Tricks for moody fish
  |  First Published: March 2004

IT AMAZES me how quickly the mood of fish can change.

For week the fishing in Sydney Harbour was going off with multiple hook-ups on kingfish, salmon, and tailor, all feeding on the same bait ball. They were eating just about any lure that you cast at them, from a 6” Slug-Go to a tiny fly. The next day I headed out with a crew confident that this would be just like the rest of the week. I planned to head out to Balmoral, wait for the schools of fish to bust up, throw the lure and hook up. Only someone forgot to tell the fish that.

The fish did bust up, but in smaller numbers and they didn’t want to eat any of the lures that we were casting. We persisted with the same tactics that worked so well over the previous week – without success. After about an hour I started changing lures in colour and size. I tried small, medium and large chromes, soft plastics and poppers – nothing was doing the job. I even tried trolling flies.

The only anglers catching fish were the fly fishermen. Well why didn’t I pull out the fly rod? I had a crew on board that could not fly-fish. But I did have flies, so I pulled away from the school and removed the treble from some small metal slices and tied a 30cm length of 8kg line with a small white fly in place of the treble.

I headed back to the school of fish and the crew cast lures with some success. We hooked a salmon and a bonito after about one hour. The fly-casters were hooked-up more often than not.

What were they doing that we couldn’t imitate? I went over closer to study how they were working their flies. They weren’t doing anything special, just casting their flies next to the bait ball and letting them sit there. The fish would pick the fly off the edge of the bait ball and hook themselves.


There was the problem of how to cast a fly on spin gear and let it sit without sinking. I had a small, clear plastic bubble float that adds water so you can cast it. I used it for catching bait. That was one angler on board set up but I still had two others and no more floats, so I had to think of away to present a fly to the fish that floated or sank slowly.

One of the rods had an unweighted Slug-Go on it so I tied a short dropper about 500mm above it with fly connected to the end. We headed back to the fish. The crew cast flies out on their spin rods near the bait ball, let them sit, added a little twitch – and hooked up. What a relief! If you’re being paid to put guys onto fish, there’s nothing worse than having a boat near you that is hooked up regularly and you can’t do the same.

I suppose the thing I learned was to keep trying different things and if someone is catching fish and you’re not, take time to look why.

It’s great that the bonito are still around in good numbers; it’s been couple years since we had good run of bonnies in the Harbour or Broken Bay.

The Hawkesbury has been a little quiet on the pelagics for the last few months, with most the action happening in the Harbour. Last week I fished Pittwater with some success, catching kings, salmon and bonito. Let’s hope that this is the start to some pelagic action in the Hawkesbury and Pittwater.

Plenty of big bream are being caught around the oyster racks and other structure. Bass have also been on the chew with plenty of fish caught in the Hawkesbury Bass Club’s inter-club comp. Aaron Horn took out champion angler. Aaron and his mate, Jason, have spent more time than any other anglers on the water learning and showing other anglers how, where and why they catch bass.


Sydney Harbour salmon can be really fickle at times and take some deep thinking to successfully connect with.


Pittwater has played host to some nice yellowtail kingfish.


Aaron Horn and Uncle Vince have some fun on the bass.

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