Finding some solid flathead in the Tuross River
Coming up with a game plan is a great way to get excited about the next days fishing. It is also a good excuse to have a couple of cold ones the night before while talking complete bollocks with mates. The idea is to try and work out where the fish will be and why. Warning! This can cause the ultimate state of fishing smugness (fugness?) if your plan comes off 🙂
As is often the case though, the game plan doesn’t quite come off and this is when you can be rewarded for being mobile and flexible. Take a recent day trip to Tuross on the south coast of NSW. At various times Tuross lake has fired on surface lures for Bream and Flathead only to completely shut down just a few days later. On these occasions, a last minute visit to the beach at sunset has saved me from the embarrassment and self-questioning about a fishless day. Not to mention justifying (in my mind at least) the cost of fuel and gear 🙂
This time, the game plan was clear. Drive to the beach in the morning, land a salmon or two on an in-coming tide and then launch the kayak in the middle reaches of the Tuross River for some lower probability fishing – flicking plastics at the snags for bream or estuary perch (EP).
With such arrogance I shouldn’t have been surprised to see a pancake flat beach … I threw a few lures into where the gutters might have been (it’s hard to tell when there are no waves) but couldn’t raise a bite. I’ve decided it’s never a good sign to see other fisherman packing up when you arrive!
On to Plan B
I launched the kayak and made my way upstream. This was my first time fishing the river so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was hopeful of finding some Bream or maybe an EP amongst the timber. Bream love a lure that suspends in the strike zone, so I tied on a prawn-like plastic on a light lead jig head. If nothing else, this style of fishing is great casting practice. Negotiating your way into and out of a snag in a kayak with no reverse gear to retrieve a fouled plastic gets pretty tiresome pretty quickly!
As I became more patient and let the lure sink deeper into the water column I started to pick up a small flathead or two on the pause. Contrary to popular belief flathead will swallow a lure on the drop, rather than on the lift. If you can maintain contact with your lure as it falls you can feel a light thud as a flattie sinks back to the sand with your offering. Or, as happened on this occasion, a substantial THUD as a solid specimen enthusiastically rose up off the bottom to grab the plastic!
After powering around from one side of the kayak to the other, it was clear this was a much better fish than the previous two undersized models. There was good weight attached to the end of the line and it put a nice bend in the rod. After some kayak gymnastics, I managed to get the environet under her. It wasn’t a particularly long fish, but beautifully conditioned and with a head like a shovel – albeit a small one. I popped the lure out and let it swim out of the net. She never left the water. For a moment I considered how good fresh flathead would be for dinner but at this size, and with a packet or two somewhere in the freezer, it seemed too good to kill.
As is so often the case, a good fish can really lift the spirits and raise your energy levels (or was it that caramel slice from the bakery?). With three flathead as ‘by-catch’ it was clear they wanted to play – so who was I to deny them that opportunity 🙂 I tied on a 65mm Squidgy fish with a fairly heavy 1/4 Oz jig head and started looking for likely holding spots, making sure to let the lure hit the bottom regularly. With the tide going out, the little holes next to the sand bars and weedy flats that would soon be left high and dry were worth a try. Starting in the shallower water (around 1-3 metres) nothing much happened. It was the move to a long narrow stretch of deep water when things started to turn on. It took a couple of drifts with the tide, but against the wind, to work out how to position the kayak. Once this was sorted I felt like I was covering the water effectively. On consecutive drifts along this stretch another 5 or 6 flathead came into the net. The last fish of the day was another good specimen, over half a metre long and suspiciously similar to the one above.
With the wind dropping, the sun setting and the mountain range towering up behind the bridge I spent most of the pedal back to the ramp playing with the camera. The trip back was also a chance to reflect on the game plan for the day. No salmon off the beach and no Bream or EPs in the timber. I suppose if I hadn’t explored the deeper water, this would have been quite a different post. It always pays to be flexible, keep moving and keep trying new things until you find what is going to work on the day. I have a habit of hitting ‘Mark’ on the GPS sounder when I hook up, so the pedal back was a good opportunity to see where the fish had been caught. And yes the technology confirmed they were all sitting within 10 metres or so of the bank and snags, in 3 or 4 metres of water.
Maybe next time I come back my game plan will be to catch half metre long flathead in the deeper drop offs along the bank. I might catch a bream 🙂