Presented from Issue 102, February 2013
One of the most appealing things about fishing is the endless opportunity to lean or discover something new. This is what keeps me keen. Trying something new in fishing and have it pay off is like adding another tool to your fishing arsenal. It could be a new technique or type of lure, fly or bait that sparks an idea to try something new in your own backyard. Knowledge and ideas are gained through your own experiences on the water and through your interaction with other anglers. Some may have had 40 years of experience on the water while others could be just discovering the sport for the first time.
Either way, you can learn something from anyone, as long as you’re willing to listen and share your own humble thoughts and experiences.
Reading fishing articles and watching fishing movies can be a great source of inspiration and knowledge to get out there and try something new for yourself. For me, articles and movies have inspired me to travel to many parts of the world. This euphoria to experience new destinations and species has given me the fishing travel bug, to the point where I find it very difficult to travel without a rod packed into the corner of my suitcase. I have experienced some wonderful fishing locations around the world and more importantly, I have had the opportunity to meet other anglers who enjoy fishing as much as I do. On almost every trip there is something I can bring back home to enhance my own fishing in Tasmania, be it merely the realization that we live in a very special part of the world, with some fantastic fishing on my own doorstep.
Kakadu Billabong Barra
My time in the Northern Territory chasing Barra in the Billabongs of kakadu with my good friend Simon- Peter Hedditch and his wife Cassie, was an experience I will never forget. We spent a week camped on a billabong in tents with large salt water crocodiles only metres away. We sight fished to pods of Barra standing on their heads with their yellow tails pointing up towards the surface. It was Barra sight fishing at its best and the fly that was the most successful for me, was the Gold Bomber Clouser. Back in Tasmania, our own Black Bream readily snapped up this fly, in a slightly smaller version. This fly gave me my first Tassie bream on fly. My introduction to glass rattles in a fly was also taken from my time chasing Barra.
Above, a Gold Bomber for barra, but the smaller versions work on black bream.
Cape York Tides
What a wonderful place Cape York is, I have done two memorable trips to this fantastic part of Australia. Both of which, involved towing a 6 metre boat from Tasmania to the Cape and spending up to 20 days on the water along the western side of Cape York Peninsular. On trips like these you meet the locals and cross paths with the guides from the live aboard mother ships that fish these waters.
Tidal movements were a big part of planning your day on the water and with some helpful local knowledge and our own experiences we managed to have a very successful trip. The importance of knowing what the tide was doing each day and what level it would be was vital to planning a successful day in this area. Adopting the use of hourly tidal charts to keep track of the changing levels each day was from some very good advice we received from one of the locals we made contact with prior to our trip. This was something I could use back in Tasmania to pick the best times to be on the water in our estuaries. For instance, large tides would expose more of the flats and gutters that had previously been out of reach to foraging fish like Golden Trevally and Permit. Back home fish such as Black Bream also take advantage of the larger tides to feed over new ground.
With bigger tides, comes an increase in tidal flow, which dislodges crabs and shellfish, making them easy pickings for fish moving over the flats. The faster tidal flow also helps fish like Trevally and Bream, dig out crustaceans and worms by taking away the sand and silt as they dig them out on the incoming and outgoing tides. Faster tidal flows also create prime ambush points, for many tropical fish and our own bream, flathead and Australian Salmon. The sandbar along the red channel markers in Georges bay, at St Helens, is a prime example of this. The down side of an increase in tidal flow in some systems is the effect it has on the water clarity as it stirs up the sand and mud. In many places this can put an end to any practical sight fishing opportunities, limiting it to the bottom and top of the tide. In this instance the lower tides with less tidal flow are prime times to search the flats that are affected in this way, simply because you have the ability to see into the water to locate fish.
The effectiveness of fishing the outgoing tides and then the low tide pools was another lesson that was driven home by fishing these northern estuaries. Like Barra in the north, bream can remain in the deeper holes in the upper estuaries at low tide, particularly when they are making their way up to spawn in spring and summer. At dead low tide things can be a bit slow at times, but if you’re their when the tide starts to push back in, it will often change the attitude of resting and shutdown fish, back into a feeding mode.
| A giant trevally taken using
my trick of adding a small ball
Soft Plastic and Jig Heads
Soft plastics and jig heads have been around for a long time now. I can remember using them to catch flathead in the Rubicon estuary when I was a kid, 25 years ago. But the effectiveness of that super fast jigging action wasn’t fully understood until I spent some time fishing alongside Ricky Walker, who was an avid lure and soft plastic man during one of our Cape York trips. Ricky had bags and bags of plastics for the trip, so I had the opportunity to see just how effective theses lures were in the tropics on so many different species. It didn’t take me long to pick up on the lesson Ricky was unknowingly teaching me at the time, as I watched that super fast jigging action get eaten time after time by so many different species. This really reinforced the defectiveness of that jigging action that I had known about since I was a teenager fly fishing for trout with a Dog Nobbler that I tied up out of an English fly fishing magazine. The Dog Nobbler is simply a Woolly Bugger with a lead split shot head to give it a jigging action. Saltwater flies like the Clouser and Pink Thing do incorporated small dumbbell eyes in the tie to give a slight undulating jigging action, but lacked that super fast action of a heavy soft plastic jig head. Out of necessity I started to tie flies on heavier jig hooks and adding small ball sinkers to the perfection loop tied to un-weighted flies, like a Lefty’s Deceiver. This not only gave it a super fast jigging action but when they were tied onto heavy leader material it would turned the fly upside down, just like a jig hook, so that it could be bounced along the bottom without the hook point snagging up on the structure below.
I now use flies with this ultra fast jigging action on many of Tasmania’s saltwater species and with our trout.
Fly Line to Leader Connection
During my time in Weipa I had the opportunity to meet Anthony Gomes, who was the editor of the Cape Yorker magazine at the time and a very keen fly fisher, who helped us out with some local knowledge of the area. Anthony also convinced me to ditch my bulky loop to loop connection when using a clear tip fly line on the flats, by using a nail knot, clinched behind a single over hand knot in the fly line. This connection achieved and a more transparent transition between the fly line and the leader that would still run through the rod eyes without catching. From that piece of advice, I replaced the nail knot to a simple Uni Knot clenched behind the single over hand knot in the fly line. This transition gave me the ability to quickly tie on a new leader when I had a broken or damaged fly line out on the water without the need for a special nail knot tool to make the connection. I still use this same knot for my light tackle salt water lines today but have changed to the super glue connection for my trout lines. But if any one of those fails out on the water and I don’t have access to a needle and some Zap- A-Gap glue at the time, I can still use the Uni Knot with confidence to quickly tie on another leader to keep me and my fishing companions fishing.
New Zealand, Long leaders, bombs and floating nymphs
The opportunity to adopt or try a new technique or a fly is often only possible when you find yourself struggling to catch a fish you can see. Pulling it all together on the day is often accomplished by drawing on your own experiences and pieces of conversations and advises you have retained over the years. This may have come from someone in the local tackle store or people you have met through fishing. Whenever you gain any type of fishing knowledge, hold onto it, because you might just have to use it one day.
During a recent NZ trip to the South Island with Simon-Peter Hedditch, we did the customary stop at Stu’s Fly Shop in Athol for some last minute flies and to get some local knowledge on the area. Fortunately for us, Stu was working in the shop that day and we had a good laugh and a chat about all things fishing, we even started to talk about catching Giant Tarpon at one stage of our conversation. Anyway, the question was finally asked, “What flies are catching Stu”. Stu grinned and moved towards the endless selection of flies and started to point out the flies he would use or wanted to sell us. But in amongst all of that sales talk, there was some genuine advice given from angler to angler on flies and how to fish some of them. All of which were gladly taken on board for the 10 days we had before us.
One of the standout flies that stuck in my mind was Stu’s size 16 floating nymph which was tied with a foam wing case. Simon and I purchased at least half a dozen of these plus countless others, to rack up an impressive bill at the end of our visit to Stu’s Fly Shop. But local knowledge is priceless in my eyes, especially on a short trip like this and if that means supporting the local fly shop, then I’m all for that.
|Floating a nymph up from a weighted fly resulted in this nice NZ brownie|
Stu suggested tying this small floater off the bend of a heavy tungsten nymph so that it would get the size 16 fly down to fish holding on the bottom and still drift naturally past them at eye level. We started off by using both wool and dry flies as indicators above the nymphs and managed to catch a few fish using this system. On our next nymphing day I decided not to use any form of indicator after noticing some fish would stop feeding and shutdown after only a few drifts.
The change to the no indicator approach confirmed my initial thoughts that they were being spooked from the indicator. With no indicator, it was possible to put many more casts over fish to get the right line of drift and far more hook ups, before they shutdown. Some casts were fished using Czech nymph (or European) style while others were fished with longer casts while watching the reaction of the fish or fly line to detect a take.
Casting long 20 foot leaders without a indicator became much easier as well. Using these techniques, Stu’s little floater was working a treat. There was nothing new about fishing nymphs without an indicator at the time, it was just the fact that I had never seen fish spook off an indicator like this before and I was in that situation where I had to draw on my past experiences to adapt to the problem at hand. The fact that most of these fish ranged from 4 to 8 pounds probably had something to do with it as well. I had a brief introduction to Czech nymphing in Iceland after spending some time with a couple of anglers from Norway, but never really took it up in Tasmania, even though it was being used here with a great deal of success by competition anglers. For me, the real learning from this trip was the use of floating nymphs and how indicators and even large dry flies can spook big wary fish in clear rivers. These days, I am starting to leave the indicators off on our rivers with very pleasing results. I am still no nymphing expert but that doesn’t happen overnight either. I enjoy learning new techniques because it keeps me keen and you never know when you can adopt technique such as these in the saltwater fly fishing scene.
You can learn a lot from a well researched and respected guide. When I hire a fishing guide I like to make sure I’m going to learn something from the experience by keeping an open mind and being willing to adapt to their way of fishing. I think of it like hiring your own fishing tutor for a day. You can tap into many years of experience when using a guide, particularly when you have limited time to work a place or fish out for yourself. These guides are on the water almost every day and if they are salt water guides they are going to know where the fish are most likely going to be at certain stages of the tides and also the best times of the year to fish an area of interest. I suspect they also pick up a few tips from their clients at times, which can only make them better guides and anglers along the way.
Last year I had the opportunity to break away from my bus tour of Europe and spend a day on a small stream in Florence with a guide from the area. I finally got to use my Sage 000 after carrying with me all over the UK and Europe. I caught a few small trout on CDC emerges and on nymphs using the French nymphing technique. This nymphing technique is very similar to Czech nymphing but also incorporates a 20cm piece of Hi Vis line in the leader to help detect any pause in the line. My guide also shared the identity of the powder he uses to refloat his flies tied with CDC feathers. The powder he used on his CDC flies was actually archery powder.
When I was back home, I walked into the Essential Fly Fisher in Launceston and asked what product they sells to float CDC and was promptly handed me a bottle of Frogs Fanny. Magic stuff that Frogs Fanny, just like the archery powder in Italy it instantly refloats CDC flies as well as many other dry flies. I always carry a bottle with me now, along with my regular “Gink” to float flies and the leader when I need to. When the Caenid mayflies are hatching the bottle of Frogs Fanny is now always at hand to refloat my size 16 F-Fly, after each fish. So a single day with a guide in Italy has helped me out on my home waters simply by fishing with someone new. This same advice was available here in Tasmania; it just took me a trip to Italy before I was exposed to it. You know, you can read about these things, but there is nothing quite like experience them first hand to shift the way you view the world of fishing.