Bribie Island – Buckley’s Hole – 30 January 2012

Monday

The rain stopped – briefly, on Sunday night. It stopped long enough for me to convince myself Monday morning might be worth a fish. So I jumped in the car and drove up to Bribie Island on Monday at about 8.30 am. I drove through several heavy showers but fortunately, when I arrived at Bongaree, the sun was just peeking through the clouds.

The tide was running in and would by high around noon. There was no breeze. The water was a brownish colour but not too murky. There was also not much weed floating around. I suspect it has all been washed out into the bay.

I started with a GULP 3” soft plastic Minnow in the Lime tiger colour on a 1/8th 1/0 jighead. I assumed the fish would be fussy, so I started with an 8lb fluorocarbon leader. I waded around on the sand spit in front of the saltwater tidal lagoon, casting over the flats. On about my fifth cast something took off on a blistering run with the plastic. I tightened the drag a little and turned its head, but there were no head shakes – just a dead weight gradually coming towards me. It was a ray and after a few pulls it snapped the 8lb leader. I tied on a new leader and felt a few more nibbles but could not hook anything. I switched to a bibless vibe hard bodied lure – a silver Berkley Frenzy, but this didn’t produce any fish.

I swapped back to a GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic, in the Peppered Prawn colour. I noticed some gulls swooping a few hundred metres to the south. They gradually flew closer and were obviously following something. I kept casting but increased the speed of my retrieve. I felt a solid bite and lost the tail of the plastic to the fish. I quickly re-rigged and this time the lure was grabbed, as soon as it hit the water. There was a brief tug and then, snap – the lure was bitten off.

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I moved further south, casting in all directions. I fished for a couple of hours with only a few small bites. Then the birds appeared again and I cast into their path. I felt a bite and struck hard. This time I had the fish hooked but it jumped free, before I could pull it up the beach. It was a small Tailor, no more than 25cm long. I cast out again in the same spot and started a faster retrieve. A few cranks into it and I felt the attack and then the hook up. This time I got it to the sand – another tiny Tailor.

It was encouraging to catch a few fish but I could not find dinner. It should not take long for the water to clear if the rain holds off. I will be back out here again soon.

Rain, rain, rain, rain….. 29 January 2011

No I haven’t drowned – but I have not found anywhere to fish for ten days. Every time I think it might be easing off, the monsoonal low dumps another load. All the rivers are a mess so I will try fishing the surf next week, while things clear up. May be a few Jewfish on the prowl. Watch this space!

Brisbane River - rain, rain,rain

The Tweed River Estuary – Boyds Island – 19 January 2012

Thursday

Fortunately the worst of the rain went somewhere else, but it had dumped plenty into our estuaries, so the options for fishing were not that good on Thursday morning. I decided to head south, for the Tweed River mouth. The tide would be high at about 6.00am (NSW) and would be running out all morning.

I started out on the north rock wall, at the river mouth. I was fishing with my heavy rig and from dawn through until about 6.45 am, I threw slugs and big soft plastics lures in all directions. I did not get a touch, so I decided to change tactics.

I went back to the car and drove around to Dry Dock Road to fish around the Mangroves and weed beds by Boyds and Turners Islands. I got out the light spin rod and reel and pulled on my waders. This area is fairy shallow but with a few deeper channels and gutters. It is good to explore on a falling tide, so that you don’t end up swimming back to the car. I waded along the edge of the Mangroves, casting soft plastics and small hard bodied lures. Despite the recent rain, the water was still clear and there was no shortage of small fish. Mullet, Whiting, Bream and small Herring were everywhere. Every now and then, I would come across a decent Bream, hovering beside a weed bed, but by then, I was too close to cast at them. I had a couple of bites and runs but after a few hours, I had covered plenty of ground and still not landed a fish.

The weather was perfect. The sun had come out and there was now a light breeze. I reached a point to the south where the water runs out of this area, back in to the Tweed River. It runs over a long sand bank in to the main channel. I loaded a fresh 3” GULP Minnow soft plastic in the Lime Tiger colour and start to cast and retrieve it along the edge of the sand bank. First cast, I felt a decent bite, but I struck too soon and pulled the lure from the fish’s mouth. I cast back in the same spot and slowed everything down. Two jerks of the soft plastic and I felt another bite – I paused, counted to 10 and when I lifted the rod there was a fish on it. Nothing spectacular – a 43cm Flathead, but after about 3 ½ hours of fishing I was pleased to see it.

I then caught a few more, smaller Flathead. I moved along the bank stopping every few metres and casting into the shallows. There were plenty of fish here. Over the next 40 minutes I caught another six, but only two were big enough to add to the keeper bag.
It was now about 10.30 am and I made my way back to the car. Sometimes you need to cover a lot of ground to find them, but this is such a pleasant spot that it really was no hardship. I will be back here again soon.

The Jetty to Diamond Head – Caloundra – 17 January 2012

Tuesday

Finally, time for a fishing session and then the heavens opened. The rain just kept coming on Monday and more was forecast for Tuesday. It had to be Tuesday morning, so I drove up to Caloundra. High tide would be about 4.00 am, so I would have a few hours of fishing in the salty water, around dawn, before the run out tide, mixed with rain run-off, turned the water dirty and fresh.

It would be a big high tide for Caloundra at 1.8m. I decided to head straight for Diamond Head and to try my luck wading on the flats. I arrived, just after 5.00 am and watched the sun rise. The passage was lit up briefly but then the sun disappeared again behind some angry looking clouds.

The water was already a dirty brown colour and pretty murky. I decided to use a hard body, as I thought a soft plastic would be hard to distinguish. I picked out a 14g Strikepro Vibe that looks like a Herring. It’s the loudest lure I own and it is far from subtle but it usually annoys the fish into biting.
The tide was running out so I decided wade from the Jetty back towards Diamond Head, casting into the run out tide and pulling the lure back along the bottom in jumps and jerks. It was hard work as the big tide had picked up plenty of sea grass. It is also harder to know when you get a bite on a hard bodied lure, as the way it sticks in the sea grass feels just like a fish.

After about 40 minutes of slow wading and casting, I caught a Flathead on the Strikepro – just legal at 42cm – so it went in the bag for supper. I have been whacking on the kilos over Christmas – so a diet of steamed fish and vegetables is on the cards for a few weeks. Fortunately, catching them uses plenty of calories when it’s this hard.

I swapped to a 7g Berkly Frenzy Sinking Rattler in the Chrome Black colour. These lures look good but, so far they have not really produced the goods for me. I think their action is a little limited – which is often a problem with cheaper lures. They cast a good distance but seem to take a long time to find their rhythm on the retrieve. After a few casts, I felt a definite hit, so I persisted in the same area, on the edge of a weed bed. After about five casts in the same spot – I had a fish. It felt bigger than it was – a small bream, foul hooked through the back and above the eye. I released it and carried on.

I tried a 3″ Gulp Lime Tiger minnow soft plastic for half an hour and caught an undersized Flathead then switched back to the Strikepro, just as I reached the big drain at the mouth of the creek, by Diamond Head. The water was now a very dirty brown and getting cloudier as the tide got lower. I peppered the area with long, loud casts and eventually, after covering every inch of the area, the rod tip started wiggling. It certainly was not a trophy fish but it felt like it – another Flathead – this time a little bigger at 45cm.

I had dinner but it had been very, very hard work.

Caloundra – Golden Beach and Diamond Head – 9 January 2012

Monday

I was back in Brisbane and decided I needed to give the new Shimano Stella 2500 reel a saltwater workout. A warm northerly wind was forecast and it would be a big morning high tide. I decided to go for the top end of the Pumicestone Passage at Caloundra.

Start of another hot day at Caloundra

I waded out on to the sandbank in front of the Power Boat Club, just after dawn and fished a soft plastic all the away along it. I was using a GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour, on a 1/8th, 1/0 jighead. After about 30 minutes, I caught a very small Flathead.

I carried on wading north, towards the Gemini Towers apartments. There was plenty of bait around, small schools of Garfish and bigger schools of Mullet. I swapped to a Halco Scorpion 35 hard bodied lure. I have a few of these left over from my recent Tasmanian Trout fishing adventure and they have a great action in about 1 metre of water. As the soft plastics were not proving very successful, I thought I would see what the Flathead made of them.

As I moved away from the edge of the sand bank and into the shallows I could see the Whiting following the Scorpion in on almost every cast. After a few minutes an angry splash broke the surface and another tiny Flathead latched on to the Scorpion. On the next cast, an even smaller Whiting grabbed it. I thought I had invented a new sport – micro-fishing!

It was now about 7.30am and already stinking hot – fortunately the northerly was beginning to pick up and it provided some relief. The top of the tide would be at about 8.15 am so I decided to move to another spot.

Pike are always suckers for the Halco Scorpion

I drove down to Diamond Head and walked along the shore, casting along the edge of the weed banks with the Halco Scorpion. The big tide had thrown quite a bit of weed and the lure kept snagging. Then I started casting over the weed into the channel and on the second or third cast there was a tug and I caught a Pike.
I swapped back to a Lime Tiger Jerkshad soft plastic on a 1/8th 1/0 jighead. I was fishing with the 8lb Nanofil line and a 10lb Fluorocarbon leader. I waded out on to the big sand bar and cast into the lumps and bumps on its southern side. After about twenty minutes, I finally felt the solid crunch of a Flathead bite. It took some line and but there were no obstacles for it to swim at. It made a few good runs and as it came into the shallows, it shook its head in a last attempt to escape. I pulled it up onto the sand – it was 56cm long.

55cm Caloundra Flathead

It was now about 9.30 am and I was cooking in my waders so I took them off, had a swim and then drove home. It was good to catch something and see so much bait around. I think the key to catching a feed at this time of year is to get out early and keep moving. By 10.00 am the Passage looked like Pearl Harbour – with boats, skis, kayaks, windsurfers, paddlers and swimmers all over the place.

Tasmania – Mossie Swamp Lagoon – 4 January 2012

Wednesday

It would be my last day in Tasmania. It had taken me the best part of a week to get the hang of a new style of fishing and just as I was beginning to work it out, it was time to go. That’s fishing – it just means you have to come back again – soon.
I had looked over the map and had found a canal that links the Pump Pond to Mossie Swamp Lagoon – another dam, near Taraleah. I had been having success fishing in the faster moving water at the mouths of the lagoons and canals, so I decided to go and have a look.

The weather was windy and had cooled off dramatically overnight, as a front was moving through. It had rained in the morning but, by the time I set off to fish, at about 3.00 pm the wind was dropping and the sun was out again.

I headed up the road to Lake King William, then parked and walked for 15 minutes, along a track to Mossie Swamp Lagoon. This was another beautiful spot and I stopped well short of the edge, to observe what was going on. Predictably, I could see two Brown Trout rising in the shallows, at either end of the dam wall. I cast out a GULP 3” Minnow soft plastic in the Rainbow colour on a 1/12th oz jighead and watched through my Polaroid glasses, as one of the Trout followed my slow retrieve all the way into the bank. I stopped the lure right at the edge and the Trout just sat 10cm away, staring at it – but it would not strike. I switched to a grub tail soft plastic and the same thing happened.

I decided to move on. I walked along another track through the forest that brought me out next to a broad, fast flowing canal with a couple of weirs on it. The bottom was weedy and the wall lining had broken away in places, so that it looked more like a natural river bank. The water was fast moving but there were lots of eddies in the shallows, at the sides.

I had run out of the Peppered Prawn coloured Jigging Grub soft plastics, so I reverted to an old favorite – the GULP 3” Minnow Grub in the Pumpkinseed colour. I cast it forward, up stream into the canal and gave it a couple of jumps as it sped back in my direction. The response was instant. A small Brown Trout raced out from the darkness and attacked the lure. It took two bites and then fled. I reeled the soft plastic back in, less its tail. I put another on and moved another ten metres up the canal. I repeated the process and after a few more casts, came up tight on a fish. It was another nice Brown Trout, about 30cm long. I photographed and released it.

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I walked along the river bank and past a weir. I kept casting and got plenty of bites from smaller fish and lost a few jigheads to the rubble and weed on the bottom. I worked my way through my soft plastics – the 3” Jigging Grub in the Camo colour, the 3” Fry on the Banana Prawn colour, the 3” Powerbait Minnow in the Pumpkinseed colour. They all got bites but the GULP Pumpkinseed Minnow Grub with its paddle tail, seemed to be the most attractive and I caught three more small Browns on this one and dropped two more, close to the bank.

I fished up and down this stretch of water until about 6.30 pm, when I simply had to leave. It had been a great afternoon and a suitable finale to a great week. I had spent a lot of time fishing for relatively few fish, but I learned a lot about the wily Tasmanian Brown Trout and I am already planning my next visit.

Tasmania – the Pump Pond Reservoir – 3 January 2011

Tuesday

Tuesday was a clear, still, hot morning. At about 7.00 am I drove back up to the Pump Pond and fished around the shore. The fish were there but they were not interested in the soft plastics in such clear, still water. I moved back down along the canal to the reservoir and fished the spot where I had found the fish the day before. I was now using the GULP 3” Jigging Grub soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour, I got a bite and a short run but the fish spat it out.

Swirling water in the Pump Pond Reservoir

I decided to try the other side of the mouth of the canal and moved around to a clear spot on the bank. I saw a fish rise and cast just up river of it. Before the soft plastic reached the bottom I felt the bite and then the line started peeling. This was a better fish than the day before and again it tried to get down into the weed.

The best Brown Trout of the trip - 42cm

I already had the drag set reasonably tight and the 6lb leader had been strong enough the day before, so I was confident enough to pull the fish free of the weed and up the bank. It was my best fish of the trip so far at just over 2lbs.

I fished on in a few other spots around the reservoir but could not find any more Trout, so I gave up at around 9.00 am.

Tasmania – The Pump Pond Reservoir – 2 January 2012

Monday

I was up early on Monday, convinced that my soft plastic lures would have a basketful of fish on the table by lunchtime. I decided to go back to the southern end of Bronte Lagoon where I had missed a few trout on the fly, earlier in the week.

This area is close to the road, easy to access and has lots of fish holding terrain. The tree line is close to the shore, providing shade on hot days and also encouraging lots of insect life. There are also clumps of strap weed, tree stumps, boulders and fallen trees all along the bank. I had my waders on but started by fishing along the bank with various GULP soft plastic lures.

Bronte Lagoon - lots of structure but perhaps I was too early for the fish


I think I was a little too early at about 6.30am. As the week went on I began to realize that the Trout prefer a bit of warmth or sun, before they start actively feeding. I suppose that the warmth brings out the insects and that’s when they get going.

I walked up and down the bank but could not raise a bite, so I drove back to another small reservoir, just south of the Pump Pond, near Taraleah. This reservoir is fairly deep and is filled from two sides by canals. Where the water flows in, there are some good eddies and I thought they looked worth a try.

It was about 7.30 am and I decided I would try a hard bodied lure. I had picked up a couple of RAPALA XR4s in the Brown trout colour , before I left Brisbane so I tied one on and cast into an eddy where the water was running out of one of the canals, into the reservoir. I put in about five casts, retrieving the lure slowly with plenty of pauses and twitches. On the last one there was a great swirl and a good sized Brown trout knocked the lure flying out of the water as it struck. Unfortunately the fish and lure did not hook up and I was left standing there, replaying the scene in slow motion on the bank.

I cast around a bit more but the fish did not strike again. At about 10.00am I gave up again, resolving to try again later in the afternoon. I was gaining a healthy respect for these fish, they were far from easy to catch.

A 35cm Brown Trout from the Pump Pond Reservoir

That afternoon I came back to the same spot at about 5.00 pm. I decided to try a soft plastic lure and put on a GULP 3″ Jigging Grub in the Peppered Prawn colour. I rigged it on a 1/12th oz jighead and cast it into the swirling eddies again. A few casts produced nothing so I moved round the corner towards the slack water and put out a few more casts. On the third, there was a solid thud and I struck hard. Line started peeling and after a few lunges, I felt the line slow as the fish tried to bury itself in the strap weeds. I tightened the drag a little and pulled it free. I soon had it on the bank – a Brown Trout – just over 35cm long. Delighted, I kept this one for dinner and it certainly tasted sweet.

Trout are definitely harder to catch than I expected

Tasmania – the Pump Pond – 1 January 2012

Sunday

After 10 hours of guided fishing with a fly rod, I had seen plenty of Trout but I had failed to hook one. Now I recognize that 10 hours is hardly a fishing lifetime, but with only a few days of my Tasmanian holiday left, it was time to switch tactics and try some lures.

Our guide had suggested I try a small dam near Taraleah, called the Pump Pond. I walked up to it at around 7.30 am, just as the sun was beginning to burn through the morning mist. Santa brought me a new Shimano Stella 2500 reel which goes perfectly with my Loomis GL2 spin rod. I had loaded it with the new 8lb Nanofil fused line from Berkely and tied on a rod length of 6lb Fluorocarbon leader.

The Pump Pond - a small dam near Taraleah

All of the dams in the area are linked by canals and tunnels, so that water can be moved around the hydro-electric scheme. The canals between the dams are usually fast moving and you should take care when fishing them, as they are largely unfenced. One of these canals runs out of the base of the Pump Pond Dam, down to a small holding reservoir. As I walked along it, to reach the dam I decided to throw a cast in. I had rigged a Gulp 3” Minnow in the Rainbow colour on a 1/12th ounce, size 2 hook, jighead. I cast up stream into the current and gave the plastic a few jigs as it sped towards me. It was passed me in seconds, so I hauled it in and cast again. The canal is made of preformed concrete slabs with no structure at all. Just as I was thinking it would be difficult for a fish to hang out anywhere, I felt a solid bite and then line started peeling. It was a small Brown (my first Australian Trout and my first fish on the new Stella). It was soon safely on the bank. I removed the soft plastic from its mouth and released it.

A GULP Minnow in the Rainbow colour does the trick

Finally - my first Tasmanian Brown Trout

I moved up to the Pump Pond and waited until I saw another Trout break the surface to feed. I cast the plastic a few metres in front of it and let it sink. The water was crystal clear and as I slowly retrieved the minnow soft plastic, I watched another small Brown Trout follow it all the way in to the bank and then turn away. This happened again on the next cast, so I sped up the retrieve a little, with a few jumps and jerks. The fish followed closely again, but it would not strike.

Plenty of fish holding structure


I moved all along the dam wall, casting whenever I saw a fish and the same thing happened every time. They were curious but they would not eat the lure. I tried some different soft plastics – grub tails and fry shapes, but they all drew a blank. At about 10.00 am the sky was clear and there was no wind so I decided to give up.
A great morning in a spectacular location and most importantly – I got a fish.

Tasmania – Dee Lagoon Beetle Drop – 30 December 2011

Friday

Fly fishing again – we started at noon and our guide suggested Dee Lagoon. He explained that we would fish from his boat and try to take advantage of a ‘beetle drop’ to sight cast at rising trout.

Dee Lagoon - renowned for its beetle drop

A word of explanation for novice fly fisherman – self included. On warm days in the summer months Eucalyptus Beetles (which look a little like olive green ladybugs) hatch in the gum trees beside the lakes and fly around for a bit before dropping into the lakes where they sit on the surface frantically wiggling. The trout scout around below, popping up to snaffle them.

Our plan was to wait until we could see a Trout cruising along the forest fringed shores and cast a Eucalyptus Beetle patterned fly in to its path. We arrived at a likely spot on the north shore but we immediately realized there were a couple of problems with the plan. Firstly, it was a clear, still day with not even a ripple on the surface of the crystal clear water, so the fish would see us coming. Secondly, there were spent Eucalyptus Beetles all over the surface of the water. There were literally thousands of them and they were still falling.

The Trout were cruising the shore line

We cast at a few Trout but they were not interested in our flies. We would watch them turn towards the fly as it dropped, approach it and then turn away. We moved around the lake but the story was similar all over it – there was just too much food around and the fish were stuffed.

At the northern end of the lake we came into a corner called Station Bay where a few small Brown Trout were rising close to the bank. We came in close and put a few casts in their direction but again we could not tempt them.
We tied up against a semi- submerged stump to watch and see if they would continue feeding. A light breeze had blown the spent beetles into a slick with some other debris. I saw a big swirl at the end of it and then I saw a good sized Rainbow Trout – 3 or 4 lbs, just under the surface. It had not seen us and took a mouthful of dead beetles then swirled away. I put a cast to it and it swam in to inspect my fly, then slowly swam away.

Drop the fly between those stumps

For the next 30 minutes it came back time and again. Our guide put every fly he had on and each time the reaction was the same – immediate interest as the fly plopped on to the surface and then, after a quick inspection – rejection. Finally this beautiful fish disappeared.

My father decided on a more direct approach and tied on a wet fly – a small olive coloured sinking nymph. He started to prospect in the deeper water and eventually the line came up tight. But after a few minutes of playing a good fish, the line went slack. When he recovered the line the fly was gone – the 3lb leader was just not enough.

That was it for the day and whilst it had been fantastic to see how the Trout operate, I wanted to catch one. Back to soft plastics tomorrow!

Tasmania – Bradys Lake – 29 December 2011

Thursday

I have left the heavy swells and lumpy seas of Queensland behind and flown south. I am lucky enough to be staying at the Taraleah Lodge in the Tasmanian Highlands, where I am hoping to catch a few Trout.

I opted for a guide as I needed to know when to fish, where to fish and what to fish with. I brought the light spin rod and reel and a range of soft plastic and hard bodied lures, but I accept that in such beautiful country, fly fishing is really the method by which Trout should be caught. My father, who is is an accomplished fly fisherman, was with me and I am keenly aware that he considers prospecting with soft plastic lures rather similar to dynamite fishing.

I last picked up a fly rod when I was about twelve – and that is a very long time ago. Everyone says it’s just like riding a bike – you never forget, but today, as the trout were rising repeatedly less than 5 metres in front of me – I certainly felt like I was flailing the water with dental floss. After a bit of casting practice I remembered just how difficult it is. Trout fishing (like most fishing) is all about stealth but perfecting a fly cast is a messy business. You see a fish rise (break the surface to feed) and you lift your line out of the water to cast just ahead of it. What you intend to do is play out some line with a couple of dummy casts above the water, then drop the incredibly lightly weighted fly gently on to the surface about a metre in front of the fish. What actually happens is one of the following:

1 – Your fly catches in the undergrowth behind you, on the long grass or trees, on the first back swing.
2 – You fly hooks firmly into your ear on the second back swing.
3 – Your dummy cast skims the surface of the water with a loud splash, spooking every fish within ten metres.
4 – The line goes back nicely over your head but as you bring it forward it concertinas in front of you and the fly – lands less than a metre in front of you.

Finally, a full two minutes after the Trout has swum away you put the fly where you want it. Put simply, it’s hard and I really struggled.

Murray, our guide, took us to the Bronte system which consists of four lakes created in the 1950’s as part of the hydro-power scheme that sends power across Tasmania. He started us off on the western shore of Bradys Lake where trout can often be seen in the shallows. There was a light cool breeze ruffling the water at about 10.00 am.

Bradys Lake


There were various insects buzzing above the water, in the shallows and every now and then a small Dun would pop up on the surface. The Dun is a small winged insect and it emerges from a larva that has matured on the bottom of the lake. When it’s ready to hatch it floats up to the surface and the wings pop up like a little sail. They then blow around on the surface, drying out until they are ready to fly away. The Trout will eat them at all stages of this cycle, but they get particularly excited when there is a big hatch and the Duns are popping up all over the water. You can either target them with a fly that looks like the larval stages (nymph) and sinks – a ‘wet’ fly, or you can target them with a fly that sits on the surface – a ‘dry’ fly. If you want to cover both bases you can tie on a dry fly with a wet fly trailing underneath.

This was the set up my guide gave me. It has the added advantage of making it easier to spot a fish strike. When the dry fly (in this case a black foam bug with a red and yellow dot on its back called a ‘Chernobyl’) is pulled under, you strike. We fished for an hour at Brady’s Lake and then our guide suggested a move to the southern corner of Bronte Lagoon. This was another shallow area with weed clumps, tree stumps and fallen trees and it looked very promising. As we arrived a good size Brown Trout broke the surface to snaffle something. We started casting wherever we saw the fish rise. But my poor casting made it tricky.

A good guide saves time and can put you on to the fish

After another hour I was casting more effectively and I was able to put the fly close in to a clump of weed where a fish had been repeatedly feeding. Murray suggested I just let the fly float past – no need to strip line to move it – just let the wind push it past the weeds. I did this a couple of times and then to my surprise the Trout came to the surface and took a swipe at the Chernobyl, instead of the trailing wet fly. I jerked the rod up but I missed the fish.
We carried on until about 2.00pm but I never got any closer to catching one. It was a good introduction to how tricky this type of fishing can be.