Plan your SEQ salt assault
  |  First Published: February 2016

It’s time to dust off the fly tackle and look at some of the great summer options available to fly anglers!

South Queensland’s Moreton Bay shows a lot of promise for the fly angler now that weather patterns look like returning to southeasterly winds, with handy breaks between changes to allow us to get out after the fish.

Mackerel and tuna are in the bay, and it’s always fun catching these hard-charging fighters. If there’s much more fun you can have with a fly rod, I’ve yet to see it! Early starts are essential as these pelagics feed up big time just after daylight when the weather is arguably at its best for the day. The birds are the clue: find the birds and the fish will be there.

Messing with mackerel

Sturdy 10wt tackle is wisest because some of those summertime spotties are big fish, and there can be the odd Spanish in the mix as well. A saltwater quality reel with at least 250m of 50lb braid backing should match the 10wt rod. An intermediate sink rate line will give you time to get things under control once the fly hits the water and you start the ‘quick-as-possible’ retrieve.

Tuna can often be found in close proximity to mackerel, and luckily this outfit can be used for both species. A rod length tapered leader terminating in a 7-10kg tippet is ideal. Size 1/0-2/0 flies will match a lot of bay baitfish.

Macks on a bait ball are fair game for the fly angler, as they will tolerate a gentle approach from a boat far more readily than tuna. That said, they are somewhat more difficult to hook up on due to their sheer speed while in a feeding frenzy.

Cast to the edge of a bait ball and strip the baitfish imitation style fly back as quickly as possible. If a fish follows but won’t take, simply re-cast and have another shot. Wire can save bite-offs but definitely inhibits bites, so I leave it off and accept the risk.

Macks are prime table fare and deserve to be despatched as quickly as possible upon capture, and then placed in an ice slurry so the meat sets properly. If left to thrash about in an ice box, a lot of the eating quality can be lost through bruising.

Touchy tuna

Tuna are also prime tucker but they’re somewhat harder to take on fly because of their wariness. The most gentle, noise-free approach by the boat is vital to get within casting range of feeding tuna, but once the fly is in the melee a hook-up is not that difficult. Giving it a few seconds to sink on the intermediate line, some quick rips back towards the boat should result in a steady tug that immediately develops into a sizzling run followed by some dour stonewalling tactics by the fish.

Tuna are tough fighters on the long rod and you simply cannot rush them. If a fish wants to circle under the boat simply ease the drag considerably and drive off a short distance away. This will disorientate the fish and stop the circling.

If you want to keep a tuna for the table, give it the same treatment as mackerel – as rapid a despatch as possible, with thorough bleeding and then icing down thoroughly. This will ensure the best table potential.

Both mackerel and tuna are usually found in the northern part of the Bay (north of the Mud Island/Moreton green zone) and around the shipping channels and beacons, but both species will move south to around Peel Island as the season advances.

So get out there and bend the long rod on some of these line-burning speedsters!

Reads: 1897

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