Craig describes his favourite bream pattern.
Some 38 years ago I purchased a float tube, which I took to south-west Victoria’s Lake Bullen Merri for its maiden voyage. That evening I slept overnight in my car under the pine trees on the east side of the lake. I awoke to the sound of a car pulling up beside mine, and it had a float tube strapped to the roof. This was my introduction to Murray (Muz) Wilson, and what a fortunate meeting that was!
Over a coffee, we discussed the quiet fishing at Bullen Merri, and Muz asked if I would like to fish the Merri River with him instead, as the sea-run brown trout were supposed to be running. I jumped at the opportunity, having never fished this river – or fished for sea runners for that matter. We had a most enjoyable day, with each of us landing a couple of solid fish from our float tubes. That was the start of a long friendship.
Sadly, Muz passed away a couple of years ago, but I count myself lucky to have enjoyed sharing his enthusiasm for flyfishing, and observing his imaginative fly tying. Muz developed many excellent fly patterns during his innovative tying career. His minnow patterns, such as the BMS and the Merri Minnow, which he developed on Camperdown’s crater lakes, are still very popular today.
The ‘noughties’ drought had a devastating impact on the western Victoria trout fishery. It persuaded many flyfishers to explore their local estuaries and try new species. Muz led the charge, adapting some of his patterns to tempt bream, estuary perch and mulloway. His Hammerheads, Spooks and Merri Minnows are benchmark estuary patterns today, having caught who knows how many thousands of fish.
Over the years I’ve adapted Muz’s Merri Minnow, tying it larger, simplifying the tying, making it more robust, and playing with different colour combinations until I came up with my favourite bream fly, which I call the Muz Minnow. It’s simply an adaption of Muz’s deadly original; I hope he would approve!
In shallow water I use a floating line rather than a sinker. I believe this creates a better jigging action as the fly is retrieved. However, I do use a sink-tip line in deeper water or when the current is running.
Whether fishing around structure or on the estuary flats, I like to use an erratic, jerky retrieve. A loop knot also enhances the fly’s movement and I prefer a Lefty’s Loop, as it creates a very compact loop.
The trick is to give the fly maximum movement whilst not moving it very far. Another way of viewing this retrieve is, you only pull the fly so you can stop again! Most of your takes will occur when you stop rather than when the fly is moving. Unlike trout, which often bite a pulled fly, bream inhale it, so it is critical to stop between pulls to allow the fly to be sucked into the bream’s mouth.
Your rod needs to be pointing straight down the line to permit an effective strip strike for good hook-ups. I like to use slim, debarbed saltwater hooks to help achieve this.
Hook – Size 4 AHREX NS115 Deep Streamer D/E.
Thread – 6/0 Danvilles flat waxed nylon, bright pink.
Eyes – Small red dumbbells.
Tail & body – Sparkle Flash holographic lime 202.
Ribbing – Medium gold wire.
Wing – Medium olive rabbit Zonker strip.
Throat – Pink rabbit.
Head – Tiewell suede chenille, olive.
- Tie in the dumbbell eyes about 4mm back from the eye of the hook and glue in with some head cement.
- Tie in the Sparkle Flash, allowing for 12mm of tail, and tying in up to behind the eyes.
- Then wind some of the Sparkle Flash back on itself and tie in to the bend of the hook.
- Run the thread back to behind the eyes, then tie in the gold wire.
- Wrap the remaining Sparkle Flash to behind the eyes, forming a uniform smooth body.
- Next, tie in the Zonker strip immediately behind the eyes and wind the wire back through the rabbit fur, using a dubbing needle to prevent the fur from being trapped down.
- Tie in a small bunch of pink rabbit fur as a throat hackle.
- Finally, tie in the chenille behind the eyes, winding around the dumbbell eyes to form a uniform head, and whip finish.
Gear for Southern Estuaries
I use a 7 weight, 9ft medium to fast action rod if fishing heavy flies, though a 6 weight is fine for lighter flies. For a flyline, I like a Scientific Anglers Anadro floating line or intermediate sink tip, in a line weight up from the rods specified; e.g. an 8 weight line for my 7 weight rod, etc. My leader is usually a 9ft Scientific Anglers Bass Taper with a 10lb tippet, to which I add 3ft of 6lb hard mono tippet.
Reels should be made to cope with saltwater. The drag doesn’t often come into play for bream and EPs; however every so often you’ll hook a mulloway, at which point you’ll appreciate a quality drag and 200m of backing!