Getting the goodies in the upper Glenelg
  |  First Published: April 2017

Meandering through dense native forest featuring towering limestone cliffs, the upper reaches of the Glenelg River are without doubt some of the most tranquil and visually appealing places to launch a kayak in the state. With mixture of undercut rocky edges, overhanging thick growth, reedy edges and a plethora of fallen timber, the fish-holding natural structure is plentiful to say the least.

Home to an array of many sought-after estuarine species, the effort required to visit the remote location is quickly forgotten once you’re on the water. Perfectly positioned amongst all this natural beauty is Pritchards Campground, the perfect place to base yourself when spending a few days exploring the upper reaches of the Glenelg River.

Located in Victoria’s South West, the Glenelg River is an extensive system, which can be somewhat daunting when considering kayak fishing options. For this reason I prefer to narrow my options by looking at specific sections of the river when planning a trip. When fishing the upper tidal areas of the river, Pritchards is the perfect place to launch and base yourself for a few days of chasing the big three of Victorian estuary species.

The campground is well appointed and features a concrete ramp with jetty and parking area, 20 campsites, fireplaces, picnic tables, composting toilets and a further two jetties. Access to the campground is via Portland then onto the Portland/Nelson Road for approximately 55km, before taking the Winnap/Nelson Road then onto Post and Rail Track. The road into the campground is dirt, but well maintained and can be easily accessed in a 2WD vehicle.

Bream are the stable target species when spending any time in the kayak at Pritchards. However, the waters are abundant with many other species, including two of Victoria’s most sought-after estuary species. The Glenelg River holds excellent numbers of estuary perch. When conditions are right, they can provide anglers with some spectacular angling.

Along with bream and perch, schools of mulloway will move into the river regularly and they certainly aren’t afraid to travel to the upper tidal reaches of the river. All three species can be caught at Pritchards throughout the year and bream will be more prevalent in the area during their spawning run upstream, which usually occurs from June to September.

Casting hardbodied or soft plastic lures on the edges can be a very exciting way to catch a bream or perch. As I mentioned, the banks at Pritchards vary dramatically and if the right lure or technique is used in the right area, plenty of fish can be caught. One of the most productive methods to land a bream at Pritchards is to focus on the rocky edges. The edges are home to a range of baits high on the list of a hungry bream’s preferred meals.

Bream will often cruise the edges looking for fleeing crabs scattering for cover under the rocks. Casting a well-presented crab pattern soft plastic or hardbody in tight against rocky edges can be a very productive way to land a bream. When throwing crabs, I like to allow the crab to settle on the bottom before applying a series of small twitches followed by long pauses, often the longer the better. Spicing your crab lure up with scent can really help bream to home in on your offering.

Laydown timber snags and overhanging branches are another common feature of the banks around Pritchards. It’s perfect bait-holding structure and as the old saying goes, ‘find the bait, find the fish.’ Bream and perch love feeding in these areas and will also use fallen timber as cover.

I like to cast lightly weighted minnows or grub profile soft plastics in close to the timber or overhanging branches. I allow it to sink on a slack line. Always keep an eye on the belly of your line as your plastic sinks watching for any indication of a bite. Once the plastic hits the bottom, a hop and pause retrieve will often get results. The use of a weedless jighead is recommended to prevent lures snagging on the fallen timber.

Other productive methods at Pritchards include casting diving hardbodies parallel to the bank and working at a variety of depths. Mulloway will often school up in the deeper sections of the river. Use your sounder to locate the schools. Metal vibes cast over the top of the school and worked back through can result in a hook-up. Soft plastic worms rigged on a 1/12-1/4oz jighead can also entice a bite.

Due to the relative remoteness of Pritchards and the lack of reliable phone coverage, it always pays to let others know of your movements when travelling to the location, particularly if flying solo. The river itself is well protected and easily navigated, but always ensure you are wearing a quality PFD and have a bailer aboard your kayak, as is required by Victorian law.

If spending a few days camping by the side of a majestic river surrounded by dense native forest is your idea of heaven, Pritchards is the place for you. Combined with outstanding access to a remarkable fishery perfectly suited to kayaks, this is a must-visit location for any Victorian kayak angler. To top it all off, the ever-likely opportunity to land a trifecta of Australia’s premier southern estuary species is the icing on the cake – a cake that is simply too good to pass up.

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