A Mulloway or the Knitting Needles

The time is 5:45 PM. It has been a standard Thursday afternoon. The working week has been particularly uneventful and there is nothing out of the ordinary to note. Generally, all is well in the world.

I arrive home from work, put the car keys and my mobile phone on the kitchen bench, and proceed to subconsciously unpack my bag and unwind from the working day, just as I have every other day of the week. I meander over towards the fridge to reward myself with an ice cold beer, and notice out of the corner of my eye the little blue notification light flashing on my phone. Hmmm… I do not recall hearing an SMS message come in, but at the same time I also do not recall checking my phone at all during the day. Without really thinking too much of it, I prioritise my workload, grabbing the ice cold beer first, and then proceed to unlock the phone with a single curious swipe. Ah.. nice… Brett has left me a message the night before.

Quick digression here…. For those of you playing along at home, you may or may not remember who Brett is? If you do not remember, take some time to look at a couple of my previous posts:

Master-baiters, Fishnets, and the Hilton! Part I
Master-baiters, Fishnets, and the Hilton! Part II

In summary, Brett is one of my cousins from down south, and an overly keen fisherman like myself. Some people have spread rumours that he is a fishing legend, and others have stated he is some form of fish whisperer; let’s not inflate his ego any more than it needs to be.

Right.. moving on. I retrieve the SMS message and I am presented with the following:

Hey bud, how ya been? N the tribe? Got some thing on offer for u….. I have organised a fishing trip down the Coorong with a friend of ours that’s in a fishing club! 5th, 6th come back on the 7th of dec. bout 10 car loads going down n plenty of knowledge to go with it. B a crack trip I recon

Have you ever had that feeling when you have marked off four of the six lotto numbers in a row, and the next lotto ball coming out of the machine is the same colour as what you need? Your heart rate accelerates two fold, you start to feel a little giddy, and you are already picturing the extravagant ways you are going to spend the millions of dollars you are about to win? Well, that is only the start of how I felt! I let out a bellowing yewwwwwwwwww for all the neighbourhood to hear whilst picturing the great piscatorial captures in my head. Excitably I start to reply to Brett’s message with a resounding yes…. that was… until it happened. A worrisome ghostly feeling caressed over me, momentarily bringing me back to reality and ripping at my prize fish daydreams. If you are a fisho, and you are married or have a partner, you would be familiar with this feeling and know exactly what has just happened to me… ummm… oh…. ahhh…. oh… oh no…. it is that time… Time to put the tail between your legs, engage the puppy dog eyes, and prepare to grovel to… dum dum dummm…. The Boss Lady.

Luckily for me my Boss Lady is extremely fair and understands only too well that fishing is a significant part of my existence. Without too much begging, grovelling, or unsubstantiated promises made, I trade in an exorbitant amount of brownie points (which I had been saving since my last adventures down south) and retrieve the golden leave pass from she who must be obeyed. :) It’s on like donkey kong!!!! I grab my mobile phone, hit reply, and with two finger typing skills only comparable to that of a ninja I proceed to reply….

All well. U guys? Man.. R u serious about the trip!?!?!?!?! I’m all over that!! Give me the green light and I’ll book plane asap. I can feel a mulloway coming on!!!!


I have always dreamt of going down to The Coorong. Not to go bird spotting or to see where Storm Boy was filmed, but to chase the elusive mulloway! I have hunted this fish for years and invested countless hours on the beach trying to persuade this cunning beast to take my bait… but alas, the mulloway still remains on the top of my ‘must catch’ list and is still my white whale.

Now that the scene is set, let’s fast forward a month or so. The time is 2:18 PM. I am in Adelaide, South Australia, and an SMS message comes through from Brett; Pick you up in 5. Here we go! True to his word, Brett rocks up and introduces me to his father-in-law Tom. I say ciao to my Mum, throw my belongings in the back of Brett’s truck, and off to my uncle’s place we go for final preparations. The rest of the gear is loaded up and the unmistakeable sound of beers clinking marks the beginning of another adventure with mates. The gauntlet had been thrown down, and if I could not catch a mulloway at The Coorong, it was time for me to put down the rod and reel, and to take up knitting. The Coorong, here we come!

The Coorong is approximately 130 kilometres long, protecting the mainland and many salt water lagoons from the Southern Ocean. In 1966 the park was formed, ensuring the protection of pelicans, ducks, swans, cormorants, terns, grebes and other migratory birds. The marked area in the below map is a rough guide to the area we were headed, approximately 2.5 hrs drive south of Adelaide.


Okay.. back to the trip. “Geee.. it’s pretty dry”. This single statement which I made half way along the journey to our hunting grounds could well have jinxed our trip. The closer we got to Salt Water Creek, the darker, the windier, the colder, and the more miserable the weather began to turn. The weather gods decided it was time to test out our party of fisherfolk and divide the strong from the weak. With a display of great might, the skies darkened and the great fan in the sky was turned up a few notches. “We can not be beaten so easily” we proclaimed, and our resolve only became stronger. “We will get to The Coorong, and we will catch that elusive mulloway” we chanted as we beat our chest like a juvenile group of silver back gorillas. Unfortunately, the bravado stopped square with us, and it was to be a very different story for the majority of the rest of the party that were to join us. We contacted one of the members of the fishing club to see how they were travelling and to touch base on the best location to set up for the night. “Have you seen the weather report?”, our contact queried. As quickly as the weather had turned, all but one member of the fishing club cancelled their trip. “Head across Tea Tree and set up near xyz site. I’ll meet you there in the morning”.

Luckily in South Australia the curtains do not fade so easily, and the cows do not seem to get confused with what time of the day it is. So with a few hours of light left thanks to day-light savings, we left our dinner stop at Meningie and proceeded to follow our plan to cross Tea Tree tonight. For a little bit more effort, we would be able to set up camp, have a reccy fish, and be all set for some burning drag action in the morning. We made our final stop for some fuel at Salt Creek and took some time to have a look at the brag board of prize fish caught and take in the local scenery. Next stop, Tea Tree and the dunes.

Prior to the trip I had been dreaming through the computer screen as you do; pictures of monstrous mulloway and many videos of the 4wd action on offer. Of particular interest to me was the crossing at Tea Tree. In the majority of videos, the crossing seemed to be around a yard deep, and perhaps 500m in length. That’s a pretty good crossing in anyone’s book and I was looking forward to taking some photos of the bow wave the truck would make as we powered our way across. We rounded the final bend to the crossing, and we could not believe what we were seeing. The Tea Tree Crossing had absolutely no water. Not a single drop. The crossing was one long stretch of salt flats as far as the eye could see!



With tyres deflated, crossing Tea Tree was just a matter of staying out of the ruts. The only thing between us and the Southern Ocean now were the great dunes of The Coorong. Even if you are not a fisherperson, you must put The Coorong onto your must do list. The dunes alone are spectacular, and the amount of wildlife that calls the dunes home is awe inspiring.



We powered our way across the dunes and there she was… the Southern Ocean.


Before we knew it, we had found a gutter which looked to be promising and pulled into the dunes to find a protected spot to set up camp. With daylight fading we rigged our gear and marked our territory with white poly pipe rod holders. The first baits were cast into the gutter, the first beers were cracked, and we had taken up residence in our own little corner of heaven.


With our drags perfectly tuned and beach chairs set up, the waiting game had begun as we watched the magnificent ball in the sky disappear over the horizon.




As darkness set in, Uncle Kym and Tom headed back to camp to set up some tarps for the night. The weather had continued to turn ordinary, and the winds had picked up to around 15 knots south south westerlies. Brett and I continued our battle against the elements, and between us had both had what seemed to be some quick runs, only to have the hooks spat. Inspecting one of the half devoured baits Brett retrieved, it was obvious we had some toothy critters in the gutter judging by the long tearing teeth marks left behind. A few hours had past, and the winds continued to test us. Not long after a statement of ‘looks like rain’ was made, the heavens opened up and we retreated back to the camp having been beaten this time around. All will be well.. tomorrow is another day.

The following day we awoke to blue skies. Brett and I were first out of our swags as you would expect, and made our way down to the gutter as fast as our legs would take us. It had rained most of the night before, and the wind was relentless at times. As we threw our first baits into the gutter, we both knew today was going to be a tough slog. The wind was still hanging around, and the weather forecast predicted increasing winds to 30 knots by the end of the day. An hour or two later we were greeted by Uncle Kym, followed not long after by Tom. We routinely re-baited, cast out into the gutter, watched the rod tip, and repeated multiple times. With rods set, there was no better time than now to cook up a hearty breakfast and enjoy a hot cup of coffee.





With bellies full and caffeine addictions satisfied, we made our way back to the gutter. Baits were replenished, gear given the once over, and it was time to pick up the game.


We continued the re-bait, cast out, and retrieve waltz numerous times, and then it finally happened. Brett pulls in his line, and low and behold, the first mulloway of the trip was beached.


You can stop your snickering right now… I know what you are thinking… is that it? Is that a mighty Coorong mulloway or is it the bait? Yeh yeh yeh.. everyone’s a comedian. For us living the dream, things were looking up. There was a mulloway in the gutter, and surely it would only be a matter of time before we started to upgrade to bigger specimens?

A few hours had past and there were no further signs of our target fish. Almost like clockwork, Paul (the braver of the fishing club members) drove up the beach to meet us. He took a look at the gutter we had been trying to tempt a monster from, and without a second thought let us know it was too shallow. Pointing to a gutter about 100 meters north of us, Paul advised that there was some deeper water there and we should give it a go. Whilst Tom, Uncle Kym, and I pulled up stumps and migrated up the beach, Brett jumped in Paul’s 4wd and they drove further south down the beach looking for the next gutter to attack.

About 30 minutes had past and we had not had a hint of a bite from the new gutter. Brett made his way back to our new ground in Paul’s 4wd, and radioed over the UHF letting us know it is time to pack up camp and head further south. They had found a deep gutter with prominent entry and exits points, and if we were going to have a chance at a fish this would be it. Paul stayed at the gutter and marked out our territory, and in record time we had packed up the camp and started to head further down the Coorong, hanging on to hope that we would not be going home empty handed.


We set up camp, and for those of us that had not officially met Paul, salutations were had. Paul had kindly brought a longer rod for me to use as unfortunately I could not bring my 1 piece surf rig from home thanks to the exorbitant cost the airline wanted to charge. Before I even had time to rig up my new weapon, Paul was marching back to the camp with a solid Australian Salmon in toe. You have to be kidding me!

Time ticked away as it had the day before, and we still had not beached the prize mulloway. The winds were picking up and were now a constant 30 knot gale directly onto the beach. The whistle was blown and it was time to have some lunch. For the next couple of hours we were privileged to have Paul discuss different rigs, tricks of the trade, and other useful information. This man is an encyclopaedia of all things fishing, and we all listened like attentive school kids. We were shown different ways of tying rigs, given the theory of why one rig or one knot was more beneficial than another, and I am sure we all learnt a thing or three; I know I did. Day two’s afternoon quickly passed us by while we were lucky enough to be part of “Paul’s Masterclass” as we affectionately labelled it.

The sun set, and we still had no sizeable mulloway marked off the list. Tomorrow was the last day of the trip, and according to the meteorologists, the weather gods were going to give us a brief window of opportunity first thing in the morning. We spent the night discussing whatever it is you discuss on boys weekends, and hit the swags all anxious about what the next day could bring.


“Wake up princess” I hear Brett saying as he moved around the camp. I had slept the best I had for quite some time, and today was a new day and the final opportunity to catch a mulloway. The wind was still blowing, but definitely not as blowy as the night before. This is it! Let’s do this! The burley bucket was set to smash around in the wash, and Brett and Paul had decided to give me the prime spot in the gutter considering the distance travelled. Cheers lads… appreciate it. We set up our rod holders, baited our rigs with particular care, and cast out into the gutter. All drags were set, checked, and re-checked, and it was now time to put the previous days learning into action.

zzzzzzz…… he’s on! Brett has set the hooks and he’s got some weight on the line. With very little effort he beaches a larger specimen than his last. You beauty!!!! A quick release back into the gutter, and he still has the biggest grin of us all.


What is my line doing over there? My line was 20 meters north of where it should have been, but it wasn’t due to the relentless waves.. it was taught! I grab my rod, set the hooks, and there it was… that unmistakeable feeling of a fish which has taken your bait. I knew this wasn’t a big fish, but I cannot explain the excitement flowing through my blood. I knew this was a mulloway, I could feel it. Without too much trouble, I beach the fish, and without a care about it’s weight or size, I was in the most awesome, overwhelming, and emotional place I could have been. I had caught my very first mulloway, my white whale, my target fish, and the prize I had come all this way for. Woooooohoooooooooooooooooooooo! It had happened.


I released the fish to fight another day, and with pride and with shaking hands I re-bait my line ready for the possible upgrade. No matter what happens from here on in, fish or no fish, I was content and could tick off another fish from the list.

Time ticked by, and a couple more small specimens were beached and released. Brett had upgraded a small live salmon for a larger salmon, and all was well. I happily day dreamed about the fish that was, and I had already started to write this article in my mind. The wind was blowing, the waves had started to stand up, and it wouldn’t be too much longer before our window of opp….. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz………….zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz……….zzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!! My rod buckles over, line is peeling off at a quick rate, and I’ve jumped out of my chair running towards my rod like a rugby hooker with a clear 20 meter passage to the try line! I wrestle the rod out of it’s holder, tighten the drag slightly and lean back ready to make sure the hooks are set. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ….. whack whack whack…. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…..


All of my weight, which is quite a bit as of late, is on the rod as I lean back. The hooks are set and there is some serious weight on the end of my line. zzz..zzz …zzzzzz and the drag has been adjusted to where it needs to be. I am only using 20lb mono on this outfit, so there was no way I was going to lock up the drag. I have time, the hooks are set, so let this fight begin! Lean back…. wind down… lose line…. Lean back…. wind down… lose line…. Woooohoooooo! I am shaking like a leaf and pretty sure this is the mulloway I have been after. I’m picturing the photo of me holding this beast up by the gill plates, and I’m already getting ready to put a Qld 1 – SA 0 on the tally board. zzzzz…. this is going to take a while. Uncle Kym is taking photos, Brett is getting the gaff sorted, and Paul is wandering over. Paul looks at my rod tip, has a look at the line coming off, and he says those words most mulloway fishos don’t want to hear….. “It’s a ray mate”. ahhh… ahhh… what?… ahhhh….. zzzzzzzzzzzz……….. dead weight. Oh sh!t… he’s right… this is a ray, or something similar. It’s okay! This is a good fish, no matter what it is, and it’s a going to be a great fight. If it’s a ray, and I only have 20lb mono, this is going to be fun. Pump and wind… pump and wind…. zzzzz…. pump and wind…. zzzzz. This went on for some time. I had managed to get this ‘fish’ past the first sand bank and into the shallower gutter close to shore. Brett and Paul are in the wash, and I’m timing the waves to help get some leverage.



Timing the waves, and with a perfect gaff by Brett and Paul, I can finally see what fish I had been battling, both from a strength point of view and a mental game. “What the f@#k is that?” I proclaim. “It’s a bloody good Melbourne Skate!” came the reply. Woooooohooooooooo! ahem… what was that for? I’ll tell you why; it’s a skate, which means I can say it’s not a ray. :) Apparently these are a sort after fish down this way and in Victoria, and as the beast was dragged up the beach Paul says that “If you had of caught that in the January comp you would have won a boat!”. “What? Won a boat?” I reply. “Yep.. on 20lb mono, that’s a prize fish. I reckon it’s about 50lb.” “I like boats” is all I could manage to say through the exhaustion from the fight.




A few happy snaps later and it is time to get this magnificent fish back to the water. Even though these skate are considered a delicasy down here and over in pommy land, I couldn’t bring myself to slaughter such a creature. Shaking, I drag the fish back to the sea, and words cannot express how amazing it was to see the skate flap it’s wings in the surf and disappear into the gutter. Wow…. just wow. What a momentous experience and what a great fight.

Even though our window of opportunity to get that prize mulloway had passed, we were not willing to call it a day just yet. With the “just one more cast” mentality, we sent our lines out for the final time and decided it was as good a time as any to have some bacon and eggs and wind down the adventure.


What a trip! The emotional highs and lows will never be forgotten. I caught my first ever mulloway, and as a bonus I caught a fish which I had never seen nor heard of. There was some 4wd’ing, magic camping under the stars, and spectacular sunsets and sunrises to watch. We were greeted by emus, a penguin, a shingleback lizard, and a centipede. Most of all, I was privileged to share an extremely special part of Australia with some great mates.

Paul… thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and finding the spot x.

Uncle Kym… thank you for being the trip photographer, not painting my face while I slept, or putting creepy crawlies in my swag.

To my wife and kids, thanks for the birthday present… it will be very hard to beat.

And finally, Brett… you’re a legend mate. Thank you so much for the trip and thanks for a bloody good time.

Until the next adventure, cheers and tight lines……


One Comment

  1. Kym Trewartha wrote:

    It was great to have you along. Good company, good memories. A big thanks to your Bride for making it possible. We didn’t have time to get up to any mischief, it was serious fish’n! But, you know that the ‘big one’ is still out there. And the ‘rematch’ is still on! See you at the Cowell Hilton. Til next time, enjoy!