The River Loddon – Trout – 12 July 2016

Thursday

On my next Thursday in London I was keen to get down to the River Loddon again to continue my fly fishing revision. It was turning in to a typical English summer – wet and fairly cold. At Wimbledon they had been playing make up matches on the Sunday because of the terrible and continuous rain.

As we set off to drive down to the river it was raining fairly hard. By the time we got there it had eased off to a light drizzle. If you can’t fish in the rain don’t go fishing in Europe. We pulled on our waterproofs and (appropriately named) Wellington boots and walked down to the river. The rain soon stopped.

Today we were fishing another beat on the Duke of Wellington’s estate – Strathfield Saye, so the terrain was a little different. The cool weather and rain mean’t I was unlikely to find the fish feeding on the surface so I by passed the dry flys and went straight for the brass headed sinking nymphs. I started with a grey wolf. This is a slightly hairier looking fly that sinks fairly slowly. The beat we were fishing had some deeper channels and I settled on a bend. I cast upstream at a corner where there was a fairly deep hole. I let the fly slowly waft down in the current with a couple of twitches as I stripped line (retrieved the fly). After a few repeats I was on. The rod took the strain and I let the fish run took. It headed for the reeds but I pulled it out and after a couple more pulls and runs I had it safely in the landing net. It was a 1.5 pound rainbow trout.

We put it too sleep with a whack on the head from a priest (a small metal ended club). Then it was time to look for a few more. The water was not terribly clear but despite all the rain, I could see more fish. I had better polarised sunglasses this week which probably helped. One group of three rainbow trout drove me mad. They were weaving in and out of the current under the shade of a large willow. At various times each one of the three, closely followed my sinking fly before turning away at the last moment. I swapped to a sinking black nymph and then to a pheasant tailed nymph but I could not interest them again. After about 50 casts, I reluctantly moved down the river to try elsewhere.

At another reed lined stretch of bank I hooked another good rainbow. This one put up a good fight with a couple of leaps clear of the water. I held onto it a steered it safely into the net. It was a little heavier than the first. The rain started again so we retired to the hut to open our thermos flask of tea and have a sandwich – all very civilised. I introduced my father to Doritos which were a new experience for him at 78 years old.

The rain stopped and we got back to work. After a few hours my father also had a couple of nice rainbow trout. We fished out the afternoon and both found two more to fill our bags. I dropped a bigger rainbow trout, perhaps 3 or 4 lbs. I was not ready for its power and held too tight to the leader until it snapped. I caught and landed two more 1.5 lb rainbows and my father caught a similair sized brown trout and finished the afternoon with a nice 3.5lb rainbow.

At about 3.00 pm we were all finished and the rain was heading our way again, so we gave up for the day. I had thoroughly enjoyed fishing at Strathfield Saye with all its magnificent history. I had even enjoyed getting reacquainted with the fly and may need a spell in Tasmania once I am back in the southern hemisphere.

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The River Loddon – Trout – 5 July 2016

Thursday

In early July I found myself in the UK and my father (a keen fly fisherman) invited me to join him for an afternoon of trout fishing on the River Loddon at Strathfield Saye  http://www.stratfield-saye.co.uk/  – the Duke of Wellington’s country estate. The estate was gifted to Wellington in 1817 to thank him for giving Napoleon a bloody nose at the Battle of Waterloo. More recently the cavalry scenes from the film Warhorse were filmed here.

The River Lodden is actually a tributary of the Thames that runs through Berkshire and Hampshire. It rises near Basingstoke and runs through a mixture of agricultural land and urban landscape before reaching the Strathfield Saye estate. In days gone by it supported a number of mills along its course. The river is carefully managed by a River Keeper and anglers pay an annual fee to fish it on dedicated days through the trout fishing season which runs from 1st of April to the 30th September. On the estate the river is stocked with both rainbows and browns but also contains a variety of coarse fish including carp, chub, tench and roach.

On the estate the river is divided into about 6 ‘beats’, each about a half a mile long. The anglers, who pay an annual subscription for a ‘rod’ typically have access to the river one afternoon per week and rotate through the beats. On Thursday we were fishing the Duke’s beat. Each beat has a small hut to shelter anglers from the highly variable English summer weather. The rules are clear; only up stream fly fishing with dry fly or nymph is permitted with a bag limit of four trout per angler/ day. All coarse fish must be returned. My GULPS would not be welcome here!

I have not fly fished for a while but it is like riding a bike. The challenge on a tight stream like this one is to avoid losing your flys in the foliage on the back cast. We were using a four pound breaking strain fluorocarbon leader and I started with a grey wolf fly. Consistent rain over the previous few days meant the water was not very clear. It was also fairly cold with the forecast high being about 15 degrees Celsius.

My father walked me the length of the beat pointing out the key features in the riverbed. The stream meanders through the estates fields and the banks are planted with a mixture of mature weeping willows and the odd majestic oak or ash. The river is carefully tended and the banks are dug out and replanted from time to time to ensure good water flow and the right mix of vegetation. Much of it was only about 50cm deep on the day we were fishing but at various bends there are metre plus deep holes to give the fish cover.

The stream is stocked before the season starts with a mixture of juvenile brown and rainbow trout. Most of the fish are removed over winter when there would not be adequate food to support the population. Some of the bigger fish avoid being stunned and removed at the end of the season and these veterans survive year round in the river. The typical fish is between two and four pounds in weight but there are a few monster eight pounders lurking in the shadows.

I got my casting technique sorted out on a fairly open stretch of river bank. It took about 30 minutes to remember that it is all in the wrist and timing is far more important than power. As I became more confident I found a good looking patch of shade over some slow moving water under a willow and cast up into the current. After a couple of tries the fly land where I wanted it and sure enough I saw a decent swirl as a trout came after it then turned away. I cast a few more times but it was not interested.

My father caught a nice two pound rainbow trout further down the beat. I decided to swap to a slightly heavier brass headed black nymph fly with a strand of blue in it. I found another patch of shaded slow moving water and put in a few casts. I was retrieving line fairly slowly when a fish swept in form the side and the line pulled tight. My first instinct was to wind and rely on the drag but when fly fishing you actually release line through your fingers and try to let the rod deal with the lunges. The fish was nicely hooked and my father appeared to provide some expert guidance:” No towing, keep the rod tip up……”. After a short fight I had it on the bank.

I carried on moving along the beat and hooked another fish about thirty minutes later. I was too eager and hurried it towards the net only for it to pull away and snap the leader. I tied on the only other fly I had in my pocket that happened to be a brass headed pheasant tailed nymph. I think this is the fly that almost everyone starts their fly fishing career with. It is a wet fly (sinking) traditionally made from the pheasant’s tail feathers and can be heavily or lightly weighted.

By now the sun had come out and it was a beautiful summer afternoon. I found another good spot beside some reeds and started casting. It did not take long to find another fish. This time it was a good sized brown trout that slammed into the fly on about my fifth cast. I played the fish carefully and patiently. I made sure it was tired out before I put the net beneath it.

We continued fish until about 2.00 pm by which time we had four good fish and gave up for the day.

Bribie – The oyster jetty flats – 25 June 2016

Saturday

I was back in Brisbane again and drove up to Bribie to fish the flats. A cold 10 to 15 knot south westerly had been blowing overnight but by dawn the wind had dropped. It was 14 degrees as I walked out under the bridge in my waders. It was 5 days after full moon and low tide would be at about 6.50 am.

The pylons had not multiplied but the planned floating pontoon had not yet arrived. I was fishing with the LOX Yoshi 7’6” rod again. I was using 10lb Fins fluorocarbon leader. I started with the DUO Realis Shad 62 – sinking hard bodied vibe lure which the flathead usually like. I fished the shallows to the north of the old jetty but after twenty minutes I had not had a bite and the trebles kept picking up green stringy slimy weed so I swapped to a soft plastic.

I put a GULP Jerkshad in the Pearl Watermelon colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and cast it out between the new pylons. On about my third retrieve, I felt a good bite and then hooked a 45cm flathead. The sun was just coming over the horizon it was 6.42 am. I moved to the south of the jetty and caught a smaller flathead on the same soft plastic, about ten minutes later.

I kept moving to the south and swapped to a GULP Swimmow soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour. I caught another flathead about halfway between the jetty and the green channel marker as the tide turned at about 7.30 am. This one was also about 45cm long.

I waded out to the channel marker and swapped to a GULP Jerkshad in the BBQ chicken colour. I am not sure if it was the incoming tide or the change of soft plastic but I immediately started to catch fish. The first couple were undersized flathead about 35 cm long but then I found a couple of keepers.

Over the next hour, as the tide ran in, I caught 6 more flathead – three of which were keepers. They all fell for the same soft plastic lure. At about 9.30 am I returned to the car with a full bag.

Bribie – The oyster jetty flats – 17 June 2016

Friday

I was back on home turf and I finally had the chance to chase some cold weather flathead at Bribie. I drove up to Sandstone Point at about 9.30 am, to fish the last few hours of the run out tide. I arrived and pulled on my waders and wandered out under the bridge.

Four new large pylons had been installed at the end of the old oyster jetty and a local contractor was surveying the area. He said he had been instructed to clear away any debris from the bottom so that they can put in a large floating pontoon. I have no real objection to this (all structure attracts fish) but I think it will be fairly tricky for any boats get close to the pontoon, as the area is very shallow and littered with rocks and reef.

The moon was 92% full and low tide would be low at 1.10pm. I was fishing with my new Lox Yoshi 7’6” 1-3 kg rod. I wanted to try fishing with a longer rod on the flats to see how it performed. It can put in some nice long casts but is still light enough to soak up the lunges. Unfortunately, after only a few casts I remembered why longer rods are tricky on the flats. Each time I hopped the plastic along the bottom, in the shallows – the slack line would loop around the tip, which soon got very boring. But even worse was to come. As I put in a long cast with a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 jighead the line wrapped around the tip and took it off.

I had only just started fishing so I was going to have to carry on – tipless. The rod proved pretty versatile and I soon hooked a 47cm flathead on a 4″ GULP Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I played it to the shallows, photographed and put it in the keeper bag for supper. I moved to the south of the jetty and soon found another slightly bigger flathead on a GULP BBQ Chicken Jerkshad.. It was now about 12 noon and the tide had about another hour to run. I thought things would really get going but I just could not find the fish.

I waded down towards the channel marker and I noticed the odd school of mullet swimming around. I swapped through a few soft plastics and caught a couple of small pike. Once the tide slowed I turned and waded back towards the bridge. I caught two more undersized flathead but that was it. At about 1.45pm I gave up.

Full marks to the team at BCF Virginia – they took the tipless rod back and quickly ordered in a free replacement which I now have.

Coffin Bay – Mount Dutton and Kellidie Bays – 13 June 2016

Monday

Monday was to be my last day at Coffin Bay. The wind had come up again and when I woke at 5.30 am it was bitterly cold. I wrapped up and drove round to the flats at Farm Beach. In the biting wind I wandered around casting through dawn but apart from a few nibbles, I did not catch anything.

After sun up I drove back round to Mount Dutton Bay and fished in cold crystal clear water. The juvenile salmon were everywhere and they smashed in to just about every soft plastic that I cast at them. The GULP Lime Tiger Fry was particularly popular but I think they would have attacked anything. At about 10 am I gave up and went to thaw out.

In the afternoon I drove round to fish at Seal Rocks on the western side of the peninsula that surrounds Kellidie Bay. The rock ledge here faces west and the sunsets directly in front of it. The locals tell me they catch snapper, kingfish, whiting, gar, flathead, salmon and herring here. I started with a GULP Turtleback Worm in the Banana Prawn colour. I was using a 1/16th ounce 2 hook jighead and 8lb breaking strain fluorocarbon leader.

From the first cast the King George whiting attacked the soft plastics. I caught a few but they were all too small to keep – around 25 cm long. I swapped through a few different soft plastics and moved up and down the shoreline casting at any fishy looking spots. Every now and then, a small salmon would get to the soft plastic lure ahead of the whiting, but on many occasions the jighead would come up expertly cleaned, but with no fish on it. I fished through until the sun dropped behind the horizon and then gave up.

In summary – Coffin Bay had produced great salmon, herring and wrasse off the beaches, a few good sized King George Whiting from the shores of the bay and juvenile salmon trout just about everywhere. I will definitely be back.

Coffin Bay – Point Avoid and the Ledge -12 June 2016

Sunday

On Sunday it was cold and wet again, but at least the rain had kept the wind down. I drove out to Point Avoid in Coffin Bay National Park, again and started casting in the pre-dawn light. I had lost a few slugs and now only had a couple of Halco Raiders left. I tied on a 40 gram with some 20 lb fluorocarbon leader. I hooked up after a few casts – a small salmon about 30 cm long. They kept coming and the skies started to clear.

Just after dawn I noticed a seal bounding threw the waves – salmon for breakfast. I kept casting. At about 7.30 am, I hooked a big fish and almost immediately knew I would not be able to stop it. I tightened the drag until the line snapped, but it never slowed. I swapped to the 80mm version of the MARIA MJ Twitch suspending hard bodied minnow. I cast this out and the salmon started smashing it immediately. I caught a few small ones and then a slightly bigger fish unhooked itself on a submerged bit of reef and left the lure there.

I swapped over to a 4” GULP Pearl Watermelon Minnow on a 1/6th ounce, size 1 hook jighead. I could not cast this lure as far and so it was once again the brown spotted wrasse that grabbed it. I threw a small one back and shook off a couple of small salmon. Then a bigger fish grabbed it and zipped straight under a rock. I could not muscle it out, so I loosened the drag and after a minute or so, it swam out. This time I pulled it in. It was a bigger wrasse with magnificent green lips. After a few pictures I released it and gave up for the morning.

In the afternoon I drove round to fish off the ledge opposite the Coffin Bay boat ramp. The tide was running out the wind had dropped away and it was very cold. I picked a spot where it looked like the main channel was close to the shore. I was fishing with an 8 lb fluorocarbon leader and started with a 2” GULP Crabby in the New Penny colour. This soft plastic looks like a small yabby. I put it on a 1/12th ounce, size 2 hook jighead and cast it out. The salmon appeared and ate a few and then, fortunately moved on. I could feel a few bites from what I thought were whiting, but I could not seem to hook them. I decided to try some patience. I cast the soft plastic out, left the bail arm open on the reel and waited a full 3 minutes. When I flicked it over and took up the slack I had a King George Whiting on the line. It pulled pretty hard and when I landed it and held against the tape it was about 35 cm long. I caught a few more small ones as the sun set and then just as it was getting really dark, I managed two more legal fish, using the same method.

I cleaned them in the cold water and set off for a warm shower.

Coffin Bay – Point Avoid – 11 June 2016

Saturday

Having caught plenty of salmon trout inside Coffin Bay it was time to get out on to the surf beaches and find some bigger models. On Saturday morning I was up at 5.45 am and drove into the Coffin Bay National Park. I drove long the winding track out to the west side. It was cold – about 5 degrees, but the wind had dropped a little. It was still a south-easterly and low tide would be at about 8.45am.

I was heading out to fish the beach at the depressingly named Point Avoid. Point Avoid/ Coffin Bay – they obviously did not think much of the place when they drew up the maps. Point Avoid was named by Matthew Flinders and as it is usually lashed by strong winds and has strong currents racing through rocky channels, its probably a fair name.

It was overcast as I walked down onto the beach. Rain looked likely. I loaded up the Lox Yoshi with a length of 20lb fluorocarbon leader and tied on a 20g Raider metal slug. I put a long cast out into the surf and wound fast. On the second cast – bash , bump, bump and then zzzzzzzzzzzzz. I let it have some line and gradually played it out it was a small Australian Salmon. I dragged it slowly to the sand. It was about 35cm long. I let it go and cast out again. I caught three or four at this size and then a bigger one grabbed the lure. I could not stop it and after a short fight, it buried itself in the rocks and snapped me off.

I put on a small popper (about 50cm). I could not cast this as far but it did not matter. On about the fourth cast I saw a shape come up and snaffle it. This was a bigger fish. Fortunately it headed for open water and did some leaping around. I let it run and wear itself out and slowly I steered it back up the beach. This one was about 40 cm long and I decided to keep it. I bled it and left it under a rock. I cast the popper around again. It did not take long to find another decent salmon. This one really pulled hard and put in some good stunts but I managed to hang on to it. It was about 45cm long and had completely mashed the hooks on the popper’s front treble.

I put on a DUO Realis Jerkbait 120 in a purple colour. This lure suspends about 10 to 15 cm below the surface and has a very loud rattle and great action. The smaller salmon knocked this around for a while. Then something different whacked it. It was a brown spotted wrasse, about 30 cm long.

I moved around the corner and walked out on to a rocky promontory that had been revealed by the falling tide. I swapped to a 1/8th ounce jighead and GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I cast around the deep holes in between the rocks. The salmon where here as well but the lure was a bit big for them.  I caught a couple more small wrasse.

I hooked what I thought was another salmon but on close inspection I realized it was an Australian Herring known locally as a Tommy Rough. I carried on fishing until the tide turned in, then gave up for the morning

 

 

 

 

 

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