Techy Thursday - Chasing Whitebait

The Whitebait have begun their annual run and on our Southern Estuaries, so have the juvenile Lamprey. Accordingly, the fish are becoming more active as things transition into spring and are turning up in our tidal reaches to take advantage of the incoming food supply. You’ve cleaned your lines, patched your waders and restocked your boxes, so here are ten tips to get your arm back into it over the coming months.

  1. Fish your flies in tandem as a team. The synchronised movement of two flies moving on each strip and each pause will stand out more than a single pattern mingling in a shoal of whitebait.
  2. Consider a flashier pattern on point, ‘chasing’ a sparser, more natural pattern a couple of feet above. Invoke that ‘predator / prey ‘ response.
  3. Carry a range of lines for the conditions. I favour the Airflo 40+ range of integrated shooting heads for fast loading and easy distance. My personal go to for our Southern Estuaries is the Airflo 40+ DI3, with the Streamer Max, or DI7 close at hand as the pull of the tide grows.
  4. Focus on the bends, points or quieter inlets and bays, places whitebait will congregate. Watching where the whitebaiters ply their wares may give you a little local insight on unfamiliar waters.
  5. When the tide pulls strong, many baitfish will push out and travel along the softer water of the edges, so make sure you’re not wading water you should be fishing. Fish at an angle to the bank, rather than straight out into the depths.
  6. Keep fishing. Like the whitebaiter, you’ll often be fishing the entire tide looking for that golden window where the rewards are high. Don’t head back to the car until you fish to that final push of the tide. An hour here or half an hour there just doesn’t cut it.
  7. Mix up your retrieve. The aim is to grab attention in the often large expanse of an estuary. Strip fast to generate excitement. Strip short and slow in brighter, clear conditions. Heck, simply change it up and see what works on the day.
  8. Change flies often. Chances are if a fish will eat your streamer, he will eat any, but keeping your anticipation and alertness alive with a new fly keeps you sharp, and also ensures your knots are fresh and nylon on point. You don’t want to fluff the only fish of the day due to inattention.
  9. Keep moving. These fish move and so should you. Fish each spot slow and thoroughly, but keep walking and cover ground, particularly on new water.
  10. Watch your back. Many estuaries can fill extremely fast on the incoming tide, particularly on the West Coast so keep an eye on the tides and your escape routes.

Springtime estuary sessions not only give you a shot at some surprisingly good, and very local fish but also gets you back outdoors and conditioned for your first big trip of October...because who wants to fish rusty anyway.