Last night I got back from a long awaited trip to Morocco.
As with any trip which involves fishing I was well and truly excited for it, however enthusiasm was even higher than normal for this trip for a number of reasons, including some respite from the cold of London and the opportunity to test out the just-released Yamaga Blanks Early Plus rods against the renown Moroccan Bass.
Bass (particularly from the shore) are not my specialty, so I did some pre-trip research and got in touch with French angler Abdel Sabon who runs a Bass guiding operation in Morocco. Abdel advised that the region I had picked mid-way down the North-Western coastline definitely had some promise, which was very encouraging to hear. I was limited for time on this trip, so it was a great bonus that Abdel kindly arranged his friend Zakaria to join me on a day of boat-based fishing out of the port of El Jadida for my first day of fishing.
Upon struggling out of our accommodation in at an hour far too early to be called the morning to commence the drive to El Jadida, we were greeted by the unwelcome sight of the most intense fog I have encountered. It was impossible to see more than 1 or 2 car lengths ahead, which made for excruciatingly slow going on the drive. The mishaps did not end there unfortunately, with me realising I had forgotten the spools for my reels around 30 minutes into the drive (prompting a quick about face) and then shortly thereafter having a tyre blowout – which made for a very interesting solo tyre change in darkness without a torch whilst being hassled by beggars.
As a result of these delays, I was late in arriving at the port, and it meant that we would be setting sail a little later than desired. I was saddened to see however, that the fog had still not lifted.
As my bad luck was now fully expended (or so I thought), I was certain it would be smooth sailing from here on in – but it was not to be. After travelling about 40 metres from the dock, we ran aground. The perils of a low tide. But on the plus side, I got my first swim in Moroccan waters whilst helping push the boat off the rocks, even if it was in a fishing harbour!
Finally though, we were off. I was told that it would be a long slow steam to the first mark, so decided to flick a diving minnow out the back to try and troll something up on the way. Within less than 5 minutes I heard the unmistakable sound of a fish pulling drag and it was first fish on! A Bonito rather than the bass I was hoping for, but a fish nonetheless. Quick snap and release for the fish, and on we went. Given how easy the fish was to catch we didn’t bother with a decent photo as we expected many more, but sadly it was not to be.
We tried a range of marks throwing every lure in the box, and only managed one more bonito for the day. Disappointing on the fishing front, but it was good to get out on the water, particularly after my 20 straight weather-related UK wrecking charter cancellation streak. It was also a great opportunity to test out the new Yamaga. The model I was using for my hard bait work was the Early Plus 92XML, and the thing was an absolute pleasure to use. I was using Megabass Zonk 120 minnows primarily, and it cast them an absolute mile, and was crisp enough that it transmitted every one of the trademark Zonk vibrations through to my hand. Given the depth of the water I was using a heavier rod for my soft bait work, in the form of the Yamaga Blanks Blue Sniper 77/3, which has long been a favourite of mine for light coral reef work and proved a great option for this heavier bassing work also.
Day 2 was to be a shore based session. Abdel kindly helped out once again, by letting me know a few marks in the region which had produced for him in the past. As soon as I got to the area, I knew there had to be fish there. I was fishing the low tide and the amount of structure I could see looked extremely encouraging. I only had a few hours to dedicate that day, but I was going to make them count and whip the water to foam as best I could in the time available.
The abundance of structure did however have its downside. The water was really shallow over a lot of the structure and in the space of the first 30 minutes I had walked a good chunk of coastline and lost a Zonk and a handful of Sidewinders with nothing to show for it. This was not going to be as easy as I expected.
Thankfully though I found a sweet looking ledge at the edge of the beach. Given the low tide I was able to get right out and stand on this, which allowed me to cast at the back of a lot of the structure without having to drag my lure over it. The only downside though is that you had to have your wits about you, as every now and then there was a larger than usual swell which ripped through meaning you had to quickly flee, to avoid being swept off your perch.
However…… Despite these waters absolutely screaming ‘fish!’, it was not to be. My allotted time was up, without a fish being seen. I was not discouraged though. For starters I’d seen some large bass-looking scales further up the rocks that let me know I was in the right place – but aside from that, there was just no way that water didn’t hold any fish. I had to come back. But first, I needed to console myself for two Bass-less trips. Thankfully Oualidia has some great places for you to do this. The best oysters I’ve had in my life can be bought straight from the water (and shucked for you to be eaten in situ with your own drinks brought along) and we found a place that did a seriously delicious whole Spider Crab for the equivalent of 10 quid. Things could indeed be worse.
But with one day to go of the fishing leg of my trip – you can rest assured all I could think about was the morning to follow.
Day 3 saw another early start, and a return to the same region. However the first thing I noticed upon reaching the beach at the same time as the preceding day, was that the conditions were MUCH different. The low tide was not going to be for another couple of hours so the seas were much higher, but in addition to that there was a seriously pumping swell ripping across the rocks. These 2 photos show the difference a day can make.
I was scared that my beloved platform would be unfishable in these conditions, and sadly those fears proved well-founded. There was absolutely no way I could stand on the ledge. Aside from the fact that it was now totally underwater, the swell would have smashed me onto the rocks in an instant. I couldn’t even fish the same area, as if I tried to cast out to the same spot – I’d have to retrieve my lure over the ledge – which would have guaranteed that I’d donate some more expensive Japanese lures to the rocks, which I was anxious to avoid. Particularly as I was down to the last of the Zonks in the lure bag!
But after coming this far, I wasn’t going to let a bit of swell stop me. I’d learnt the previous day that the beach itself was close to unfishable due to the rocks – and I was keen to find another deeper channel to cast in. Heading further along the coast though, all I could see was high cliffs with sheer faces. There was no way to get right down on these cliffs – so I knew that if I wanted to cast, it would have to be from height.
I found one likely looking spot and decided to have a go. I tied on a cheap (sacrificial) lure to test the waters, and managed a few casts without a snag, so decided to chuck on my remaining Zonk and fish the mark seriously. After 2 fruitless days, I was both shocked and ecstatic when second cast in, my lure got whacked. Fish on! I knew straight away it wasn’t a big fish, but I didn’t care. I was almost certain it had to be a bass, and it turned out it was. Ok it was a tiddler, but after the amount of work I’d put into getting it and having caught it on a self-discovered mark in very foreign terrain, it was much more satisfying than I’d ever have thought a bait-sized bass could be, and I certainly had a smile on my face as I released it.
Having landed a fish after a couple of casts, I knew that this day could be my chance at a hot session on the bass. I put in another half hour at that mark with no more to show for it, so decided to continue my trek along the coast.
I found another mark which looked seriously fishy, but also seriously treacherous – both for me and for the lures. But stuff it – you only live once. Sacrificial lure back on, and it was time to cast. Sadly though after one cast and a momentary snag on the rocks, I realised there was no way to fish the mark properly and even if I did hook a fish, I’d never drag it over the shambles of rocks and whitewash I would need to in order to land it. So time to move on.
I then came across a mark that looked even more iffy to climb down to, but seemed to have a nice channel of water running out between some towering rock pinnacles. The water was heaving with foam and looked sure to have some predatory fish lurking beneath. After a few test casts with an el-cheapo lure, it was time for business. Zonk back on – 3 casts in – then bang! Fish on! I knew straight away that this one was a better fish, not least of all because it was pulling drag and I was hearing that Stella drag ratchet that is pure music to the ears. I knew it wasn’t going to break any records, but at least I knew I’d hooked something better than my previous sardine-sized effort. I got the fish shoreside and saw the telltale flash of silver, and then swiftly realised that the only way I was going to land this fish was to grab the mainline and pull it up 20 feet of rock, while hoping the hooks didn’t pull. Thankfully, lady luck was on my side today and I managed to get the fish to the top. A few quick photos before the release, and the pressure was now lifting from my shoulders.
I didn’t have long to go. I had to make it back to Marrakech by 2:30pm to return my rental car. In addition to that, rain was encroaching and my gillie/assistant photographer/girlfriend was making noises about me having made promises to stop fishing by 10am. So rod was swiftly back in hand, and the casting resumed. Around 15 minutes later I lobbed a cast at a likely looking spot just at the back edge of a piece of structure. I’d had about 3 cranks on the reel before the lure got totally nailed. Thankfully I’d tightened the drag since the last fish, as this one was hooked in gnarly terrain and I knew it was a much better specimen. The thing had some good weight, and I felt the telltale headshakes of a nice fish. As good as the Early Plus had been earlier in the day, it wasn’t until this fish that it really came into its own. Each time the fish surged it would absorb the fish’s best efforts and keep me in control of the situation, while providing plenty of lifting power to steer the fish out of where I had hooked it and into deeper water.
This time I was even more nervous about hauling the thing up the cliffs. I knew that the hooks on the lure were not huge, and there was no way to know how well the fish was hooked. I grabbed the mainline and began pulling the thing up. Thankfully though, I needn’t have worried. Evidently the lure looked as delicious to the bass as I thought it would, and he’d totally engulfed it. Sadly though, this meant that he’d have to be a lunch candidate rather than a release candidate – but there are certainly worse results than a freshly grilled bass eaten shoreside in Morocco.
All in all I loved the trip, despite not having caught any huge number of fish or any monsters. It’s an incredible place, and one that I’ll undoubtedly return to. I’m already investigating a trip with Abdel to a more remote part of the country to target bass reputedly in the 5-9kg (yes kilo, not pound!) range and am excited just thinking about it.
If you are interested in arranging a trip with Abdel, you can find him by emailing [email protected]. If you want to find out more about my business Adventure Angler or buy any of the Yamaga Blanks, Owner, Sasame or Megabass products I used on this trip, you can find my site at www.adventureangler.net or follow me on Facebook at Adventure Angler UK.