Words and photos by Paul Taylor
To be frank I was hungry enough to eat the arse out of a low flying duck. The morning set on the mac tuna schools had been a blast but I was ready for a break, food and something different. We headed to the flats on the NW corner of Fraser Island in search of longtail tuna and queenfish.
A finger bun later I was ready on the bow of the boat armed with a 9 weight and a 2/0 craft fur ‘high tie’ clouser (pink over white). I had time to reflect on my inadequate effort of the morning. The choice of fly was like a fart in a cheese shop in that it wasn’t really the main problem. The problem was my casting or more precisely line management as I kept standing on the fly line. Keeping control of the fly line while chasing after tuna schools felt like squeezing a donkey into a wetsuit. I needed to do better.
The tuna on the flats generally travel up the island in the direction of the Sandy Cape. The first attempt at the ambush strategy was to a small pod of mac tuna. The outcome somewhat predictable as the flat erupted in large wakes as the tuna fled to the drop off. I didn’t have long to dwell on my shortcomings as the next pod of fish were on their way.
“Longtails” came the call from the guide. A few false casts and the fly was in the water. The lead fish had seen the fly and smashed it on the third strip. In short order the reel screamed, I screamed, my son screamed followed by a long silence. The 35 lb fluorocarbon tippet had parted and I had the ignominy of retrieving the fly line and 150 m of backing. The little fella was still chipper. He trotted out my oft repeated adage of getting another one. The guide and I were a little more sombre. We knew opportunities like that to trophy fish in the 25 lb – 30 lb mark on the flats were rare.
The afternoon session had us mooching on the flats off Rooney’s Point. A ‘three cast’ sequence had me casting to a large queenfish that missed the fly, a tailing loop that barely made it out the boat followed by a longtail on the backcast that engulfed the pink polar fibre silicone baitfish pattern. No men in grey suits on the flat made the fight a little less stressful and after a flurry of activity and cussing the fish was duly boated. The trip home was punctuated with a stop at the feeding tuna schools for smaller macs and the odd longtail.
It was the second day on the boat that provided some perspective. The wind was starting to get up and we headed to the shelter of the flats. The skinny water was fairly barren, no tuna and the queenies were not showing any intent. To compound my mood I’d broken the tip off the 9 wt and busted the drag on the 11 wt. Flicking conventional gear the guide cast a popper to a small pod of queenies and handed the rod to the little fella. The queenies lit up and smashed it. Tail walks, cartwheels and smoking runs were followed by photos and high fives.
We headed home with my son regaling the story to myself and the guide, then to his siblings and mum and finally a call to his grandmother. He talked of the strike, the blistering run but most of all he talked of the release and next trip. The sun also rises.