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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 29 August 2011

Better than average Spanish Mackerel

Last weekend presented us with another opportunity to beat the weather and get out for a fish. Predictions of 10-15's had my heart racing in preparation. With things on the agenda for Saturday, I bravely waited until Sunday morning to have my go. As it turned out the wait was well worth it. I pulled Tania and the kids out of bed at 3am, and was very pleased to be out of the house before 4! I don't think the fish needed us to be that early, but unfortunately its necessary for an effortless launch and to secure a car park. We were soon shooting across the bay in what can only be described as mill pond conditions! But despite the dead calm water I refrained from opening the big block 150 Suzuki up! I was determined to do a few k's today at the more optimal running revs to determine fuel consumption figures. So it was 4200rpm and 25knots all day for me. 

Even at 25knots the run to Maggie Shoals was only 45mins. Here I did a quick sound around some old favourite Nannygai grounds while the kids and Tania slept in the cabin. But the sounder was bare! I couldn't locate a single fish over the dozen or so marks I have previously caught good fish on. Not even the structure that use to be there? So it was out a little further for us, to my favourite Mackerel grounds. We pulled up and within seconds the sounder came to life. I love this mark, but it now seems that within a couple of years everyone in town has gained the location! But it's a big area and easily fished by several boats, so long as they all work together. Dad was the first to join me, and by sunrise there was probably 8 or 10 other boats. 

Despite the shows on the sounder the fishing was very quiet. A couple of good runs that resulted in a bust off, and a fish or two lost to the sharks. Dad was managing a few small Trevalley, but the red fish didn't seem to be there. Once the sun came up the Mackerel started to bite. But the sharks were thick and the Trevally hungry. We managed plenty of hookups, but only two Spanish were boated. Other boats were now trolling the area for the Makerel, but appeared to be having similar problems. I saw some troll up trevalley and tuna, but only a few Macks. 

I got a little sick of the sharks and trevalley and decided to head out to Shark Shoal. Strange I know, but if I was going to be dealing with sharks anyway, I figured it might as well be worth the chance of a better fish. And we did manage to land a fish fairly quickly, despite a shark hot on his tail! The Mackerel even launched clear of the water to get away, but was still covered in cuts when he came on board. We tried the bottom for something different, but it was overall very quiet. 

Ok, time to head even wider and look for some fresh ground. I motored a few km past the shoal and found a bit of a contour line. A quick sound around soon located several patches of good looking schools of fish off the bottom. 'You little ripper' I thought as the boat was positioned and baits went down. Tania hooked up almost immediately on a Lacunas imitation made by Surecatch. Several good strong runs and plenty of head shakes down the line had me thinking Red Emperor. It was a tough fight and I was convinced all the way! But when the fish came into sight it was obviously not Red. A nice Golden Trevally. Disappointed we sounded around and found more schools and dropped  more baits. But every time it turned out to be Golden's. 

A bit of wind was now capping the surface, so we decided to head back in closer rather than further out. Another sound around the Maggie shoals and nothing could be found. So I headed North a little to some marks I haven't visited in a while. There were fish there, but all small rubbish and trigger fish. So for a last ditched effort to secure a feed it was back to my Mackerel mark for another go at the Spanish. 

As we approached the mark I could see there were still 6 or 7 boats trolling the area. I'm not sure how successful the trolling had been for them, but I pulled up over a patch of fish and dropped the Bumpa-bar. Two turns of the handle and all hell bloke loose! The 30lb braid raced off the Stella at break-neck speed. Definitely the best run of the day. Fortunately the sharks must have had full bellies and soon the fish was gaffed and on board. For the next half hour or so it was just a matter of locating the school on the sounder, dropping the slice and holding on! In no time we had an eski full of fish and had to stop. This high speed 'Bumpa-barring' really is the way to target these fish! Especially if the school can be located easily. 

A quick run back and we had to try get the boat out at 2pm on the 0.4m low. All day I knew I wanted to avoid this time. But due to the fishing we couldn't make it earlier, and we didn't want to be any later. School the next day for two very tired little boys. So as a word of advice, if you pull out on a dead low tide on the CG ramp, use the ramp closest to the ocean. We had no worries at all getting my boat out. Kids were fed and in bed by 6pm, and Tania and I followed about 7.30! What a day!

By the way, we did about 140km and used 80lts of fuel from the Suzuki. The same trip with the 2-stroke yam would have been more like 140lts (plus almost 3lts of oil). 

Saturday 20 August 2011

Rod Review - CTS ES566 Built by Bundybear

We are lucky enough on the forum to have our very own custom rod builder. Ashley, known on the forum as Bundybear, has been a member of the forum since 2009. In that time Ash has built many rods for our members at a very reasonable price. He has provided advice to members on rod choices and rod repairs, and has even run tutorial sessions for those interested in learning the basics of the art. When it came time for me to put together a high quality bait cast rod for working the snags for Barra, Bundybear was the obvious choice!

I sent Ash a PM on the forum and was keen to put something together for me. I was pretty vague with my requirements, something short, powerful and incredibly light! It was to be used with a low profile style bait caster reel and 30lb braid, a monster stopper! The short length was for tight casting around snags from a small boat and it had to be as light as possible to use comfortably all day. Armed with an idea of what I was after Ash soon ordered in a blank from the New Zealand company Composite Tube Systems. All CTS blanks are made at CTS’s high tech facility in Auckland. As a boutique manufacturer of blanks, the production runs are small and design modifications are frequent. This ensures the latest materials and developments are included in each successive blank run.

The blank chosen was an Elite MagSpin ES566. The Elite MagSpin series is the latest iteration of a long history of CTS’s light weight lure fishing blanks dating back to 2001. According to Stephen Pratt from CTS "The Elite MagSpin series now boasts our Modulus Replacement Technology ‘MRT’. This new style of layup completely isolates the material in the tip with the material in the butt". This system allows CTS to place high strength carbon in the tip area and high stiffness carbon in the butt section. The result is a narrower blank profile and construction that is around 15% lighter than conventional layup techniques while maximising durability through the tip area. "Of course this series includes CTS’s trademark variable helix technology which varies the hoop strength of the blank from tip to butt ensuring that the blank maintains its cross sectional shape under heavy loading maintaining maximum power and response" says Stephen. The blank is 5'6" in length and rated as a 12-25lb stick.

The specifications sounded ideal for what I was after, and when it arrived in Australia Ashley put it on the scales. Just 56grams! He then got to work fitting nothing but the best Fuji components and high quality cork. I stayed with some basic 'safe' colours, but Ashley dressed it up with beautiful copper trims and a custom turned Red Cedar butt cap! He even embedded a Tanzanian 5c coin into the butt, this has a jumping 'sailfish' on back of the coin that really personalises such a rod. You just can't get quality and customisation like that off the shelf!

With all the trimmings the complete rod came in a little heavier than anticipated at 140g. But its still incredibly light in the hand for a rod of this caliber. When I first picked the rod up from Ash's house I was a little surprised at the 'stiffness' of the blank. For a rod rated 12-25lb it sure is solid! I had been tossing up between 20lb and 30lb braid for the new reel, but after feeling the rod I decided to stay with 30. It's capable of this an more if you so desired. I was then a little concerned about the accuracy of the casting with the rod having such little give in the tip. But these concerns were soon put to rest as I flicked a little weight around the back yard at various targets. The rod is still very capable of tossing even light lures such as the 4in prongs with accuracy, distance and ease. Having said this, CTS do make a slightly lighter 10-20lb blank that Ashley has now built several rods on. He feels its a better blank for pure lure casting on 20lb braid. But the 12-25lb is a good rod for a combination of casting and trolling with 30lb for bigger fish. If, for example, you fish impoundments for big Barra then this rod is probably capable of running even 50lb with a bit of care.

I have now been using the rod for several months, but have unfortunately struggled to connect to a really big fish in that time. Matched with a light low profile, reel such at the Shimano Chronarch, it's very comfortable for a full days lure casting. My best fish to date is a Hinchinbrook Barramundi in the 70cm range. But it doesn't take long to realise that this stick has the power to handle very big 1m+ fish. I just need to the chance to try it out! The butt section of the rod has a lot of power, and the tip folds away nicely when a decent fish pulls hard against the 30lb braid. A little flick of the wrist see's even light lures like the Flat Ratz cast with ease. Especially when working in close around the timber.

Ashley's workmanship on the bindings is second to none, and I have no problem recommending him for custom rods or simple guide replacements. In fact, he is now doing the rod repairs for Pro Tackle. Ash builds rods for a hobby, not a living. So his prices are unbelievable for a fully custom rod. You might be surprised how close he can get to a good quality off the shelf job! So if you have ever thought about having a custom rod built for just about any fishing purpose from Bream and Bass to heavy tackle Marlin, give Ash a call and discuss some ideas. He is very passionate, and will at the very least give some good free advice.


Blank: CTS ES566 (12-25lb 1pc, 16-35g lure, Power=heavy Action=Extra fast)
Guides: Fuji BMNAG 25,16,12,10,10,8,8
Tip: Fuji TFST 8 Seat: Fuji ACS
Trigger Grips: Custom (exposed blank) AAAA
Cork Butt Cap: Custom Red Cedar (Tanzanian 5 cent insert)
Thread: Gudebrod dark Blue, Black over with Sulky Holoshimmer copper trims

Cost of rod: $400

If you are interested in having a custom rod built by Ashley he can be contacted via PM on the forum or by the details below.

Mobile: 0412334601

Thursday 18 August 2011

Trolling for Spanish Mackerel (Part 4 of 4)

(part 1) (part 2) (part 3) (part 4)
Article by Nicko_Cairns

Trolling patterns
I’ve tried several different trolling patterns and believe that you should only troll as many lines as you have fishermen in the boat. Trolling more lines introduces more opportunities for tangles should you troll into a school of GTs for example. I swim one lure/dead bait only about 10 metres behind the boat, just under the prop wash. I think this lure/bait gets plenty of contrast from the prop wash and often this is the first lure/bait hit. The second lure/bait I swim around 25-30 metres from the boat, only increasing this distance when depth is required, e.g. for a large bibless lures in deep water, or lighter bibless that I’m trying to swim deeper. It might be easier though to swap to a heavier bibless and have 25-30 metres of line out. For my heaviest bibless lures I only run 15-20m of line as that’s plenty (watch the angle of line into the water). For pusher style lures or poppers (yes poppers work very well on Macks), let out line until the lure consistently breaks the water surface, which will provide plenty of contrast and vibrations through the water. A popper is a good option when you are also swimming a weighted bait deep, that way you’re covering two parts of the water column, not just the surface.

Personally I try not to troll with the current as the lure/bait will be trolled quicker to achieve the same action. I usually troll against or across the current. If possible I try not to troll directly into the sun, I’m unsure if the sunlight makes Macks gun-shy, however the glare on the water makes spotting bommies/pinnacles more difficult so I try to avoid it, especially on new ground. The only time I troll with the current and into the sun is when circumnavigating a small reef, an isolated bommie, pinnacle or rock. Remember that bait congregate on the pressure points of the reef so that’s a prime trolling location.

The Coral Trout bonus
When trolling shallow reef edges in particular, I often change the lure/bait closest to the reef to a popper or small bibbed minnow lure of around 15cm in length. The bonus in this technique is that although Macks will also hit poppers and small minnows, so will Coral Trout (for us Northerners). Generally I try to stay 2-4 meters from the reef edge and get ready for a rampaging trout to hit the lure, you need to attend to the rod quickly in this situation as Trout will dive for the nearest ledge/hiding hole. Ideally this inside lure should be run fairly short at around 10 metres with its counterpart lure/bait run back at least 30 meters behind the boat, this affords and opportunity for the boat driver to pull away from the reef quickly without tangling the lures, increasing your chances of landing the Trout. When trolling for Trout I up the drag so that it is around 1/3 of the breaking strain, being that close to structure anything less and you’re going to lose a lot of lures.

Depth (same as the fish/bait). I advocate trolling in two parts of the water column, i.e. if you have a unweighted or lightly weighted gar just under the surface to about 2m of depth, then run a large bibbed lure, or a heavy bibless at the same time, large bibbed lures that work well at low speeds are probably the best in this instance. If you see arches on the sounder find a lure/bait that you know will swim at that depth, or even better about 2m above that depth. This can be a bit of a guess judging by the amount of line you have out, and the angle of the line to the water.

During the early mornings or later afternoon Macks will swim higher in the water column, particularly if feeding; however, I’ve seen plenty of Macks around 1.5-2m in depth in the middle of the day when it’s particularly cloudy. During the brighter parts of the day you need to fish deep, this is not a time for surface baits as the fish aren’t near the surface and are unlikely to charge into the sunlight, you may get the occasional fish at the surface but you’re not fishing with percentages (putting the lure/bait where the fish are).

Killing the fish
Seems pretty straight forward, and it is but there’s a couple of tips I’ve found have helped me. The first is to beat the head of the fish (on top between the eyes) with a donger (wooden rod or similar) while the fish is still secured by the gaff (when possible), and the fish is in the boat so in the unlikely event that the fish gets off the gaff, you still have it. Everyone else should give the guy with the gaff and donger a fair bit of room. Secondly after giving its melon a flogging I like to grab into the gills with a gloved hand, then remove the gaff with the other hand and hand it to a deckie so it’s out of the way. I then cut the gills while controlling the fish. You have to pay attention but this is easier and safer in my opinion that cutting a fish that isn’t secured. Then throw the fish into a kill tank or similar. Under no circumstances bring Macks into the boat without a gaff, or hand in the gills securing them, those razor sharp teeth can rip flesh to the bone, even a glancing blow could ruin your day… and if that glancing blow is groin height! Ouch!! I’ve seen quite a few people tail grab macks and bring them into the boat; well whatever you think is best but remember that generally your legs and feet are exposed when fishing so a dropped mack will definitely leave a mark.
Well that’s it, some things that I’ve found help me and I hope that they help you in some small way. Remember too that before you bag one technique saying that it doesn’t work, try it for a while (several trips) first and try it alongside your existing technique, it may change your opinion. Lastly find the fish and fish the depth. If the fish are staying low in the water column then run both baits/lures low, if the fish are near the surface run both baits/lures high in the water column. If you aren’t sure where the Macks are then troll where the bait is. If there’s no bait and no arches on the sounder then consider trolling two bibless lures so you can increase your speed and try to find some bait/arches to target. If you troll a small reef system and don’t see a decent amount of bait/arches then head off to the next bit of structure.

Good luck!

Back to PART 1

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Fishing Townsville Forum members lend a hand!

A few weeks ago forum member and GandT Fishing School proprietor Graham Knight (Knighty) placed a post onto the Fishing Townsville Forum for any info on a cheap tinnie that might be available somewhere around town. The request was for a young 12yo kid from Giru named Blake who had had his boat stolen just days after purchasing it! When members learned the very keen young bloke had save up the money himself, they decided not only to point Graham in the direction of the right boat...but to take up a collection to raise the finds too!

Within a very short period of time several members had made donations of both cash and goods to get the young fella back on the water. Pommyupnorth organised some safety gear, All Aussie Shock Leaders Phil Lawlor donated a custom rod, local rod builder Bundybear also donated a custom rod, Paddles organised a brand new 100amp deep cycle battery thanks to Exide Batteries and bob000 dropped in a little 30lb minn kota! ProTackle got involved with a $100 gift voucher and several other members threw money into the kitty. (If I missed anyone please let me know and I will rectify!)

The end result was all presented to the young bloke on Sunday afternoon with a thankyou BBQ and drinks at Graham's place. The family was incredibly grateful and young Blake now has a big smile back on his face! What started off as a simple request for info on where to find a cheap seconhand boat turned into a wonderful community spirit story. All thanks to the friendly members we have on the Fishing Townsville Forum.

And a big thanks (I think ... lol) to Pommyupnorth for organising the Channel 7 News crew!

Friday 5 August 2011

Trolling for Spanish Mackerel (Part 3 of 4)

(part 1) (part 2) (part 3) (part 4)
Article by Nicko_Cairns

Lure colours
Another contentious issue amongst the trolling fraternity… colour. On this issue I choose to argue with science… there is a huge range of colour choices available to anglers and I firmly believe the lures catch more anglers than fish. I am an avid SCUBA diver and skindiver. The first colour to disappear from the colour spectrum underwater is red. Red changes to a dark blue/green/blackish colour at around the 6 meter mark, so if you are trolling lures containing red I conjecture that 5 meters is their most practical depth in terms of the red working as a bright attractant.

Basically the most visible colours at the 10 meter mark are anything metallic (as sun reflects very well off these colours); fluoro yellow, fluoro blue, fluoro green. Non fluoro colours being dark green, dark purple, white and black. These colours are all about contrast. The next time you go for a snorkel/SCUBA, take several of your favourite lures along (without any hooks!). View these lures from underneath and to their sides as these are the viewpoints the Macks will use. What you’ll notice is that the sky above you is either bright or dark and regardless the darker colours will generally be the easiest to spot. This goes against 95% of lures sold today as they generally have a lighter underside (as fish do). I argue that natural selection would dictate that fish with a darker underside would be eaten first; hence fish are camouflaged with a lighter underside, so try a darker underside to your lures. Regardless of the colour on the side of your lures, contrast is again the key with two contrasting colours being king. This may be why lure colours such as the QANTAS colours are so popular and successful, even at depths below 6m when they essentially become a black/white lure. How many anglers would purchase a black/white lure when a red/white lure is sitting beside it? Not many as lures catch more anglers than fish. I believe that a black bodied lure with a lighter head colour would be as successful with Macks and I recently had some custom made black lures with fluoro highlights made for me, more updates on them in the near future. You can also take to the underside of some of your trolling lures with black paint. Take one of these black-underbelly lures (without hooks) for a dive and you’ll see why they work.

Braid or mono
Mono and braid both work well but I find that braid is best. Generally if using braid there are two main theories, one being that you require several metres of wind-on shock leader. The second being that pure braid attached to the wire trace will help in hooking fish, I’ve tried both theories and currently use braid without a shock leader, it works however refer to the hook-up techniques section of this article. Note though that If you keep pressure on the fish and keep your boat moving there’s no reason for the fishes tail etc to rub on the braid, it’s only introducing slack line that causes rub offs, or by trolling near very shallow structure.

Hook-up techniques (to strike or not to strike)
I’ve tried various boat driving techniques when a fish is hooked. These include increasing boat speed for around 20 seconds to secure the hooks, or continuing at your current speed. Both of these options work well, if you abide by one simple rule. Slack line is the biggest reason for people losing fish, whether you increase your boat speed, or continue at your current speed, both will help alleviate slack line. At no stage stop the boat as this is the fish’s best opportunity to throw the lure/bait. Keeping the boat moving also largely eliminates the opportunity for the fish to rub off as Macks generally run to the sides, not straight back away from the boat so pressure and no slack will mean that rub offs are incredibly infrequent, so infrequent that I don’t use a shock leader anymore as I think they introduce slack line (by flexing with the strike), a lighter drag setting and continuing boat momentum (or increasing it) suffice to remove slack line and stop rub-offs from fish.

If you are trolling two dead baits and you hook a fish on one dead bait and increase speed as described above, you may render the other dead bait useless due to the hooks pulling in the bait. Some people swear by this technique; however I choose to continue with my current speed during a hook-up and only increase speed when two macks are hooked at the same time as I generally only swim two baits/lures at a time.
Should you strike upon initially removing the rod from the rod holder, you risk losing the fish if you introduce slack line at the top of the striking motion, or while removing the rod from the holder. Some anglers strike then lower the rod tip slightly toward the fish (watch people strike and concentrate on the rod tip and you’ll see what I mean), introducing slack line. With the speed of the fish when hitting the bait, coupled with the boat’s speed, striking is unnecessary, the fish will be hooked and a continual pump and wind will suffice to keep the hooks buried sufficiently. This is truer without a shock leader, braid to swivel to wire has no give so there’s no need to strike, however you need your drag set properly (about 1.5-2kg breaking strain). You also need to up the drag after the initial hook-up until it’s about 1/3 of your breaking strain and continually wind when the fish isn’t running to prevent slack line.

Upon hook-up the fish will commence its first and longest run (good time to increase your drag without the possibility of slack line), after this initial run there may be a subsequent smaller run, or the fish may not run again until it sights the boat, or is at the side of the boat. At this stage of the fight reduce your drag slightly and expect a last ditch run from the fish. This is the one time that a shock leader can help, should the deckie muck up the gaff shot, or should you let the fish rub against the boat, good gaff shots and constant communication with the boat driver will stop this happening. Also learn to control your fish. Also be prepared for the fish to make a lunge toward the outboard, I’m not sure why they do this maybe they are trying to evade their predator by diving into the bubble stream? The deckie should use a gaff from behind the angler, basically standing behind their shoulder and away from the head of the fish. Basically so if the gaff shot misses then the fish can run with minimal chances of hooking the line. A very tired fish can be gaffed under the jaw; however I usually take the first gaff shot opportunity with a shot at the shoulder, just behind the head. Try to avoid gaffing the fish’s stomach as this is the most likely area that will tear away from the gaff. The deckie may need to swap sides to suit the angler, the angler shouldn’t have to move as there’s more chance of slack line. If the angler has to move they should try and slowly wind while they are moving, or make sure the rod is under plenty of load (no slack line). Regardless the angler should call the shots when the fish is beside the boat.

TIP: when removing the rod from the rod holder, ensure you wind continuously to avoid any slack line, also try to keep the rod tip at a nice high angle; this avoids accidentally facing the rod tip toward the fish and introducing slack line. Personally I start winding with the rod in the rod holder and continue until the rod is in the fighting position. Should you choose to use a fighting belt, then I suggest winding line as you drop the rod butt into the fighting belt as this is another critical time that fish are lost due to slack line. After the rod is removed from the rod holder you can increase your drag to fight the fish (as the drag should be only 1.5-2kg as the fish strikes). Increase your drag to 1/3rd of your lines breaking strain, if you don’t know what this is its time to buy some small scales and find out so you can do this without thinking, I do the same with my bottom bashing rods, I always want to know how to select my optimum drag setting (1/3rd) without looking at the reel. This becomes second nature soon enough, I actually have one TLD set so the traditional strike button is actually my 1/3rd position, so when I want to right amount of drag I push the lever until it hits the stopper ensuring perfect drag every time. Usually people have the stopper as their strike drag but they don’t know exactly how far to push their lever to get the optimum drag setting which can be a recipe for disaster. Plus you want to put hurt on a mack (or any fish) to get it out of the water as quick as possible to avoid shark attack.

When trolling I use slow wheel turns so the boat is doing a slow, narrow S-bend pattern. This forces one lure/bait to slow down slightly (on the inside of the turn), which also makes this lure/bait sink slightly. The lure on the outside of the turn speeds up slightly and may subtly rise in the water column. This technique enhances hook-ups with the lure/bait appearing more lifelike rather than swimming at a constant speed/direction.

  • Trolling Patterns
  • Current
  • The Coral Trout Bonus
  • Killing the Fish