Hunter instinct is analysing the area in search for the prime hideout of the target. It’s located, tight up against the looming structure, the graphite blank is loaded and a cast is let fly in aim for the
targeted location. The unruffled surface is penetrated as the artificial organism flails into the depths. Engaging the reel begins the retrieve as the handle commences its repeating rotation, as the artificial representation makes its way back to the rod tip.
“So, now what happens?”
That’s the ‘unknown’ when it comes to fishing; you just never know what might happen next. Majority of the time your lure will come back to your feet no different than how it left your rod tip, although there is always that ‘unknown’ vibe when it comes to our loved sport that keeps us on edge every cast. Although just merely hooking a fish is not the be end and end all of the unknown, there are many other factors that can inflate the extremity of ‘unknown’ in any situation.
For example you could catch a fish on a random lure in the most obscure location in the middle of the day. It’s these situations that I have come to call ‘random moments’ when fishing. Things that happen when you least expect them to, and it’s these random situations that keep the unknown thoughts pondering in our heads while going about our life, getting us eager for the next trip.
The most ‘random’ and one of the most exhilarating experiences I was lucky enough to be a part of was a day trip fishing the dam known to the locals as ‘Lake Disappointment’ or properly titled Blowering Dam.
The beginning of spring marks the time when the hibernating Golden Perch and fisherman begin to show themselves from the long winter. As the impoundment temperatures begin to rise, the Goldens follow in synchronisation moving up into the shallows to begin foraging on the grassy banks, rocky points and shallow standing timber. I being one of these fisherman decided it was time for a trip up to the dam to get into some preseason gold.
Early golden season at Blowering Dam
“The water temperature is a bit cool”, I stated with a tone of disappointment as I checked the sounder. “We’ll still get a few”, replied Ryan as I started up the motor which signalled the start of the day. Up on the plane and heading across the dam both Ryan and I knew it was still a bit early in the season as the wind chill from winter had yet to leave. Dropping off the plane when we found our first likely looking bank was a relief to allow my face and hands to defrost.
Our first tactic was to work a steep rock bank that was lined with standing pine trees in hope that the Yella’s would be holding in against them. The morning sun had just broken over the surrounding hills as the dam lit up, topped with a clear blue sky, what a beautiful day it was looking to be. We began to thaw as we worked our way along the bank casting our lipless crankbaits in against the edge of the timber. After a solid hour working the first bank it was time to move locations. As we motored along we found a grassy shallow bay, hoping that the Goldens were feeding in the shallows. A bit of prospecting revealed that the Goldens hadn’t begun there spring movement yet. Our lures were pitched in against steep rock banks, thick forests of pine trees and hoped over windswept points for nothing more than a few snags. Our leaders had been tied to every style of Golden lolly; rattling Jackals, small spinnerbaits, metal vibes, soft vibes, and even tiny soft plastic grubs but the Goldens still didn’t want to show themselves.
It was now late morning and we had come to the conclusion that our target was still in shut down mode and we needed to use more subtle presentations, therefore I opted for a Berkley MF50 soft vibe and Ryan was casting a Damiki 2” curly tail grub with a lightly weighted jig head. Knowing it was going to be tough work we just decided that our best option was to work the deep banks lined with pine trees that stood in water a little over five metres. The reason for fishing the trees in this particular depth is because the clarity of the water was around 4m and there was no fish to be seen therefore they must be hanging against the trees in deeper water.
It was now middle of the day and it looked like the dam was living up to its local name today. It was time for a feed and we put our search for gold on hold while we had our bite. After lunch the electric hummed back into gear as we resumed work a bit after twelve o’clock. Both Ryan and I were perched on the front of the boat letting casts loose into the timber at a diagonal angle in front of the boats path. As the action was far from exhilarating we were in what fisherman would call ‘auto pilot’. Keen fisherman would understand my jargon. We were just casting our way along the banks not really concentrating or expecting anything and chatting away to one another. Ryan directed a text book cast of the miniature soft plastic grub into the trees like we had been doing all day long although this time after a few lifts of the rod tip ‘unknown’ thoughts begun to flow through our minds.
‘Yep, yep I’m on’, was the sweet sound that our ears had been begging for since sunrise.
I turned to my right to see Ryan’s 2-4kg stick loaded up with the rod tip bouncing due to what we imagined to be our first Golden of the day and the season. Within seconds of the initial strike our estimate on its size went from average to beastly as the fish had no mercy for the 2500 spin reel stripping metres of 10lb braid from the spool. My expectations rose immediately as Ryan became more nervous knowing that it was homing in on the structure that looked so nasty from our point of view. It’s mighty run stoped when it reached the pine tree as we could hear and Ryan could feel the braid rubbing against the twiggy mess underneath Bowering’s surface.
The ‘unknown’ thoughts going through our head when this fish first struck was the size of this Yellowbelly and it had now changed to whether we were ever going to find out. The tension grew as Ryan played tug of war with the fish and the sticks. The line was still caught around underwater mess although it was still in direct contact with the fish as I could see the thumping big headshakes that this fish was producing. Ryan was asking questions as to what he should do, and I replied by telling him to keep the pressure on him. My adrenaline was pumping and I wasn’t even holding the rod so I can’t imagine what Ryan was feeling. He kept the pressure on the fish and our eyes lit up when we saw the line come free of the snag.
“Get him out”, I exclaimed. Ryan tried to get the fish up as quick as he could. Line was now making its way back onto the reel as the fish was coming into vision. I saw the outline of what I first thought was a monster Golden Perch, until the fish came closer and I knew my first judgement was incorrect. It was a big Blowering Murray Cod!
It surfaced in the clear waters only metres from the boat and Ryan kept repeating, “Get it in the net”. As we knew a fish of this size would easily strip 10lb line and disappear back into the trees below us. The fish behaved as I slipped it into the safety of the rubber mesh, which was the signal for a loose cannon of cheers, smiles and congratulatory hi-fives. This spectacular Murray Cod read up as 80cm on the brag mat and was loaded with a typical Blowering dam cod belly. After my paparazzi act he was lowered into the clear snow melt waters before powering off, back to the safety of the dam floor. We both couldn’t believe what had just happened and it’s this situation that really expresses the ‘unknown’ and ‘random’ moments when it comes to fishing.
The happiness that follows a fish like that is priceless and something you will remember forever. Although the factors surrounding the capture of this particular fish increased the excitement and meaning tenfold. It’s the fact that it was so ‘random’. If we had set out with heavy gear such as 100mm lures and the mindset of large Murray Cod, the same fish caught in this manner wouldn’t have produced the same excitement that this fish had.
Why? Well we had set out to target Golden Perch; we weren’t fishing for Murray Cod. Our gear of choice was 2-4kg spin out fits with 10lb line, not usually associated with big cod. It was the middle of the day which is when usually the fish aren’t keen to come out and the most ridiculous factor of all – which was the talking point for the entire afternoon – was the lure that this fish decided to consume. We both couldn’t believe that a Murray Cod of its calibre had taken a liking to a tiny 2 inch curly tail grub which I thought was even a small lure for the Goldens. Once all these factors are taken into consideration, and the fact that Ryan successfully fought such a large fish on light line from within the snags, just creates a feeling well beyond the norm. It was this one factor of ‘randomness’ that gave us the experience of a lifetime and it’s these random moments that create the ‘unknown’ in fishing that I can say, fisherman are addicted to.
Later in the day
Was this moment not so random after all? With the circumstances that led to the capture we both thought we would only witness a Murray Cod take a tiny soft plastic once. Later that afternoon while fishing similar structure our assumption on the randomness of the previous capture had to be reassessed, as Ryan’s spool unloaded. It started off running like the earlier fish although this one wanted to beat the previously set record and took twice as much line in a matter of moments. “This one is bigger”, said Ryan as the realisation set in that this battle was in the favour of the fish. The trajectory of the line was towards the bank, which unfortunately was lined with trees. I was onto the electric motor as I knew we had to set chase. The fish had taken the line through the heart of a submerged pine tree as I positioned the boat above. The sounder corresponded that the water was 4 metres, we could see the tree and the bottom although no fish could be located. The rod tip was recording what we could assume was monster cod headshakes as Ryan put on the most pressure that his outfit would allow.
We were in a tough situation as the fish had swum through the tree and taken off in another direction. Ryan was bringing the line back onto the reel and the leader knot became visual, we knew the fish must be close. Within a couple more cranks of the handle we both located a Murray Cod over a metre in length. It was an absolute monster, full of energy which it conveyed to us as it took an almighty run into the darkness of the Blowering depths. The situation was looking slim in our eyes as Ryan’s line was still caught around the tree. A few more agonising moments and the headshakes disappeared, as did the lure and the fish as the 10lb leader gave way. A quiet hush fell over both of us as we knew we were so close to a once in a lifetime fish, it was disappointing but that’s the ‘unknown’ that comes with fishing.
Next time you head out on a fishing trip before you make your first cast; take a guess at how the day will turn out. Majority of the time you won’t pick it right, that’s what makes fishing such a thrilling sport. If we were able to predict the day’s events then many of us wouldn’t be calling fishing our lifelong passion. I know these ‘unknown’ and ‘random’ moments keep me in anticipation for my next outing and I’m sure they work their magic on you as well. After you have just released one of our precious native species take a moment to soak up the feelings that are triggered from that capture. That’s the priceless sensation that all fisherman strive to achieve.