Hat Head – Tailor, Tailor, Tailor – 26 September 2015

Saturday

The September school holiday is a great time to go south from Brisbane. The weather can be unpredictable but the water is usually still cool and the winter species; kingfish, tailor, bream, jewfish, snapper – are all possible from the shore.

The coast of northern New South Wales has great fishing spots. They are liberally spaced all the way down to Newcastle and beyond. Fingal Head, Woody Head, Brooms Head, Crescent Head and our destination – Hat Head are all fantastic rock fishing locations.

The tricky thing with September is often the weather. The winter wind pattern of southerly blows is gradually giving way to the more consistent summer northerlies, which warm up the seas. These two patterns clash and this can bring storms, big seas and rain.

We were fortunate. We drove down from Brisbane in the rain and wind. By the time we reached the house we had rented, the rain had stopped. It soon started again, through Friday night but by Saturday, the sun was out. There had been a big southerly blow raging all week with lots of rain.

By dusk, I could wait no longer. I pulled on my fishing boots and set off to for the Spinning Ledge at the far eastern point of the Hat Head promontory. It takes me about 30 to 40 mins to walk from the township out to the ledge. The path is quite challenging and slippery in parts, so shoes with good grip are essential. Waterfalls lined the route as the recent heavy rain drained off the hill. There were plenty of frogs singing at each small water crossing. A large echidna wobbled along the path in front of me at one point before rolling into a ball in a not particularly cunning attempt to disguise itself.

I arrived at the end of the end of the headland at about 5.00 pm. There were a couple of fisherman already on the ledge. The birds were circling just offshore, to the north east and one of the fisherman was pulling in a 40cm tailor on a metal slug.

I only had about 30 minutes until sunset so I had to get on with it. The swell was up and there was still a strong southerly wind blowing. I was trying a new longer, slightly lighter rock fishing rod. It is the Daiwa Air Edge Surf. 96L (supplied on the recommendation of Steve at Jones Tackle). Which I matched with my Shimano Sustain 4000 reel, 15 lb breaking strain Aldi braid and 30lb fluorocarbon  leader.

This is what Daiwa have to say about it:

96L

Finesse and shore based spinning don’t generally mix but with the 96L is the perfect mixture of weight, action and taper to make the perfect light game spin and estuary baitfishing rod. Ideally suited for fishing small metals, bibbed minnows, poppers, sliders and plastics. Best suited to a 2500 – 3000 sized spinning reel.

I agree with most of that – but I will need to give it a good workout before I am prepared to agree that it’s “perfect”.

I could see the slugs where working but I decided to start with a soft plastic lure. I tied on ¼ ounce #1/0 hook jighead and loaded a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the curry chicken colour. I tried to use the rocks behind me as a bit of shelter from the very strong southerly but from my first cast, I could see that getting the jighead to sink would be difficult.

I cast out at low level and manage to land the soft plastic about 12 metres from the shore. I let it sink and started to hop it back towards me. As soon as it moved off the bottom, the fish were all over it. I could feel it being pulled in all directions before a solid fish finally took possession. I played the fish for a while keeping the line tight and safely pulled it over the oyster covered section at the base of the rocks. Then I grabbed the leader and slowly pulled it to my feet. It was a solid 43 cm tailor.

The soft plastic was destroyed so I swapped to a GULP 4” Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour. Two or three casts later I managed to get it back into about the same spot and the same thing happened. This was a slightly bigger one, just short of 50 cm. I decided to dispatch it and keep it for dinner. The fish kept coming and I caught three more over the next 20 minutes. However they were all between about 30 and 40 cm.

By now the sun had dropped below the horizon and to avoid walking back along the track in complete darkness, I decided to pack up. I am sure the bite would have continued but fishing lures in the dark is pretty hard. By the time I reached the path higher up the hill, the southerly wind must have been blowing well above 30 knots.

It was a great first session.

Brooms Head Lagoon Drain – 21 Sept 2011

Wednesday

It was to be another land based fishing session at Brooms Head just south of Yamba, in Northern New South Wales. At dawn the wind was already gusting strongly from the south-east. It was forecast to blow up to about thirty knots during the morning but the area on the west side of the lagoon was sheltered by the Brooms Head Bluff. I decided it was worth an early morning wade.

Low tide was at 7.30 am and I was wading across the mouth of the lagoon, at the western end, at about 5.45 am. I had broken my lightest rod the day before so I was using my Nitro 7’6” distance spin rod and because of the breeze I had moved up to a heavier 1/8th oz, 1/0 hook jighead and 12lb fluorocarbon leader.

I soon found the fish. They were lurking just on the border of the rocky northern wall of the lagoon, where the weed covered rocks met the sand. I started with a Pike and then 30cm Tarwhine and then three of the striped Trevally. I released them all and with nicely chilled nuts, I waded back for a hot shower and breakfast.

Brooms Head – Back Beach – 18 September

Sunday

I have my 9 year old daughter with me this week so 4.30 am starts are out of the question. She likes to fish, but not that much! At around 8.00 am I persuaded her to walk from Brooms Head south, past the Brooms Head Bluff to Back Beach. It was already warm and fairly still with a very light northerly wind. Low tide had passed at about 5.00 am.

Brooms Head Sunrise


After a disappointing session with the heavier fishing rod and reel the day before, I swapped down to my favorite light beach rod, a Gary Howard Estuary, 9ft. It is excellent for Whiting, Dart and Bream – very whippy with loads for spring and great at hooking fussy fish. It works best with a 1/8th or 1/6th jighead and although it is really designed for an Alvey, I use a Shimano Seido 2500 spinning reel. I have never really mastered the Alvey. I use 10lb Fireline or Braid and usually a 10 or 12lb fluorocarbon leader.

As the fish had been reluctant to bite the day before and because we were outside ideal fish feeding hours (dawn and dusk) I decided to start with a 6lb leader. I waded out to about waist deep and cast in to the northern corner of the bay, just where the rocks meet the sand. I had loaded up with a 2” GULP Shrimp soft plastic in the Banana Prawn colour. I could feel the 1/8th 1 jighead bumping on the rocks and it soon got snagged. I swapped down to a 1/16th 1 hook jighead and put on a 3” GULP Pearl Watermelon Minnow soft plastic. It is not usually possible to cast such a light weight into the surf, but today conditions were calm enough to do it.
After a little while I started to cast over the top of the rocks as the tide was moving up quite quickly. The jighead was now light enough to bump over the top rather than get snagged. Just as the lure reached the edge of the rocks it was grabbed. The rod tip bent over and I had a fish on. It took some line but then swam into the rocks and made short work of the 6lb leader.

I re-rigged with a 10lb leader and cast back out with the same weight jighead and soft plastic lure. After a few casts, I felt a couple of bumps and knocks and then bang, I had a fish. This time the leader held and I steered the fish back up the beach. It was a Bream around 30 cm. I put it in the bag and carried on fishing. About ten minutes later the same thing happened, this time it was a Tarwhine, about the same size, but with much more fight in it.

A Bream from Back Beach at Brooms Head


Now I had dinner so it was time to quit and go for a swim. Conditions were perfect and the water was crystal clear. Even without a mask you could see plenty of Bream swimming around and good schools of bait fish in close to the shore.