Like many anglers, my first taste of fishing was with the ‘old man’, my dad. I still have very fond memories of catching slimy mackerel off the breakwall at Moruya Airport on the NSW south coast. The locals weren’t impressed, for some reason”Slimies” were only considered good for one thing … bait. Of course, not everyone agrees with that sentiment. Regardless, as a young boy, the type of fish wasn’t nearly as important as how many we caught … the final score was 11 – 8 in my favour, probably because dad was handicapped taking all the fish off the hook and then reapplying fresh bait. Like the locals, we let them all go. But unlike the locals, I had a ball in the process.
Some 20 years later, it was my turn to introduce dad to a new style of fishing. One that relies on covering a lot of water with soft plastics, along with hard bodied and metal lures. Wonboyn Lake on the far south coast of NSW was our destination. It was December two years ago. On that occasion, in what is still the hottest flathead bite I’ve ever seen, it was virtually a fish a cast. Dad had quickly mastered the ‘lift-and-drop’ technique and I think it’s fair to say, he was sold on this new style of fishing.
Last week was our return trip to Wonboyn and we were hoping the action would be similarly frantic.
Day 1: Fishing off the beach
The first fish of the trip wasn’t in fact a fish at all. Dad hooked this crab while spinning metal lures off the beach. It’s not as improbable as it first seems. While wading in the wash zone we could see dozens of crabs scuttling around. Bait fishing would have been a nightmare!
Without so much as a bite (from a fish) we continued onto the rocks at Baycliff (still no fish) and finally round to the mouth of Wonboyn Lake at Kelsey’s pool.
As the swell increased and the tide turned, a small school of hungry Tailor moved into the surf. On a metal lure fished quite deep, I managed to hook and land one. It would do very nicely for the table that night. It might have been coincidence but the bite of Tailor quickly ended about the same time as Sammy the seal appeared in the channel.
The tide was super low (0.2 metres), we had just the one fish to show for a solid morning of fishing and Sammy was mocking us from the channel … the long stretch of exposed mussels and oysters beckoned.
We collected about 20 large mussels and took them back to the cleaning table together with the Tailor. Unfortunately the larger the mussel, the more barnacles, weed and other life clung to them. All of which had to be cleaned off … We later steamed them open in white wine and added an Italian tomato sauce of garlic and onion. Served with pan-fried Tailor and rice it was delicious. The mussels in particular were tender without any hint of rubberiness – without doubt the best I’ve eaten! The fresh Tailor wasn’t bad either 🙂
Day 2: Estuary Fishing
The next day we concentrated on the estuary of Wonboyn Lake. The lake was idyllic and it was thoroughly enjoyable to wade along the edge of the water and cast soft plastics into the deeper water.
The action was quite slow and a couple of flathead were just rewards for three or four hours of fishing. As the day progressed the water warmed and more fish started to bite, particularly smaller fish. While I was off experimenting with a new toy (a suspending bibbed lure), Dad hooked a bream on a wriggler, just to prove he’s really getting the hang of this soft-plastic fishing.
We had time for one more spin off the beach at Greenglades before leaving on the final day. On the second cast this Tailor chased down a metal lure worked quite slowly through a gutter. It was the only fish we could find. It’s funny how sometimes the first couple of casts produces a fish and then there is nothing for the next hour or two. My guess is that when there isn’t any bait around to hold a higher number of predators, these might be resident and sometimes solitary fish. As always, I am interested in your ideas…
So after twenty of years of fishing, albeit with a 10 year gap somewhere in the middle, I’m still enjoying it immensely. There are the unforgettable trips away with mates both at home and abroad. There is the amazing wildlife you get to observe being outdoors for long periods of time; dolphins herding a school of salmon into the cliffs, a sea eagle plucking a tailor clean from the ocean, or a whale breaching at your feet. And of course there are those fish, the ‘trophy fish’, the new personal bests, the first catch of a new species or even just a new way of catching a regular favourite (insert Hamish and Lee’s new addiction to fly fishing here!). I only hope that by sharing a small part of what we have collectively learnt over the last few years with dad, I can repay the favour for starting it all!
Tight lines and Merry Xmas