Almost back on track
  |  First Published: March 2005

After what seems like endless Summers with no rain and low river levels we’re almost back on track.

One would think that the fishing would be going gangbusters but it’s becoming obvious that life isn’t always that simple. A recent trip down the Big Hill to the Macleay provided a good example of how things don’t always turn out how you’d expect. But by adapting to the situation you can nearly always get something out of it.

After several storms had dumped freakish amounts of rain in the headwaters, the Macleay River below Georges Junction had a good flow going through. Unusual for this time of year, the water was also particularly clear – never a good sign when you’re targeting bass. We could see the bottom five metres below us and the bass were doing a good job at making themselves scarce.

The general consensus in this situation seems to be ‘go nocturnal’. Clear water or not, fish still need to eat and when the water is very clear the bass tend to do most of this at night.

After the lights went out, drifting the same holes that we’d fished for minimal results during the day produced a stack of good fish. Just about every surface lure in our tackle boxes was taken with gusto.

The following day our strike rate improved a little by fishing soft plastics in subdued colours in and around the weed-beds and drop-offs. But it was no match for the action we’d had the night before.

So if you end up in the same situation make sure you hang in there and give them another go after dark. Not that any self-respecting bassaholic wouldn’t want to fish at night, anyway.


Ironically, the following weekend I went for a jaunt to one of my favourite Murray cod spots, only to be faced with a completely different scenario.

The same storms that had led to the high, clear conditions on the Macleay the week before had sent a torrent through some of the western headwaters. The flood had subsided but the river was in a pretty poor fishing state with the water unseasonably cold.

The problem was further compounded by visibility of about one metre. As expected, the fish weren’t particularly co-operative but we did manage to make the most of a bad situation by capitalising on a little observation.

Pretty well as soon as we hit the river we were regularly spotting fish (some up around 5kg) holding in shallows along the banks and in the backwaters. One fish even had its back out of the water.

Figuring that these fish were probably trying to warm up in the shallows, we slowed down so we wouldn’t spook anymore fish and started to concentrate our casts in the smaller pools and shallow margins. The action didn’t exactly bring the roof down but at least we were catching fish.

Another tactic that can help in these situations is to switch to a lure that can be fished really slowly. I find fly particularly effective. When the cod aren’t that hungry, you can cajole them into taking something if it hangs around and pesters them long enough.

Often if you check your hooks after a missed strike you’ll find a little scale lodged on a point. This is a sure-fire sign the fish was quite likely having a swipe at your lure or fly out of anger rather than trying to eat it.

On many occasions I’ve found that a few follow-up casts (a lure change can often help, too) will result in the fish getting wound up enough to have another go.

Anyway, hopefully those little anecdotes have given you inspiration or ideas to mull over next time the weather gods deal you a dud card. Soldier on and you will probably still get a few fish and that’s gotta beat staying home and mowing the lawn.

Despite the cold conditions, this little fellow couldn’t resist one of Fraz’s spinnerbaits slowly rolled past his shallow hideout.

The rains have also been a blessing in the trout streams. Meg Gordon managed to managed to nab this beautifully conditioned rainbow on a recent charter with Matt’s Sport Safaris.
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