On the beach

Andrew Richardson.

My best friend Martin and I have been fishing buddies for years. We grew up together at Mole Creek in the state's north and together we have fished for trout for as long as I can remember. We would often venture down to the local creek or ride our bikes to the Lobster River at Chudleigh to try and catch a trout for tea. 

Often we were successful and perhaps equally often, we were not. Yet through this common interest we have forged a friendship that has lasted. And though my childhood fishing experience extended past the fresh waters of the region and onto the salt waters of the Tamar River at Deviot, where my grandparents lived. Martin's interest was solely in fresh water and trout.
So it came as somewhat of a surprise to me when he phoned me up one day and told me he had purchased a surf rod and reel and wanted me to teach him "what this salt water fishing was all about'. I agreed without hesitation and a date was set for a couple of weekends forward.
Martin arrived at my house on a crisp yet sunny July morning complete with new surf combo and shiny tackle box equipped with dozens of sinkers and hooks. We set off in my little silver van intent on exploring the salty waters of Coles Bay on the east coast. It was here that I first took my wife fishing and she had a ball catching cod and flathead from the rocks. My plan was to take Martin to this same spot, hopefully with the same result.
However this plan went pear shaped about an hour into our drive when what was a pleasant sunny day suddenly became quite overcast and then started to rain. As we neared the coast it also became very windy and the rain, which I had hoped was only going to be showers, looked set in for the day.
We decided to give Coles Bay a miss and head for Bicheno, the plan being to stop for lunch and hope the rain would subside.   
We stopped at the local bakery for lunch, and although the food was fantastic, the rain didn't stop. In fact it probably got heavier.
We jumped back in the van and headed north hoping the weather would improve.  
About half an hour from Bicheno I decided I was sick of driving in the rain and told Martin I was going to pull over at a little rest spot alongside a beach and take some photos with my then-new digital camera.
I didn't know it at the time, but this was the beach at Four Mile Creek.
The waves were crashing in with a mighty force and breaking a long way out from the beach. It was windy and wet, yet not overly cold.  
We ventured down to the beach to stretch our legs and upon inspection noticed the water dropped off quite deeply.  
"What do you reckon?" I asked Martin.
"Pity to come all this way and not throw a line in!" he replied.
So it was we decided to risk getting our ample backsides wet and bravely fish where no man had fished before-.
Okay that's a claim I can't substantiate----.   
Anyway we put on our jackets, baited our hooks and threw our lines to the surf hoping some unsuspecting fish would come along and become our dinner.
It didn't take long before Martin was to catch the first fish of the day, a little Australian or "cocky" salmon.
I was a bit peeved. I thought I was supposed to be the "expert'! Here I was supposedly the "master" and Martin the "apprentice" and yet he was upstaging me!  
"Oh well', I thought, "where there's one salmon there's usually more'.  
I was right!
So we were wet but smiling as we left that afternoon with a total of sixteen fish caught.  Martin caught an even dozen and myself only four. A lot were returned, but a good feed was retained.
Martin was justifiably pleased with his first expedition into the salt-water fishing caper, even if he did liken winching in a small salmon on a surf rod to using a D9 bulldozer to knock down saplings!
As for him out-fishing me on his first attempt? Let's just say I haven't heard the end of it since!
Over the past couple of years I have come to know the beach at Four Mile Creek very well. I travel from Launceston via St. Marys Pass, turning right at the bottom of the hill to take the road towards Bicheno. Usually I will stop at the car park at the northern end of the beach. This car park is indicated with one of those "scenic point" signs (the road sign with the picture of a camera on it). From here it is a short walk to the beach, and I usually fish a little gutter that has formed beside rocks that extend into the water. This is my favorite spot though there is a good kilometre of beach to choose from. I often see fishermen with lines in the water about half way along the beach where, at high tide, a small rivulet runs across the sand to the sea.
Beach fishing is a fairly simple affair. Casting with a surf rod can be a little difficult to master at first but with a little practice will become second nature. The most important point to remember when learning how to cast with a surf rod is not to go for too much distance too soon. Concentrate firstly on getting your technique right. Use the leverage of the long rod to your advantage before trying to put a lot of power into your casting. Nine times out of ten this will get your line further into the water than if you try throwing your sinker to New Zealand! The golfers and cricketers amongst you will realize that the secret to success is all in the timing, and surf casting is really no different. Power is important but is not the most essential thing.
The best conditions for surf fishing are, in my opinion, the days when the waves are crashing onto the beach. Many days I have stood on a beach somewhere around the state with the sun blazing, the water calm and no fish biting whatsoever. However on the days when it has been a bit windy and the water is a bit choppy I have enjoyed much more success. On the day I first discovered the beach at Four Mile Creek the waves were pounding the sand so hard that the water was literarily turning a yellow colour, such was the sand being churned over.
When beach fishing look for darker patches in the water as this indicates deeper water or "gutters" where food will collect and fish will gather. Alternatively I like to fish where the water is at its choppiest, usually around a sand bar, as I have had success in these areas in the past.
I have had days on this beach when nothing has been biting, however these days have been pretty rare. When I have got bored of getting no bites from my favorite spot I have moved around to the rocks at the northern end of the beach. Here there are plenty of wrasse to be caught amongst the kelp, and though I consider them poor eating, they can be fun to catch! Be careful though because Wrasse fight a dirty fight and will happily drag your line into the kelp or under a rock at any given opportunity!
When I am fishing from the beach I use a twelve-foot surf rod coupled with a large thread-line reel. The reel is spooled with twelve-pound line and I usually attach a pre purchased wire trace with sinker and double hook clips, or tie a paternoster rig. I then attach my sinker, and my bait to my hooks and cast it out.
I have found the most successful bait from the beach to be either pre packaged blue bait or squid. Prawns seem to wash off the hook in the surf far too readily and I have never caught a fish from the beach on chicken or steak that I can recall.
Australian salmon are, by far, the most prolific species I have caught from the beach at Four Mile Creek, the largest being a blackback of around two kilograms. Average size would be a kilogram or lighter. These fish are great fighters and a lot of fun to catch. I have also caught several yellow eyed mullet from here and have seen a small skate caught upon dusk.
My job as a delivery driver sometimes allows me the fortune of a delivery to the east coast. I always look forward to these days and often I will come to an arrangement with my boss that sees me able to throw in my fishing rod and spend a couple of hours on the beach instead of rushing back to work. On one of these occasions the fish weren't biting from the beach so I did as I have mentioned and went over to the rocks to muck around with the wrasse before heading home. I had just hooked my first when I noticed what I thought was a rock protruding from the water about one hundred metres from the shore. I thought this strange, as I had not noticed it before. I then thought it particularly strange when it then disappeared and a jet of water sprayed into the air!
This wasn't a rock! This was a whale!
I had never seen a whale before and thought myself fortunate to be visited by one so close to the shore! I tried desperately to get a photo of it but he or she was being camera shy and only showing the top of their head as they headed south. Still I was quite excited by the experience!
Four Mile Creek is home to what is my favorite beach for fishing in Tasmania. What's more it's nestled in a snug little location along one of the most scenic drives in the state, that being the road from St. Helens to Bicheno. I would definitely recommend a visit to Four Mile Creek for a spot of beach fishing.
You may catch a fish or even see a whale!
If not the bakery at Bicheno comes with my recommendation!
Andrew Richardson.

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