Tips – Finding Flathead

I know I have written about flathead on fly before, but this time I am going to focus in on some tips on how to find them in our estuaries. More specifically NSW estuaries. Finding them at the right depth to get a fly to them is my main focus.

We have a lot of differing estuary systems in NSW. We also have lagoons and lakes that have good populations of flathead. Some, like Lake Macquarie hold good numbers of fish, but quite often they are n very deep water. So what this blog post concentrates on where to look and the sort of depths and structure you can target with the fly rod and basic lines (floating, sink tip or intermediate).

First of all let’s look at depth. As much as I’d like to target the big lizards of Lake Macquarie on fly, they sit way too deep to get a fly to stay in the zone. So my focus is usually on water and structure that sits in 2.5m – 3.5m deep. These depths are easy to keep a fly on or near the bottom using a floating line with long leader or an intermediate line.

When I talk about structure I mean things like weedbeds, drop offs, rock bars or even fallen timber that sit in about the depth mentioned above.

I also look at water flow. This is important again for keeping the fly in the zone for as long as possible. Big and fast tidal flows can create problems with the fly moving to fast or drifting up off the bottom. Look for slower water or eddies, after all this is where the small baitfish and shrimp etc are likely to hold up out of the current.

Using technology is a big help these days as it let’s you get a better view of what’s below. You’d be hard pressed to see fathead on a sounder, but you can see depth, contours, dropoffs, weedbeds etc with no problems. The GPS and mapping these days can also help you determine depth contours and where the tide is likely to be moving a bit slower than the main channel. It can also help you see where current are moving over flats and into channels etc. Pictures tell a thousand words so here are some snaps from my Lowrance HDS Live.

As you can see in the pictures above, taken on a recent trip I set the colour shading of the depths I am looking to fish. This makes it far easier to work out where to position the boat to make the most of the area I am fishing. It also saves me from casting into areas that are less likely t hold the fish.

What I have done in this instance is shaded the areas between 2 and 4 metres in orange and pink, with shades varying at different contour lines. As you can see in each of these areas these areas come of a shallow flat and into much deeper water. As the tide runs out the bait and the predators head to the deeper holes, so fish the entry points to those holes.

I picked these depths when I fish and intermediate line as I know I can keep the fly down in the zone for longer. As you can see from my trail marks, I tend to sit over the hold and fish back to the deeper water. Run out tides are my preferred time.

Also worth noting is that I often fish on a bend. This gives me an area of slower water to allow the fly to sink down. Where the blue colours are, is both where it is deepest but also where the water flows the fastest, so fish the yellow to orange sections!

Don’t forget to use your sidescan and structure scan to find both bait and structure as in the image below. A sunken boat now covered in weed and sand. Ideal ambush territory. Note the depth and you can see the weed.

I hope this helps you get the most out of your technology as well as find the easier to fish spots for lizards on the fly.

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