Sitting in the office all week, I felt the itch. And it got worse and worse as the week went on. Sitting inside does something to me. Immersed in a world of computers and email, it makes me feel disconnected from the ‘real’ world – it makes me want to be outside! With an eagle eye on the wind forecast and the tide chart, I ummed and aaaahed my way through to Friday. To go fishing? or not to go? All my fishing buddies were either busy or less than convinced, so if it was going to happen it would be a solo effort.
The weather forecast looked pretty good on Saturday afternoon and Sunday – it was pretty tempting. My other reason for wanting to go was to tangle with a winter Mulloway. It’s been a long time since targeting these awesome predators and I was in the right frame of mind to put in some long hours casting some big lures. Which brings me to the moon phase. Mulloway are reported to bite better on certain phases of the moon, particularly those associated with bigger tides. Starlo reckons any tidal movement greater than 1.4 metres is worth a shot. Who am I to argue – the guy has spent a lot more time on the water than I have! With this in mind, Saturday was the day after a full moon and Sunday was two days after so there was going to be plenty of water moving around. Throw in the fact that some of these big tide changes (0.1m low) were to happen around dawn and dusk, the fact that Tuross lake is only 2.5 hours from home and … the temptation was too much. Off I went!
I arrived around 6 o’clock on Saturday evening and it was already dark. As predicted the wind had sprung up again after a calm window on the drive down. I wrestled a tent together in the howling wind (easier said than done), threw in a sleeping mat, pillow and sleeping bag and wandered off to the camp kitchen to cook up some dinner. Robson Green was on TV. He was trying (and failing) to out-fish one of the locals of Mozambique on his ‘Robson Green’s extreme fishing challenge’ series. I polished off some dinner and set about killing some time as the wind continued. I assembled rods, I tied leaders, and I read fishing magazines. Still the wind blew. I pushed the boat in, got the electrics all hooked up and anchored it up so that it would still be floating on a 0.1m low tide, ready for a quick get away. Still the wind blew. I came back ashore and watched a couple of youtube videos of people catching mulloway for inspiration. The wind stopped … Thank goodness the Willy weather phone app was back on the money after the previous weekends debacle! I jumped into the boat and pushed off, keen to get to one of the deep holes before high tide at 10:30pm.
This is when my lack of experience with fishing at night might have started to show. There are navigation lights (ie red and green lights) on the boat, and there is an anchor light, but there are no ‘headlights’ as such. I did have a powerful head torch and cranked it up to high power. All I got was a great view of the front of the boat. If I stood up I could see a little bit of the water beyond the bow – enough to spot a floating log perhaps. Fortunately there was the map on the sounder with all of the previous tracks, so in the end it was OK to drive along fairly slowly following the little pink lines on the screen. (The irony of staring at another computer screen is not lost on me!).
I got to the jewie hole, a section of the lake 8 to 10 metres deep, cut the big motor and sat there for a moment. It was really dark. The full moon was completely covered by thick clouds. I had a look at the sounder and there were small fish milling about in the hole. A good sign I supposed. I cast out into the darkness, took up the slack and waited for the lure to hit the bottom. Except that I couldn’t see the line. So I had no idea when the line was going slack each time the soft plastic hit the bottom. After each lift I took to holding the line with my other hand in the hope that I could feel when it landed. It worked sometimes and I figured it was taking about 3 to 4 seconds each time I lifted the lure up – but there were many times I couldn’t be sure.
As the tide continued to surge in, I continued to cast, hoping that any minute now there would be a subtle bite on the lure. There was not. There was nothing in fact, except for the experience of being on a boat by myself, in near perfect darkness. I took to listening to every random animal noise coming from different parts of the lake (cows; dairy farm upstream, sea birds; nesting on one of the islands, the occasional splash of a fish; weed beds etc.). As high tide rolled around at 10:30pm there was nothing to convince me to keep going. So I headed off (quite slowly) back to the camp ground in the darkness and curled up inside the sleeping bag.
The theory goes that an hour either side of a tide change is prime Mulloway feeding time. After hitting the hay at 11pm I wasn’t going to make the 5am low tide. My enthusiasm for boating and fishing in the dark had waned. So I slept in a little. I launched the boat at first light at 6:30 am and was quickly back into it. I cast for an hour or two in the jewie hole without so much as a bite. So I moved on to a spot where two channels cross over in an X shape; 2 channels go upstream and 2 come from downstream. This is another known spot for Mulloway and where I had hooked my last one.
I patrolled the edges of the channels and cast to the drop offs and into the deeper hole. It was a luxury to have a couple of different rods set up with different weights of jig heads. 1/6th Oz for the shallower water (2-3m), 1/4 Oz for the deeper stuff (3-5m) and even 3/8 when the wind or tide picked up. I like to fish light where I can, allowing a seductive flutter of the lure back to the bottom, but sometimes you’ve just got to get down in the water column. With an hour to go before high tide I re-doubled my efforts. This was the prime window (apparently) and the fish were here. There was a great big patch of flathead sitting in about four metres of water and it was a fish every couple of casts in the lead up to high tide.
Happy with some action after several hours of fruitless casting I popped a couple of these fish in the esky. I was pretty chuffed to have finally found some fish. But as the tide slackened and then stopped, the fish went completely off the bite. I could have stayed put and fished for the first hour of the run out in the same place, but I was ready for a move. I went for a drive and managed just one more flathead in the next hour. Hungry and in desperate need of caffeine, I raced over to the boat shed. Every lake should have a cafe / takeaway that you can idle up to in a boat. If nothing else, it saves on valuable fishing time!
A delicious bacon & egg roll and flat white later, I was thinking about my next move. It was the middle of the tide – supposedly a bad time to target Mulloway. So I headed for some snag-lined edges and threw very lightly weighted (1/16oz) soft plastic grubs at fallen trees. The bream were small, but they were hungry and very feisty!
As the hours passed, the moment I had been waiting for was looming. The last hour of the run-out tide was about to coincide with the last hour of sunlight. The deep hole from the previous night and earlier that morning was the chosen venue. Partly because it was deep (8-10m) but to be honest, mainly because it was a lot closer to the ramp and I didn’t fancy driving too far in the pitch black again. To finish the spectacle, the wind dropped right off and it was a stunning afternoon sunset.
I cast like a mad man. Well actually I was trying to stay relaxed and focused, but I wasn’t checking the latest opinion polls or Facebook, put it that way. While I worked the lure back to the boat I had one eye on the sounder. Occasionally a school of bait fish would pass through the beam and I would watch intently for any signs of predators. As the sun was just about to set and the tide about to completely bottom out, there was another bait school that passed under the boat. Underneath and just behind the school was a single big fish. I cast in front of the boat, I cast behind the boat, I cast everywhere at once. Unfortunately I caught nothing more. I can’t be sure if it was a Mulloway or not, but the evidence certainly points in that direction. I guess on this occasion it just wasn’t meant to be and I reluctantly motored back the ramp.
Hamish has written before about what it is like to start a new form of fishing. For him it was fly fishing. For me, it is Mulloway fishing. By some definitions, this trip was a ‘failure’. But I felt like I learned a LOT through chasing tides around and working different areas of the lake. Maybe that fish on the sounder was a Mulloway? Maybe it was so preoccupied chasing the bait school that nothing would have distracted it. Maybe on a different day it would have seen the lure out of one corner of its eye and raced over and grabbed it …
I guess that is one of the great things about any fishing trip. It throws up the possibility of producing that magical fish you’ve been chasing. This is part of the reason that fishing appeals to me so much. Whether it is the water temperature, or the big tides, or the lack of wind, something always tempts me to get out there and give it a go – speaking of which, there is a new moon this weekend, I wonder what the weather forecast is like?