Social Flathead Challenge III
After chatting to Al (Biggles) the weekend prior to my nominated fishing day for the SFC III, it was decided that we would both hit my favourite flathead haunt for the comp. As always I carefully watched the wind and weather and much to my delight the prediction changed from gusts of up to 25 knots to gusts of 9 knots early in the week and it stayed that way until Sunday (Yea!) So after chatting to Al the night before it was arranged that we would meet up at my place. The main reason being that Al had a little surprise for me in the form of a brand new Sneaky Stix 6’0” baitcaster rod for my Bass fishing (More about that later!). I wasn’t willing to leave it locked in the car and so after a quick look (Gee it was light!), I reluctantly stowed it safely in the house and we were off.
We arrived at the launch location at about 6am with the sky lightening the river looked picturesque. The water was like a mirror and perfectly glassy with a gentle mist rising off the surface and as always I was itching to hit the water. The air was frigid, with the temperature hitting 6oC, and the numbness in my fingers had me thankful I had tied on my SP before leaving home. After checking out the water, we headed back to the cars. Al kitted out his Tarpon 100 and I set up the Viking Tempo and it was then that I realised I had brought the wrong camera. Bugger! It only had a 16MB SD card and I was very thankful that Al had decided to join me for this adventure. Finally once the kayaks were fitted out we carried them down the concrete ramp and hit the water.
The plan was to target both sides of the river, concentrating on the area within 2-3m of the bank. We drifted comfortably on the outgoing tide in the morning light and cast parallel to the gently sloping banks. My weapon of choice was a Daiwa Sol 2500 on a Shimano Raider Mexican Fire 1-4kg with 8lb TD Sensor braid and a 10lb FC Rock leader. Al was using his Shimano Stradic Ci4 1000 on a 1-5kg Duff Rod Upgraded Sneaky Stix with 10lb braid and a 14lb leader. As always my SP of choice was a 70mm Squidgie Fish (Garry Glitter) on a 3gm-2/0 jighead, and Al was using a 2 inch Damiki Armor Shad on a 1/16 -2/0 TT jighead.
The basic technique I used was to cast a medium distance along the bank and allow the SP to sink to the bottom. Often quite a few flathead can inhabitat the same section of the creek and shorter casts minimises disturbing multiple fish if you manage a hook up. I would then use a standard flathead retrieve by raising my rod tip lifting the SP off the bottom and then allow it to swim to the bottom before slowly cranking the handle for 4 or 5 winds (then repeating the process). The areas of structure I intended to concentrate on were small creek mouths and drains, as well as the inner bends of the river where eddies form as the tidal currents pick up and commonly deposit large amounts of sand to create large drop offs. In these areas the flathead can target baitfish being forced out by the tide or concentrated by the swirling eddies of strong tidal currents.
Within the first 10 minutes of our drift Al’s SP was already being given some attention by the plethora of small bream in this system. This continued until finally I looked over to see Al locked up on what I thought was a snag but eventually realised that he had hooked the first flathead for the session. I paddled over to assist in the adventurous task of measuring and photographing 49cm of vigorous flathead and was pleased Al was on the board with a nice fish.
I headed back over to the opposite bank again and continued my drift. I reached one of my favourite flathead structures which was a nice open creek mouth that dropped into the main channel about 2 metres from the bank. Casting past the creek mouth about 10m, my SP was picked up and the flathead made a strong run for the middle of the creek. I had eased the drag off this time as I had managed to pull the hook the last few times when I was a bit heavy handed and had set the drag too high. The flathead made some good strong runs and refused to yield but finally I netted a cracker of a fish to start my bag. At 62cm it was an awesome start and meant that I was well and truly on the board!
We continued to float along with the outgoing tide but I was a bit disappointed that the flathead just didn’t seem keen. Al started to hit some pontoons on the opposite bank and began picking up some bream on the Armor Shad, the biggest going 30cm. These few fish kept the session interesting but our target species had gone a little shy. Areas of the river that in past sessions had always held a few fish were very quiet even though the conditions were perfect. The tide turned and we continued heading against the gentle flow until the lack of interest forced us into moving further upstream to newer pastures before the tide started flooding in.
As we paddled upstream I spied a small kingfisher floundering in some fishing line dangling from a mangrove branch. Initially I thought the poor thing had managed to get hooked but after approaching the tangled little fellow and lifting it via the line it managed to self-release and fly off.
We made our way to one of my favourite bends in the creek and Al spied some dark shade on the outer bend that was too tempting and he began targeting the deep pockets. After a few casts he came up tight and he managed to bag another bream. Meanwhile I was peppering the sandy drop off of the inner bend which had yielded me a 57cm flathead in the first SFC. I reached the upstream side of the bend and the SP was whacked and the rod loaded up to another solid fish. Some good strong runs and eventually another good flattie of 58cm came to the yak. I was stoked with a total of 1200 points as it meant I could relax into the session and hope for an upgrade but really just enjoy the day.
We drifted upstream and as happens in this system the tide finally started flooding in and carried us up into the mangrove lined sections of the river. Here we began to encounter some serious structure and small bream really started giving our SP’s a work over. This part of the system really lacked the ideal flathead habitats, but the chance to cast at these potential ambush sites of a myriad of other fish predators was just too tempting. After casting for awhile with no hits we decided to head back to the sections of the river that we had fished on an earlier part of the tide. We repeated our technique of casting parallel to the bank and eventually another flathead launched itself off the bottom to smash my SP. I was ecstatic to have another good flathead peeling drag off the reel. Hoping for an upgrade I netted the beautiful fish and was only slightly disappointed to find a 57cm flathead lying on the brag mat.
During the day I had put out a second rod which was another Duff Rod Sneaky Stix 1-5kg and switched the Daiwa Sol over to it. I tied on a 50mm Squidgie Wriggler in the Bloodworm pattern and cast it out the back letting it sink to the bottom and drift along behind the kayak as I cast at structure. While drifting along I had forgotten it was out the back as for most of the session it had only been worried by small bream. As happens I almost fell out of the yak when my Sol’s drag began screaming and I turned to find the Sneaky Stix fully loaded up. I quickly stowed my main rod and lifted the Sneaky Stix out of the rear rod holder to feel the weight of a good fish taking drag. All I could think was that a monster flattie had taken the small SP. The fish fought wrong for a flattie and pulled hard and strong with a few head shakes. The Sneaky Stix felt awesome in the hand and controlled the fish beautifully until eventually I raised the fish and could see some colour. A beautiful silver sheen reflected off the flanks of a nice jewfish as it slipped into the net. On the brag mat it measured 58cm and was a welcome bycatch while chasing flathead.
We continued drifting down the river and eventually reached the launch point where we disembarked for a well-earned stretch of the legs. The decision was made to drift back downstream to the areas we had fished at the start of the day in the hopes of picking up a last minute flathead. After pushing off again I drifted to the opposite bank and within 5 minutes the Squidgie was engulfed by another decent flathead. In the shallow water it gave a great visual display with big head shakes followed by powerful surges away from the kayak that pulled line off the reel. In my head I hoped for an upgrade and finally when the flathead was netted and on the brag mate I was pleased to upgrade my bag with a 60cm fish.
We continued drifting with the outgoing tide but except for a few missed opportunities and a pike that Al pulled from under one of the pontoons again the early afternoon was very quiet. The sun had really warmed up and we began to notice its bite. Eventually Al had a major line twist in the new braid on his Stradic Ci4 and the need for major surgery forced him to stow his gear. I continued casting for a little longer but after such a great day I was happy to head home.
Al had managed a 49cm flathead, 3 bream and a pike and I had managed 4 flathead between 57 -62cm and a 58cm Jewie. It was a great day and Al was great company. I was very happy with the fish caught over the day and can’t wait to give it another crack in a few weeks.