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Bass John

Written by Tim Albright

John is my fishing mate. We’ve all got one. In America we’d be called buddies. He’s on my phone as John Bass. Bass is not his name, but it connects us. Not sure I know his second name, doesn't matter. Don’t know where he lives, never met his wife, never seen his kids. In fact, we’ve probably only spoken for about 20 minutes all told in the last two years.

But John is a Bass mate, so I would happily drive through the night to rescue him if he was broken down, or just needed an extra pair of hands, or a photo, or anything really.

We meet on cold November Tarmac at silly O’Clock. Grunt a few words about what the tide and current is doing, then put on rubber trousers and go forth to battle the elements, trying to catch an endangered species. It's an hour before dawn, it's bloody freezing and we have left the comfort of  a warm woman to do this. No idea what his job is. Tory or Labour. Rich or poor. Not a clue. He drives a Skoda, if that helps.

Short walk to the shingle.  Hopes are high, I'm nearly fifty, don't know how old John is, but he's as excited as me. Two schoolboys at play, nonsense talk about plastic fish. We met on the shingle, two years ago.  A mutual friend, a hi and a handshake.  Kept bumping into him on windswept reefs at antisocial hours. Swapped numbers, now we fish together.

We can see the shore, it's calm, the tide is low and dropping further, just an hour til low water. Dark still, the gulls are roosting. Later they will show us plenty.

I probably message John more often than my wife. What's the water clarity? Do any good this morning? Going tomorrow? We share photos, videos, triumphs and disasters. 

Off the shingle and on to the rocks. Where you take your kids rock pooling in the summer. But now it's black, and the going is tough. Ankle breaking gulleys between weed-slippery ledges. We edge into the sea. Cold, but the wading gets easier. On to the flatter, wave cut platform.  

The sky is pink to our left, the stars are still bright above us. No cloud cover, so dawn will be brief. When the sun hits the water the fish will move offshore, it's now or never.

First casts. Freezing fingers forgotten. Our lures are small plastic pencils, floating on the surface. We tell ourselves that as we pull them back they look like injured small fish. We pray the Bass share our delusion.  

Fifth cast. Nothing. That's not good.  If the bass are here, the deception is usually instant.  Cold seeps through the waders. I look to John, and the water in front of him explodes in pink dawn spray.  Boom, fish on. He shouts to me, but I've already seen it. Get in mate!

Bang. I'm in too. The rod smacks round and my world is complete and meaningful. Work, politics, family even, all cease to exist. A thread attaches me to a wild predator. It's my crack pipe, my buzz, my high, and John shares a toke with me. It's still fecking dark, we are freezing our nuts off wading in icy water off Brighton, and damn, we are alive.  

Later. The sun is up now, welcome warmth.  The feeling changes. The buzz mellows. We have fish to take home. Yes we are modern men, but allow us this glory. We have hunted, and we have gathered, and our families will eat.  And we are glorious, dressed in our silly rubber trousers, we are the kings of our place, our time. Top predators.  

Pictures for the album. Handshakes and grins. Same time tomorrow? Yes mate, wouldn't miss it for the world. John is my mate, I will be there.

Bass John


Pollack on the fly

I know  good place...where the rocks are gradually exposed on the ebbing tide and it's possible to hop from rock to rock until you are able to get far enough from the shore to cast a fly into water beween twelve and twenty feet deep even at low tide. There's location in particular where there are two jagged fingers of barnacle encrusted rock that rise up steeply from the crystal clear water and the fronds of kelp growing over the submerged reef.Between these two outcrops lies a bay where pollack heard together shoals of bait fish and they set about them with great ferocity as dusk begins to fall. This, of course, is a great time to be casting a fly or using a light spinning rod.

In other places within this cove they lie in ambush on the down tide edge of the rocks waiting to pick off the small fish as they are swept along with the tide. Pollack will very often sweep upwards through a shoal of bait fish, taking as many as possible before crash diving back to the bottom.

If a fly or lure is fished too high in the water they will totally ignore it so you have to be prepared to risk losing tackle by fishing as close to the kelp as possible. But as the light fades they move closer to the surface and this presents the best opportunity for some exciting action.

When a pollack hits your fly it will dive for the bottom at speed

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