twenty hours of effort and so on.

We can get increasingly consistent with time effort and understanding. Our frequencey of capturing bigger fish will increase. What you do with this ‘learned consistency’ is for you to decide, you’ve earned it, you’ve done the time.

I once showed a very nice man how to cast a lure rod, how to control a surface lure, how to give the fish the bait. It took two hours. On the next tide he caught and landed an eleven-pound bass after twenty minutes of effort. He was happy beyond belief.

Within one year he was catching bass on the lure regularly

I once showed a very nice man how to cast a fly line, how to control a big streamer, how to give the fish the fly. It took two years. During the third year he caught and landed a ten-pound bass after eighteen months of effort. He was happy beyond belief.

Within three years he was catching bass on the fly regularly.

Both are now (if we were to think of it in such a way) on a one big fish every 50 hours and declining time routine ! – that’s if, of course, they stop and are bothered, which is doubtful, to count and weigh and measure that is!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Freedom

Bass fishing wexford

‘I wonder sometimes that maybe as a result of my new found stability perhaps the words above or indeed similar thoughts are written too easily, without significance and perhaps they are not that important now. Are they too casually constructed in the new found comfort of a more stable and ‘normal’ lifestyle? Jim has come to his senses!

Do not be fooled into thinking that those ten years were not valid, not worthwhile, a meaningless exercise in fishing futility because believe me, no matter how I feel right now there is no ‘time’ and no ‘where’ I would rather be other than arriving to my home of a summer evening with my customers having spent a rewarding day attempting to catch bass on the Wexford coast’

New Website

The beginning AND the end…

Forwarded to - The Irish Bass Policy Group (David McInerny, John Quinlan, Shane O Reilly, Mike Hennessy, Dr William Roche, Dr Nial O'Ma...