I don’t want to, nor indeed do I feel the need to, catch and display every bass that swims on the coast to qualify myself as a bass angler. In fact I count myself lucky if, when fly fishing that my friends or I can catch a bass at all, especially under the circumstances I enjoy the most, wild wind, waves, and clear breaking white water, tough!
I do like to explore as much of any location as I can, and, after any day spent on the coast, I feel like I have a better understanding of the fishing. Even if it’s a location I know very well. Will I swing through it most of the time? Will I strip fast or slow, will it be a big fly or small? Up or down? Probably any of these things and often many, many more are significant and often considered.
Over the years, trying everything I had in my gear bag under many different circumstances in a multitude of locations—paying close attention to the way this produced or didn’t produce fish—helped me understand the nature of bass fishing on the fly every single time I did it, especially when the fish were there! I got better at it, and today I am still challenged by it and will remain so for the rest of my life.
In the end it’s not only going to be the fish, but it is going to be a number of smaller sequences, that culminate in any rewarding experience. The company, the casting, the environment, the weather, the flies, and the things you see and hear. Any bass on a fly on the coast is a bonus a reward.
This is what I try to capture at my saltwater fly workshops and to a large extent I have a sense that this happens a lot not for any particular reason other than the simple fact of the company of great people. Many times too much attention and focus is afforded the capture and subsequent display of fish. When you consider the learning effort the fly angler has or is making over long periods of time, this aspect is often forgotten about.
It’s through the appreciation of the greater number of the challenging aspects of fly fishing that ‘catching’ often isn’t the singular pursuit, especially at the beginning. This doesn’t make it more superior of effective – its simply very difficult. As the difficulty is lessened through effort, catching becomes a part of the experience.
I learn a lot from these workshops, what I might change and adapt but ultimately I continue to learn what it is and means to be a bass angler living in Ireland.