Saltwater Fixed-Line Essay by Dean Price
In this weird new world opportunities can open up when a man with a tenkara rod in hand armed with a collection of strange yellow flies is fortunate enough to enjoy some good weather conditions, score the right tidal patterns and have some luck to go his way to indulge in some pleasant fixed-line fishing adventures far away from the madding crowd.
I decided to apply for some work two hours south from my home at a prawn farm for a few months work during the harvest season of the farm’s many ponds. One of my motivations for this decision was my love of fly fishing for yellowfin bream with a tenkara rod. There are plenty of bream in this part of the world and discovering what some of the area offered fishing-wise was extremely tempting.
The mighty Clarence River is one big river on the North Coast of New South Wales (Australia), very wide with many broad-waters and deep channels, the places to fish especially from a boat are endless. I’ve never spent much time fishing the Clarence River so I was excited for the chance to learn a little about the area. After my employment induction at the prawn farm I booked a campsite at the nearest holiday park near the farm, setting up a tent in a large field beside the river. Around my camp was a small lake nearby with about ten resident kangaroos and other campers around who came and went with the passing days.
Easter was fast approaching so I would have to move out because I didn’t have a prior booking as the place is usually totally booked in advance for this time of year so I was surprised when I received a phone call from the manager telling me that everyone was to move out except for the travelling workers as they were deemed essential workers. As the people moved out of the once busy park it became eerily quiet. I thought it was a little amusing seeing all the cabins, deserted water parks and vacant camping grounds completely empty. It seemed as though I was all alone at this huge holiday park, just me, the kangaroos and the possums.
During the first weeks of my stay the area had just received a lot of rain making the river very murky so I didn’t bother fishing much. After a while though the water cleared and now it was really worth fly fishing and nice to be able to see fish cruising about in the shallows following presentations and sometimes resulting in an eat.
Nearby to where I camped there was a rugged boat ramp with some submerged rocks at each side, a small beach and some tidal flats set in between mangroves that grow thick along the riverbanks. During the peak times at this park there would be many fishing off the ramp, wading the flats and paddling around on kayaks, so needless to say I did appreciate having this spot to myself for almost a month.
It took some time to work out what type of fly to use and the best spots to cast to. I fished many times and only managed to catch various small fish and not the desired targeted bream. Then I tied on a strange bright yellow fly with some small pink rubber legs and had immediate success with these synthetic yellow leech type flies. I was then constantly catching some nice size bream when the conditions were good for fishing.
The change of tide was the key at this location either an hour or so each side of low or the high. At times I had beautiful clear sky and windless Autumn weather, scoring the right tide periods and found fishing at these times to be very rewarding. I’d often catch 2 or 3 bream in quick succession before their survival instinct told them there’s some dude with a big stick chucking a fake bit of food in their vicinity. So often after catching 2 or 3 bream they’d go off the bite and you’d then hope for another species of fish to take the fly.
At other times I managed to catch other species such as flathead, a bottom dwelling fish that looks like a lizard, small trevally, and queenfish.
One highlight was catching a very nice size sand whiting which was a personal best whiting for me on fly. Once hooked I could see that I had hooked a different kind of fish and I was stoked to land the fish as whiting are a prize catch on fly.
Another bonus about this little spot was a spot light set upon a pole which shone over the little bay so I could easily fish at night. I clearly remember one windless evening being totally absorbed in the beauty and peacefulness of the night as an incoming tide came trickling in over the flats. The different colored lights of blues, yellows and reds were shining from across the river which set the atmosphere as George Michael’s CD Older drifted out upon the sound waves from my open car door. I caught bream and flathead on these nights and had many hits using a size 1 Clouser and the yellow leech fly as well.
It was Easter Thursday and I was chilling out under the balcony area of the kitchen. The manager was driving around the park telling the remainder of guests that the park was completely closing to all guests and everybody was given 30 days to move out and we were informed that the other nearest cabin park would take any guests that needed a cabin or camp site. The time came close and the weather became colder so I organized some cabin accommodation at the other park. The afternoon before I left I went for one more fish and caught a nice flathead which was a nice fishing memory to leave on.
The remainder of the working holiday I have spent much of my time discovering many more parts of the Clarence River, finding a few new spots and catching some more fish. I hope to keep coming back to the Clarence River to indulge in my tenkara obsession of catching bream and other species on the big river. It is pure joy when everything comes together in nature to give a recreational fisherman an escape from the worries of the world. This joyful feeling is one I will always chase.
Dean Price is a fresh and saltwater fixed-line fisherman from Australia’s Far North Coast NSW. Dean enjoys photography, music and nature.
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