My fishing journey

Highlighted articles & posts by Inner Circle Members, as posted on the Clubhouse Wall.
These are too good to allow to be buried in time. A huge thanks to each and every member whose stories end up here.

1 Rod 1 Knot 1 Hook

I thought i would share my experience fishing for land-based snapper using techniques and tackle which are readily affordable and available to nearly all rec anglers. (If you are chasing a few juicy tips skip the first half !)

I began rock fishing at the age of 9 with my father on the Far South Coast of NSW in a small town called Merimbula. Merimbula held great LBG fishing through the 60s 70s and 80s but by the time i was wetting a line this was mostly a thing of the past. The rock fishing i would cut my teeth on was ‘wash fishing’ . My father had fished for Yellowfin in JB through the halcyon years with many notable figures including ‘Hippy Frank ‘ and alike. In all honesty i think by the time i came around my father no longer had the patience or tenacity to fish for game fish land based anymore. If he wasn’t getting a bite in the first 15 minutes he was moving spots. 

A typical day wash fishing generally started with me watching a middled aged, mildly overweight, heavily bearded man collecting either cunjevoi or crabs. The rock fishing uniform of choice for my father more often than not consisted of a beanie, polo shirt, stubbie shorts and a pair of still wet runners from the previous days fishing. Cunjevoi was good for catching nearly all wash species according to dad, but red crabs were ‘ the best bait you can get ‘ . No crab spears or gloves for dad, just a heavily calloused hand thrust into rock pools or rock crevices , ” If one bites you well you know they are there ” . While dad caught the good bait, i was off scampering around with my crab spear ( a straightened steel clothes hanger ) when i returned with a big purple buck, dad would proclaim ” thats the biggest i’ve seen i reckon “. It was here i first learned we didn’t kill the “jennies with oval shaped flaps on their belly “. I also learnt i wasn’t allowed to fish a ledge or a hole until i had watched the ocean for 15 minutes. 

This style of fishing was all i knew for a long time , Drummer , Bream and Groper were my quarry and we caught a lot of them. I don’t think i had seen a bream below 40cm until i saw bream fisherman on tv in boats ” catching tiddlers ” as my father would say. Every bream i had caught had come out of foaming violent white water with red crab legs hanging out of their mouths. Drummer were my favourite to catch, you could burley them into a frenzy and they pulled mighty hard ! But not as hard as the groper. Dad would tie a small fighting belt around my waist and hold the big orange tag end while big blue groper attempted to pull my 28kg frame down the rocks.

These experiences made me an impatient fisherman, a fisherman with very little persistence and very little perseverance. Today i consider perseverance and persistence the two most important qualities to success in fishing especially land-based snapper fishing. Dad has been rock fishing for 30 years and the knowledge he gave me i never had to work for. I absorbed his teachings but i never had to really fail to learn and become better. To learn how to catch land-based snapper i was going to have to be prepared to fail consistently and often. For nearly 2 years i failed at catching any land-based snapper consistently or of any quality. 

I hadn’t fished since my middling teenage years, I lived in Wollongong for university and at age 22 i decided i was going to start fishing again. I abandoned my fathers tackle of long composite rods and monofilament lines. A brand new graphite rod with bright yellow braid was going to secure me my first Wollongong drummer. After 2-3 months of next to no success without dad holding my hand i found myself with a Wilson Live Fibre composite rod and monofilament line ( dads favourite wash stick ). After 6 months i had finally caught a few drummer at my father’s childhood locations around Kiama and Gerringong, i was quite literally walking the same tracks and paths he had fished.


… PART 2…

I had finally learnt the art of failure and it was leading to success. Quite often i would catch nothing but would chalk up the trip as a success. I could tick off that weather pattern, bait type, tide, swell and wind as not productive meaning i was now 0.005% closer to finding a productive combination ! ( mild delusion perhaps ).

After a year i now couldn’t go fishing without any reel but an Alvey. Thats right i actually went from eggbeaters to Alveys not Alveys to eggbeaters. To this day i consider palm drag and line management to be infinitely superior to eggbeaters for wash fishing, but thats for a whole other conversation. Now armed with a custom built composite rod 13″6 in length ( too long according to dad ) and a free spinning Alvey ( too hard to cast according to dad ) and a 5/0 Mustad long shank baitholder ( too big according to dad ) and a pea sinker directly to the blood knot and hook ( bean sinker above a swivel much better according to dad ) and 2 kilos of fresh Woolworths bought banana prawns I spent at least 12 months catching no snapper……………

Every article and thread i found assured me they were there on the rock ledges. I will admit the articles told me to distance cast with snapper leads and squid baits but remember I’m an impatient bastard that grew up wash fishing. I cant watch an old 6144 snyder honeycomb in a rod holder for hours waiting for a cuttle spawn red to buckle the rod in two. I need instant action ! I need bites ! Hell ill take snags, as long as i can convince myself it could of been a fish. I was determined i was going to catch land-based snapper my way. I watched them on tv in NZ dangle salmon fillets at their feet ( none of this paternoster garbage ) and catch monsters reds. 

The penny finally dropped in Kiama one afternoon in October i was slinging prawns around trying once again for a snapper that would never come.Until finally it did come…… 45cm beautiful iridescent blue make up and a strong masculine jaw line. I was in love. It was from here i learnt that nearly 90% of all my land-based snapper would come within 30 minutes of a tide change. I discovered that the first run of an 80cm red on the bricks feels like you have hooked a jet ski. I learnt snapper are at your feet on certain ledges nearly all year round. 

Specially i learnt something no ‘ wash fishing’ article has ever described. I have read dozens and dozens of articles on how to catch fish in the wash and in my opinion and perhaps for reasons of brevity . They all over simplify how to read a wash and what you are looking for. Using snapper as an example, yes snapper can be found in the same wash as drummer, groper and bream. Yes they are regularly found off deeper washes. These points are widely recognised and accepted. What i have never read about is ‘suspension’ and ‘ upwellings ‘, these are the two main characteristics i look for when chasing land-based snapper. 

Using a long rod and monofilament line running directly over your finger, you can feel your big juicy banana prawn suspending in certain conditions, not a hurricane of wash and violence that you might find a drummer in. But a slow descent not only drifting downward but also outward away from you on the ledge, Upwelling current and mild wave wave energy, clash and work together to create drifts for your bait. The reason i eventually settled on such long custom rods were for two reasons. I can fire very lightly weighted or unweighted whole banana prawns a very long way and i can better manage my drifts. I can pick the mono up off the water at my feet. To facilitate even more suspension and hang time for my bait. Ledges which are carrying bait out and away from the ledge into deeper water are snapper wash ledges. The sensation of suspension and drift through the line and rod is easily recognisable after some practice. It is these characteristics i believe count most when chasing land-based snapper in the wash.

~ Drew Dawson
(extracted and reposted with Drew’s permission)

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