Fly Fishing Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia, Part 3

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Fly Fishing Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia, Part 3

Post by Piscisfly » Sun Jul 05, 2015 8:16 am

Part 3 – Day 2 Fishing

After that first day of fishing, I should have been ecstatic. But that evening was tinged with a double serving of bitter sweet. I had cracked a life-long dream and my mate didn’t and my mate had hooked 10 Tuna, but hadn’t boated any of them. Rather than being openly excited, I spent most of the evening consoling Chew, and talking up our chances over the remaining 4 days. After all, how many people can say they hooked 10 Tuna in a days fishing?

Andrew said he would pick us up at 0700. Once again we were up an hour before, and once again I hardly slept. I knew that this time it wasn’t the variable volume of the ticking clock, as I shoved it in the laundry before going to bed, and Chew shut his door so it wasn’t his snoring. I was just plain excited. Hooking 3 Tuna on fly the day before was a huge confidence booster. As was the ability of Andrew in positioning the boat for the most effective, multiple shots at the fast moving schools of feeding Tuna, despite the unfavourable conditions.

Everything just seemed good and I wasn’t worried about not catching fish, nor did I expect to catch fish. I was just happy to be there, happy with Andrew’s skills and knowledge, and happy with the gear I was using. Looking back, it is a feeling, a mental state that I have experienced before, a relaxed state of mind that is borne of confidence. But more importantly, not over confidence.

Andrew picked us up just before 0700, explaining that the slightly later start should mean we would hopefully avoid the morning winds. Living in Canterbury, I’m used to it being calm in the morning and typically windy in the afternoons, but here it seems to be different, and the next 3 days would prove that.

This time when Andrew gunned the engine out of the Urangan Marina Breakwater, he headed left instead of along Fraser Island. We zoomed past the end of the 700m long Urangan Pier, noting quite a few ‘Pier Rats’ fishing. We were heading out to a reef where Andrew said there should be some Longtails, and hopefully, no sharks. The sou’wester was a lot stronger today, and once well clear of the mainland, the sea become very choppy and quite messy, with the combination of current and wind chop. The boat handled the slop really well, with the careful management of the skipper. Despite that, I was still pretty pleased to arrive at our destination, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Even more pleased as there was a school of Tuna feeding on the surface, but that feeling was dashed as a shark tore through the middle of the feeding Tuna!

There were a few fish kicking around, but not the tight schools of feeding Mack Tuna we experienced the day before. These were bust ups of maybe half a dozen fish, singles, and doubles. While they weren’t in concentrated areas, there was always something happening within view. Longtails, Andrew informed us. Chew decided that it was too rough for the fly so elected to put the spin rod back into service, and it wasn’t long before he hooked his first Tuna. This time it stuck, and stuck well, no soft trout strike and a good solid knot. Clearly this fish wasn’t a Mack Tuna as it looked like Chew was about to be pulled in, not helped by the sometimes violent rocking of the boat. He elected to play the fish from a sitting position, which seemed like a good idea until the Tuna ran around and under the boat, requiring him to get off his butt, assisted by Andrew, to shuffle up the front of the boat. Chew was a pretty happy boy when Andrew tailed the chunky Longtail Tuna, and at an estimated weight of 10kg (22lb), he had every reason to be happy. This was the first time either of us had seen a Longtail ‘in the flesh’. I couldn’t get over how incredibly muscular the body was, tapering down to a long rear section (hence the name ‘Longtail’). As with the Mack Tuna, the pectorals and dorsal fold into recesses for maximum bursts of speed. They don’t have the striations of the Macks, nor the intense silver sides, but the blue/black backs are quite stunning, with a thin line of neon blue separating that from the off-silver sides. A few photos were taken, and Chew speared the fish into the water, which resulted in a rush of oxygenated water flowing through the gills, and it bolted for the depths. After his mixed day yesterday Chew was pretty happy, I think he may have even cracked a smile.

I persevered with the Fleye Foil fly from the day before, figuring that as a Longtail tried to eat it 2nd cast, it might be to their liking. We tried to chase down schools of fish, but could only do so downwind due to the moderate sea, so we had no luck in connecting. The fish were abundant but well spread, so Andrew suggested drifting along the reef until the weather improved. We kept casting blind, as there were a few Tuna showing on the sounder. I was up the front, and Chew had decided he would give the fly another go down the back, when a small pod of Longtails bust through the surface in front and slightly to the side of the boat. I fired out a quick cast along their line of travel and well in front and started stripping the fly back rapidly with long fast pulls of my left hand. Andrew yelled out “he’s on it!” and a split second later there was a boil on the surface and I strip struck the 2/0 Gamakatsu hard into the Longtails jaw. Nothing happened immediately, seemingly for a long period of time (but in reality was probably less than a second), before the Tuna put his head down and bolted for the horizon. The stripped line tore through my fingers, burning a nice ‘brand’ into the index finger of my left hand. Almost immediately after I hooked my fish, Chew hooked one as well on the fly rod, probably from the same pod of fish I had hooked mine from. Early on the 2nd day of fishing and we had a double hook up of Longtail Tuna, on fly!

We carefully manoeuvred around each other, with Andrew’s assistance, making sure that our lines didn’t touch. For some reason, Chew’s fish wasn’t doing much and hadn’t gone far from the boat, so Andrew told me to keep my fish well away from the boat and he would deal with Chew’s fish first. I had no difficulty in complying with that request, in fact, I didn’t really have a choice as my fish was still going! At about 250yds out he decided to stop and splash around on the surface, so I started leaning into him and getting some string back on the reel. Thinking it would be like the Mack Tuna from yesterday, I expected it to be just a matter now of winding in all the line, and the fish, in one tiring effort. But after retrieving about 50 yards of line, the fish took off again, with just as much speed as the first run, but only taking about 50yds of line this time. This was repeated numerous times as Chew and Andrew worked on getting Chew’s fish onto the boat. We soon realised his fish was foul hooked, so maybe that explained the lack of fight? Andrew once again skilfully tailed the tired Tuna onto the boat. The poor thing was absolutely buggered, so there wasn’t much excitement from any of us. It was decided that we would knock this one on the head as Andrew reckoned its chances of survival were non-existent. He quickly bled the fish, cleaned his hands and said to me that we’ll now work on getting mine into the boat, as he thought it was a good fish. I had no idea if it was a good fish or not, all I knew was that it was fast and had a tonne of stamina, and it was a long way from the boat!

My fish, still a good 150yds out from the boat, was clearly visible on the surface as it started doing fast arcing runs, interspersed by periods of head shaking, which Andrew explained was pretty typical of Longtails. I couldn’t believe how much energy it still had. We slowly motored towards the fish as I wound like crazy with my left hand. My fingers and hand weren’t enjoying that though, becoming very stiff, cramped and then sore. Andrew noticed this and slowed the boat down a bit so I didn’t have to wind so fast, commenting that the left hand wind (for a right hander) is a very ‘trouty’ thing to do, and in the salt you are better off winding with your dominant hand. As much as it pained me to agree with an Australian, and an Australian ‘dissing’ trout, he was right! My left hand just couldn’t cope with the requirement to wind incredibly fast, and frequently. I did lose contact with the Tuna several times, which was a sickening feeling. Thankfully the full length flyline being towed around provided enough resistance to hold the hook in the Tuna’s mouth.

I could feel the Tuna getting tired now, so I started leaning into him, aware of the need to get him on the boat quickly, for a good release. I tried not to think about the lack of sharks, and definitely didn’t mention that out loud to the guys, fearing the ‘commentators kiss of death’!

Even though the fish appeared tired, he was still really hard to manoeuvre around the boat, but clamping the line between my hand and the cork grip of the Sage, and leaning back on the rod meant I could get the line close enough to Andrew’s hand to allow him to hand line the fish the last few metres. A loud ‘woohoo’ from me as the fish came on board, and I was in heaven. Two days and two species of Tuna to the fly, it really doesn’t get better than that! The fly had found its mark in the near corner of the Longtails mouth, and it took some effort to prise it out, but he swam off strongly once released – a testament to the stamina of these amazing fish. Andrew called the fish at approximately 12kg (26lb), I was absolutely stoked!

We continued to fish the reef for another hour or so, as the wind, and the sea, abated. There were still a few fish kicking around, but not the numbers of earlier in the day. Not that it really mattered as we had nailed 3 Longtails, and, apart from when we first pulled up, there had been no interference from the sharks.

We moved onto another reef and decided to fish deep, as there was little surface activity. A change in lines, from the intermediate, to a 400gn Rio Striper fast sinker was required to get down fast, as was the addition of a 3/0 Pink over White Deceiver, weighted with a metal ‘Fish Skull’. The combination of heavy line and very heavy fly was a little ugly to cast, but opening up the loops slightly helped, and avoided getting sconed in the back of the head by a wayward fly. The technique was to cast in the direction we were drifting, and feed out line as the fly pulled the line down and we drifted over it. Getting it right meant that the line and fly came up nearly vertical when retrieved. Occasionally snagging the reef, 21m below the boat, meant that I was getting down as much as I needed. Chew and Andrew jigged with a variety of metal lures, boating quite a few School Mackerel, as well as a really nice Grey (Broad Barred) Mackerel to Chews rod. This fish got knocked on the head. They did lose a few lures to the extremely sharp teeth of the Mackerel though. I lost two flies to them as well.

Fishing deep this way, I managed to pick up a Mack Tuna, although I was very lucky to get this fish on the boat. At the end of its first sizzling run it suddenly came to the surface, followed closely by a large, hungry shark! I quickly backed the drag right off to give the small Tuna a chance to escape, and watched as the shark tore around after the poor fish, water boiling everywhere as the Tuna jinked and jived to avoid the apex predator. From the GoPro footage I saw that this went on for nearly a full minute before the shark gave up and I came up tight again on the very lucky Tuna. But that wasn’t the last we saw of that shark. Chew was playing a large Mack Tuna on the spin rod while all this was going on, and less than 30 seconds after the shark gave up on my fish it had a go at Chew’s fish, near the boat. Quickly flicking the bail arm over on the reel gave the Tuna the chance it needed and it bolted under the boat and out the other side, narrowly avoiding the shark.

I continued playing my fish as Andrew grabbed Chew’s line and started hand lining the Tuna in as fast as he could. Andrew yelled out and I looked behind me to see the side of a large shark as it attacked Chew’s Tuna hard up against the side of the boat, near the back. As Andrew continued to pull the Tuna in (well, the head as that was all that was left), the 3m Bull Shark lunged partly out of the water to claim the remainder of what it thought rightly belonged to him, narrowly missing. It was absolutely crazy, blood everywhere, Andrew and myself laughing like school kids, Chew not so amused, and all caught on the GoPro I was wearing on my head! The footage I took ended up on the local 7 News about the current prevalence of sharks in the Hervey Bay area.

Soon after, I hooked a suspected, large, Golden Trevally. We weren’t sure whether he busted me off on the reef (that’s my pick), or whether a shark had a go at him, missing but cutting my leader. Soon after losing the fish, we saw a large Golden Trevally being chased by a shark on the surface.

It had been a tough day, getting beaten up by the weather and the messy sea, but our spirits were really high (who needs drugs?). On the run back to the marina, the little wind that remained disappeared completely, and the sea glassed out. There were two very satisfied anglers on the boat that evening.

We left Andrew with one of the fillets from the Grey Mackerel, and gave one of the fillets of the Longtail Tuna to our hosts at the Boat Harbour Resort. We dined well that night on Tuna Sashimi, followed by pan fried Tuna!

Part 4 – Day 3 of fishing, The Flats, to follow.
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