The rise and rise of winter fishing in the Yarra Valley
  |  First Published: July 2013

The rain continues to makes the Yarra rise and fall in its traditional fashion.

The water in the river from the top to the bottom is really only suitable for bait fishing (keeping in mind that it’s also trout closed season). The middle Yarra still hold some surprises for the keen (or mad). Rainy days are a good time to test your skill set as an angler by catching one of this country’s great aquatic pasts - the European carp. These fish love this high dirty water and respond well to good berley techniques.

Let’s run through some great berleying techniques and see if we can’t cross them over into other fish species for when the weather warms up again!

Berley is an attractant that is places in the water column to help bring fish towards your baited hook. Berley can consist of all manner of ingredients from fish bait to potent scents additives and other material that will help it sink. One thing I’ve always believed in is that your berley should contain something or a part of what you have on your hook. There’s no use letting us smell hamburgers and then feeding us pizza!

So, using apart of what is on your hook in your berley is as easy as either cutting or mincing it up and then adding it to so sort of absorbent material - bread crumbs are perfect for the job because fish will naturally eat them and they are cheap to buy. Bread crumbs are also very absorbent and will take on all the flavours of your bait and what ever else you choose to put in there.

As a general rule, I wouldn’t go with just your bait in your berley alone! I would also put some ‘other additives’! These can be things that you would expect fish would like to eat, such as fish meal and cat food but you can also go quite a little bit stranger than that!!

Fish live in water, and water is a liquid that doesn’t really work like air does. In air you can expect a smell to travel about 20cm a second in still conditions; but in water, this can be shut down to as much as 20cm an hour. So the flow of smelling material in a river situation is confined to a tight more concise channel, and this means you need to up the smell factor if you want to attract fish from a great distance. Using potent smells that also are available in the environment and some other more strange ones is the best way to go.

Try adding things like aniseed, anise, vanilla and strawberry essence to your berley (not to much) for a more consistent and vibrant trail. You can mix these shop bought essence by mixing them with water (which you’ll need to water your bread crumbs down with) in a concentrate of 1 x drop to every 250ml of water. You can also use curry powder. Yes curry powder! Sounds strange but all of the spices in the strong, dry powder are naturally found in the environment - so why not!!

The thing is with berley, all it needs to do is smell different than the surrounding water (which for the most part all smells the same to the fish) and you will have a trail that a fish can follow. Because fish are naturally inquisitive, they’ll follow it (in the hope that it equals food) and hopefully end up at your bait.

These berley tips are not just useful for our old mate the carp but will have you catching winter bream and mullet in the lower Yarra River like its Christmas time (until it’s Christmas time). Also they can be used for trout, natives, whiting - the list goes on. There’s an old rule that goes like this - ‘to be successful when berleying for any fish, use a small amount of berley, a lot of the time’. What that means is don’t over feed the fish or they’ll stay where they are and never swim up your trail. Consistency is key and with a nose that smells in parts per-million, the fish will find you no mater what. So don’t over do it!

Berley and fishing can be done successfully in the middle Yarra from Yarra Glenn to Kew. This type of fishing can also produce a bit of rubbish so please take it home with you.

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