Unicorns are real!
By Ryan Keith, December 2019
Unicorns Are Real!
This catch has been a lifetime in the making, but the story begins yesterday arvo. Some new lures had arrived in the mail, and I couldn’t wait to try them out. After a couple of hours casting in areas devoid of life – save a few stingrays – I found a sand flat onto which the run-in tide was pushing hard. I immediately started to see signposts of a fertile area: bulk whiting, mullet, and silver biddies.
On about my fifth cast, a monster flathead homed in on my lure from maybe 20 m away. Her fins were flared as she approached the plastic, apparently sizing up a meal. With my heartbeat loud in my ears, I paused the lure and recommenced the retrieve. The fish came within two rodlengths of my position, and then… spooked. Dammit! I blew my chance for the day. I continued casting as long as the conditions would permit, before leaving with my tail between my legs.
This morning, I awoke with one thing on my mind: that close encounter of the croc kind. I wondered why on earth that fish – which appeared lit-up – failed to commit. Perhaps the lure sank too quickly? I shaved 50 % off the 1/8 oz hidden weight jighead. Maybe something looked “off”? I glued some eyes on the front. It’s possible that the fish simply never got a chance to line up the lure for the kill, and my tinkering was for nothing. Still, I thought my modifications would be an improvement. I confidently returned to the scene of the crime.
Again, the first couple of hours – the last of the runout – were fruitless. I covered a lot of ground for not even a sniff. But I knew where I needed to be for the run-in. When the tide started running, I positioned myself in the area where the monster materialised yesterday. The “baitfish” were there once again. After half an hour of casting, my lure got absolutely belted. As I struck to set the hook, a shovel-sized head broke the surface, and the fish executed a thrashing leap. I dropped my rod tip beneath the water, but that didn’t stop the flathead again rising and shaking her head violently in the air. This proved to be my undoing. The hook pulled and I watched the croc swim off calmly. My heart sank. She was hooked and lost not even 50 m from where I encountered the fish yesterday. Licking my wounds, I inspected the lure to see tears around the front hook only. I suspected it might have caught the croc under her chin, which is why she kept planing up to the surface so fast. Or she was hooked conventionally and just outclassed me! I wasn’t gonna give up that easy.
An hour later, I was still flogging the area where I lost the monster. The tide was rising fast, and I started casting more and more upcurrent as opposed to crosscurrent. When my cast landed beside a ribbon weed patch, I let the lure sink down along the edge before commencing the retrieve. After the first burn, my rod loaded up hard! I’d hooked another one! This fish rose to the surface quickly like the last, giving me a clear view of her impressive length. Luckily, she didn’t go ballistic; there were headshakes, but the fight was fairly clean. It wasn’t long until I was running backwards with her in tow, headed for a fast-disappearing sandbank. I could see she was pinned by the front hook in the top of her mouth, which was clamped down hard on the lure. I knew that beaching this fish was my only option. I told myself aloud “just stay calm and land the fish like you’ve done your whole life”. Miraculously, I made it to the bank, turned the croc towards me, and pulled her halfway out of the water. SNAP! went my line, as it parted at the knot joining my bite leader to the main leader. I about died.
With the reflexes of a cat – or a fisho who’d missed two crocs in as many days – I dashed behind the fish and wrestled her massive girth onto the sand. It was only when I slid her onto the brag mat that I could comprehend her size! An onlooker helped me with some quick snaps before she swam away strong. Third time lucky!