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.

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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.