Get Wet and Have Fun!
  |  First Published: February 2007

If you’re not prepared to get a bit wet this time of year, you’d best give it away for a little while. The tropics can throw you everything from storms to squalls to the huge low-pressure systems we know as cyclones in February and it’s hot!

If February 2005 was any indication of this year, the wet will only be kicking into full swing about now. Intermittent rain may have caused minor river rises and a small increase in turbidity, however the main event may still be around the corner.

The massive wetland system to the south of the Archer River will be coming alive. Pigs, brumbies and cattle might be caught off guard by a passing boat and birds have usually spread out by now. Feeding for all animals begins over a much broader area than in the dry season.

The same applies to fish. In much the same way as fish spread out during the high tide, they also disperse once the rivers and creeks begin to rise. Different items will come on the menu and feeding habits will adjust accordingly.

Frogs, lizards, snakes, insects, dropping fruits and all kind of miscellaneous debris might be swallowed by predators upon entering the water. Three of these predators are of particular interest to anglers casting surface lures this time of year.

Black bream or sooty grunter, saratoga and barramundi are all enthusiastic lure munchers once there is a little flow in the water. Tiny drains, barrier type rock bars, weirs and spots where lagoons or marshes overflow are great places to start.

These and other ambush points work by funnelling food into deeper water where larger fish lie in wait. Dawn, dusk and after dark are when fish let down their guards and move into the open to ambush prey.

Casting fizzers, poppers, bushy flies, plastic frogs or anything that creates noise and disturbance will bring results. A small surface lure can catch big fish, but a large surface lure will often scare smaller fish. Hooks should be razor sharp and strong enough to handle being crunched by savage jaws.

Sooty grunter and archerfish will often attack a surface lure before it has begun moving. Especially when cast adjacent to rapids, pandanus stands and overhanging trees. There is real skill involved in landing these fish on light threadline outfits.

Saratoga will usually strike within the first few metres of a retrieve. Most fish are lost either on or immediately after the strike, so strike confidently only after the fish has engulfed your lure. A good retrieve for saratoga is often painfully slow and a hungry ’toga may take two or three swipes at a lure, so don’t pull it away!

Barra are found across such a wide variety of habitat and feed on so many different organisms it’s difficult to give set rules to their behaviour. Just remember they are always susceptible to surface lures in low light conditions. Listen for boofing fish, make long casts over likely looking water and always maintain line tension.

According to the direction and force of flow, it is crucial when throwing surface lures that the angle of retrieve best suits the situation. Begin casting upstream and work lures slowly back with the flow, moving slowly and methodically upstream.

Catching fish on surface lures is exhilarating, energetic and often very frustrating. Turning the ratio of strikes to landed fish in your favour will only come with experience. Give it a try while the water is a little murkier and the attention of fish is tuned upward.

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