The long-established format goes like this: Max and I head to his place near Apollo Bay for a long weekend in midwinter, to be joined by Pete ands Mark. The date range is based on a decent late afternoon/evening high tide that coincides with a Friday to Monday, and we work back from there. This year, putting the four of us at Max’s on a single weekend seemed more challenging than usual. But before you start worrying about the impact of the modern lifestyle on fishing, consider that the clashes were Mark’s trip to Weipa a week earlier, Pete’s trip to the North Island a fortnight earlier, and Max’s trip to Montana at the end of this week. Basically, it was a case of fishing getting in the way of…well, fishing.
Anyway, we all made it in the end. As usual, Mark and Pete temporarily swapped their fly rods for surf rods and chased salmon off wild beaches, while Max and I pursued bream – and anything else that might eat a fly – in the estuaries. This trip, the surf rods won with maybe two dozen salmon between 0.5 kg and 1.5 kg landed. Meanwhile, the flyfishing was tougher than usual. The Barham River estuary seemed in perfect condition, with a good freshwater inflow balanced by a twice-daily tidal push. However despite Max missing two big fish that were probably bream, we only actually landed several small salmon.
Things were less ideal on the Aire with a strong southerly pushing chop and weed upriver, and huge seas trying hard to dam the outflow with a sandbar. Tidal input was thus reduced, and our favourite spots were harder to fish with an extra half metre of depth restricting wading and general access. As well as the ubiquitous salmon, I managed to land a half-decent trevally and a small-ish bream. We missed a couple of hard bream-like pulls too.
On the way home I called into West Barwon Dam hoping for a quick flick on evening. The by now windless conditions were ideal, but the water clarity wasn’t – maybe a foot at best. A couple of bait anglers were fishing out of earshot, so I asked a young boy tightrope walking on the concrete head wall if anyone was catching anything. ‘Yep,’ he announced proudly, ‘My Dad got a rainbow this big!’ and he spread his arms about half their possible width. Hmmm, something to think about if we get another few days of settled weather and the water clears a bit…