by Nathan Meyers
The message read “I have to work on Cameron’s Birthday, can you chuck a sickie and take him fishing”? A Wednesday off work to go fishing! That decision took but mere seconds and I happily replied to Cameron’s wife Erin I would do just that.
Winter in Tasmania is a cold and sodden affair at the best of times and the week prior to the trip was no different, with almost constant rain and temperatures in the low single digits. The frigid conditions saw snow fall several times at sea level, eventually leaving a thick coating on the iconic Mount Wellington, down and well into the lower foothills. This all meant perfect conditions for hunting the big bream that inhabit a small river in Kingston, around a 15 minute drive from Hobart.
Browns River is barely that, more a large creek in reality, the main body being only a kilometre or two long and casting distance wide. It is, however, home to some of the best out of season bream fishing in the state and for those anglers with the skill and knowledge, presents the possibility of catching some very big bream.
The water itself fishes magnificently in the winter months, particularly after periods of heavy rain and dirty the water. The day we had chosen was perfect, with heavy rain the night before, plus copious amounts of snow melt running in from the multitude of tributaries leaving the water the colour of good milk chocolate.
My morning didn’t start well, with a 30 minute delay caused by leaving my Hobie Mirage drive at home. Arriving mid morning I met Cameron already in the water, he’d already broken the donut, by casting from shore before even launching his yak. He’d tempted a small fish, hopping a vibe in the deep pool from the launch site.
Jumping in my Hobie in a rush I paddled out to find I’d now left the camera in the car. Back to shore and the camera retrieved I returned to the kayak to find every anglers worst nightmare, a rod missing from the holder. Somehow I’d knocked it out as I’d paddled round. A frantic search and drag of the bottom turned up no results and the day was really turning to custard.
Determined to try and salvage something from the already infuriating day we paddled less than a hundred metres from the launch to my favourite spot, a large bank of shallow flats that had previously provided my two personal best fish. Left with only a single rod, the plan was to work the pre-rigged Cranka Vibe along the flats and down into the drop-off where the shallows give way to a deeper channel. A plan that had brought about success previously.
Videoing the day for our YouTube channel I left Cameron as he paddled slightly up river, to position myself to film an intro. No sooner had I started my monologue when Cameron called “FISH ON!” He had sounded a big school of bream mid river and managed to tempt a fish on his first cast. His lure of choice a cheap, small, black coloured vibe he’d picked up at a clearance sale, but had become his go to lure for bream in Browns River, catching over 30 fish with it on a recent trip.
Hurriedly I wrapped the videoing and paddled up alongside Cameron who’d wasted no time hooking into another reasonable fish of around 30cm. Sending out my own first cast it didn’t take long until I was on and then off. My luck didn’t look to be changing any time soon with the fish spitting the hooks after a hard but too short fight. We missed a couple more fish as the wind was pushing us rapidly into the shallows away from the school. As it turns out the fish soon got wise to our ploy and headed for safer water.
Adding to its perfection as a winter fishing playground, Browns River resides in a gully so to escape the wind we simply peddled a further few hundred metres to the first bend. Even though the gusts were rapidly accelerating, we were mostly sheltered from the wind.
An overhanging tree which backs onto a lush golf course was the go to spot and Cameron and I continued to work our vibes, with long hops, short twitches and long pauses. The initial hot bite had cooled somewhat with the move and I decided to switch to the ever reliable Cranka Crab. I had no sooner started tying a new knot when Cameron hooked a solid fish from under the branches. Another fish in the 30’s, but not the monster we had come for.
That fish was the last for a while as the water had shut down. Frustrated we moved further up river sticking with our plan to throw casts into the overhanging trees and submerged logs and rocks but to no avail. Changing tactics I returned to the bend working the water where I’d had most success. Having fished this system extensively the previous year I called upon this wealth of knowledge and set about a plan. Risking the expensive lures, I threw my crab hard against the shore, replicating a real live crab that had fallen from the bank or strayed from the safety of the oyster lined boulders that are strewn along the edge. The success was almost instant, with the tell tale line twitches and slack being take up by a fish biting at the crabs claws. The hook up was familiarly hard as the fish headed for deep water. The fight was typical, big pumping head shakes, deep dirty fighting and short spirited runs. I was surprised and disappointed to land a fish only in the mid-20’s, but this approach had unlocked the secret to the day.
With Cameron now joining the party I stuck exclusively with the Crab whilst Cam used his three rod advantage to launch vibe’s, soft plastics and even bait at the now hungry fish. The tactic was simple, get whatever you were presenting as close to the edge as possible and slowly roll it back towards the deeper water. The casts were critical, however, a few centimetres too far from shore and your lure would go untouched.
Over the next hour we landed around another 10 fish, repeatedly drifting down with the wind working the bank, then pedalling back up to repeat. Unfortunately, with the tide high and an influx of water cascading from the snow covered mountain, the river was in a full flood and we found the bite rapidly tapering. The fish again had gone off the bite or perhaps we had caught them all? Cam and I decided to separate as I started to work down river and he stayed at the bend. Keeping a keen eye on Cam’s success I laughed as he attempted to retrieve a snag on one rod, whilst maintaining bait in the water on yet another. This lead to an inglorious collision with the riverbank, as his craft careened out of control.
His anguished cries at first went ignored until I spied his bait rod fully loaded and line peeling off at a rate of knots adjacent to the bank. He’d hooked a stonking fish and was in a world of trouble due to his precarious position. As testament to his skill he managed to extricate himself from the predicament and wrestled the fish into open water. The fight was lengthy allowing me to arrive on the scene to witness him land a solid fish, which barely fit in the net. The fish was safely stowed in his homemade live well for measuring back at shore.
We continued to work the banks hoping for another big fish and though we had several big strikes indicating they were about, we failed to find a matching pair. With the 6 degree temperature taking its toll on cold extremities, I decided to head back to the launch spot in a desperate attempt to find my lost rod, stopping along the way to again fish the shallows. My crab didn’t last long, being “ghosted” as it sat idle on the edge of the drop. It was just a small fish that fought like a large one in the knee deep water.
Arriving back in the deep launch pool I was accompanied by several shore based anglers. Fishing unweighted bluefin tuna off-cuts, they landed fish after fish in rapid succession. Hoping to snag my errant gear I ignored the hot bite, slowly rolling my crab along the bottom in a vain attempt to snag my gear. It took just minutes until I had weight and excitedly began to retrieve my line to be met with headshakes and peeling line. Instead of several hundred dollars of rod and reel I hooked and landed yet another moderately sized bream.
I made the call to Cameron who headed down to join me from the shallows up river, where he’d landed a couple of good mid-30’s fish and a decent salmon who had taken a liking to his custom Cranka Crab (he’d run out of browns and had coloured in a sand crab with his kids’ textas). With fish being landed all around us Cameron was left frustrated after losing several very good fish that repeatedly snapped the hooks off his crab. I also managed a couple more but never did retrieve my equipment.
After five hours of fishing we were more than happy to call it a day with over 20 fish landed and at least that many missed or dropped mid-fight. Pulling up at shore Cameron retrieved from the live well his three best fish. The biggest measured 41cm to the fork with an estimated weight of over 1.3kgs. This was the class of fish we had come for and was somewhat of a miracle given how it had been captured.
We paused a while to watch the shore based guys continue to pull fish after fish. One even generous enough to invite a local council worker over, allowing him to catch his first ever bream under the watchful guidance of the rod’s owner.
With Cameron off for dinner with his lovely wife, I headed home for a deserving shower, already planning the next session ever hopeful of another big haul and personal best fish.