Estuary, Fishing stories, Fly & Tenkara, Offshore, Think like a fish- fishing techniques

Eden and Wonboyn Lake fishing report, August 12-14 2011

Day 1

My alarm clock started blaring far too early the morning. I flapped around in the dark to hit snooze and went back to sleep. After this scene repeated four or five times I checked the time to see how long I had before my taxi arrived. “Shit!, 4:55!”. I was awake, out of bed and out the door in less five minutes to meet my cab to the airport as is pulled into my quiet Collingwood street. My timing was perfect. The weekend, to be spent in paradise, fishing, cooking and drinking had officially begun.

Lee picked me up from the Merimbula airport at 8:45 and we headed to Eden to get settled in, say hello to my mum and her dogs and fill ourselves up with enough coffee to get us through the day (me anyway)…

After fueling up on coffee, a light breakfast and some attention from the dogs we headed off for a fish. After Lee and Rachel’s success at the Navy Wharf a few weeks ago (see Eden and Wonboyn Lake fishing report, July 2011), we decided to start there and get a bag of slimy mackerel for the smoker. Upon arriving, Lee put on a small slug (20 grams) and I decided I was going to go with the Tenkara outfit, with a small white and silver fly. Unlike a few weeks ago, the slimies were few and far between despite berlying up. Small fish shouldn’t be that hard to catch!!! In any case, in an hour or so fishing, Lee landed 4 large slimies and I caught my first ever Slimy Mackerel on fly, followed by my second, third, fourth and fifth. Despite it being slow I was pretty damned happy! However, the slowness of the action had us heading for greened pastures, Wonboyn Lake.

Eden navy wharf
tenkara mackerel

We arrived at the aquarium to glassed out conditions. It was almost too calm and beautiful. Sometimes when things are that quiet, the fish can also be that quiet (or maybe that’s just one of my silly fishing superstitions)… Thankfully this time that wasn’t the case, on his third cast Lee hooked up on a slug skipped across the surface. From then on, for the next few hours it was a fish (or at least swirls and strikes) every cast. Champagne [insert favorite fishing cliche] fishing and amazing fun on 2kg gear, 1-2kg salmon give a very good account of themselves on that sort of gear. Given the action, both of us soon started fighting to play with Lee’s new toy, a wonderful digital SLR bought for himself as a present after becoming a published fishing journalist last month. Soon afterwards I pulled out Lee’s fly rod to see if I could nail another first for the day. Now I have absolutely no fly fishing experience apart from my tenkara, which I am now used to and love using. But I’ve been feeling for a while its time to try the real thing. Things didn’t start smoothly. The first five minutes I spent tangled, confused and frustrated. I remember somebody telling me 12-2 was the trick, so I tried that and things started going better. I was actually casting the thing! Some of my casts had loops that actually looked like they should. I was still making the odd stuff up, I almost hooked my head after my fly caught tussock on the back cast and then catapulted into my head. It was a lot of fun, but salmon on fly was going to have to wait for another day. We had had our fill of the all you can catch salmon buffet and were ready to try something else, Mullet on bread!

the aquarium, wonboyn lake
fly fishing for salmon at the aquarium….so close!
A hungry salmon striking at a lure skipped quickly along the surface

Our quest for Mullet on bread didn’t go so well, we tried Jewfish beach, but despite berlying up three likely locations, there were no mullet to be found. So we decided to have a “silly fish” at the Wonboyn jetty. This turned out to be a great idea but not really for the fishing. At the wharf we met Bucky the owner of the caravan park in the township. We have been regulars for years (or had been, not anymore given my folks now live in Eden) and had a good natter about this an that. As Bucky walked off we met one of the local fisheries officers who was a really nice guy. So we did a load more nattering on about fishing and fisheries management, as well as Lee’s budding career as a fishing journalist ;). Only after all this did we actually have a fish, while we chatted to a grey nomad who was on his way around the country. Sometimes fishing isn’t really about the fishing. We landed a few little trevors and a nice Luderick and then it was time for home and a few beers.

There is something a long day on the water does to ones taste buds and I have to say that tooheys old has never tasted so good. For dinner it was Aussie salmon, as Lee refers to it “European style”. Fry some onion and garlic in olive oil till translucent, add a few cherry tomatoes (or normal tomatoes), some capers, olives, an anchovy, some lemon rind and a squeeze of lemon juice. Cook for five minutes and remove from pan. Add some more olive oil to pan, and fry the salmon until golden on one side, flip the salmon, give it 30 secs and then add the mixture you have made earlier. Cook for a few minutes more and you’re done. Serve with mashed potato and steamed greens. Have another beer, a scotch and then get to bed ready for the next days fishing.

Day 2

We had a leisurely start, getting up at 6:30, having coffee and breakfast, making lunch and then slowly packing the boat. We then headed to fuel up. Lee got the car, I got the boat. Lee got lucky in the game of fuel roulette, $80 for the car, $107 for the boat. We had to catch a lot of fish to “reclaim the costs” (not that you should look at fishing like that, but a bit of speculation is always a fun)… When we got on the water, there was almost no wind and the swell was small and friendly. So friendly that for the entire day, we were able to cruise around flat chat. There is something fun about burning around a 50 k’s an hour on the high seas 😉 Lets call it rev head fever.

First stop Mowarry and kingfish. The jigs went down and then came up again, down and up down and up, down and up fast, down and up slowly, down and up jerkily, down and up in a bouncy fashion, down and up with big sweeps of the rod, down and wound straight back up fast, down and wound straight back up slowly, down with pink jigs, down with blue igs, down with short jigs, down with long jigs, down with slow jigs, down and up down and up. NO FISH. But we kept jigging. There were schools of kingies on the sounder and we were going to get one. After two hours, Lee actually did catch a fish. It wasn’t big, 66cm but it was a fish, a winter kingfish. One nil to Lee. So we continued, down and up down and up. However, after another hour, we decided it was time to try something else.

Winter kingfish…only a little one

We headed just wide of Mowarry and bottom bounced for a few hours, for four Morwong and a bucket load of red rock cod and perch. Dolphins came to hang out around the boat for a while, as did a few albatross, the conditions were glassy and we had chocolate and chips! It made for a lovely afternoon.

A nice morwong from 60 metres
Red rock cod are DELICIOUS eating. Just watch out for those spines!

Back at the ramp we filleted the catch and headed home. On the menu was beer battered fish, crispy potatoes and a light garden salad. First par boil the potatoes and drain. Allow to cool a little, then use a fork to scratch up the surface. Melt some butter and drizzle over the top and place in a hot oven. Drink the last beer and open nice bottle of wine. Make the beer batter by pouring the real last beer (found sulking at the back of the fridge behind the cabbage) in a bowl and whisking in flour (self raising or plain, doesn’t matter) till it forms the consistency of a pancake batter. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Forget to make the aioli you were going to serve it with (2 egg yolks, 150 ml extra virgin olive oil, 150 ml sunflower oil, one tablespoon of Dijon mustard and 2-5 cloves of garlic crushed depending on how garlic-y you want it. Put egg yolks in a food processor or bowl with crushed garlic and Dijon mustard, whisk (or whizz) while slowly pouring in the oil, once all oil is incorporated add a tablespoon of luke warm water to stop it splitting). Make salad with things from the garden. Put some oil (sunflower, vegetable, rice bran any oil with a high smoke point) in a wok or pan and heat. Once hot enough, deep fry your battered fish fillets (in this case rock cod and perch fillets that have been skinned). Serve with more wine and a wedge of lemon. Finish the dinner with a crap movie and a couple of glasses of nice scotch.

Day 3

COFFEE COFFEE COFFEE! Fueled up on awakeness juice, we were on the water and out at Mowarry dropping over promising Kingfish schools by 8 in the morning. The schools were once again there and we were once again persistent. In winter persistence seems to be an important factor in success (alternatively we may be terrible fishermen, one or the other). Not many of the boats were catching much, but there seemed to be a little bit more action than yesterday. But still and hour of down then up went by with only the odd little touch (Kingies will often hit at the top of the jigging action, if you want to hook these fish its important to keep contact with your jig at that point, or you won’t even know they are touching your jig. If they are just touching your jig, change colour, shape or action and you can often turn cautious fish into suicidal lunatics). The seventh or eighth change of jig and we finally got onto a fish (short small and green).  The fight was a fun one, with a traffic jam causing a few little obstacles during the fight. First up we almost drifted into another boat so while fighting the fish, I had to execute a delicate collision avoidance maneuver. This avoidance maneuver caused Lee’s jig to get caught on my line, which Lee skillfully removed while I hung on and tried to stay calm. A few minutes later a nice 93cm Kingie was in the boat. Soon after a 94cm model followed. Lee had beaten me yesterday, but I was now in front on the winter kings!! Two- one to Hamish! Another hour passed with no more hook-ups so we headed to just off Saltwater to catch a few flatties. Let me tell you, they don’t call Lee flathead dundee for nothing. We soon had 10 or so in the boat of which seven were Lee’s! Given Lee was heading back to Canberra that arvo we started the trip back to the boat ramp at about one but couldn’t resist stopping off for another jig at Mowarry. Lee evened the ledger for the weekend landing and releasing a nice 89cm Kingie. Winter king tally two all for the trip 🙂

A much better winter kingfish from Mowarry point

We returned, filleted the fish, cleaned the boat and Lee headed off home with a nice esky full of fish, at least covering his $80 fuel outlay. I had a beer and cooked mum dinner, smo0ked fish pasta. First soak slimy mackerel in brine for between 30mins and 2 hours. Then pat dry with paper towel and leave to dry on the bench for a few hours making sure that Brandy aka “street dog” doesn’t get them off the bench like she did day two’s afternoon snack. Hot smoke till done. Allow to cool and refrigerate for up to five days (do this the day before). Flake smoked fish and remove bones. Fry garlic until translucent, add a splash of white wine, tomatoes and dried chilli (or any other flavours you want. For salty strong flavoured fish, broccoli, smoked fish, garlic, olive oil, anchovies and Parmesan is surprisingly good!). Fry for a few minutes take off heat and add smoked fish. Cook pasta, put sauce back on heat and add pasta. Serve with a glass of Pernod followed by some shitty TV, a nightcap of good aged rum and then bed. Wake up, drive home to Melbourne, reminiscing on what was a wonderful and relaxing weekend you’ve just had while planning the next trip. Fishing with good friends really is one of the great things in life. Next on the agenda, get Graz to take a handful of sea sickness tablets and get him onto the kings…

Over and out and thanks for reading!

Hamish and Lee who was the photographer, bathing in his glory as our resident fishing journalist.

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