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Feast from above
  |  First Published: December 2016



The heat of January is a trigger for all things creepy crawly. Big hairy beasts with legs and pincers that lurk in shadows on the ground, green and black coloured doodads that chirp and sing in trees, almost to the point of annoyance, smaller insects with dainty wings and fine filaments that drape and hang out back – the good thing is, a lot of these critters end up in the water as part of the lifecycle, or just misfortune – and the fish are taking full advantage.

Low light periods are when most species of fish will turn their attention to such plentiful food on the surface, but it’s not always the case. I’ve seen trout in Lake Lyell making the most of bright sunshine, windy days and cold water. They cruise wind lanes sipping down grasshoppers and beetles. Bass and cod will lurk in warm shallows using the shadows under trees and shrubs for cover, waiting for a midday meal to drop from above. Don’t discount a lure, even if it’s bright and shiny.

Being observant is the key. What covers the front of your car when you hop out? How many grasshoppers did you see walking through the paddock on your way to water? What can you hear singing in the trees? Is there any empty husks attached to those trees?

Birds are great indicators of what insects are about. Swallows will dart and soar and swoop when a hatch is on. Ibis will stalk the short grass in groups, working together to catch grasshoppers and the like. Mud larks and magpies will hop and fly from branch to branch above the water trying to scare something to take flight. They’re all indicators for what might end up in the water.

UNDERWATER OBSERVATIONS

A walk at night by the water’s edge with a headlamp from time to time is highly recommended – it really opens your eyes to what is about in any given waterway. Weedy edges in Windamere are alive with waterborne critters. Timber, rocks and logs in Wyangala are crawling with odd bits of this and that. How do the shrimp move when alarmed? What does a yabby do when you poke it with a stick? Do the baitfish cling together or separate and dart for cover when disturbed? These are observations you can take with you the next day and apply directly to how you fish.

Your eyes underwater (depth sounders) and other technology that exists today are astounding. Keeping up with it all is challenging, but if you want to make the single biggest jump forward in your regular catch rate, this is where it’s at. Running down banks in Windamere and Wyangala side scanning, spotting fish and likely structure, all from a safe non-disturbed distance, you can mark individual logs and rocks, then return to target them with no more guessing. Your confidence levels are boosted tenfold.

The flipside is that your sounder won’t make fish bite. This can frustrate anglers to no end, but at least you know you’re in the right areas. From there, it’s just a matter of changing techniques and presentations until you find what they might be interested in. The other downside of sounder technology is that anglers start to rely on them too much. They forget or fail to learn about the topography layout that surrounds them. They miss natural things that are happening; the baitfish that just kicked out of the water over yonder, the birds that just started working over in the back of the bay – it’s a trap you need to keep in check.

The ability to target bigger fish, like redfin in Ben Chifley Dam, has been a real eye opener for me. Sometimes it’s just a matter of keeping your jig on board until you see something worthy of a drop. It doesn’t always work out, but my odds are way better than before.

BOAT NOISE

Boat noise can be a factor in pressured water. I’ve seen it to many times. I’m not talking about the ones going past at full noise – I’m talking about the one you’re casting or trolling out of. The hull of your boat is a huge sound board that transmits noise (most of it unnatural) to the fish below. Just thinking about it this way will change how you and others on board act. Sounders ping, so when I know where I’m casting and where the fish are, I will turn mine off, especially in shallow water.

Speaking of boat traffic, it’s that time of year again when waterways get very busy. Get out early, be courteous to others when and where necessary, it’s a fun time to be on the water, so leave the boat rage at home. Hope to see you all on the water soon.

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