Having just returned from my annual camping and fishing trip along the Murray I thought I’d put together a 10 point tips list of things that I reckon are vitally important for a fun and comfortable trip.
Some of these items are going to raise eyebrows, but hey, I am getting old and being comfortable – especially given the cold this year – makes all of these items indispensible.
I’ll preface all this prattle by saying that we boat into our camping destination so we are a little limited in what we can take. When we go car-based camping the list of comfort items grows substantially.
So let’s take a look at what I reckon are great accessories for fishing and camping on the Murray.
This is the best thing I have ever discovered for camping. Essentially it’s a night time pee bottle that you can buy for under $20 from most chemists. At night they are simple to use (blokes only sorry!) and mean you do not have to get out of your warm sleeping bag, trip over everything in the tent and make it outside to do what you need to do.
One tip is to make sure you pop the lid on properly (I’ve mucked this up before!) and always empty it out the next morning. And when you stop laughing, every single person I have camped with who has used this, now owns one!
A comfortable toilet seat needs no explanation. We all do it and being a little bit more at ease at the important time makes everything just that much better. We use an OzTrail toilet chair that cost around $35 new. It folds down smaller than a camp chair and weighs nothing. You will still need to have a shovel to dig a hole though as the last thing we need is people droping their business and leaving the evidence out in the open. It’s disgusting and probably unsafe and illegal. Look after the bush and keep it clean, after all that’s why you’re there in the first place.
Seems logical, but a boat of almost any description is a must if you're camping and fishing on the Murray. A boat allows you to access water, position yourself in the best spots and, for us anyway, is a means to get our gear to and from the campsite. While we use the latest and greatest in electric motors and sounders, all of that is essentially fluff as you can generally see the snags you’ll be fishing and you can work out the depth pretty quickly with your lures. Having said that, I’d feel naked without an electric and a good sounder… so you’d better have them too.
Relaxing around the campfire should be just that, a relax. Find a chair that is comfortable for you and is strong enough to take your weight. I’ve gone through cheap chairs, expensive chairs and mid-priced chairs. None are really any better than the others in terms of longevity so when it’s time for a new chair I simply look at the comfort level. A chair I can fall asleep in while the fire is crackling has my name written all over it. And yes my physio generally hates my chair choices, as does my back specialist.
Whether it’s raining or it’s shining a decent tarp is mandatory. I have two tarps, a small one for quick camps of one or two nights and ‘The Beast’ for extended trips. The Beast takes a lot of work and effort to set up, but when it’s done you have the best roof over your head you’ll need. Sturdy pegs, good ropes and spreader bars are all things people forget, but make sure these are given as much importance as the tarp and poles or you’ll regret it at some stage. Spreader bars are awesome – get some!
Getting your own bait is part and parcel of fishing anywhere. On the Murray a shrimp pot is mandatory equipment as it will provide you with fresh, live bait for the duration of your stay – even when it’s cold. Last trip we didn't bring any bait and simply tossed in some leaves and twigs and within one night we had enough shrimp to keep us busy bait fishing. Obviously the warmer the weather the more shrimp and the number of pots needed will be dictated by the state’s regulations and also the amount of bait needed. Make sure they are on every Murray trip.
Part of the beauty of going fishing on the Murray is adding to already ridiculous amounts of lures by visiting every tackle shop on the way to the boat ramp. I am a lure tragic and even though I had heaps of lures with me, on our last trip I still managed to buy 6 spinnerbaits and 10 hardbodied lures before the trip. Did I use them all? Nah, but that’s not the point. One day they may just be the best lure of the trip – one day.
If you are a keen lure fisher and you do not own a lure retriever, then you're pretty silly. Given most cost about the same as a couple of lures I can almost guarantee that after the first day these wonderful inventions will have paid for themselves. Whether it’s a weighted tackle retriever or a push pole, it doesn’t matter. These items should be considered as important as the rods and reels you decide to take.
Take what rods and reels you think you will need and then add two more outfits. Why? Because stuff breaks and the last thing you want is to be left watching your mate use the only rod left in service. I’ve only ever busted one rod fishing the Murray, but a friend of mine had every rod in his boat broken by a falling eucalypt branch one year. That was a sad day! It doesn't happen often, but having a spare or two back at camp can and will save the day on any given trip.
Choose carefully here. The best trips are always those shared with good company regardless of the fishing success. Good friends will celebrate the trip with you again and again. They’ll remind you of past errors, celebrate your success and give you someone to bounce ideas off when you're struggling to turn a scale. If your camping and fishing buddy has opposite views to you on things like catch and release, how to fish or what you’re going to eat, then trouble is looming. Have a bromance, get away with the family or do it yourself if you like your own company the best, just make sure you do it.
So there you go, a short little list of the things I find are indispensible on any camping and fishing trip. Don't wait to get out there, just jump on in and do it. Enjoying the Murray is part of Aussie fishing culture. Just remember to leave only footprints and take out what you take in. Even better, collect a bag or two of rubbish from the camp site that others have left. It will help keep us camping into the future and not have access denied.Reads: 941