Guiding the guide

BOTH Ken and Warren Smith have put me onto some fantastic fish in recent years. So when they came to stay at my place on the NSW South Coast over the Xmas holidays it seemed only fair that I return the favour.

Waz works as the head guide at the famed Melville Island Lodge in the NT. I’ve been lucky enough to fish at the lodge several times and have enjoyed champagne sportfishing as a result of Waz’s expert guiding and intimate knowledge of these productive and remote waters.

I’d been catching a few nice estuary perch in the weeks preceding Waz and Ken’s visit so when Waz told me that an EP was top of his bucket list I was confident of producing for him. In fact, I think I made the fatal error of saying something like, “Yeah, no worries. I’ll get you onto plenty of EPs. No probs at all!” I should have realised then and there that I was doomed to failure …

As it turned out, a big low pressure system brought my plans for EP action undone. The first day out in the Shoalhaven River with Waz and his wife Tarn resulted in a big fat zero for perch (but we did get some nice lizards plus whiting on poppers).

The next few trips were frustratingly similar. The low barometer meant the local bass and perch were seriously shutdown – all my gun locations failed to produce. Waz was pretty laidback about it but the lack of action was causing my blood pressure to rise to dangerous levels … There’s no way I could ever be a fishing guide – I just couldn’t handle the stress!

The low finally edged out to sea and was replaced by a decent high. Clear skies, a nor-east wind and rising temps made me feel a tad more confident as we launched the tinny for a final assault.

A rock wall near the ramp was my first choice. I’ve caught plenty of EPs, bass and bream at this location and was hopeful that it would produce the goods. We only needed one perch – surely that wasn’t too much too ask?

Everything looked good – the water was great, there was plenty of bait and the pesky wakeboats and jetskiers that had infested the river were thankfully engaged in other bogan activities. However, we worked the rocks for zero return. I was quietly going nuts as Warren and Ken methodically probed the water with plastics and hard-bodies. No bites, no taps, no sign of life at all. I was sure the fish were there – they just weren’t biting.

I’d made up my mind to head to a different location – or maybe just get it over with once and for all by cutting my wrists – when Waz came tight to a fish. It dropped off after a second or two. Aggh! Unperturbed, he placed another cast into the zone, let the plastic drop, started a twitchy retrieve and hooked up solidly.

It was obviously a good fish but was it an EP? After a couple of minutes of down deep head shaking and several short but determined runs, the fish surfaced and I scooped it into the net. It was an EP, and at 43cm a bloody nice one.

We all breathed a sigh of relief – me especially! Who would have thought that one fish could be responsible for so much stress – or so much elation?

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Before the Smiths visited, the editor enjoyed plenty of EP action, including this 42cm fish taken on one of the new Savage soft plastic prawns.


Waz with an average river bass caught further upstream from the EP. IMAGE: KEN SMITH

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