Our family holiday to Caloundra, Queensland was never meant to be a fishing trip. No really, the main objective was a break from the central Victorian highlands winter with (hopefully) lots of sun, definitely lots of swimming, relaxing, bike riding and maybe a bit of rainforest hiking thrown in. I threw in the 7 weight, an old reel with a sink tip line, some tippet and a single box of assorted saltwater flies. We were staying literally on the water (like a cast away) so I knew I’d have a flick or two if only to justify carting a fly rod on a 4000 km round trip.
As for pre-trip intelligence, with everything else going on I didn’t so much as get around to Googling a fishing report. From the map of our apartment’s location, I could see we were on a surf beach (hard work for casting) but only a short walk from the top of the sheltered Pumicestone Passage – a river-like channel that separates Bribie Island from the mainland. 9 years earlier, we’d had a family holiday at the southern end of the same waterway and I’d caught a few flathead, tailor and a small barracuda-like fish that shredded my Clousers. I had a vague idea that the northern end might offer the same chances.
So on day two, I put on my Crocs, strapped a fishing belt to my waist, put 1.5 m of fresh 10 lb fluorocarbon on the end of the sink tip, tied on the ubiquitous white Clouser with a Lefty’s Loop, and walked south. Sure enough, as I rounded the headland the surf rapidly diminished, to be replaced by a very fishy mixture of flats, channels and oyster-encrusted rocks. It was nearing low tide and the water was fairly ripping out of the channel. It was disconcerting to be fishing the salt and having the line swing in current like the Goulburn at summer flow. But I recalled from my trip nearly a decade earlier that the flathead in particular loved to ambush baitfish swept along in the current as the tide dropped out and reduced their hiding places. So I persevered and after only half an hour or so, the rod was nearly ripped from my hands. I know that’s a fishing cliché but even though I did my best to stuff things up with a trout strike, there was no way this flathead was coming off. At 61 cm, it fought pretty well in the current, and it was a relief to safely beach it just before the cheer squad arrived. My boys are never overly excited when I catch a trout, but there were plenty of gratifying ‘wow’s and ‘cool’s when I showed them this bucket-mouthed beast.
Over the next few days, my efforts of an hour or so on the water usually produced a fish or two, including a nice bream and another flathead even bigger than the first. I also got bitten clean off by something (which led to me adding a foot of 20 lb mono as bite tippet) and I got stopped dead by a very heavy hit.
- The best fishing regardless of wind or cloud seemed to be towards the bottom of the tide but while it was still really running – once the current eased, so did the action.
- The white Clouser seemed the best fly – I did try others.
- The best water was anything from a half a metre to two metres deep, and the odd rock bar or weed patch in the sand appeared to help.
To repeat, Caloundra is an absolutely great place for a family holiday and despite all the development, the foreshore is mostly beautifully preserved and good-looking fly water is abundant. There are a whole lot of other fly-friendly estuaries nearby that we didn’t fish – I was told some even hold mangrove jack! Come to think of it, maybe that’s what stopped me dead?
(PS: Much to our amusement, the locals considered the 20 C maximums we enjoyed ‘a cold snap.’ When we got home this evening it was 2 C with wet snow falling. Cold snap my a%$e!)