When in unfamiliar waters
  |  First Published: December 2008


SECTION: features




The stressful daily grind that most of us refer to as the ‘work environment’ often requires several weeks a year of rest and relaxation to recuperate.

Most of this R and R generally occurs around long weekends and school holidays and obviously incorporates some sort of fishing.

Looking forward to some stress relief alongside some quiet river, stretch of beach or freshwater impoundment is usually what gets us through to the next weekend.

I have been fortunate enough to have visited a few exotic fishing locations while on holiday and have always found how important local knowledge is.

On my local river, I meet up with fishos most days and often stop for a bit of a chat to hear how they are doing. Many of the people I speak to are on holiday and the majority of them are struggling to get a bite, let alone catch a fish.

The comment I often get back is that there are no fish in the river at the moment. When I tell them that I have actually had a good morning and that the river is fishing really well, they usually cannot believe it.

That bit of local knowledge is usually the difference between catching a fish and not doing any good. It is something that is overlooked by so many people hoping to catch a few fish over their holidays.

I have done the same thing and have learnt from previous trips that it is often just a bit of a tip-off about the fish coming on the chew at a certain time of the tide or even being in a certain area of the river on a certain moon phase that can turn the odds in your favour.


A few years ago a mate and I did a trip up to Cape York and after a full day of land-based fishing we returned to the cabin, weary after casting our arms off for only one queenfish. We mentioned this to the lady at the local café and she suggested that we have a chat with one of the charter boys for a few suggestions.

We did this and decided to meet up with him the following morning. He didn’t have a charter on and was happy to steer us in the right direction.

We had planned to hire a boat for a few days towards the end of the week and, once again, he mentioned a few spots we should look at on tides that we would be experiencing towards the end of the week.

Naturally, we took his advice and headed to the places he suggested.

The results were immediate, with the fish of the day being a 24kg GT and a 13.5kg queenie land-based. We also lost several good fish and had an absolute ball.

When we headed offshore the following day with the hire boat, the fish were once again where our guide said they would be. It was simply a case of putting the pieces of the puzzle together for ourselves while we were on the water.

It was truly one of the most memorable trips away I have had and we caught so many fish that we actually pulled the pin early on the last day because we simply could not cast another lure.

At the end of our trip we thanked the helpful fisho and relayed to him where we had found fish and what they wanted to eat at the various stages of the day.

Some of the lures we used he had not seen before so we left a good supply of them with him to play with.

Actually listening to what a local angler suggests is really important.


I have often been asked where I thought the fish would be and then abruptly been told that they probably wouldn’t be there but were more likely to be in another section of the river.

I normally just agree with these types of people and then walk away.

So if someone is offering you advice, try to listen to it – it could be the difference between catching fish and going on a scenic drive.

I am all for working it all out for myself but quite often a little push in the right direction is a great help, especially if you have a limited amount of time on the water.

Guides play a big role in helping travelling anglers to catch fish.

Obviously there are good guides and bad guides. A good way to differentiate the good ones from the bad is by word of mouth, or by checking out references on their websites.

Tackle stores also have a few guides to whom they can refer you.

The local tackle store is often a good starting point for finding the fish or finding a reputable guide.

The guides usually have the gear and the boats needed to get you to the fish. The average punter will argue the fact that the fee that the guides charge is too much and that you could buy a new rod or reel for the price of a day on the water. I look at it in a different light.


Scholars study for years before they can charge for their services. Many guides have been fishing on their home waters for as many, if not more years, so why not pay them for that knowledge?

You are simply paying them for a crash course in fishing a certain system.

Yes, many of us cannot afford the services of a fully guided fishing trip. However, after weighing up the options of a quick morning session without the hassles of towing a boat hundreds of miles, or lugging heaps of gear with you, then it can sometimes be money well spent.

Try to remember that techniques learnt from a guide can be used on your home waters and are not necessarily species-specific.

I have picked up numerous little things that might have seemed insignificant on the trip but, upon returning home, have found them proven fish-takers.

Making use of a guide with a boat is also an excellent way of seeing how different guys set up their boats for certain species or fishing conditions.

I have picked up some great ideas that I have added to my boat over the years after seeing them in practice on a guide’s boat.

Novel ways of storing rods in safe places yet still having them close at hand for a quick cast, or places to put fly rods without having to disassemble them are just some of the ideas.

I like to think of myself as a fisho who can catch just as many fish as the next bloke, yet I don’t mind listening to the locals or stopping in at the local tackle store for a chat before heading out for a day’s fishing.

It always helps me to get fish and gives me that little bit of an edge on the water. So next time you are heading to an unfamiliar spot for a fish, do yourself a favour and make use of a guide or get the heads up from the local boys first.



• Hire a guide if you can afford one, try to talk to one if you can’t.

• Visit the local tackle retailer for the latest info. Make sure you buy something and they’re sure to be far more helpful in terms of hot spots and the best lures and colours.

• Make an advance post on a website forum saying where you’re going and asking how and where to catch fish.

• Visit the local watering hole – again, buy something!

• Ask the owners of your accommodation for the latest information and politely quiz other anglers staying there.

• Don’t rely on what you’re told at the local boat ramp by the guy cleaning all the fish!

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