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.

 

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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.