Winter for me is a great time of the year for flyfishing. Whilst I yearn for spring to burst through and stream fishing to reopen, I’m more than happy to fish my local waters in southwest Victoria for the mighty Australian salmon, or as the New Zealanders I think more aptly name them, kahawai.
During winter, large schools of salmon move in close to our beaches. This winter, we have also seen some good fish in our estuaries – a wonderful diversion from the cunning and sometimes elusive bream we more typically chase in these waters.
My preferred platform for fishing to salmon is rock ledges. I have always loved fishing off the rocks and many years ago when I started flyfishing, I found a new obsession. If you can find the right rock ledge near any of our surf beaches, one that allows a clean cast into water that’s a metre to several metres deep, you are in with a good chance of hooking a few salmon.
Clousers and Surf Candies off a short leader on a floating or intermediate sink tip line work a treat. Rods in the 7-9 weight range are a good match.
The fishing method is quite simple. Cast as far as you can into clear water over a sandy bottom. (Often, to reach this water, you need to cast over weed beds which don’t seem to be as productive.) Strip retrieves can be from slow to fast – your strip moves the fly about 30 cm each time. I like a faster retrieve and I like fishing the fly relatively close to the surface.
If there are a few fish around you will soon know about it. If you are fishing into a visible school, it can be pandemonium! The takes are violent and the fight is strong and prolonged. This sort of fishing is fast and exciting. It’s a workout! You need to be casting and stripping constantly in order to manage your fly and line which can easily get caught in the rocks, weed or wash.
Care must be taken when fishing off rock ledges. I find most success around the peak of the tide but this also means dangerous waves can come into play. Absolute care must be taken. If after watching the wave sets for several minutes it looks too dangerous, give it a miss and have a cast directly off the beach. Find quieter deeper water to cast into and be prepared to wade out a fair way.
What superb sport fish the Arripis trutta is. If you like fast fishing and hard fighting fish, when you next get the opportunity, give our mighty Aussie salmon a go.