So I'm writing two FPs in advance today because I'm going to the Canal at Prelog tomorrow and a mystery location on Monday, and I'll be taking the Jimny. The thought of leaving my laptop in the Jimny while I go fishing, is, well unthinkable. So two FPs back to back! Today's FP is about all I know about Flathead fishing. This won't take long because I don't know very much, but hopefully this limited information is useful to others, and in particular Glenda who is living on the Sunshine Coast.
So let's talk about the fish... Flathead are a predatory fish that hunt by ambush. They swim along the bottom into hiding positions, are well camouflaged and wait until a baitfish swims close by and then attack. The strikes are pretty vicious! They average 1-3lbs but can grow to 15Kg, 10lbs is pretty big I believe. This sort of fishing is really 90% about location; you need to find the fish!
I can't remember taking Flathead on an incoming tide, but I do know that flathead take up positions on outgoing tides that allow them to ambush small fish. Look for currents and particularly drains. The water need not be deep. I've seen flathead in only a few inches of water and virtually all of them have come from water of around a metre deep.
Walking the flats when the tide is out is a great way to locate these holding places for Flathead because they leave a small diamond shape in the sand. This is where they have been laying up. With practise you'll be able to read the water to determine where they are, but my best advice is to get to know the location when the water is out - this is like visiting a reservoir when it's low to find interesting features. Prime lies are long drains, draining the mangroves. I like it if the bottom is wavy sand. This means that there has been some significant current. They seem to lie on the down-current side of these sand waves.
What this means is that you need to present your cast so that the fly sweeps the sand or just above, where you think that the flathead is waiting. It's almost like fishing a streamer in a river. You cast across the current at some angle, mend up-current to slow the line, and then when you think your fly is in the area you make small strips, working the fly across the target zone. No fish? Take a step down current and repeat. You are working an area that may be ten metres down-current. Don't be frightened to wade out a bit if it helps fish the swing more effectively.
In fast currents you're going to need heavy flies to get down, but in my experience you don't want currents that are too fast. But if there is any sort of depth, throwing a collapsed cast as opposed to a straight one will help you get the depth you need. The easiest way I know to throw a collapsed cast with a Clouser is an off-plane tailing loop. Alternatively switch to an Intermediate line and throw straight.
Don't worry about fly selection. If the fish are there and your fly is in the zone, then they'll eat. I use a size 1 translucent Clouser. It's all I've ever needed. Once you've established that there are fish in front of you can can experiment with flies, but don't think you're not catching fish because you have the wrong fly. You're either fishing dead water or your flies are not close enough to the bottom.
In general where I've found one Flathead I've found many.
The only exception to all of the above was my largest Flathead which came from the Noosa Estuary some 20 odd years ago. This fish was caught in the deeps in at least 6m of water, took a shrimp and would have been around 10lbs. Which reminds me, when playing a Flathead don't give them slack line, they'll bury themselves in the sand and you'll have a hell of a problem getting them out again! An 8-weight is fine for casting Flathead flies, and a leader of about a rod and a half long.