Finding that perfect fish at Fraser

When the tuna run, the water boils. Putting your fly into such a commotion is sure to be memorable in any fisher's career.

Paul Dolan knows how to find fish. The Hervey Bay based fishing guide takes would-be catchers all over the fishing mecca between Fraser Island and the coast in the hunt for Golden Trevally and Long Tail Tuna.

It was one of those perfect still dawns when I jumped aboard his 5.3 metre tri hull boat to test out his fish finding ability. My aim was to catch one of those memorable two species on fly for the first time.

We headed east and then a long way north into Platypus Bay, following the shoreline. Recreational and commercial fishers had been hitting the area heavily he said, the more remote places were likely to produce results.

As the sun started peeking above the horizon, peeling away the inky sky, we saw our first birds diving down for frantic bait balls marshalled up by the tuna. Several tries to get near startled them into scattering to far for my ineffectual casts. “I keep the motor going at a steady pace, changing tempo's quickly warns them” said Dolan. Its a fine line, it warns them when you get close too.

He knows how to judge it from years of experience. We approached the swirling masses head on. It was a breathtaking site – birds plunging, water boiling, tuna leaping crazily out of the waves and all stretched in front of a spectacular sunrise.

Lifting the rod was actually a difficult decision, because I also wanted to watch the tableau to memorise it, sure I wouldn't get to see this much in a lifetime. And I wanted to take pictures. And as a writer I was dying to reach for the pen and notebook stuffed in my bag.

Ever the professional, I grabbed the rod and started to cast. Dolan grabbed his and cast with an instant zing loudly drawing my attention as the tuna struck the surf candy and bolted. He told me to put my rod down and reel in his.

Half a bruised hour later the fish came to the side of the boat. It was certainly the strongest pull I have ever felt as I lost many metres of backing, reeled in during the pauses or runs toward me and lost that backing again. Such a fish!. What seemed like a tug of war forever made me appreciate the powerful beauty of the animal all the more when I finally cradled it and let it go, zooming off through the water.

We hugged the clear inshore waters along the white sand beaches as we headed south to the flats. It was a bit disconcerting to see him standing on the console, steering with his feet while looking for fish, but he seemed to get away with it easily enough.

A few glimpses of Golden Trevally were the closest we managed. “They are spooked at the moment and you can see why” said Dolan finger jabbing toward another boat.

Gill netters. We watched them take a full half an hour to pull up the net achingly slowly. Pile it into a dinghy. Row it ever so slowly to the bigger boat and casually sort out the catch. The licensed ones were kept, the rest, surely dead by now, tossed overboard.

A furious Dolan told me that sort of behaviour was common. For someone like him who celebrates every fish, targets one at a time and then lets nearly everyone go, watching that sort of contempt and large scale slaughter is distressing.

It wasn't to be a day I would catch any more fish. But truthfully I didn't care. Dolan crouched down on the flats as the tide meandered in explaining how the pock marked surface was made by Goldies sucking up yabbies. We watched a turtle swimming past and saw the requisite number of sting rays flipping through the water as the sun climbed to the top of the sky and the blue water twinkled around us.

In all, a delightful way to spend a day.