Making the most of muddy water
  |  First Published: February 2006

Why is it that the weather never co-operates for me? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about rain. I just think it would be great to get some plain old ‘normal’ weather again.

What I’m raving about is the unusually early start to the storm season back in late November, right on time for the start of the Murray cod season.

Over the first four days of December I had the pleasure of guiding two extremely competent and enthusiastic anglers from Japan. Their sole purpose for the trip to Australia was to catch Murray cod and they succeeded.

But it wasn’t without a bit of trial and error and some serious persistence. Hounded by violent storms, flooded rivers and the associated dirty water, we covered over 600km and four river systems in the hope of finding some clear water.

We didn’t find much in the way of clear water but we did manage to find a few fish despite the tough conditions. Normally if the water was like that I’d just go home, opting to return when the situation looked a little more promising.

Obviously these guys didn’t have that option so we persevered and I figure that some of you might benefit from some of the tips and techniques we employed to make the most of a not-so-promising situation.

Firstly, if you’ve access to a decent stretch of river, it is always worthwhile driving around and seeing if you can locate a section of clearer water. Dirty water can often be the result of run-off from a single gully or paddock – often enough to turn kilometres of river to the hue of a particularly milky cup of coffee.

If you can get into the rocky headwaters of a creek or river you’ll often find clean water, even if it is running quite high. In these areas it pays to target the slack water in front of and behind midstream snags as well as eddies at the head and tail-out of pools.

High flows can disorientate and flush out many of the smaller prey species as well as the terrestrials that get washed in and bigger fish know this, often sitting in calmer spots where they can watch what’s getting washed by. It’s a bit like a piscatorial version of the sushi train, I guess. Artificial obstructions such as weirs also provide great ambush points for bigger fish and are good places to run a few lures by.

Even if the water is ‘only a mite too thin to plough’ the fish will still eat. You just need to improve their chances of finding your lure amid all that clutter.

In these situations the correct choice of lure is crucial to success. On our recent trip we managed to pull fish out of water with less than one metre of visibility by using the largest lures we could throw and by using the right colours.

Standout lures for this type of fishing are large divers such as Happy and big Mohawks from the Mudeye stable. Large Custom Crafted Hammerheads also work well.

These lures should be in predominantly dark colours with black my preference. Spinnerbaits with big bronze Colorado-style blades are also good producers.

What all of these lures have in common is that they move a lot of water and create plenty of underwater noise for the fish to home in on.

Finally, it pays to put in a lot more casts at each spot than you would generally. Under the cover of dirty water, fish such as Murray cod will move quite a distance to check out a disturbance that could indicate a possible feed. By running the lure through the same area several times it will allow the fish to home in and hit it.


The same rains that have been causing havoc with the river levels in the west are also finding their mark on the eastern fall as well. Though not as widespread, a few isolated downpours have sent some more good flows into the Macleay River and, as predicted in the last issue, it has succeeded in flushing out some of the slime and allowed the fish to follow their natural urge to push right up the river and into the headwaters.

During and after a good fresh in the first half of the season bass will congregate at the bottom of stream obstacles such as small drops or waterfalls in the hope that more water will come and allow them to move up further. Obviously theses are prime places to target.

Once the fresh subsides the fish will disperse back into the snags and up the little feeder creeks but some will remain in the main pools.

I’m off now for eight days’ fishing. With the eastern and western rivers looking so good I couldn’t decide where so I’ve opted for four days on each.

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