Summer daze on the Mersey and Meander
  |  First Published: February 2013

For the vast majority of anglers, time on the water is cherished and many of us are forced into becoming weekend warriors or after-work missionaries.

The New Year period spells a splash of annual leave or school holidays for us, allowing a chance to fully relax and enjoy this marvellous past time without having a clock tapping you on the shoulder. It’s great to see families enjoy this time and witnessing parents and their kids having a blast around our waterways.

We have had some amazing hatches during the summer and although catch rates have been down in many northern rivers, the Mersey River continues to draw anglers from all over to bathe in its glory. Caenid hatches here and on some sections of the Meander River have been nothing short of phenomenal, with clouds of the tiny mayflies dominating the rivers before the sun gets up. Fish too have been onto them very early but as soon as a hint of sun of sun tickles the water, trout have been difficult to tempt and many sulk off to deeper water – probably too lethargic from gorging themselves!

Careful and observant anglers have had further success by finding fish feeding on spent caenids from the shelter of willow trees and I have found a couple of fish slicing their fins in foamy back-waters. Fish encountered at this time have been plump and feisty, and some specimens on the Mersey in particular have been 1-1.5kg which is a fantastic river fish.

February offers some of the most exciting fishing of all, mainly due to grasshopper activity. There has been some great activity of late but we should see the peak ‘hopper action in the coming weeks when grass fully dries and ‘hopper numbers explode, forcing many to the water’s edge.

If this is a form of fishing that sounds appealing, don’t delay – get out there and give it a go. Many fly patterns will do the trick but as long as it floats well, it plops onto the water and it represents a food source you are in with a shot – Legs help too!

A couple of my favourites are the WMD Hopper and Muz Wilson’s Wee Creek Hopper – both float all day long, draw fish in like a magnet and sit the right way in the water every time. A mate of mine also casts flies on his spin stick at this time of year, especially Chernobyl Ants, and has some great success. I personally don’t have the accuracy skills in landing the fly where I want it using this method and I’m much more confident with the fly rod.

You needn’t worry too much about location; as long as there’s grass leading to the water there will be grasshoppers in the vicinity. Waters like the Macquarie, St Patricks, Meander, North Esk and South Esk rivers all possess ideal stretches where fun can be had from morning ‘till evening. Even with this type of event, you can still encounter hatches of caddis moth, beetles, ants and in late February the mayfly can re-appear. If fish become spooky or switch onto a particular food source, simply downsize or tie on the appropriate pattern. More often than not though, a clumsily presented ‘hopper will draw a response which is bound to excite.

Due to the action on the rivers at this time, the still-water options often become overlooked. The same principle applies to these waters and you can sometimes polaroid fish working the grass-lined edges waiting for an easy meal – Look for calm shores where grasshoppers and beetles are likely to be blown off grass and shrubs onto the water. I know one angler in particular who likes to prospect these areas with a team of two or three flies (sort of loch style, but land-based) and brings a few undone. The downfall here is sub-surface weed-growth at this time of year, so avoid overly shallow flats and search out a gently sloping drop-off.

Anglers may have heard of plans to dam the upper reaches of the superb Camden Rivulet, in the North-East headwaters. Although this is not the right forum to voice political opinions, it’s a timely reminder to all to keep up to speed with our local happenings and take part in constructive debate where possible. There are many sides to a debate but one which may impede on our fishing lifestyle needs careful consideration.

The past couple of years have seen late grasshopper activity and not lasting for too long, but with drier than average conditions expected we should be in for some marvellous fishing so get out and enjoy!

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