Tuesday, March 13, 2018


Now we're in the autumn season. Days are still warm although shorter and the evenings cooler, and historically March signals additional rainfall - its a pre-winter growing season where birds, beasts and fish feed heavily to fatten up for the leaner season ahead.

In short its close to my favourite season.. The fishing improves over summer's leaner pickings, and game bird season is almost upon us. Layla has been staying in shape with plenty of running and swimming and those evening sessions double as reconnaissance exercises for watching the anchovy schools out from the East Coast Bays, which are being carved up by birds and predatory fish. There have been persistent and often large workups a stickbait cast offshore and in the still evenings the rowdy tern song is audible. Selfishly maybe, the shortening days have the effect of cutting back the summer crowds of indignant dog haters. We give them their summer dog restricted hours, but inevitably the beach ownership will return to us. Fair weather beach goers have their short season; the cooler months have so much to reveal that is missed by the Gucci brigade.

I set off in darkness the other day, probably a tad too early to be honest, but I'm always keen to secure a parking spot at the bay which has limited parking. I'd start by prospecting for snapper then head on to fish workups and then scan a shallow area for a kingfish. I'd have the bottom 2 hours of the tide and then would make my next move from there. In darkness I'd pulled in as close as I'd dared to the rocks and set the Minn Kota to anchor mode; boat traffic is heavy around here and I was keen to stay out of the path of any errant vessel. A bright orange Clouser was bent on to my leader, a 20lb tapered bonefish leader I'd left on from the island trip. As the sun rose I was able to make out the reef structure that I wanted to fish and made my first cast. The fly was hit on the sink but I failed to connect with the fish -  a promising start! But that was it for a while, so I moved from outcrop to outcrop. As the day grew lighter the fish began to hit the fly more regularly, mostly smaller models but soon a long cast across a sunken outcrop gave me a rod jolting take. I hit the fish and line ripped through my fingers. I eventually got the net under the 48 cm fish, he'd be coming home with me for dinner.

Chewed up fly
 As the tide slowed I began to notice splashy surface hits further out in the bay. With good sized snaps hitting the fly with enough regularity to keep it interesting I resisted moving for a while, and was rewarded with a beautiful silvery snapper unlike the darker red kelpy versions I'd been catching.

That seemed an apt time to change gears, so I re-rigged the #8 with a small tan gotcha, left over from a bonefish excursion. The splashy workups were getting more consistent, so with rod in hand I moved quietly out under power of the electric motor. Soon a brown mass showed - a bait ball of anchovies. With only a few terns present, the workups hadn't as yet attracted the attention of the numerous boats anchored around the place. Kahawai ripped through the bait and under the still and clear conditions I was able to sight fish to individuals - lead the fish, drop the fly and rip it through the water... hit! I had a bent rod the whole time under the most surreal conditions. But my success was soon noticed and before long a stick baiter came over. I could see that his 10cm bait was nothing like a match for the hatch and he cast again and again for nada. Then the inevitable. Trollers began to drive through the workups, getting closer and closer to me. I moved to a quieter patch and continued with hookup after hookup, winning some and losing some. The Kahawai is a powerful fighter and quite capable of giving you the run around on appropriate tackle. One fish was gill hooked so I spiked and bled it, to be smoked later.

A move to escape the traffic. Autumn sun, autumnal greenness of grass and evergreen trees. Still clear water, no wind riffle, no clouds, awesome visibility.  No kings. Black rays gliding over the sand, but no kings to be seen. I'm now wondering about the reliability of the info I'd received - the flats 'look fishy' and there are mullet, parore and small kahawai in abundance - in other words, all of the juicy morsels that a kingi cant ignore. And its been the same on each visit. This could be a matter of timing, but I'm not sure I like the odds here. Silently the boat glides out of the bay and onto large shelves of sandstone that abruptly drop over a weed line into the depths. Amazingly I can see cruising snapper, the wariest of fish, clearly the boat in silent mode is not disturbing them. I've my kingi rod in hand but I'm not even tempted to cast, this scene is mesmerizing, and a one in a thousand chance to see what's going on below without disturbance of outboard, cloud, wind or wave.

And there he is, Mr Kingi. He turns and goes deep before re-appearing over the shelf heading for the shallower water. I lead him and drop the fly ahead. For 3 strips he follows closely, but he's not lit up (he's probably as relaxed as I feel) and turns away even though I drop the fly back for him. Putting the rod down I flip out of the boat into the warm clear water which closes over my head. I'll dry quickly.

It's autumn after all, not winter.

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