There had been a few good gutters in front of South Golden Beach and I tried an early morning session to see if the tailor were still around. I had a couple of hits on dawn on a metal slug but did not hang on to anything. The big swell made things difficult and I did not find really them there again, through the rest of June.
On Sunday 13th June, it was a beautiful day so I drove down to the Brunswick River and spent a couple of hours fishing the run out tide. I tried a few casts near the river mouth with no luck. The river was busy so I waded round to fish the flats just downstream of the Marshalls Creek lower outlet. There were plenty of rays in the shallow water. It was now a hot afternoon and although the river was cool, it was definitely not cold.
I cast around with a soft plastic lure and caught three flathead right on the bottom of the tide. I caught them all where the creek drains in to the main river channel. My soft plastic of choice was the trusty GULP 4″ Minnow in the Watermelon Pearl colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. All the fish were in less than a metre of water.
I returned to South Golden Beach at the beginning of April. I realised how fortunate we were to be located in this small town, close to Byron Bay, on the Northern New South Wales coast. Our beaches were not closed, our fishing was not curtailed and social distancing was very simple. The outlook for any kind of paid work looked pretty grim, but there would be plenty of fishing time.
I spent most of April extracting myself from my contracts in Asia and ‘furloughing’ everyone who works with me. Realistically, none of us could work until I could leave Australia and visit our various projects again. And that prospect looked a long way off. Unlike here in the ‘lucky country’ none of my team would receive any welfare assistance, so it was a pretty depressing process.
In between times I had a few fishing sessions in the Brunswick River. For once the river was very quiet. The caravan parks had emptied out and no one was allowed to leave home except for essential activities. Fishing was allowed under the exercise category – which was a relief. I caught flathead under the highway bridge and down by the river mouth, at Christmas Beach. I fished GULP soft plastic minnows and shrimps, using light leaders (10lb fluorocarbon) and light jigheads (no heavier than 1/8th of an ounce). Only about one in five of the flathead was over the legal size limit in New South Wales, which is 38cm. I caught about twenty over three sessions.
I also fished the beach gutters, when the weather was calm enough. I caught a few flathead this way, but not many bream. The northerly winds gradually change over to southerlies and the air temperature dropped. One cool morning I noticed a few abandoned chopper tailor heads on the beach in front of the New Brighton.
On Wednesday morning I was up before dawn to have another shot of catching something decent in the surf. The wind had changed to a strong northerly over-night. When I walked out on to South Golden Beach at about 4.45 am, I could see the water was pretty stirred up.
The wind was up and gusting between 10 and knots. As the water hit my feet I noticed it had cooled down considerably overnight. I was fishing with my Daiwa Air Edge rod and Shimano Sustain reel combination again. This time I tied on about 1 metre of 10lb fluorocarbon leader. The wind and surf was going to make it very hard to cast a lightly weighted soft plastic lure any distance, so I decided to rig up a hard bodied lure.
I chose the DUO Realis Vib 62. This is a Bass lure made by my favourite Japanese lure manufacturers DUO – http://www.duo-inc.co.jp/bass/en/realis/vibration62/ . I have tried plenty of cheaper imitations but I keep coming back to this one. It is an 11g sinking vibe lure with a loud rattle and comes in some great colours. There is something about its action and its ability to instantly find its rhythm that I really love. Even when bumping along a shallow, sandy bottom it keeps vibrating. The other advantage in the surf is that it casts like a bullet. I have found these lures at Jones Tackle http://jonestackle.com.au/ and also at Motackle http://www.motackle.com.au/. I understand that DUO has just secured a new Australian distribution deal so I hope this means they will become more widely available.
I wandered south as the horizon started to light up. I felt a few bumps and nudges in each new gutter but did not connect. At about 5.00 am the sun came over the horizon. I was now standing at the south end of a very long gutter that had a pronounced sand bank lip. I could see the small dart shadowing the lure as I pulled it towards me. I put in a long cast and started to jerk the lure back towards me. After about three pulls something smashed into the lure. I struck hard but the line felt slack. Then I realised the fish was just swimming towards me. It changed direction and I could feel that it was solidly hooked. It travelled sideways for a bit. I had the drag fairly loosely set. This is important in the surf as the pull of the waves will snap a light leader very easily. I soon had a respectable 30 cm bream at my feet. I released it and looked for some more without any luck.
On Christmas Eve I decided to fish the big incoming morning tide in the section of Marshalls Creek that is open to fishing. This is a very beautiful stretch of water just off the Brunswick River. Its lower reaches are closed to all types of fishing but there is a section opposite the New Brighton shop where fishing with rod and line is still permitted. This area is fairly shallow on all but the biggest tides but it looks very fishy. There are big sand bars, overhanging trees and dense mangroves. I waded around through the early morning high tide and got a few bites. I saw plenty of bream, luderick and mullet swimming around but I could not hook any. It was peak holiday time and there was a constant flow of small boats which did not improve my chances of catching anything. After a few hours I gave up, but I will definitely be back.