Report: A taste of Tassie

AFTER several days of sightseeing with my wife in Hobart last week, I found myself itching for a fish. While the start of the Apple Isle’s winter didn’t exactly conjure up thoughts of hot fishing, I was hopeful of at least getting a taste of what Hobart had to offer travelling fishos.

I also knew the city’s Derwent River had a reputation for producing big black bream. If I could at least hook one of these it would be the icing on the cake of a very enjoyable week in Tasmania.

Thanks to the internet I managed to get in touch with local ABT tournament angler, Leigh McKenzie, who offered to take me out for a bream session on my last morning in town. After taking a wrong turn somewhere, I still managed to meet Leigh at the agreed 7am meet time at a boat ramp on the Derwent River in the city’s north.

Seeing Leigh’s Skeeter FX20 sitting in the water ready for action, I had thoughts of copping an icy wind blast at 100km/h and wished I’d brought more layers! After a quick handshake, Leigh and I were quickly into the sort of banter fishos know only too well.

We waited for a bit more light before jumping aboard the lightning fast Skeeter. Thankfully, Leigh kept her not much above idle as we headed for the Derwent’s upper reaches. We talked fishing as the big Yamaha 250 SHO burbled away behind us.

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Leigh at the helm of his Skeeter FX20.

It turns out Leigh has been an ABT tournament angler since the concept kicked off in Australia. He’s also been reasonably successful as a competitive fisho, but readily admits “you wouldn’t do it for the money!” While he enjoys the tournament fishing scene, it’s all about the fish for him. “I just absolutely love breaming,” he enthused.
I would soon see firsthand why…

As we neared the section of water Leigh planned to fish, he cut the big Yammie and began to point out the features that lay up ahead as the fog rolled across the mirror calm surface. My fingers were numb. I’d forgotten my gloves and it was bloody freezing! Living in Sydney had obviously made me soft…

Leigh went on to explain the best way to fish for the Derwent’s black bream. We were fishing hard body lures, Bassday Sugar Slim 70s to be exact, which have proven to be one of Leigh’s go-to lures in his home waters. He’s also sponsored by the lure company’s Aussie distributor, Frogley’s Offshore, so he has a reasonable supply of these gun Japanese lures!

Before we started fishing, Leigh explained the proven lure retrieve for the local blacks. “I can’t emphasise enough how important the pause is…” he told me.

These words proved to be spot on. To cut a long story short, we caught and released 11 black bream for the morning and dropped a few more. From memory all of the fish took the lure on the pause…

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While still a decent sized black bream, this was the smallest fish of the morning!

They were all impressive fish. My first was my biggest bream ever, measuring 37cm to the fork and weighing around 1.1kgs. It was an impressive looking black bream and Leigh was as excited about it as I was. Soon after, I got another that measured 39cm to the fork and around 1.3kgs!

All of the fish we hooked fought extremely well in the chilly water. Of note was one Leigh hooked that shot across the front of the boat at a pace I’ve never seen before from a bream!

It was a fun and exciting introduction to the impressive bream fishing Tassie has to offer. Leigh had warned beforehand that the fishing would be slow, which I’d expected, but with the quality of fish on offer I definitely wasn’t complaining.

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Hobart’s Derwent River is definitely home to some big black bream.

Interestingly, we also saw a couple of big sea-run brown trout leap from the water in the same area we were catching the bream. Leigh has hooked these trophy trout which run up the river in winter to spawn, but as he doesn’t fish a lot in the cooler months it’s not a regular occurrence for him.

He also talked about bream fishing in Tassie in summer when these sort of quality fish can be taken on surface lures. That prospect had me salivating and I can’t wait to go back to try it out. I was soon reminded it was winter though as we blasted back to the ramp at around 90km/h! Amazingly, apart from one keen guy out paddling his kayak and the MONA gallery ferry, ours had been the only active boat on the water.

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Back at the ramp and time to thaw out…

In the meantime, stay tuned for an in-depth feature on the techniques used in this session in an upcoming edition of Fishing World.

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