Reflections on coastal guiding in Wexford
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 guide this was achieved by using a ‘wide and broad base of development and marketing’ of the local attributes and strengths of Wexford as a bass angling destination. I tried to combine this with a mindset of sustainability and mixed it with the unique attraction varied and challenging coastal environments, heritage sites and abundant local flora and fauna of the Wexford coast.
Whilst working on articles for angling publication or my site I try to portray both Ireland and Wexford in a very positive light. I do this by making the most interesting photographs that I can, not necessarily of the fish but of the people who are fishing with me and also the environment and time in which they find themselves. There are many things other than fishing that make any trip to Ireland worthwhile, and its important for me to remember that when I’m out there. Not only am I looking to capture from time to time that ‘trophy’ moment, but I’m also hoping to record the influences that are shaping peoples experiences of the country in which they are investing a lot of personal time. The culture, the lifestyle, the history of Wexford all play a part in shaping a sense of authenticity.
The richer the experience offered to the angler the greater the chance of diversification into the local community and support of ancillary services, good food, good music, immersion in modern Irish life, quality Irish made product, visiting anglers cant find this at home.
The more that I do this it becomes more obvious there are times when I don’t see what visitors marvel at or appreciate and I find myself missing the moment for them. It’s possible to see the same thing so many times that you don’t appreciate it any more. I am 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 bass guide come fish with me all and sundry’- to be successful as a guide is to be many things but successful bass guiding in Wexford is about not standing in isolation but rather about building a small sustainable community based economic and local development tool and network aligned to creating a total experience for destination anglers.
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.
Not only is it important to realise that each experience is unique, but spending time in many different fishing environments and places of local heritage and culture enables people to understand the interdependence and influences 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 will truly develop.
The careful management of any 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) should be actively considered. This 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. It lessens the needy and often craven urgency expressed frequently in the over utilisation of angling media as a means to secure customers.
Ultimately an ‘Experience’ is what I try 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 are to see and feel the ‘Wexford Angling Experience’ that I try to create. Not only do I hope that this provides a positive environmental impression and experience of Wexford and indeed Ireland, but it also creates a realisation that even after spending a lifetime of fishing for bass in these venues that we are simply scratching at the surface of the sheer number of methods, techniques and presentations that you could make to catch them. 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.
“EVEN AFTER SPENDING A
LIFETIME OF FISHING FOR BASS IN THESE VENUES WE REALISE EVENTUALLY THAT WE
ARE SIMPLY SCRATCHING THE SURFACE OF POSSIBILITY.”
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. The seasons of 2007, 2008 and 2009 were extremely difficult for bass fishing. And this is where the paradox lies. Wexford has its 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 reflect a performance risk accurately and fairly to visiting anglers.
We all know yes, that at different times bass can be caught with 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.
In other words, it’s not always easy to come to Wexford to catch bass at the drop of a hat. It can take time and effort, patience and depending on circumstances this could be days, weeks or even years.
When it’s difficult it’s 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 make fishing what it is.Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s easy, it’s not! At times the sun shines and every fish is big and silver and each cast produces a miracle. Those are the days that we fish for. But remember too – Wexford can be challenging, but it has many different rewards if you know where to look and you like to discover whats local and unique.
‘BUT AT 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.’