When conditions get tough, the tough go back to bed
It’s been an absolute pleasure to fish with fellow author’s of this site over the years, but it’s time to spill the beans – even they have their precious moments!
February to April are meant to be some of the hottest fishing months in NSW south coast eastuaries. The sun is warm, the air is warm and the water warms accordingly. Christmas and Easter school holidays result in hundreds of fisherman descending on the coast. Those with a little bit of fishing nous inevitably catch the lion’s share share of estuary staples (flathead, whiting, bream etc.).
On this occasion however, our pre-dawn start was greeted by freezing cold, windy and wet conditions. So while the top-end correspondent (Dan) and I forced some cereal and coffee down (who wants to eat at 4:30am?) our good friend Mr Georgeson promptly informed us that no respectable fish would be feeding in the arctic conditions that were about to greet us. And even if they were, the high winds we could see and hear outside would surely make the water ‘unfishable’.
After spending the (very warm) drive talking about how good the fishing had been at our destination lake the week before, on this occasion Dan and I struggled to get out of the car. The windows were being lashed with rain. It was 6am and it was still dark. Lee was right to stay in bed!
Surely we hadn’t just driven for 40 minutes in the dark only to complain about the weather and turn around and go home. So we did what any fishing tragics would do. We ‘manned-up’, got our bream sticks, our box of trusted (and sometimes loathed) plastics and metals, and began the short walk to the lake’s edge.
We started to make a few casts into the slightly deeper water behind the weed beds. The wind made it hard to punch our small plastics very far into the lake, and the shallowness (1-2m) made it difficult to upsize without dredging up too much weed. Still shivering, we were momentarily captivated by a mullet nervously skipping across the surface. Maybe the tailor we on? A quick change to metal lures (have I mentioned that I use and LOVE clips!) and several dozen casts later yielded nothing except more frustrating captures of weed. So it was back to our original plan … flathead on plastics.
We continued on our not-so merry way around the shoreline and approached a series of oyster racks. More to the point, the weed started to thin out to that lovely matrix of sand and weedy patches. In hindsight we were probably approaching the spot where the mullet had ended up after its aerial acrobatics. Still persisting with a relatively tiny 2.5” plastic I quite unexpectedly felt that tell-tale THUD as the plastic was sinking back to the bottom. Striking on a solid mass, my initial thought was I had probably hooked a ray. Believe it or not, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve hooked a big ray on plastics…. But this time there were clear tail beats and the creature took off into the darkness. It was a fish!!!
The ensuing 10 minutes were amongst the most nervous and exhilarating of my fishing career. About halfway through the fight, as the hefty creature got close enough to land to get a positive ID, it was clear it was a flathead. In fact, it was as the locals call it ‘a crocodile’.
The previous day I had used this small outfit to throw some lures off the rocks so purely by chance, I had a 15lb mono leader tied onto the braid. The beauty of braided main line of course is that everything that happens at the business end is communicated to you through the line and the rod. But I’ll tell you this for free; if you’ve got the ‘fish of a lifetime’ on and you can feel the line being pulled through weed beds and rasping away on its teeth, this is not necessarily a good thing!
After what seemed an eternity and some very careful coaxing on the 6lb braid, this creature slid gracefully up onto the sand. It was a flathead. It was a very big flathead. In fact, it went 90cm to the tail and 20cm across the shoulders. It was a massive flathead – caught on the smallest of offerings in the most unlikely conditions!
My personal opinion is that this big girl (all big flathead are female) was far too good a specimen to eat, so she was released to make more baby flathead for tragic fishing addicts to come 🙂 It was with equal joy that she swam away, apparently unharmed, into the gloom – after a few happy snaps of course! On reflection, it was probably her, looking for an early morning breakfast, that was scaring the stuffing out of the local mullet population!
When Lee finally arrived at around 8:30am, we had only landed two fish. One went 90cm and the other 19cm. We hadn’t caught a fish for lunch, we were soaked through and cold. But I for one, couldn’t have cared less!
Graham Fifield April 21 2011