Solo Bluewater Fishing – Dan Bowater 2015

One of the most unique aspects of fishing as a pastime would have to be the range of characters it attracts. I have never experienced a sport or activity that so easily unifies the old, the young, the crazy and the conservative (and everything in-between).

Seeing or being involved in ‘fishing talk’ like that experienced at a boat ramp or tackle shop nearly always sees a feeling of inclusion or optimism prevail. Its arguably part of what makes being part of the fishing community so special. No matter what their background the average weekend angler always fosters an overarching belief that their unique mental approach is bound to lead success on the water. I reckon that part of our psyche is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing in the fact that we can create a vision for how our upcoming trips might unfold because having a plan come together is one of the great experiences in fishing! By the same token it’s a curse that in thinking ahead we sometimes limit our own capabilities and our trips become doomed from the onset!

A Memorable Moresby Mix

Without a doubt all good anglers plan carefully and choose fishing times with precision. For me, estuary scenarios call on a well timed strategy more so than any other kind of fishing trip. In a river you need to accurately move to different locations based entirely on tidal phases as all species use tidal flow to feed in that kind of environment. In the last two years I have done an even mixture of estuary and bluewater fishing mainly thanks to the great features of the Moresby River at Mourilyan allowing for a fair shot at both. That said, before 2010 it wasn’t always an even split. The old Mourilyan boat ramp was at best dodgy and at worst a crime to humanity being very steep and deceptively short. Above all its worst weakness was that it faced to the south east thereby copping any swell that snuck through the harbour entrance. Sometimes launching was a case of minimising how many waves broke on the back of your car rather than how carefully you could get the boat in! More dramatically a few axles were ripped off trailers as that smooth concrete was just not quite long enough during the haste of a rushed hill start! When I returned to Mourilyan in 2013 I nearly had to pinch myself upon seeing the completed ramp upgrades. The whole situation had stepped out of the Stone Age and firmly into the new millennia with modern pontoon facilities and classy triple lane access. The changes have meant that the scope for planning ahead has improved tenfold and the fish are still as abundant as they ever were. If it were any easier you’d be getting served a complementary drink!


The Spoilt and the Spoilers!

There’s an old saying in my line of work that goes something like “with any action comes a reaction”. Yep, despite the many awful drawbacks of the old ramp it did have a few often overlooked benefits. For one it made people think more carefully about choosing launch times out of necessity rather than expecting greatness in any given timeslot. For most of the year venturing offshore involves a well known local ritual of launching on sunrise and coming in before the afternoon sea breeze strengthens. Recently I’ve watched how Mother Nature has chucked the rule book out the window and reversed this early bird rule of thumb. She habitually leaves everyone either scratching their heads or staunchly sticking to their guns. Unwelcome bouts of morning roughness tend to be a bit more common in the dry season when a land breeze maintains strong early morning intensity. The eventual change back to a sea breeze is a key factor due to the fact a sou ‘east swell is usually characterised by long smooth sets of waves. In contrast, a westerly throws up a more random dangerous/sharper type of chop. Another spoiler for early starts can be lingering residual swell from the previous day especially if there is a quick drop in the wind forecast. I’d be sceptical of anyone who thinks they can predict the exact timing of these phenomena. Weather predictions over the internet and TV are helpful but again, are only a guide, and sometimes turn out to be totally off the mark.

A Carefully Calculated Calamity

If I am fishing with young anglers understandably I have to nominate a start and finishing time so their family know their whereabouts for safety reasons. In June I took the young deckie option but upon seeing the harbour entrance hopes were quickly dimmed by wonky shapes on the horizon. Once entering the blue yonder I got the feeling we were getting a bit big for our boots. The wind seemed to be coming from the sou ‘west and we were forced to troll along the southward coastal fringe that was partially sheltered by the Barnard Island groups. When we finally got out to the more exposed planned location my young mate appeared deflated as he sat motionless and slumped in the vinyl passenger chair. While we had done it tough I could sense that the special fishing we expected could still fire confirmed by a few blobs of red showing deep on the sounder. The school of doggies camped above the better shows typically did a fine job of destroying anything they saw first! Once our departure time neared my heart sank as the water also completely glassed out- it was obvious we would have secured some trophy hook-ups within another short spell. The mirror flat horizon was great for the ride home but that’s beside the point! By rigidly following a scheduled plan for safety we rather ironically put ourselves in about the most dangerous situation possible and also basically shut ourselves out of contention in the fishing stakes. A frustrating unseasonal NQ June/July mini-wet season gave me further ample time to reflect upon our disappointing day out. It made me think in depth how often mates and I have become more audacious than Bronwyn Bishop near a helipad.

The Anti-Social Solution

Eventually I returned to the boat ramp alone with a vengeful grip on the steering wheel hoping for a more triumphant round two. Despite another good forecast prediction it was again clear that things weren’t going to be easy. Instead of ploughing guns ablaze into a metropolis of blue towers I instead turned upstream of the ramp. Pure disbelief showed on the faces of my imaginary deckies! There would be no hung parliament in the tinny this time- a quiet anchorage on the edge of a sandbar looked perfect to wait for that all important change in wind direction. Admittedly the small grunter I caught using my TLD25 combo weren’t exactly sporting captures but that was simply the entrée for the lever drag. At midday I finally exited the harbour entrance at probably the same time we were humbly returning during the previous trip. It wasn’t a ‘glass out’ but importantly the stage was set as the classic soothing sou ‘easterly wave pattern began to form enticingly. For the next two hours I found myself timely locked in gruelling fights with numerous giant trevally that were carving into those ever present doggie legions.


Singling Out Strong GTs!

The first monstrous take had me hunched over the edge of the boat while I watched a steady exodus of line melt from the trusty TLD combo. Pulling off a successful capture is challenging solo unless you have the anatomy of a Sub-continental Asian deity. Surprisingly though I discovered an obligatory chase was more effective than a near identical event in a trip last year with help. At the time my mate simply could not accurately get a perspective of the fish in relation to the shallow reef hazards. It might be a bit less coordinated but in a solo chase you spend no effort shouting and likewise there’s no second guessing. Throughout the day that gentle sou ‘east swell kept me in the hunt for a series of other satisfying captures including some nice spotty mackerel. The macks ravenously chased down a new soft plastic lure called the Keitech ‘crazy flapper’ in 4.4 inch. The lure looks exactly like a fleeing squid at high speed and when combined with a two ounce Nitro elevator head works exceptionally well in deeper reef contours. It plummets quickly but the two piece style head means it cannot be levered free when the mackies do their trademark headshake. Give it a go this mackerel season!

You’re on Your Own…

For those dead against unscheduled solo fishing due to safety reasons I can certainly understand the arguments and I won’t present detailed counter arguments for the sake of conciseness. When push comes to shove the biggest piece of safety equipment is sitting right on your shoulders. If conditions remain poor there is no shame tweaking your plans or even turning back for the ramp (if need be). Conversely, whatever happened to just spending an honest whole day on a fishing trip? It’s fast becoming somewhat of an ancient concept in our delicate modern lives. Going solo has made me wonder why in the past mates and I have stuck so dogmatically to planned timeframes…often just for the sake of it. More than once we have completely missed key bite times, copped minor injuries, and even damaged our boats. Mother Nature can be a bitch! There’s no use continually feeling like a casualty of the biggest ride in a theme park- but those GTs may hurt your arms a bit! Unscheduled solo fishing certainly isn’t for everyone though at the risk of sounding like a ‘killjoy’ I hope I have shown some clear advantages in going it alone. Cheers!