Winter flyfishing at Bribie
  |  First Published: July 2004

BRIBIE Island offers a variety of attractions for flyfishers, and while a boat allows for more mobility there are still plenty of options for shore-based anglers.

Let’s consider this unique venue. There is a very clean and fertile passage (Pumicestone Passage) between the island and the mainland, while a short journey by boat around Skirmish Point on the island’s southern end will see a wide expanse of blue water stretching as far north as the tip of the island and east to Moreton Island coming into view. This area is the home of many tuna and other pelagic fish in summer, with the likelihood of tailor schools being present at this time of year.

In the Pumicestone Passage, deep drop-off areas abound along the western side of the island while sandbanks, channels, gutters and areas where water rips over shallow banks into deeper holes along the edge of the island can be accessed either from the shore or from the boat. Shore-based anglers will appreciate the roads along much of the western side of the island as they give access to many useful areas, such as those found at Bellara and White Patch where drop-off areas occur.

For the newcomer to the Bribie Island area, the best time to have a look at what’s on offer is at low tide. Major features, such as steep areas of bank abutting the main channel, can be noted either from the shore or boat, and the sand banks and their ledges or shallow wading approach spots can be noted for future use. There are canal estates as well, which are great havens for fish.

The main species targeted at this time of year are flathead, tailor and bream. If you think there are no flathead about in July, think again – there are plenty of lizards in Pumicestone Passage, winter or not. Wading a bank on the rising tide or drifting in a boat and casting to the shore can be very productive, make no mistake about it.

Tailor are found virtually anywhere in the passage or just in behind the wave break along the ocean beach. Another good spot is close to the white water on the very visible Gilligan’s Island to the south east of Skirmish Point. Tailor can often be seen chasing bait just after daylight in the Passage and many of the spots they feed are within easy fly casting range of the shore. Finding a likely looking spit of sand that juts out into the Passage – and Bongaree has a few of them – is the clue.

The only hardship is the winter environment. If you’re wading I recommend a pair of Hornes chest waders as it’s sure nice to keep dry at first light or just on dark. A stripping basket is ideal to keep the line under control and, if you’re wading, it’s a valuable asset.

An 8wt rod set up with an intermediate line or sink-tip line is ideal for just about all shore- or boat-based flyfishing within the Passage. Tailor, bream and flathead are all possible contenders for the fly in this area, and all that’s required is a slight change of terminal tackle. When I’m chasing tailor at dawn or dusk I set up a 30cm shock tippet of 10kg Siglon Sinking to guard against fish nipping off the green/white size 3/0 Deceiver. For flathead I use exactly the same terminal rig but change the fly to a size 4/0 Clouser Deep Minnow. Both tailor and flathead are fished with the cast and slow retrieve method with a quick strip or twitch during the retrieve as a variation that will often kick start a following fish into action.

Bream are much more demanding. For a long time I underestimated the cunning of these fish. They will virtually hand feed around human habitation but they are real tricky customers at other times. Bream have small mouths so the fly needs to be small. A size 4 Clouser or Crazy Charlie will fool them when worked in gentle tweaks and strips around cover such as the bridge pylons, canal walls or along the drop-off areas against the bank. Fluorocarbon tippet is virtually a necessity, and a 50cm length of 3kg Siglon will fit the bill nicely.

If you’re fishing from a boat you should consider the possibilities of the fishing along the ocean beach as well. When westerly winds are blowing, longtail tuna and sometimes mack tuna move right in close to the shore break after rounding up baitfish. Flyfishing at such times with the 9wt or 10wt tackle is extremely exciting, with tuna pushing the bait virtually ashore, and the best part of it is that the eastern side of the island is very sheltered from westerly winds.

Remember that the South Point/Skirmish Point area can chop up a bit during a westerly, so pick a morning or afternoon when tide and wind are going in the same direction to avoid the short steep chop that can result.

In all, Bribie Island has a lot going for it as far as a winter flyfishing destination is concerned.

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