Folly off the patch in pursuit of bass

Roger Beck's fly of the month is the bass fly, shown dressed here by Stephen Cheetham
Roger Beck's fly of the month is the bass fly, shown dressed here by Stephen Cheetham
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I have decided that it is time to cleanse my soul and come clean. I cannot stand the sleepless nights and days of anxiety, guilt and remorse. I am going to confess my sins and hope for the forgiveness of our readers.

I suspect that there will be murmurings and exclamations of mirth from around the county. I don’t care anymore, I have lived with the guilt for three months; I need to get this off my chest once and for all.

Within a week of my return from the fabulous rivers of Montana, I found myself heading south with Mark. I suppose that I could make the excuse that the whole unseemly episode arose because I had, uncharacteristically strayed south of the Trent. That would, however, be the coward’s way out and I’m not willing to sink so low.

We were on our way to Cornwall, and that’s even south of London. I am told that there are some fine trout rivers in Cornwall, and perhaps I should have visited some of those; stuck to what I know, as it were. That was not to be, the plan was far more grandiose; we were travelling to the Deep South in order to fish for bass.

Of course any sane angler fishes for this species with lugworms dug from the estuary, with spinners or, even more sensibly, with nets. Not us, our plan was to catch these critters with a fly rod; absolutely barmy.

By the way, did I mention the fact that bass live in the sea? No babbling brook or gently flowing stream for this expedition. We had to pursue our quarry upon the briny ocean with a boat.

Now, my last experience of fly fishing in salt water involved floating about in placid lagoons by the inshore reefs of the Caribbean Sea. That’s not quite the same as the rock and roll roller-coaster of the North Atlantic.

Casting a Crazy Charlie from the foredeck of a steady little craft in the Caribbean is just a bit different from attempting to hurl a handful of feathers into the teeth of a force four from the dancing deck of a broad beamed boat.

I am most familiar with floating fly lines that are easy to cast; now I needed to launch a line as heavy as lead.

I’ll cut to the chase, I struggled. Hand on heart, I can usually launch fly lines pretty much anywhere and under any conditions. Not this time.

The first debacle arose when I attempted to chuck a thing called a gurgler. It’s not dissimilar to the hopper that I encountered in America. As with the latter, its aerodynamics leave something to be desired, it is constructed mainly of closed cell foam and is about as streamlined as a coal scuttle. As a consequence, back casts take roughly 20 minutes to straighten out and if one begins the forward stroke too early, there is a good possibility of embedding a size two in the scalp.

No protection from the requisite hat, that’s already blown into the sea.

Discretion being the better part of valour, I quickly abandoned the gurgler and replaced it with a slim silver contraption that might look like a sand eel. Another fiasco ensued every time I hoisted it behind me.

Gravity is a funny phenomenon, the harder I tried to keep that fly above my head, the lower it fell. As I executed the forward cast I began to perform a kind of dance, reminiscent of that wretched nodding dog in the rear window of a Rover. It was the only way to prevent the flashy fly from metamorphosing into ear rings.

I did catch a couple of bass... and ate them out of spite.