Two Dans – Dan Bowater 2017

What a start to the New Year! In my local area mega rainfall totals were received and things transformed virtually overnight from drought-like to deluge. In the space of just three days we had close to 700mm of rainfall! It has been the rain many have wished to receive in previous years, but importantly this time it has arrived when it matters- at the height of summer.

The warm, inter-connecting creeks and swamps will now provide the perfect opportunity for a thriving nursery biomass including thousands of baby barra and other species. Considering that this event has culminated with recent net free zoning in key areas things are suddenly looking positive on the local fishing front for future years.

While I was just as excited as any lure lobbing enthusiast my usual haunts will now quieten down temporarily as millions of litres of mud stained water infiltrate the inshore grounds. On the upside, just prior to the downfalls I squeezed in two highly enjoyable sessions in the kind of conditions you pray to see during the holiday period. However, in my line of work (barramundi aquaculture) Christmas and New Year tend to mean extra hours and added stress rather than endless weeks of relaxation. In late December I had just completed one such trademark crazy week. On arriving home I ritually cracked a cold can in time to receive a text message from fellow Fish and Boat scribe Dan Kaggelis ‘wanna fish tomorra?”. I then remembered Dan, who is a school teacher, had been staying at Kurrimine Beach while taking advantage of the school holidays. Half your luck mate! To be honest I was physically spent from my arduous week but you might guess Dan’s suggestion didn’t go ignored! A classic NQ summer day of predicted ‘variables’ was on the cards and it’s always good to fish alongside a fellow experienced comrade.

The next morning I met Dan at Mourilyan Harbour at first light. I suppose you could call this trip an episode of “Two Dans”. We snuck just past the leads markers before tangling with a few GT’s on poppers and metal slugs. You have to love the first hook-up for the day. That jolting strike and screaming drag- it simply sends your sleepy nervous system into sudden overdrive. It’s worth noting that having a rigged rod with slug or popper is a wise move during dawn for this reason. The GT’s and tuna can emerge from anywhere in the blue paddock once light appears. Things didn’t all go our way as I was totally railed by a bigger estimated 15kg+ G.T. The PE4 tackle just couldn’t hold her from making the bottom. Dan #2 was taking an even bigger gamble by running PE3 and lighter on alternating spin/overhead outfits. The contrasting approach to gear selection really was a good idea to offer both regular lure presentations and the more stealthy refined options. Once we located some deep structure he went to work using his micro jig overhead to good effect. It’s awesome to see someone demonstrate evidence of good technique especially with lures I’m less familiar with. A spirited golden trevally was the first prize…very nice Mr Kaggelis. The rhythmic slow retrieve style and stunted movements used with his slow pitch micro jigs worked a treat.

Meanwhile I had carefully judged a nice little drift for a bit of an extended stay at ‘spot X’. We continued peppering the strike zone with our contrasting lures. Dan. K with the slow pitch jigs and Dan. B with old faithful 7 inch Gulp jerk shad. Of course we were hoping for more than just trevally with reef species and the ever elusive big fingermark being ‘top tier’ suspects. On the sounder I could see the layer of flat arches in mid-water indicating a bludger trevally school and this proved something of an impassable obstacle. They were thick! At the same time I could see scattered shows of other individual fish deeper down. Usually in my experience if the tip of an isolated arch overlaps with the bottom there’s a good chance it’s a fingerie…get your lure down!

Time after time the lures were slurped on the freefall by those greedy bludger trevs- you just couldn’t get past em’. In my view they are a pretty cool species: hard hitting, hard fighting, and quite photogenic. There’s an old saying in these parts that you have to “go past the silver to get the gold”. On the local reefs bludger trevally commonly school up with reds and other high calibre deepwater targets. I knew if we hung in there for another hour (or two) our chances would improve as the bludgers (and other trevs) would probably scatter. It also tends to be a time when old mate fingermark will move around more freely. By this time the ocean was totally glass, great for safe offshore boating, lovely landscape style photos and replenishing cold drinks. Everything in fishing is a matter of perspective though! Dan had been lying around at Kurrimine Beach Resort for several days nibbling on vintage cheeses and sipping fine wines. Quite simply he was cruising in holiday mode whereas I had just come out of a torturous world of oozing thick mud, screaming blue collar blokes and production line chaos. By comparison the ‘ordeal’ didn’t seem too bad to me- fishing in an Island paradise!

From Dan K’s perspective we had to get out of the bludger trevally hellfire to better pastures. He had just destroyed his small overhead reel during the umpteenth bludger battle. We had sweat pouring from every orifice and every piscatorial encounter seemed more gruelling than the last. I’ll admit I can be a bit of a narcissistic skipper. I kept us positioned in the angry zone for an extra half hour just to keep things memorable and bring out a bit of extra character. Over the calls of mercy I had another committed voice in the back of my mind promising I’d be back to even the score!

Sure enough the next weekend offered a similar opportunity- you have to love summer NQ weather even if it is a bit warm! This time the tide change was earlier in the day. The tidal movement was even bigger denoted by huge rippling schools of baby slimy mackerel pouring through the narrow entrance of Mourilyan Harbour. It happens each year at the end of the dry season drawing in about every predator under the beating NQ sun. The little buggers are nearly impossible to catch with a cast net, but occasionally will fall to a sabiki jig. If one accepts the jig you will get a ‘full house’ when all his mates suddenly commit suicide on the other hooks. I timely collected a little stash of these fingermark ‘lollies’ before embarking for round two. Things were indeed looking very good for a repeat shot at some ‘top tier’ action. There’s always room for another trophy in the cabinet. Sometimes it’s remarkable how everything can fall in place so easily in fishing. Within half an hour I broke through with a lovely 71cm Mourilyan fingermark…and yep you guessed it a few more bludger trevally for good measure too! Til’ next month play safe. Cheers, Dan B