Iluka – Woody Head – 19 November 2020

By Saturday the swell was picking up again. Low tide was just before dawn, at about 5.15 am. I arrived and started fishing at Woody Head just before 5.00 am. It’s an early start if you want to fish at dawn at this time of the year (even earlier if you are in Queensland!).

The wind was light from the south-east and the swell was just a little more than the forecast 1.2 metres. I started casting a 60 gram Halco twisty but after ten minutes this had not produced a fish, so I swapped over to soft plastics. I chose a 3/8th of an ounce, size 1.0 hook jighead from VMC. I loaded a 5″ GULP Paddleshad in the pink colour. I was using my heavy rig with 40lb braid and 40lb fluorocarbon leader.

I was casting over the cunjevoi covered rocks which is never easy. However when I got the lure in the zone I got a hit and run, but no hook up. My first taker was an ambitious dart. A few casts later I hooked a fish but initially it did not do much and I thought it was a bream. Then it suddenly took off and really fought hard. After a brief but tough fight I had a 55cm Kingfish at my feet.

I released it and carried on with the GULP Paddleshad. This time the fish grabbed the plastic on the drop but again it did not put up much of a fight, at first. I think Kingfish often don’t realise they are hooked and therefore do not initially fight at all. But once they realise they are hooked there are few fish that fight harder. I am always surprised at the relatively small size of the fish that I eventually land. This one was 62cm long, so not a keeper – also released.

By about 7.30 am the wind and swell was pushing me around. I slipped and knelt on a barnacle and so decided to quit while I was ahead. I have left a lot of my skin on these rocks over the years.

Barnacle tattoo

Iluka – Woody Head – 22nd to 29th September 2020

I always keep an eye on the weather forecast, looking for a period of low swell that will allow me to safely fish the rocks – which is currently my favorite fishing style. In late September three or four days of low swell were forecast for Northern New South Wales. The school holidays were about to start and despite (or maybe because of) all the COVID 19 travel restrictions, all the accomodation in Northern New South Wales would soon be booked out for a fortnight.

So I grabbed my chance and on the 22 September I drove down to Iluka along the newly opened section of the Pacific Highway.  The highway now bypasses the small towns of  Wardell, Broadway and Woodburn and reduces the drive south from Byron to Iluka, to less than 90 minutes.

The reason the sea had flattened out was the arrival of northerly and north-westerly winds. The full moon was about a week away and the low tide would be early in the mornings. We were about to swap from winter to summer and the fishing often goes off a little as the weather becomes a bit more erratic. I dropped into Iluka Bait and Tackle when I arrived – https://www.facebook.com/Iluka-Bait-and-Tackle-608266152650241/. Apparently winter has been excellent for tailor, jew and bream fishing but things had slowed down a little in the couple of weeks prior to my arrival. I always drop in to see Ross at the store. He is a great source of up to date info and has an excellent range of lures/ bait terminal tackle, jigheads and soft plastics. Unlike many small local fishing shops, his prices are also very reasonable.

I was up early everyday and out fishing at Woody Head just before dawn.  It was calm enough to fish right off the front of the rock platform.  I fully expected a few tailor or jewfish, but they were nowhere to be found. There were a few bream and dart, but the dominant predator was the Australian Salmon. This was a surprise as these have been missing from these waters for a few years.

I started off in the mornings fishing at the northern end of the Woody Head rock platform, at the spot known locally as ‘the Barnacles’.  On the first day I fished through dawn with large hard bodies and then dropped down to a 6o gram brass coloured Halco Twisty metal slug. I was using 30lb braid and 30lb fluorocarbon leader.

This hook was not up to its task

I had a few bumps on a big hard body and could see the bait jumping around in front of my lure but I did not hook anything. Once I put the Halco Twisty on, things improved. I felt a grab and then another and  finally, on about the tenth fast retrieve, I hooked a solid fish. It fairly quickly lept out of the water revealing it was an Australian Salmon. I tightened my drag and got some line back. It was a heavy fish and they fight hard. They don’t have much in the way of teeth but they do jump a lot, so you have to keep the line tight. I got it up to just below the ledge and got soaked by a wave, trying to heave it up next to me. On the next surge I tried to muscle it over the edge but it gave a powerful slap of its tail and spat the hook out, just as it came to my feet. It then left with the next wave. I checked my lure and realised I had a fairly light, fine wire single hook on it – which had now bent open. I put on another slug but I could not find anymore.

What is this?

I swapped to my lighter rock fishing rig – 20lb braid and a 12lb fluorocarbon leader. On my way down, I had dropped in to BCF in Ballina to find lots of packets of the GULP Lime Tiger Jerkshads and GULP Nuclear Chicken shrimp soft plastics marked down to $5 a packet. I know these catch fish, so I grabbed as many as I could and added them to the tacklebox.  I loaded up a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead with a GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour and started casting. I cast it all around and eventually caught some kind of small wrasse with bright red fins. I swapped to the GULP 2″ Shrimp in the Nuclear Chicken colour and threw that out and this snared a couple of small bream.

The next morning I decided to cast some GULP jerkshads around on dawn, to see if I could tempt a jewfish. Unfortunately all I found was another small red finned wrasse. When I swapped to a smaller soft plastic, I caught a small speckled rock fish and a few more bream.

I swapped to a 40g DUO DragMetal Cast Slow lure. This is a slow jig and although you cannot exactly ‘slow jig’ it off the rocks, it is a a bit more exciting than a plain metal slug. I hop it back to me fairly quickly, but give it time to reach the surface, then flutter down again. I saw a boatie, about 100 metres out, hook something and start a fairly serious fight. I cast in his direction and felt a hit on the retrieve. I cast again. This time I made sure to exaggerate the hops and it paid off. Line started peeling and I let the fish run. It was another Australian Salmon, but this time it was solidly hooked and I managed to land it. It was just on 60cm long. As I was de-hooking it it spat up another large baitfish.

I have tried but I can’t make Australian Salmon taste good. I hear they are usually netted and used for pet food by the professional fisherman. I decided to cut out the middleman and keep this one for the cat.

The next day I followed a similar drill. I caught nothing much around dawn but at about 7.30 am I managed to find the Salmon with a new soft plastic – the GULP 4″ Paddle Shad in the Silver Mullet colour. This one has just appeared in the GULP range and I like it. We plastics fisherman have always lacked a decent scented paddle tail lure and this one is great. Now we just need them to make it in the Watermelon Pearl colour. I lost another Salmon to the rocks a little later, using the same soft plastic.

On my final day the wind was strong and cold, from the west, but the swell was still light. I fished a little further along the Woody Head rock platform, to the south. Around dawn I caught a couple of decent bream and a good dart. I had broken the tip on my Daiwa Crossfire 1062 rod, so I had I matched my Daiwa TD SOL LT 6000 DH with my NS Black Hole Cabin II S862L rod, 30lb braid and 16lb fluorocarbon leader. At about 8.30am, I was fishing with a GULP 4′ Minnow soft plastic in the Watermelon Pearl colouring on 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I cast it out towards the tip of rocky out crop and let it sink. As I lifted the rod I felt some weight and something started taking line. Almost straight away it leaped out of the water trying to spit out the soft plastic. It was well hooked and after a couple of big leaps and runs it calmed down and I used the swell to land it.

That was it for my trip. Summer is coming and it is time to change tactics.

Great fun

South Ballina – 7 September 2020

In early September the wind began to signal a change of seasons. The northerlies kept creeping in but they were often tempered by a persistent cool westerly, in the mornings.

On the first Monday of the month I decided to fish off the rockwall at South Ballina. The moon was in its waning gibbous phase and would be 77% full. An easterly wind was forecast and the swell was still stubbornly high, so I wasn’t expecting much. Low tide had passed at about 5.00 am. I took the Burns Point Ferry across the Richmond River, just after it started running at 5.30 am and walked out to the end of the south wall at about 6.00 am. The sun had broken the horizon a few minutes earlier but almost immediately been obscured by a band of low cloud. I said good morning to the two resident ospreys who were surveying the beach gutter from their rocky perch.

Cloudy start to a South Ballina fishing session

I started with my heavier rock fishing rig with a 30lb leader and a 60g slug. I cast out to the north east and ripped the lure back pretty quickly. After two or three casts, I felt a fish grab it, drop it, grab it and then I hooked up. It was a 35cm tailor and I pulled it up safely to my feet, un-trebled it and threw it back. I carried on casting the slug for a while and had a few more bumps and grabs but no hook ups, so I decided to change tactics.

Tailor on a 60 g slug

I tied on a 3/8th ounce 1/0 hook jighead and loaded a GULP 4″ Minnow in the Smelt colour. I would always rather fish with a lighter jighead, so that the soft plastic spends more time sinking but the easterly onshore wind would have made casting anything lighter a real challenge. As it was, I could only get the jighead to land 10 to 15 metres out. On my first cast it was hit on the drop. Unfortunately I did not hook up but instead pulled up a soft plastic with a neat bite mark but no fish.

How did I miss ?

I put another of the same plastic on and cast out. It only took a couple of hops and I was on to a fish again. This time it was a small bream with a big appetite. I threw it back. The bream kept biting the tails off the minnow or pulling the soft plastic off the jighead. So I swapped to a 5″ GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. These tend to stay on the jighead better and I was hoping the bigger profile might attract a bigger fish.

On about my fifth cast with a bigger plastic, I felt a hit at the base of the rocks but jumped the lure up quickly, thinking I might be snagged. A few minutes later I felt a similar hit and I paused to let the fish eat the plastic. It obliged and took off. Initially it ran out to sea but as I had to keep the tension on the line, the swell soon pushed it back in to the base of the rocks. It was a school jewfish, it looked around 70 to 80 cm long. It was soon washed in between the rocks at the base of the wall and I could feel the leader rubbing against the rocks. Then – snap, and it was gone and was gone.

I re-rigged with a stretch of 45lb leader (the toughest , I carry) and the same set up and cast out again. About five casts later and a found another one in the same spot (that’s why they are called ‘school’ jewfish). I tried to wear it out and pull it gently up to me but the hook bent and pulled out and it dropped back to the water and swam off. I worked through a few soft plastics and they nearly all found a fish in this same spot but I could not land any of them. I need to buy, and learn to use, a gaff.

I was frustrated but the fish were clearly biting so I swapped back to a metal lure. I chose the 40 gram DUO Drag Metal Cast Slow (I assume this sounds more catchy in Japanese). This is a slow jigging lure that can be used like any other metal slug. My Japanese angling friends say it is great to use from the shore as it flutters around a lot, even at very low retrieve speeds. I have been trying it whenever I think the tailor are around, to see if they like it. I cast it out towards the centre of the river mouth and jigged it back towards me. After two or three casts I hooked up, quite a long way from the shore. This lure has two assist single hooks at one end and a single hook at the other. I was making progress but then my line went slack. I picked up the retrieve again and a few moments later I had hooked up again. This time the hook stuck but the fish felt more powerful. I backed off the drag a little and let the fish run. I then gradually retrieved line and tightened the drag again. It was a decent tailor and it leaped clear of the water a couple of times but stayed hooked. Fortunately, two of the hooks had pinned the fish and I was able to pull it up to my feet. It was just over 50 cm long. One of the three hooks on the lure was gone, perhaps the first fish that hit it, took that one. Much as I would have liked a jewfish, it would have to be tailor for dinner.

IMPORTANT NOTE – Last time I visited South Ballina – in early October, 2020 – the road out to the rockwall had been closed by National Parks. They have had it surveyed and the initial finding is that it is no longer safe for vehicles. This means fishing at the end of the wall requires a 1300m walk before and after – see photo)

Brunswick River – Brunswick Heads – 1 September 2020

Thanks to the machinations of our newly powerful state leaders, Brunswick Heads was very quiet in August and September. Despite vanishingly small numbers of locally identified cases of COVID 19, the Queensland border snapped shut. It was soul destroying for our local businesses that rely so much on visitors from north of the border, and further afield. But, every cloud has a silver lining and for once the Brunswick River was very peaceful and largely undisturbed.

I started September with a midday session wading the flats above the highway bridge. The tide was running out to low at about 1-30 pm. I parked up beside the caravan park at Ferry Reserve.

I was using my new light estuary spinning set-up. The guides on my old favorite NS Blackhole trout rod nearly all needed replacing and I had knocked about 10 cm off the tip over the last couple of years – it had to go. I had loved that rod so I decided to go for another NS Blackhole rod from EJ Todd. I chose the ultralight fast action NS Amped II Trout S-602UL rod. It is a 6′ long two piece, rated for 2- 10 gram lures and 2-6 lb (1-3kg) line. I match it with a Daiwa TD-SOL III LT 2500D spinning reel. So far it has met all my expectations. It is ultra sensitive but has the power to stop good sized bream and flathead. It might struggle to turn the head of a decent mangrove jack or snapper, but I rarely run into those. It cost me A$ 149-99 (with free shipping) from Tackle Warehouse and arrived in good shape, three days after I ordered it.

I pulled on my waders and wandered up the inside of Mangrove Island, casting a GULP 3″ Minnow soft plastic on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead, into the shallow water ahead of me. I found my first tiny flathead close the edge of a weed bed in about 20 cm of water. The tide was running out towards me so I cast at the edge of the weed beds and hopped the soft plastic slowly along the sandy/ muddy bottom, with the tide. I carried on wading up river, around the tip of Mangrove Island and across to the deeper water, in the main channel of the river.

I decided to put on a bigger soft plastic – a GULP 5″ Jerkshad in the Peppered Prawn colour. I was now just upriver from the tip of the island, about 30 metres from the northern riverbank. My rod tip bent over, I paused and then lifted it. I had hooked a small flathead, just under 40cm. I let it go and gradually moved down river, casting backwards up river. I swapped through a few soft plastics – the GULP 2″ Shrimp also in the Peppered Prawn colour and another 5″ Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour, and found three more flathead, all about the same size.

As the tide slackened around 2.00 pm, I gave up and waded back to the car. It was great to have the river virtually to myself, I will have to make the most of it.

Whites Head and Skennars Head – 28 August 2020

On the 28th of August I fished at White’s Head, at the northern end of Sharpes Beach, near Ballina. The swell was forecast to be low and the wind light, so I arrived before first light and walked down to the rock platform and started casting. The full moon was still about a week away and the tide would be low at about 10.00 am.

Great sunrise

I was using my heavier rock fishing set up. I had rigged a 25lb fluorocarbon leader down to a 1/6th ounce, 1/0 hook jighead. For my first cast I loaded a GULP 5″ Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I lost this one to the bommies out front, so I trudged back to the tackle bag to re-rig with the same set up. I cast this around for a while and felt a few bream hits. Then I had a good bite and run from something bigger. The soft plastic came back hanging off the jighead, so I pulled off the front end and put the shorter version back on.

GULP Jerkshad Lime Tiger
Half a GULP Jerkshad works just fine

At about 6.30 am, a fish grabbed the lure, very close to the base of the rocks. I could soon see it was a jewfish, I let it run a couple of times then tightened my drag a little and pulled it up to my feet with the aid of a wave surge. It was just over 65 cm long so I took a couple of pictures and released it.

I looked for another but I could no entice another bite so I moved further round to another small bay and swapped down to the light rod and 12lb fluorocarbon leader. I caught a couple of bream on small minnow soft plastics and the a couple of solid 40cm plus dart.

I am an early riser so I prefer to fish the dawn, rather than the dusk. I like the fact that if the fishing is good in the morning you have the whole day ahead of you to carry on. I find casting out into the fading light at the end of the day much harder.

The next day I had dawn session in light swell at Skennars Head. I fished at Iron Peg (a rocky promontory that sticks out from the shore). I find this is a dawn or dusk spot. It is also very dangerous unless you are fishing in virtually no swell and around a low tide. So watch the swell and always were a life jacket. Remember if you arrive at any rock fishing spot, look at the swell and have to think about whether it is safe or not, then it probably isn’t. If in doubt, don’t.

My session was disappointing. Just on dawn the dolphins came through and had a good rummage around. I cast a big hard body and a metal slug through dawn with no results. I swapped down to a soft plastic and then caught these three:

This spot always looks promising so I will persist.

In summary the bream had been a good size but slightly less plentiful through August. The fishing had been best when the wind was from the south-east or south-west. When the northerly winds blew the dart reappeared. I still can’t pick what turns the jewfish on but there were a few around.

Mobs Bay and the South Ballina Wall – June 2020

June saw some big changes in the fishing on the Byron/Ballina coast. The most important one was the arrival of lots of small whitebait. The whales started to swim past and the tailor arrived in large numbers. The flathead were plentiful in the estuaries. The mullet schooled up along the beaches and around the headlands to feed on the thick schools of bait.  The jewfish also came in to feed on the mullet and tailor. Meanwhile the bream started to gather at the river mouths to spawn.

The only thing that was not conducive to fishing was the swell. There were really only a few days in the whole month when the swell dropped below 1.5 m and so fishing the rocks was tricky. We did not have much rain and as the water temperature cooled the water became very clear.

Match the hatch

I started the month still focusing on the flathead at the Richmond River mouth. I fished the flats and weed beds with small GULP soft plastics rigged on a 1/8th or 1/6th of an ounce jighead. The minnow shapes that most resembled the whitebait caught plenty of good flathead. If I kept to the two- and three-inch sizes, I also caught bream and small tailor.

There were a couple of flatter days and I took advantage of them to fish the rock platform at Flat Rock, south of Skennars Head. This is really only fishable around the low tide and it is very snaggy. I fished off the south side of the platform and caught some good bream and tarwhine on GULP 4″ Minnow soft plastics in various colours.

Flat Rock delivered

On some of the slightly calmer days I fished the end of the South Ballina rockwall. The dolphins and birds were a constant – chasing the bait schools around the end of the rock wall and out into the river mouth. As we came up to the new moon the more committed fishermen were out from well before dawn casting big hard bodied lures for jewfish. Judging by the scale piles, they caught a few.

I focused on casting slugs off the end of the wall which caught plenty of tailor and a few small trevally. When the tailor slowed down, I put on soft plastics and caught some good sized bream. A couple of times I hooked school jewfish at the base of the rocks but with the lighter Daiwa 1062 Crossfire rod running a 16lb leader (for the bream) I could not bring them round the rocks to a landing spot.

Each time I fished the early morning I saw the local osprey waiting for the mullet schools to swim up the beach into the shallows. I saw him catch a few but by now some of them were too fat for him to lift. I dragged a vibe lure through a thick school one morning and caught one. I decided to keep it as I have always wanted to try the roe (eggs). This is considered a delicacy in Japan and many parts of Europe. When I ate it the next day, the fresh fillets were very good, but I could not stomach the roe (the Japanese are welcome to it!).

Flat Rock & South Ballina – January 2020

I was away most of January but I managed a couple of fishing sessions at the end of the month. The first was at Flat Rock, just south of Skennars Head and just north of Ballina. This area is best fished through a falling or low tide. I fished with my lighter rock fishing rig – this is currently a Shimano Stella 4000 matched to a Daiwa Crossfire Surf 1062 rod.

It was a great sunrise but not a particularly good mornings fishing. I caught a couple of very small bream on my first two casts and later I caught a decent sized dart. I got everything on the Gulp 3′ minnow soft plastic in the orange and lime green “Lime Tiger” colour. The dolphins kept patrolling the edge of the rock platform, so I am sure the fish were there. There was a fairly stiff onshore breeze which made casting tough and I snagged plenty of my jigheads.

A few days later, I fished the run out morning high tide for about three hours from its peak, at Mobs Bay, South Ballina. As I waded in the shallows, I found a few fairly small (25 to 35 cm) flathead. But it was the bream that were out in force. I caught 5 keeper sized bream and a few smaller ones. I was using my light spinning rod and reel rigged with 12 lb braid and about a metre of 10 lb breaking strain fluorocarbon leader. I caught them on a Gulp 3″ minnow soft plastic in the watermelon pearl colour, rigged on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead. I was amazed at how happy they seemed to be, cruising around the mangrove roots and weed beds in less than a metre of water. I started to catch them as I slowed everything down. I would let the plastic sit on the bottom for as long as 30 seconds before starting the retrieve. They would often then strike as soon as I lifted the lure of the bottom.

I fished a few evening sessions in the Brunswick River without much success. The holidays delivered a fairly constant stream of paddlers and boats which made it hard to find an undisturbed stretch of water to fish. There were a few whiting in the shallows and plenty of tiny flathead, but I could not land dinner.

Brunswick River – Flathead, Bream – March 2018

It was back to work in February so there was little time for fishing. In March the hot days continued with no sign of autumn on the horizon. The usual wind pattern was a light south easterly or south westerly in the morning, turning around to a strong northerly in the afternoon. The water stayed pretty warm.

The Brunswick River was crystal clear. In the transparent warm water, I resorted to casting out almost unweighted 3 inch minnow soft plastics on very light 6lb leader, in order to entice the bream to bite. I caught a few keepers this way but I lost plenty of soft plastics to either bigger bream, cod or perhaps mangrove jacks. There were a few flathead around but most were about 30cm to 40 cm long, so I released them.

There was about a week of heavy rain later in the month. The water running off the surrounding swamps turned the Brunswick River brown for all but an hour around high tide. This increase in fresh water in the system changed things and I had a few sessions where all I caught were grunter bream. I caught them all on 3 inch soft plastics, using a 10lb fluorocarbon leader. They were mostly too small to keep, but one or two were close to 35 cm.

So there were plenty of fish in March and the river had plenty of bait but there were not many big enough for supper.

 

Skennars Head, Brunswick River – Flathead, Dart, Bream and Tailor – January 2018

The Brunswick River turned into a water park for January with kayaks, canoes, tinnies, paddle boards and anything else that floats, ploughing up and down from dawn until  dusk. I caught a few flathead and dart at Northhead and out on the beach but fishing was tough

On my explorations of the northern New South Wales coast I had driven past the rocks at Skennars Head a few times and seen people fishing them. This is not a spot for big seas. In fact, it is very dangerous when there is anything more than a metre of swell, so be very careful here. There is rocky outcrop in front of the headland and at the end there is an old iron pole driven into the rocks and a cement set rod holder. At low tide on a very calm day you can fish from this spot.

As the water cools I think this would be a good/ jewfish tailor spot. As I needed to fish at low tide my first few sessions were during the day time. I caught bream, dart and the odd butter bream on light leader and 1/8th ounce jighead mounted minnow and shrimp soft plastics. On one morning a school of mullet thick enough to walk on cruised by, finning on the surface.

Later in the month dawn started to coincide with low so I fished a couple of sunrise sessions. These were much more successful. I started by spinning with a fifty gram Halco Twisty in the gold colour. I use a Daiwa Demonblood 962H paired with a Shimano Stradic FJ 8000. It is getting old now but this rod and reel combo has caught a lot of big fish for me. It is a great set up when you need a chance of landing a big fish from the rocks. When casting a lure or slug I rig up with 30lb braid, and a short 25lb fluorocarbon leader.

I arrived pre-dawn and I could just see the birds working a long way out.  It is Landangler’s first law of fishing that feeding schools of fish will remain approximately 10 metres clear of you casting range for the duration of your fishing session.

It was a fantastic sunrise and I cast the slug all through it with no result. My shoulders get sore pretty quickly now and it was hot, so I swapped down to the lighter Daiwa Crossfire 862 rod which I have been using to cast plastics and light lures from the beach. I match this with a Shimano Stradic 4000 reel. This is rigged with 12lb braid and 16lb fluorocarbon leader and I started with a 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 jighead and a Gulp Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour.  After a few casts this one did the trick and I felt a good grab and short run, but no I did not hook up. I cast back in the same direction and almost as soon as the lure hit the water the rod bent over. It was fast and furious but not very big. It was a tailor – just about 40 cm long. I bled it and dropped it in a keeper rockpool. I cast out again in the same area but they had moved on.

As the sun rose, the schools of bait and birds remained mostly out of reach. I swapped down to a more natural GULP Peppered Prawn coloured, shrimp shape soft plastic.  At one point a spinning wheel of what looked like bonito came within casting distance and I landed my plastic close by, but they were not interested. The next takers where few good bream, caught close the base of the rocks on the GULP shrimp. As the day warmed up the bream disappeared but a few good dart took their place.

I cooked the tailor whole for lunch, a few hours later. My view is tailor are pretty good for 24 hrs from capture, as long as they are bled and cleaned in the saltwater, soon after landing, after that even my cat turns its nose up.

Overall a great session – no monsters, but it was a beautiful morning and there would be fish for lunch and dinner.

 

For anyone who fishes the rocks please note – this is a dangerous environment so wear a PFD, good boots with a decent grip and watch the surf all the time. Finally, remember the old adage, if in doubt…… don’t.

 

 

Iluka – Shark Bay – April 2017

April 2017

April offered the opportunity to get a few days off after Easter. Unfortunately, the heavens opened and we faced a wet week at Iluka, in northern New South Wales. It was quite a challenge to get there as the Pacific Highway was closed at high tide at Chinderah. We slowly drove on as ankle deep water gradually drained off the nation’s main highway. We turned off for Iluka but had to wait for an hour or so at Woombah, until the local SES agreed it was safe to go through. We arrived in the dark and it started raining again.

There were a few breaks in the heavy rain and the sun came out a few times but the water turned in to churned up brown soup. I fished on a couple of mornings at Shark Bay – it was the only place where the swell would not knock me off my perch. I tried my two favourite lures for tailor and both caught fish, all between 35 and 50 cm. The first is the HALCO Twisty metal slug in the brass colour – either 55g or 70g. The brass colour often seems to get a fish in this spot when plain silver slugs don’t.  The other great lure for tailor is the DUO Pressbait Saira – a long solid sinking hard body that looks very like the garfish that often hang about at Shark Bay.

I was sure the jewfish were present and when fishing the eastern end of the Shark Bay headland with a large jerkshad, I think I hooked one. Unfortunately I was fishing with the light rod and after a few minutes of fight the 16lb leader got stuck on something and the fish was gone.

I look forward to another Iluka trip soon.

Bribie – the old oyster jetty & Bongaree – October 2016

October

In the interests of catching up and giving you a feel for what I have been catching over the last few months, I am just going to post a few monthly summaries, so here goes.

In the rest of October 2016, I fished on four more mornings at Bribie – favouring the run out tide. I put in a total of about 14 hours, mostly on the flats in front of the Sandstone Point Hotel but also in front of the museum at Bongaree. It was hard work and I caught only two keeper size flathead at each session and nothing else. The wind was mostly light around dawn and then building to a stronger north or north-easterly by about lunch time.

I fished with my usual assortment of soft plastics including Gulp Jerkshad and Minnow patterns and sometimes I tried my beloved DUO Realis series hard bodied minnows. I caught everything on a 10lb fluorocarbon leader and used mostly 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jigheads.

Port Augusta – Spencer Gulf – Mulloway – 17 October 2016

Monday

Back in October I was on my way up to a mine in South Australia, and I had to stop at Port Augusta overnight. I had my Shimano telescopic rod and a few soft plastics lures and so I wandered through the Arid Lands Australian Botanic Gardens http://www.aalbg.sa.gov.au/ and down to the river, by the railway bridge, in the afternoon.

This spot is almost at the top of the Spencer Gulf. It was fairly windy but the water was clear and the terrain looks very fishy, with mangrove lines banks and a mixture of sand, mud and rubble on the bottom.

The Shimano telescopic rod is a very unsophisticated tool, but it is easy to pack and if you put on a decent reel (in this case my Shimano Stradic 4000) it functions well. The tide was running in and it was about 3.30 pm when I started fishing.

I was using 12lb fluorocarbon leader and 16lb braid for my main line. I put a GULP 3” Minnow soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead and cast at the bottom of the railway bridge pylons.  The first takers were a few juvenile salmon, that always seem to be present in the area.

I lost a couple of rigs to the rocks on the bottom. At about 4.00 pm I thought I was snagged again but the rod tip started moving. The fish took a bit of line in a long initial run and then paused sitting in the strong current. I made sure the drag was not to tight and let the fish run again. I kept winding and after a few minutes I had a healthy mulloway/ jewfish at my feet. It was about 60cm long and after a few pictures I released it.

I could not find anymore and at about 5.15 pm I gave up. However, the episode reinforced my belief in never travelling without a rod – however unsophisticated.

 

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.

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.

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.

Bribie – the old oyster jetty flats – 28 April, 2016

Thursday

I was back in Brisbane and it was time to get amongst the flathead. This has traditionally been a very productive time on the flats around Bribie Island. But this year I have fished far less in this area than usual. The weather has also been very warm and fairly dry, which may have affected the movement of the flathead.  In my last few sessions I had found fish, but not in the big groups that have been around in the last few years. I think this may change as the water cools down.

The moon was 67% full. The day would start with a light south-westerly wind, that would turn south-easterly later in the day. Low tide would be at 7.17 am and I was fishing with my light spinning rod and reel (Shimano Stella 2500 and NS Blackhole 6′ SGII 602L trout rod). This was loaded with the ALDI 8lb yellow braid and I had tied on a 12lb fluorocarbon leader.

I arrived, on the mainland side of the Pumicestone Passage at about 5.30 am and waded out on to the sandy/ muddy flats under the bridge. The horizon was beginning to glow and the water had a slight ripple on the surface from the cool breeze. The tide was running out quickly. I cast some big and small GULP soft plastics around the reefy area, just to the south of the bridge, without success.

As dawn approached I moved south and started fishing the area south of the old oyster jetty. I was now using the GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. It was 5.50 am. A fish grabbed the lure and scurried off. Then it felt like it was stuck. This is typical estuary cod behaviour. I loosened the drag and dropped the rod tip. After about 30 seconds the leader started moving and the fish swam out. I re-tightened the drag and soon had a 40 cm cod on the surface. I released it and moved on.

About thirty minutes later I was casting around the weed beds by the drain that comes off the Sandstone Point flats and I felt a solid bite. I dropped the rod tip, paused and hooked a 43cm flathead. It went in the bag for dinner. There did not appear to be much bait around.  I put on a bigger GULP soft plastic Jerkshad in the BBQ Chicken colour.  I connected and then dropped what I thought was a flathead, just after 7.00 am.

I continued to the south. The sun came up through the clouds and I moved along the edge of the weed beds. I felt another good bite but did not hook up and then things went quiet. The tide was slowing and the water was now fairly murky. I waded all the way down to the green channel marker without another bite.

At about 7.30am as the tide turned back in, I turned around and walked back towards the bridge. I was now fishing with a GULP 4” Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead.  My next catch was a blue swimmer/ sand crab that took a swipe at the soft plastic.

About half way back to the bridge I caught another, bigger flathead about 50cm, which I also kept. I kept moving and stuck with the same soft plastic. Frustratingly, I dropped two more flathead before hanging on to a third, just north of the bridge. At about 10.00 am I left the water with three keepers in the fishing bag.

It had felt like hard work but on reflection, there were plenty of fish around.

Perth -Fremantle – Australian Salmon – 20 April 2016

Wednesday/ Thursday

On a Wednesday morning in April, I found myself up early (as always) and in Perth. I was here for a week and although I would not get to Ningaloo Reef or the more glamorous WA fishing spots, I would have time for a few early morning sessions near Perth.

I checked the internet for land based fishing spots near Perth CBD and realised that North and South Mole (the big rockwalls at the entrance the Port of Freemantle) were my best option. Dawn is refreshingly late in Western Australia at this time of year and so I woke at about 5.30 am and drove out to Fremantle.

I had packed a light spin rod and reel – Berkley Dropshot 7”, 1-3 kg IM-6 Dropshot and my Shimano Sustain 4000 reel. The mainline was 8lb Aldi yellow braid and I started with a 12lb fluorocarbon leader. It was just before sunrise when I clambered over the rocks on the right side of North Mole Drive and I was amazed at how many cars and fisherman were already there. The water was flat, crystal clear and there was virtually no wind.

I rigged up a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and put on a GULP 4” minnow soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour. Just before sunrise I caught a small bream. I could now see fishermen everywhere with a variety of rigs including slugs/ baits and both big and small rods. I asked a guy next to me, what was going on and he explained big schools of Australian salmon had been coming through, so everybody had come down to catch one. All around me fishermen were casting metal slugs, hard bodies, poppers and baits.

I swapped down to a GULP 3” Minnow in the Peppered Prawn colour. Right on cue, on about my third cast I felt the bite, followed by the charge. A good sized Australian salmon soon came leaping out of the water, trying to spit the jighead out. It was well hooked but with a very light rod and 12lb leader, I was not in charge.

Things were made more complex by the fact that I was going to have to go with him. Which meant walking initially north, along the rock wall. There were lines to the right and left and interestingly no one seemed particularly interested in winding them in, to avoid a tangle. Somehow I only got tangled with one and we soon managed to undo the crossover. The fish was still leaping around but it was slowing. The small rod had no power but by gradually tightening the drag I managed to tire the fish.

No one had a net but the lack of swell meant I could get down safely to the base of the rocks, which I gradually did. I had been playing the fish for about 15 minutes when it started to come in much closer. I chose my spot and started to pull the fish in towards it. At the last minute it revived and put its head down in the weed around the rocks. That was all it needed to knock the lure out and it was gone.

Dejected but excited I then had to give up for the day and go and do some work. But the next morning I was back. This time with 20lb leader (the heaviest I had). I decided to fish the other side of the North Mole, at the entrance of the small harbour, facing the mouth of the river.

I arrived pre-dawn and cast around some big and small soft plastics and small metal slugs, without much success. I could see fisherman on the other side casting in to the main channel and catching a salmon, every now and then.

At about 7.00 am I was fishing with a GULP Jerkshad in the BBQ Chicken colour, on a ¼ ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I kept getting hits close to the base of the rocks. Eventually something connected with the plastic and took off. It felt quite powerful but was faster than a salmon. As it came in to view I could see it was a junior samson fish (I presume this is, or is from the Amberjack family). It pulled very hard and took a little while to subdue. I photographed and released it. A little while later, Tom, a keen local angler caught a good salmon on a hard bodied minnow, right next to me. Fortunately another angler had a landing net that enabled me to help him get it safely up the rocks.

I swapped to one of my favourite small hard bodied lures – the DUO Realis Vib 62. This is a bass lure made in Japan, but fortunately fish have an open mind when it comes to trying foreign dishes. It is a sinking vibe and casts a long way. I started casting it out, into the main channel. It did not take long to get some interest. I felt a few knocks and then watched a big salmon follow it all the way to the base of the rocks before whacking it.

Today I was better prepared. Although the rod could not really put much pressure on the fish, the stronger leader meant I could pull a bit harder. It jumped around, as salmon do, but a treble was quite firmly lodged in its cheek. I was also lucky to have Tom’s assistance with the net. We soon landed the fish.

By now the rock walls were packed, but it was time for me to go to work again. I packed up and gave the fish to the guy who provided the net. Nice to catch a fish in Western Australia – I hope I will be back.

Iluka – Shark Bay – Jewfish – 19 March 2016

Saturday would be my last morning in Iluka for a while. Despite praying for calmer weather the wind was forecast to pick up. I had a lie in as low tide would not be until 2.30 pm. I arrived at Shark Bay at about 10.30 am.

All week I had been expecting the stirred up seas to reveal a few Jewfish/ Mulloway. There was lots of bait around and previous trips, at this time of year have nearly always produced a few. The big seas had made it difficult to reach my favourite spots – perhaps the fish were there but I just could not get to them.

With this in mind I decided to start on the southern side of the Shark Bay rock platform. I would be casting straight in to the south-easterly wind so I needed to fish with something fairly heavy. There are lots of rocks on this side of the platform so I was not confident I would keep my lure.

I have a couple of Rapala 13g, 6cm Clackin Raps, lipless vibe lures which have been rattling around the bottom of the tackle bag for ages. I have never caught anything on these lures so I was not too worried about losing them. I rigged up the lighter of my rock fishing rods (the Daiwa Air Edge) and tied the lure on to my Aldi braid and 20lb fluorocarbon carbon leader. I cast the lure into the surf and waited for it to sink. The sea was very lively and I could only just feel the juddering vibrations as I yanked the lure along. After about three casts the lure pulled tight on something and I thought I had hit some kelp. I pulled the rod tip up and then line started peeling. I knew it was a Jewfish straight away. It made three long powerful steady runs and then started swimming back towards me. The game of cat and mouse continued for about 10 minutes. The rod was not powerful enough to force the issue, so I just had to be patient. After a couple more minutes the fish popped over on its side, a few meters from the shore. It looked as if it was beaten, so I tightened the drag a little and tried to pull it over the rocks with the next surge. Either the wave or sense of impending doom caused it to suddenly wake up and it put its head back down and tried to bury itself. The leader slipped down between the cunjevoi and I could not free it. I could see the fish and lure hanging on by just the single big hook on the front treble, a few metres in front of me, but could not get to it. Another big wave came over and when it receded the fish was gone and the lure was lodge firmly in the cunjevoi. They always getting bigger in your memory but I think it was about a 6kg fish. I realised I did not have my camera with me – perhaps that’s why I could not hold on to the fish.

Rapala

I had another, bigger Clackin Rap and I cast this around without success. As the tide lowered I moved to the front of the rock platform, also on the southern side. I swapped to a soft plastic on a ¼ ounce 2/0 jighead. I needed the weight to cast against the wind. I put on a GULP Jerkshad in the Peppered Prawn colour. I lost the first to the rocks and tied another one on. After a few casts this was slammed in the surf, close in. The fished pulled hard and when I finally subdued it, I was surprised to only see a small Trevally.

The challenge in this spot was losing gear to the rocks and I lost a few more rigs over the next hour or so. I swapped to a Gulp Jerkshad soft plastic in the Sweet and Sour Chicken colour and when I got this one in to a good foamy patch of water just beyond the rocks, I almost instantly hooked up. This time it was a 55cm tailor and I managed to pull it in.

I finished the session casting the long DUO Pressbait Saira hard body off the northern end of the rock platform. As it had done all week the lure found lots of long toms and a few more small tailor.

Just after low tide I stopped for the day. It had been another great week of fishing at Iluka.

Iluka – Shark Bay – Tailor – 18 March 2016

Friday.

It was Friday and although the wind and swell was forecast to drop off slightly in the morning – it would soon pick up again. I stuck with Shark Bay and arrived at about 5.45am. The skies were the clearest they had been all week and I was treated to a magnificent sunrise.

I fished in the bays on each side of the rocks while I waited for the tide to recede. I started with a small no name popper and attracted plenty of long tom interest but nothing else. At about 7.00 am I waded through the tide and out on to the north side of the rock platform.

At this stage of the run out tide I had to stick with a surface lure so that I could cast out over the kelp covered ledge. I chose the Fluoro Pink Roosta Popper again.  This hooked up to a good tailor straight away but it wriggled off. I kept casting and the long toms kept swiping. After about 30 casts, I found another smaller tailor but it also wriggled off in the shallows. I swapped to the Spanyid Maniac 45g wide metal spoon. I soon caught a 25cm Tailor and then a few casts later, a 50cm model.

I swapped lures again. This time to a 55g HALCO Twisty in the gold colour – this was the most successful lure of the morning. But the fish were not feeding furiously. They seemed to come and go. I caught 5 more fish over the next 90 minutes. But none of them were over 35cm long.

As low tide approached I decided to switch locations and walked back to the car and drove round to Woody Head. I wandered out to the area known as ‘the Barnacles’. The sun was finally out and the swell had dropped off a little.

I tied on a ¼ ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and cast out a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Curry Chicken colours. As is so often the case in this spot, a fish grabbed the lure on the first cast, as I started to retrieve it. I landed it with the aid of an incoming wave. It was a 35cm bream. As a warning, the next wave came up and soaked me so I decided it was time to retire. No monsters and interestingly, no jewfish but plenty of action.

I was soaked but the sun was out and the water was warm so I took a dip in one of the many rock pools (which were even warmer). I can just see the advert – Woody Head Day Spa with sea minerals and slimy kelp rub – what would they pay for one of those in Sydney?

Iluka – Shark Bay – Tailor / Bream – 16 March 2016

Wednesday

Wednesday in Iluka and more rain was forecast.  I woke to grey skies and the persistent south easterly wind and swell.

Shark Bay would be the only sensible place to fish. Low tide would be about 9.30 am. By standing on the north side of the rocky outcrop, I would be able to cast out with the wind behind me. I was fishing with the Rovex Bario (good) and the Penn Spinfisher (awful, but just about functional).

My current line of choice for the big rod is the 17lb breaking strain Aldi ‘Crane’ braid, in the yellow colour. I picked up about ten 250 metre reels when they were reduced to A$ 11.99 each to clear, earlier in the year. This stuff is great. Alibaba offers me 184 braided fishing line suppliers in China so it could be from anyone but my sources tell me that braid this good is probably made by either Sunline or by Innovative Textiles (now owned by Shimano). I am pretty certain the breaking strain is almost double the listed 17lbs. It’s tough and does not fray. The colour fades after a while but that happens with almost all the brands I have used. When it comes round again, grab some.

I started with a big (150 mm) red and white Classic Lures plastic popper. This stirred up the long toms, initially. But after about twenty minutes of casting around it connected with a good size tailor. Unfortunately the fish swam straight for a bommie and managed to unhook itself but leave the popper firmly lodged in the cunjevoi. To add insult to injury the heavens then opened and I got soaked by a brief downpour.

I swapped to a big new Spanyid Maniac 45g metal spoon. This looks like a great lure. It’s a nice wide target for the tailor to attack. The only downside is that it’s much wider profile makes it less aerodynamic and therefore hard to cast long distances. I could still get it 40 metres or so out, which would be enough. It proved irresistible and after a few retrieves during which it was bumped and nudged a few times, a fish grabbed it and the rod bent over. It was another tailor about 35 cm long. I continued casting and soon caught two more fish of about the same size.

By about 10.00 am the tailor seemed to have gone off the bite. I swapped to the light rod and tied on a GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic on a 1/6th ounce, 1/0 jighead. After a few casts this found a fish. This time it was a bream. It was about 30 cm long so I put it aside for dinner. The next cast produced another bream, about the same size, so I kept that as well.  Things quietened down again, so I cleaned my fish and went home to dry out.

By 4.00pm I was ready for more fishing. I drove out to Iluka Bluff. The swell was still pretty lively. Between waves I managed a few casts with the lighter rig and caught another good bream – about 38cm long – on a GULP Jerkshad in the Sweet & Sour Chicken colour.

There was no shortage of fish in the area but I just needed the swell to go away. At about 6.00pm I packed up for the day.