Narrabeen Lake (also known as Narrabeen Lagoon) is a coastal lagoon located on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. The lake has a reasonable population of bream, flathead, whiting and mullet. It also produces healthy number of donuts – for me anyway, when I have a fly rod in my hand.
So it was with an element of resignation that I slipped on my waders and walked down the bush track leading to the lake. To make matters worse, the batch of flies I had with me were the first I’d tied myself. I looked at my creations with the pride of a doting father but the realist in me suspected the fish would reject my amateurish offerings.
When I reached the shore the tide was higher than I had seen before and the weed beds over the sand flats were well underwater. As I waded out, schools of shrimps skipped away over the surface in tiny flashes of silver. There were fish too, hiding in clear pockets of water between weed beds.
As an angler you can sense water that is alive. You see the signs, and I saw them that afternoon. Life and death encounters were happening under the water around me. Sometimes these unseen struggles exploded on the surface as baitfish tried last ditch flips and skips to evade the hungry mouths that closed in on them.
I felt optimistic. But only for a moment. My fly fishing tally here was zero. This lake was my personal donut factory. My field of broken dreams. I shook my head, quietly castigating myself for the folly of optimism, and stripped off enough fly life for a cast.
There was no wind which helped me put the fly where I wanted it – in a channel between weed beds that lead to deeper water. Strip, strip, pause, strip, strip, pause.
Ten more casts into textbook locations for the same result.
I whipped my next cast out in resignation – aiming at nothing this time. Strip, strip – whack!
My first fish on a fly I tied myself. A decent bream on the way to a long overdue dental appointment.
Another bream and a flathead followed over the next hour – all caught on a green prawn fly.
I learned a few things about fly fishing Narrabeen Lake that afternoon.
A high tide brings the fish on because they can access weed beds full of shrimps and small baitfish. The bream I saw working the shallows were there to feed and they were aggressive. Willing targets for a fly.
The warmer water coming in from the ocean with the tide may also have played a part given it is still early in the season and water temps are low. A bump up of a degree or two may have been enough to encourage feeding.
And finally, I think catching a bream on fly early on gave me confidence in my technique and the fly I was using. Fly fishing is a confidence game and having early success can make a big difference to the way you fish.