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Paul Chew

With the stresses of my job and a few family health dramas in the back of my mind I needed to get out of the house and chase a finny foe. With no real set plan, this is how the afternoon unfolded...

I messaged my fishing mate Pete and received no answer, so I decided to go for a quick solo session. I threw a couple of beers in the esky and a couple slices of cold meat lover's pizza, a few rods and off I went. I left the ramp in the Mary River in light drizzle, with a little bit of Sou' East. The further the poly pushed through the heads, the better the afternoon got, with the clouds clearing and wind dropping off as the tide just started to ebb.

I headed up a little creek I hadn't fished much and needing to try out some of the newer ZMan 2.5" GrubZ colours, I thought I'd try the light gear straight off. I used both the Gudgeon and Greasy Prawn colours to snare about 20 bream of various sizes, a flounder, some pike, small tailor and a flathead of around 70cm that fought like a soggy loaf of bread. All in all it was a productive little creek, nothing to write home about, but a really relaxing way to while away the afternoon, take in a bit of sun, sip on a cold Corona and let worries drift away.  

With the sun heading towards the horizon I decided to have a stop at an old haunt and try a bit of deep water winter ZMan-ing. I snuck in behind a massive launch that was anchored up and rigged a little heavier as some big grunter live here. Fishing 10lb Fireline rigged with 15lb Schneider leader, I chose a ZMan 4" StreakZ Curly TailZ in New Penny colour rigged on a traditional TT Tournament Series 3/8oz 4/0 jighead. The jighead selection was so the finer gauge hook might penetrate more easily in the bony mouths, especially in the deeper water that I was fishing.

The sounder was showing nearly 40ft, with some good shows, so I dropped the Minn Kota, spot locked and sent a cast as far as I could upstream. I took a glance at the sounder and out of the corner of my eye I saw a feisty little tailor cartwheeling through the air with my plastic firmly pinned in the corner of his mouth. After a short spirited struggle he ended up in the boat. This was repeated the next few casts, minus me looking at the sounder. It's these kinds of winter species that really bring the ZMan plastics into their own in my opinion. Other plastics will work, but toothy species like pike, tailor and little mackerel make putting on a new plastic a necessity, whereas the ZMan's elasticity works in its favour, being able to boat quite a lot of fish before needing to be replaced.

After the tailor, a couple of nice flatties around 60cm made it to the deck. Interestingly they are a pretty common catch in 30ft plus at this time of year here. With me glancing frequently at the sun, descending quickly to the horizon, I decided to give it one more drift before it would be too late to have a decent amount of light for navigating back up the river. With the prop of the Kota just ticking over to keep me nose first into the current, the sun's final golden glow reflecting hard off the water and bait flicking off the surface it was just one of those moments that we all as fisherman live for.

The little orange offering sailed out, braid sending water droplets flying until it landed and broke the golden shimmer on the water, before beginning its descent into the turquoise depths. I glanced down at the Lowrance, saw a massive bait school under me in 35 ft of water and out of the corner of my eye saw the green Fireline give the slightest twitch. Instinctively I lifted the rod gently, but firmly, coming up tight on something.

A couple of slow headshakes and the sun's golden reflection was shattered by an acrobatic slab of chrome, with the head and shoulders of an awesome winter barramundi slashing about and the little ZMan hanging on grimly. My first coherent thought, once my brain caught up, was....OOOOOOOPS!!!!!!!! This can't end well. However, I backed the drag off and saw the lure was pinned right in the corner of the mouth... at least I had something going for me.

With the bank only 50 metres or so away, I drove the boat out a little wider to take away any chance of the fish finding a sunken tree or similar. So, to cut a long story short, the fight went back and forth, winning a little, losing a lot and feeling some horrible bumps and grinds up the line. I was on edge the whole time!

The only real tactic I had was to keep my arms as soft as I could, cushioning the fish's headshakes, while trying to keep some tension on the line. Eventually both the fish and I tired, not helped by the fact I had kicked over my last Corona and I did my best to knock the fish off at the last minute with the net. It was doing circles under the boat and I lifted my rod arm as high as I could, but try as I might the fish wouldn't roll back my way, tail slowly beating, keeping it out of arms reach on the surface.

I had to put the net down and take a couple winds on the reel, turn its head and at that moment I was sure the jighead would fall out, as to my despair it was now at pretty much right angles. It was just one of those moments when my luck held, she rolled and her head swam straight into the net. I am really at a loss as to explain how I felt at this moment... it was just magic. As soon as the tension came off the line, the little ZMan dropped out!

Not wanting to stuff around setting the tripod up, I opened up the throttle and shot out to the massive launch. Here I got the lads on board to take a couple quick snaps. They were awesome, with me getting a couple pics on the back of the boat, before reviving the big girl off the duckboard before getting back in my boat. With a flick of her tail she was gone, leaving me with THAT feeling... you know the one you get after letting one of those special fish go. The boys were stoked to see it go, though wishing it was on their table and I explained she would be breeding in a month or so, replenishing stocks in the straights for future generations.

I had a quick chat and they said this was just a quick stopover on their way to Hamilton Island. The only tough bit of the trip is that the big girl uses 400 litres/hour. I tried for a decky job, but no vacancies. Saying goodbye I opened the Suzuki WOT and headed off into the darkening western sky, loving that feeling of just getting... a little bit lucky.

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