A happy but very concerned bass fishing guide

I guess it’s that time of year for me, all customers have finished for season 2012 and I have a little freedom and time to fish for myself! Thoughts on a season.

I wish.

Lately it’s been pretty hectic for many reasons and at times I have felt, a lot like many other people in this country I’m sure, that I am doing too much maybe. At the moment this is a hard cold fact of nature and it is necessary for ‘survival’. The semester for the BSc degree started way back four weeks ago, I have been lucky to have started on an IT systems implementation contract during mid-September and of course I still had commitments for guiding bass fishing customers up to this weekend, so it’s been breakneck to be honest and I feel a bit tired at the moment.

It might seem difficult at times but these simple elements are links in a chain that must remain connected. This year’s college semester subjects are Sustainability & Regulation and Human resource management in the tourism industry, challenging no doubt but the degree is part of the overall strategy regarding development of my angling tourism business. One of the highlights of this year (there has been some) was to finish as runner up in the Wexford business awards tourism category. It has been remarked to me that considering the competition it was no mean achievement for a one person show.

1-041-DSC_6091There is always the fear of coming out of the back end of a fully committed season at the close of October and not being able to find employment for six months. April of the following year is a long ways away and this challenge has always existed for as long as I have been guiding. Being seasonally self-employed has its draw backs too! Things are terribly difficult at the moment for many people and so I have been very lucky indeed with my short contract, considering the current state of the country. It cannot be denied that this continued financial stability supports the momentum of the guiding business in terms of insurances, public liabilities, promotion, maintenance, development, planning and the normal associated costs of any professional operation.

As any hard working bass guide in this country knows it’s a difficult task, not done to put large sums of money in the bank but more as a ‘lifestyle choice’ really, the associated challenges are met as best and as professionally as you possibly can whilst other challenges arrive from sources both predictable and from time to time completely out of the blue. Lobbying pressure is continuously exerted on government ministers regarding the re-opening of the commercial fishery very little is done to examine, promote or engage with the sustainable alternative – I often wonder how exactly does this happen and why?

The last and most important of these links is of course the customer and their angling experiences. Much has been made of the season of 2012 and no doubt as I gain time around me I will write about my own experiences and thoughts of the season here on this website. I am lucky that the customer base I have consists of wonderful people possessing patience and understanding. With many cancellations, put backs, changes and long silent fishless hours it has been beyond doubt the most challenging and frustrating season in Wexford since I started guiding in 2003. I can only say to any customer thank you at this stage for your patience over the season, please expect to hear more from me before Christmas on an individual basis.

The fish are the hub upon which all of this spins and ultimately the environment within which they live is where I guide visiting tourist anglers. This changing angling environment has forced me to re-think the business model, I have had to adapt to the increasing recreational angling pressure on locations in Wexford, many of which were only up to recently empty and silent. Where there was once otter families you will now find four wheel drives! Travelling tourist anglers look to find fish of course but also peace and a ‘sense’ of wildness and isolation, this has largely disappeared from the Wexford coast. What I need most of has become more difficult to find and manage at home.

Coupled to that is the decrease in fish numbers I have experienced on the Wexford coast all season long.

As is normal I have continued to work with Irish based businesses, local restaurants, shops, tackle retailers, fly tiers, B+B’s, charter boat skippers and I hope that through this network of local associations some strength of the many socio-economic benefits of bass fishing can be realised. This is the best way to counter any threat from the commercial fishery, but many people including anglers don’t realise that they are playing an important role in protection and it remains difficult to collate important data.

So after the tenth year of guiding on this coast I am happy and yet deeply concerned. It was a year in which I have learned that even when you speak the truth fabrication and exaggeration seem to hold more importance and credibility!

It’s been a tough year, the toughest so far, for many reasons but I’m out the far side and ready to continue into 2013.

With a new range of Irish tied and designed saltwater sea trout flies, Echo saltwater fly rods a new one day saltwater fly-tying workshop, pike fishing on the fly all evolving and nearly ready, I’m already looking forward to and planning the new season!

It ain’t over yet, its just beginning!

Jim Hendrick

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