Fishing, Photography, Tackle

Leave a comment

Sage Salt Review

It is always a good day when a big box of rods arrives at the store, but there is something extra special about a whole new series of fly rods arriving. Particularly releases from Sage; the world’s largest fly rod manufacturer. The expectation levels are pretty high for them to do something amazing with each and every new piece of gear.

The expectations of anglers, along with the hype from the marketing team can be pretty hard to live up to when faced with the fish of a lifetime at 60 feet. The good thing these days, with the high levels of R&D that occurring, the chances of a new rod turning out to be a lemon are pretty remote. The big question that remains is, will the new rod be a bit of an improvement over the old or is it a significant enough step forward to stop what I am doing to rush out and buy a new rod.

So, to the arrival of the new Sage Salt. Out of the tube there are no particular surprises. The blue blank is typically understated Sage. It’s not likely to win a beauty contest nor is it going to offend anyone either. The rod weight is etched onto the reel seat for easy identification, which is nice touch, especially handy for those who may end up with a whole quiver of these rods. The guides towards the tip at first appeared smaller than the predecessor; however, it appears the wire used is a little lighter gauge rather than the guides themselves being smaller. This means less weight at the tip which helps with the responsiveness of the blank. The stripping guides are stainless framed Fujis, which again is a pretty safe choice. Guides with a titanium frames would have been nice to see as they are certainly more durable in the salty environment for which the rod is intended.

Weight wise, there is not too much difference to the previous model either.  Jerry Siem, Sage’s head rod designer had said that he felt there not much to be gained in making these rods any lighter with the current technology available; so the technological advances have been used to achieve improved strength, tapers and feel.

The first thing I noticed when casting the Salt was that the rod loads further down the blank than most of the others in the Sage range. After the super-fast Method series, it is nice to come back to a rod that bends a little more. That is not to say that the Salt is slow or unresponsive; quite the opposite in fact. The Salt loads smoothly and easily and you can feel the power in the blank loading and unloading on each stroke. The tip has a nice elastic feel, presenting accurately and quite delicately. The mid-section loads through nicely, without feeling spongy on a long cast. All that may not sound like much; it loads smoothly and flexes progressively through the rod. However, this rod is certainly a lot more special than that. Casting the Salt is great. It loads easily and accurately at short range, the mid-ranges are a breeze and still has the ability to punch a long line. Tight loops, open loops, short headed flylines, long headed flylines, the Salt eats them all up. As you load up on a longer cast, the Salt encourages you to push harder and harder; it takes a lot to bottom out this rod!

The lighter models are definitely more in the all-rounder mode with better ability in the short game and presentation side of things than the heavy rods. Meanwhile the heavier models (10 and up) take a step up in stiffness for serious work with more grunt both in the casting and fish fighting departments. Other heavy models in the sage range such as the One and Method would best be characterized as being heavy flats rods, whereas these are true bluewater thoroughbreds with more lifting power and fish fighting ability.

All up, the Salt does exactly what you would expect it to do: it will go pretty much anywhere in a saltwater/heavy freshwater environment and catch plenty of fish. There are rods in the sage range that may cast a little further (Method) or present a little more delicately (One), but I can’t think of a rod in the Sage range that can cover as much territory with ease as the Salt can.

1 Comment

Exploring new waters

As a youngster growing up in the Northern suburbs of Sydney, heading off into the bush near our house with a bunch of the neighbourhood kids was a pretty good way to spend an afternoon. Exploring, finding new trails, following creek lines or trying to find a better lookout among the sandstone cliffs was mostly what we did. Following the local creek; bush bashing and wading our way through was a favourite adventure. As I got older and more interested in fishing, the exploring switched to finding out which creeks in the Northern Suburbs held bass. Turns out nearly all of them do, or did, if you knew where to look.  I think at the time, we thought that we were just about the only people to have discovered Sydney suburban bass, fishing explorers who dared to go where no one else would. We never really saw anyone fishing in these tiny waterways back then. Perhaps we were just the only anglers mad enough to hike for kilometres then bash our way through the dense bankside undergrowth to get to the little pockets of fishable water. I’ve since met quite a few anglers who fished many of these same waterways at the same time. It doesn’t take away the enjoyment finding these “new” places gave and the memories created.


Back in those days, a map was an invaluable aid, especially a topographic map. By the time I had managed to buy my first car, I had a collection of these precious sheets of paper that I guarded more closely than just about any other worldly possession. Skip forward 20 odd years and we have an array of tools at our disposal to help find new grounds. How did we live without Google Maps? Whether it is finding an address in the next suburb or trying to figure out whether a creek 6 hours drive away is interesting enough to justify the trip, Google Maps is, let’s face it, amazing. There are still plenty of things it can’t tell you about a location, but you can save days, if not weeks of time in finding new locations to fish. I think back to the days of driving and hiking I did in my earlier years, only to be disappointed by a river that looked great on paper, but just didn’t stack up in real life. In fact I’ve booked a trip to the Solomon Islands later this year, my interest largely piqued by what I saw on Google Maps.

A few weeks ago it struck me that I hadn’t done much exploring in recent times. Work, family and moving house last year had all crept up, as they do, and other activities had fallen away. I had fished quite a bit, but what I craved was to get out somewhere new. Once again some Google Maps gazing occurred and prospective areas were identified. The criterion I was working with was to find a place which I could drive to, then paddle and/or hike in a wild bush setting and it had to be a day trip from home on the Gold Coast. A tributary of the Richmond River looked like it had all that going for it. Even better was that I had never heard of the Creek name. I identified a few access points along the creek that looked like potential kayak launch sites and set about organising gear for the trip.

Ideally a really early start was needed so that I would reach the creek at daybreak. I was a bit slow in getting organised in the small hours of the morning, so that plan didn’t quite come off. Still it was pretty early when I left the highway. My car radio died a little while ago when I dropped a kayak off the roof and tore the aerial off, so I had to keep myself entertained with some tapes I found. A dig in the glovebox turned up a Frenzal Romb mixtape, recorded by my brother sometime in the 90s. Time hadn’t done the tape any favours and it sounded pretty average through my equally average car speakers (so average in fact, it sounded a lot like a Frenzal live gig). Still, it suited my mood perfectly and had me pumped for the morning ahead.


The first spot looked pretty good, lots of nice snags, but steep and awkward for launching the yak. The second was much better, good looking water with lots of fallen timber and a couple of midstream snags visible. I hurriedly set off and began to fish my way up stream. After half an hour of zero activity I realised a couple of things. First, there was very little bait around and nothing but lizards splashing on the edges. Secondly, the creek was flowing backwards! The creek was fully fresh, but still under tidal influence. In late summer, the majority of bass would be a fair bit further upstream, so I wasted no time in paddling back to the car. Third spot looked way better. Bait moving and the water was a little cleaner than before, by far the best looking water of the day. Large old fallen trees lined on bank while the other side had a bunch of shady trees hanging far over the water’s edge. The sun was well up, but it was quite cloudy so I started on the surface with a Soft Shell Cicada. Three fantastic looking snags later with no hits and I was just about to change lures when Boof! I only caught the hit out of the corner of my eye, as I was scanning further upstream. There was a good splash and a flash of blue on the Soft Shell as a bass…no, wait… a kingfisher pounced on my lure. Luckily the Kingfisher realised its mistake and no hooks were set. A few lure changes were made before I started to get some results. Larger bass lures, especially with a rattle, cast right into the bank would get hit on the first or second turn of the handle. A noisy Tsunekeichi  Hama Crank in chartreuse and white was the standout lure, at one stage bagging three fish in around five casts. They weren’t big fish by any stretch, but fun nonetheless.


Finally I reached a point in the pool where I ran out of water. Lack of recent rain meant that the creek appeared to be about 20cm down on its normal level, rendering a tight, timber laden corner impassable, without a lengthy portage. Still, I’d had a good day and with a fair drive ahead I turned and paddled back to the car.


Just before pulling the yak out, I decided to quickly push on downstream past the car. You know, just to see what was round the corner. It was narrow, tree canopies meeting overhead and the water moving fast over a shallow sandy bottom. My progress ended with a bump up against another log jam in only 50cm of water. Just as I stood up out of the boat, three fat bass, all well over 40cm cruised lazily out of the timber right in front of me. Their dark bodies stood out easily against the white sand, swimming away but looking quite un-panicked. No amount of casts however, could tempt those fish into coming back.

Peering between the trees just ahead, I spied the perfect bass hole, deep and timbered. It wasn’t far away but it would require a bit more time and work to get the kayak through.  It would have to wait however, for another day.

“Looks like I have some more exploring to do” I thought to myself, happy with the results of the day as well as the potential for many more visits.


Tight Lines.

Leave a comment

Jigging in Southern Japan

Straight after our Sea Bass adventure we jumped on to another ferry and headed west to seek some accommodation for the night. The soft bed in the heated hotel room was like heaven after our rough night sleep in the car on Hirasime Island the night before. We stuffed ourselves at a local restaurant before crashing out, exhausted.


Waking early once again we headed back east to the ferry terminal and loaded the car for a 2 hour trip to the mainland. Travelling on the ferry there was so much to look at; endless islands being pounded by strong current, birds working current lines looking for bait and the odd splash in the distance to get the casting arm twitching. You could spend half a lifetime exploring all these areas and it is easy to see why the Japanese have such an obsession with both fish and the art of fishing.



Arriving on the mainland we drove up and down winding roads for a couple of hours to get to a little harbour. Upon arrival at the marina there was a boat and crew of keen fisherman ready and waiting to head out for the afternoon.  The crew consisted of a few of Tsurusaki sans fishing friends which included as Tsurusaki san described  “The Prince of Tuna” & “The Prince of Jigging”.


Driving out to sea we passed some of the best looking water we have ever seen but continued straight past in search of fish. After about a 40 minute run from the marina we dropped some jigs and cast some stickbaits around a small island that came straight up out of 70m. After about 10 minutes with no action the captain called lines up and we motored out through rough seas for another hour.

On arrival, we were greeted with a fleet of pro boats working the area for big bluefin tuna as well as a few other charter boats chasing flocks of birds. The area varied in depth from 80m all the way up to 35m and was covered with bait, which looked very promising on the sounder.

Not long after the first drop The Prince of Jigging was folded over the gunnel fighting a nice size hiramasa (kingfish) on a FCL VM270 jig. It was pretty clear how he got his nickname!! Soon after the first fish was landed the fishing got a little quiet besides from a few bumps from noncommittal fish.



Many lure changes later Tsurusaki san cracked the pattern and managed to get some solid hiramasa and amberjack on a 130g Evergreen Wolfram jig. This compact tungsten lure has a very small profile in the water which seemed to get the fishes attention. By this stage light was getting low and the fish really started to turn on with a flurry of fish coming on board including a blue eye trevella and a hirame (halibut) which was fooled with a slow pitch retrieve.









As it got darker, the fish started biting with a little more aggression and a switch back to longer jigs were needed to get the attention of the hiramasa and amberjacks. After receiving a few tips from the captain he gave me a FCL FT220 to tie on and next drop I set the hooks on my first Japanese hiramasa. The hiramasa are short and stocky in comparison to our Australian kingfish and have a much higher fat content making them a highly prized eating fish which is most commonly served as sashimi.


A big cold snap had rolled in from the north west a couple of days previously, Prior to that, Bluefin of 50+kg were regularly hitting squid imitation stickbaits. 10 casting rods on the boat, all rigged with FCL Squidpens, gave the game away as to the favoured lure. Unfortunately the tuna didn’t want to play today, A few diving birds and splashes indicated their presence at times, but like fussy Moreton Bay longtails, they were not to be tempted by stickbaits or jigs. Even the Prince of Tuna gave it away, and he had travelled over five hours to come on the charter.



The sun went down and the cold really started to bite. Nonetheless we jigged into darkness but did not have any more luck. We then packed up and started the long trip back to the marina. On the way, we passed several hundred squid boats with their dazzling bright lights shining into the water. The sight was quite spectacular with the boats spread horizon to horizon like an ocean of giant bobbing lanterns.

It was another great experience in Japan and was a great way to finish off the fishing stage of the trip.

Leave a comment

Sea Bass- Part 2

We awake the next morning to quite a different day. The temperature feels like it has dropped 10 degrees overnight and the wind is howling! We’re here to fish, and Tsurusaki is soon piloting us down a narrow maze of roads, barely wide enough for the car, and some almost completely reclaimed by nature. I ask him how he found these remote spots many years ago, pre-google maps? He says laughingly: “I use the force!”

On the Track

We hike over hills through forests of bamboo, rhododendrons, pines and dense pockets of coastal rainforest, followed by boulder hopping and a little rock climbing for good measure. Thirty or so minutes later we emerge on some awesome looking ledges.


Brett is first in the water so I pull out the video to get a bit of footage of him trying to punch 30g minnows into 30 knots of breeze. I barely have time to turn the camera on before he is wrestling a good seabass from the surge at his feet. These blackfin seabass are much more bulky and muscular than the Japan seabass found in the bays and harbours. They put on a great fight, jumping, running and trying to bury you among the rocks. This one is around 75cm and 4-5kg. A fantastic start to the day!

Bretts 1st Seabass

Duncan and Rod

And so the day goes on: hike, climb, rockhop, and fish. The wind howls relentlessly and for good measure a few flurries of snow swirl around. Luckily the island has just enough protection from the swell to permit fishing in these rather severe conditions.

Duncans 1st Seabass

The bass come in bursts, no strikes for several washes then a hit on every cast in another. I do a great job of missing hook-ups and dropping fish, but eventually I get my first bass. Brett on the other hand is having a stellar day, landing bass over 80cm, a nice snapper on the FCL Shime Vibe over 65cm and getting smoked by a good size kingfish.

Brett Snapper

We end the day with Tsurusaki looking as fresh as a daisy; Brett and I are wrecked. Legs, knees, arms and backs screaming, faces red from windburn, but we’ve caught fish!

We will leave you with a few more photos of what was a great fishing experience.

Sunbeam Seabass

Tsurusaki Seabass

Snapper on Shime Vibe

Brett Seabass 4

Thanks for Reading!!

1 Comment

Osaka Tackle Show 2014- Part 2

Beyond the huge stands of Daiwa and Shimano, other big players like Evergreen, Megabass and Jackall all had a large presence. Megabass showed off new topwater plugs, cranks, weedless frogs, and a bluewater stickbait. Evergreen had their new overhead jigging reel on display as well as a bunch of new Kaleido bass rods as well as a seabass rod featuring Daiwa’s AGS guides. Jackall had a smaller stand than usual after the giant bass tank they usually display was banned due to a tank cracking (not Jackalls) at a show last year. Jackall had new topwater lures, some bass cranks and interesting metal jigs for sable (hairtail)

There were so many other forms of fishing covered at the show, from traditional ayu and hera fishing to bait fishing the rocks with floats, burley and a multitude of accessories. Northcraft were showing off some heavy duty jointed swimbaits for hard crunching species like impoundment barramundi. Designer Kitade san (KD) was proudly showing off a pic of a 127cm Japanese barramundi caught on the test lure. Duo had an awesome new topwater cicada lure with rubber legs similar to some of the soft topwater bugs as well as a larger version of the Rough Trail stickbait that has earned them many fans in Australia.

Elsewhere it was obvious that some of the stands were not as over the top as previous years. Many of the regular exhibitors had downsized their stands, but they seemed to make that up with exuberant promotion including loudspeakers and plenty of attractive booth girls to draw the crowds in. At the opposite end of the spectrum, many of the exhibitors were working hard to draw in female anglers, with prominent placing of the professional women on the stands and in the presentations. There was also a lot more female oriented tackle and accessories on display.

The Crowds were plentiful on the Saturday when the show is open to the public.

Crowd at opening



Girls talking











Seabass Talk
























Akashi Brand1











Misuke and Honey1




















ito craft1







Booth Girls

Thanks for reading!

1 Comment

Osaka Tackle Show 2014- Part 1

For a tackle junky like myself, there is not much better than checking out a heap of new fishing gear. Some of the best new gear appears at the Japan Fishing shows, starting with the Osaka show in February each year. The first day of this show is for the trade only, which gives a great opportunity to get a handle on new gear. The following two days are open to the public, during which time tens of thousands of local anglers cram the large halls to check out the new gear, listen to presentations and maybe meet their favourite Pro-Angler. Some of the top anglers are treated like rock stars here, with fans lining up for hours for the chance to meet their fishing idols

The two biggest companies Daiwa and Shimano came out this year with all guns blazing. Daiwa has released a new Saltiga including the largest spin reel they have ever produced, Their Mag Seal technology has been extended into bail rollers and bearings. At the other end of the spectrum, Shimano released a new Stella in the 1000-4000 size range with new gears, improved body design and balance. In baitcasters, daiwa has released super tuned Steez models at the top end and Japan spec versions of the Tatula reels.

Shimano has a new Scorpion baitcaster and a new version of the famous Conquest reel. The Conquest has been significantly redesigned so that the new 200 model reel is as compact as the old 50 size!

Daiwa Stand

The Daiwa Stand stood tall amongst the others displays this year in Osaka

Daiwa Morethan

The new Daiwa Morethan will be available in 3 sizes and features a Zaion body and magsealed bearings making it lighter and more durable.

Daiwa Branzino

Daiwa Expedition Stand

The new Daiwa Saltiga Expedition in the 5500H & 8000H sizes

Daiwa Expediton Spool

The new Daiwa Saltiga Expedtion feature a new body, gearing and mag sealed bearings

Daiwa Ryoga Bay Jigging

The Daiwa Ryoga Bay Jigging reels were unveiled in a few sizes and speeds. They are a light jiggers dream reel!

Daiwa Namiki Steez

Daiwa has realeased two Steez limited reels and the Namiki custom model is a stunning reel.

Daiwa Steez Ltd

Daiwa SS SV

The new Daiwa SS SV is the new ultralight baitcaster weighing in at an impressive 150g!

Daiwa Tutula

The Tatula was released at ICAST last year and the new JDM versions were getting a lot of attention at the show.

Daiwa Tutula Range

Daiwa Steez Rods

Stella Stand

The new Stella was the stand out spinning reel at the show.

Shimano Stellas

Shimano Stella 4000

The new Stella was both incredibly light and smooth in the hand.

Shim Stella 2500

Shimano Stella SW

The full range of Stella SW reels were also on show

Shimano Cardiff

The Shimano Cardiff is a Trout fishermans dream reel

Shimano Scorpion Front

Shimano Conquest

The new Conquest is very compact. The new 200 size feels like the old 50 size!

Shimano Conquest 101

Leave a comment

Sea Bass- Part 1

Heading south for a seabass adventure. In the past 24hrs we’ve done the ‘planes, trains and automobiles’ and now we’re adding ferries to the list. Travelling through the countryside I’m amazed at the amount of forest there is in this part of the country. After spending time around Osaka to Tokyo region you could be forgiven for thinking the Japan is just one vast urban sprawl.


Kyushu, like much of japan is pretty mountainous: towns, cities, and farms all vie for space in what little flat areas there are, especially close to the coast. The steep hillsides are draped in many shades of lush forest green. There are bridges aplenty to cross on the way to the ferry, I soon loose track of which island we are on now. The islands are intersected by channels of deep, clear water and ripping currents. These channels are home to seabass as well as kingfish, while a multitude of little bays and harbours are home to kurudai (black bream). Eventually we run out of bridges, and reach a ferry terminal to take us to Hirasime island.



The trip on the old ferry takes around 2.5hrs with a couple of stops on the way. The weather is pleasant, about 12 degrees and fairly calm, but the forecast is foreboding. Strong winds and temps down to freezing are predicted over the next couple of days. The seas are predicted to rise to 3m as well, but Tsurusaki assures us that the island is fairly protected from the open sea swells.  Eventually we pull into the small harbour on Hirasime, seconds later we are driving up the gangway onto the narrow island laneways. The word ‘hira’ means flat, but I can see nothing flat about this place. Evidently it is all-relative; if you don’t need ropes and cranes to access the island, then it can be considered flat! The island used to have a busy industry quarrying sandstone but the only business remaining now are a handful of commercial fisherman, mainly chasing squid. Most of the younger generation have left the island for work opportunities elsewhere, leaving a few hundred hardy islanders behind.


It’s getting late so we hurry to catch last light on the rocks. Aside from a few half-hearted hits on the lures, there is not much action this evening, however, we learn a lot about seabass. Firstly, you need the rock hopping skills of a mountain goat to fish these ledges easily. Tsurusaki san has a few years on me and plenty over Brett, but he leaves us for dead over the boulder strewn ocean shore. Secondly, the rock fishing boots he procured for us are absolutely indispensable. The spiked felt soles grip like nothing else, and are certainly no relation to the cleated shoes I wore on the Sydney rocks as a teenager.

Duncan Rocks

Most importantly, we get a lesson in Seabass psychology. They behave a lot like a cross between an aggressive tailor and a cautious barramundi. The first one or two casts can be fished quite fast to get the attention or a reaction strike from the fish. If they do not bite straight away, you then switch to fishing the lures very slowly with an occasional pause. The seabass get attracted in close by your first couple of casts then they hide among the rocks waiting to ambush prey right in the wash zone. Most of the strikes come just as you are about to lift the lure from the water. It can be quite a challenge to slowly and methodically swim the lure in the washing machine at your feet, but using the surge to help swim the lures along the rock face is a deadly technique here.


We end the day camping by the harbour, demolishing our instant ramen in seconds, before a fairly rough nights sleep in the back of the car.

To be continued….