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Great Expectations
  |  First Published: December 2010



December is a much anticipated time up in the wilds of Cape York Peninsula. It is a time of great build-up, great preparations and worried expectations. December will yield many of those mornings where anglers exclaim, “Oh my!”

Cruising at about 20 knots in a small boat over an oily slick sea surface, seeing birds working a kilometre up ahead.

Sometimes cruising the never ending shoals, shallow bays and sandy coastline up and down the east and west coasts of Cape York is magical. When that wind finally abates and neap tides bring clear water lapping up to the shore, and this is when sight fishing is at its best.

I clearly remember a relatively quiet day in December 2008 where an early morning grey mackerel bite had shut down and we were struggling for fish. Cruising back along the coast in very shallow water, we started seeing small schools of blue salmon feeding in little gutters.

After slowing up to have a quick flick from the shore, a legal-sized muddy scampered away and was tracked down with a landing net after the usual performance! It’s always a lucky break to get a mud crab just before lunch.

Stretching our legs with a pair of polarised sunglasses, we armed ourselves with little spin outfits and a combination of metal slices and little soft plastics. Numerous schools of small to medium sized blue salmon were running along the beach. A cast in front of the pack saw any number of individuals rush our lures. Double and triple hook-ups on these feisty and voracious feeders saved a slow morning. If bled quickly, kept cool and cooked fresh, blue salmon makes a very tasty meal. A few breadcrumbs, salt, lemon and oil, and the flesh is as succulent as many more esteemed tablefish. Blues also go particularly well with a mud crab claw and a cold beer.

The wind will often turn onshore in the afternoons as the landmass heats up, drawing air in with it. You will usually get the first puff of it just before lunch and then it’s always a gamble staying on after that. Sometimes it will hold calm until 3pm and sometimes it will just start blowing just before lunch.

Recent reports of calm conditions amidst a terrible season of strong trade winds have seen great fishing up around the tip. Cleaner water allowed for good captures of trout, Spanish mackerel and big GTs on poppers. I will be hoping for some light winds this year so we can do some prospecting around the mouth of the Escape and Jacky-Jacky rivers.

The heat and lack of airflow makes it near impossible to spend an entire day up a Cape York creek in December. It pays to keep your options diverse and really try to stick to the early morning fishing sessions to be the most productive.

If sight casting and flyfishing are your passion, December could definitely be the month for you. The chance of calm and clear conditions are a novelty not often enjoyed at other times of year, albeit in amongst the odd squall or storm.

The hotter, stickier and muggier the conditions, the more I will enjoy December. The heat is palpable late in the morning and the glare can sometimes border on overwhelming. Still, if somewhere just out of sight lies a pack of hungry fish smashing into bait on a windless day, I can’t wait to be there.

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