My recent fishing efforts have all been chasing longtail tuna and by ‘efforts’, I mean I’ve managed to get out twice. The first time was on the stand-up paddleboards (SUPs); the second time was definitely not on stand-up paddle boards!
The SUPs offer the opportunity to get very close to fish without spooking them, however there is a huge sacrifice in mobility, and mobility is very important when chasing tuna as they move so fast. I’m told that on occasion, the baitfish attempt to use the boards for cover, bringing the tuna to the board. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen on our last trip out. Without very well-formed bait-balls that stay around for a while, I wouldn’t recommend the SUPs.
We paddled out of the Maloola River mouth with a south-westerly wind pushing us towards the birds which were working well. I won’t say ‘on the horizon’ but they weren’t far from it! After paddling and paddling, they didn’t seem to be getting closer. We did consider not going out that far, but in reality, when you can see the birds working and the sea is calm…ish, it’s hard to stop. I knew we were a fair way out when I looked back towards the shore and saw the fishing trawlers working between us and land. That day, the fishing was hard as we just couldn’t get in front of the fish. The worst part was the 2 hour paddle back, into a headwind. I will never ever do that again. We were sitting on eskies as they help with balance in the waves; the downside was I had bruises on both my ‘cheeks’ when I finally arrived back at base. Never again with that much wind!
Scarred, or at least bruised, from the SUP trip, some mates and I hired a boat a week or so later and went back for more. After spending the morning chasing fish that weren’t concentrated and not getting any good chances, we decided a move was in order. It paid off. A few kilometres up the coast, the fish were everywhere and feeding properly.
There were schools of longtail everywhere. At one stage we were in the middle of six schools, the furthest 150 metres away at the most. These tuna are amazing to watch, jumping out of the water like trout leaping for damselflies. They don’t take off as fast as the mackerel tuna when hooked, but they are more dogged in the later stages of the fight. We hooked a mack later in the day which went straight to the backing much faster than the longtails.
One of my housemates joined us for the day and was using my old Murray cod rod, flicking micro-jigs, but the tuna wouldn’t eat one no matter how many saw them. Eventually, I put a fly 3 feet off the back of his micro-jig and a few casts later he was onto his first longtail. Now, many people don’t think French Nymphing is flyfishing and I disagree. But saying a fly off the back of a baitcaster and micro-jig setup is flyfishing, might be just too much of a stretch!
The fish were mostly eating synthetic big-eyed baitfish patterns, similar to Surf Candys; although the first of the day took a Clouser. By mid-afternoon the, the tuna seemed to be eating everything we threw at them and we just happened to continue using the Surf Candy-style flies.
The cyclone turned up that week and the ocean has been discoloured since, so I haven’t been back out. However, I’m confident the fishing will be just as good by now, and the presence of birds suggests that.