To set the scene, this was my first ever attempt to fly fish in a small creek. There were lots of overhanging branches, the water was mud brown, i had a dry fly on, when I really should have had a nymph and in the 15 minutes I had been trying to put the fly in the right areas, I had maybe achieved that once… So, I walk up to another pool, there is a nice big rock at the head of the pool, it looks perfect. I try to cast, but get a bit uncoordinated on the back cast and the fly hits the water. On the forward cast there is a lot of weight “Shit, another F*****G tree” I think. I turn around to survey the damage and see a little trout flying high in the air, still attached to my fly! A fish! While the fish got off once landing (so technically I have “landed” a trout on fly), I managed to hook my first ever trout on fly in the most arsey of circumstances. A good way to start our short post on the series of fishing flukes that all of us have had during our fishing careers.. While careful presentations, fishing where the fish are and careful planning make for a good fisherman they are by no means necessary to catch fish as we will hopefully demonstrate.
Next up one of Lee’s exploits. Luderick are predominately vegetarian and while you will catch them on prawns, nippers and occasionally little soft plastics, they are not widely know as species that can be targeted on metal slugs. That doesn’t mean you cant catch them on slugs though as Lee has demonstrated. One evening at Wonboyn, Lee is a fit of excitement cast his slug into a big school of fish at the mouth of the estuary and began winding. The fish swam the other way, they were Luderick and they weren’t interested. Not deterred Lee tried again. This time he cast into the school and just let the slug sit there. One of the more adventurous fish in the school decided to check out what the hell is silver shiny thing sitting on the ocean bottom was. Thus Lee proved, that Luderick can be targeted using metal slugs. While it may not be a consistent method of catching them, it can work.
Next up, Graham and another Wonboyn story. The three of us were casting lures for tailor in the back of the estuary. Casting as far as we could and then proceeding to rip them back in as fast as we could on top of the water. The fishing was pretty good with lots of nice little Tailor obliging to hit the lures and smash the water just behind them, making for exciting fishing. What wasn’t expected a nice little flathead joining in the action.
Onto a slightly less fun fluke. As all of us who have grown up fishing on the rocks know, safety safety safety is name of the game and is drummed into you from a very early age. However accidents sometimes do happen. This fluke involves one… We had got up at 5 and were on the rocks by 530 to chase bonito that were hanging around in numbers off a rock ledge near Eden. Now I am not very good in the morning and on this morning I think I skipped my mandatory third coffee and was a little tired. It was raining the rocks were slippery and I was landing my third or fourth fish of the morning at about 545… I leaned over to grab the line (we were using heavy leaders and 2-3kg line, sportfishing, with a way of landing the fish easily 2-3 meters up on the rock ledge)… I pulled the fish half way up and slip. What happened next was pretty quick. Somehow I managed to place my rod on the ledge (first fluke) I had just departed and bang I hit the water (second fluke). What made this a fluke was that I had actually fallen 2-3 meters into water and not onto ROCK. Directly where I fell was a sharp rock, that was out of the water for 80% of the time. I had timed my backslap to coincide perfectly with one of the biggest waves of the morning… So despite everyone thinking I had broken my back and we were off to the hospital, I came out of the whole thing relatively unscaved, a couple of scratches on my back and arms but otherwise fine, given the fall that was a massive fluke… We continued to fish the entire morning (me in my undies, which are my fishing attire of choice) catching hundreds of bonnies (like actually hundreds) but the fall was a timely reminder to be CAREFUL. You wont always be as lucky as I was!
Here’s another classic ‘first fish fluke’, from Lee. Like many fishermen on the south coast, the whiting on poppers craze hit us all with gusto. On around the second or third serious attempt, all of which had been fruitless, Lee had almost given up and was walking back to the bank, body language suggesting that he thought this whiting on poppers thing wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Leaving the popper in the water about 30 metres behind him, he was giving the lure the odd pop as he was walking back in. Suddenly a nice little whiting latched on and was promptly landed after a spirited fight. After hours of trying to actually catch one, Lee felt like he’d cheated and fished on for another few hours. Alas, no more fish were caught that day, but at least he’d cracked the whiting on popper duck.
Perhaps one of our favourite fishing flukes was one stormy autumn day at Wonboyn. Graham, Hamish and I (Lee) were walking from the aquarium, past Kelsey’s pool to Baycliff. While walking past the frothy river mouth, our attention was drawn to a mass of black shapes in the water. ‘Salmon!’ we all yelled, running down the slippery sandstone cliff face in anticipation of getting the first fish. I think Hamish was down there first (his sense of self-preservation is slightly less refined than that of mine and Grazza’s, but maybe that’s the Latvian in him, which gives me a good idea for another post…) Anyway, he was soon joined by us and we were casting little 20 and 40 gram slugs far out into the choppy, fast flowing, discoloured water. The rain and wind were really picking up now, and the situation had ‘fish’ written all over it. Particularly salmon, which love conditions humans tend to hate!
However, after the first few minutes of furious retrieves, we had only so much as attracted a turn from a fish and no follows. Suddenly it became apparent why, as a beautiful big bully mullet launched 3 foot out of the water about 15 metres in front of us. We realised the mullet were in spawning mode; a rare and exciting event. Slowing down our retrieves, we soon had the fish nudging and following the lures, and suddenly BANG we were all on! For the next 30 minutes madness ensued, with each of us landing at least 5 seriously big sea mullet and losing many more. What made this session so amazing was the size of the fish. The smallest would have been 2.5kg, with the biggest nudging 4kg. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to catch a mullet this size, you’ll know that they are like salmon on steroids. Blistering runs and a never say die attitude, these are a serious sportfish. On 3kg braid and 7 foot rods with 2500 sized reels, and on metal slugs, it was a seriously amazing session. It was definitely one of the most memorable I’ve ever experienced. I guess what made it so ‘flukey’ was the fact that mullet will only spawn for a day or two each year, when conditions are absolutely perfect. We were just lucky enough to be there when it was happening, and this usually placid, algae eating fish was doing everything it could to protect its eggs and spawn – in this case smashing our lures that were ‘feeding’ on their progeny…great stuff.
Anyway, on to another story. I (Lee) was fishing with my lovely fiance on a balmy spring evening on Wallaga Lake. We were fishing from the bank, which can be difficult at times on Wallaga Lake due to the proliferation of ribbon weed that lines the lake’s edge. While Rache has landed some cracker fish, her casting skills are still a little unrefined, and on this occasion she was battling the light westerly to get the lure out past the weeds. Standing a few metres away from me, she did a particularly spectacular cast, sending the lure whizzing inches past my head and landing in a weedy clump about 2 metres from shore and in around 15 centimetres of water. ‘Whoa careful Rache!’ I exclaimed, slightly irate at almost losing an eye. ‘It was a great cast!’ she replied, and promptly wound in a plump and fiesty flathead! This reinforced an important lesson for me – don’t ignore the shallow stuff! It also threw another lesson out the window: ‘always keep your eye on the ball’. When Rache is casting next to me, I’ve taken to wearing sunnies, a hat, and looking the other way while clenching my teeth and grimacing while she punches casts into the shallow stuff, deep stuff, leafy stuff, woody stuff, and so on.
It’s Dan here – casting fluke extraordinaire. Chronically unorganised, I honed this technique in the early years when a gust of wind would send my assorted bits and pieces into the water. As I was too young to swim my folks set a rule that my bro and I weren’t allowed in the drink, no matter what. Coming home with wet shorts was instant disqualification from the next days’ fishing – no more incentive needed – I was staying dry! So it was left to my casting skills to retrieve hats, plastic bags buckets etc.
The skills developed here came to fruition on the Daly River last year when an expensive rod went overboard. All hope was lost but a quick flick with a soft plastic (whose hooks are set deliberately to be snag resistant) somehow snared the runner of the rod in deep, rushing water. How? I will never know but it was awesome! The story about that one is here: Tales from the runoff
Another fluke – my first ever barra measured 104cm. That’s gotta hurt the locals who have been fruitlessly banging on the door of the metery club!
Anyway, there are a few more…two redfin on one popper comes to mind, two red rock cod on one hook, landing a big kingfish while untangling then avoiding an imminent collision with another boat, Graz and I surviving after hitting a submerged snag going full speed in the tinny….all good stories, but hey, that’s part of what fishing’s all about. As anglers, we’re constantly experiencing things that interest and amaze us, and despite the fact they’re considered ‘flukes’, they wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t out there with a line in the water. Can’t wait to see what the next fluke is! Marlin on a bream stick? That’s dreaming!
Update: Here’s a great fluke sent in from some mates in Kununurra. Craig and Malcolm got onto a hot bite on saturday when both Craig’s rods went off. The lads were fishing in some tight timber and the first fish managed to string itself up in a tree. Craig put the rod down to tackle fish number two which did exactly the same thing! So now there were two fish in the same tree and it was just a matter of driving over to pick them up.
A bigger fluke, in my mind anyway, was that Craig is even around to tell the story after mentioning that gathering livebait in this spot involves a quick swim. Reptiles rule in the lower Ord and it rivals even the Mary River for croc density. Still that’s fishing and you’ve gotta respect that level of devotion!