Wallaga weekend

It was a weekend of contrasts, in terms of the fishing, but I guess that’s often the case. It’s an important lesson too: out of every five sessions, you might have one good one. What many people don’t seem to realise is that you can quickly churn through the dud ones. This is essentially what I did this weekend. Here I need a disclaimer: it’s not really a ‘dud’ session just because you don’t catch fish. It has nothing to do with the enjoyment of being by the water and spending time with friends and loved ones! Every fishing session is a good one!

On Friday night, we decided to go prawning after dinner. Essentially this was the first ‘dud’ session, with only 20 or 30 prawns caught in the 45 minutes or so we spent looking around. The water was a nice temperature, there was little wind, we found some tidal flow, but the moon was on its first quarter and it just didn’t seem fishy (or ‘prawny’ as the case was). Despite the lack of prawns, this set us up with some good bait for the next day.

On Saturday, I awoke to a chill in the air and the sound of wind howling through the leaves outside the bedroom window. I thought about getting up for the sunrise, but then thought better of the consequences of leaving my better half in bed for an hour or two, before returning, hopefully smelling of fish, to crawl back into bed. I thought that it would be far better to sleep in, cook some eggs and brew some coffee, do the family/girlfriend-friendly thing and then consider my fishing options.

After breakfast Rachel could tell I was getting the itch pretty badly, so she asked the inevitable: ‘Where do you want to go fishing? My eyes lit up…’The beach!’ I replied, hoping that this might provide an acceptable compromise between fishing and other, less interesting, forms of recreation.

Fifteen minutes later we were on the headland, looking down over Camel Rock. I saw a likely looking, but shallow channel, running for a short way along the beach before heading perpendicular to the beach along the run of the rocks. I thought that it was worth a go, so we headed down there to see if we could catch some lunch. On closer inspection my heart sank a little, as I realised the current was incredibly fast and the water was shallower than it appeared from the headland. After a few casts with the 40 gram raider and a few casts with a fresh prawn, with no nibbles or follows, I said to Rache that we’d better move on or there would be no fish for lunch. Willingness to move around is the key. It seems as though many people are quite happy to sit in one spot, even though it is clear the fish aren’t there. Credit to them I guess. If you sit there for long enough, they’ll turn up eventually. I’m a bit guilty of rushing at times. One or two casts and then I’m off. Close mate Grazza Fifield has put me to shame many times with his methodical peppering of a likely looking spot. Mish has also put me to shame with his yells that ‘the fish are down here!’ from 100 m down the bank. Maybe I need to adopt the Grazza or Mish style…slow or fast; just not somewhere in between. This warrants some more thought…

Next we went to Le Ander, which is the name of some nice gardens about half-way down Hayward’s Beach, and stood on the dunes to have a look. There was a decent little gutter, with telltale greener water, waves breaking further out and foam washing back out the rip that had formed. After explaining all this to Rache and asking her if she thought it was worth a go, she replied ‘nah’ and we decided to check out the Bermagui breakwall. At least this would be out of the howling sou-wester.

We arrived there to see that it was sheltered and there was very little swell. After about 10 casts with the slug off the end, and a few tiny nibbles on a live prawn, it was clear the fish weren’t there either. After this we went and sat on the jetty at the Beauty Point boat ramp and dangled some prawns in the water. Finally, we started catching fish. Small tailor at first, then a decent flattie. After a while the small bream started turning up, and I started paying slightly more attention to my bait presentation. Dropping down one of the last live prawns, literally under my feet, I thought that going a bit deeper might produce the goods. After a second or two I had a good nibble, watched the line moving off sideways and lightly struck to set the hook. At first I thought it was another small bream, but after Rache and I saw it come up towards the surface and flash us with its flank, we both realised it was a proper, serious bream. By the time I had realised and started to back my drag off, the bream had found its way under the pylon and next thing I new, the line was slack and I had lost everything. Disappointed, but pleased with the excitement and fun of what I consider ‘silly fishing’, we decided to go back to the house to have some lunch.

Despite a little action off the jetty, I was feeling pretty beaten. It can be annoying not finding fish, especially when you read the reports that say ‘salmon, whiting and bream everywhere on the beaches’. I guess on Saturday the reason there weren’t fish there was just the lack of structure. I think it was low tide when we were there, so it just wasn’t the right time of day. The gutter at Le Ander would have produced fish, but I wasn’t going to wait around for six hours for them to arrive.

Anyway, after lunch I suggested we could put the boat in and have a bit of a cruise. Mum and Rache both took the bait, so I had the challenge of finding some fish once again. After motoring slowly to the first spot, we started throwing some plastics around. No fish here either! I was starting to get a bit frustrated, but it was perfect conditions – mild, overcast and still – so was pretty happy being out on the water.

The next spot finally produced the goods. We were fishing closer to the mouth of the estuary, with a little tidal flow, in about 2 metres of water. Close by there were some large, shallow weedbeds, in which we could see little mullet and garfish skipping around periodically. After a few casts, mum excalimed that she was on and 30 seconds or so later, pulled in a nice dusky flathead. Usually where there is one there are a few. We had a decent drift away from the weedbeds into deeper water and caught three or four fish per 40 metre drift, which we repeated down the bank about 4 times. All up, we ended up with 9 legal-sized fish and about 4 undersized fish in less than 90 minutes. I also caught a nice little snapper, which was a welcome surprise. At one stage, I saw a decent sized garfish skipping along the water, so I had a cast in the general direction with the plastic and hooked up to a nice tailor almost immediately. This is a favourite little trick of mine, especially when you can tell the people you are fishing with that you’re about to catch a tailor and then proceed to do just that. Just one of the many small cues that you can use to catch more fish.

All in all, it was pretty good fishing. It was also fun to be out catching a few with my mum and my girlfriend. It’s nice to be able to take a few novices out and despite a few poor earlier sessions, put them on the right spot and make it seem easy.

I also think I’ve found the perfect jewfish spot…

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