Sleepless Nights

By Rod Vardy

 

I find that getting to sleep the night before a much anticipated fishing session can be an exercise in futility. In many instances an early start is required and an alarm set somewhere between 2.00am and 4.00am is not uncommon. Most of the time I plan ahead so the car is packed, yak loaded and leaders tied early the night before so I can head to bed by 9.00pm. I work on the theory that five to six hours of sleep is enough to keep me going, but unfortunately the time that I hit the pillow is not necessarily the time I drift into dreamland.

Most of the time my mind is too busy to allow any chance of decent sleep. As well as reviewing the day that has been, I find myself mentally checking off the list of equipment that I have packed to ensure that I have not forgotten anything. Add to this the anticipation of the day to come and I find myself lying awake looking at the clock calculating how much sleep I will get before the alarm goes off at stupid o’clock. It would be fair to say that fishing had caused me many a sleepless night over the years.

 

This pattern continued recently when I found myself still awake at 11.00pm with the alarm set to go off at 2.30am. This time was different though. Aside from the usual feelings of nervous excitement I also felt somewhat unsettled. Something was not right. I put it down to pre-fish nerves and eventually drifted off to sleep. I woke before my alarm at 2.00am with a cramp in my back low down near my right side. Alarmed, adrenaline rushed into my system as this was a feeling that I am familiar with. What I was feeling was the early symptom of a kidney stone and it filled me with dread.

 

Cursing my luck and incredible bad timing, I texted my mate who was soon to hit the road to join me for a full day of “bush Bassing” and gave him the bad news. My guilt for letting him down was pushed to the back of my mind as the pain intensified over the next two hours. I eventually conceded I needed professional help and called the ambulance to take me to hospital for some much needed pain relief and treatment. Another sleepless night came to an end but fishing was only partly to blame.

 

Later that day I was released from hospital and walked past my kayak still loaded on the car ruing my lost opportunity, but thankful that the stone struck when I was at home and not in the middle of a bush creek 10km down rapids and far from help.

 

Determined to make up for this missed fishing time I tried again the next weekend. Having spent my time chasing Flathead and Mulloway over winter, I prepared myself for my first Mangrove Jack session for many months. I wanted to be at my destination and on the water for first light, so the car was packed and the alarm set in time for me to get my theoretical six hours beauty sleep. As usual things didn’t go as planned, but it wasn’t excitement or kidney stones that kept me awake.

 

My six year old daughter stirred in her sleep just as I was preparing to hit the hay. This in itself is not unusual as children are far from quiet, peaceful sleepers, but there was pain in that whimper. Turns out the poor kid was suffering with an ear infection and regardless of the claims on TV ads, no amount of children’s pain medication was giving her relief. Three hours later she finally drifted into a light sleep allowing my wife and I to relax and try to get some shut eye too. A sick family member is one of the few things that will get between me and fishing, so I once again shelved my plans and enjoyed a sleep in, as did my exhausted daughter.

 

The next day dawned and although still not 100% my little girl was much improved, so we spent the morning together and headed to the park for a family lunch and some playtime. By the time we got home there was only a few hours of daylight left and the sky looked ominous. The car was still loaded and the yak was on the roof, so I checked with my wife and headed to my local for a couple of hours, hoping that I might catch a flatty or two on the tide change. I got there and on the water in record time, making it for the last 30 minutes of the run out.

1 A good pair of sunglasses are a must with the sun beaming onto the water's surface
A good pair of sunglasses are a must with the sun beaming onto the water’s surface

 

On just very first cast of the day I felt a tap of interest on my Z-Man 3” MinnowZ as I worked it over a sandbank not far from the launch spot.

2 Not far from the launch spotNot far from the launch spot

I repeated my cast into the same area and after two quick hops I found myself hooked up to a solid little fish that powered away and pulled a little drag. The fish gave me a great little tussle using the current and working in circles under the kayak. Having recently caught a Diamond Trevally in this system my first thoughts were of a repeat performance, but as the fish came closer to the surface I was surprised to see another member of the trevally clan. As my fish hit the net I was happy to add Big Eye Trevally to my catch list for my local creek.

 

4 No prizes for guessing why they call them Big Eye Trevally 3 My first Big Eye Trevally from my local creekMy first Big Eye Trevally from my local creek

After a few quick snaps I set it free to harass the local bait fish and cast back into the same area. Cast after cast was ignored so I headed off to explore more of the system. As I headed into the main channel the water was moving so swiftly that my pedals were pretty much redundant. It was at that moment that I recalled looking out the window on the previous night and seeing a magnificent full moon when I should have been asleep.

 

With the full moon comes the big tides and the current was truly ripping, even at the death of the tide cycle. Undaunted, I started casting at some areas that have yielded success for me in the past. Even with a 3/8 ounce jighead I was struggling to keep in contact with the bottom, so I bided my time and moved to a small bay that is somewhat out of the main tidal flow. As the tide dropped out, I switched to a Zerek Fish Trap soft vibe.

 

5 Zerek Fishtrap - Soft vibe with a curl tail!Zerek Fishtrap – Soft vibe with a curl tail

I only recently purchased this lure with the aim of chasing Mulloway, so I took some time learning how it worked and mixing up my retrieves. Coming in at 95mm and 23 grams, these lures have a strong vibration and look good in the water with the added attraction of a curly grub tail.

 

6 Something big lives down under those snagsSomething big lives down under those snags

This spot has produced Tailor, Flathead and Threadfin for me in the past, so I was disappointed to see that a crabber had dropped his pot smack bang where I wanted to cast. Unwilling to write off the spot, but also conscious of not snagging the pot or rope, I flicked my lure between the pot marker and the bankside snags. The lure went a bit closer to the snag than I had planned, and not wanting to lose my lure, I hopped it quickly for the first metre or so to clear sunken timber. It was on the third quick hop that I felt something hit the lure. My first reaction was disappointment, snagged already! That quickly changed when my line came tight and headed off at 90 degrees to the bank at a rapid rate that made the little reel buzz like an angry bee. It was in that split second that I remembered the nearby crab pot. It was only five metres away and it had another ten metres of rope trailing it to the float.

 

My fish was heading straight for the pot, so I put as much pressure on as I could and pedalled my Hobie Revo 11 like a crazy man on an intercept line. Keeping myself between the charging fish and the pot I muscled the fish out into the open water of the bay and away from obvious trouble.

 

With the fish still powering away I wound up the drag on my Shimano Stradic 1000 as high as I thought the 10lb braid could handle. Having been recently hooked up to some decent Mulloway, this fish showed all the same characteristics but felt much bigger and heavier. The power was truly impressive, and at times the bend in my 3-6kg Yak Raider rod was approaching maximum. This fish may have allowed me to dictate terms in the opening moments, but it wasted no time in showing me who was in control thereafter.

 

I was being dragged around the bay, just trying to keep calm and think my way through the scenario. There is an often quoted adage that suggests that the breaking strain of your line is directly related to your level of patience, so I was determined to keep my cool and let the fish tire. With as much pressure on the fish as I dared, the fish was still working deep and strong. I could feel headshakes and a distinct slow tailbeat thru the rod that was interrupted periodically with short powerful bursts of speed. I was pedalling along with the fish and using my rudder to guide the yak and the fish where possible.

 

7 Hooked up and trying to keep the fish away from the crabpotHooked up and trying to keep the fish away from the crabpot

After about five minutes of this, the fish changed tactic and I found myself dragged right into the middle of the bay. This suited me as we were now far away from the crab pot and the structure where the fish had originally smacked my lure. Congratulating myself and my good luck I put a bit more rod work into the fight, using short slow lifts and gaining line one reel crank at a time. This bought the fish ever closer to me and I was peering into the murky depths looking for some indication of the size and species of my adversary. Just as I started gaining line, the fish chose to once again show who was boss and powered back to the bottom and away from the kayak.

 

It was then that I felt something different transmitting through the line. I thought that it could perhaps be the leader on the fish’s teeth. I was running 20lb fluorocarbon attached to my 10lb braid with a PR knot, so although rasping across teeth wasn’t ideal, I thought the leader could handle it. After it happened a couple more times in quick succession, it dawned on me that the leader was rubbing in structure. My fish had found a snag four metres down in otherwise open water.

 

Staying calm I changed angles and let off some drag, hoping to extract my fish before the leader parted. The fish was definitely still attached as I could feel it pulsing away down deep and sporadically pulling drag. My heart was in my throat and much like my fish, it stayed there for another five minutes. Regardless of what I tried, the fish just refused to come out from it’s haven.

 

8 And now the fish is buried deep in the snagAnd now the fish is buried deep in the snag

I did laps of the area and applied as much pressure as possible using my finger on the spool until the line sung taut in the breeze. Something had to give and after not feeling the fish for a short time I decided it was now or never. Using the yak to pedal away from the snag I attempted through brute power and luck to extract my quarry. This elicited an outcome, but not the one I wanted. The line parted and all the adrenaline and nervous tension that had built over the last 10 minutes came flooding out.

 

I have rarely felt such a sense of disappointment at the loss of a fish. With head down, curses on my lips and fingers trembling from released tension, I wound in my line to see what component had let go. Given that it was 10lb main and 20lb leader I had assumed that the leader knot would have been the weak point, but I was surprised to see that the leader knot remained intact and it was in fact the leader that had parted just above the lure. My new lure was mine no longer. Upon closer inspection the entire 1.5m length of the 20lb leader was badly chafed. If I needed any further proof that my fish was deep in the snag I was looking at it.

 

9 A sad end to the fight...fish and lure gone!A sad end to the fight…fish and lure gone!

I sat in my yak looking at my frayed leader replaying the fight from hit to bust off, wondering what I could have done to change the outcome. After much soul searching and analysis I feel that I did as much as I could to win that battle. Obviously had I known that snag was there I would have also known to keep well clear of it…. if only I knew then what I knew now.

 

The rest of the session was a constant battle against the galloping current and yielded only one hit. In a first for me, a Stingray snaffled my Z-Man DieZel and gave me a good little tussle before a safe release for both angler and ray.

 

10 Even Stingrays don't mind a Z-Man DieZel with Pro-CureEven Stingrays don’t mind a Z-Man DieZel with Pro-Cure

That night I had another sleepless night. In this case though it wasn’t nervous anticipation or medical emergency that kept me awake, it was a serious case of post bust off blues.

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