Here’s a hard case tale from Alan Bulmers fishing diary…

Cedric the Black backed gull – a fishing session with a difference!

Yesterday’s fishing session on my favourite estuary was interesting. Low tide was at 2.00 pm so I timed my assault to be in the main channel fishing by 12.00 pm. It was an uncharacteristically warm, humid, overcast day. The moisture laden, concrete grey clouds hung pregnantly overhead and every now and again there was a shower of sea fret. It was almost like steam being released from pressure cooker. There was negligible wind (< 5 knots from E) so it was ideal for fly fishing.

I knew it was going to be an interesting day because there was more glutinous mud than normal as the silt from the heavy rains had settled all across the estuary. As I headed towards the marina four shags plunged into the tide simultaneously and hung in mid channel waiting for me to start fishing. If they’d have put pegs on their beaks before diving in the could have been synchronised swimmers at the Olympics. The message was clear…fish here at your peril. Giving them a wide berth, I headed out to the main channel.

It was all action while the tide was still running out strongly and the fly was getting smacked on virtually every drift. I was using a WF7 sink tip fitted with a rust or orange Clouser. My method was to cast slightly downstream (1 o’clock) and allowing fly to arc to shore on tight line. Short, fast strips with pauses. The fish in the photograph hit like a runaway freight train and fought like a demon. At first I thought it may be a trevally as it ran parallel to the shore backwards and forwards for about 5 minutes. Then, as I drew it into the shallow water, it started to jump and charge off back into the channel. Eventually the power of the 9’6” Angel wore it down enough to beach. I’ll let you know how well mannered a dinner guest it was tomorrow.

Caught another three before tide slackened and only two in the hour with little tide movement. The two smallest fish came as the tide was in the “shall I come in or go out” phase. Quite a bit of fish movement at this point but nothing big.

The funniest thing happened when I was on the flats though. I despatched the kahawai and covered it with a damp blue towel. This keeps the fish in good condition and normally dissuades gulls from chancing their arm. However, yesterday as I was covering the fish I noticed a large black back gull staring intently from about 40–50 metres away. He was feigning nonchalance but I could feel his laser like gaze burning a hole in me. He cleverly matched his movements towards the fish with mine away from it so that our relative distance apart stayed constant. Every time I glanced at him he seemed to be a decent distance away from the kahawai and disinterested. I’ve highlighted him with an arrow in the photograph below.


When I was about 50 metres away a small kahawai took the fly. Almost simultaneously out of the corner of my eye I noticed a movement and turned to see the gull (who I’ve nicknamed Cedric) cleverly removing the towel and putting on a serviette to enjoy its prize. I yelled for him to cease and desist which he countered with a strident squawk of victory.

I was incensed and took off towards him like Usain Bolt, forgetting that I had a small kahawai attached to the end of the line. I was single minded in purpose as I galloped across the sand and shell. Stop the gull from starting his entrée! The small kahawai by now was having the ride of its short life. Bouncing across the shallows like a wave boarder in full flight.

The gull realised that he was in trouble and paused to see how far I was going to come. He took to the air when I was about 15 metres away but only hopped a short distance away. I then remembered the kahawai. It had a glazed look in its eye, was covered in silt and had a grin running from pectoral to pectoral. I quickly removed the hook and it shot off like it had been Tasered.

The black back by now was calling me all of the names under the sun in “gull” and glaring with indignity. I rolled the fish in the towel to prevent further attacks and the gull seeing this took off and disappeared.

For the second consecutive weekend the side channel was being set netted. Nothing in the net. I’d say this was because there is too much fresh water still moving down the channel and the fish are reluctant to move into the brackish margins. Only one boat passed during one-and-a-half hour session which could have been a factor in the success.

Overall a very therapeutic session.


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