Freshwater expectations
  |  First Published: February 2003

There is nothing quite like heading out to fish a new piece of water. It could be a thousand miles away and have taken weeks or months of preparation or somewhere close to home that has slipped by without notice.

The feeling as you first cast towards that snag from hell or drift a fly down that enticing little run quite often that stays with you for the rest of your life, especially if that trip turns out to be a good one.

A good trip might not mean a heap of fish, either. It could be good mates, fantastic surroundings and a few nice fish earned through blood, sweat and tears. They are the trips I remember the most but, I guess, everyone is different.

Most of Australia’s population lives on or around the east coast so saltwater fishing is what the majority of the population does. Over the past 10 or so years though there has been an increase in the number of people travelling west to fish the freshwater, due, mainly, to the impoundment stocking programs.

But not everybody returns to the coast with a happy face. This is largely due to peoples heightened expectations. It is very hard at times to keep a cap on expectations, especially if a new destination has been covered by the angling press in glowing terms.

But even well-covered, red-hot locations can be quiet at times. So my advice is keep a lid on expectations and you will feel much better on the drive home. First trips to a location should be looked upon as learning experiences.

Getting it right

Preparation is the key, of course. Fishing publications such as this are great places to start. Go back over old columns and chances , are if it’s got decent numbers of fit, healthy fish swimming around, it will have been covered at some time. Take in everything that is written. Compare articles written about the same locations.

Ask questions of people you know who have visited the area. What’s the boat ramp like? Is access along the bank good? What’s the best time of year to go? Fishing chat rooms on the Internet can be a good place to get some information.

Knowing somebody who lives and fishes the area is a real plus but this cannot always be possible. Your next point of contact is the nearest tackle shop. Tackle shops close to your destination can be great for information but don’t expect too much info without buying anything. Chances are there will be something on the shelf that you can’t buy at home or may have overlooked before you left, so spend a few dollars and you will find the information forthcoming.

On the water

While local up-to-date information can be handy, my advice is not to follow it blindly. Just as in the saltwater back home, fish and the water they live in change from day to day and from week to week.

I usually spend the first day at a new location mainly looking around. Sure, have a fish but don’t make it a priority. Take your maps with you, mark a few spots for future reference.

Use your observation skills. What temperature is the water? Does it vary from one location to another? If you’re on a boat with a sounder, use it to find underwater reefs and snags. If your sounder is of good quality, it will show you fish. What are they doing? Are they on the bottom? Are they cruising open water?

Get in close to the shore or bank: What’s the bottom look like? Is there fresh weed growth? Stick something in the mud at water level. Take a look next morning. What’s the water level doing?

All these factors and many more will determine how and where you fish for the next few days or weeks. Obviously, keeping an eye on these factors for changes during your stay is very important.

Mix it up

On the second day, use a variety of techniques according to the factors you noticed on the first day. For example, if it’s Spring and the water level is rising, run the bank in shallow water and cast or troll a wobbler. Get out and walk the bank casting lures or baits as you go. Do it for an hour or two. See how you go and even if you catch a few fish, move on.

It sounds wrong to leave them but what’s to say some deepwater hilltop 20 feet down you found yesterday is not absolutely going off with fish on bobbed yabbies or worms? Maybe you could even use ice jigs and rattlers worked slowly just of the bottom.

Or say it’s the middle of Summer and the water level is dropping fast. and the water temperature is high. That deep-water hilltop sounds pretty good. Fish it with a trolled lure. Bob a yabby just of the bottom for an hour or so then, even if you get a few fish, same thing: Move on.

Maybe that weedy bank you saw the previous day is not absolutely going off with fish because all that tucker had to leave the security of the weed beds as the water level dropped.

Even though the water temps may not be ideal fish will often put up with less than ideal conditions if there’s a feed to be had. These are just a few examples.

My point is you are looking for a fish feeding pattern that is occurring. The pattern may not be working tomorrow but at least you will have somewhere to start.


If you own a boat with sounder, trolling is a great technique for a new area. It does not matter if it’s trout or natives, just whack some lures out the back at various depths and cover the water. If you get a fish, turn around and do another lap – chances are you will get another.

Take note of the surrounding topography above and below the water. Try looking for a similar area to that which was previously successful. Keep a close eye on the sounder: Look for underwater structure in the forms of stumps, trees, and rocks. If it looks good and you can see fish on the sounder but you get no action, turn around and cover the area casting various lures or fresh baits around. This technique has worked for me on numerous occasions.

Trolling need not be boring: Apply yourself, mix it up, find a pattern just as you would when casting or fishing with baits.

Talk to people

I am amazed at the number of people who do not communicate to each other while on the water. Obviously, roaring up to somebody in your boat while they are fishing is not the right approach. A quiet approach with a comment about the weather or what’s happening is often seen as much more beneficial.

Be first to offer some information, and not just how many you have caught – tell them how you got them. “Yeah, got a couple deep trolling on Whitmores,” or the like will often start a conversation that is beneficial for both parties. Asking somebody to hold a good fish for a photo for you is another way of getting a conversation started.

What you think may be a good fish for the day it may be a tiddler compared with what your new acquaintance might have caught an hour a go but how do you know if you don’t ask? Compare your results and techniques and move away quietly.


A change in scenery and species is good for the mind. It rejuvenates the spirit. Who knows, you may even be able to modify a technique you learned on your trip to suit your favourite saltwater species.

You may even be able to modify some techniques you use at home to suit your new freshwater location. Keep an open mind – you just never now what you could stumble across.

It’s possibly a good idea to catch up on rules and regulations regarding freshwater fishing before you head off on your expedition. Pleading ignorance is no excuse.

So if you have travelled to a freshwater destination and failed, or have a yearning to try something new, please take on board some of the things I have suggested. Just remember to keep a lid on your expectations.


This English couple had never fished in Freshwater in Australia. Their Lake Lyell brown trout was above average for what they would expect in their local waters back home so they were wrapped.


Never one to go with tradition, Aron Muldoon caught this golden perch on soft plastic fished deep and slow around an underwater hilltop in lake Windamere.


Dave McLean hooked up to a solid Glenbawn bass. A Glenbawn regular, David handed the author the reins on this weekend and told him nothing before they went out. “I was flying by the seat of my pants,” Glen said, “but as you can see, I think I did OK”.


These two young blokes live at Wyangala village. The author encountered them on one of their regular sessions at the dam wall. It was late in the season and they had not seen any cod for a number of weeks but, after talking to them, the author changed his technique and this small cod turned up. Thanks guys.


All this water can be intimidating for someone who hasn’t fished it before. The best thing is not to get your expectations too high and to follow the author’s recipe for working out new inland water.

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