In Victoria, we have an exciting saltwater sport fish available right here on our doorstep. They pull hard and will readily take a fly, but they’re not chased by flyfishers as much as you might expect. So why is that?
I was first introduced to Australian salmon fishing many years ago. I got invited out on a friend’s boat and we fished an inlet in West Gippsland. We got lucky and came across a huge school of salmon, with fish averaging from 1 to 3 kg. Every second or third cast, we would hook up and sometimes we even got a double. It was super exciting. Ever since, I’ve been looking for a similar fast and furious Australian salmon experience.
My best salmon days have always been in the dead of winter. I’ve caught them from Port Phillip Bay to Mallacoota, and it seems that the winter months are particularly good for big salmon schools to come into inlets and close to shore on the surf beaches.
For the last few winters, I’ve been able to get out into Port Phillip Bay and catch a handful of small salmon most sessions. However, I haven’t been able to replicate that first thrilling encounter – until now!
Over the long weekend, I had a family trip to Gippsland planned, so obviously I was keen to see if there was an opportunity to cast a fly while I was down there. The word was, salmon were running at the same inlet where I’d enjoyed that initial success. I made a call to mate Peter with this information, and he was soon on his way down to join me.
In fact, Peter arrived at the inlet before me: when I called to say I was nearly there, he advised he’d already caught two salmon and lost an even bigger one. I got to the car park and quickly threw on the waders and jacket, then raced down to the water and started fishing. There were quite a few people fishing along the beach, but I managed to find a spot with a bit of casting space. While anglers all around me were pulling in fish, I persevered (probably for too long) with a white Clouser.
After about 15 or 20 minutes watching everyone else catch fish, I finally I got one – a salmon in great condition which jumped a few times before I could eventually beach it with help from an incoming wave.
Following a few more casts with no action, I changed flies to a chartreuse and white Clouser. Immediate success, and it was almost a salmon a cast after that. I managed over half a dozen, before it all ended with the tide change.
We had an awesome couple of hours. The salmon were in prime condition, so there was plenty of leaping and they were not eager to come to shore! They put a hell of a bend in the 8 weight and pull some serious line.
Salmon action is not always easy to find, and there’s an element of plain old luck at being in the right spot at the right time when a school moves through. But keep your eyes and ears open for word of big schools about, preferably somewhere where there’s deeper water you can cast to from the shore. Then, on a winter’s day when the sea isn’t too big, fish the last hour or two of the incoming tide with a Clouser, and you may just find spectacular fishing.