For anyone alarmed by commercial overfishing and current restrictions on bass, the better news is that various other species also offer great fly fishing. Kernow Game Fishing guide Chris Ogborne recommends a host of UK saltwater species to reward the adventurous fly fisher this summer:
“Recent years have not been especially kind to recreational bass anglers. Some would argue recent regulations are rather farcical. We might be permitted to take one 42cm+ bass per day as of July 1st, but commercial overfishing continues. And while it’s true that you might have decent sport with schoolies in estuaries or find localised populations, we may have to find alternatives to bass to get our summer fix in many cases.
Some cause for concern, but bass are not the only fish to target now summer is upon us. Sea temperatures are rising and longer days are giving us all a chance to get out on the water in the lengthening evenings. What better way to end the long working day than with a trip to the coast?
It’s a proven fact that wherever you live in Britain you’ll have access to the coastline within one and a half hours drive. This means that even if you live in a city centre you can still finish work at five, drive and maybe pick up a sandwich for sustenance, and still be fishing by seven. The old excuse that it’s too far or too inaccessible simply doesn’t wash – ask the Americans, who think nothing of driving three hours for an evenings fishing! Obviously the sport varies and I wouldn’t dream of comparing Northumberland to Cornwall, but you’d be surprised at the fish you can catch in unlikely places. So where do we start?
The ubiquitous mackerel finds its way into almost every stretch of British coast and make a worthy adversary on the fly. And that means ANY fly it can gobble up. Mackerel can and often do take a bare hook, as they indulge in competitive feeding all the time. Use a two or three fly cast and you’ll be in for some spectacular fun! They are strong for their size too; don’t go too shy on leader strength if you fish a team of flies!
And then there’s the grey mullet, with all its sub-species. The golden grey mullet out on a sandbar is a far cry from the muddy estuary-dwelling variety, but both can be taken on fly. Try a small translucent shrimp, a skinny Hares Ear, or even a stripped down Pheasant Tail Nymph and you’ll see what I mean.
Ever tried Pollack on the fly? If not, you should! Sinking lines are the key and you don’t need to be out in a boat to get to them. There are literally dozens of spots within five miles of my local estuary where I know I can catch a Pollack from the rocks. Look for deep drop offs, obvious pools and use the bigger sand eel patterns with a medium to fast retrieve.
Try to keep the flies just above the kelp or the rocks as Pollack don’t like leaving the security of cover. When they do, be prepared for a dramatic first thirty seconds as a hooked Pollack has one thing on its mind – getting back to the safety of the kelp! They are big hitters and the better ones make decent eating.
Down on the south coast there are increasing reports of bream being taken, both gilthead and black bream. These stunning fish put up a tremendous fight on light tackle with the added bonus that they taste fantastic at the table. Forget the farmed variety that you buy in the shops – one taste of a line caught wild Bream will have you hooked for life. Few anglers are targeting these fish at present, but they are certainly catchable if you can locate them. They respond well to small fish imitations, the smaller sand eel patterns and even a launce pattern on occasions.
And what about fly fishing for garfish? Another great sporting species, gar are often found in company with mackerel, but on occasions you’ll find them in shoals of their own. They also tend to hunt higher in the water.
I’ve got some secret marks in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall and they all have certain things in common: they’re out on the edge of the estuary, with plenty of tidal flow, and with easy access to deep water. But as a paradox, you can take Gar within inches of the surface as they’re an aggressive and fast-moving fish that really likes to hunt. Again, the Turrall sand eel patterns are ideal and the faster the retrieve the better. With its bony beak, the species is notoriously hard to hook- so try the smaller Turrall sandeels that can be easily engulfed!
With all these species and more to target, why only fly fish for bass? If they’re not around, or you fancy a totally different challenge, get out and try the variety of fishing on offer around our amazing coastline. I promise you that it will be rewarding – the old theory that a fish on the fly is worth three taken on bait is ready and waiting to be proven!”
The Best Fly Patterns for UK Saltwater Fishing
Turrall produce and sell a wide range of fly patterns for sea fishing, including Clousers, Deceivers, Shrimps and of course Chris Ogborne’s highly effective range of sandeel and launce imitations. Tied with top quality materials and razor sharp saltwater hooks, these are tailor made for strong fish and punishing venues! Find them at good fly stockists this summer or order on line from one of our recommended retailers HERE.