Squidgies in Tasmania
by Steve Starling
During the first half of November, 2002, I was lucky enough to spend eight days touring Tasmania with my good mates and fellow angling communicators, Kaj "Bushy" Busch and Ian "Barra" Miller, as well as Shimano Australia's Managing Director, Mark Mikkelsen, and local Shimano sales rep', Paul Ellis. The purpose of our visit was to promote the Blue Fox Squidgy range of soft plastic lures and accessories that Bushy, Ian and I have designed for the Rapala/VMC Corporation (distributed here in Australia by the good folks at Shimano) and to generally raise soft plastic awareness and skill levels in the Apple Isle.
Our tour kicked off with an evening seminar at the Corus Hotel in Hobart and we were both surprised and delighted when the presentation drew a crowd well in excess of 330 keen, interested anglers!
Similar evening seminars followed at Lindsay Deegan Marine in Ulverstone and the Launceston Football Club, along with in-store appearances in Launceston and St Helens. By the end of the first three days of our tour, we had spoken directly to more than 750 Tasmanian anglers and shown them highlights from our first "Squidgy Secrets" instructional video, which had its Tasmanian launch on this promotional tour. This video is now available for sale or rent from all major Blue Fox Squidgy stockists in the state.
We were amazed at the level of interest, skill and understanding amongst keener Tassie anglers on the subject of tweaking soft plastics. Clearly, this branch of the sport is experiencing just as strong a boom in the Devil's Playground as it is on the mainland!
With the official phase of the promotional tour out of the way, it was time to get down to the equally important task of thoroughly field testing our Squidgies in the cool waters of the south. Bushy, Barra and I were quietly confident that these lures would produce the goods, but it's always a relief when those expectations are confirmed by reality!
Our first morning on the windswept waters of Hobart's Derwent soon dispelled any lingering doubts we may have had, with Squidgies accounting for four thumping southern bream to 1.35 kg, several flathead and a couple of cocky salmon under difficult conditions, while hard-bodied lures and even local baits failed to produce the goods.
From there, we travelled to the Central Highlands to pitch our rubber offerings against possibly the toughest and most choosy piscatorial customers in the state; the wild trout of Arthurs Lake and Dee Lagoon.
I'm pleased to report that, despite some truly appalling weather that included single digit temperatures, 40 knot winds and horizontal rain, we did indeed catch trout on Squidgies at both Arthurs and the Dee. In fact, on our best day at Arthurs, Squidgies produced 18 browns to 2 kg for four anglers, while two experienced fly fishers in our party could manage only a trio of fish. Top producers on the day were Squidgy Fish tails in the two smallest sizes and both the Garry Glitter and Black Gold colours.
It was something of a relief to leave behind a Highlands that felt like it was still locked in winter and descend to temperate St Helens on the north east coast for the final stages of our tour, and another assault on those justifiably famous Taswegian bream. Sadly, Mark Mikkelsen and Ian Miller had to leave us at this point and fly home to the mainland for work commitments, but Bushy and I remained to keep the Squidgy flag flying!
Under the able guidance of Michael Haley from Gone Fishing Charters, Bushy and I fished two different estuary systems near St Helens in two half day sessions. We kicked off with 11 lovely bream from one small estuary, with several easily topping the kilo mark. In this same system we also polaroided some of the biggest bream either of us have ever seen, including several genuine 2kg-plus beasts! Unfortunately, these monster fish were simply too good for us on the day, and we've pledged to return for another go at them!
Our last morning in Tassie was to prove the most memorable of the entire trip when we fished another river near St Helens with Michael Haley. In a truly unforgettable session lasting just under five hours, Bushy and I landed and released no less than 70 bream! The largest of these fish easily topped a kilo, but the average was probably around 700 to 800 grams, with very few under half a kilo.
Most incredible of all, at least 75 per cent of these lovely, lively bream were hooked after first polaroiding and sight casting to them in gin clear water! Some schools of visible, cruising fish contained at least 40 to 60 bream in the 400 gram to 1.4 kg range!
All 70 fish landed and released (plus another 15 or 20 hooked and dropped) were taken using ultra light jig heads rigged with No. 2 and No. 3 Squidgy Wriggler tails in the Jelly Prawn, Avocado, Bloodworm and Killer Tomato colours. Avocado and Jelly Prawn really stood out as the top colours on the day, and the smallest (No. 2) Wriggler was best.
On that amazing last morning, I conservatively estimate that we sighted 1,500 bream in five hours... and we're told there are even BETTER bream rivers elsewhere in the state! In our estimation, Tasmania is truly a bream heaven, and I believe the island state will rapidly emerge as the last great breaming frontier on earth. Those anglers - visitors and locals alike - who fish the Apple Isle seriously with lures (and fly) in the next three to five years will, in my opinion, experience bream action of a calibre no longer generally available anywhere on the mainland... it is truly awesome stuff!
Our final summation of the Great Squidgy Tour of 2002? Well, as General McArthur said "I shall return"!