A couple of weeks ago a mate George and I started discussing a fishing trip to Hervey Bay, with the idea of camping on the island and polaroiding flats all weekend. The initial plan to take the ferry over and hike up to the flats along the beach was knocked on the head when we realised it was 30km with plenty of mangrove swamp on the way! Our backup was hiring a boat and taking it over and back, which was the same cost as hiring a 4WD for the weekend but offered more versatility. Given neither of us knew what to do fishing-wise, fly-wise, technique-wise or weather-wise, I gave Hervey Bay mate Peter Geddes a call to ask for some advice. Peter quickly offered not only top-notch fishing advice but beds and a boat for the weekend too; absolute legend! In hindsight I now see just how helpful this was and how much it made the weekend. I also need to thank Jon Burgess for his advice.
We got up late Friday night and had a few beers while looking at maps of the area. Up and on the water early Saturday, by 8 am we located birds working off Fraser Island and not long after we were hooking into our first mack tuna. These fish are amazing. Having come from a predominantly trout fishing background, I was blown away by the power, speed, aggression and beauty of these fish. In fairness, the biggest trick to hooking one is in the boat driving. The challenge was to get the boat close enough for a cast without spooking the school – if we managed that and the tuna were still feeding, a take was almost guaranteed. In fact of the 15 or so macks that ate the fly for the weekend, only 2 actually took a moved fly. The rest hit it so fast, we didn’t get a chance to make the first strip!
After a couple of hours straightening hooks, busting off fish and ruining reels, we started to get the hang of it and eventually we both landed fish. As a side note, it is not easy landing a tuna with your reel spool on the floor of the boat while you’re 50m+ into the backing. When it came up next to the boat, we estimated that tuna at around 10-15 kg (so it was probably closer to 6-7kg) before the hook pulled and it swam away. The biggest we landed was 81cm and just over 5kg which took 30 minutes to land on the 8wt rod. We could have landed it much faster if we weren’t worried about straightening another hook, but once we’d both landed a fish it was much easier to be more aggressive. Each mack had whitebait lined up in its mouth like dried spaghetti. No wonder they’re so energetic!
On the way back in on Saturday we saw two dolphins doing backflips clean out of the water – a nice finish to a great day.
On Sunday Peter joined us and we were looking forward to being shown exactly how it should be done. We had a lot more quality opportunities due to better boat handling and we all landed fish. The day was much sunnier and we were able to watch the greeny-blue shapes speed along underwater pushing small silver baitfish in every direction.
We were keen to try and catch a different species and it did happen but not exactly how we hoped. We didn’t find any species around the bait balls other than the macks, which was probably due to not getting deep enough for fish that like to sit under the bait ball. But on the way back we decided to have a cruise along the shoreline to see if we could polaroid anything. Quite quickly we saw a number of different fish and some quite decent ones. We think the first lot may have been smaller GTs of a few pounds, then we found a group of fish that were either tailor or queenfish, all about 60-70cm. One had a slash at the fly but didn’t hook up before we moved further on and saw something odd shimmering around a turtle. A cast quickly hooked a small golden trevally, which still managed to put a bend to the butt of an 8wt rod. We also saw some pikey-looking things moving fast. All of this polaroiding happened within about 30 minutes so it was a very exciting little session.
On Sunday morning we also added a baby minky whale to the list of things we saw. The best flies were very simple Clousers with an olive wing (photos) and bead eyes heavy enough to sit the fly the correct way. I’ve now tied some Surf Candies too as they resemble the whitebait quite well. I’m also hoping that with a bit of weight they’ll be able to get down past the macks next time before getting snaffled.
All in all, an amazing style of fishing to experience and I can’t wait to get back and spend a weekend polaroiding those flats now we’ve seen what they hold.