2017 and New South Wales is experiencing perhaps the windiest winter, in a decade. Day after day of strong westerlies, broken once a week or so by a howling southerly. Usually at this time of year we chase salmon, using light gear. Big schools of hungry salmon are found under the cliffs protected from the wind, in spring:
But this year it hasn’t happened. Despair was setting in when, a fortnight ago, some red hot intel arrived. Two Facebook readers who work on the ferries sent cell phone videos of big schools of salmon, which had arrived in the Harbour. I headed down to North Head lookout to confirm:
… and posted the video to Facebook within the hour. That’s helpful because hundreds (if not thousands) of readers have been facing the same problem - where to fish and what to fish for, when it’s blowing 20 knots every day. The salmon move around the Harbour depending on tide and time and are often in sheltered bays, out of the wind:
For those not experienced with them, salmon are one of the most common pelagic fish in southern Australia. They are tough fighters known for leaping out of the water when hooked. Note the angler on the left is hooked up too:
Giant schools enter estuaries on the east coast during winter. Once there they focus on tiny fish fry called eyes, or glassies. Their messy feeding attracts big numbers of seagulls and terns, meaning the schools are easy to spot from a distance. Note the school in the background of this pic, taken on our boat last week:
We’ve been fishing for them regularly over the past two weeks and they’ve saved the day when the winds are blowing too strong, to go wide.
Let’s run through the gear we’ve been using. The salmon are feeding on tiny fish, around three centimetres long. It’s crucial to match the hatch. When multiple boats are trying to hawk up fish from the same school, you’ll see all kinds of bait and lures being used. Many don’t work. These do. Flies with resin heads and eyes:
Tiny soft plastics:
And transparent soft plastics:
Needless to say it can be difficult-if not impossible-to cast these tiny lures in a strong wind. So what you have to do is to add casting weight while keeping the lure in the strike zone-which is the top 30 centimetres of water. The way to do that is with a bubble float. This is a float made from transparent Perspex which you can weight using salt water, by opening a little stem valve:
Tie that on your leader - 6 to 10 kilo fluorocarbon, because multiple fish mean a lot of wear and tear. The salmon don’t seem to mind the float. Rod and reel should be our 802 Blue combo, spooled with six kilo line:
You can go lighter than six kilo, especially if you’re fishing solo. But three kilo line can mean a fight lasting more than 10 minutes, on a good one. Fighting the hooked fish will draw you away from the school, meaning other anglers on the boat will be out of casting range. This combo is the perfect mix for soaking up the head shakes and sudden powerful runs. But it’s not a heavy action. It’s particularly good at distance casting and can often make the difference in who gets the hook ups.
Rod: our 802 Cuttlefish. Eight feet two piece with split butt, and a medium to fast action. Really good for long casts, which are the key to success in the wind. Loads up beautifully on a good one:
But has grunt to spare for the end game:
Reel: HG 3000, our number one reel. Nine ballbearings, for super smooth winding. Carbontex drags, for supersmooth fighting. Big comfortable handle made from polished aluminium –because there’s nothing worse than a little plastic reel knob you have to hold in the tips of your fingers. Spooled with 200 metres of six kilo colour change braid joined to 3 metres of 10 kilo fluorocarbon leader for you, with an FG knot:
two bubble floats, two soft plastic salmon lures, two correct size salt water flies.
All you have to do is cast.
Last but not least I should mention this combo is handy for more than just salmon and kings:
I’ve been using mine off the rocks:
For everything from squid, to drummer:
Send me an email with any questions whatsoever and thanks for reading,