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Fly Fishing

Chasing Golden Trevalley on the Magnetic Island flats.


Enjoying one of the many beautiful beaches of Magnetic Island.

Monday 27 September 2010

Luring the Haughton

Spent the best part of yesterday afternoon lure casting in the Haughton river with Dad. Wanted to give the full run out tide a go for Barra and Jacks. We initially headed up a small arm but found the water dirty from the rain last week. There was plenty of bait around, so we gave it a try. There were some monster crashes of Barra among the bait, but despite our best efforts we couldn't even entice a roll.

We headed back down toward the front looking for clearer water. We found it, and gave an are that we had success in last week another go. We managed a few small fish before moving off. 

It was quiet, and we were desperate to nail one of those bigger fish, so back up to where they were crashing we went! The bait was still around in massive proportions, but there was no real action any more. We tried for a couple of hours before a final bash back down the front before home was called for.

A couple more small Barra were caught and then in the last few casts before heading home I nailed a nice Mangrove Jack. At 42cm he is my PB for a lure caught Jack. For the number of casts we made the fish were few and far between, but from all reports it was quiet for most this weekend.

Monday 20 September 2010

NQ Flyfishers Film Night

NQ Flyfishers film night at Heatley Secondary College in Townsville was a great success but we would have liked to double the numbers.

The day started with boats fishing Magnetic Island, but the weather was not kind with a stiff breeze and rough water. Jeff and Steve managed a couple of nice trevally but at the expense of wetting everything including the kitchen sink!

The fly casting competition in the afternoon tested the skills of all participants. The course designed by Richard Wallace and Ward Nicholas was a beauty testing accuracy, control and distance casting. All members of the club participated in this event.

Seven competitors entered the fly tying competition submitting three flies each. There had to be one off-shore, one in-shore and one free choice. These were judged on five criteria with a possible score of 150. Richard Wallace won the best set of three which also held the winning fly overall. Steve Munday and Helen Johnson scored equal second places.

The Hamar Midgley fly fishing Trophy was displayed throughout the evening. Harvey Low explained that this award is a state wide competition for either the most meritorious catch or for someone who significantly promoted fly fishing. He then presented the framed certificate to Ward Nicholas.

Bill Mitchell put together a very good paper on keeping permit and Golden Trevally as a recreational species only. This report was well thought through and well reported and accepted by the audience.

The films started after a sumptuous barbecue meal. We were treated to bone fishing, tarpon fishing, permit fishing and giant trout all on fly in different parts of the world. We finished with giant trout in New Zealand. We had a short break between films for banana cake, chocolate cake, biscuits and beverages. The winner of the raffle and the casting competition were awarded their prizes between films.

The small number of visitors said they enjoyed themselves and we are all looking forward to next year’s film night.

Saturday 18 September 2010

Success with the electric!

After having the electric motor fitted to the tinnie for a few weeks now, today Dad and I finally got to test it out properly. We headed to a local creek first thing this morning to fish outgoing tide.

Initially we headed a fair way up a small creek before deploying the electric motor. After only a few minutes we spotted a Barra boof some bait on the other side of the bank. With a quick squirt of power we were over there to put in a few casts. Not having high expectations following our previous successes, Dad was taken by surprise when the fish smacked his lure. Unfortunately, in the fright, he pulled the lure from the fish. Not long later it was my turn to be shocked by a fish. A rather healthy Barra smacked my Flatz Rat right near the surface. I almost shat myself from the smacking sound of the fish on the surface. But I barely felt the fish bump the lure. 

From here it went quite, very quiet. And for the next few hours we tried up and down this particular creek looking for the fish. Eventually we ended up back toward the mouth working some likely looking structure as the tide neared the bottom half. We saw a couple of flashes from some rat's but again nothing found the hooks. 

Then we came across a nice snag in deep water with the current running nicely by. The snag was sitting deep in the water and I could see Herring rolling around under the water. I held the boat in place with the electric so we could get in a few casts. I didn't take long and Dad was hooked up to a small Barra, but it threw the hook on it's first jump. A few casts later and he was on again, a slightly better fish but still not legal. With a quick pic he was on his way again. My turn next, another small fish boated and released. A few casts later and I was smacked by a better fish, but he took me under the timber. I could feel him there for a few moments, but then the lure came free and he was gone. We managed one more hit before the bait seemed to disappear, and so did the Barra. 

We moved on closer to the ramp and worked another good looking edge. We spotted a swirl on the surface and Dad was just sitting there looking at. Then he said something about not looking at it and getting a cast in. It wan't in the water long and he was connected. A nice Jack! 

A bit further down I got a nice cast in under some overhanging timber and Bang, another small Barra. Slightly better than my first fish. But again, no keeper. We managed a couple more hits that failed to find the hooks before it was time to head home. So far I am very impressed with having the electric motor. We were able to do things that we normally couldn't do with the crappy 2-stroke. I have no doubt it helped account for the fish we got today. 

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Townsville Billfish Challenge 2010

After a rather busy period at work I think I have a few moments to sit down and write about my experience aboard the 55 foot Viking 'Spartacus' while they fished the 2010 Billfish Challenge. This was a big event for the Townsville Game Fishing Club with over 30 boats entering the competition. The smallest boat of the fleet was a Cruise Craft outsider 575, similar to my own. And the biggest was a 56' O'Brian. The event began early Saturday morning with the traditional blessing of the fleet and then a sail past to the start line outside the harbour. The sail past was a spectacular sight with millions of dollars of boatings best cruising slowly past the Coast Guard. There were quite a few people lining the rock wall for the spectacle. Then the boats lined up for the 'shotgun' start to the event. Most boats headed south to the normally prolific Bowling Green Bay billfish grounds. But Spartacus and a few other boats headed north for some warm water where baitfish should be holding.

The fist day didn't hold a whole lot of action for our boat. We trolled skipping gar and swimming mullet in a spread of 5 lines out the back of the boat. The most action we saw for the day was a school of small tuna that held up our hopes of a feeding billfish and a large Spanish Mackerel that cleaned up a queenfish being pulled behind a teaser. If fact there was more action from the crew throwing there guts up for too many drinks at the meet and greet the night before than from the fish themselves! By late in the afternoon we were even trolling the edges of the reef in search of anything that would get the ratchet on one of the reels screaming. But it wasn't our day. We then anchored in the shelter of a lagoon on one of the reefs and settled down to a beautiful roast dinner.

Next morning we awoke to near perfect conditions on the water. The skipper had a choice to make, head back and troll the 30m line where there were a few sailfish raised by other boats the day before, or head to the shelf and go looking for bigger fish! It was an easy decision, despite being a bit worried about what might hook up on the 6kg line being fishing for the competition, the prospect of big fish off the shelf was too tempting.

We steamed out at 25knots until the start time when a spread of lures were chosen. It was decided to troll lures and keep the speed up around 8 or 9 knots to try and cover some ground and hopefully find the fish. The troll began around Urchin shoal, and it wasn't long before on the reels was screaming. But it ended quickly with a 'crack' as the line broke at the reel. The drag had been set too high. The lures were again set and the drags were all backed off on the reels. Again it wasn't long before another reel was screaming. This time a Sail leapt free of the water as line disappeared from the reel. With the lines quickly cleared the skipper was soon backing down on the fish. It was a short fight, maybe only 10mins, and soon the tag was placed. Cheers of joy and celebration and the fish is brought aboard for a quick photo.

Lines were quickly re-set and we were off again. Hopes were now high as we had had two strikes and one landed in only minutes. We kept following our path for the shelf. As we passed over another shoal there was a show of a couple of fish on the sounder. Then moments later, bang reels screaming. Then bang again and it was a double hookup. With nothing jumping our suspicions turned to Tuna. And with the fish circling deep our suspicions were soon confirmed. It amazes me how quickly these guys knock over good fish on 6kg line, soon the pair of nice school Yellowfin Tuna were in esky.

As we approached the shelf the water depth quickly increased, and it wasn't long and we were trolling in 150-200m of water. The colour of the water out here is amazing, simply too beautiful to describe. Its even bluer than around the reef! It just screams BIG FISH. We were not on the shelf for long when a big fish was spotted up bashing on of teasers. The guys tried to pull in the teaser and feed back a gar, but one of the outriggers was smashed. The line peeled form the reel at amazing speed, and while the crew was clearing lines the angler was yelling about running out of line. Composures were regained and skipper backed down hard on the fish. While we were guessing as to the species the deckie too a look at the teaser it had been climbing all over. The leader was torn to shreds. We were now thinking Wahoo, and with a mono leader things didn't look too good. But it hadn't bitten of immediately, so maybe luck would be on our side. After a solid fight a Wahoo of almost 30kg was just out of gaffing range. The fish had been jagged in the side, allowing the angler to land the fish without being bitten off. A lucky catch, but a dam fine one on 6kg!

The next strike was another screaming run in 150m of water. It didn't last long before the leader was bitten through. Anther Wahoo was suspected. Except for a small striped tuna and an airborne attack from a Mackerel, the rest of the day was pretty quiet. But it didn't matter, we had seen plenty of excitement and even tagged a sail. It was a long run home but at 25knots in a 55 foot boat and glass out conditions it doesn't matter. A few celebratory drinks later and were were back in the marina re-fueling. An estimated 2,500lts for the 2 days on the water! I'm glad I was just along for the ride! A big thank you to Ralph and the crew for having me on board, it was an amazing experience. I hope you guys have some success up off Lizard Island in the Heavy Tackle Tournament.

I learned a lot while on this trip, and I am keen to organise a day out with a selection of trailer boats specifically chasing billfish. Its not something I want to get into, just have to give it a go once for the experience. It is indeed true what they say about game fishing, lots of nothing punctuated by moments of sheer chaos!

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Spring into Summer Boat Expo!

Townsville Marine is having it's very own 9 day Expo starting this weekend!

There's jumping castles and face painting for the kids - yummy cool slushies and sausage sizzles !

And, of course, there are loads of new Quintrex and Yellowfin Boats on display - powered by Suzuki, the World's Best 4 Stroke!

Knighty will be there sharing his knowledge on how to catch fish, tie knots, tides and everything else on how to catch the big one that didn't get away!!

Suzuki - World's best 4 stroke
Cashbacks - get 'em while they're hot!

Get you're hands on a new Suzuki outboard at the Expo and save! Suzuki are offering exclusive cashbacks for motors sold at the Expo - take your cash up front or get a cheque in the mail - either way, the cash stays in your pocket! The World's Best is now even more affordable

3 years free scheduled servicing on all new boats in stock or up to $3,000 in options free!

With over 80 Quintrex and Yellowfin plate boats in stock ready to tow away, you'll be amazed at the deals you'll get at the Expo. One thing you don't have to worry about is scheduled servicing for three (3) years! That's right, buy any boat in stock at the Expo and you'll get 3 years scheduled servicing free!

If the boat you are looking for isn't in stock - you can add up to $3,000 worth of factory fitted options at no charge (it's a sliding scale, but if you buy a boat for $10,000 and we don't have it in stock, you'll get $500 worth of options added at no charge - more details at the Expo).

Tell your friends it starts this weekend - and goes for 9 days (jumping castles etc on weekends only).

Monday 13 September 2010

Gin Clear Media Show

This is coming up this weekend. So if you are interested please get in contact with Ward on the email address below. 

This year the NQ Fly Fishers are again hosting the Gin Clear Media Show. This is a fly fishing film festival promoting Gin Clear Media DVD's. Last year it was a great little show, and by the sounds of things this year is planned to be a lot bigger. This is what NQ Fly Fishers president Ward Nicholas has to say.

The bookings are now made and the show will be on! It will be the 18th September 2010, depending on the the weather we will have a fish trip starting at 6:30am meeting at the main ramp at the Townsville Coast Guard. At 2pm we will meet back at Heatley Secondary College on the Cnr of Hanlon St and Fulham Rd at the Media centre. There will be a casting competition (with distance and accuracy) on the day from 2pm till 4:30pm. We will also have a fly tying competition (to be handed to Dave Little on the day) until 5pm (3 flies 1 open water, 1 inshore, and 1 of your own choice) all flies remain property of the club at the end of the show. There will be engraved glass trophies for each event. At about 5:30pm there will be a sausage sizzle (soft drinks on sale for a dollar) and then from about 7pm the media show. The cost will be $30. You can participate in all the events or just the sausage sizzle and media show (the cost covers venue hire, sausage sizzle and media show). We are also offering a fishing swap meet starting from 4pm till 6pm. Any one can participate, the idea is to bring along any fishing tackle you would like to get rid of and we will provide a table. If any club or shop would like to set up a stand (fly fishing only) they would be Ok as well. We do need to know numbers so we can cater for the event. It is an alcohol free zone as it is at a school premises. Any questions or ideas I am happy to hear from you. 

Friday 3 September 2010

Billfish Challenge Meet & Greet

I have just returned from the Townsville Game Fishing Club Billfish Challenge Meet an Greet. What a great night and what a spectacle of boats. The boys form the club have arranged for me to spend the weekend aboard the beautiful 55 foot 'Spartacus'. Thanks to the skipper and crew for having me! Here are a few pictures from the evening.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Magnetic Island Shoals – Using your Sounder and GPS to find shoal marks

With massive advances in GPS and sounder technology over the past decade, more and more people are discovering the huge potential of fishing an area off Townsville that is collectively know as the 'Magnetic Island Shoals'. But a lot of people new to fishing, or who have recently upgraded boats and put the shoals into reach, don’t really understand what a shoal is and therefore what to look for to find one. It’s a big ocean out there, and to the untrained eye it’s a very basic bottom all the way from the back of the island to the reef. The rewards form fishing this area can be huge, and at half the distance so are the fuel savings compared to going to the reef!

So what is a shoal? Generally speaking a shoal is a section of the seafloor that has a harder rubble appearance rather than a basic mud bottom. This is usually created by a raised area in the seafloor. When the seafloor is raised above the height of the surrounding area, current and tide remove the fine sediment leaving a harder substrate exposed. This harder substrate is critical for sedentary life forms such as sponges and corals to attach to and grow. The bottom may look something like the picture to the right. Once these structures grow and form, smaller baitfish will be attracted to the protection provided. And with the bait come the bigger predators. The problem is that these subtle changes in seafloor can be very difficult to detect, especially with cheaper sounders or a sounder left on automatic. The aim of this article is to show people what to look for on a sounder, and how to best adjust your sounder to pick up the minute changes in seafloor structure.

Firstly, a cheap sounder with a poor resolution simply won’t cut it out here. Finely tuned you might pick up some of the larger pieces of structure or bigger bait schools, but you can’t beat a good high resolution colour sounder for those faint details. One of the best ways to tune your sounder to pick up on smaller details and individual fish in deep water is to zoom in on the bottom. And I don't mean by using the zoom button built into most sounders. I mean adjusting you upper and lower limits of the sounder to only show the bottom few meters of water. When you use the zoom feature of the sounder all you are doing is taking whats already displayed and making it larger, no new information is rendered. By changing the upper and lower limits you force the sounder to re-allocate all the pixels available to the new depth range. This increases resolution and detail, and more information will be rendered. Think of it like this, if you have a sounder with only a 100px count in the vertical direction, and you are in 100m of water, then every one of those 100 pixels is representing 1m of water depth! If you change the range of the sounder to show from 80-100m only, then every pixel now represents about 20cm of the water column. So you stand much greater chance of picking up smaller details. In reality, most modern sounder will have a vertical pixel count of about 640px or more, and most shoals are in about the 30m water. So by telling the sounder to only look from about 15-35m you are giving the sounder a good chance of picking up individual fish and small bottom structures. You also stand a better chance of separating fish from the bottom. You also want to sent the sensitivity up quire high. Don't worry about some clutter showing, you will read fish and bait through this. But its important not to miss out on information that may be removed by setting the sensitivity low. 

The image below shows how my Humminbird 997c has been set to 17-35m in 29m of water. The fish showing, probably Nannygai, are sitting very close to the bottom. In automatic mode the fish would be barely visible. And without a good sounder they probably wouldn't have been picked up at all. If you are interested in talking sounders then go along to Townsville Marine and have a chat to Reece. He really knows his stuff, and Townsville Marine are stockists of Humminbird sounders. 

Generally speaking most shoal areas will be covered by live corals and other marine life. As a coral is softer than the bottom it will return a weaker signal to the transducer. Strong signals, such as from the bottom proper, will return as red, and weaker signals will return green and yellow. So a good shoal will have the red signal for the bottom and scatterings of green/yellow attached to this. The image below shows quite nicely the red bottom with a yellow and green line sitting above, fish are clearly making off the bottom. This is a good Nannygai show. 

If your sounder isn't quite up to picking up the smaller details, or your just not sure what to look for, probably easiest is to find the bait and fish themselves. If its a big shoal, large bait balls and predators will be present, sounding around should locate these easily. The image below is from a popular shoal that holds good numbers of Spanish Mackerel. There is clearly a large bait ball present with predators above. The Side Image of the Humminbird sounder has the added feature here of showing most of the school to the left of the boat. Notice the depth is still locked in on the bottom half of the water column.

This shot below shows a very large bait school holding close to the bottom with Spanish Mackerel narrowing in from above. Spanish Mackerel, by virtue of their body shape, return as longer streaks on the sounder than Nannygai. 

The discovery of new shoals is the 'holy grail' of shoal fishing. Shoals unknown to others and that haven't been fished much will hold the biggest and best of the Red fish. So when running around out there its a good idea to keep an eye on that sounder! Even at 30knots its possible for good sounders to pick up new territory. But at that speed you more likely to pick up bait balls than good bottom. The image below shows where I have picked up a couple of patches while running between marks. The speed indicated is only 11knots, but I had pulled the boat out of gear already before marking the position. The advantage here, of a good sounder, is that you can pause the screen and bring the cursor back to the patch of bait and mark its 'exact' location. Spin the boat around and have a better look. Holding bottom at 25+ knots requires excellent transducer positioning and calm conditions. Air passing under the hull from choppy weather can break up an image, but its still worth watching. If your sounder simply won't hold the bottom at running speed, then the same thing can be achieved by trolling around while enjoying a quiet ale or two.

Here is another shot that highlights the advantages of a Side Image capable sounder. This was taken on the popular Mackerel Grounds. I was sounding around for a patch of Spanish Mackerel that had moved away from the boat. I knew they were there, but couldn't get onto them. There was nothing showing on the 2d sounder at all, the fish simply were not under the boat. But a quick flick over the SI and it was reviled that the fish were sitting off to the left of the boat. Very handy feature!

This shot shows what a bit of shoaly bottom looks like on the Side Image. The features are small, and with the sounder set to look 65m either side of the boat, you don't get much definition. But it does work, even in 30m of water.

One last tip I will give for finding shoals has nothing to do with a sounder. Keep and eye pealed for SEA SNAKES. These reptilian creatures live around good structure and come to the surface to breath. They will NOT live over mud bottom. So if you see a snake on the top of the water stop the boat and/or mark the position on your GPS. Hunt around with your sounder in the area he was spotted, there will be a lump of some kind on the bottom somewhere nearby. Think to yourself, how many times have you been anchored on a mark and a snake has popped its head up?

I hope this helps some people in fishing an area that is very productive but also very frustrating? If you have some success as a result of reading the info here then please use the comment section and let us know how you went.